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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Watermelon jalapeño gazpacho

People either love or hate cold soup. Ya know, the kinds that are supposed to be cold. I happen to love them, with gazpacho being top of the list. Especially right now as the tomatoes are just starting to come in.

Sidenote: I have 2 perfect green tomatoes growing on my deck. I have invested a lot in these beauties and am protecting them fiercely from critters. Am relishing a perfect slice atop a veggie burger or all on its own. It’s just a few weeks now and they’ll bloom red. Please, Mr. Squirrel, please pass by my perfect tomatoes.

Anyhow, this soup is nice because it’s not the same old but is both sweet and spicy. A good quality watermelon makes all the difference–seedless is the only way to go.

Top it off with fruit salsa. Normally I like to use what’s in it so people know, but in this case I had some cantaloupe left to use up and needed a color contrast.

An easy way to get your fruits and veggies in and low fat too, perfect on a hot summer day. Super easy and super fast!

Watermelon gazpacho

  • 3cups cubed seeded watermelon
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4c red pepper slices
  • 3 inches of a seedless English cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 slices jalapeño (no seeds!)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, cut in large chunks
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp champagne vinegar (white or red wine or lime juice works too)
  • 1 tbsp mint finely chopped.

Blend everything but mint together in blender or food processor until smooth. Season with salt and add mint. Top with fruit salsa or a drizzle of olive oil.

Fruit salsa is simply diced watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber and finely chopped mint.

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.

Chipotle chili (vegan)

One of the reasons I started doing the blog is to force myself to write stuff down. And actually measure. Ummm, yah, not so great at either of those things. I’m a little vague on exactly how much of what that I put into this chili. It’s the first time I have made it and just grabbed what I had on hand.

Wouldn’t you know it, this was fantastic. A nice smoky heat and good heartiness. I should try harder, and take pictures of the steps. Then I wouldn’t have this problem. But that sounds like a lot of work. Almost as much work as actually measuring and then actually writing it down. This is why I am a “cook” and not a baker. Too hard.

I think I will just call my stuff “recipes”. As in good enough. If you test this and find the amounts in odd proportion, you’re probably right 😉

Chipotle chili

  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 chipotles plus 1 tbsp adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c diced bell peppers (yellow, orange, red)
  • 4c vegetable stock
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2c quick cook barley
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • Salt

Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chipotles/adobo and peppers and sauté another 2 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes, bring to simmer and add barley. Simmer on low about 20 minutes and add beans, cook 5 minutes more. Season to taste.

Mushroom barley soup


The barley in this low-cal soup makes it super filling, yet it’s chock full of healthy ingredients that also taste good.

Easy to throw together and great for the weekday work lunchbox!

Mushroom barley soup

  • 3 leeks, washed and chopped (just the white and light green parts)
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms 
  • 1 cup quick cook barley
  • 1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes 
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped kale 

Saute leeks in olive oil til soft. Add mushrooms and garlic, sautee 3 more minutes. Add rosemary and barley, stir. Add tomatoes and broth, simmer 10 min. Add kale and cook another 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

“Instant” Italian soup


I saw this idea for “instant” on-the-go soups in both Martha Stewart and Cooking Light and admit I was skeptical. Would it have decent flavor? Would vegetables get “cooked” enough?

I have played around with ingredients and can say, yes! It’s not as good as long-simmered soups, but a healthier, fresher option than canned soup. Hub loves it as a work lunch–just add hot water (like found from the coffee maker in an office).

A variety of ingredients work and it sits well too so you can make several days’ worth at a time. Enjoy!

Instant Italian Soup (2 servings)

  • 1 box Parmesan couscous (uncooked)
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2c navy beans
  • 1/3c spinach or kale, chopped 
  • 1 chicken sundried tomato mozzarella sausage, sliced
  • 1/4c matchstick carrots
  • Handful small tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • Salt & pepper

Layer ingredients in 2 wide-mouth jars. Sprinkle the couscous with the parmesan seasoning packet. Top the vegs with the pesto and salt and pepper. When ready to eat, fill jar with hot water, cover and let steep for 3-5 min. 

Spicy corn chowder 

I’m sorry that I don’t have a better pic of this corn chowder, but the adults went out for a late summer early evening walk…and this is what we came home to find. Two teenage boys=8 servings (plus BLTs). 

Oh well. It’s healthy, using a ton of late summer ingredients. In fact, only the chicken broth and cream didn’t come from our CSA farm share. The corn and potatoes are absolutely delicious right now!
Btw, The technique that I use to roast peppers is to hold it over the flame of my gas stove top burner (this is a good time to brag about the BTUs you’ve got;) and then when fully blackened, place in a ziplock for 10 min. This makes it easier to scrape off the blistered skin, and dice. Handle with care to avoid burns and of course play with fire inside at your own risk. 

Spicy corn chowder 

  • 1 jalapeño, roasted, seeded and finely diced
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 yukon potatoes, diced
  • 6 ears corn, kernels sliced off
  • 4c chicken broth
  • 2/3c half and half (or milk or skip)
  • Salt to taste

Saute onion in butter til translucent, about 5 min. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook another 3 min on low. Add potato and continue cooking, add corn, saute until potatoes start to brown and corn is bright yellow, about 5 min. Season with salt. Add chicken broth, simmer 20-30 minutes until potatoes are soft and soup begins to thicken. Add half and half. Purée about half of soup with hand blender, leaving some chunks. Do not leave unattended with hungry boys.