Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monkey Minestrone with Polenta Croutons

If I could give one piece of advice to other parents of toddlers, I would say this: soup is your friend. My son will be 3 next month, and my boy has been eating soup since he started eating solid foods. Soup is perfect toddler food, and for so many reasons: you can use tons of different veggies, beans, grains; you can vary the flavor profiles to expose your child to different cuisines (Italian, Mexican, French, Moroccan, Thai, etc.); the components are soft and easy to chew; and it's a simple, one-utensil meal, perfect for little hands learning to self-feed. It's also perfect for me, as I can prep all the ingredients and throw them in a pot to simmer, giving me more time with my family and less time chained to the stove.

One of my favorite cookbook authors, Dreena Burton, is a busy mama herself. Like me, she also enjoys feeding her family delicious meals that pack a lot of nutrition into each bite. Many of my favorite soup recipes are in Dreena's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, including Monkey Minestrone.

This soup is loaded with good stuff - celery, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, green beans, and a bit of pasta (I used some Trader Joe's brown rice rotini). Dreena suggests topping the soup with some Polenta Croutons, also from EDBV. This a super-simple recipe made with a tube of prepared polenta (like this), olive oil, salt, and pepper. All you have to do is cut the polenta into cubes, season them, and bake for 30 minutes - that's it! They come out soft at first, but then get crunchy as they cool.
One of my favorite tricks for cooling down soup fast is to put a bunch of frozen veggies in the bottom of my son's soup bowl, then adding the hot soup on top. It works like a charm and adds even more veggies to his meal!

We all loved the texture and crunch the croutons added to the soup, and it sure beats Campbell's Soup any day!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Caldo Verde with Crumbled Tempeh

I don't know about you, but I couldn't survive a long, cold winter without lots and lots of soup. I love the smell of a delicious soup bubbling away on the stove, and I love the promise of a warm, full belly it will bring. Soups are comforting, nutritious, and simple, and I love the endless combinations of flavors and ingredients.

Recently, I made the Caldo Verde with Crumbed Tempeh from Appetite for Reduction. Caldo Verde is a Portuguese stew traditionally flavored with sausage and potatoes, but of course, there's no sausage in this soup. Instead, tempeh is braised and seasoned with fennel seed, which gives it a lovely sausage-y flavor. The stew also has a bunch of greens in it (I used ) for some extra nutrition, texture, and flavor. And quite frankly, it just looks so doggone good!

Really, this soup should be called "A Hug in a Bowl," because that's exactly what I felt like...a big, warm hug. I think I "mmmmm'd" a lot when eating this meal :)

This is a hearty soup that would satisfy even the staunchest of meat-eaters. I wouldn't hesitate to serve it to family and friends!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Food for the New Year

I don't know what it is, but I always get excited for New Year's Eve. I never go out anywhere, mind you, but there's something fun about staying in, making some special food, watching a movie, and lounging by the fireplace. It's a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of Christmas, and I think it's a great way to close out the year and look ahead to the next.

This New Year's Eve, I thought it would be really fun to make some vegan fondue. The recipe for Lunch Box Fondue from Vegan Lunch Box is super easy to make and it's the perfect cheesy dip for whatever you fancy.

This is what I fancied - from 12 o'clock: steamed brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli; raw orange pepper pieces, cucumber, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes; and some toasted (well, burnt) pieces of bread.
I blended up the cheesy dip and then heated it on the stove until it was warm and gooey-esque (it's made from silken tofu, so I can't really call it gooey, but close enough :)
I brought the dippers, warm pan of cheese, and some forks out to our living room floor. We speared our food, dipped it in the cheese, and watched old episodes of The Brady Bunch. Good times!

The next day, we rang in the New Year with a traditional meal of black-eyed peas. This is the Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Greens from Appetite for Reduction, served over a mound of mashed sweet potatoes. I love it doused with extra Cholula hot sauce for that extra little sumthin' sumthin.'

This dish is so yummy, so flavorful, and so hearty. I could eat it everyday! I've used kale and collards for the greens, and I think they both taste great here. Give it a try!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christmas Stollen

I may have consumed my fair share of questionable food while living in Germany (currywurst, I'm talking to you), but one thing I absolutely loved - and still love - is Christmas stollen. Stollen is a yeasted, bread-like fruitcake. It's chock full of yummy nummies like rum-soaked raisins, marzipan, almonds, cinnamon, rum-soaked raisins, candied orange peel, vanilla, and rum-soaked raisins. Did I mention rum-soaked raisins? They sell all sorts of varieties of stollen in Germany, including almond (Mandelstollen), marzipanstollen, and nut (nuss-stollen), and I enjoyed them all, especially with a warm cup of gluhwein

We bought a stollen pan way back in 2001, and we've been making our own Christmas stollen ever since. It's one of our treasured traditions, and it's the next best thing to enjoying a slice in an open-air Christmas market.

There are a few steps involved, but that's part of the fun...it's definitely not your everyday-kind-of-bread!

First, you scald some soymilk in a small pan.

Blend together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.

 Add the rum-soaked raisins...
...3 flax-eggs...
...and the scalded milk. Dab some Earth Balance into the dough as it's mixing.
Keep on mixing....
Gather your mix-ins. I like to use sliced almonds and craisins in addition to the rum-soaked raisins. Add to the mixer and continue kneading with the dough hook until well-blended.
 Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place for about 3 hours.
After the dough has risen, press it into a greased stollen hood.
Place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 45 minutes.
My picture is fugly, but just trust me - it's really, really good!
Let cool on a rack, then slice and devour.
I love my stollen smeared with Earth Balance, but it's also mighty tasty when it's naked and unadorned, too.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Well, Hello There....

Geez Louise, I guess I wasn't kidding when I said that Vegan MoFo almost killed me. That was in October, and since then, I've had - what - a handful of posts? I've been cooking, and taking pictures of my food, but that's as far as I've gone. I've enjoyed my little hiatus, but now I'm coming back to my blog!

Guess what? I've eaten a lot of food since the end of October! I've eaten some pumpkin pie, hearty soups, Christmas cookies, Christmas Stollen, big main-dish salads, fondue, smoothies, and lots of snackies. Before it gets any more ridiculously out-of-season, let's take a look at some of my Christmas cookies. I was totally excited to make Christmas cookies with my son this year. He had a blast rolling out the dough and helping me make the Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

I mean, seriously....are these things cute, or what?

I had a little extra dough, so I made a little baseball cookie for my boy.

He absolutely loved it! He's a baseball fanatic, even though he's only 2. He's a Yankees fan just like his Mommy!

These gingerbread cookies were probably the best ones I've ever had, and they were super, super easy to make. They were soft, perfectly spiced, and craaazy delicious. I'll make them again next year for sure!

I also made a batch of 21st-Century Carob Chip Cookies, also from VCIYCJ. These were pretty rad little cookies. They had whole-wheat pastry flour, carob chips, roasted peanuts, raisins, flaxseed, and Sucanat in them - all good, healthy stuff. (So good and healthy, in fact, that I didn't feel bad about eating 4 of them in one go.)

Yeah, maybe they weren't very Christmasy, but maybe it's time we put some carob in Christmas.
Mmmmm...Christmas cookies.

At least I only have to wait another 11 months!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Veggie Kids Say the Darndest Things

This was too funny not to share...this morning, I came home from my run and was greeted in the kitchen by my son. He told me that he and Daddy had gone "grocery shopping" while I was gone (he's big into "pretend-mode" these days :) I asked him what he bought at the grocery store. You know what my sweet little 2-year-old said?

"Ummm....lima beans, broccoli, and cauliflower."

I looked at my hubby, who shrugged his shoulders. "That's what he told me, too," he said.

"You didn't tell him to say that?"


I looked at my son with the biggest grin on my face. I gave him a huge hug and said, "You are Mommy's boy!" :)