Saturday, March 30, 2013


Looking for some hearty soup ideas to see you through these last few chilly evenings?

I've recently posted a couple of recipes for some asian soups (miso and asian noodle), but a great way to add thickness and heartiness to your soup stocks is to simply infuse them with lots of veggies!

I have been experimenting behind the scenes with a couple of different ideas, and although I haven't put together a post just yet, I'll start with these photos and suggestions to offer some inspiration!

If you're looking for a recipe to follow, I would recommend this carrot bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance:
vegan carrot bisque
This was one of the first straight vegetable soups I'd ever tried making. I have to admit that many years ago I was a bit doubtful about the idea of a bisque without dairy, but the coconut milk that this recipe calls for adds just the right amount of richness, while the rest of the soup's complex flavors mask any trace of actual coconut flavor. 

If you're looking for something even heartier, look no further than Veganomicon's Baked Potato Soup.
Baked potato and greens soup
With lots of kale, and potatoes prepared three different ways, this soup is truly a whole meal unto itself.

As for my own experiments, I've been dabbling with all kinds of variations.

Earlier in the winter I made a broccoli soup with a bit of jalapeño cashew cheese infused into it! It may sound like a bizarre combination, but a spicy broccoli-cheese soup (with a little daiya cheddar) was actually quite delicious. I'll try to post the recipe for this soon (unfortunately my notes were lost, and I haven't had the chance to re-make it).

Broccoli jalapeño "cheese" soup

I also made some orange carrot ginger soup (following a recipe that came with my Vitamix). It was an intriguing combination, but I tried substituting clementines for the orange and this wasn't such a success...the flavor wasn't quite as strong as the orange. Also, after about a day or so the soup developed a very acrid flavor, not so great. Here's a picture anyhow; I have to say it did have a really great thick and almost frothy texture, and I'd like to experiment with it some more:


Adding a little bit of fruit to your soup (like citrus or apples) can provide a nice subtle contrast to the rest of your flavors.

More on soups to come...and soon enough I'll delve into some lighter, "summer" ideas...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Miso Soup with Udon Noodles

Miso soup with udon noodles

When I was in college one of my favorite things to prepare was udon noodle soup (usually the instant kind), with some tofu, enoki mushrooms, and an egg thrown in. The instant packets available at the supermarket typically contain fish, and aside from that are filled with all kinds of things that aren't altogether too healthy. These days I like to make my udon soup from scratch. For a little added flavor and substance in my broth, I just add a little miso.

Miso Soup with Udon Noodles
What You'll Need:
8 cups water
6 tbsp white miso
1 bunch baby bok choi (or pak choi), sliced thinly (you can include both stalks and leaves)
4 scallions, sliced thinly
1 14 oz. package firm or extra-firm tofu
20 oz. udon noodles, prepared according to package directions
1 tbsp sesame oil
Asian hot sauce (like Sriracha, optional)
white or black pepper, to taste

What You'll Need to Do:
Put your water in a large pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Add in the miso, stirring until it is well dissolved (be sure not to boil the miso!). Add in the bok choi and scallions, and allow them to simmer and soften for approximately 10-15 minutes. While the vegetables simmer, chop your tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. After the bok choi stalks are sufficiently soft, add in you tofu and noodles, and stir in the sesame oil. Season to taste with pepper, and hot sauce, if desired.

My Thoughts:
This is a great, super-simple soup base, and you can throw anything in that you like! I used extra-firm tofu because that's what I had on hand, but it's especially good with firm silken tofu. You can also use red or brown miso for a stronger flavor (white miso is the most mild). I'd also recommend trying this soup with seaweed (just simmer it in the water first thing, for about 5 minutes, before adding the rest of the ingredients) and enoki mushrooms.

green onions

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dinner featuring "Green Cheese"

Looking for a nice dinner idea for next weekend? My suggestion here is a bit involved, but all of the recipes are actuality quite straightforward. The cheese and bruschetta can be prepared in advance, and the gnocchi recipe I went with was very simple!

St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, so I thought I'd try a green twist on some cashew cheese!
"Green" Cashew Cheese Spread

This is an adaptation of the recipe from the Fork & Beans blog, which has some really terrific gluten, egg, and dairy-free recipes.

I followed the recipe on the site, leaving out the sun-dried tomatoes, and adding some pesto and spinach for color (I used about four leaves of each, but you could add a bit more for an even deeper green color). I lined the bottom of a ramekin with plastic wrap, then added some of the pine nut pesto, as well as chopped rosemary and thyme (this layer became the top once released from the ramekin). I added a bit more pine nut pesto towards the bottom, and topped with a thin layer of cheese. I found that the original pesto recipe called for too much salt; I would have used just 1/4 tsp rather than 1 tsp. Otherwise, it was perfect!

Although the green cheese was my "St. Patrick's Day dish..." I actually used it to accompany an Italian meal. It was a great appetizer! It went along perfectly with some bread and bruschetta (I can try to post a recipe for this sometime in the future--but it was just two tomatoes, half an onion, some basil, garlic, salt and pepper!).

For the main course I made gnocchi, along with some garlic spinach.
If you're looking for a gnocchi recipe, you can try VeganYumYum. She has a particularly good recipe for a thyme vinaigrette and lemon cashew cream. Although I made the cream and vinaigrette, I actually tried the gnocchi recipe from the Candle 79 Cookbook this time around. The recipe was fantastic: quite quick and very easy to follow. It really just involves baking your potatoes, mashing them, throwing in some flour, oil, and salt, and then shaping. Then you just put them in some boiling water for a few minutes and you're good to go!

The gnocchi were delicious--light and (like all good gnocchi) pillowy.

And for dessert? I tried the tea-poached pears with chocolate sauce from Veganomicon. This recipe was also very easy (pretty much just soak 'em in tea and sugar!)--next time I'd love to serve them with some ice cream!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creamy White Pasta with Crispy "Ham"

Although it's somewhat rare for me, I do occasionally find myself craving a creamy white pasta sauce. There are several different avenues to go down if you're in the mood for a rich vegan pasta with white sauce. I tend to find that sauces with a nut base are the most satisfying (and protein-filled!). I decided the other night to use a cashew cream sauce. Sound crazy? I promise that once you infuse it with some sautéed onions and garlic (and a few other ingredients), you'll be pleasantly surprised with this rich, flavorful sauce!
White Pasta

Creamy White Pasta with Crispy Fried "Ham"
What You'll Need:
2/3 cup raw cashews (soaked for 2 hours*)
olive oil for frying (about 2 tbsp)
4 slices of vegan sliced deli ham, cut into 1/2" squares (optional**)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 cup unflavored almond milk
1 tbsp + 1tsp lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)***
several leaves basil (optional)
nutritional yeast and toasted walnuts (for topping, optional)
1 lb of your favorite pasta (I like fusilli for this recipe)

What You'll Need to Do:
Prepare pasta until just al dente (then drain, and place back in the pot). Meanwhile, prepare your sauce!

First place about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan, and add in your chopped ham. Fry over medium-low heat until just starting to crisp up, about 3 minutes. Remove ham from the pan, and add the onion into the oiled pan, raising the heat to medium-high. Add a bit more oil if needed. Sautée the onions and garlic until the onions soften and just begin to turn golden, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool down.

Put your cashews and almond milk into the blender and blend until relatively smooth. Add the onions and blend until no chunks remain (if the onions are still warm you may need to stop and release the steam while blending so that your lid doesn't pop off!). Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and about 1/2 tbsp of the ham. Blend. Give the sauce a taste and add a bit more salt and pepper, if needed. Add about 5 leaves of basil, and pulse a few times to chop it up a bit and disperse it into the sauce.

Add the sauce to your drained pasta and heat until warm. Top with chopped basil, a dash of nutritional yeast, and toasted walnuts, or any combination of the three!
White Pasta

Tips and Tricks
*I recently invested in a Vita-Mix blender. When I say invested, I mean invested. These incredibly powerful blenders are also incredibly expensive! If, however, you're a very dedicated cook (particularly one who likes to turn whole nuts, vegetables or fruits into liquid form), it may be worth the money. The few people I know who have them can't stop singing their praises. They come highly recommended in practically every vegan cookbook I've come across, and I have to say I have not been disappointed. If you have a high-powered blender like this (the Vitamix has 2hp!), you don't need to soak nuts, or worry about blending hot things, it's literally made for this type of thing. If, however, you do not have a high-powered blender there are plenty of ways to do (most) everything you can with a high-powered blender. When processing nuts, for instance, just soak them in water (in a non-plastic container) for a short while before blending. About 2 hours should be more than enough, but with cashews, even 20 minutes can do the trick.

**I was craving a pasta dish from my childhood when this recipe came to mind. That original dish had ham in it, and I love the way the saltiness of the ham plays off of the smooth, mild taste of the white sauce. I also like to throw a bit of ham into the sauce itself for a little more depth of flavor.  Not everybody likes these processed vegetarian deli meats, however. If you want an alternative, you could easily use tempeh bacon instead. If you're looking for a deli meat substitute, though, I do recommend the Lightlife and Tofurky brands (I love the hickory smoked Tofurky deli slices!). For this recipe I used Lightlife vegetarian ham.

***What is nutritional yeast? Just what it sounds like...yeast (often infused with a B-vitamin complex)! It is usually sold in flake (or powder) form, and can be found in the bulk food section of most natural food stores. It has a cheesy taste to it, and is great on top of (or in) pizza or pasta sauce. You can add it to sauce in much higher quantities to really impart a cheesiness. In this recipe it adds just a little extra flavor, but is barely detectable, and can be omitted if you don't have any on hand. I hope to write more about it in the future, as it really makes a great addition to any vegan diet, but in the meantime, you can read more about it here.

Bon appétit!