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November 22, 2009

Silky Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

I was down and out with an ugly cold for the better part of the last week. Today is the first day that I woke up feeling pretty great, with just a few pesky symptoms still lingering. It's recipes like this one that save the day on the long days spent at home waiting out the return of good health. It's a very short, yet very tasty list of ingredients, that requires very little hands on time to prepare. A piping hot bowl of this smooth comforting soup is just what the doctor ordered for my sore throat. Sick or not, this soup is definitely a keeper.

Silky Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
(adapted from Vegan Feast Kitchen)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small (or 1 medium) onions, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ginger, minced
4 cups vegetarian broth
2 cups cubed, peeled sweet potatoes
2/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with paprika or smoked paprika sprinkled on each bowl

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and ginger and saute until the onions are translucent. Stir in cumin and saute for another minute, stirring constantly. Add vegetable broth, sweet potatoes, and lentils and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and lentils are tender. Blend soup until smooth using blender or submersion blender. Stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve into soup bowls and garnish with paprika or smoked paprika.

Serves 4.

November 21, 2009

Posole Stew with Butternut Squash and Collard Greens

po⋅so⋅le /poʊˈsoʊleɪ, pɒ-; Sp. pɔˈsɔlɛ/ Show Spelled Pronuncia[poh-soh-ley, po-; Sp. paw-saw-le] –noun Mexican Cookery. a thick, stewlike soup of pork or chicken, hominy, mild chili peppers, and coriander leaves: traditionally served at Christmas and often favored as a hangover remedy. (from

My only exposure to posole was back in college. My roommate Laura had gone home for the weekend and came back with a big container of it. She talked about spending an entire day working on it with her boyfriend's Hispanic grandmother. They started out with pork, hominy, fresh tomatoes and chili peppers, and they simmered, simmered, and simmered some more. She was kind enough to share some of the leftovers, and I was instantly in love (obviously my pre-veggie days). I can still remember the complex flavors -- smokey and spicy, strewn with tasty kernels of hominy. Since then I have wanted to meet an Hispanic grandmother that could teach me how to make this traditional stew.

Fast forward six years, and I'm waist deep in food blogs when I randomly find a meatless version of this stew by The Vegan Mouse, and my tasty memories came flooding back to me. The book that she found the recipe in featured butternut squash, but she opted to use the zucchini that she had on hand. You know how much I love butternut squash so I wanted to revert back to that, but without access to the original recipe I came up with my own. I did follow in her footsteps with the addition of collard greens and red bell pepper, which rounded out this stew perfectly.

I've made this stew twice, and the first time I used 2 tbsp fresh jalapenos, but the second go around I decided to go with guajillo chiles. Guajillo chiles are very common in Mexico and are also one of the more mild of the hot chiles, so I deducted that this chile has most likely been used in many of the authentic-grandma-simmered versions of this stew. That I cannot confirm, but I can tell you that it was delicious. It is a little more work, so if you are short on time go for the jalapenos, which are also delicious. (If you decide to go with jalapenos, dice them and add them into the pot at the same time as the onion and garlic.)

Posole Stew with Butternut Squash and Collard Greens
(6-8 servings)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tbsp cumin
1-1/2 tbsp oregano
1-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large bite sized pieces
4 leaves of collard greens, center rib removed and chopped
3 14oz cans hominy
6 cups water
3 tbsp guajillo chile paste*
6 tbsp tomato paste
2 Not-Beef bouillon
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the onions and peppers have softened. Stir in spices and saute for another minute stirring constantly.

Next stir in squash, greens, hominy, and water and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling lower heat to medium low and stir in chile paste, tomato paste, bouillon cubes and stir until well incorporated. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is just tender, or to your liking (check it often, you don't want mushy squash).

Remove bay leaves. Stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

*Start with dried guajillo chiles, and make your own paste. Great instructions can be found here.

November 19, 2009

Chana Masala

When dining out, you can usually count on my vote going to Thai or Indian food. Let's face it, American cuisine is largely not veggie friendly (or at very least mostly uninspiring), with menus often yielding only a couple of choices. So for heat-freak vegetarians like myself, veggie packed Indian and Thai curries reign supreme.

I've dabbled at home with Thai cooking with some success, but for some reason I have been reserved about cooking Indian curries. It might have (or definitely) had something to do with the inevitable long list of spices that comes with each recipe, most of which were not already in my pantry.

Well, since joining the food blogging community my pantry has changed quite a bit. This was thanks to being inspired by simpler dishes with a shorter list of spices to get me started, and also thanks to discovering a great international grocer down the road with an amazing supply of inexpensive spices. Over the last few months each time I went shopping I'd pick out one or two more spices to add to my collection, and now I am pretty well stocked.

I've had my eye on Lisa's Chana Masala for ages now, it just kept popping up everywhere! I've made this twice now in the past two weeks and my reservations about preparing Indian curries at home are quickly dissolving. If you are like I used to be, let me encourage you to start working on your pantry so that you can have Indian yummies at home, it is so very worth it!

Oh, and this is what happens when I photograph food on my bedroom floor next to my big window. Evie just wants to be near the action all the time. I do apologize if you don't find kitties and kitty paws as cute as I do, don't let that detract from this delicious dish!

Chana Masala
(from Lisa's Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups of dried chickpeas
2 - 3 tablespoons of ghee or a mixture of butter and oil (or to make vegan, just use oil)
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
5 green or black cardamom pods
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves

1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 - 4 finely chopped hot red and green chilies
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 - 2 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped

2 medium-large tomatoes, finely diced
juice from one small lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of garam masala

Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 - 2 hours or until the chickpeas are buttersoft. Drain well and set aside. (I did this a day ahead)

Heat the butter and oil in a large pot. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop and the cumin seeds begin to brown.

Throw in the onions, and stir and fry until they begin to brown. Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne and turmeric to the pan and stir until the onions are well coated with the spices - about 1 minute. Then, add the fresh chilies, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes, half of the lemon juice and cook to thicken, about 10 minutes. Put the chickpeas into the tomato mixture, add the salt, some black pepper, half of the parsley, the remaining lemon juice and the garam masala. Cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors, adding a bit of water if necessary. The chickpeas should be fairly dry.

Remove the bay leaves if you are using whole ones, and the cinnamon stick. Stir in the remaining parsley and serve hot.

November 15, 2009

Lemony Quinoa with Butternut Squash

I have been taking full advantage of winter squashes since they started to appear in September, and this fall, squash of the butternut variety has been frequenting my meals more than any other. I love the smooth texture and how versatile it is. This quinoa dish is a perfect example of this squashes' versatility. It starts by roasting bite sized pieces of squash with lemon juice and ends by simmering the roasted squash pieces in the pot alongside the quinoa while it cooks. The quinoa and squash meet with the flavors of lemon, garlic, shallots, and thyme, and is finished off with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and chives. Simple and delicious!

Lemony Quinoa with Butternut Squash

10 ounces butternut squash (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup chopped shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons (about 7/10 ounce) lightly toasted pine nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds and strings (using a grapefruit spoon makes this easier). Peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with the 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Place them on a non-stick baking sheet (or silicone mat), sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well and allow to drain. Heat a deep, non-stick pot. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until shallots soften slightly. Add the quinoa and toast it until it has dried out and begins to exude a toasty aroma. Add the squash along with the thyme and vegetable broth. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring once or twice, until all broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon peel and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more lemon juice if needed.

Serve with toasted pine nuts and chives sprinkled on top.

Servings: 4 large side-dish servings

November 12, 2009

Roasted Beet and Garlic Soup in Acorn Squash Bowls

I am a big fan of No Croutons Required, a monthly food blogging challenge featuring vegetarian soup and salads. I am excited to finally join in with the talented cooks that have been inspiring my soups and salads for some time now.

This month Lisa's Kitchen is hosting, and the challenge is to create a soup or salad featuring root vegetables. Oh! This month's challenge called my name, er rather, the fresh beets in the bottom of my produce bin called my name. These little guys were just begging to be made into a creamy soup. While the beets take most of the credit in this soup, several of my other root-friends also made an appearance.

The inspiration came from Gourmet to put beet soup into a roasted acorn squash bowl, but this beet soup is my own. I loved the idea immediately, but rather than going the direction of very sweet soup like theirs (featuring apples and brown sugar), I decided to go more savory with mine, featuring ginger and a head of roasted garlic. A very slight sweetness was satisfied by a swirl of coconut milk stirred through just before serving. A big handful of fresh dill would have been ideal, but using the dried dill that I had on hand was also delicious.

Be sure to visit Lisa's Kitchen starting on November 20th to root for your favorite soup or salad. Although I can't imagine what will beet this soup.. Gosh, I'm sorry, I can't help myself.

Roasted Beet and Garlic Soup in Acorn Squash Bowls

2-8 acorn squash (as many as you want, but the soup will fill up to 8 squashes)
olive oil for brushing
salt for sprinkling

6 small beets (about 2 cups after roasting and chopping)
1 head of garlic
2 c potatoes, chopped into ½ inch pieces, skin on
1 rib of celery
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 tsp dried dill (or use fresh if you've got it!)
4 c water
2 not-chick’n bouillon cubes
½ c coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

SQUASH: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut off the top portion of the squash about 1 inch down, and reserve. Scoop out seeds (save these to toast later if you please). Cut a thin slice off of the bottoms of the squash, as thin as possible but that will still provide a flat and stable base. Brush the insides and the squash lid with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place squash bowls and lids in shallow baking pans, bowls right-side up, and lids cut side down. Roast squash for 60-75 minutes, or until the flesh is just tender.

BEETS/GARLIC: Once you’ve got the squash going you can start prepping the beets and garlic. Wash and trim beets, wrap each beet in foil, and place into a small baking dish. Trim ¼ inch off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves. Set the trimmed garlic head cut side up onto a piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then close up the foil into a little packet. Put the garlic into the same dish as the beets and put dish into the oven to roast alongside the squash that is already underway. Take the garlic out after 30 minutes (or when the cloves are nicely browned), set aside to cool. The beets are done when they are fork tender, for my small beets they took about 45 minutes. Once the beets are done allow them to cool for a bit, then peel and chop them into 1 inch pieces.

SOUP: Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onion and ginger and sauté until the onion softens – 5-7 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and potatoes and sauté for another 5-7 minutes. Stir in water, dill, and bouillon cubes and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat and cover. At this time I worked on peeling and chopping my roasted beets and gently squeezing out the cloves of roasted garlic. Once complete add the beets and garlic to the pot for the last bit of simmering. In total the soup should simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes and other veggies are tender. Transfer soup in batches to the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer back to pot and stir in coconut milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into acorn squash bowls and serve.

This dreamy hot pink soup paired excellently with the acorn squash, but is also a great soup all on it's own.

November 9, 2009

Curried Red-Lentil Stew with Vegetables

I'm a real sucker for curry recipes. I'm an even bigger sucker for curry recipes that I come across that I already have all of the ingredients on hand for, and this Curried-Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables was just that. I spotted this lovely over at Dana Treat one afternoon, and within a couple of hours I sat down to a big bowl of curry.

The recipe below is exactly as she listed it. I decided to add 1/2 tsp ground coriander (because I love me some coriander), and I subbed kale for the spinach. This dish has a mild level of spice which could easily be kicked up a few notches with a couple of fresh chillies (which I'm known to do), but I decided to keep this nice and mellow this go around. This stew was even tastier the next day -- hooray for great leftovers!

Curried Red-Lentil Stew with Vegetables
(from Dana Treat)
Serves 4-6
Serve this stew over basmati rice.

Vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 (2 x 1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
5 cloves of garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
tsp. tumeric
tsp. cumin
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 cup frozen peas, not thawed
cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat a heavy 4-5 quart pot over moderate heat and then add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Cook the onion with a sprinkling of salt, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add spices and cook over low heat for 1 minute.
Stir in lentils and 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add carrots and another sprinkling of salt and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender and lentils have broken down into a coarse puree, 15-20 minutes.
Stir in spinach and peas and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season stew with salt and pepper. If necessary, add enough water to thin stew so that it can be ladled over rice.
(Stew without spinach or peas can be made and chilled, uncovered, until completely cooled, then covered for up to 5 days. Reheat over moderately low heat, thinning with water to a pourable consistency and stirring frequently, before adding remaining ingredients.)

November 8, 2009

Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic

I can't seem to keep up with the awesome soups that are all over my favorite blogs these days. My "to-make" file is bursting at the seams with new kinds of soup that I want to try. My attempt to keep up has resulted in a fresh pot of soup every other day or so for the past couple of weeks. The leftovers have been amazing - soup is one of the best kind of leftovers - so the roomie and I have been eating very well for lunch during the work week!

What intrigued me most about the Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic when I spotted it over at parsnips aplenty, was the balsamic-roasted garlic. While roasting garlic is nothing new, I had never seen it done with balsamic vinegar. The garlic is definitely the star of the soup, and the subtle flavor lent by the balsamic vinegar is lovely. Intriguing point number two, this creamy dreamy soup is vegan thanks to the use of rice milk. I have cooked with soy milk and almond milk, but never rice milk. The verdict: I'm a huge fan, and I can't wait to try making other creamy soups with rice milk. Are you a fan of rice milk? I'd love to hear your favorite uses for it.

Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic
(from parsnips aplenty)
serves 4-6

2 heads garlic
salt and pepper
olive oil
good balsamic vinegar. The thick stuff.
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon chopped dried rosemary
1 bunch kale, center stems removed, roughly chopped
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, skins on, roughly chopped
1 quart + 1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups rice milk
Roast garlic: preheat oven to 375F. Chop off the top of each head of garlic, exposing the cloves. Put the heads down on a piece of aluminum foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Wrap them up in the foil to make a little packet, and put in the oven for 30 minutes or until the garlic is soft and drop-dead-gorgeous brown.
Meanwhile, make soup: In a pot over medium heat, cook onions, celery, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add kale, potatoes, and vegetable broth, cover, and turn the heat up to high. When soup comes to a boil, turn heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are soft and kale is cooked, about 30 minutes.
By this point, the garlic should be done. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves into the soup. Give it a stir, and get out your blender. Use a slotted spoon to put the veggies in the blender – a little broth is OK, but don’t overdo it. Puree it in batches, adding enough rice milk to get it to a cream-soup consistency. Discard vegetable broth (or save it to make another soup!) and put your pureed mixture in the pot; heat until warm and serve.

November 2, 2009

Jessy's Spicy Mexi-Meatlessball Soup

I dream about meat. True story. I'm coming up on my 4-year vegetarian anniversary, and I still have dreams about eating meat. As it turns out, meat-eating dreams are not uncommon among vegetarians (or rather, I've come across 3 others, so I figure it must not be, right?). For me, no two meat dreams have been identical, but there are three things that are almost always the same: 1). It is always some kind of red meat, 2). I steal the meat from an unsuspecting civilian when their back is turned, and 3). Despite the occasional hot dog or hamburger, more times than not, the meat that comes to me in my dreams is in the form of meatballs.  I always wake up feeling guilty and confused, how could I be such a thieving meat-eater? And what's the deal with meatballs? Meatballs weren't even my thing when I did eat meat. 

Despite not ever really liking the real deal, I was tickled by the idea of making vegetarian meatballs. And let me tell you, Jessy's Spicy Mexi-Meatlessball Soup is a dream come true! In fact, she has a whole series of meatlessball posts last month featuring main ingredients such as lentils, butternut squash, and white beans. My imagination is running wild with meatlessball ideas. Hey, and you never know, if I eat enough meatlessballs maybe my meatball dreams will go away!

Jessy's Spicy Mexi-Meatlessball Soup
(adapted from happyveganface)

1 package tempeh
1 large yellow onion, finely diced, divided
28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, finely diced, divided
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, well chopped
1-1/2 fresh jalapenos, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp dried oregano, divided
2 tbsp dried parsley, divided
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp water (for the meatlessball mix)
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp cumin, divided
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1-1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 not-chicken bouillon cube
7 cups of water
olive oil cooking spray

Steam tempeh for 15-20 minutes and then grate it, or give it a few hearty pulses in the food processor until well crumbled.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the large pot. Saute 1/2 the finely diced zucchini, 1/2 the finely diced onions, and the jalapenos on medium heat until soft. Add 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp sea salt, and the paprika. Cook for another minute, remove from heat, then add in the tempeh, 2 tbsp water, cornstarch, ketchup, cilantro, tahini, and lime juice. Adjust seasonings to taste then form into small balls (16-18) and set aside.
Wipe out the pot and spray it with a little olive oil cooking spray. Heat to medium and saute the other half of the onion and zucchini along with the bell pepper until the onions begin to brown. Add the tomatoes and the remaining spices, chili flakes, and the other 1/2 tsp of sea salt - saute for a few more minutes (about 3-5).
Add water, bouillon cube, and tomato paste and bring it to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering get back to the meatlessballs. Spray cooking spray in the large skillet and heat on medium heat. Add in the meatlessballs and saute until they begin to brown, turning them every few minutes. Once browned turn off the heat and cover with the lid while the soup finishes simmering. Add in meatlessballs and simmer for 5 more minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

*Note that my photo doesn't showcase all the awesomeness going on in the broth like the onions, peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini because the bowl was too deep, but trust me they are there, and they are yummy!!