Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tomato Soup #dairyfree #vegan

If I have to pick one recipe that has quickly become our favorite for this year it is this tomato soup.  My entire family LOVES it.  I make it at least once a week.  

We have named this Isabella's Tomato Soup because she is the one that request it the most.  Last week I taught her how to make it as part of our Friday Cooking Class.  Isabella is becoming quite the culinary student.  I have enjoyed teaching her about the basics of cooking, the health benefits of cooking from scratch, and the time together in the kitchen.

This recipe is dairy free and I have made it with all types of dairy free milk: rice, almond, soy and coconut milk.  We really like the coconut milk the best.  I use the full fat and the soup is very creamy and dreamy.

We use a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes.  I think the texture and flavor from using the two benefits from having a variety of tomatoes.  

It is quick!  We whip this soup up in about 20 minutes.  I try to let it simmer for a few minutes but I usually have a handful of people asking me, "is it ready yet?" every few minutes.  The soup is great the next day too.

Tomato Soup #dairyfree #vegan
Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup red onion, diced small
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley, finely minced
2 teaspoons oil of your choice, to sauté onion
2 tablespoons flour
2 cans Organic Diced Tomatoes
2 cans Organic Coconut Milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste

 1.  Heat a small pot with oil.  Add onion and cook for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and parsley, salt and pepper.  Cook over heat for 1 minute.

2.  Add tomatoes and coconut milk.  Do not drain juice from tomatoes.

3.  Stir together.  Using a hand held blender stick, puree soup until smooth. See picture below.  It will be light pink and as it cooks, the color will change to a beautiful orange red.  If you don't have this, then add to a blender and puree and return to pot.

4.  Heat soup until thick.  I don't usually boil this soup.  Once the soup is thick, I turn the heat down and let it simmer for 15 minutes.  Taste and season according to your family's needs.

5.  We serve this with homemade croutons.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to Freeze Brussels Sprouts

Our family is embracing our plant based diet with surprising ease.  I say that because I wasn't sure how my husband was going to adjust.  He is doing well. He hasn't had any cravings.  His energy levels are high.  His work days are running smoothly.

The part that I am excited about is learning to work with new ingredients, new techniques and new ways to preserve our food.  I have not spent a lot of time in my life time freezing vegetables.  We mostly can them using a water bath or pressure canner.  This whole freezing idea is fun, simple and fast.

This week I walked into our local grocery store and saw these stalks of brussels sprouts.  The mound of stalks was half way up my waist and the sign read: 2 for $6.  I blinked twice.  Did I read that right?  Two for six dollars!  WOW...what a deal.  I verified with the department guy and he confirmed to me that this was right.  They are from a local farmer and organic.

To be honest, I had no idea what I was going to do with them but I just had to have them.  I felt awkward in the store as my cart was overflowing with vegetables and these two mammoth stalks sticking out like two clubs.  My Brussels sprout clubs in case any one messed with me...ha ha ha.

I have worked with Brussels sprouts before but I have never froze them.  I checked a few of my books and they all recommend the same treatment.

1.  Trim sprouts from stalk.  Remove any hard leaves and stems.
2.  Boil them for 3-4 minutes.
3.  Quickly moved them to an ice bath.
4.  Package them in freezer bags.  The recommendation was to remove as much air as possible from the bags.

Honestly, it was super easy and now I have three portions for the upcoming months ahead.

I have plans for these.  I hope to be able to pull them out during the holidays and make some fabulous side dishes.

Here is one of my favorites from last year:

Apple Brussels Sprout Salad

Do you have any recommended side dishes using Brussels Sprouts that you would like to share?  If so, comment below and add a link.  I can't wait to learn some new uses for this sturdy and hardy vegetable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Vegan Mapo Tofu with Rice

This is one of those dishes that Cory remembers eating a lot of while living in Japan.  He says that in Japan this dish is similar to popularity as Macaroni and Cheese is here in the US.  We don't eat Macaroni and Cheese from a box and so we most definitely would never eat this out of a box either.  You can buy it pre made in many Asian stores but I prefer to make things from scratch.  I know exactly what I put into the sauce this way.  I can also make minor changes.

Mopa Tofu is usually spicy.  Which is fine for my family but when friends are over I make sure to have a portion of this not as spicy.  The rice helps keep the temperature under control too.  The sauce is thick and you can really taste the garlic, sesame oil, ginger and chili.  If this combination of flavors sounds like something you would like then this recipe is for you.

If you follow me on Instagram then you know that we have gone to a vegan/plant based diet.  We have toyed with this lifestyle off and on this past year.  Our move from Oregon put a small ripple in our menu decisions.  We lived with my sister for 6 weeks and our diets reverted back to one filled with eating out, fast food and a lot of processed food.  I won't lie--it was so nice to eat what ever I wanted.  I enjoyed every single item I ate.  I had no regrets.

We are now settled into our home and I am able to get back into the kitchen and cook.  I love it!  Being with my own stuff feels great.  I am inspired to dig back into my blog and find time to post more frequently.  I've been cooking all types of new recipes and searching for fun things to share on the blog.

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Cory that I wanted to go back to eating a plant based diet.  I needed support this time though.  In the past it has been just me and I cook something different for the kids and Cory.  This is hard to prepare meals this way.  I can't serve something and not taste it.  I would often find myself having to taste things with eggs, cheese and meat.  Even one bite would make me feel like I was cheating on my food choices.

As we drove into Gymnastics last week I asked him if he would go on a plant based diet with me for one month.  This would allow me time and give me support to readjust myself and feel successful.  He agreed.  He is kind of awesome that way.

Well, it turns out that Cory needs to lose 40 pounds.  The very next day he went into visit with a sleep doctor.  His snoring is OUT OF CONTROL.  To the point that we are close to sleeping in separate rooms.  This news is not something he has not been told before but this time he is taking it more seriously.  Maybe sleeping by himself doesn't sound so good to him after all. The benefits would change. Cory mentioned to the Dr. about my suggestion of going on a plant based diet.  The doctor was thrilled and said he would support it 100 percent.  He recently had to lose 50 pounds himself and this is how he did it as well.

My heart skipped a bit.  We have been officially a plant based family for almost 10 days and I am so happy.  The kids are adjusting fine.  Our older two kids are old enough to eat and buy what they want.  Rye says its the best of both worlds.  I am transitioning the little girls slowly.  They never ate much meat and they don't like milk or most dairy goods.  The processed food is the hardest for them: pretzels, chips, ice cream, etc...  I am spending a small amount of time at each meal educating them on choices and eating healthy.  Nothing too intense just small reminders to eat more fruit and vegetables.  We all need to hear that pep talk once in a while.

I won't be removing any recipes from the blog.  My food journey has taken a few twist and turns over the last 4 years as I learned and discovered what works best for myself and my family.  You will find everything from gluten recipes to gluten free, meat to meat free, super healthy to moments of bliss with desserts. Changing our way of eating takes time and for us it has taken a few years.  If you are considering a plant based diet or even adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, here are a few suggestions that have helped our family:

1.  Start slow.  Replace meals one at a time.  Snacks too.

2.  Find blogs and people that can support your choice and change.  Forks over Knives has been a huge help for our family.  A few of my favorite blogs are:

Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon
Cookie + Kate --this is a vegetarian blog, but she has some great recipes
Fork and Beans by Cara

3.  Keep your ingredients simple.  Vegan/plant based foods are so delicious but some of them take time and preparation.  This can be overwhelming when you first start.

4.  Buy organic when you can.  There are some great list of things that you should try to buy organic and things that are okay to skip--this helps if you are on a budget. This site has a great pictorial of things they suggest to buy or skip. We visit our local Farmer's Market every week but I know that not everyone has this option.  I like to know who is growing our food.

5.  Eat more often and more.  You will be hungry the first few weeks.  I eat about every two hours.  I try to have lots of fruit, nuts plant based foods readily available for when I need something in my belly.  I would also suggest to eat bigger portions.  I struggled with being hungry. I went in search of a few blogs to follow to see how they eat.  I discovered that I wasn't eating enough at each sitting.  One piece of fruit is usually not enough.  I know eat 3-4 pieces. An example might be: one apple, a banana, a handful of grapes and some nuts.

This recipe is one that I have been making for years.  I usually add ground hamburger to it but this version is completely plant based.  If you are used to a more traditional recipe then this may seem a little bit unusual to you.  My husband says it taste the same; I will take his word that the minor changes did not affect the final flavor profile.

Again, this dish is meant to be spicy.  Adjust the spice by pulling back on the amount of Garlic Chili paste you add.  You can use chicken stock for the liquid if you don't need it to be meat/animal free.

Makes enough for 2-3 people.  I usually triple this recipe for our family. We like left overs.  Like most dishes, this taste great the next day.

1 teaspoon Garlic Chili Sauce
2 teaspoons of Black Bean Sauce
1 tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 cup of liquid: chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon potato or arrowroot starch
sesame oil to sauté vegetables
1 package extra firm tofu
4-6 medium mushrooms
1/2 onion, diced medium

1.  Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

2.  Cube the tofu into 1/2 in by 1/2 in squares.

3.  In a large frying pan add sesame oil and sauté onion and mushrooms until soft.  Add the liquids and tofu.  Cook over medium high heat until sauce is thick.

4.  Remove from heat. Serve with rice or noodles.

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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