Soup Success!

February 26, 2013

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It’s no secret that I love my crockpot and last night’s soup did nothing to change my mind. However, it is a little more prep than normal involved. I came up with this idea after a serious hankering for some root veggies roasted with a healthy dose of Smoked Spanish Paprika. Normally I’d be perfectly content to toss the veggies with some pasta and call it a day. The problem, was that last night my husband needed a fuss free dinner and a clean kitchen. So a crockpot meal was in order. Besides, roasted veggies is a weekend meal in my book, since otherwise it would mean eating dinner at 10. Not really, but it would still make for a late night meal.

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Instead of giving up on the idea, I went ahead with roasting the veggies on Sunday night, including 2 sweet potatoes, 3 large carrots, 1/2 medium celery root (peeled), 3 cloves of garlic, 1 small/medium onion, tossed in olive oil and smoked paprika.  The next morning I threw them all into a crockpot with about 5 cups of water and half a veggie bouillon cube and let it cook away on low for the day.  You wouldn’t need the crockpot either, you could absolutely roast the veggies and simmer in some veggie broth directly afterwards.  For us, the crockpot was the way to go and when we got home, it smelled great as was, but didn’t look altogether appetizing and I already had my mind set on a bisque of sorts, so I used my immersion blender to whiz it up, adding in more water bits at a time (and a splash of almond milk, although I don’t think it needed it) until I got the right consistency.  Alternatively, you could’ve thrown it into a blender in smaller batches and pureed it that way.   The immersion blender is fast and easy and requires less transporting of the soup, which in my book = less mess and a happy husband.

To top of the soup I added in some more paprika (plus a garnish for my soup, I can’t help it, the stuff is addicting!), a touch of cinnamon and a splash of Rye (Bourbon would do the same thing).   We served it with a side of homemade molasses cornbread, where I replaced the sugar (we have none in the house right now) with molasses.  It had the perfect amount of sweet, without being overly so.  Slathered with some earthbalance, it was a proud moment for me when I got the “this is pretty good” nod from B.   Baking without sugar in the house has been an adventure to say the least, but its just not something we’re looking to add to the grocery list right now unless we have a reason to.  Saving money can be so fun :-p  Actually, this non-sugar thing has been a fun experiment, to see what it is we really need in order to satisfy our “sweet cravings”, which happen few and far between to begin with.  I have to say that the molasses served its purpose well and may be a future replacement for most cornbread options from hereon out in our house!

Life can be stressful sometimes, especially on a Monday after a sleepless weekend, but bowls of soup like this are a nice way escape it for a while.  🙂

If you try it let me know and enjoy!

xo

Sort’ve Mom’s Chili

November 8, 2012

Yesterday I had plans to make a warming and comforting veggie soup.   And, as plans so often do, by the time I got home I was in the mood for chili. 

Now, I’ve made more than my fair share of chili these past few years and I’ve certainly never shy’d away from variation.  Sweet potato chili, pumpkin chili, chipotle chili (one of Brandon’s favorites), chili with beer, chili with lime juice, gajillion bean chili, chili with hominy, chili with coffee and chili with chocolate.   But none of these are the chili that I grew up on.  Granted, most of them are vegan and my mom’s chili was decidedly not vegan.  Ground beef, beans, green peppers and tomatoes.  And last night – that is the ONLY thing I wanted.  Was mom’s chili, vegan style.

Even though I have a soft spot in my heart for variations and constantly playing around with recipes, the one flavor that was always present was a certain sweetness that comes with using sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc as a base.  My mom’s never had that.  So for last night’s dinner, my goal was to recreate her chili, with things I had in the kitchen.

To get around the big hearty pieces of beef she’d put in hers, I used up the last of my two (massive!) portobella caps.  Bellas are a great way to replace that “meatiness” of a dish and I’m actually surprised I never thought to do this before.  They held their consistency and weren’t ever too mushy – delish!

The other thing I remember most about my mom’s chili is how simple it was, in both ingredients and flavor.  It wasn’t ever too spicy and had this perfect tomatoey base.  So next went in a can of regular diced tomatoes, juice and all and a can of water (and ok, a splash of leftover stoudt from the fridge).  I added a touch of liquid smoke and I’m not sure I would do it again. While it tasted fantastic the next day, the hickory flavor was a little more pronounced than I wanted it to be last night.  To counteract, I added a small can of tomato paste and a squirt of ketchup – which surprisingly worked out perfect!  A can of red kidney beans and some leftover white beans, a palmful of spices like Cumin ( a MUST), some ground corriander, cayenne pepper, paprika and a touch of oregano.  I finished off the pot with a healthy splash of hot sauce and some chili paste for a kick. 

 

My mom always served hers with a good dose of parm cheese on top (later we upgraded to cheddar if we wanted, but parm cheese seemed to be what everyone reached for), so as one last nod to her, I sprinkled my with some Nutritional Yeast.

Quick. Cozy.  Simple. Perfecct.  Just like mom’s, sort’ve. 😉

And before I forget:

Today, I am thankful for this little monster:

Begging for playtime (she chases mice and strings), tummy rubs, head scratches (yeah…I know, weird cat), using my legs for pillows and begging for fishy flakes since 2007.  

xo

You make a mean Lo Mein

October 26, 2012

Around our house, comments about dinner are generally hard to come by – unless you count the obligatory “what is this” nose wrinkle when we sit down to eat.  Its not that Brandon doesn’t like the food I cook, its that he doesn’t comment about it. 

So when “man, you make a mean lo mein” came out of his mouth before he even sat down to eat, I was pretty darn satisfied.

Nothing fancy, just some Soba buckwheat noodles and FRESH veggies – which I think made a ton of difference.  I added yellow squash and some zucchini, asparagus, cremini mushrooms, baby bok choy, the last of our swiss chard and some broccoli and pineapple just at the very end to prevent overcooking – I can’t stand grey mushy brocoli.

For the sauce I mixed some olive oil, sesami oil, tamari, black bean garlic, some ginger and a few healthy  dollops of a chile paste/sauce for a kick.  No measurements, just tossed it into the pan as I went.   The noodles went in last and just long enough to develop the flavors.   After a quick search of “what is lo mein”, I was a little pleased that lo mein is actually referring to how the noodles are prepped in the dish (boiled first, then tossed into the sauce mein = noodles, lo mein = tossed noodles).  I like the idea of creating meals as close to their traditional  preparation as possible, so reading that my “lo mein” wasn’t too far off from a true lo mein was kind of nice. 

I think for me, using the fresh veggies here was key.  Although the sauce was delish (and I would TOTALLY recommend the pineapple), having the fresh veggies made the dish something a little more satisfying than using the frozen stirfry veggies that we normally use.  In the constant battle to get my husband to try new things, I buy a lot of veggies and at the end of the week, that can sometimes leave us with, well, a lot of veggies to use up 🙂 Stirfry and lo meins are a pretty awesome way to accomplish that task.  Not to mention the words “well, I guess I”ll eat that swiss chard stuff if its in here then” were like music to my ears 🙂

Plus, you know, leftovers make a great lunch 😉

YAY FRIDAY!

xo

ps:

Your daily dose of cute 🙂 He’s a lover in the morning, so I take full advantage.

All smiles

September 28, 2012

Have you ever had one of those workouts, where you just get that perfect boost of endorphins and you feel like you could take on the world, if you weren’t already on top of it and you’re almost overwhelmed and may or may not almost cry (from pain or the endorphins, who knows, who cares).  Yeah.  My bodypump class was that good this morning and I am CONVINCED that this morning truly started with last night.  Because last night I set to work on listening to my body, which has had zip for energy and even less self-esteem.

I started with addressing my energy levels, or lack thereof.  While I’m fully aware that my body is probably trying to readjust to a full time workout schedule again, I also had this nagging thought that working out wasn’t the whole problem. So I took a good hard look at what I’ve been eating this week.  I was still eating healthy meals, but I’ve been on a clean the leftovers out of the fridge kick, so my greens and salad consumption have been down a bit – problem number 1.  And even though my meals have been healthy, I wondered if there may be a lack of protein and/or carbs thrown into the mix that was getting me down.  So last night, I whipped up aVegan Bread Pudding with some leftover Jalapeno Lime Cornbread I had made earlier in the week.  Ho.ly.Yum.

The recipe was a breeze to whip up and I used this as my starting point and adjusted with what I had in the fridge.  I ended up with a (jalapeno lime) cornbread pudding filled with some sauted mushrooms, onions and spinach.  I was a little unsure of the “tofu custard” but I liked how it would incorporate more protein in my meal and in the end, it was perfection.  I scarfed down 2 pieces and definitely could’ve had more.  Clearly, my body was craving the carbs AND the protein.

One of the best parts about the bread pudding, was that in automatically incorporated a 35 minute window for workouts (which turned into 20 minutes for a workout once I got dressed and out the door).   Even though I was feeling pretty tired (remember, this was before dinner), I tried my luck at a treadmill workout.  I figured a full 20 minute run wasn’t in the cards for the night, so I incorporated two separate workouts into one, hill and speed intervals.   It looked a little something like this:

update:  all of the “mph” should have been “minute miles” and have been changed to reflect that.  Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought I was running 10 mph – jeepers! Thanks to Mike for the heads up!

0-3 minutes – run  10 minute mile (6.0 mph), incline 0.0

3-5 minutes – walk, 4.3 mph, incline 7.0

5-7 minutes – run 9.5 minute mile, incline 1.5

7-10 minutes – walk, 4.3 mph, incline 7.0

10-12 minutes – run, 9.0-8.5 minute mile, incline 2.0

12-15 minutes – walk, 4.3 mph, incline 7.5

15-21 minutes – run, 8.5 -9 minute mile-8.0 minute mile

I ended up with 2  miles, a great booty busting hill workout and a great way to work my way back into some speed.  The 20 minutes was up in NO time.  Strangely, I found this to not only be a great workout, but I knocked it out with some …um…piano music, simple, relaxing piano music.  Even though I was sweating and loving every minute of it, it was 20 minutes of self-centering and relaxed focus. I felt so amazing afterwards and with the breadpudding masterpiece at home, I was one happy camper last night.  Topped it off with football, tea and some homemade biscotti.

So in case you ever feel down in the dumps, whip up some bread pudding, pop in some relaxing music and get your sweat on.  Guaranteed cure for EVERYTHING.

And as always,

cheers to Friday, friends 🙂

xo

Spicy Eggplant Pasta Sauce

September 26, 2012

In the game of Katie’s life, last night was a solid point for me. I got in a much needed run, did some chores, and spent some time in the kitchen. The night ended with kitty snuggles and a cuppa tea. I’m working on a cold, so I’m hoping last night’s evening of sweat, accomplishment and relaxation will help boot it to the curb before it takes up permanent residence.

Now. Let’s talk pasta…

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to put in a good faith effort in coming up with some of my own recipe ideas.  That being said, a lot of my inspiration comes from recipes I find either here on the web, in a cookbook or when I’m out to eat.  This dish is no exception.

While I was home this past weekend my mom, husband and I were out to eat and I had my eye on the Vegan burger (!!) or the “WHOLE WHEAT SPAGHETTI WITH SPICY EGGPLANT SAUCE”.  When my first choice came back as a bust (who runs out of Vegan burgers??), I didn’t feel too badly about ordering the pasta that boasted a red sauce comprised of tomato, spring onion, pepper, red pepper.

I didn’t take a picture, but what came out was a little disappointing.  The pasta was pretty heavy on the olive oil and I could count the pieces of eggplant that I saw on my hand.  The pieces were pretty small and didn’t add much flavor.  As for that red sauce?  there were less flecks of red than there were pieces of eggplant – and the spice factor was pretty non-existent.  I don’t know if I caught the restaurant on a flop night, because usually their food is pretty good, but I left with an unsatisfied craving for a thick, hearty and heavy on the spice pasta sauce, simple but delicious.

So, I decided to make my own.

Lets see, thick, hearty and heavy on the spice?  Check, check and checkity check check.  Fun noodles?  Werd.

Katie’s Spicy Eggplant Sauce:

1 medium eggplant, cut into about 1 inch chunks – I left the skin on mine, but you could always peel it if you prefer.

1 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes (I used the can with Italian seasoning added)

2 hot red chili peppers –  seeded to taste and diced (I seeded 1.5 peppers and left some seeds in for the heat)

2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1/2 tsp maple syrup (optional, i’m not sure this added much)

1 tsp garlic powder

4 tsp ketchup

2 Tbsp Tamari (Optional)

To make the sauce, I salted the eggplant for about 30 minutes (note: this is the perfect time to sneak in an after work 3 miler.  It felt SO. GOOD.) and sauted it in a splash of olive oil until they started to get a bit translucent, mushy and are letting off some of their own liquid.  In goes the crushed tomatoes and 1 of the chili peppers.  After letting that simmer for a few minutes, I used my handy dandy immersion blender to blend up some of the eggplant into the sauce.  I wanted a slightly chunky sauce, with lots of visible eggplant pieces so I made sure to stop once I hit the consistency I wanted.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you could achieve the same effect by putting half of the sauce into a blender and leaving the other half chunky.  After that, I just added the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer together while I got the rest of the meal together.

The pepper and liquid smoke really gave this a deep and, for lack of better term, smoky tone, without losing the heat.  I originally added the maple syrup to try and balance the spice, but in the end I don’t think this did much, but I started to get there with the ketchup.

I could’ve easily thrown in some spice mixes that I have (Chinese Five Powder, Tandoori, Turkish, Cajun, etc) to give me the same idea of heat, but I wanted to see if I could achieve the flavors I wanted flying solo.    Brandon and I both really enjoyed this, especially with a side of garlic toast and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.    I think too, that some nutritional yeast would taste pretty good mixed into the sauce as well and next time I think I’ll add that and some diced onion to the mix!

This certainly isn’t your everyday jar of Marinara, which my husband was quick to point out (in disappointment, I might add), but then again, it wasn’t meant to be!  I’m pretty excited that I could take a disappointing experience and turn the lingering craving into a reality!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

xo