Last weekend was my monthly refrigerator cleaning project and I thought I’d toss everything I could into a pot and create some sort of soup.
The good news is I have a scrumptious pot of healthy soup to last a few days; the bad news is that now empty refrigerator and a need to hit the grocery store.
Here’s what I found to work with: -Mushrooms -Red Pepper -Carrots -Celery -Onion -Broccoli -Fresh chard and garden herbs -Tofu
I first cubed and marinated the tofu in a little olive oil and Italian herbs with spicy dried red peppers.
I didn’t have any Better Than Bouillon (vegan) which is too bad as it’s amazing, and I didn’t have homemade stock, so I pan roasted the veggies in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for a long time to develop fond on the bottom of the pan.
FYI: Fond are the brown particles found at the bottom of pans after browning vegetables. It adds flavor and moisture to a dish.
When I saw all those yummy little brown bits, I added a bit of water to make it easy to scrape up, then I added the marinated tofu, along with one large can of San Marzano tomatoes and one can of water.
FYI: I like to use the best Italian tomatoes because I think it really makes a flavor difference, especially when they’re the star of the show.
I added one scant teaspoon sugar and sea salt/pepper to taste along with these garden herbs:
Thyme, bay leaves, sage, oregano, and a lot of basil, saving some to sprinkle on just before serving.
Such vibrant colors! Simmered for about 45 minutes, pulled out the stems of the herbs as the leaves had fallen away as it cooked.
Before serving, I used my immersion blender to make the texture velvety and creamy.
All my grapes became ripe at the same time which made an easy decision to embark on a grape jam project.
I found lots of recipes for grape jelly but I wanted to include some of the texture that a whole grape can provide and not merely strain out the skins and pulp for the juice.
Always experimenting, I also had a half full container of 100% pure blueberry juice that I used for the Angel’s smoothies so they wouldn’t be refused because they were a yucky GREEN color. It perfectly masks the kale and spinach, teehee.
Every summer, my mom and I used to make pickles and jams and preserves, enough jewel-colored Mason jars to last until the following spring, but I haven’t done it in a while.
She was way more scientifically precise than I could ever hope to be as I never had her patience, but most of the time my creations taste pretty good.
It’s hot and humid, not the greatest weather to cook pots of boiling grapes, but once I started, I was committed to finishing this project.
I didn’t can them in a proper water bath but filled containers for the refrigerator and freezer.
The most time consuming part was separating every grape from its tiny little stem–thank goodness my grapes were seedless — so I set aside about four cups to use whole, and cooked the rest of the grapes separately to strain. I might have zero patience but I’m clever!
At the last minute I decided to add ginger and cinnamon. Those two ingredients elevated the flavor more than I could have imagined.
I lost the identification tag, so I don’t know exactly what type of grape I have, but they’re seedless and very sweet. This was only half of the grapes I used.
I cooked them in two pots, added the sugar equally along with ginger and cinnamon, and skimmed off the white foam:
Strained the one pot of grapes that weren’t cleaned as diligently…
After that, I combined both pots of grapes, added the blueberry juice and pectin, let it come to a rolling boil for another minute, and the mixture was ready to fill freshly sterilized containers. I wasn’t going to use pectin because I thought there was enough natural pectin, but I had some and it’s vegan, so I added it.
Disaster! I’m sure most people are smarter than me and wouldn’t fill plastic containers with boiling liquid. Life lessons, right? I licked a bit off the counter and it’s DELICIOUS. Don’t you think that container reminds you of Picasso’s melting clocks? I do! Such a mess.
I had to hurry and sterilize a lot of glass jars and didn’t have time to scrape off the labels, but they’re clean and bacteria-free. After cooling, it jelled beautifully. I’m very happy with the results!
Since we’re in a seemingly neverending spiral of virus mutations, the unvaccinated, and overworked healthcare professionals, I’m still trying to limit my exposure to PEOPLE. Not that it’s too difficult for me as I’m solitary by nature, but it’s still kind of annoying.
Instead of doing what was normal practice in the old days, I didn’t run out and make that one purchase. Resourceful me decided to bake my own crackers. I haven’t done that in years and it’s so easy, I wonder why it took me this long to remember that! An added plus is no wasted plastic or containers, so I’m helping the environment too…
Tips: I substituted 1/2 cup buckwheat flour for all purpose flour. Next time I won’t do that because buckwheat is such a strong flavor. While it’s lovely in pancakes and soba noodles, it’s a bit too much here.
On the other hand, I gotta say that the smell of the herbs in the oven was so fragrant! It perfumed the entire house. I used all the herbs I have in the garden, but you can add whatever you like, including poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. **Roll extremely thin for crispiest crackers. I didn’t cut them in perfect shapes or use a pizza cutter because I was too lazy and wanted them done in a hurry, but I kind of like the rustic look.
I have a friend who keeps bugging me to bake something so I decided to develop a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe.
My favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie is one that is 90% chocolate chips bound together by as little cookie dough as possible. The cookie dough is merely a vehicle to transport as many chips in my mouth as possible.
I think I achieved that today with this vegan recipe.
Assemble all ingredients first, this really saves time. I ran out of sea salt, so I had to use this kind…You could use coconut oil instead of veggie oil, but you’d have to melt it first, and I’m allergic to coconut and don’t really like it anyway. Another option is to use shortening or vegan butter, which is more traditional, and then it would be necessary to first cream the butter with the sugars.
(Recipe below with a cool Canva template.)
Combine sugars and wet ingredients.
Add dry ingredients and chips. Of course you can add fewer chocolate chips if you choose, or add nuts.
Cooling on the rack. I can’t wait to try them!
YUMMY. Crispy on the outside, chewy and sublimely chocolatey all the way around. Pretty much the PERFECT vegan chocolate chip cookie!
My doctor totally depressed me cos she told me her husband’s best friend just died from Covid-19 and because she’s on the frontlines treating patients, she cautioned me to be extra careful and stay home and away from people.
I decided it was a great day to make another version of my favorite hearty and healthy soup.
Lentil Tofu Veggie Soup
Ingredients: *Carrots, 3 large *Celery, 2-3 stalks including leaves *Tofu, whole package *Lentils,1.5 cups *Kale, 2 cups *Broccoli, half head *Canned organic tomatoes, 28 ounce can *Bay leaves and other garden herbs
–Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large pot. –Add roughly chopped carrots and celery. I don’t like onions so I didn’t add them, but go ahead and chop up half an onion if you like them. –When they’re nicely browned and have released a lot of flavor, add dried lentils and six cups of water along with a couple bay leaves.
–Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. –Add bite-sized pieces of broccoli and tofu along with chopped kale. –Simmer for about an hour, stir every once in a while. Add more water as needed. –Add a large can of diced tomatoes in juice and any herbs to taste. –I picked sage and oregano and thyme from the garden. –Add 1/2 teaspoon pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt (optional).
–Serve in a large bowl with freshly chopped cilantro and basil. I’ve been lucky enough to have beautiful lettuce this season, so I picked a few fresh leaves for a salad to accompany this delicious soup.
Sometimes I make a crusty French bread but I didn’t feel like it because I’m sad about almost losing our precious democracy but I might make vegan biscuits tomorrow cos I’ll eat this soup for a few days.
While everybody is posting pics of beautifully decorated cookies and cakes, I decided to go back to basics with a recipe for vegan mayo.
No need to panic if you run out; it’s really easy to make your own!
I used to love Trader Joe’s vegan mayo but they’ve either been out of it for a long time or maybe they just stopped selling it, so I decided to experiment with my own version.
It’s simple and tasty but next time I’ll use vegetable oil instead of olive oil–that’s a personal preference because I don’t really like the taste of olive oil.
Easy Vegan Tofu Mayo
–7oz silken tofu –1/3 cup oil –1TBS lemon juice –1tsp vinegar –1 tsp (or more to your taste) dijon mustard –1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt (to your taste)
Place all of the ingredients in the cup of an immersion blender and blend until smooth and thick. Add a little more lemon juice if too thick. It should look exactly like mayo and spread easily. If you don’t have silken tofu, you can try it with the firm option, but it won’t be as velvety.
That’s IT. Nothing fancy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And VERY healthy; packed with protein thanks to the tofu.
Bay leaf tea is alleged to lower blood sugar, can eliminate bad cholesterol, and relieves the body of triglycerides..
Bay leaf protects the heart as it contains cardiovascular protective compounds. It’s rich in acids such as caffeic acid, quercetin, eigonol, and bartolinide, substances that are thought to prevent the formation of cancer cells in the body.
It eliminates insomnia and anxiety, and if taken before bed, helps you relax and sleep peacefully.
I’ve started drinking a cup of bay leaf tea twice a day, along with my everpresent ginger tea.
A simple soothing Bay Leaf Tea to boost immune function:
4-5 dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
About 32 ounces of water
Add leaves and cinnamon to the water and simmer for about 20 minutes. Drink hot or chilled.
I don’t care how you pronounce it, but I need to share my secret love for potatoes and there’s a recipe at the end.
Specifically, the much maligned WHITE potato: simple, sturdy, earthy.
On the last day of my most recent visit to the Angels, sadly, a very long time ago, DIL thoughtfully made a special going home dinner for me, all from scratch by the way, which made it even more wonderful.
There was vegan lasagna with a side of roasted potatoes and apple crumble. The lasagna was made with chard and kale from the garden and was SO VERY YUMMY and healthy.
Apparently (and rightly so) she thought I didn’t eat white potatoes because for the longest time, I would scowl at anything white: white rice, white flour, white sugar, white potatoes–as the source of empty calories, zero nutrition, and a great friend of diabetes. Not too healthy.
From the oven there emanated a most delicious perfume. I asked DIL what I was smelling and she said, “It’s roasted potatoes but you don’t have to eat them. I know you don’t like white potatoes.”
Not so fast, DIL.
I want to not like them, but I’m addicted to French fries (has anyone ever seen me hoard them? It’s not a pretty sight.) I actually dearly love white potatoes, but I try NOT to eat them and have some semblance of self control, like I say I don’t eat chocolate, only because I have no off switch. Once I start eating chocolate, I can’t stop. I don’t ever have any around because of my lack of restraint, which is also the reason why I buy Halloween candy like Skittles and other stuff I don’t like so I won’t be tempted.
OK, enough of the sidebar; back to the story of the roast potatoes.
Dinner was ready and we were setting the table. I was actually STARVING and had most likely once again forgotten to eat for the entire day.
DIL handed me a bowl of roasted potatoes and before they even reached the dining room table, I had eaten EVERY SINGLE ONE.
I brought the empty bowl into the kitchen and asked DIL where I could get seconds. She took one look at me and the empty bowl and started laughing.
“That was a sharing bowl! Did you eat all of them?”
“Well, yes, oops, sorry! I didn’t know they were for sharing!”
“T, Grandma ate ALL the potatoes!”
“YOU DID? HEY DAD, GRANDMA ATE ALL THE POTATOES IN THE SHARING BOWL! SHE REALLY DID!”
I hadn’t tasted anything so delicious in FOREVER; OMG they were so good, I’ve been thinking about them ever since I came home.
And by the way, I had never heard of the term “sharing bowl” before that day. It must be a British thing, as DIL is from the UK.
I finally broke down and bought two WHITE IDAHO potatoes and since it’s a bit rainy today and not devil hot, I’ll attempt a recreation of DILs heavenly dish. I’m even going to add salt and that’s also something I rarely do.
They tasted pretty yummy, but to be honest, not quite as good as DILs, but maybe that’s because it’s such a treat for me to have someone else cook, ‘cos I usually have that job.
I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of protein packed vegan loaves and “burgers”.
Some are winners, some are not.
When my son and DIL visited last month, DIL and I teamed up to build a delicious and healthy loaf, but I didn’t get a chance to take pics. They’ll be back tomorrow and I’ve attempted to recreate our original recipe.
(Measurements are sort of inexact…if it looks a little dry, add veggie broth. If it’s too moist, add more bread crumbs or oats.)
If you’re not familiar with tempeh, here’s an explanation: Tempeh is fermented cooked soybeans (or grains). This fermentation binds the soybeans into a compact white cake. Tempeh has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred years. It’s low fat and high in protein.
How to make my Vegan Lentil Tofu Tempeh Loaf:
1. Cook lentils, onion, carrots, celery with two cups water until tender. Check as lentils are cooking and add water as needed so they’re moist yet fully absorb water, about thirty-forty minutes.
2. Turn lentils into large bowl.
3. Crumble tempeh and mash tofu with lentils.
4. Add rolled oats, chia, and chopped nuts.(I used a mixture of almonds and cashews.)5. I like to use my hands to mix everything together so I get a feel for texture and whether it’s too dry or too moist. You def don’t want it too dry or it’ll fall apart.
6. Tear whole wheat bread into small pieces, Mix.
7. Add olive oil, ketchup or tomato sauce, mustard, curry, salt, pepper, vinegar, hot pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce.
8. Mix, taste, and adjust seasonings.
9. Fill greased loaf pan, form patties with any extra. Topping: Ketchup mixed with a little maple syrup.Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Serve with ketchup or vegan gravy. Tastes good hot or cold! Let cool in pan before slicing. Making a day ahead is even better.
Recipe: Vegan Lentil Tofu Tempeh Loaf
Tempeh, one package Tofu, one tub firm organic Two cups cooked lentils 1/2 cup chopped nuts One cup rolled oats One or two slices whole wheat bread Chia 1/2 chopped onion Two carrots, chopped Two stalks celery, chopped One cup tomato sauce ( I used homemade) or ketchup
Veggie broth as needed
Two tablespoons olive oil One or two tablespoons Dijon mustard Curry Powder to taste Pepper Salt Hot pepper flakes One tablespoon rice wine vinegar Worcestershire sauce