Tomato soup (vegan)

Potpourri. Growing up that’s what mom called leftover night. I hated potpourri night. So now, beloved readers, I give you a potpourri post. A recipe, yes. But some other random food stuff since it’s been awhile.

Let’s start with something cool. I am trying out a new Twin Cities startup, Local Crate. It’s a food delivery concept involving ingredients from local farms and artisans. It’s not dissimilar to why I originally started blogging–to inspire people to explore what’s grown near them. It’s been an interesting and time-saving experience to have a couple meals pretty much prepped. I made vegan tikka masala this week!!

It doesn’t quite look like the picture but it tasted good. This is ideal for people who love to cook but hate planning and shopping.

In other food news, Alec is discovering how good he had it eating at home. “Why don’t they make spaghetti and meatballs?” The thrill of a cafeteria offering perpetual ice cream sundaes has worn off. He says he’s losing weight especially now that swim season has kicked in. He has 5:30am practice 3x a week. We look forward to feeding him at Thanksgiving!

Avery has really embraced the vegan diet. He’s even doing a biology research project on how plant protein impacts athlete performance. It’s the first time he’s gotten truly curious about molecular structure 😉

He’s also learning how to make vegan snacks for late night studying (nachos being a favorite). Yea for adaptability and learning!

Finally, here’s the recipe. This is so simple it shouldn’t really count, but sometimes simple is good for the soul. It snowed this week. Yes people. Snow. I am perpetually cold and it’s only October.

Tomato soup

  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 3 carrots, sliced into halfmoons
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • Celery leaves, fresh oregano and thymes stalks
  • 4c vegetable stock
  • 28oz can whole tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper, basil

Simmer onion in oil until soft. Add celery, carrots and garlic and sauté another 3-5 minutes until onions are golden. Add tomatoes and vegetable stock. I added a few end pieces of the celery with leaves attached and some fresh oregano and thyme still attached to the stalk. This gave the flavor a bit more depth. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes. Remove the celery leaves and herb stalks (if you used them). Purée until smooth with hand blender, season to taste with salt pepper and basil (1/2 tsp is an estimate).

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Home cooking vegetarian meatloaf

It’s week 2 with one less bird in the nest. We’re still getting used to it and I somehow expect Alec to walk through the door at any moment. Alas, he’s already enjoying college life, including the thrill of having so many food choices at any given moment.

I am saving about $100 a week in groceries and figure Lake Forest is losing money on his meal plan 😉

Avery is enjoying being an “only” child and not having to share the car with anyone.

We look forward to seeing him at Thanksgiving and hearing all about he’s learning (History of Global Capitalism, anyone?)

I figure the thrill of dorm food will have worn off by then and he’ll be grateful for anything cooked by Mom, including this vegetarian meatloaf. Maybe I will FedEx him some. I am sure his roommate would love it.

Vegetarian meatloaf

  • 14oz vegetarian sausage
  • 10 oz vegetarian meat crumbles
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/4c fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2c panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté onion in 1 tsp olive oil until soft, 3-5 min. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook another 3-5 min. Add Worcestershire sauce, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix in meats, eggs, breadcrumbs and combine gently. Put into loaf pan. Combine tomato sauce and brown sugar, cover meat in glaze. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.

Emotional eating

There’s a time and place for emotional eating. This weekend is one of them. It’s mid-April, and we’ve already taken our winter vacation. I thought it would be downhill after our return. Silly me.

It has snowed 15″ in the last 48 hours. And it’s not done yet. This is definitely stretching my optimism skills, as hockey season is almost done (go Wild!) and baseball is underway (go Twins!) But Avery will be lucky to be practicing and playing outside by the end of the month, roughly half of the HS baseball season. He’s not happy.

By Saturday night I was pretty squirrelly after being stuck inside so long. So I did what I do when my emotions run wild, I cooked. I made chocolate chip cookies and opened a bottle of wine. Fully admit this is emotional eating. And not vegan. Real Irish salted butter made these the best cookies I have ever made (keep it in the fridge for splurges and this definitely qualifies).

When the plows finally came through this morning and Matt had collapsed from shoveling the driveway (spring snow is heavy!), I ventured out to the grocery store to re-stock. And do some more emotional cooking.

We’re having favorites this week –made egg salad for Matty, bought lunch meat for the boys, spaghetti and “meat”balls, roasting a bunch of vegs and making ramen for me, which starts with an awesome garlic vegetable broth. All comfort foods that definitely have meaning for each of us. Is it so wrong to attach emotions to food and use it to perk up oneself from time to time?!

The cooking process itself calms me down. I came out of my rage as the broth simmered, realizing how few “snow days” we have left as a family. That we were all safe and snuggled in wearing pajamas for 2 days straight, gathered round the kitchen laughing and making the best out of it (binge watch recommendation = The Looming Tower on Hulu).

And it’s helping me make my case that our winters (Nov to May) should be spent elsewhere…just 2 more to get through! My suggestion to sell the house and buy a boat to sail the Caribbean is looking a lot less “crackpot”….

Garlic miso broth

  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 bunch fresh herbs, parsley or cilantro
  • Miso individual soup packet (optional)

Sauté smashed garlic in olive oil over low heat until brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic head, water, celery, scallions, bay leaf, herbs and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and add miso packet, salt and pepper as desired. A great base for ramen or any veg soup.

“Beef” stew (vegan)

The boys are generally being good sports about this vegan thing we’ve been trying. They’ve both figured out coping mechanisms. Avery has been getting supplements at lunch from his friends who take pity on him, and Alec just drives himself to buy something when he wants it.

I was honestly pretty excited tonight to try one of our favorite recipes, made vegan–Sunday Night beef stew by Pioneer Woman. It’s a winter staple. It’s hearty and easy, classic flavors.

It turned out great…the smell of a simmering pot filled the house all afternoon with anticipation and when the boys sat down there was honestly excitement. (I serve it over a giant portion of mashed potatoes and a good old bowl of carbs is always good bait for a teenage boy.)

So when we dug in, the reactions were nearly simultaneous: “This isn’t meat, is it?”

No. And then even I was laughing because there’s no way soy chunks improve by simmering. Quickly the nickname “feeb” stew caught on (beef backwards and perhaps a nod to feeble).

Lesson learned. I really liked this meatless beef tips product when we used it in broccoli stir fry last week, but I think it was greatly helped both by quick sauté and a spicy sauce. Cooking it for several hours made the texture akin to the “meatballs” in Spaghettios and the flavor was definitely not umami.

Everything else in the recipe turned out great–substituting olive oil for butter and vegetable stock for beef. I amped up the Worcestershire and added bay leaves to give the sauce more depth. That part of the recipe was a success. The carrots/turnips were great as usual too. Even the boys said so.

I’m going to keep tinkering with the right meat substitute, perhaps a tempeh or mushroom. The key to this vegan thing I think is to play with a food’s strengths, not to try to make something into what it’s clearly not. I’ve got some trust building to do for the feeb stew, can’t fool these hungry boys. 😉

Shepherd’s pie


I’m sorry. I don’t take this blogger photo thing as seriously as I should. It’s not pretty, but it’s good. 

A bit of backstory: I started blogging about 4 years ago when several baseball moms started bugging me to actually write down my recipes. It’s a concept, and I have never been one to be so formal. 

But then I got the idea that if I organized both my recipes and shopping lists that would be real value to working moms. I did that for a summer to test the idea and learned a ton about how people cook and grocery shop. The idea was solid (as proven out by services such as Blue Apron), but it didn’t really scratch the creativity itch for me. Nor did I really intend to make money at it.

Cooking is an art form. I just love sharing my tested recipes and even more joy when someone tells me they learned something new in the process (or tried a new ingredient). The blog serves that purpose for me. 

But in the past year or so, I have observed that we have a food consciousnesses crisis in this country. We have more, we consume more than we need, we waste more. And by “we” I certainly am generalizing. Americans don’t want to think about our food and where it came from or what purpose it serves our body. We are mindless consumers. And trained to be that way. 

That’s changing, but like most change, not fast enough. I do what I can in my little world to support that change—raising mindful eaters and sharing recipes with my small circle. I think I need to bring more of those cultural observations into the blog going forward, in addition to recipes and food travel notes. Thoughts welcome!!

Ironically, this recipe makes a massive amount of food that lasts at least 2 days (that’s eons in our house). But as winter sets in, we do need our comforts. All things in balance. 😉

Shepherd’s pie

  • 5lb potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 3/4c 1/2 &1/2 (or milk)
  • 1 stick butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey 
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables 
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne 
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Dash of cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper 

Boil potatoes in salted water til soft (about 20 min). While potatoes cook, sauté meats until brown, add onion and celery, cook til soft (about 5 minutes). Add seasonings, frozen vegetables and tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes and then remove bay leaf.

There are 3 keys to creamy, light mashed potatoes: 

  1. Never add cold liquids to hot potatoes (=glue)
  2. Don’t rinse potatoes, just let them air cool to a temperature you can handle. In this recipe you can let them sit awhile.
  3. Get a potato ricer. 

Microwave butter and cream for 1 minute. Add potatoes using ricer. Mix together, season with salt.

Place meat mixture on the bottom of large (10×14) baking dish, top with potatoes and sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with tinfoil, bake at 350 for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook another 10 min or so til top begins to brown.

Can be made ahead and/or frozen.

Shepherd’s pie


I’m sorry. I don’t take this blogger photo thing as seriously as I should. It’s not pretty, but it’s good. 

A bit of backstory: I started blogging about 4 years ago when several baseball moms started bugging me to actually write down my recipes. It’s a concept, and I have never been one to be so formal. 

But then I got the idea that if I organized both my recipes and shopping lists that would be real value to working moms. I did that for a summer to test the idea and learned a ton about how people cook and grocery shop. The idea was solid (as proven out by services such as Blue Apron), but it didn’t really scratch the creativity itch for me. Nor did I really intend to make money at it.

Cooking is an art form. I just love sharing my tested recipes and even more joy when someone tells me they learned something new in the process (or tried a new ingredient). The blog serves that purpose for me. 

But in the past year or so, I have observed that we have a food consciousnesses crisis in this country. We have more, we consume more than we need, we waste more. And by “we” I certainly am generalizing. Americans don’t want to think about our food and where it came from or what purpose it serves our body. We are mindless consumers. And trained to be that way. 

That’s changing, but like most change, not fast enough. I do what I can in my little world to support that change—raising mindful eaters and sharing recipes with my small circle. I think I need to bring more of those cultural observations into the blog going forward, in addition to recipes and food travel notes. Thoughts welcome!!

Ironically, this recipe makes a massive amount of food that lasts at least 2 days (that’s eons in our house). But as winter sets in, we do need our comforts. All things in balance. 😉

Shepherd’s pie

  • 5lb potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 3/4c 1/2 &1/2 (or milk)
  • 1 stick butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey 
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables 
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne 
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Dash of cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper 

Boil potatoes in salted water til soft (about 20 min). While potatoes cook, sauté meats until brown, add onion and celery, cook til soft (about 5 minutes). Add seasonings, frozen vegetables and tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes and then remove bay leaf.

There are 3 keys to creamy, light mashed potatoes: 

  1. Never add cold liquids to hot potatoes (=glue)
  2. Don’t rinse potatoes, just let them air cool to a temperature you can handle. In this recipe you can let them sit awhile.
  3. Get a potato ricer. 

Microwave butter and cream for 1 minute. Add potatoes using ricer. Mix together, season with salt.

Place meat mixture on the bottom of large (10×14) baking dish, top with potatoes and sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with tinfoil, bake at 350 for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook another 10 min or so til top begins to brown.

Can be made ahead and/or frozen.

Shepherd’s pie


I’m sorry. I don’t take this blogger photo thing as seriously as I should. It’s not pretty, but it’s good. 

A bit of backstory: I started blogging about 4 years ago when several baseball moms started bugging me to actually write down my recipes. It’s a concept, and I have never been one to be so formal. 

But then I got the idea that if I organized both my recipes and shopping lists that would be real value to working moms. I did that for a summer to test the idea and learned a ton about how people cook and grocery shop. The idea was solid (as proven out by services such as Blue Apron), but it didn’t really scratch the creativity itch for me. Nor did I really intend to make money at it.

Cooking is an art form. I just love sharing my tested recipes and even more joy when someone tells me they learned something new in the process (or tried a new ingredient). The blog serves that purpose for me. 

But in the past year or so, I have observed that we have a food consciousnesses crisis in this country. We have more, we consume more than we need, we waste more. And by “we” I certainly am generalizing. Americans don’t want to think about our food and where it came from or what purpose it serves our body. We are mindless consumers. And trained to be that way. 

That’s changing, but like most change, not fast enough. I do what I can in my little world to support that change—raising mindful eaters and sharing recipes with my small circle. I think I need to bring more of those cultural observations into the blog going forward, in addition to recipes and food travel notes. Thoughts welcome!!

Ironically, this recipe makes a massive amount of food that lasts at least 2 days (that’s eons in our house). But as winter sets in, we do need our comforts. All things in balance. 😉

Shepherd’s pie

  • 5lb potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 3/4c 1/2 &1/2 (or milk)
  • 1 stick butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey 
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables 
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne 
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Dash of cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper 

Boil potatoes in salted water til soft (about 20 min). While potatoes cook, sauté meats until brown, add onion and celery, cook til soft (about 5 minutes). Add seasonings, frozen vegetables and tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes and then remove bay leaf.

There are 3 keys to creamy, light mashed potatoes: 

  1. Never add cold liquids to hot potatoes (=glue)
  2. Don’t rinse potatoes, just let them air cool to a temperature you can handle. In this recipe you can let them sit awhile.
  3. Get a potato ricer. 

Microwave butter and cream for 1 minute. Add potatoes using ricer. Mix together, season with salt.

Place meat mixture on the bottom of large (10×14) baking dish, top with potatoes and sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with tinfoil, bake at 350 for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook another 10 min or so til top begins to brown.

Can be made ahead and/or frozen.