Roasted Red Pepper Soup

It’s hard making friends after college. The pool of new people drastically decreases, there’s usually a lack of liquor conversation, with the majority having more interest ‘pinning’ a cookie that’s inside a cupcake that’s inside a pie, than attempt to fill the awkward silence.

It’s not like you can knock on people’s doors to see if they want to be friends. That’s how you get your pic trending under #creeper on Twitter.

Which may explain my desperation behavior at my new job.

Ohmygod. I love Rihanna too!”

Lindsay turned around and removed her earbuds. “What? I couldn’t hear you.”

“I said, ‘I love Rihanna too.'”

“Ok.”

“We should be friends.”

Let’s be clear, I don’t walk around my neighborhood, trying to hear what’s playing on strangers’ iPods. Instead, I’ve convinced myself that a new job is like college, but with paychecks. You know, an absolutely proper place to make new friends.

“Do you do yoga?”

Amy took a sip of her tea. “Sometimes.”

“I noticed that you wear leggings a lot-”

She set her mug down on her desk. “You’ve been noticing…what I’ve been wearing?”

“I do yoga too!”

“Um-”

“We should be friends.”

I’m surprised I haven’t been reported to HR. ‘Noticed what you’re wearing?’ She looked at me like I said, ‘it puts the lotion in the basket.’

“You had soup for lunch yesterday?”

“Yeah it was leftovers.”

I pulled two Tupperware containers from my purse. “I brought you some soup I made last night. It’s roasted red pepper.”

“Oh…I already ate.”

“It’s 10 a.m.”

“Like I said-”

“You eat lunch at ridiculously early times too?”

“Uh-”

“Be my friend.”

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Corn Chowder

Dear Young Singleton,

Perhaps you came across this page, hoping to find some nekid pics of Liz Lemon.  Sorry to disappoint, but while you’re here, can we talk about a couple things?  Like, what not to say to girls¹.  I can’t exactly tell you what to say, but if you avoid the following, you may be able to avoid another night alone Googling ‘What’s under Liz’s shirt.’

1) Are you really going to wear that?

I was, until you looked at me like I was rolling around in cheese. Now I hate clothes. All the clothes.

2) Don’t you have enough shoes?

THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH SHOES! (wipes drool from side of mouth)

3) Are there going to be any guys there?

Yes. It’s actually brothel. And you’re so not invited.

4) You should definitely get a gym membership.

Now I’m just going to spite-eat these cookies while picturing your face melting off. In yoga pants of course.

5) Are you going to eat all of that?

Yes, and so should you. It’s delicious. Asshole.

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Carrot, Raisin and Cranberry Quick Bread

I opened the door to our apartment. “You will not believe what happened at yoga,” I said, kicking off my sandals and walking into the living room.

“What, The Moaner make another appearance?” Roo asked.

“I wish.”

Roo took a bite of toast and set it down on the coffee table. “What happened?”

“Well, as you know, sometimes I come off as a creeper.”

“Go on.”

I folded my arms and threw myself onto the couch next to Roo. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Roo picked up his toast again and took another bite. A raisin fell onto his lap. “Ok.”

I eyed the raisin for a moment. “Well, you know how I love it when a yoga instructor takes a class I’m in?”

“Something about it being inspirational?”

I smiled. “You’re so good. Sometimes I really can’t believe you listen everything I say.”

Roo laughed. “So a yoga teacher took the same class as you -”

“Right. She set her mat down next to mine -” I paused.

“And?”

“And I may have been watching her through some of the poses.”

“And she caught you watching?”

“That’s not even the bad part.”

Roo waited.

“When the class was told to fold in straddle, facing the right side of the room, that was the side the instructor was on. And our mats were really close.”

“And?”

“And when I went to fold, I accidentally brushed the instructor’s butt with the bun on top of my head,” I said, pointing to my hair.

Roo burst out laughing.

“It’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.”

“It is not! I had to apologize profusely in a whisper, because it was during class. Do you know how creepy an apology sounds in a whisper?”

“Well I’ve never been assaulted by a bun in yoga class, so I wouldn’t know.”

“I don’t know if I can ever show my face there again.”

“Here,” Roo said, handing me his slice toast. “Have some of this. I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

I picked the raisin off his lap and placed it on the plate. “It’s not enough.”

“What’s not enough?”

“There’s like two bites left. And they’re the worst ones. No cranberries or raisins in either one.”

Roo smiled. “Alright, I’ll cut you another slice. Thankfully you made two loaves last night.”

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Tunisian Soup

The house is strangely quiet tonight.

Roo left an hour ago to meet up with a friend from college at a local bar.

It’s just me, the cats and the sound of rain.

While it would be tempting to have dinner with the tv blaring, staring vacantly at whatever program I happen to come across, I’d rather just sit.

And listen.

Taste.

And enjoy the quiet company that I have.

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Creamy Oven Roasted Cauliflower Soup

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while.

Pressures of what to write, how to write it and if it would be good enough, have been sitting on top of my chest as I’d lay down to bed at night.  Uncomfortable would be the best way to describe it; a feeling that I should be writing something funny, but I can’t, or won’t.

Yet with the New Year approaching, I decided I should let it go.  Sometimes the recipe needs to speak for itself.

And this soup definitely has a voice: creamy and lush, hints of thyme, bay and a little “something” from the chili powder makes this bowl of assumed homogeneity a contender.  It’s full of body from the blended potatoes and has an unexpected amount of depth from the caramelized bits of roasted cauliflower.

Grab a hunk of warm, crusty bread and enjoy this winter fare tonight.  But be sure to save some for tomorrow, as it’s even better as leftovers.

Adapted from Creamy Broccoli Soup

This Serves About 6

Ingredients

For the oven roasted cauliflower

1 tablespoon of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets (try to keep everything, except for the leaves)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the rest of the soup

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Half teaspoon of chili powder

4 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

4 potatoes (about the size that individually fit in the palm of your hand), cut into about half inch pieces

1 large carrot, diced

1 large parsnip, diced (if you don’t have any parsnips, use two carrots. I’ve done this before when caught in a pinch and it tasted fine.)

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Quarter cup of nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance (optional)

Salt to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A medium sized mixing bowl

A cookie sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper (optional)

A very large pot with cover (or dutch oven)

A spatula

An immersion blender or a blender

Ladle

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to your pot.  Place the pot over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and chili powder and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, potatoes, carrot and parsnip.  Stir till the ingredients are incorporated.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that the ingredients are at a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for about twenty minutes.

After twenty minutes have passed, add the almond milk, sherry and nutritional yeast.  Stir and heat the ingredients through.

By now the cauliflower should be caramelized from roasting in the oven.  In one fell swoop, dump the cauliflower into your pot.  Stir in the cauliflower so that it’s evenly distributed in the soup.

With an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup, or to the consistency that you wish (I like to have some bits left whole in my soup).  If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle some soup into your blender, but be careful to not fill more than half way.  Lid, cover with a towel (to protect your hand), and immediately blend (do not let steam build up in the blender or else you may risk of eruption and burning your hand!).  Add it back to the soup, and continue this until the soup is down to the consistency you desire.

Add salt to taste.

*Does it need to be just a little bit creamier?  If desired, add a tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance.  Otherwise, you’re done!  Serve immediately.

Veggie and Dumpling Soup with Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Roo and I live in a part of the city where many college students sublet apartments throughout the school year.  By living in an area heavily populated with undergrads, we have easy access to many locally run restaurants within walking distance.  However, one of the businesses across the street from our apartment is a chain restaurant.  And this particular chain loves to receive deliveries at 4 in the morning, with the semi-truck right parked in the middle of the road, complete with the engine running for the entire time.  The truck is usually there for 30 minutes to an hour, complete with hissing from air being released from the brakes and sometimes if you’re really lucky, a blast of the air horn, to let the employee stashed in the back know that they’ve arrived.

Usually Roo and I can sleep through it, as after living on a busy road for a while, little wakes you up.  But this morning was different, as the truck driver decided to use a cart to move items in and out of the restaurant.  Clickity clack clack clack, is what I woke to at 5 a.m.  As I rolled over to whine to Roo about the noise (because whining is totally appropriate couples’ communication when you’re pre-coffee and the sun isn’t up yet), I found that he wasn’t there.

Where was he?

When I turned the light on in the living room, I found Roo asleep on the couch, and Evil Monkey, obviously caught red-handed in some sort of master plan.

(Seriously, she’s an evil genius.)

I asked him what happened, and apparently I told him in the middle of the night, “stop coughing or get out.”

Wow.

I know what you’re thinking, because I am too: he’s so lucky to have. all. this. (crazy.)

All joking aside, I felt incredibly guilty that I forced Roo into exile, and knew I had to make it up to him.

When I’m sick, all I want is a warm, hearty soup that I can eat while wrapped in a blanket and my feet tucked up under me.  (Spooning a soup bowl is like my hobby when I have a cold. That and using every conceivable paper product in the house to blow my nose.  Really.)  I knew Roo wasn’t a fan of brothy soups, so I decided to do an adaptation of an old favorite of mine: chicken and dumplings.

While Roo and I are now eating plant based meals, I felt that that was no reason to stop eating the comfort foods we had grown up with.  There is always room for adaptation.

Simmering in my dutch oven, were flavors of woodsy thyme, onions, practically melted into the olive oil, with chunks of carrots and a peppering of celery throughout, all enveloped by a rich and creamy soup.  What I especially loved was that the oven roasted cauliflower placed at the bottom of the bowl, gave a slight crunch, from the caramelized bits that had cooked up against the baking sheet, only to end with a smooth and silky taste, coupling perfectly with the soup.

This meal does well as leftovers, as overnight, the flavors truly meld together, and make a lunch all your co-workers will be jealous of.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

For the oven roasted vegetables

1 – 2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets (*if you don’t like cauliflower – gasp! – you can always roast broccoli)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the soup

3 to 4 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 ribs of celery, thinly sliced

Half teaspoon of red pepper flake (optional)

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Quarter teaspoon of tumeric

Five and a half cups of low sodium stock/broth (I used homemade vegetable)

2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (this adds to the creaminess of the soup)

Half cup of apple cider (apple juice also works if that’s all you have)

2 tablespoons sherry

Half cup of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Half cup of water

Half cup of all purpose flour

For the dumplings

One and a half cups of all purpose flour

Half cup of cornmeal

1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder

Half teaspoon of fine sea salt

Three quarters of a cup plus 2 tablespoons of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

Equipment

A sharp knife

2 medium sized mixing bowls (can hold about 4 cups), or you can wash out the mixing bowl and use it again

One to two cookie sheets with (optional) parchment paper to line

A large dutch oven or a large pot with lid

A spatula

A blender or immersion blender…you may be able to get out the lumps when mixing the almond milk/water/flour with a whisk/shake a lidded jar

A whisk

A tablespoon (to scoop the dumplings with)

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your first mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Pour 3 – 4 tablespoons of olive oil into your dutch oven/large pot and place over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion starts to become translucent.  Add the carrots and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has browned.  Add the red pepper flake (if using), thyme and tumeric.  Stir the spices into the ingredients until combined.  Cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Pour in the broth/stock slowly.  Using your spatula, scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of your dutch oven/large pot (this is the good stuff).  Continue to pour in the broth/stock and stirring the ingredients.  Add the nutritional yeast, stir till combined.  Add the apple cider.  Stir till combined.  Add the sherry.  Stir till combined.  Cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer the ingredients while you make your dumplings.

In your second (or cleaned) mixing bowl, add the all purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder and half teaspoon of fine sea salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients together.  Add the almond milk and olive oil.  Stir the ingredients together, being careful not to over mix.  The dough should be slightly damp.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.  If it’s too dry, add a little bit more almond milk.  Set aside.

In a blender (or if using, an immersion blender and bowl, whisk and bowl, or jar with lid, maybe?), add the half cup of almond milk, half cup of water and half cup of all purpose flour.  Mix the ingredients together until no longer lumpy.  Add the almond milk, water, flour mixture to the dutch oven/large pot.  Stir till combined.

With a clean tablespoon, spoon out the dumpling dough and drop it onto the soup.  Continue adding dollops of dough into the soup until you run out.  Partially cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Check the seasonings and add salt if needed.  Let the soup sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Demerara Quinoa and Carrot Cake

Just a warning, this is not your typical all-American, “carrot cake.”

I’ve said in the past that I hate carrot cake.  I wish I liked it, I really do.  It would, for example, make family functions easier, as my father loves carrot cake.  He has even gone so far to question my relation to him, as he can’t understand why I, his daughter, would loathe a nut filled, over spiced, cream cheese laden thing.  Ok, the latter part is my description of the cake.

Sorry Dad, I’m yours, carrot cake hating daughter and all.

Well, now that we’ve gone over that speed bump, let’s start over fresh.

I’ve been receiving what seems like an endless supply of carrots from my CSA.  Week after week I’ve opened the cute, little green reusable shopping bag to find bundles of crooked-legged carrots waiting to be used at the bottom.

I love carrots raw, cooked in savory dishes, whatever, just don’t put them in a cake.  Roo on the other hand, likes carrot cake, but isn’t a fan of them otherwise.  And for someone who doesn’t like carrots, he’s had to endure them for dipping into hummus, soups with a suspicious amount thrown in (“Where are the potatoes?”), and a stir fry that should have honestly been called, “carrot sauté with a couple green leaves on the side.”

Needless to say, I needed a new sneaky method to use up the carrots without Roo becoming convinced he was going to turn orange from an overdose.

Quinoa carrot cake was the answer.  I was a bit nervous making it as I’m clearly jaded from the original stand-by from (what I’m convinced of) “suburgatory.”  Also, I’ve never used quinoa as a “flour” for a cake before, and had no idea how it would turn out.  Would it still be intact, curly-tails and all?  Would it have a strange aftertaste?

The cake turned out to be extremely moist, with a subtle nutty flavor (from the quinoa), and the crunchy demerara sugar topping almost made me almost feel a little guilty when eating it.  Like stealing the sugar crusted tops of blueberry muffins your mother would make on a Sunday morning, kind of guilty.

Was that just me as a kid?

But don’t feel guilty dear reader, it is so so good.

Like snakes on a plane good.

If you like that kind of thing.

No?

Well then you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Adapted from Fresh365

Ingredients

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 cup demerara sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

Three quarters of a cup of white whole wheat flour (If you only have all purpose, you can use that)

Three quarters of a cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

Half cup vegan butter (like Earth Balance), melted and cooled

Half cup soy yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds, combined with 6 tablespoons of water, mixed and set aside for about 10 minutes)

1 heaping cup, loosely packed, finely grated carrots (I used the “fine grate” side of the blade on my food processor)

Equipment

A loaf pan (I used an 8″x4″)

Two medium sized mixing bowls

A spatula

A whisk

Parchment paper (optional) to line your loaf pan with, or vegan butter and flour to coat your pan with

Place your oven rack in the middle position in the oven.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

Line your loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease and flour it.  Set aside.

In your first mixing bowl, add the quinoa, white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour,sugar, baking soda and salt.  Mix them together with a whisk.

In the second mixing bowl, add the melted butter, soy yogurt, flax eggs and vanilla extract.  Mix them till combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments, mixing till just combined.  Fold in the grated carrots till combined.

Pour/scoop (the batter is quite thick) the batter into your prepared loaf pan.  Smooth off the top of the batter.  Or not, and call it “rustic.”

Place the loaf pan in the oven.  Bake the cake for about an hour.  At the 45 minute mark, sprinkle the tablespoon of demerara sugar over the top of the cake.  At the 50 minute mark, check the cake with a toothpick/cake tester (I used a knife as I ran out of toothpicks).  If the toothpick/cake tester comes out clean, it’s done.  If not, bake for another five minutes, and repeat testing until the cake is done.

I’ve eaten this cake warm, and it’s delicious.  But, like most bakers suggest, it is better to wait to eat this cake when it’s cooled to room temperature as it tastes best the way it’s supposed to be served.

Carrot (Cake) Cookies

I recently read a blog post by The Pioneer Woman, about how she hates, correction, “abhors,” bananas.  There is only one recipe on her website for the fruit that she “loathes,” and that’s for her mother’s banana bread.  It honestly struck a cord with me, because as soon as I started reading, I immediately thought about the one thing that I cannot stand: carrot cake.

I’ve been called “un-American,” for my dislike for the mal-spiced (yes, I’m making it a word), what people call a “cake.”  I’ve been asked how could I not like something that’s smothered with cream cheese frosting, because, “everyone loves cream cheese frosting.”  And my father has even questioned whether or not I was his daughter, the man who really should just legally change his name to, Mr. I Love Carrot Cake.

But in reality, I love carrots. I love them raw.  I love them roasted.  Roasted with a bit of chile oil, side by side with thinly sliced parsnips, even better.  They’re even lovely pickled.  I. Love. Carrots.

But in a cake….there’s just something about either the spices, the texture, the cream cheese frosting that I’m convinced that has a bucket of powdered sugar in it; I just hate it.  And what’s worse, is that I’ve had to choke it down three times in the past year.  Who knew that it was a favorite cake of Roo’s family members (not me).

Yes, I love Roo that much that I’ll accept a slice of carrot cake with a smile, and eat it.  I even ate it when I was 99% sure it came from a box.  And the frosting came out of a can.

I’m still scarred.

But like they say, love makes you stupid, ie makes you eat carrot cake.

So when I read that Ree (The Pioneer Woman) decided to “step out of her comfort zone,” and literally go-bananas, I figured why not.  How could I be experimenting with vegan and vegetarian cooking, but not try to adapt carrot cake into something that I might like.

Now I may not be as open minded, and actually make a carrot cake, but I figured why not try a cookie.  If I hated carrots in a cake, it may not be so bad in something that’s only as large as a tablespoon.

I’ve also been experimenting with ground flax seed in various baked goods, and since it’s an ingredient that is not only nutrient rich, but also complements the flavor of whole wheat flour, I added it to my cakey-cookie mix. I really liked the nutty flavor and was pleasantly surprised as to how well it paired with such a bold flavor like ginger, that I also was weary about adding.

I love that these cookies are cakey, full of wonderful textures like the grated carrot and chopped dried cherries, and not timid to let you know that it’s full of heat from the freshly ground ginger.  I’m happy to say that I think I’ve found a carrot (cake) cookie that even a hater like me, can love.

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 20 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour

Quarter cup whole wheat flour

Quarter cup ground flax seed

*You can use just one and a half cups of all purpose flour if that’s all you have*

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

Half cup olive oil (or a neutral flavored oil if that’s what you have)

Three quarters cup maple syrup

1 heaping cup grated carrots (I put one large carrot in my food processor, and used the ‘shred’ blade)

Half cup dried cherries, chopped (I cut each dried cherry in half, but a rough chop will also do)

two teaspoons fresh grated ginger

Equipment

Two medium sized bowls (can hold about five cups of ingredients each)

A spatula

A whisk

Hand grater

Parchment paper

A cookie sheet

A clean tablespoon for scooping cookie dough

And if you have it, a food processor (shreds the carrot in less than five seconds)

Place your oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flours, ground flax seed, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Whisk till combined.  Set aside.

In the second mixing bowl, add the olive oil, maple syrup and ginger.  Whisk till combined.  Add the carrots and dried cherries.  Because it’s easier at this point to use a spatula, use a spatula and stir till combined (I hate it when things like pieces of carrots get stuck in the whisk).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in increments.  I added the first half, folded everything together with a spatula till combined, then added the second half of the dry ingredients and folded till combined.

Let the mix stand for about 5 minutes (I got distracted and let it stand 10) before putting it onto the cookie sheets.

In the meantime, line your cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

Check Facebook because someone posted on your wall.  Pet your cat.  Check your Amazon order status.  Ask Roo about plans for next weekend.  Wash your hands because you realized you pet the cat and you’re about to handle food….

And by now it’s probably been 5 – 10 minutes.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out the cookie batter and place onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  The cookies don’t really spread out in the oven, but it’s still good to not have them touching.  I separated the cookies by one cookie’s width.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.  I like these cookies to come out of the oven a bit underdone.  They won’t be mooshy, but at 10 minutes, it really captures what I wanted in a “cakey” cookie.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them, on the sheet, for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, move the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely.