Curried Tomato Soup

It rained the other day and I felt the promise of spring on a cold wet day. The grey piles of snow melted for a day or two, revealing the green of lawn and garden. Yes, it was the promise of spring in the middle of February.

I'm already planning my vegetable garden. What will I do with all those tomatoes? Should I tear out the hydrangeas to make room for more? Maybe that's too drastic?

Speaking of tomatoes, here is an absolutely gourmet soup I made last fall. I still have a few servings tucked away in my freezer.  I think it is nice enough to serve to company and would be bang-up with a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich.

Here's what you need:
3 C chopped onion
2 T coconut oil
6 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 C minced fresh ginger
3 T curry
3 T garam masala
4 C vegetable stock
8 C fresh, ripe tomatoes (or canned, if you are in a deep freeze like I am here in Michigan in February)
1 C full fat coconut milk

Here's what you do:

Saute the veg in the coconut oil until soft. Add the spices and stir. Add the stock and tomatoes. Cook until well blended and the tomatoes are totally soft. Add the coconut milk. Allow to sit for a while with a lid on and the heat off to meld all the flavors. Blend until completely smooth.  For a beautifully silky soup, strain before serving. 

Mother Earth

Looking for a killer dip to take to your Super Bowl party? Try something different and be ready to bask in the glow of compliments. Why bring another bowl of hummus or guacamole when you can really reach deep into your hippie roots and bring something named Mother Earth.

I created this dip after tasting something similar at Marie Catrib's restaurant in Grand Rapids. The place is food heaven - tons of vegan stuff, and I'm not just talking about a bean burrito. They have a curried cauliflower mac and cheese that's to die for. Their lasagna puts everyone else's to shame. And then they have their Mother Earth. It's amazing. But so is mine.

It's all about technique here, so be careful with that food processor.

Here's what you need:
2 large cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 15 oz can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 T mayonnaise
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1/4 C red onion, diced - not minced
1/4 C red pepper, chopped - not too small, not too large
1/4 C green pepper, chopped - not too small, not too large

Here's what you do:
Place the kidney beans and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the beans are mushy, but definitely NOT creamy. They should still have some skin showing and they should still be chunky. Remove to a large bowl.

Place the garbanzos in the same food processor bowl and do the same. Keep them flaky and chunky, but also a bit creamy. Add them to the kidney bean mixture. Add the mayo, vinegar, lemon juice, and chopped veg. Mix well with a fork or wooden spoon. Mash up any beans that seem too large. Serve with hearty tortilla chips.

Lentil Bolognese

Lentil Bolognese. There's two words I never thought I'd put together. *Lentil* Bolognese.* What would Tony Soprano say? What would my friends say? What would you say?

No, it's not a classic Bolognese sauce; it's better. It's rich and thick and meaty and filling and totally satisfying. We stuffed ourselves. I'm going to put it in shells next time and smother it in a cashew ricotta.... oh my gosh. Who says vegans eat rabbit food?

Here's what you need:
3/4  C dried lentils (I used French, but I think regular green/brown ones would work here as well)
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1/3 C dry red wine

Here's what you do:
Cook the lentils in plenty of cold water. Allow them to simmer until tender. French lentils will take about 15-20 minutes, regular lentils will be quicker. When they are thoroughly cooked, whirl them in a blender until a total brown mess. It does not need to be perfectly smooth. You might consider thinning out the lentil blob with part part of the can of tomato sauce.

Sauté the onion and celery until soft, but not brown. Add the oregano, sauce, and red wine. Allow to simmer for a bit to cook off the alcohol. Add the blob of lentils, stir, and be amazed. 

Lentil Chili

Twice in the past few weeks, I have used French lentils, also known as Le Puy lentils, in place of ground beef. Both times I was more than pleasantly pleased. Those little blue spheres of goodness really impress! Of course you already know that lentils pack a wallop of nutrition in every spoonful. More protein than beef, I think..... well, for certain I know that lentils are easier to digest, have loads of fiber, and not a bit of cholesterol. They have tons of iron, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Plus, if you pair them with foods that are rich in vitamin C, that really boosts the iron absorption. But, surely you knew all that.  

So at first, the idea of lentil chili seemed like a major commitment in the legume department - you know, beans upon beans and then throw in some lentils. I resisted for many years. But as you know, when you try something for the first time, and it turns out that you actually *like* it, you wonder what all the fuss was about. I combined a few recipes to create this one. The spice combination is perfect as is. This chili is great for lunch and it freezes very well. 

Don't wait. Try this chili. Isn't there a big football game coming up soon where you could serve this? Adorn with the usual suspects: sour cream, grated cheese, avocado, minced onion, cilantro, tortilla chips.

Here's what you need:
1 C French lentils, rinsed and drained (I highly recommend French lentils for this soup)
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 chopped onion
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t chipotle hot sauce or 1/2 t chipotle powder
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t oregano
2 x 14 oz.cans diced tomatoes
4 C tomato juice
2 x 15 oz. cans red kidney beans

Here's what you do:
Cook the lentils in lots of fresh water. Watch them closely, stir them once in a while, simmer gently until done - about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, saute onion, peppers and garlic in the oil until the veg is soft, but not brown. add the cumin, paprika, chipotle hot sauce, chili powder and oregano. Stir to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and allow chili to simmer for about 30-60 minutes. I always allow my soups to sit, covered, for a long time on the stove after the cooking time, to let the flavors really meld together. 

Maple Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes are my jam. Ask anyone who knows me. 

Here's what you need:
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T maple syrup
1 T olive oil
garlic, minced
salt, pepper, thyme

Roast at 400 degrees on a foil lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes.

Serve on pizza, pasta, or rice. Spoon over salad, scrambled tofu (or eggs), or veggies.
They would be a perfect garnish for soup. 

SpicyCoconut Curried Eggplant

Here's what my life is like some days. Write the weekly menu and head to the local grocery for as much as I can purchase there. Remember, I live in small-town USA, so my local guy doesn't really carry stuff like cardamom pods. He doesn't even have tofu on the shelf, and believe me, I've asked for it! Like more than a few times. I sincerely think that if he'd carry it, folks would buy it. Anyway, I try to support my local businesses, so that's where I begin my shopping, even if the eggplants are dented and a tiny bit withered.

Travel across town to the huge superstore for fresh ginger, tofu, coconut milk, and the elusive spice. But happy fortune, while scouring the spice rack for cardamom pods, I find harissa! Here in my little city! What??  Happy day!!  I'm all over harissa! (Well, I'm not really sure how to use it, but I will learn, believe me.)  

Back in the car (did I mention this all takes place in a slushy snow storm? I'm dressed like a snow-woman, hat, boots, puffy coat, etc The car's a filthy mess.) to the up-scale grocery for that last ingredient - cardamom pods. Success.

Drive home, unload bags from the car to the kitchen, pour a huge glass of wine, look over the recipe, and start chopping veg. What? Where's that can of coconut milk? Back to the car, searching every nook and cranny only to find that it had rolled out of its bag.

Same kinds of shopping days for you?

If you like SPICY, then you'll love this curry.

Here's what you need:
2 eggplants
1 T oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 t ground cardamom
2 T ground coriander
1 T red pepper flakes
4 whole cardamom pods
1/2 t black peppercorns
1/2 T turmeric
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 cans coconut milk

Here's what you do:
Dice the eggplant into 1-2  inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and bake on a lined baking sheet at 350 for 20 minutes.

In a medium pot, sauté onions, garlic, ginger, ground cardamom, coriander, and red pepper flakes until the onions begin to soften. Don't brown anything.

Crush the black peppercorns and the cardamom pods in a mortar and add them, along with the remaining spices, to the onions.

Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, and the eggplant to the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Serve over white rice. Goes well with a toasted Naan bread and roasted carrots. Consider serving something cool along side this dish: sliced cucumbers maybe?

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes

Amazing! Super easy and perfect for a weeknight meal. These came together pretty quickly and were so delicious, especially with a spicy mayo for dipping. Seriously, these would be good even for company. If you have cauliflower on the menu for this week, I suggest you up your game and give these a try.

You notice in the photo above that I served my crispy cauliflower cakes with oven fries, roasted onions, and lettuce. You can bet that I ate way more than two cakes also. I mention this because today I told someone that I don't eat meat or dairy, and she asked, "What's left to eat?" I think my plate is a good example of what I eat on a regular basis. Massive amounts of veggies! (I squeeze in lots of beans, too!)

If, for example, you want to try the Crispy Cauliflower Cakes, you could serve them on a big bed of fresh greens and drizzle the spicy mayo over all of it. Lemony green beans would be great with this, or any other green veg. Rice, of course. A tomato salad. (tomatoes would have certainly given my plate a bit more color.....)

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes (from

1 head of cauliflower, separated into florets and steamed until fork tender. Whirl them in a food processor when cooked - not too small
2 T ground flax seed and 6 T water - whisk and allow to sit in fridge for 15 minutes to thicken.
1/3 C flour
1/4 C cornmeal
2 T Parmesan or Nutritional Yeast
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t paprika
2 T chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well in a large bowl. Form into 12 patties. Saute gently until brown.

Roasted Red Pepper, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry (from One Green Planet)

I found this recipe floating around the internet a few weeks ago. I always love the recipes from One Green Planet, plus they post the absolute best animal photos. We all really liked this meal, but I jazzed it up a tiny bit by adding some heat in the form of 1 T red curry paste. Of course, you can add heat or leave it out - I always forget how spicy we like our food and how 'non-spicy' other people like their food. Just yesterday, a co-worker dipped her spoon into my vegan cheezy sauce and couldn't believe how spicy it was. To me, it was perfect!

Below is the original recipe and my variations.

Roasted Red Pepper, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry

3 large red bell peppers
3 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper
1 1/3 C coconut milk ( I used a can of full fat coconut milk)
4 T nutritional yeast
2 1/2 T cornstarch (next time I'll leave this out so the liquid is thinner)
1 pinch smoked paprika
1 1/4 C chickpeas
1 C spinach (needs lots more - add it at the end to keep it nice and green)
3/4 C cherry tomatoes (I used a can of diced tomatoes, drained. Next time, I'll keep all the liquid)
(I also added 1 heaping T of red curry paste. Sriracha would be good too)
1. Bake the red peppers at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes until charred. Place peppers under some plastic wrap and allow them to cool. Remove the skin, seeds, and stems and set aside.
2. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
3. In a blender, mix the peppers, onion and garlic mixture, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch and smoked paprika.
4. Transfer the sauce to a skillet, add chickpeas, spinach and tomatoes. Bake for about 30 minutes. Serve over rice. 

Potato, Broccoli, and Peanut Casserole

Potato, Broccoli, and Peanut Casserole
If you can imagine the classic coconut peanut sauce (which you have  probably poured over noodles) then you can imagine this casserole. You can see from the photo that it makes a great presentation. Underneath that layer of potatoes is a whole bunch of broccoli, which make this a double whammy in the veg department.

This recipe comes from the tiny book "Vegan...Made Simple" published by Love Food. I have mentioned it here on my blog more than a few times because every single thing I've made from it has been great. The book was a gift from my mom (thanks Mom!) and at first glance it appears to be the type of book from the 'dollar' shelf at the back of the book store. But seriously, the pages are FULL of treasures. I love this book! 

Here's what you need: 
1 pound new potatoes, sliced
1 T olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1 3/4 C coconut milk
1/2 C chunky peanut butter
1 T soy sauce
2 t sugar
1/2 t crushed red pepper
3 C broccoli florets
1/2 C unsalted peanuts
2 t non-dairy butter, melted
salt and pepper

Here's what you do:
Drop the potato slices in boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Saute the onions in a bit of oil until they are soft, stir in the milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar and red pepper flakes. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Steam the broccoli until tender (don't over cook it) 
Stir the broccoli and peanuts into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased baking dish. Arrange the potatoes over the sauce and drizzle with melted butter. Bake 20 minutes or so in 375 oven. 

Party Rye

Here's another totally retro recipe I served as a lunch time snack on Thanksgiving. I remember eating these toasty little guys as a young girl when my mom would make them for cocktail parties. Now that I think of it, that probably annoyed her - us kids sneaking around in the kitchen, snatching her carefully prepared party food while she was trying to pull off a party. Sorry Mom! These were worth it!

I veganized the recipe and they turned out exactly how I remember them. What gives this simple recipe its unique taste is the rye bread - do not swap out the rye bread. Search high and low for Rubschlager Brand Cocktail Rye bread .....or take the time to cut tiny squares from another type of rye bread.

Here's what you need:
Cocktail size rye bread (30 slices for a full recipe)
1 small red onion, minced
1 C parmesan cheese (see note)
1/2 C mayo

Here's what you do:
Mash the onion, cheese and mayo together with a fork. Spread over the bread. Broil until brown and toasty - watch carefully!

Note: My vegan parm: 1 C raw cashews, 1/4 C nutritional yeast, 1 t salt. High speed blender. Totally addicting!
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