French Onion Soup

I have no idea why, but last week I was sitting in the couch watching TV and all the sudden wanted french onion soup. I have made Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats before and loved it. I didn’t feel like looking up his recipe so I did it off the top of my head. The real recipe calls for butter, beef broth, and wine. I don’t eat butter or beef broth, so I used vegan margarine, vegetable broth. I also used beer  because I did not feel like buying a bottle of wine and my boyfriend has plenty of beer in the fridge. The beer did give a different flavor, a little bit more yeasty/salty, but I liked it. Michael did not complain either.

Onions are amazing. They can help clean out your digestive system, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some research even suggests they have cancer fighting abilities. Ever why onions make you cry? Wouldn’t you try to blind your enemy if they were trying to cut you open and eat you!

This makes 2-3 servings.

French Onion Soup
2 large white onions, cut into thin half slices
3 tbs of vegan margarine
Pinch of salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 bottle of beer (I used Long Board)
1 can of vegetable broth
3 cup of water
Salt and Pepper to better

Cut onions in half, then into thin slices. Mince the garlic.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter.

Add the onions and a pinch of salt.

Stir everything together well and spread into a even layer on the bottom of the pan. Let it sauté for a few minutes, stir and spread out evenly again. Repeat until all the onions are brown and caramelized. This could take awhile, be patient and don’t crank up the heat.

Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two.

Add the beer and scrap up all stuff from the bottom of the pot.

Add the broth and water, and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for 30 minutes.

You can get all fancy and put in little ramekins and cover them with a cheese-covered crouton and bake in them in the oven. Or, do what I did and put a little cheese on top and serve them with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Kabocha Squash Soup

I love when good things are cheap. My local health food store had variety of locally grown squash on sale. The minute I saw them, I thought of hot bowl of creamy soup. I first picked-up a butternut squash but then a lovely little green one caught my eye. I didn’t know what kind it was but it wad lighter (hence cheaper) so I bought it. After a bit of Google and asking my mom, I learned it was a kabocha.

Kabocha is a Japanese winter squash. It looks like a squat green pumpkin. It has the texture of pumpkin but tastes more like a sweeter butternut squash. It is high in iron, vitamin C, and potassium. It’s meat is bright orange and it’s packed full of seeds too (I roasted them, a bit chewier than pumpkin seeds but still good). 
I came up with this recipe on my own, but it’s pretty much like any basic squash soup. This would also be wonderful with most other squash varieties as well. 

Kabocha Squash Soup

1 kabocha squash
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cup vegetable broth 
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups of kale, chopped
3 cups water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. 
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. 

Spray a baking sheet or pan with cooking spray and lay the squash cut side down.

Bake for about an hour, until totally soft. 
While that roasts, chop up the veggies. 

In a large pot, heat a some oil and sauté the onions until translucent. 

Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. 

Add the kale and cook until tender. Add the 3 cups water. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Once the squash is done and cooled, scoop out the meat into a blender. 

Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth. Blend until smooth. You may need to add a bit of water if it’s too thick.  ( I don’t know what happened to the picture of this step, sorry!)

Add the squash puree to the pot and turn the burner on to medium-low heat. 

Add the spices and salt and pepper to taste. Bring up to desired temperature and serve hot. 
I have a bit of a cold again so I had my with a lovely glass of Theraflu. Hopefully the vitamin C in the squash will do me some good. 

Sopa de Mani: Bolivian Peanut Soup

I was chatting with my Bolivian friend Leslie again and decided to make another Bolivian dish. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make and did not want to have to go buy tons of ingredients. After some searching on the web, I came across a recipe for soap de mani and thought it sounded amazing. It’s a peanut base soup traditionally made with chicken, raw peanuts, and carrots. It’s a little thick and sweet from the carrots. In Bolivia, soups can be a starter or main course (just like everywhere else I guess….). I left out the chicken and used purple sweet potatoes because that is what I had on hand. I found a recipe that skipped the whole raw peanut boiling step by using natural peanut butter instead. Yeah, I know it is not the traditional way, but I do not have the money to buy whole raw peanuts nor the patients to wait for them to cook down. And, since I found this recipe on an international recipe site, I am sure plenty of Bolivians cheat with peanut butter too.

Peanuts are native to the tropical regions of America. They are high in protein, vitamin B3, and vitamin E. They are also a good source of fiber and antioxidants. They were consumed by the Aztecs, who even mashed them into a paste. But modern day peanut butter is quiet different than the paste the ancients ate. Most modern versions of peanut butter roast the peanuts first, and include oil to make it more spreadable and sugar to make it sweeter. Although peanuts have some health benefits, the peanut oil or other vegetable oils added to peanut butter are still fats so it should still be eaten if moderation. And natural peanut butter, meaning it is only ground up peanuts and a bit of unprocessed peanut oil, is always the best way to go. No one needs the added sugar of processed peanut butter.

This recipe is based on one from Whats4Eats called Soupa de Mani. That recipe serves 4, but I cut mine down to serve 2.

Sopa de Mani
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable stock
3 carrots, sliced
3 small potatoes (I used purple sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Chop the onions, mince the garlic, slice the carrots, and cut up the potatoes. Always easier to prep all the veggies before you start cooking.

In a large pot, heat some oil and add the onions. Cook on medium-low heat until translucent.

Add the garlic for cook for a minute or two.

Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minute until all the veggies are soft.

Remove a bit of the hot broth and whisk in the peanut butter to temper it.

Add the tempered peanut butter to the pot and let it simmer for a minute or two. Season with the red peppers flakes, salt, and pepper to taste.

I garnished mine with a bit of basil, not sure if that is Bolivian, but I wanted a splash of green. The soup is creamy and sweet, with a bit of a kick from the red pepper flakes. I loved it, the flavors blend together so nicely. I ate this with a side of mashed plantains, which I will be posting tomorrow.

Jazzed-up Ramen Noodles

Instant ramen noodles aren’t just for college students and don’t have to be so unhealthy. I don’t buy packaged foods often, but sometimes you just need a big bowl of steaming hot broth and noodles (and  at 75 cents a pop who can argue?). Try to find brands with lower sodium and no animal products. This means no chicken, beef, or seafood flavors. Vegan means no animal products and chicken flavoring usually implies it came from a chicken, so it’s not vegan. Stick to vegetable broths, the one I used was mushroom.

But the best way to counteract the evils of packaged foods? Throw some fresh stuff in there too! This is just one of many variations I make when I want to jazz up my ramen. I also suggest tofu, spinach, carrots, radishes, cabbage, edamame, jalapeños or any combination of these. 
Jazzed-up Ramen Noodles
1 package of instant ramen soup
2 cups water (may vary based on the brand you use)
1 1/4 inch piece of ginger root, sliced finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 bunch bok choy
Fresh basil, chopped finely
Green onion, sliced finely 
Red pepper flakes 
Cook the noodles accordion to the instructions on the package. My package said to boil  2 cups of water, add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes. 
After about a minute of cooking, I added in the ginger and garlic. 
I suggest boiling the bok choy for a minute or two first so it is less bitter. 
Once the noodle are cooked, transfer to a serving bowl. 
Add the bok choy, and top with the basil, green onions, and pepper flakes. 
Relive or continue to survive your college days with cheap, easy, and delicious bowl of jazzed -up ramen. 

Feel Better Vegetable Soup

I’ve felt kind of crummy all weekend, I think I caught a cold or something. So, I decided to make the best thing for a cold, soup! There is tons of research on the healing properties of vegetable and chicken soups—but since I am a vegan I am only going to talk about vegetable soup. Since soup is largely liquid based, it helps keep you hydrated, which is key to fighting a cold. The vegetables also can act like anti-inflammatories and help lessen congestion and soreness. The protein in the seitan also helps boost your body’s ability to fight off sickness as well. I’ll post some links at the bottom.
Besides all those wonderful health qualities, who doesn’t love a big steaming bowl of soup? That’s the main reason I decided to make this. It conjures up happy memories of my mom bringing a bowl of her homemade soup and kissing me on the forehead to make me feel better. It’s also proven that thinking of happy memories helps your immunity too (I watched a very good documentary recently called The Science of Healing with Dr. Esther Sternberg on the subject).
I guess this is based on my mom’s chicken soup recipe, just minus the chicken. It’s pretty much the standard vegetable soup recipe and it’s very easy. I wanted more of the seitan I posted yesterday, I made up another batch to add more protein to the soup. I made my own broth because it makes all the difference in the world. Plus, there is way less sodium than the stuff in the box or can. 

Vegetable and Seitan Soup
1 large onion
3 large carrots
4 stalks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 half inch piece of ginger
8 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup seitan

Peal the onion and chop off the ends. Cut into quarters. Cut the ends off the carrots and celery, cut into quarters as well. Peal the finer and chop off the ends. Peal the ginger. Throw everything into a large pot.

Add the water, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Cover and turn on the heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about an hour, until the veggies are tender. 

Remove the veggies. If you strain them, make sure you do not accidentally throw out the broth. Set the veggies aside to cool. Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Once the veggies are cooled, chop into bite size pieces. Some people discard the garlic and ginger, but I chop it up too.

Add the veggies back to the broth.

Add the seitan and turn the heat to low. Let it cook for a few minutes, just to warm everything back up.

I served mine over wild jasmine rice, but noodles would be wonderful too.

I hope I feel better tomorrow. And if not, I have plenty to soup to help me feel better.

Links on Cold Cures:
Today Show: The Truth About Six Common Cold Remedies
Mayo Clinic: Common Cold
10 Simple Ways to Cure Cold

Barszcz: Polish Beet Soup

I’ve always wanted to try borscht, called barszcz in Polish. I love the taste of beets and figured all those jokes about the soup being awful soup were from McDonalds-addicted, over-processed food lovers. Now that I’ve tasted it, I know that is exactly the case. It has a mild and slightly rich flavor, totally in love.  My mom say it’s ok, but my grandma said she loves it too. Although she loves, my mom said she didn’t make it very much while my mom was growing up because my grandpa hates beets. Apparently he didn’t even want them in the house! I must confess that grating beets is a pain, so I shared my grandpa’s hatred while I was prepping everything at least. This recipe is based on one from cooks.com called Polish Beet Soup.




Barszcz
4 cups water
1/2 stick of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
4 good-sized beets
1 medium-sized onion
Salt

This part really sucks to do. I suggest wearing gloves so your hands do not turn bright red.  Peel and grate the beets and onion.

Add the 4 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the vegan butter.

Once the butter has melted, add the grated vegetables and salt to taste.

Cook for about 1/2 an hour, until the beets and onions are cooked.

If you want hot soup, serve it immediately. But I wanted mine cold so I made mine earlier in the day and then let it chill till dinner.

Top with some vegan sour cream (try Tofutti) and some dill or chives. My dad and I loved it, my mom wasn’t a big fan. I guess she takes after her dad.

One last Polish recipe posting up soon.

Curried Split Pea Soup

I’ve had a bag of dried split peas sitting in my cupboard for awhile now. I saw them while I was cleaning my kitchen today and thought I should actually do something with them. So I decided to make good ol’ split pea soup. I hated split pea soup as a kid. Canned ones were way too mushy and way too salty. And homemade ones had chewy, overcooked ham pieces. So gross. But awhile ago I saw Alton Brown make a Curried Split Pea Soup on Good Eats and my faith was restored. His soup was smooth, not mushy, and properly seasoned. My version is based on this recipe, just minus the ham and add some green bean for extra nutrients. 

 


Curried Split Pea Soup
1 cup dried split peas
1 tps of vegan butter
2 cups water
Pinch of Salt
2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 tbs curry powder
1 tbs garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Put the split peas in a bowl and pick out all the bad looking pieces. Cover with water and soak for at least 2 hours, overnight if you can.

Drain and rinse the peas.


Heat a skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the peas and cook until slightly tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the two cups of water and the pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer then cover and cook until completely tender, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the peas to a bigger pot. You could saute them in the pot too, but I think they cook more evenly in the skillet.

Whether using frozen or fresh green beans, cook them first. I used frozen so I microwaved them. I suggest steaming fresh ones. Add the cooked beans to the pot along with all the remaining ingredients, then mix together.

To make the soup a thicker, puree it in a blender. Reserve about a cup and half of the pea and bean chunks first to add back in after. This way the soup has some texture and isn’t just green mush.

Once it is pureed to a smooth texture, return it to the pot and add the reserved chunky soup back in. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 25 minutes.

Ladle into serving bowls and enjoy. The curry gives it nice background flavor without overpowering the richness of the peas and beans. Love the color too.