Coconut tomato soup (vegan)

It snowed another foot this week. Which is why I am still making soup practically every week. (Well technically this one is so easy Matt made it!) I seriously considered buying a blow torch to melt the lawn. <<Sigh>>

Back to the soup… it’s creamy” without being creamy and just different enough from the typical tomato soup recipe to pique interest.

I keep the fresh pastes in a tube–ginger and lemongrass in this recipe–in the fridge because they make it fast and easy to bump up flavors in Asian dishes like stir fry or ramen noodle bowls. They last a long time too!

This soup comes together quickly, so very doable for weeknight meals or make ahead to put into school lunches.

Sidenote: Avery’s lunchbox is a bit different than his classmates’. Apparently salads, vegs/hummus and coconut tomato soup are “low trade value” to 17 year old boys. 😉

I am planning the summer herb garden and look forward to just a few weeks from now when I get to plant them…just popping out to the back deck to get a few sprigs of whatever to brighten our meals seems like such a small luxury. Think Spring!!

Coconut Tomato soup (vegan)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger paste
  • 1 tsp fresh lemongrass paste
  • 28oz whole tomatoes
  • 13.5oz can coconut milk
  • 4cups vegetable broth
  • Salt, pepper and sweetener to taste

Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and lemongrass, stir briefly before adding tomatoes and broth. Break tomatoes apart, simmer 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and seasonings. Purée with hand blender.

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Pasta with sausage, chard and ricotta (vegan)

This recipe has become one of Avery’s favorites. He’s even made it himself once! (And learned that when mom says “4 garlic cloves” she means chop them up, not whole 😉).

The sauce uses a classic Italian technique to make for silky and perfectly cooked noodles–using the pasta water to finish the cooking within the sauté pan with the other ingredients. It is practically fool proof.

We use vegan sausage and ricotta for this, which is a nice way to get some plant protein along with the carbs.

Any leafy green works, but rainbow Swiss chard is our favorite because it cooks fast but doesn’t completely fall apart like spinach. You throw it in the pasta pot for the last 2 minutes, which is another cheat making this recipe a weeknight favorite.

There are many variations on this recipe–changeout the protein or green, skip the ricotta or substitute parmesan, use any combination tomatoes–but the base sauce technique is definitely a winner for any experience level. So long as you remember to chop the garlic.

  • Pasta with sausage, chard and ricotta (vegan)
    • 4 cloves garlic chopped
      4 tbsp olive oil, divided
      1 pint or more small tomatoes–we love brown Kumato, red grape and yellow Sunburst, cut in half
      1 lb vegan Italian or Chipotle flavored sausage, sliced
      1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves roughly chopped, stems discarded
      1 lb pasta, tube shape preferably
      1/2 cup or more ricotta (we like Kite Hill brand)
      2 tbsp pine nuts

    Roast the tomatoes for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees until juices start running and they begin to caramelize.

    In the meantime, start pasta water.

    Sauté sausage on both sides in 2 tbsp olive oil until brown. Remove from pan.

    Put pasta in water and cook for 2 minutes less than instructions.

    While pasta cooks, remove tomatoes from oven. Sauté garlic in remaining oil for 1 minute before adding tomatoes. Scoop 1 cup of pasta water into tomato sauce. Let simmer on low.

    Add Swiss chard to pasta with 2 minutes remaining. Drain pasta and add to tomato sauce. The noodles will be al dente, and continue cooking for 2 minutes until tomato sauce finishes cooking noodles. You can always add more pasta water to the mixture. (Don’t dump it out until you finish the sauce just to be safe).

    Add sausage back in. Top with ricotta and pine nuts.

    Beans on toast (vegan)

    Another snow day off of school here in Minnesota. We just broke the snowfall record for February (and mind you we have another week to go!) with over 30″ just this month, including 8″ in the last day. Btw, The last time this happened the Metrodome roof collapsed.

    We’ve had a lot of together time inside and I am really grateful for Amazon Prime to bring groceries to my door!

    This hearty dish is nice for a cold day, and is good on its own, over noodles or toast. Whole Foods even has a pre-made vegan garlic bread to make this super fast and super easy. We like Field Roast brand of “fork nossage” (not pork=fake=fork, not sausage=nossage), in either Italian or Chipotle flavors.

    I am really regretting not booking a winter getaway this year…..am willing to do a house swap if anyone’s interested….ours comes with 2 Cornish Rex cats who love to cuddle.

    Beans on toast

    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1lb vegan Italian sausage, sliced into rounds
    • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
    • 5 oz package spinach or bunch of chopped Swiss chard leaves (any hearty green really)
    • 2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed
    • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tsp Salt

    Sauté sausage in olive oil until brown, flipping halfway through. Add garlic, salt, oregano and crushed red pepper. Cook 1 minute before adding tomatoes and water. Simmer 10 minutes. Add spinach and beans and cook another 5 minutes.

    Serve over garlic toast or noodles.

    **Recipe adapted from Bon Appetite

    The Cookie Chronicles: final volume—Dark chocolate tahini sea salt (vegan)

    “They just weren’t ready for you yet Mom.” –Adoring 16-year-old

    Well, I lost my bet. I am ok with that because I know these cookies are good. Just not the sugar sweet type of cookie most people are used to.

    I have learned a lot through this process of perfecting vegan chocolate chip cookies–everything from how to make a flax egg to the importance of precision when it comes to baking. Every detail matters.

    Even in this last round of final tweaks, I made a couple of inadvertent missteps. I got a phone call while measuring the flour and lost track, adding an extra 1/4 cup.

    That’s kind of a big deal. While they were good, they weren’t great as it changed the texture. I also used a different brand of tahini. That too seemed to change the flavor just slightly. I had to make a whole new batch.

    Man I could really keep going on this testing variables thing indefinitely. Kind of exhausting. So in the interest of moving forward, here is the best I can do for now.

    Over the course of the tests, the main things that I learned matter most:

    • A blend of wet ingredients creates a depth of sophisticated flavors, coconut oil gave them a nice crunchy exterior–better than just vegan butter on its own
    • Use really good chocolate. Dark is our favorite (70% cocoa), chopped finely. The other benefit is that most good chocolate (70% or greater) is vegan. Read the label for whey when in doubt. Combined with the sea salt, it’s a nice 1-2 pop.
    • Double down on vanilla
  • Read the previous attempts for all tips:
  • One
  • Two
  • Three
  • I haven’t baked this much in years–There’s a teenage boy who really hopes there are more contests in the near future. They’re winners in his book, which is the one that matters most to me.

    Dark chocolate tahini sea salt cookies

    • 4oz vegan butter
    • 1/2c brown sugar
    • 1/2c cane sugar
    • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seed to 3 tbsp water)
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/4c coconut oil
    • 3 tbsp tahini
    • 1 1/8c flour
    • 3/4 tsp baking soda
    • 3.5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
    • Coarse sea salt

    Grind flax seed in spice grinder and mix with water. Let sit at least 10 minutes. Beat butter until soft, add sugars and beat until fluffy. Add “egg” and again beat until soft. Add vanilla, coconut oil and tahini. Mix thoroughly. Add flour and baking soda slowly. Finely chop chocolate and mix into dough. Chill at least 30 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 13 minutes on parchment paper. Allow to cool on pan for at least 5 minutes (they will be very soft) and then move to cooling rack.

    Makes 2 dozen.

    ❤️❤️At least one boy loves these!

    The cookie chronicles, vol. 3

    We’re almost there folks. Two dozen cookies gone in less than 24hours. I ate 3 purely for “data validation purposes” 😉, but the other 2 humans living in my household refused to admit that they each had about 10. In one day. I count that as success!

    The main changes this time around were to improve the texture. The tahini is a great flavor but it can make them a bit gritty. So I cut that in half and substituted coconut oil (solid).

    The dough was a lot moister and I realized after putting the first dozen in the oven and watching them spread….and spread….and spread, that I better chill the dough. Remember people there are no raw eggs in this so eating the dough is perfectly acceptable 😇

    Both rounds were fantastic with a crispy outside crunch and soft chew on the interior. The flavor was less nutty but still noticeable.

    I also ran out of flour. Yes, this is the kind of baker that I am. Normally I would have just said “close enough”. But I figured I better try to be precise. So I rounded it out with pancake mix. Yup. Close enough. 😉

    The only thing left to fix is the chocolate. Because the dough spreads quite a bit, any big chunks kinda settled into a giant mess. A chocolate mess. So no one complained. But I need to chop it more finely and go back to bittersweet. The fine little shards melted throughout are really yummy.

    Ironically I tried a super dark chocolate (85% cacao) when my Amazon Prime substituted it for bittersweet. Sidenote: Have you tried online grocery delivery? On a below zero Sunday morning, the convenience is winning me over.

    After these adjustments, I think I am ready to publish the recipe and hopefully win my contest. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    The Cookie Chronicles, vol. I

    Do you prefer cooking or baking? The answer tells me how to talk to you 😉

    It’s a way of classifying personality in my brain.

    The cooks are creative, free-flowing, use a recipe as inspiration and general guidance. Bakers are more rule followers, precise and careful.

    I have the mind of a chef. Baking has never really been my thing, as I prefer to just throw things together, which doesn’t generally deliver great results in baking.

    So I have stayed away from vegan baking, as it is particularly intimidating. The ratios are even more important and the ingredients more difficult to find.

    There is nowhere to hide. No escaping the results of sloppy “measuring”. No buttery richness to distract the palate. It requires greater skill.

    But I am curious. And so started experimenting with a classic baked good: chocolate chip cookies. I mean most people will eat even a crappy chocolate chip cookie. Lots of room for forgiveness.

    I researched several blog posts and found a range of methods to cover off the substitutes I wanted to try first for butter and egg. I decided to start with a vegan butter and flax egg.

    Avery and I also ate at a new vegan restaurant– Seed Cafe. We love the chocolate chip tahini cookies. The tahini is a substitute for some of the butter and I added a vegan butter as the remainder.

    I then tried out the binder: flax egg.

    So 1 tbsp of ground flax seed to 3 tbsp water is the recommended ratio. Mix it and let it sit for 30 minutes or so. It definitely looks and behaves a bit like glue that’s partially set but materially flavorless. 😉

    But then I added the tahini. Yum. It’s nutty but not overwhelming. I used dark chocolate chips. The combo was definitely for a more refined palate. It was not sweet.

    The technique called for chilling the dough overnight (really, who does that?) This was a test of my rule following, so I did it. I don’t think it mattered. But technically I didn’t test it without chilling.

    I baked 2 rounds for different lengths, one in a ball and one smashed slightly. And topped with coarse sea salt.

    The texture was good if not a little gritty. The color being a bit dull since there’s no butter browning.

    This first round was good but not great. An A- from my adult taste tester, and a C from the teenager. Somewhere in between was my self-assessment. I could do better.

    More work to do, but keep:

      Tahini gives a nice nutty flavor
      Flax egg makes a good substitute and isn’t as hard as I thought
      Salt flakes on top make for a nice punch in combination with the tahini. Vegan baking definitely requires some flavor pops.
      Dark chocolate over semisweet
      Underbake, hey no eggs means less risk

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I might have opened my big mouth and bet a baker friend that I could beat his traditional cookies. (A month of vegan eating being the bet.)

    If you’ve got tips for me I will take them! The bakeoff is in early February.

    More taste testing to come!

    Manicotti (vegan)

    I was really hesitant about going full vegan on this recipe for manicotti, which is a winter comfort food for us. Let’s face it, it’s hard to substitute something that has as its main ingredient ooey gooey goodness with “feeze”. (All substitutes in our house now begin with F, as in “fake”. Ficken. Feeb. Feeze. We haven’t figured out what to do with Fish, except to say it wrong: Feesh. This is my first try with Feggs too).

    But gosh darnit, it’s Sunday and I feel like experimenting while listening to the same 12 Christmas carols on the radio. I mean just look at these ingredients, doesn’t that look like the makings of a fantastic Sunday supper?!

    Many thanks to Cathryn’s Kitchen for her recipe inspiration. The main uniqueness of this version is the crepes, which make the entire dish a silky texture, and how I have typically made manicotti. The crepes are a bit tedious to make but open some wine while singing to classic Dean Martin carols and it’ll go fast.

    I was more than pleasantly surprised by the creaminess of the “rinotta” filling that had a nice lightness to it.

    I added some chopped sautéed vegan Italian sausage to about half and would experiment with other additions next time too. I am trying out recipes for our Italian Christmas Eve dinner and now that I have a good substitute for ricotta, a whole new repertoire opened up!

    Feel free of course to use the real deals, but you too might be surprised by the vegan substitutes.

    Manicotti (vegan)

    Crepes

    • 1c flour
    • 2 “eggs”
    • 2/3c water (in addition to the water for the vegan eggs)

    Blend all together and let sit for 30 min.

    Filling

    In the meantime, mix up the filling.

    • 16 oz medium firm tofu
    • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
    • 2 tbsp tahini
    • 6 oz “mozzarella” cheese
    • 2 oz grated “parmesan”
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • Dash cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
    • Salt and pepper
  • Mix ingredients together (and add other fillings as desired, such as vegan sausage).
  • Make the crepes by heating 1 tsp olive oil over low heat. Add 3 tbsp of batter and spread using the back of the ladle. Cook about 1 min and flip to finish another minute or so until the entire crepe takes on a translucent quality.
  • Fill with 3 tbsp of filling and repeat (this made about 18 crepes).
  • I used jar spicy marinara for the sauce, putting just enough to cover the pan before layering crepes on top and covering with remaining sauce. Bake covered for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Finish with chopped fresh basil.