Joni’s Creamy, Chunky, Rustic, and Flavorful Potato Leek Soup (or is it Celine’s?)

Posted by on April 22, 2010 | 14 Comments

As my friend Ricki pointed out, half the fun in using recipes from 500 Vegan Recipes is trying to guess which author wrote which recipe. Both ladies have been blogging their recipes for quite some time, offering hints of their style. But still, I was stumped on some. This recipe though, definitely Joni. I think.

Well, whoever created it, it is delicious! And talk about filling. I tend to be one of those people who eats half my body weight at each meal. But a modest bowl of this soup at dinner was plenty. For that reason, it makes a perfect vegetarian night meal (Meatless Mondays anyone?), and who doesn’t love leftover soup for lunch?

There are many potato leek soup recipes out there, but this one has its own special touches that I just loved. Unpeeled potatoes for a “rustic” look and taste (mmm, love those potato skins!); lemongrass for a unique essence that melded perfectly, and the use of vegetable broth instead of chicken broth gave the soup a beautiful and unexpected orange hue. I liked this, as it left my husband guessing on what type of soup it really was, and of course looks better in pictures …

Rustic Vegan Potato Leek Soup

I adapted the recipe just slightly, adding a wee bit of white pepper, specifying the salt amount I used, and substituting dried lemongrass (luckily I had some on hand since the fresh lemongrass in store looked far less than stellar). I discovered dried lemongrass at Cost Plus World Market. A generously filled jar for just $2.99, so I had to give it a whirl. I also adjusted the directions quite a bit to fit how I made the soup. But, the basis of this soup is all Joni, err … or Celine.

 

Recipe: Rustic Vegan Potato Leek Soup

Summary: Recipe adapted from 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons Dairy-Free Margarine (I used Earth Balance Soy-Free; I think you could substitute olive oil here if need be)
  • 2 Medium Leeks, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds and halved (about 3 cups)
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Lemongrass or 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemongrass
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth (I used Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth)
  • 1-1/2 lbs Russet Potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (skin on)
  • 3/4 to 1 Teaspoon Salt, or to taste (I used 1 teaspoon total)
  • 1/8 Teaspoon White Pepper (optional)
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the margarine in a stockpot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the leeks and lemongrass and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the leeks soften quite a bit and just begin to brown.
  3. Add the broth, deglazing the pan if needed, and bring the soup to a boil.
  4. Add the potatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. The original recipe called for using an immersion blender, leaving some chunky, but I don’t have one. So I placed half of the soup in my blender, and carefully (make sure that lid is covered, you don’t want hot soup flying out!) whizzed it until creamy and relatively smooth. I then added this back to the pan along with the white pepper and gave it all a stir to combine.
  6. Taste test and season to taste with more salt (I used another 1/2 t). If using black pepper, this is the time to add it, or you could let each person grind in their own.

Diet type: Vegan

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Alisa Fleming.

Rustic Vegan Potato Leek Soup

Chipotle Chicken and Chard Chili

Posted by on March 30, 2010 | 16 Comments

How is that for an alliterate recipe title? So thanks to Lacey’s response on my “how to use these veggies” post, I discovered a great new-to-me recipe from Giada of the Food Network. Of course, her recipe needed a few little tweeks. Cheese? Not in our house. How much fennel? Lets trim that down – a lot. Ground chicken? Chicken should be chunky! Parsley on chili? Seriously?

So after making a few modifications this very chunky chili was served and it was delicious! The recipe does make for a very chicken-heavy chili. Feel free to cut that down to 3/4 lb, 1/2 lb, or even make it vegetarian if you wish. You can easily double the beans, add some more veggies (I thought chopped zucchini would go nicely), or just thicken the broth a bit more and enjoy it with less of the chunky add-ins.

Chipotle Chicken and Chard Chili

To note, we did like it as is, and I don’t think my husband (aka “the meat man”) would want me to cut back on the chicken at all, let alone make it vegetarian.

For dinner (the first time), I served full bowls with some homemade “cheddar” and chive spelt rolls (nightime, hence the dark lighting) …

Chipotle Chicken and Chard Chili

For lunch the next day (pictured above), we were out of the rolls, but it still went nicely as leftovers over rice.

On a second go of the chili (more chard in the CSA!), I added some quartered mushrooms (about 4 ounces, but you could go for 8) and served the chili over a bed of rice steamed asparagus. Both veggies were nice additions, so feel free to play around with the produce you have on hand.

 

Chipotle Chicken and Chard Chili

Recipe adapted from Giada’s White Bean and Chicken Chili. I used chipotle chili powder, and even just this wee amount made the dish notably spicy. You can adjust to taste with some crushed red pepper, chilis, or hot sauce, should your chili powder not bring the heat you are seeking.

This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free, Sugar-Free, optionally Gluten-Free, and heck, you can even make it Vegan / Vegetarian (sans chicken of course) if you so desire.

  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into small slices / chunks*
  • 1-1/2 Teaspoons Cornstarch or Arrowroot
  • Couple Pinches of Salt (optional)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Large Onion, diced or 1 Leek, sliced 1/4-inch thick and quartered
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 Teaspoon Salt or to taste, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1-1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Fennel Seeds
  • 1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons Flour (your choice, I used whole wheat pastry flour), depending on how thick you like it
  • 1 15-ounce can Cannellini or White Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Large Bunch Swiss Chard, stems removed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (my bunch with stems was about 3/4 lb) OR 1 Bag of Baby Spinach Leaves (should chard be hard to come by in your area)
  • 1 Cup Frozen Corn, Thawed
  • 2 Cups Regular or Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (I used regular)
  • White or Brown Rice for serving (optional)

Place the chicken in a medium-sized bowl, and stir in the cornstarch or arrowroot (I like to add a pinch or two of salt here too) until it is well-distributed and appears absorbed. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion or leek and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until nice and softened. Add the garlic and sauté for just 30 seconds or so. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the spices – cumin, fennel, oregano, and chili powder. Cook while continuously stirring, until the chicken is cooked (no pink showing). This will take about 7 or 8 minutes. If the chicken threatens to stick, just add a dash or two of the broth.

Stir in the flour to coat, and add the broth, beans, chard, and corn. The chard will look boisterous, but don’t worry, it cooks down significantly.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow it to simmer for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour. The liquid will reduce in half and thicken a fair bit. Taste test it as it is cooking, and season to taste with additional salt (I used another 1/4 teaspoon) if desired. You can also add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper as it cooks if you want more spice, but we found the medium-heat to be just right as is.

If desired, serve over rice and with some homemade rolls.

*I used chicken breasts that were only slightly defrosted, making them very easy to slice. I sliced them about ¼-inch thick, and then cut each slice into ½-inch chunks. But you can cut them any size you like.

Yields 4 servings with rice and/or bread

Can you spot the spoon in this picture?

Chipotle Chicken and Chard Chili

Don’t Pinch My Blog, I’ve Got a Green Recipe!

Posted by on March 17, 2010 | 15 Comments

As mentioned in my last post, we are on week one of our first CSA. It was like Christmas pulling out one surprise veggie after another … until I got to the final item, the lump of coal at the bottom. “What’s this?” I said. It didn’t quite look like kale or chard, but similar. I went to the inventory sheet and my fears were realized – collard greens.

My first and only experience with collard greens was purchasing them in a bag on sale at a mega-grocer about seven years ago. Terrible, terrible, terrible. But determined to polish off that entire CSA box and give every veggie a fair trial, I headed to one of my favorite healthy cookbooks, Whole Life Nutrition. I was confident that Alissa (gotta love her name) would have a recipe to turn those greens into something good. In fact, she had two. One was for Apple-Spiced Collard Greens, which sounded rather tasty, but I didn’t have any apple juice on hand. The second was for Collard Green and Hummus Roll-ups. Now hummus, that is something I almost always have on hand!

Collard Greens and Hummus Mini-Wraps

My version is more of a guide / idea than a recipe, but let me tell you, it really worked to turn those nice big collard leaves (perfectly flat and excellent to work with, unlike kale or stiff chard leaves) into a tasty large snack or small meal – however you view it. And I realize Collard Greens don’t exactly shout “St. Patrick’s Day,” but hey, they are GREEN!

Now it is quite possible that there will be more of these collard greens in today’s CSA box, so please do tell … Do you have any ideas or favorite recipes for using Collard Greens?

 

Collard Green and Hummus Mini-Wraps

Adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Sugar-Free, and optionally Vegan.

  • Collard Green Leaves, nice full healthy ones
  • Hummus, your flavor of choice
  • Carrots, for shredding
  • Avocado, sliced (optional – I didn’t have any)
  • Leftover Chicken (optional – omit for a vegan option)
  • Olives (optional – my hummus was kalamata olive hummus so I could resist)
  • Other Veggie Toppings of Choice (go wild!)

Lay the leaves flat, and cut them in half, carefully cutting out that thick stem. Spread each leaf half with your favorite hummus (I was using an olive hummus, hence the darker color), and sprinkle with grated or shredded carrot.

Okay, get ready, this is my first ever step by step photo – except it is just one step …

Collard Greens and Hummus Mini-Wraps

Now, simply roll them up tight for a very light snack (I did this once, and they were tasty just like this!), or top them with your choice of toppings. The second time I made them I had some leftover chicken and olives, so I went with this, which made thicker rolls.

Yields as many as you like

Collard Greens and Hummus Mini-Wraps

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Creamy Green Garlic Soup

Posted by on March 15, 2010 | 18 Comments

This recipe is an ever so slight detour from my ususal “grocery store” fare (though regular garlic can be used, as noted), because I have at last joined the CSA world! Last week I got my very first ever CSA veggie box. Now that we live reasonably close to some of those great California farms, and since all of you wonderful food bloggers have introduced me to this concept, I had to join up. I was actually on the waiting list for Mountain Bounty Farm (who delivers to the Tahoe area), and was able to cut in mid-season.

I must say, I am not the least bit disappointed! A close friend splits a share with another friend, and she thought I was insane getting a whole share for just myself and my husband. But, I think she underestimated 1) my twisted love for vegetables and 2) how much food bloggers relish quality, organic goods. Lets just say, I have had no problem polishing off the entire box, and have still picked up some other veggies at the market this past week.

Since I was new to a few ingredients, like green garlic, I have been trying to stick to recipes with few ingredients, so that I can really taste what these veggies are all about. Green garlic is interesting, as it is the immature version of the bulb garlic we buy at the grocery store. It is milder, and to me it did have a “green” taste. It did seem to be a cross (in both looks and flavor) between large green onions / spring onions and mature garlic.

This is really just a very basic creamy potato soup made with green garlic. You could easily sub in a few cloves of regular garlic, or even a bulb of roasted garlic for a different, but delicious variation. Actually, I think if I were to choose, I would try this soup next with roasted garlic, but the green garlic was a nice variation that was a touch sweeter and had that “cold-kicking” garlic essence that I was craving after a big snowstorm hit.

creamy, dairy-free green garlic soup

 

Creamy Green Garlic Soup

Cheap russets or baking potatotes are the best for soups like this due to their high starch content. Yukons have a medium starch content and will also work well, while adding a touch of their “buttery” feel. This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, and optionally Vegan / Vegetarian.

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Dairy-Free Margarine (I used olive oil)
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 lb Green Garlic or 3 bulbs, thinly sliced and cut in half (I used the whites, pink, and part way up the green) – can sub 2 to 4 minced medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lb Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I didn’t peel)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt, plus more to taste (I used 1 teaspoon total)
  • 1 Quart Vegetable or Chicken Broth (I used Pacific Foods Free Range Chicken Broth)
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon Dairy-Free Margarine (optional)

Heat the oil or margarine in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and become translucent.

Add the garlic, potatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and saute for another 5 minutes – keeping things moving. If the pan dries out, splash in a wee bit of the broth to keep the ingredients from sticking.

Add the broth and bring the soup to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, allowing the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are nice and tender.

Using an immersion blender, or in two batches in a regular blender, puree the soup (garlic, onions, potatoes and all) until it is nice and smooth. I did it in my blender, allowing each batch to spin for a couple of minutes. Use caution when you turn the blender on, making sure you have a firm hand on the lid to ensure that no hot soup escapes. Trust me, that is never fun!

Return the soup to your pot and season with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. As noted, I used a fair bit of salt, because I was craving it, but go for what you like best. If you have some miso on hand, I might try mixing in some of this for a different flavor variation instead of the extra salt.

If desired, serve with 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of margarine swirled in to each bowl.

Yields 3 light lunches

Creamy dairy-free green garlic soup

Acorn Squash with Sweet Sage “Butter”

Posted by on October 24, 2009 | 19 Comments

I have been so impressed with how well our herb plant not only survived the move, but also how much it is thriving, even in this cooler climate. Must be all of the great sun it is getting in our very bright new (to us) kitchen.

Alisa's herb garden

I have found good use for the basil and parsley with some regularity, but until yesterday, I hadn’t found a good recipe for the sage. My husband is okay with sage in light moderation, but I have to use caution, lest he be overwhelmed (I am an herb- and spice-aholic). So it took me some time to be inspired by a sage-including recipe that we would both enjoy.

Acorn Squash with a Sweet Sage Butter

This one definitely fit the bill, and it also gave me another opportunity to test out the new Earth Balance soy-free margarine (all natural – none of those nasty trans fats!). If dairy works in your household, butter can of course be utilized, but all of you dairy-freers and vegans out there will be happy to know that the Earth Balance was excellent as a “browned butter.”

Though I typically roast squash for that caramelization effect, I must admit that this cooking method worked fabulously. It was almost like a steaming technique that locked in the natural flavor. Try it!

Acorn Squash with Sweet Sage “Butter”

Recipe adapted from Recipezaar. This recipe is Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, and optionally Vegan.

  • 1 Acorn Squash (medium-sized), cut in half lenthwise and seeded
  • 2 Tablespoons Dairy-Free Margarine (I used Earth Balance soy-free, but you could also sub in coconut oil and a pinch of salt)
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey (agave nectar, brown sugar, or maple syrup should also go nicely)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 Teaspoons Fresh Sage, minced

Preheat your oven to350°F.

Place the prepared squash cut side down on a baking sheet or in a bakng dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Keep in mind, if you leave it cut side down after removing it from the oven, it will continue to soften and cook a bit.

While the squash is baking, place the margarine in a small saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Stir (not constantly, but with regularity) and cook until it just begins to brown, but do not let it burn (took about 10 minutes for me – You can also see these more detailed instructions for browning butter)

Remove the margarine from the heat and stir in the honey (or other sweetener) and sage. Allow the flavors to sit and meld while your squash cools for a few.

Cut each squash half into quarters (this is how I like to serve it), and evenly spoon the sweet sage butter into the squash sections and serve.

Note: I like to make cuts in the middle of each squash section, allowing the butter to seep in. You can also smash it in for some tasty mashed squash.

Another Note: I served this for lunch with simple baked chicken breasts. Slopping up any honey-sage-butter that had drizzled onto my plate with the chicken was really yummy too.

Yields 2 squashy servings

Acorn Squash with a Sweet Sage Butter

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Cauliflower “Risotto” (Grain-Free AND Dairy-Free)

Posted by on October 20, 2009 | 44 Comments

Recently, I stumbled across the idea of Cauliflower “Rice” on a Paleo / Primal Diet blog. Smitten by this idea for incorporating even more veggies into my dinner (and sneaking cauliflower in on my husband, hehe), I went with it. My first attempt was this Cauliflower “Risotto,” which amazingly turned out awesome right out of the shoot!

Dairy-Free and Grain-Free, Cheesy Cauliflower Risotto with Basil

I have since made it a few times with the nod of approval from my usually cauliflower-hating husband. I have also made some basic cauliflower “rice” to serve as the base under stir-fries. It has worked out well, but my husband agreed that the risotto is just better.

Another Bonus: Surprisingly, a large head of cauliflower only makes about 3 to 4 healthy servings. When grated, the cauliflower seemed much less overwhelming than eating large florets.

 

Cauliflower “Risotto” with Fresh Basil (Grain-Free AND Dairy-Free)

This recipe is Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Soy-Free, and Sugar-Free.

I like to use just a bit of nutritional yeast, but keep the amounts moderate so that it enhances the meal without creating an overpowering fake cheesy taste. Nutritional yeast can easily be found online and in the bulk bins of some natural food stores. Make sure it is specifically called “nutritional yeast;” brewer’s (which the grocery attendants will try to hand to you) is not the same thing. If you don’t have any on hand, try this recipe without it, I am sure it will still be quite yummy!

  • 3 Tablespoons Pine Nuts (about 1 ounce)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt, or to taste
  • 1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons Grapeseed, Olive, or Coconut Oil
  • ½ Cup Minced or Diced Onion
  • 3 Cups Grated Cauliflower (about ½ medium to large head – if you have a food processor, you are golden; I grated by hand)
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • ¼ Cup Broth (chicken or vegetarian)
  • Chiffonade 6 to 10 Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste (optional)

Combine the nuts, nutritional yeast, and salt in your spice grinder, and give it a few pulses. The nuts should grind up, and begin to clump. It is best if it stays a bit powdery and doesn’t turn into a paste, but if it does, no loss. Set aside while you cook the cauliflower.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the grated cauliflower and continue to sauté / stir-fry for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and suate for 1 minute more. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, stir, cover and allow it to sit for 2 to 3 minutes. This cooks it to the perfect “al dente” consistency for us, but feel free to cook it to your desired tenderness.

Remove the lid, turn off the heat, and stir in the reserved nut mixture. It may clump a bit, but continuing to stir it in the hot pan will help it to distribute and become creamy. Stir in the basil and fresh ground pepper to taste, if using. Serve.

Yields about 2 side servings

 

No Onion? I ran out of onion the second time I made this dish, so I skipped the onion sauté, but added ¼ teaspoon of onion powder to the nut mixture. The fresh onion was better, but this was still tasty in a pinch!

To Serve: This versatile dish can be served with a salad or steamed veggies (broccoli or asparagus would be nice) to keep it light and vegetarian. For an omnivorous meal, we found it went quite well with baked chicken, and also made a quick lunch with leftover chopped chicken added.

Lower Fat Option: I haven’t tried this as of yet, but I think this would work with just 2 teaspoons of oil if you were trying to go lower in fat. I would just sauté the onions in the oil, add the cauliflower and sauté for just 1 minute, and then add the broth and cover. Cook until it reaches your desired tenderness. You may need to use a touch more broth. Don’t skip the pine nuts though; they add richness and nutrition!

Dairy-Free and Grain-Free, Cheesy Cauliflower Risotto with Basil

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Treading Lightly into Fall: Cheap Chinese Chicken Salad

Posted by on September 17, 2009 | 22 Comments

**Don’t Forget, Giveaway: 9 Special Diet Cookbooks, 9 Winners!**

Do you find your tastes migrating as the summer heat dwindles? I mean, I know I will be craving hearty soups and pumpkin goodies very soon, but even my salad desires are slowly drifting.

Since we will be moving to a much cooler climate, I am sure that some warm salads will be on the horizon, but right now I guess my tastes are simply transitioning from “bright and fresh” to “comforting.” It is still 90+ degrees out, so by comforting I mean dishes like a quick quiche (recipe coming up!) and this Chinese chicken salad …

chinesechickensalad

I know, I know … it looks just like all of my other salads. I didn’t have any of those crunch chow main noodles, and I used romaine instead of Napa, but trust me, it is all about the taste … and you can use whatever add-ins you like to make it more “authentic” (see recipe below!).

Back to the point, this is one of those simple and flavorful dishes that I have always loved, but for some reason, until now, had never, ever made at home. What a fool I have been … so delicious! As an added bonus, unlike restaurant versions of this popular salad, this one is quite low in fat, and very inexpensive to make!

So I must know (okay, it is my greedy desire for inspiration in addition to insatiable curiosity), do you have any favorites that you have yet to adventure in your own kitchen?

 

Cheap Chinese Chicken Salad

This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, optionally Gluten-Free, optionally Nut-Free, and optionally Vegan / Vegetarian. It was adapted from Ellie Krieger’s recipe on the Food Network.

Don’t let the ingredients fool you, this is a fast and easy recipe! I have broken the recipe into three parts simply so you can make the dressing or the chicken separately should you want to use them for another dish. While the chicken bakes, you will have just enough time to whip up the dressing and chop the veggies for a light and healthy meal on the table in 30 minutes!

Chicken:

  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce or Wheat-Free Tamari
  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove, crushed or minced

If the chicken breasts are thick, butterfly them. Place the chicken in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic, and drizzle over the chicken. If you have time, allow the chicken to marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight. If not, pop them in the oven as soon as it preheats.

Preheat your oven to 350º. Bake the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is cooked through. The juices should run clear, but be careful not to overcook the breasts, as they can easily dry out. Once done, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Dressing:

  • 1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Wheat-Free Tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar or Sweetener of Choice (agave, honey, or maple syrup will also work nicely)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Sriracha or Chili-Garlic Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons Peanut, Olive, or Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil

 In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. (I usually combine everything but the oil, and then drizzle the oil in while whisking out of habit. It seems to work well).

Salad:

  • 8 to 10 Cups Greens (In the salad pictured, I used 2 small romaine hearts and 3 cups of bagged coleslaw mix. Napa cabbage, purple cabbage, etc. would also work well)
  • 1 Large Carrot, shredded
  • 2 Green Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds

Optional Add-ins:

  • 1 Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 8oz Can Sliced Water Chestnuts
  • 1 11oz Can Mandarin Oranges in Water, drained
  • 1 Small Can Crispy Chow Mein Noodles (not gluten-free)
  • Etc…

Combine all of the salad ingredients, except for the almonds, in a large bowl. Add the chicken, drizzle with the salad dressing, and toss to coat. Divvy up the salad amongst four plates, and sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon of the almonds.

Nut-Free Option: Substitute toasted sesame seeds or crispy chow mein noodles for the almonds.

Vegan / Vegetarian Option: You can use faux “chicken” but a cheaper and more natural option would be to substitute tofu. Use the chicken marinade and baking technique above, but use ¾ to 1 lb of extra-firm tofu. It should bake in about the same time.

Untried Ideas: If you like a peanut-y Chinese Chicken Salad, try subbing 2 tablespoons of PB (or other nut butter) for the oil. But keep the sesame oil!

chinesechickensaladtop3

Trusting Your Gut: Creamy Thai Tomato Soup

Posted by on September 13, 2009 | 22 Comments

I am not always much for stories, but today, I just need to share. Luckily, my story (or two) includes a recipe (a really delicious one in fact) to reward all of you who stick around.

Two weeks ago, I was in the kitchen, experimenting yet again. I have been in constant pursuit of the perfect Thai Lettuce Wraps. It was my fifth round of attempts (yes, I said fifth). All prior recipes were okay, but not quite there, so I decided to go with a different inspiration, one with a tomato-y base.  I used a recipe as my general guide, and all seemed to be going well, until I added the coconut milk. Way, way too much. The seasonings were so diluted in the sauce that I knew the remaining chunks of veggies and meat wouldn’t be flavorful enough on their own.

I was about to give in, serve them in the lettuce wraps, and chalk it up as another mediocre attempt when something compelled me to just give the sauce a little taste to see if it was worth salvaging in some other way. IT WAS DELICIOUS. I seriously impressed myself. Not wanting to waste a drop, I added more light coconut milk and served it up as a chunky soup / stew. We licked our bowls clean within mere minutes. Needless to say, I have already made that soup again, and again (recipe below).

But it seems that whatever that something inside of me was, that gut feeling to not just let it go, was the theme that week.

For years my husband and I hesitated to even say the name of the town we moved from almost five years ago. We had lived there for many important and wonderful years of our lives. We bought our first home, we got married, we built a successful business … but, at the end of it all, we left with so much animosity. Though our marriage was strong, we hit one of those rough patches in life, and we took our anger out on “that place.” We couldn’t even appreciate the wonderful friendships that were just beginning to build and the sheer beauty that surrounded us.

But that week, as we laid on the living room floor staring at the ceiling and discussing our next step, as we wondered about continuing our lease or buying a place where we currently live, a place we do enjoy … the conversation took a sharp turn to the land of the unexpected. The monster was unleashed; someone said the name of “that place,” and we both rather suddenly, wanted to go back. It was a strong gut feeling that literally consumed us. Our anger had long passed and we knew, we just knew, it was where we now belonged.

Within a single day, we went from four plus years of refusing to say the name of “that place,” to committing to move there and “settle down” in just 30 days.

Today as we talked about it with both nerves and excitement, my husband said he even started to well up when telling some people that we were moving back (my husband does not cry!). When I asked him why we are both feeling so emotional, he said, “It’s because we are going home.”

Dairy-Free Tomato Thai Soup

Alisa’s Accidental Creamy Thai Tomato Soup

This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free, relatively Low-Fat, and optionally Vegan / Vegetarian. This is the baseline recipe, see my notes below for adding veggies and to make it vegan/vegetarian.

  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil (substitute peanut, olive, or grapeseed oil if you wish)
  • 1 Cup Thinly Sliced Leek (about 1 medium – whites and lower green, tough leaves removed) or Thinly Sliced Yellow/White Onion (about ½ medium onion)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Finely Minced Ginger
  • 8 Ounces Lean or Extra-Lean Ground Turkey (can substitute chicken or tofu or see veggie options below)
  • 1 8-Ounce Can Plain Tomato Sauce (like Hunt’s or generic)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Red Curry Paste
  • 1 Cup Light Coconut Milk or Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage
  • 1 Tablespoon Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Lime Zest
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Lime Juice

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the leek or onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for 1 minute more. Turn the heat up to medium, and add the turkey. Cook, breaking it up as you stir, until cooked through, about 7 minutes or so. Stir in tomato sauce and curry paste, and allow the flavors to meld for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (coconut milk through the lime), and let the soup simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken a bit. Serve.

Optional Veggie Add-Ins: This recipe is very friendly to veggies in terms of taste. On the first go, I added 2 full cups of baby spinach leaves near the very end of simmering. The second time I added about 1.5 cups of thinly sliced cabbage after the onions. Both were wonderful (I think we liked the spinach best though). Some other veggies that really appeal to me for this recipe are cauliflower, eggplant (would need  a bit more saute time), and baby corn.

Vegetarian / Vegan Option: As noted above, you can substitute in tofu for the meat, and/or feel free to go crazy with the veggie suggestions or your own ideas. The tricky part is the fish sauce. It seems there is a vegetarian version on the market, or you can make your own homemade version, or in a pinch, substitute soy sauce (adding some nori flakes if you have them – seaweed gives it more of that fishy taste), but the flavor will be a bit different.

Dairy-Free Tomato Thai Turkey Soup

Blog Events: I am submitting this recipe to Souper Sundays, hosted by Kahakai Kitchen.

Sweet Roasted Five-Spice Carrots

Posted by on September 10, 2009 | 15 Comments

Don’t forget about the Vegan Brunch and Vegan Soul Kitchen Giveaway!

My husband and I got in a discussion the other day about carrots. Yes, carrots. For years he has picked through stir fries leaving a pile of carrots neatly on the side of his plate, which I eventually end up nabbing with my chopsticks to avoid any waste (okay, I love carrots, so I really don’t mind). But, when I made the outright statement that he doesn’t like carrots, he eminently denied it. I gave him my annoyed yet perplexed face, and he proceeded with an explanation. He claimed that most carrots just weren’t good quality. The ones that we have had in some finer restaurants are much sweeter … those, he likes.

I typically buy organic carrots (the extra $.20 for a 1 lb bag is well worth it for this high-pesticide veggie), but I proceeded to trial the baby carrots, the regular bagged carrots, and even locally grown carrots with their green leafiness still in tact. No luck. I knew the sweetness he was speaking of, but I just couldn’t seem to find it. Perhaps I am just a bit early in the year, since peak season for carrots doesn’t hit until next month. But still …

So I went online and discovered a little secret. Don’t ask me where I found it, as I merely committed the idea to memory, but it seems many chefs will sweeten the pot a bit with just a wee bit of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness in carrots without going overboard and creating a glaze.

So with this new-to-me concept and a 5-spice craving, I cranked on the oven, and threw together this lightly sweetened side dish. Though my husband wasn’t elated at first to see a big pile of carrots on his plate, he gladly devoured every last morsel …

5spicecarrots

Sweet Roasted Five-Spice Carrots

This recipe is Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Vegetarian, and optionally Vegan.

  • 12 Ounces (3/4 lb) Carrots, thickly sliced or baby carrots
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil (melted) or Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Honey (can substitute brown sugar, agave, or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

Place the carrots in a large baking dish (preferably in a single layer). Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine and evenly distribute the seasonings.

Place the carrots in the oven, and allow them to bake for 15 minutes.

Remove, give them a stir, and return them to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until they are nice and roasty-toasty.

Yields 3 to 4 sides of sweet carrots

Taste & Create: Rustic Potato Summer Gratin

Posted by on August 23, 2009 | 25 Comments

The week flew by, and I had an enjoyable, but rather uneventful weekend. We watched the movie There Will Be Blood. Has anyone else seen that? It was good, but totally mental! We also went out one night to one of our favorite restaurants, sat with a view of the giant fish tank, savored hearty sesame-ahi tuna wraps (I need to make those at home), and sipped on a couple of MGD 64’s. I know, woo! Don’t lose control there. Aside from that, there was a nice long walk, a good cardio workout, an hour of stretch, and … I made a delicous Potato Gratin, rich with tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

You didn’t think I was going to get to the food did you? Well, this dish is actually a take on my partner’s recipe from Taste & Create, food blogger Kendall at Res-O-Puh-Leese.

I had a doozy of a time picking a recipe, as there were so many to choose from buried within her blog, but I eventually settled on the Potato, Tomato, and Garlic Gratin.

Of course, since this recipe was already tested and approved as is, I decided to play around with it a little; within reason of course. Kendall isn’t a fan of onions, but I am, so I referenced the original recipe to add those babies back in. I took the fats down, as some of the oil seemed a bit unnecessary (no compromise there!), and I simplified a few of the steps (she is quite the gourmet!) for my simple kitchen style. In the end, I renamed it a “Rustic” gratin, because I like my potatoes unpeeled. The skin adds so much wonderful flavor and texture. The “Summer” part came from the use of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs.

Here is a close-up just before I popped it in the oven …

rustic potato gratin close

Now, I ran into one little glitch. Those potatoes on top crisp up and start to blacken well before the potatoes are done. At 45 minutes, I took it out, turned those top potatoes over, and popped it back in. You can do this, or try the untested tip which I include at the end of the recipe. I think it will work just fine.

The end result was rich, delicious, and completely gone in one meal (Thank you Kendall!) …

rustic potato gratin

Oh yes, would you like the recipe?

 

Recipe: Rustic Potato Summer Gratin

Summary: ReAdapted from Res-o-puh-leese, which was adapted from Simply French by Patricia Wells & Joel Robuchon.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Sea Salt, to taste (1/2 t is probably enough, but I went overboard with 1 t, and we loved it!)
  • Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 lb Ripe Tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded & chopped (See note below. I used fresh, but you can substitute 1 14.5-ounce can of drained diced tomatoes in a pinch)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Honey (can sub agave nectar to keep it vegan)
  • 1.5 lbs Baking Potatoes (nice big Russets!)
  • 3 Teaspoons Dairy-Free Margarine, divided (I used Earth Balance Soy-Free, but you can substitute more olive oil)
  • 3/4 Cup Chicken, Beef, or Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, snipped
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and allow it to cook and thicken for about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, prep those potatoes! Give them a good scrub. I leave them unpeeled for that “rustic” effect, but peel them if you must. Thinly slice the potatoes (about 1/4-inch worked for me). Set aside about 1/4 to 1/3 of the potatoes in a medium-sized bowl to use as the topping.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the remaining potatoes with the sauce and toss carefully to blend.
  5. Liberally rub the bottom of a 9″ pie dish (or similarly sized oven-safe dish) with 1 teaspoon of the margarine, or oil if using instead.
  6. Transfer the potato-tomato mixture to the baking dish, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Add the broth to cover.
  7. Add the remaining 2 teaspons of margarine (or oil) and the parsley to the reserved potatoes for the topping. Toss to coat evenly.
  8. Arrange the “buttered” potato slices one by one atop the potato-tomato mixture in your baking dish (in an overlapping pattern), until the entire dish is covered with an even potato layer. Sprinkle with the thyme.
  9. Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake until the potatoes are soft, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the top is golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check in after 40 minutes. If those potatoes on top are crisping too fast, turn them over to cook the other sides, and return to the oven. Serve immediately.

Quick notes

Peeling Tomatoes: Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water large enough to hold all the tomatoes. Cut a slit in the skin of each tomato from top to bottom, and drop them all into the boiling water. Leave them in the boiling water for approximately 1 minute before removing each tomato with a slotted spoon and placing it immediately in the bowl of cold water. As soon as the tomato is cool enough to touch, remove the skin, which will now slide away easily.

Variations

Alternate Baking Method: If you run into the potato crisping problem I had, try this … reduce the broth to 1/2 to 2/3 cup, and bake for just 45 minutes to 1 hour. I think this timing will work well, since the potatoes are definitely done by 1 hour but with 3/4 cup broth, it isn’t all absorbed.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 90 minute(s)

Diet tags: Dairy free, Egg free, Gluten free, Nut free, Peanut free, Soy free, Wheat free, Low Sugar, and optionally Vegan and Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Alisa Fleming.

rustic potato gratin uncooked

Blog Events: I submitted this recipe post to Friday Foodie Fix (Thyme) at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.

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