Friday, January 25, 2008

White Bean and Tomato Soup

As promised, something warm and comforting from the crock pot. Tonight I kind of winged it and threw together this white bean and tomato soup with some things I had lying around that needed used up (although, I still never found a good use for that zucchini, which will promptly be making it's way to the trash...sigh).

Anyway, despite the morning from hell, I found it in me to do some prep work and throw together what turned out to be probably the best bean soup I've ever had. After a week that seems to have gone on forever this was the most comforting meal I could imagine having. And an added bonus, it was simple and required little of my non-existing energy.

Mairin's been asking for some more of Dreena's jumbo croutons, so I humored her and baked some croutons to serve on top of the soup. They were a great addition to the soup.

White Bean and Tomato Soup
8 oz baby carrots, cut lengthwise into quarters
1 small onion, diced
1 medium leek, white part only, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
4 cups cooked white beans
28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz frozen spinach

In a medium skillet heat 2 Tbs olive oil over medium high heat. Add carrots, onion, and leek and saute until beginning to soften. Add in garlic, bay leaves, and thyme and saute a minute more. Transfer veggies to slow cooker, add beans, tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir to combine and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low 8 hours. During last 5-10 minutes of cooking add in frozen spinach. Remove bay leaves and serve hot, topped with jumbo croutons.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vegetable soup, cornbread, and some chocolately vegan goodness

I didn't do a lot of cooking this weekend. We ended up eating out on Friday night because I had some shopping to get done. Then on Saturday we took Mairin to see Arthur Live!, while my mom kept Stella for us. We again had dinner out with Mairin after the show.

Having had enough restaurant food for one weekend, I was really looking forward to eating at home on Sunday. Not to mention, it was 6 degrees here today, and there was no way in hell I was going to leave my house!!

For lunch today I was really feeling like having something light since we'd done so much eating out (although I did eat fairly light while we were out, except for those delicious fried mozzarella triangles last night.......mmmm, fried cheese!). Anyway, back to lunch. For lunch I just threw together a salad dressed with some balsamic-dijon vinaigrette, some hummus that I made for Saturday's lunch served with whole wheat pita, and some apple quarters. It was a great lunch. And look how colorful.

For the dressing I used about 1 Tbs dijon mustard, about 2 Tbs of balsamic vinegar, a few tsp of sugar and whisked in some good Italian olive oil until it was the right taste and consistency. It was a really good dressing. I usually make it without the mustard, but will be including dijon from now on.

For dinner tonight I made the vegetable-orzo soup that I've blogged about before. I made essentially the same recipe as before, only this time I didn't have any lima beans, and instead of using corn and peas separately I used a mixed vegetable mix that had peas, corn, and green beans.

This is a very good vegetable soup. Rob and I like it so much better than the usual tomato based vegetable soups that you usually see. This one is so hearty and so filling, and just what we needed to warm us up on such a frigid day.

****Dalai Mama, you'll get a kick out of friend just e-mailed me to tell me that she made this very dish for dinner tonight!!! Something very strange is going on!!!!****

To go along with our soup I made some cornbread. Since Stella can't tolerate most dairy and at the moment can't eat eggs I found this vegan recipe for cornbread. The only thing I did differently was to use rice milk instead of soy milk.

This cornbread was unbelievably good. I'll never make cornbread any other way. It was very moist, not dry and crumbly like a lot of cornbread I've eaten. It was also just right on the sweetener. Some mixes I've found are much too sweet. However, I don't like drab, bland unsweetened cornbread either. This one was as close to perfect as I'll ever get.

And finally, for a little sweet treat, I whipped up these vegan brownies. They are very good (maybe not as good as their traditional counterpart, but still, good). They are extremely moist, without having that "raw", uncooked feel to them. I searched the web for a recipe and couldn't come up with a completely suitable one, so I improvised and combined what I liked from several different recipes. The resulting recipe was this:

Vegan Brownie

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup original flavor rice milk

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Mix in liquid ingredients and combine until well blended. Spread in baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

We all know that vegan treats are usually healthier for us than their traditional counterparts. We all know that eating vegan treats is healthier for the environment. And, of course, we all know that eating vegan treats prevents unnecessary cruelty and suffering to animals. But, do you know the BEST thing about vegan treats????????????

Your mommy let's you lick the (egg free) batter from the spoon!!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spicy Black Beans 'n Rice

Before we get to tonight's dinner, let's go back to the Thai fried rice from last night. If you are going to make this recipe, make sure you have left-overs. I warmed up the extras for lunch today. This rice is even more tasty the second day (actually, I ate some of the left-overs cold, and they were mighty tasty that way as well).

OK, on to tonight. Inspired by the Dalai Mama's Beans n' Cornbread, I made spicy black beans 'n rice. I had planned to make cornbread to go with it as well, but again, as I was getting my stuff together this morning to get organized for dinner I realized that I was out of canola oil. This was apparently a bad organizational week for me. I have no idea how I overlooked that I was missing ingredients for two planned meals. Well, with only olive oil on hand, I had to scratch the plans for cornbread.....don't think it'd taste quite the same with olive oil, ya know??

This was a very delicious, very flavorful meal. And also very quick and easy. Mairin will only touch beans if she doesn't know she's eating them, which wasn't the case with this. So, this meal was a no go for her. I served Stella beans 'n rice, only I dished out her beans before I mixed 'em in with the good stuff!! Rob and I both enjoyed the meal, although, I think it could have been a little less spicy......I'd definitely reduce the amount of cayenne next time. Rob, on the other hand liked it how it was. I served it over some steamed medium grain brown rice, although you could use any rice you have on hand.

Spicy Black Beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
6 cups cooked black beans, drained
3 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs smoky paprika
1 Tbs cayenne (this is how much I used, I suggest less, unless you like a lot of spice)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat 2 Tbs EVOO over medium-high heat. Add onions and green pepper and saute until beginning to soften. Add garlic and saute for a minute more. Add undrained tomatoes, beans, and spices. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Vegan Thai Fried Rice

I had planned on making vegetarian cassoulet in my crock pot for dinner tonight. As I was gathering all of the ingredients this morning I discovered that I had overlooked the fact that I have no white beans on hand. Oooops, can't make white bean stew with no white beans! I have kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas..........all kinds of beans, except the kind I need.

So, now what? Well, it turns out I was having an e-mail conversation with my step-mom, Sandy, and she mentioned making fried rice. Ah ha, fried rice sounded delicious, and I had all kinds of things I could throw into that!!

I decided to make a vegan version, so Stella could eat it as well. Then I decided to throw in some Thai curry paste to give it a little kick. YUM!!

Vegan Thai Fried Rice
cooked brown rice (I used 3 cups dry, I don't know how much it turned out to be when cooked)
3 Tbs canola oil
1/2 large yellow onion, diced small
about 1 1/2 cups carrots, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen green beans
4 Tbs Bragg's Liquid Aminos (can sub soy sauce)
1 1/2 Tbs Thai curry paste
fresh ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 lime

Heat oil in wok or large skillet until very hot and starting to smoke. Add in carrots and onion and stir fry for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and frozen veggies and stir fry about 5 minutes more. Add rice, and continue to stir fry until veggies are tender. Add Bragg's, curry paste, lime juice and black pepper to taste. Serve piping hot.

The only thing I can think that would have made this better was some cilantro for garnish, but I used it all up on Monday's curry. Fried rice is so quick and easy, I don't know why I never thought to make it before.

Potato Leek Soup

Last night I made my version of the Potato Leek Soup that we love from the local Irish Pub. Having been to lots of real Irish Pubs (thanks to in-laws living on the Emerald Isle!!), I'd have to say that the Rover is the closest to the real thing that we've ever been to on this side of the pond. They serve a delicious potato leek soup, that I'll never quite be able to replicate, but this one's pretty darn good anyway. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture to post for you......I got my soup all plated up (or I guess in this case it would be bowled up??) ready to photograph, and lo and behold, batteries are dead.......darn the luck.

Potato Leek Soup
2 Tbs EVOO
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large leek, washed well and sliced (white and green parts)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Bay leaves
3 tsp dried tarragon
6 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast

Saute carrots, celery, garlic and, leek until beginning to soften. Add S & P to taste. Add in 1 lb peeled yukon golds and saute to begin softening. Add in 2 bay leaves and about 3 tsp of dried tarragon. Saute for about 5 more minutes. Add in 6 cups of stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until all veggies are very soft. Transfer in batches to food processor and puree (or use immersion blender if you are lucky enough to have one). Return to heat, add 2 TBS nutritional yeast, stir to combine and simmer until ready to serve.

Last night was Rob's night to get the girls fed and to dance class all on his own, so I didn't have any sides with the soup. If I had been home to serve this meal as a family, some nice soda bread would be perfect with it.

This soup turns orange when you puree it because of the carrots. Mairin said she wasn't eating it because it was "red", so Rob made her some Weetabix. And, apparently, while he was fixing the cereal she decided she liked it and sneaked off and ate half of her bowl!!

I promise pictures of the soup next time I make it!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

American Style Hungarian Goulash

Last night for dinner, I went back to a dish from my childhood and made it vegetarian. When I was little my Grandma "Honey" used to make goulash all of the time. I thought she just made the word goulash up, and that it meant a lot of stuff thrown together and mixed with macaroni. Turns out I was wrong, she didn't make the word up, and goulash is really a Hungarian cowboy dish. Of course, being a cowboy dish, it's heavy on the meat. Traditionally it's meant to be cuts of stew beef, but when popularized by American cooks the stew beef was replaced with groudbeef because it was cheaper and more readily available. In Hungary goulash was not served with macaroni, but some other form of starch (sometimes potatoes) to thicken the dish.

My vegetarian version of goulash uses cooked lentils to replace the beef. The taste and texture were nearly the same as when my grandmother used to make me this dish with beef.

I didn't really follow a recipe, so I'll let you in on the ingredients and my best estimates for amounts, after that you are on your own, season it to your liking (just remember that it should not have a tomato-y taste, the paprika-ish taste should stand out). I used lentils that I had cooked in the crock pot with a bay leaf. If you are using canned lentils, or have cooked them unseasoned, I would add a bay leaf to the tomato sauce.

Vegetarian Hungarian Goulash
3/4 of a one lb. bag of elbow macaroni
3-4 cups of cooked lentils
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbs sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried marjoram
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream

Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and set aside. In a deep skillet heat 2 Tbs EVOO over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until translucent and tender. Mix in dried spices and mix around skillet to heat. Add in tomatoes and lentils, stirring to combine vegetables and spices. Next stir in 2 large dollops of sour cream, and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour drained macaroni into skillet and mix to combine macaroni with sauce.

We had our goulash with some apple slices on the side. This was a very kid friendly dish. Both girls ate tons of goulash (kind of takes you back to those grade school cafeteria days). So, it looks like goulash is going to make it into frequent rotation here.

Now that the holidays are over we have gotten back into our normal routine, with school, yoga, dance class, etc. So, we're back to our busy Tuesday evenings. I have some "No Chicken" noodle soup in the crock pot as I type. Rob and the girls will be eating noodle soup before dance class. I, on the other hand, will be dining at El Mundo with some of my girlfriends tonight. Lucky me!! Aren't I such a good mom and wife for still taking the time to prepare a healthy meal for my family, even when I can't share in it!!?? (Everyone needs to give themselves a little pat on the back now and again you know).