Smokey Chickpea Potato Soup

img_3127I’m on a mission. A mission to get people  to spend more time in their kitchens. Please don’t run away screaming just yet! Hear me out. We demand a lot from our bodies – vitality, energy, a healthy weight. We likely invest time and money in insuring our bodies against illness and ageing – gym  memberships, anti-aging products, yoga, meditation. Yet we are afraid of spending time in the kitchen. Think about it – we are constantly hearing messages about time-saving recipes, convenience foods, short cuts, prepared meals and so on. So much so that we have become averse to our appliances and all that equipment languishing in our cupboards. We drag our feet and protest against cooking, citing long lists of priorities. But preparing food is at the basic level of self-care. We should, in fact, be running towards our kitchens  instead of away from them. Cooking more is one of the ways, perhaps  the most important way, we will be able to resolve so many of our food and health issues. When we prioritize cooking for ourselves and our families, we declare that taking care of our bodies through whole, nourishing meals consumed at our dining tables in the company of our loved ones matters.

Now I get that spending more time in the kitchen doesn’t mean spending ALL of our time in the kitchen. We still want easy to prepare recipes that aren’t going to send  us on a wild goose chase trying to track down unusual spices. There is a time and place for that, and I do admit that I enjoy spending my time unearthing exotic foods and perusing aisles of newly discovered markets. But recognizing that’s not everyone’s cup of tea and with the mission to get people to cook more in mind, I decided to create a recipe that is made with simple ingredients and requires only fundamental cooking skills. In fact I challenged myself to create a recipe with items I already had on hand!

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Soups are really at the very centre of convenience cooking. One pot, a bunch of familiar ingredients and a few spices to add flavour and flair, and a bit of idle time. That’s it. This soup contains potatoes, an often vilified vegetable (probably for its incarnations as chips  and fries) but actually delivers a bunch of nutrients in a pretty convenient package. One medium potato with the skin on provides a third of your B6 and a quarter of your potassium and vitamin C needs as well as 15%of your daily fibre requirement. Carrots add colour and beta carotene and chickpeas stand in as the filling, fibre-rich protein source. Despite usually being relegated to decoration, I added parsley as much for its flavour as for its surprising nutritional punch: a quarter cup of chopped parsley provides a quarter of your vitamin C and almost 300% (yes you read that right) of your vitamin K needs. Vitamin K is a powerful fat-soluble vitamin that is involved in the  blood clotting process, so you know, you don’t bleed to death!! Thank you vitamin K *gives high  five*.

As always, this recipe is plant-based but can be enjoyed by everyone. As with many soups and stews, this one tastes even better the next day – so perfect for leftovers! What is your favourite quick and easy to prepare meal that you often cook for yourself and your families?

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Smokey Potato Chickpea Soup

Makes 6 servings

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons avocado or extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon smoked paprika, hot or mild

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning*

3 medium potatoes, skin left on, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 cups)

3 carrots, peeled, sliced into rounds or half moons (about 3 cups)**

6-7 cups water

1 (19oz/540ml) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2-3/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1-2 teaspoons sea salt, to taste

1/2-3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.       In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

2.       Add the smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cumin, Italian seasoning and half of  the salt and pepper to the pot and stir for about a minute until fragrant.

3.       Add the potato, carrot and water, stir to combine. Increase heat  to high, bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and carrots are just fork-tender (be careful not to overcook!)

4.       Finally stir in the chickpeas and parsley, and adjust salt, pepper and seasonings to your taste.

 *If you  don’t have Italian seasoning on hand, just use any combination of thyme, oregano, basil, dried sage and rosemary.

**This soup will thicken as it stands (especially overnight), add extra water to thin it or just enjoy as is. I used 6 cups of water.

 Tips:

-I  add the onion and garlic to the pot off the heat as I chop them. Once I have all the other ingredients prepared, I add the oil and turn on the heat.

-I chop the parsley and rinse the chickpeas while the soup is simmering, to cut down on prep time.

-If this recipe leaves you with a bunch of leftover parsley, use it in salads, pasta and rice dishes, smoothies and sprinkle extra on the soup before serving.

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Vegan Thanksgiving Feast: Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Sage Soup, Pan Fried Herbed Tempeh, Spiced Ginger Cranberry Chutney and More!

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving everyone! I love this time of the year. So much to be thankful for. Family, friends, health, prosperity…life has been good. Oh and it helps that in my part of the world we are immersed in a weather utopia with mild temperatures, blazing sunshine and a riot of fall colours already beginning to blossom.

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Be forewarned: this is a long post but you will be rewarded with three original recipes + links to more recipes I have tried.

Amongst the things I am thankful for is being able to enjoy a vegan, plant-powered Thanksgiving feast that made taste buds sing. The only true veg guests at our table of nine (+ my eleven day old niece) were my sister and I, though everyone else is food adventurous and certainly open to trying anything. My sister’s only directive was “just make something that will serve as a vehicle for cranberry chutney”. Ok, mission accepted.

Now you will have to pardon the quality of the photos in this post as I was snapping pics in what can only be described as delighted chaos. I was cooking in my mom’s kitchen, sharing precious counter space with her as she made her menu items, making up recipes and writing them down as I went along and ensuring that the finished products were in sufficient quantities and edible and more or less ready at the same time. And all along trying to ensure my camera survived intact.

Flowers from my parent’s garden adorning our festive table
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While my mom made the customary turkey for the non-veg folks at the table along with her infamous wild rice and sausage stuffing, she did contribute to the veg menu by making a savoury mushroom gravy and a separate dish of her stuffing with roasted chestnuts in lieu of the meat. They were amazing! I will have to work out the recipes and share with you soon. (Question: is it still called stuffing when you’re not stuffing anything with it? Things that make you go hmm).

The other side dishes she made were naturally veg-friendly and the only adjustment needing to be made to some recipes was to replace butter with olive oil or Earth Balance.
I supplemented the dinner menu with three items of my own plus two pies for dessert (a pumpkin pie and apple pie – in my opinion you cannot have one without the other).

Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
Appetizer:
Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Sage Soup (recipe below)

Entrée:
Pan Fried Herbed Tempeh (recipe below), Maple Roasted Squash and Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts with Sautéed Mushrooms, Wild Rice and Chestnut Stuffing, Mixed Mushroom Gravy, Spiced Ginger Cranberry Chutney (recipe below)

Dessert:
Pumpkin Pie with Gluten Free Crust (from Oh She Glows, I adapted the recipe for my peanut/tree nut allergic niece by replacing pecans with equal parts pepitas and gluten free ginger snaps) and Caramel Apple Pie (from Healthy. Happy. Life.), served with Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss Vanilla ice cream

And now for the recipes!

Roasted Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Sage Soup
This soup was inspired by the flavours of a Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Browned Butter I have made in the past for Thanksgiving. This year I did not have enough time to make this relatively easy, albeit time intensive recipe but still craved the silky, buttery, luscious flavours. So I came up with this soup, and I have to say the results were definitely reminiscent of the melt-in-your-mouth raviolis. In part I think this had to do with the fact that I pureed the soup in a Vitamix blender as opposed to using an immersion blender – this decision transformed the soup from good to great, simple to celebratory, smooth to silken.

1 butternut squash, cubed
1 head of cauliflower, cut up into florets
3 Tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil
handful of fresh sage leaves, about 10-12 leaves
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
8-10 cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (I use Harvest Sun)
¼ cup full fat coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 400⁰F, line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss butternut squash and cauliflower with olive or coconut oil, half of the sage leaves, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, salt and several grindings of black pepper. Tip out onto parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30-45 minutes, until cooked through and golden (time will depend on your oven). Don’t overcook.
3. Once roasted, transfer vegetables into a large soup pot, cover with water, add bouillion cubes and rest of fresh sage leaves. Bring to a boil, simmer for a few minutes until all the flavours have come together. Add coconut milk and adjust seasonings.
4. Carefully transfer soup into blender in small batches, blend until silky smooth. Note: leave vent hole on blender lid ajar to let steam out and place kitchen towel on top to keep splatters in. Pour pureed soup into clean pot, adjust seasonings again (usually I adjust salt last).
5. Serve with crispy sage leaves (heat up a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil in frying pan, toss in fresh sage leaves for a few seconds until they get crispy, remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towel to drain excess oil), a drizzle of coconut milk or pepitas Or all three.

Veggies about to go in the oven…
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…and now done
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Silky smooth, courtesy of the Vitamix!
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Pan Fried Herbed Tempeh
Our vegan Thanksgiving feast needed something hearty to match up with the zing and tartness of the Spiced Ginger Cranberry Chutney, and thus came this tempeh recipe. I borrowed a bit of inspiration from a panko-crusted tempeh I encountered at a local vegan restaurant. In this version, however, I chose to use hearty whole-grain homemade breadcrumbs with the savoury flavours of sage and oregano; I love sage at Thanksgiving and my mom has tons of it growing in her backyard. The coconut oil I used for frying did not impart too much of its coconutty flavor but certainly you can replace with a more neutral-tasting oil of your choice.

1 block tempeh
1 cup bread crumbs (I used a few slices of Silver Hills Squirrely bread, left out to dry overnight then processed into coarse crumbs in a blender)
5-6 fresh sage leaves (replace with about 1 tsp dried if don’t have fresh)
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
½ cup coconut milk, or another plant-based milk
coconut oil for frying

1. Place bread crumbs, fresh sage, oregano, salt and pepper in blender or food processor, pulse until everything is combined and sage leaves are finely chopped.
2. Cut block of tempeh in half so you have two rectangles, now cut each piece in half again but this time in such a manner that you still have the same sized rectangles but now half as thick. Clear as mud?
3. Set up two bowls, one with coconut milk the other with bread crumb mixture.
4. Dip each piece of tempeh first in coconut milk, then into breadcrumbs, pressing firmly so that breadcrumbs coat the tempeh evenly.
5. Heat coconut oil in non stick frying pan on medium/medium-high heat, you should have enough oil in the pan to come almost half way up the tempeh cutlets. Gently place tempeh in the pan, fry for about 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown, don’t burn it! Don’t stress if some of the breadcrumb coating falls off (I didn’t).
6. Carefully remove tempeh from pan onto paper towels to drain excess oil.

Only picture of the tempeh, clearly this photo was taken on the run
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Spiced Ginger Cranberry Chutney
If you’re still using cranberry sauce from a can to compliment your holiday feast, this is the recipe that will hopefully get you to abandon that practice. It is tart, sweet, spicy and zingy. It is unapologetic in its bold and stand out flavours. It rocks my Thanksgiving plate and its absence from the table would be deeply mourned by all. Funny story, when I first started making this irresistible condiment, about a decade ago or so, I was not yet enlightened to the difference between star anise and anise seed, and so anise seed is what I picked up at the store. It has remained an ingredient in this recipe despite the fact that I now stock star anise in my spice cupboard,can’t imagine making it without it. On a side note, I usually make a double batch of it and preserve in small jars to enjoy as an accompaniment to many other meals and snacks.

Adapted from Food and Drink magazine, Holiday 2000

2.5 cups cranberries (300g package), rinsed and picked over
1 large apple, any variety, peeled, cored and chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger (use more or less, depending how much gingery heat you like)
½ cup apple cider or apple juice
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup vegan sugar (cane, coconut palm, Sucanat etc.)
1/8 tsp each cloves and allspice
¼ of whole nutmeg, grated
2 star anise
½ tsp anise seed
3-4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, once cranberries start to pop, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 20-25 minutes. Chutney will thicken once cooled.

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All in the pot it goes
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Beautiful, vibrant, delicious
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And there you have it. In case you’re wondering, the other side dishes were quite simple to prepare and don’t amount to much of a recipe. The squash and sweet potato got the same treatment – acorn squash was cut into slices while the sweet potato was cubed, both were drizzled with olive oil, maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon, salt and pepper, then baked in a 400⁰F oven. The Brussels sprouts were washed, trimmed and boiled until tender then combined with mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, all was seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

Coming all together for a party on my plate
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The pies did not make it to the picture stage as they were devoured in a flash. The pumpkin pie was ahhhhhmazing, the filling reminiscent of a rich butterscotch. The ginger snap crust worked out well but was a bit tough (no one cared). The apple pie was quite good, certainly no complaints from anyone but I could work on my vegan crust making skills. And the leftover caramel from the apple pie recipe was divine when heated up and served with a scoop of Coconut Bliss ice cream and chopped walnuts. It may be true that I polished off the rest of the caramel in this manner. But no witnesses have been found to confirm.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!
ilona

Back In The Game (plus recipe for Kale and Bean Soup)

Well, I am FINALLY feeling like myself again. I can safely say my body is virus-free. Hallelujah.

Can’t say I was feeling much food inspiration over the last little while. Although I’m not of the lose-all-your-appetite-while-sick sort (and damn it I do envy the people who get blessed with this silver lining of illness), my food selection was completely lack luster and I don’t think I attempted much beside boiling water and toasting bread in the kitchen, oh and heating up soup from a carton.

I managed to stay on the vegan bandwagon for two weeks now, viral attack and all. I have to say though, while I certainly don’t feel deprived and I can’t say I’ve even toed the precipice of starvation at any point, I have had some niggling thoughts about sneaking a few bites of cheese. Or milk chocolate (which is strange as I prefer dark varieties typically). I even had a dream where I pigged out on a milk-laden chocolate bar and woke up with residual feelings of guilt that the dream embedded. But honestly, all this has been minor.

In fact, beyond the illness stage, I continue feeling inspired and excited by all the vegan foods and recipes I keep coming across. As my sickness waned towards the end of the week, I found myself enveloped by a plethora of food experiences this weekend.

First off, my brother bought a juicer. Super exciting! We juiced the second the beast came out of the box. So far a winning combo has been apples, kale and ginger  Delish. I came up with a concoction that echoed the flavours of carrot cake: tons of carrots, apples, a bit of ginger and a few shakes of cinnamon and cloves. Yum! And of course there’s been a few underwhelming, and perhaps down right awful, results too. Will keep you updated on our juicer developments!

On Saturday night I made the pilgrimage to downtown Toronto for some of my favourite Thai food at Salad King. I can’t comment on the authenticity of the grub but I have been eating here since my Ryerson University under-grad days. I even remember what my first dish was, and this was back in 2002! Emerald curry, by the way. The location has moved (a few meters from the original) but the crazy atmosphere, affordable prices and consistently amazing dishes have remained. Even the mild to 20 chilies heat scale has not changed a bit. I am a 5 chilies type of gal…hey, some like it hot 🙂

I dined on my beloved Bangkok Stir Fry (veganized by omitting the egg) and my dining partner-in-crime chose the Hot Thai Noodles with a very non-veg chicken and shrimp option. We stuffed ourselves silly and walked away wishing for a location closer to home. Sigh.

My good food fortune continued into Sunday as we gathered at my parents place for dinner. My mom obliged our veggie ways and cooked up an amazing vegan kale and bean soup. Sooooo good!

Kale and Bean Soup 1

 Kale and Bean Soup

This is a delicious soup to serve on a chilly day. Much goodness is to be found in this gem of a dish.

Adapted from: The Vegetarian Collection by Alison Key and The Canadian Living Kitchen

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste (1/2-1 tsp of each)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, homemade or store bought
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 small white potatoes, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • 1 can (395ml, 140z) cannelini beans, rinsed and drained, used Eden Garden brand
  • 2 cans (395ml, 14oz each) navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 bunches of kale, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • juice of one lemon

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, coriander  cumin, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent.

Add broth, water, white and sweet potato and all the beans, bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Meanwhile put kale into a pot of boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes until softened. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then finish off with the lemon juice.

Serve as is or accompanied by whole grain bread, pita or a cooked grain (rice, buckwheat, quinoa or the like). Enjoy piping hot.

Kale and Bean Soup 2

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 My mom also surprised us by baking vegan chocolate chip cookies. No milk or eggs, and incidentally no wheat, but full of chocolatey goodness. Best served with beverage of choice for dunking. Recipe was from good old reliable Martha Stewart.

Vegan CC Cookies 2

Vegan CC Cookies 1

Way to go mama! First one to experiment with vegan baking. But that’s not shocking, baking is in her blood.

Vegan CC Cookies 3

I wrapped up my Sunday evening by prepping for the work week. Cooked up a one skillet meal using ingredients already in my fridge and pantry for lunches and dinners; will post the recipe this week. Main ingredients were fennel bulb, green peas, quinoa and Tofurky sausage. Don’t mock me, I love them.

And I whipped up a batch of hummus. I don’t really use a precise recipe, more so a guideline I suppose. But I will try to account for the proportions next time I make it so I can share the magic that a few simple kitchen staples can create: chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and good-quality olive oil. That’s all.

Happy February everyone!

ilona

Viral Attack!

I have a confession to make. Despite what I believe to be valiant efforts, these damn bugs continue holding my body hostage. That’s right, I’m still sick. Just wanted to get that off my chest, in case yesterday’s blog mislead anyone to believe all was well in veg land. What I also want to get off my chest is whatever gunk is lodged in there. Who knew the human body was capable of producing so much…well…mucous. Ugh that’s a god-awful word!

So anyway. Feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Luckily I have a great family. Aside from a few good-natured but snarky observations about how I got sick just as I entered vegan-hood, they’ve all offered to help fight this unwelcome virus in some way or another.

My bro offered to go to the grocery store and get me whatever I wanted. My mom said she would have happily made me homemade chicken noodle soup in my pre-veg days. Thanks Mom! In this case it’s definitely the though that counts. And my sister came through with a spicy quinoa veggie chili….amazing! Not only for its taste but for its nasal passage clearing effect…I could actually breathe for a millisecond.

So here I am again. About to cuddle up in bed with a book, this time The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. So far amazing. Thank you to my aunt Liz for urging me to read it 🙂

Stay virus-free!

ilona