Last night, we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday. Just as when I tipped into my thirties, my Mom was adamant about hosting a party for close family. Like last time, she transported everything from Ottawa and did last-minute prepping and baking in my brother’s kitchen. Moving before we hit 30 seems to be a theme in our family, as she navigated a new kitchen.
I offered to bring something. I was flat-out refused. I even asked if she had reconsidered a few days earlier. No. Although she leaked the menu to me: lentil salad and portobello mushrooms for me. (YES!) While I initially agreed that simple fruit would an ample dessert, she asked if I would like the Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie instead. Obviously, I thought it was a fantastic idea. All of my favourite recipes!
Of course my Mom went all out. Roasted red pepper hummus and raw veggies as early nibblers along with spanakopita from my brother’s in-laws. Three salads: a leafy green with a balsamic dressing, my favourite 11-Spice Lentil Salad with apples and arugula (aka the Best Lentil Salad Ever) and a bacon-broccoli salad. Roasted balsamic portobello mushrooms were baked, instead of grilled, along with the salmon. A magnificent zuccotto dome cake and my Almost Guiltless cake for dessert. I loved how my healthy eats were interspersed among the options and enjoyed by everyone, including my brother’s in-laws who were still inquiring as to what vegan means. It was fun to see them guess what exactly was in the dessert that had no flour, no grains, no eggs, no cream, no dairy, and no sugar and still taste delicious. We forgot to tell them the filling was no-bake, too (my Mom experimented with baking the almond-date crust this time).
While I am hesitant to call vegetables “steaks”, the baked mushrooms were compared to steaks last night. Since I used to enjoy my steak on the blue side (when I ate meat), I can see some parallels (moreso than if you like your steak well done), but these mushrooms are a pale comparison for anyone expecting steak. However, they are still one of my favourite meals.
Rob and I have been without a barbecue for a while now, but I have been experimenting with a different way to enjoy roasted balsamic mushrooms. Now I know baking works, too, but in the days of the hot summer, I know I can also make them on the stovetop as well. Not as good as the barbecue, but I am not complaining.
Balsamic mushrooms are marinaded in an herbed sherry-balsamic broth and then braised in the same sauce. The sauce is then reduced, used to wilt spinach and lastly drizzled overtop quinoa. I normally don’t make separate sides, but this was simple despite its multiple components.
Do you eat more one-pot dishes or tend to make lots of simple sides instead?
I have been searching for a hearty, meaty (yet vegan), filling stew.
I had early success with mushroom bourguignon, but wanted something lighter, with less oil and flour. I tried recipe after recipe, without avail. Beet bourguignon did not satisfy. Beans bourguignon from 1000 Vegan Recipes was ok but not quite up to my high standards. Seitan-less Burgundy Stew with Parsnips from Big Vegan was not my favourite either. I almost gave up…
And then this treat popped out of nowhere.
After my success with baked (fresh) cranberries in the stuffed carnival squashes and roasted balsamic curry fall vegetables, I began exploring other savoury ideas for fresh (or frozen) cranberries. I stumbled upon Bryanna’s Mushroom and Cranberry Stew and was immediately intrigued. I don’t normally cook with TVP but had picked up some large chunk TVP at some point. Might as well use it and clear out the pantry, I mused.
I hadn’t really thought this was a bourguignon. However, it has a lot of similar flavours: red wine and sherry, carrots, thyme, mushrooms. No tomatoes, though and no need to use a thickener. TVP was used as a meat mimicker, texture only. I think a large bean could substitute if you are averse to TVP. The real beefy flavour came from Marmite. A yeasty, salty spread that Kiwis adore. The lovely twist in this recipe came from the fresh cranberries. Pleasantly tart, not sweet, but complemented the beefy stew incredibly well.
I will happily curl up with a bowl of this over the winter months.
Rob and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Iceland. I hope to do a more complete post in a few weeks about the trip (wonderful! beautiful! stunning!), after I frantically try to put my life back into order with work and research commitments. My blog will go into autopilot until then.
I will tease you, though, and let you know how great the trip was and a week was certainly not long enough for the quaint island. Despite the stunning views and vistas, it was cold. While the daytime highs could be 8-20C, with winds beating us fiercely at 80 km/h, the windshield was brutal. It reminded me how it is truly fall.
Even before I left, I knew summer was slowly coming to an end at home. I was worried I would return to Canada to find fall, but instead, thankfully, it is still in the mid-20s.
However, there are other signs. The mornings are now dark when I get up and if I cook after work, it can be dark by the time I finish. Butternut squash, a surefire marker of fall, is making a come back!
After the cold winds of Iceland, I was hankering some warming stews and soups. Summer or fall, stews are great any time of the year. In fact, this stew doubles as a salad which is how I ate the leftovers. See how perfect this is for end-of-summer meals?
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (recipe posted here), this is a flavourful medley of vegetables (red bell pepper, green beans, tomatoes and butternut squash) with a light broth spiced with sweet paprika. Spurred by Cara’s recommendation, I used butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes but both would work well here. This is great with the large, buttery lima beans, but feel free to use your favourite bean.
Moosewood recommended serving this with a romesco sauce on top, but I found I preferred the thickened leftover stew over top baby spinach with a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds. After throwing my sweet and sour lentils overtop arugula, I am learning that most bean dishes can be thrown overtop some greens for a lovely salad.
I love soups. Mostly one-bowl complete meal kind of soups, but I have ventured out into some lighter soups as well. Thick soups, thin soups, chunky soups, pureed soups – what is there not to like?
I know some people don’t like pureed soups. It reminds them of baby food.
Recently, I was visiting an old friend for dinner, where she made a nice carrot, sweet potato and orange soup which she also fed to her 1-year-old son. Suffice it to say, this kid had no taste! The hooting and screeching was incredible once he tried the soup, which my friend attributed to his aversion to garlic and onion. He was much happier with a macaroni salad, instead.
Not that I remember what baby food tastes like from my childhood, but simple ingredients can lead to a delicious soup. An old recipe of mine from university used 4 ingredients for a decadent butternut squash and roasted red pepper soup. I wonder if Baby T would like that soup (onion but no garlic!).
Sometimes, though, I want something a bit more edgy, a bit more complex.
Welcome this Carrot and Roasted Red Pepper Soup that I adapted from Color Me Vegan (original recipe also posted here). The name sounds similar to my old stand-by, and with roasted red pepper as a main ingredient, I knew I would like it. I just didn’t know I would love it. Thankfully, while the ingredient list is longer, it is just as easy to make once you’ve got everything assembled. This is an adult soup, though.
I modified the original recipe slightly, choosing to roast my own red peppers (easy and tastes better) while I chopped and cooked the first couple of ingredients. I substituted a large sweet potato for the potato and only used 1 cup of soy milk to get my desired consistency. I also omitted the cayenne, but a dash of red pepper flakes would have been a great addition.
The result was a complex, but still light and creamy soup. The sweetness from the roasted red peppers works well with the carrots, and the pureed sweet potato adds a creamy sweetness as well. I found the sherry to be a welcome flavour, and a great way to cook the vegetables without any oil. But the secret ingredient was the miso. It really added a depth of flavour that had you begging for more. Baby T may not want it, but if you are older, you will.
My winter jacket, mitts and hat are now in the front of my closet.
I cleaned the dust off my winter boots.
Winter is here.
And what else does snow make me do?
Snow simply screams, “Soup!”.
I will happily succumb.
Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Eat Well Cookbook, this is a hearty and creamy wild mushroom soup (sans creme) with barley and thyme. Something great to warm up with this winter.
It is for serious mushroom lovers, with both dried shiitake and fresh cremini mushrooms. Tomato paste adds a deeper body to the soup, and the sherry adds a special flavour. Thyme, a perfect pair to the mushrooms, is a nice accent, along with the lemon juice. Nowhere have I mentioned cream, but this is a substantial soup with the pearl barley. The trick is to puree a portion of the soup for the creaminess.