A Frond For Me, A Frond For You

I go to the grocery store with the best of intentions.  I am enticed by the vivid colors of fresh, organic produce and always have a plan for what I buy.  More often than not, those plans go by the wayside as I get busy with my job and working on my manuscript.  Since I can’t bear the thought of all that lovely produce going to waste, my intricate plans become soup.

I like making soup.  I rarely need a recipe for it and I can have dinner done in the time it takes vegetables to cook: often a half hour or less.  My soups all start the same: sweat chopped onion in a stock pot, add garlic, add water or vegetable stock, add washed grains if I’m using them, add vegetables after grain has cooked, add canned or pre-cooked beans, heat through, eat.  Tasty and simple.  My last soup was created because I’d purchased some beautiful collard greens intending to make a lemon-chopped greens salad, didn’t get to it, and needed to use them up.  Why soup?  Well…

…I’m not that familiar with how to cook collard greens.  I tried the Sicilian Collard Greens from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet when I first became vegan but overcooked the greens.  The memory of the horrid bitter mass they became is still with me and I haven’t tried that recipe again.  My sister likes collard greens but, as she cooks hers with bacon fat, that recipe isn’t an option for me.  I perused my cookbooks and thought that a recipe for collard greens, wild rice, and black-eyed pea soup from Robin Robertson’s 1000 Vegan Recipes sounded good.  I had to adapt it as I had rice and greens and very little of the other ingredients but that’s what I love about making soups: you don’t need to follow a recipe.  Throw everything in a pot and it’s very difficult to go wrong.  I made notes of replacements I could make with what I had on hand and read my new recipe out to my family.  They entered it into their Weight Watcher’s App and, finding the total point value satisfactory, dinner was planned.

Robin Robertson’s cookbook was one of the first I purchased when making the switch to a vegan lifestyle.  I figured I’d have all I needed with 1,000 recipes and have found this cookbook to be eminently useful.  The best tip is to either steam or simmer tempeh for 30 minutes before using it in a recipe as doing so takes out that bitter aftertaste.  I also appreciate these recipes are more of a guideline.  I’ve made some recipes while adhering to every jot and tittle but some don’t include enough herbs and spices for my liking.  I thought as much with this soup recipe and added a few of my favorites.  Most spices are free on my family’s diet plan so I can indulge my inner mad kitchen scientist.

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My version of the soup was excellent.  The entire kitchen was filled with mouth-watering scents as the soup cooked and I adjusted the original recipe so everything was cooked in one pot.  This is a great idea if all the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting, not so much if you’re planning on leftovers.  I’ve found that greens left in soup overnight take on an unappetizing smell.  This happened to my delicious soup and I was reminded that I’d made this observation once already.  Hopefully, now that I’ve twice been left with no leftovers (something that annoys me), I’ll remember to cook only the amount of greens that can be consumed in one sitting.  If my greens are in such bad shape they won’t last while I heat leftovers, the freezer is always a viable option.

Nasty leftover greens aside, I can’t say enough good things about this soup.  It satisfies both senses of taste and smell, is soothing to the tummy, and-when paired with a slice of molasses cornbread-makes for a filling meal.  The cornbread is made from one of my mother’s recipes and I’m sharing it with her permission.  Since my recipe breaks enough from Ms. Robertson’s; I’m sharing it as well.  Two recipes in one post!

Side note: my mother uses Wholesome! brand organic stevia in her recipe.  If stevia isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute another sweetener.

Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean soup with Molasses Corn Bread.

The cornbread takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook so make it first.  You will need:

1 Cup yellow cornmeal

1 Cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 Cup unsweetened apple sauce

3 tsp or 6 packets Stevia leaf herbal extract

1 cup unsweetened plant based milk (we use almond/coconut)

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups frozen organic corn kernels

1 TBSP ground flax seed meal

2 TBSP water

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and set aside.  Mix the flax meal with the water and set aside.  Rinse the corn and let drain.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.  Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, mix applesauce, sugar, plant milk, molasses, and the flax egg.  Mix well and stir into dry ingredients.  Stir in the corn and pour the batter into the skillet.
  4. Bake cornbread until the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Slice into 12 slices and serve plain or with desired topping.

 

Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean Soup.  You will need:

1 Bunch Collard Greens, stemmed and chopped

1 Medium onion, chopped

2 Cloves garlic, minced

2 14 oz Cans Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans rinsed and drained or 3 Cups mixed cooked beans, drained

6 Cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup Wild Rice Blend (I like Lundgren’s), rinsed

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp thyme

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

A kitchen timer!

  1.  Place the chopped onion in a stock pot over medium low heat and let cook 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and let cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes more.  Add a small bit of vegetable broth if onions and garlic begin to stick.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, cumin, coriander, thyme, red pepper flakes, and wild rice.  Cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped collard greens and cook another 15 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and heat through, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!  Can serve 8 people if the portions stay around 1 cup.

Note: Only chop all the greens and add them to the soup of all of the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting.  If not, chop the equivalent of one large frond per person and cook in a separate pot of boiling, salted water until collards are tender.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Drain the collards and divide them among the bowls when the soup is complete.  Stir and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Eatin’ Broccoli

I know broccoli is good for me and that it should make up a significant portion of my diet: that’s not challenging.  What is challenging is finding unique ways to eat it.  One of my favorite ways is steamed and added to my spaghetti sauce along with beans and black olives but cooked tomatoes and I aren’t the best of friends so that meal, while tasty, isn’t one I can eat regularly.

I’ve had a recipe I copied down-I can’t remember where-when I first became a vegan I was excited to try but it got put in my recipe box and was forgotten.  That is, until I had a head of broccoli in my fridge that needed to be eaten.  I remembered the card and was pleased to find the ingredients and steps were simple.  My family was game and the plan to eat Broccoli Bisque Amandine was put into action.

Like most recipes I try, what’s printed on the page/recipe card is rarely what ends up in the pot.  My mother and I started making changes immediately.  She’s always been a fan of broccoli cheese soup and we happened to have a block of Daiya’s Jalapeno Havarti cheese.  Then, the question became how to make it a one pot meal?  The answer?  A can of organic cannelloni beans.

Broccoli was chopped and steamed, almonds were blanched and toasted in the oven, and beans were drained and rinsed.  I blended the broccoli, beans, and almonds in three batches with 1 cup of almond milk per batch and then poured it into a pot.  My mom added the cheese and we heated it through on medium to medium low heat.

The original recipe said to steam the broccoli until tender and suggested doing so for 12 to 14 minutes.  I usually steam broccoli only a few minutes, just until bright green, so was concerned such a long cooking time would make the broccoli smell like overcooked cruciferous veg.  It didn’t.  The soup did, however, look a little distressing while heating through.

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Does anyone remember that TV show that was on in the (very) early 90’s, Swamp Thing?  Not that the soup reminded me of a muck monster at all, it was just green…and it would bubble from time to time…

It tasted ever so much better than it looked.  The soup wasn’t perfectly smooth but neither was it lumpy.  It was delicious, thick, and spicy.  A perfect soup for cold weather though I think it would be okay during the warm months as well.  The original recipe suggested retaining a bit of the toasted almonds for garnish but I blended them all into the soup.  Instead, I garnished with a slice of whole wheat bread spread with a little Earth Balance.

Fortunately, I have left-overs.  I anticipate this will reheat very well at work tomorrow although I may be fighting my parents for it.  We all liked it and votes about eating it again were unanimous.

Want to try it?

Broccoli-Almond Cheesy Soup

1/3 cup blanched whole almonds, ground

3 cups non-dairy milk (I used Simple Truth Unsweetened Almond Milk)

6 cups broccoli flowerets

1 7 oz package Daiya Jalapeno Havarti cheese, grated

1 15 0z can Organic Cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ground almonds in a thin, even layer on a dry baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, just until golden.  If desired, reserve 4 tsp toasted ground almonds for garnish.
  2. Steam broccoli until very tender, about 12 to 14 minutes.
  3. Combine cooked broccoli, rinsed beans, almonds, and milk in batches in a blender.  Process each batch until the mixture is completely smooth.  Pour the blended soup into  a large saucepan.
  4. Add the grated cheese and heat soup over medium to medium low heat until heated through and cheese is melted.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with almonds, if using.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. Makes 6 One cup servings

 

 

 

Soup’s On!

It’s Autumn in Colorado.  There’s a crisp feel in the air and snow in the high country.  It’s my favorite time of year; when I dig out my sweaters and flip my cookbooks from Salads & Sandwiches to Soups & Stews.  In my opinion, cooler weather makes for the best vegan food.  Grains and beans cooked with veggies and whatever spices tickle my fancy that particular day, all cooked in one pot for easy clean-up; served with a slice of crusty bread it’s the best comfort food.  I’m going into this Autumn educating myself on the McDougall Diet and figuring out how to eat.  There are aspects of the diet that concern me, like limiting avocados, nuts, and seeds, but a hellish week has convinced me I need to make dedicated changes.  Staying surgery free depends on it.  So, what change can I make immediately that won’t make me have to learn an entirely new way of eating?  The answer?  Cooking without oil.

That sounded counter-intuitive when I first heard.  I use all stainless steel cookware so was concerned my veggies would stick.  Not so.  I use a lower heat setting and ignore them for a full five minutes.  That isn’t easy for me:  I’m used to poking and prodding my onions and garlic so I have to entertain myself by chopping other ingredients in order to resist the urge to stir.  After five minutes, I add a little liquid to the pan to de-glaze it and the onions lift right off.  No oil necessary.

All those lovely veggies cooking without oil
All those lovely veggies cooking without oil

Last night’s meal was very loosely based on Robin Robertson’s White Bean, Farro, and Italian Parsley Soup from her 1000 Vegan Recipes cookbook.  I chose that particular recipe because I had Italian Parsley to use.  It’s my favorite parsley: the smell and the taste are an incredible addition to soups.  Instead of white beans I defrosted some chickpeas I had in the freezer and instead of shallots (which I didn’t have) I used red onion (which I did).  I stuck to the recipe for everything else: farro, carrots, celery, garlic, and veggie broth.  I have Not-Chicken bouillon cubes but decided against using them: chickpeas have such a strong flavor I went with no salt added veggie bouillon cubes (Dr. McDougall would be proud).  The result was incredible.  Full of flavor, satisfying on a cold and stormy night, and filling.  Or, it was filling at the time.

I found myself getting hungry a few hours later and I wonder if it’s because I skipped the crusty bread.  I wasn’t starving, the soup just didn’t stay with me.  I read that, if I’m finding my meals aren’t staying with me, to add umami.  Perhaps I should have added black salt instead of sea salt.  I’ll try it next time and see how it tastes.

Happy Autumn and here’s to a season full of yummy soup!

Tuck In!
Tuck In!