Beet and Spinach Soup

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It’s tempting (at least for me) to call any beet-based soup a borscht, but this one doesn’t quite fit the bill. For one thing, it is has fewer beets than a traditional borscht recipe, which allows the flavours of the other vegetables to shine through a bit more. For another, it has a great deal of spinach in it, which adds a contrasting texture and contributes to the iron content of the soup.

This is the perfect meal to make as fall sets in. Hearty and warming, it takes advantage of the winter vegetables that are starting to show up in markets and lets you enjoy a bit more spinach while it’s still around, too.

Beet and Spinach Soup
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 small onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 large carrot, finely diced (about ½ cup)
2 celery ribs, finely diced (about ½ cup)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large beet, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed (or 4 cups fresh, finely chopped)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon dried dill
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
plain yogurt for garnish, optional (about 2 Tablespoons per serving)

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in 1 Tablespoon of water (or oil, if you prefer). Cook until the onions and garlic are translucent.
  2. Add beet, spinach, broth, dill, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.

October 4, 2009 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

Parmesan-Tarragon Crusted Tofu

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This recipe is one of my favourites for simple, healthy comfort food. It’s based on my mom’s recipe for “breadcrumb chicken,” which my whole family loves. When I asked her for the recipe so that I could make a vegetarian version, I couldn’t believe how simple it was!

The tofu comes out a little bit drier than chicken, so I like to marinate it before breading and I usually serve this dish with some kind of sauce. In fact, one of the things I like best about the recipe is that it can be made really sophisticated with one sauce (say, a romesco sauce or even a good-quality pasta sauce) or really low-key and fun with a something else (we use honey mustard dressing to bring out the potential “vegetarian chicken fingers” flavour of the dish). If you are serving this to kids (or fun-loving adults), you can cut the tofu with cookie cutters before breading to make it into fun shapes – like stars or hearts or even dinosaurs.

Parmesan-Tarragon Crusted Tofu
Serves 4 – 6

1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu
2 cups vegetable broth or water
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon dried tarragon, crumbled
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  1. Cut tofu into 16  pieces. (I usually cut the whole block lengthwise to make the slices thinner. Then I cut each of those blocks in half, and use diagonal cuts to make each of the halves into 4 triangles. If you use cookie cutters, you may not get as many pieces out of a single block of tofu, but the fun is still worth it).
  2. Mix broth (or water) and soy sauce in a resealable container and add tofu. Add more water to cover if necessary. Marinate for 2 hours, or overnight (whatever you have time for).
  3. After the tofu has marinated, preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly oil a cookie sheet and set it aside.
  4. Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, tarragon, and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  5. Drain the tofu. Drag each piece through the breadcrumb mixture, making sure it is well coated on all sides.
  6. Place breaded tofu on the cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes on each side (or until it is golden-brown).
  7. Serve with desired sauce. (We usually eat this dish with a green salad and sweet potato fries or mashed potatoes).

September 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm 1 comment

Fiesta Macaroni Bean Salad

IMG_8341We had friends over for dinner last night, and we decided to mark the closing of summer with all of our favourite summer foods. Baked beans were there, along with corn on the cob, and rosemary roasted potatoes shared the oven (and our plates) with fabulously simple roasted asparagus – but this pasta salad was the star of the show.

I love it because it has the creaminess of a mayonnaise-based pasta salad, without either the flavour or the texture of the mayo taking over the dish. The whole wheat pasta, along with generous portions of beans and veggies, add texture and flavour that is sometimes lacking in pasta salads.

I should be up front with you, though: this recipe is not mine. It comes to you (only very slightly modified) from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer (who also co-wrote How it All Vegan and The Garden of Vegan, the books that taught me how to cook and how to be vegan. I still use a lot of those lessons, even as I’ve added some dairy and the occasional egg back into my diet). All three cookbooks are favourites of mine; worth checking out both for their basic recipes and for their more elaborate dishes (like this one). My only complaint is the portion estimation. Every recipe in La Dolce Vegan claims to make “2 large or 4 small servings.” While the recipes vary, I find that most make 6 – 8 servings, but maybe that’s just me.

Fiesta Macaroni Bean Salad

3 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta (macaroni or fusilli work well)
6 cups water
½ teaspoon olive oil
1 large carrot, grated or diced (about ½ cup)
1 small bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cups kidney beans or pinto beans (or 1 – 19oz. can, drained)
1 cup corn kernels
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup mayonnaise (I really like vegan Vegenaise)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

  1. In a large pot, bring the 6 cups of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, 6 – 8 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with olive oil to avoid sticking. Set aside to cool.
  2. When the pasta is completely cool, toss it together with all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge for a few hours first. Keeps well for a few days in the fridge.

September 12, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Artichoke Heart and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

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Heading out on one last picnic before the weather turns cold? Or maybe you need something to munch on at work or school? Wherever you enjoy it, this easy spread makes a nice, healthy treat that works equally well as a sandwich spread or a dip.

The texture of the spread is similar to hummus, thanks to the white beans that provide its base, but the flavour is something else. The artichokes lend a creaminess that balance the rich flavour of the sundried tomatoes, while the garlic steps in with its own unique kick.

I especially liked this as a dip for veggies and pitas, and in veggie sandwiches (with cucumber, tomato, and spinach). I hope that you will enjoy it, too!

Artichoke Heart and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread
Makes 1½ cups

1 cup white beans (such as cannellini beans or navy beans)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup artichoke hearts
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until creamy. (I like my Cuisinart immersion blender for things like this. It is a bit of an investment, but I got it as a gift a few years ago and I use it almost every day for blending dips, spreads, smoothies, and soups).
  2. Serve with veggies or crackers, or as a spread in sandwiches.

Adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

September 5, 2009 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

Tacos: Rice, Beans, and Greens

Tacos

These tacos represent a coming together of some of our favorite side dish recipes. The flavours in each (garlic in the spinach, cumin in the rice, rich dark beer in the beans) come together for a satisfying, complex mouthful of taco goodness.

That being said, this recipe can look a little intimidating given all of its various elements. Each of the recipes are quite easy, and I’ve included instructions for timing everything so that it takes the least effort and all comes together at the same time. If you are short on time or energy, though, you can use store-bought prepared beans (I especially like Trader Joe’s canned “Cuban Black Beans” but any brand of baked beans should work if you can’t get those). You’ll need about 2 cans.

This recipe can be easily doubled and is great for a fun, laid-back dinner party. Have your guests make their own tacos from the ingredients you’ve prepared. The different elements keep well in the fridge for about a week. Just keep them in separate containers and put tacos together whenever you want them.

Tacos: Rice, Beans, and Greens

10 small flour tortilla shells or taco shells
1 recipe cumin garlic rice (below)
1 recipe beer-stewed beans (below)
1 recipe garlic greens (below)
1 cup salsa, store-bought or homemade
1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)
1 cup cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded (optional)
1 avocado, sliced (optional)
hot sauce to taste (optional)

  1. Put the rice on first, because it takes the longest and doesn’t need supervision.
  2. Next, work on the beans. They are better the longer they simmer. When they are done (if you aren’t), just turn the heat off and put a lid on the pot.
  3. Do the spinach last, because it doesn’t take long and it shouldn’t be over-cooked.
  4. Gather the rest of the ingredients, and put together your tacos as you eat. Enjoy!

Cumin-Garlic Rice
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2¼ cup water (or follow instructions on your rice cooker)
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Put all ingredients in rice cooker and cook according to manufacturer directions for 1 cup of brown rice. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can find instructions for cooking brown rice in a pot here.

Beer-Stewed Beans
(Adapted from Vegetarian 5 Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atlas)

4 cups pinto beans or black beans or kidney beans (cooked or canned)
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup beer (preferably a dark beer)
½ cup vegetable broth
½ cup cilantro, minced

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Garlic Greens
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
10 oz. fresh spinach or other greens (collards, kale, chard, bok choy, etc.)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar or red wine vinegar or white wine

  1. In a large pot or wok, heat oil and add garlic, sauteeing until fragrant (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add spinach and vinegar or wine, and cook until spinach is bright green, and has reduced to about a quarter of its original size (about 5 minutes).

August 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Garlic Grape Gazpacho

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I didn’t mean for this to be a blog recipe; I really didn’t. I had every intention to just follow the recipe in my new issue of Vegetarian Times for a quick, easy (and oven-less!) dinner. Despite my intentions, though, I revised the recipe pretty heavily as I went along – substituting more grapes when my cucumber proved too small, and adding blended arugula to the soup itself. I also amped up the garlic, switched out the almond milk for coconut milk, and well… generally created a new recipe in the process.

I’m sure that the original recipe was excellent, too, but since we enjoyed this revision so much, I thought I ought to share it with you. It was super-simple to whip up and it made a perfect, refreshing (but filling) summer meal. And did I mention that I didn’t have to turn on the oven, or even a burner?

Garlic Grape Gazpacho
Serves 4 – 6

2 cups sliced almonds, divided
1 large cucumber, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 cups green seedless grapes (plus ½ cup for garnish)
½ cup onion, chopped
1 cup baby arugula (plus 2 cups for garnish)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon sherry
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil (plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish)

  1. Place almonds in toaster oven and toast 10 minutes at 350F, or until lightly browned. Don’t let them get too dark, because they will continue to cook  a bit, even after you take them off the heat. Set aside to cool. If you don’t have a toaster oven, you can toast nuts in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat until lightly browned.
  2. In a blender or food processor (or using a hand blender), combine 1 cup of almonds, with the cucumber, grapes, onion, garlic, arugula, coconut milk, sherry, vinegar, and oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Serve immediately, or chill 2-3 hours to let the soup get cold.
  4. Garnish each bowl with a small handful of arugula, 4 halved grapes, 2 Tablespoons of toasted almonds, ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with thick slices of crusty bread, if desired.

August 22, 2009 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

Blueberry-Cheddar Fritters

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Sometimes the best inspiration for new recipes comes not from a wealth of ingredients, but from a dearth of them. Such was the case when, as I tried to use up my perishables at the end of the week, I found myself with a ton of blueberries, a block of organic cheddar, and not much else.

I searched the web for blueberry cheddar recipes, and found this amazing concoction at Omnomicon (it’s worth clicking just to see the gorgeous picture) and I would have followed it faithfully, but I could not. The original recipe calls for making two batches of pancakes – one blueberry and one cheddar – but I didn’t have enough baking powder or flour for that. I did, however, have more than enough cheese and berries, so they went together into a single batch of pancakes that ended up being absolutely delicious.

Not quite pancakes, not quite fritters, this recipe brought diverse flavours together even better than I’d hoped. The savoury flavours of the cheddar and olive oil stand out while the sugar and vanilla add a subtle depth, and the blueberries add a refreshing burst of sweetness. All that, and they’re just as easy to make as regular pancakes. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Blueberry-Cheddar Fritters
Serves 4 – 6

1½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
1½ cups water (or soymilk, if you have it)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ fresh blueberries

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and flax seeds until well combined.
  2. Add water, olive oil and vanilla and stir until just mixed. Note: The olive oil adds a lovely, savoury flavour to the fritters but if you would rather use a lighter tasting oil (like corn or canola or safflower), that would work too.
  3. Fold in the cheese and the blueberries, but don’t overmix.
  4. Lightly oil a skillet or frying pan, and heat over medium-high heat. Add batter ¼ cup at a time for best results.
  5. Cook until the edges of each fritter are solid, and the middles begin to bubble (about 3 minutes).
  6. Flip and cook 2 – 3 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown.
  7. Repeat with remaining batter and serve immediately.
  8. You can also freeze these for later in any freezer-safe container. Thaw them in a pan or toaster oven, but don’t refreeze ones that have already been thawed. This can be dangerous when dairy is involved.

August 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment

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*All entries tagged "vegan" and "gluten free" meet those dietary requirements to the best of my knowledge as long as the vegan or gluten free instructions are followed (where applicable). It is always wise to double-check ingredients (especially when dealing with packaged foods) and to confirm ingredients and preparation methods at restaurants.