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.

I can’t believe it’s meatless Bolognese (vegan)

So the thing about change is that it requires flexibility and curiosity. Changing how you eat after 20+ years is kind of a big deal. You really have to think and act differently. As in, be mindful about food rather than fall into autopilot. It’s hard.

We started the boys early on trying new foods and basically expected them to eat like adults from very early on. If they didn’t like something, fine. But they had to try it. Multiple times.

So the vegan thing is just taking that to another realm. Mostly it requires ME to change. I have to adjust favorite recipes, find new ones and shop differently. Mostly it’s fun and I am enjoying experimenting.

We try some things and add them to the buy again list–like cashewyogurt–and others–like tempeh bacon–will need to grow on us. But every week I have tried something new, a new product or a new technique.

There are an incredible number of fantastic plant-based products out there. Avery is never going back to regular milk from his barista smooth Almondmilk. (And no this isn’t paid product promo).

This vegan bolognese was a wild success. “Mom, you can make this every week!” And the best part is that it doesn’t take 3 hours of simmering (plant protein doesn’t break down the same way animal protein does).

There are a couple of secret ingredients in this–wine and cinnamon. Plus it’s important to cook the mirepoix before adding the meat, then garlic and herbs, then tomato paste. (If your sauce sometimes tastes bitter it’s probably from uncooked tomato paste. It only needs a minute or so but removes the sharp bite).

Oh, and the only reason to make bolognese in July is a state swim meet: Go Aquajets, Power of the team!

Bolognese sauce (vegan)

  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package ground meatless crumbles
  • 14oz veggie sausage
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté veggies in olive oil until soft. Add “meats” and brown. Getting a nice crust adds depth of flavor. Add garlic sauté 1 min. Add tomato paste and herbs, cook 1 min. Add diced tomatoes, sauce, bay leaf, cinnamon, red wine and veggie broth. Season with salt as it simmers about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Serve over pasta.

Roasted chickpeas (vegan)

Yum. I am simply in love with roasted chickpeas. They’re high in fiber and a good source of protein for a vegan diet.

Aka garbanzo beans, most people have had these in the canned variety and may think of them as mushy or mealy, and literally beige boring in color. But when roasted, they take on a nice crunch and beautiful color.

They’re common in middle eastern food, including serving as the base for hummus and falafel, another couple of my favorites.

But they’re more versatile than that and we’ve had them recently at a nice Italian restaurant that serves them as an amuse bouche to start dinner, and on a vegan avocado breakfast toast at one of the fancy local bakeries, Rose Street/Patisserie 46.

I plan to eat them as snacks, throw on salads and my morning avocado toast for a nice pop of texture.

I foresee experiments with other seasoning combos too. Enjoy!

Roasted chickpeas

  • 2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Rinse, drain and dry beans thoroughly on paper towels. Mix together seasonings and olive oil, toss to coat. Spread evenly on baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Storing them exposed to air vs in a container keeps them crunchier.

Vegs for breakfast

Sitting on the back patio with a cup of coffee early on summer mornings is one of my “recharge” rituals. I love the quiet of the world, with mostly only nature stirring about, and the 70 degrees is perfect.

I have never been a big breakfast eater. In college I remember being weird in that cereal was not a default meal for me. Even before the vegan diet I didn’t enjoy sausage or other heavy rich foods first thing. Brunch time? Maybe. But just a cup of coffee wasn’t all that unusual for me to survive on til midday.

But then you get older and just coffee kind of makes you feel yucko and jittery. So I have really been trying to eat in the morning and in the process expanding my foods.

I have discovered that I like vegetables for breakfast! Typically that’s sautéed zucchini and cherry tomatoes, some bell peppers if I have them and fresh basil. If I need some starch, will put it over quinoa.

Sometimes even a mixed green salad with sautéed sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocado and nuts (pistachios in this case). It feels a bit odd to have salad in the morning but eh, I am used to being different by now 😉

I also love toasts, with avocado or hummus and topped with radishes or more tomatoes, and dill. A side of fruit salad with mint rounds it out. I make cold press overnight so the coffee is always ready as soon as I am up.

Maybe because it’s first thing in the morning, it’s easier to slow down and take my time to beautify my food too.

There’s something about starting out the day with some solid self-care, both in the enjoyment of nature and healthy food, that is nourishment on many levels.

Tomato herb couscous salad (vegan)

Spring has finally arrived! I planted my herbs and flowers this week. Fingers crossed 🤞 that the window boxes will look decent in time for Alec’s graduation party in a few weeks.

We’ve had a good mix of sun and rain so my herb plants are flourishing. It’s so nice to just pop outside and clip a few to brighten up any meal. I plant basil, tricolor sage, rosemary, mojito mint, french thyme, lemon thyme, dill and oregano. Lavender goes into the garden to hopefully get big (and provide some fragrance). Still need to plant tomatoes.

This recipe highlights a mix of herbs and tomatoes, getting me in the mindset for summer. You can easily adjust it to whatever herbs, tomatoes or grain you prefer. Or even skip the grain altogether.

Since becoming vegan, I find that I like having a grain made ahead that can be mixed into a lettuce salad for some added protein or topped with sautéed vegetables for breakfast. Or some cucs and peppers.

Additional beans like garbanzo or cannelini would make it more filling too. In other words, it’s adaptable (eaten hot or cold too).

The boys will be out of school in just a few weeks and our weekends will be spent at the lake. This salad would be a great make ahead to picnic on the boat!

The outdoor pool is just around the corner, too….I can’t wait!! Life is good during our Minnesota summers, am set to cherish every day of sunshine.

Couscous tomato herb salad

  • 1/2 package Trader Joe’s Israeli couscous mix (quinoa and dried garbanzo ups the protein in this)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2/3c chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley, thyme, oregano work well)
  • 2c diced cherry or grape tomatoes, variety of colors helps
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic

Make couscous according to package. Rinse and drain. Combine olive oil, lemon zest/juice, garlic and herbs. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and let steep for 30 minutes to bring out juices in tomatoes. Add couscous.

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.