Veggie Tomato-y Tofu Soup #Vegan

Perfect for this cooler autumn weather…

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.

YUM!

Options: Add cooked beans, lentils, pasta. croutons

Serve with fresh basil and vegan parmesan shreds.

In a Bit of a Pickle

After the winds and rain subsided, I checked on my garden and discovered two previously hidden cucumbers.

I remember planting a few seeds of the pickling variety but everyone was all mixed up and I couldn’t tell which was which until I saw these gigantic specimens.

I haven’t completely decided if I’ll eat them fresh and possibly not pickle them, because I didn’t discover any others that were ready.

And this one, too, not quite as deformed.

I’ve had success with pickling vegetables, here’s a post about that:
https://enchantedseashells.com/2015/07/06/easy-peasy-refrigerator-pickles-meatlessmonday/

There was an unexpected sprinkle this morning; not forecasted, but welcome nonetheless.

Happy Monday!

EASY Three-Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

The Angel Kids always request my homemade ice cream when they visit but that usually involves ingredients I personally don’t like to use or eat, although I do it for them.

Feeling sorry for the chunk of body part that was chopped off a couple days ago, I thought that a bowl of chocolate ice cream would make me feel much better.

I didn’t want to go to the store and buy vegan ice cream loaded with all kinds of chemicals and other ingredients that help it replicate dairy ice cream and I’m allergic to coconut which is the mainstay for most vegan ice cream, so I decided to make my own.

I had an unopened container of almond milk from the kids’ recent visit and decided to do a little experimenting.

The result was SO satisfying. It actually tastes very similar to a fudgesicle and that’s not a bad thing.

It’s not super creamy but it’s very chocolate-y and yummy. Substituting one cup of full fat coconut milk for one cup of almond milk or a little corn syrup would provide a much smoother texture but all I really cared about was the chocolate. If I make it again, I will add a couple tablespoons of maple syrup, but this is a quick and easy recipe.

I think this is a great recipe to use for homemade popsicle molds. I didn’t, but you could add mini chocolate chips or berries and that would be yummy, too.

It’s fun to experiment and I’m never sorry if I fail because I’ll try something different next time, but this was a success.

PS If you’re counting, I don’t consider vanilla to be an ingredient!

Recipe: Refreshing Infused Herbal Water

As promised, I’m going to share my recipe for this refreshing and healthy herbal beverage. It’s been unseasonably warm here and I was getting tired of plain old water to hydrate and quench my thirst.

Every herb came from my garden. To sliced cucumber and lemon, I added

Thyme
Basil
Sage
Lemon verbena
Cilantro and cilantro flowers, the whole thing, stem included
Celery leaves (yes I grow celery)

I suggest that you try whatever you have in your garden. I might add a sprig or two of lavender, but it’s an overpowering addition and I wanted the purity of character that herbs impart. My parsley and marjoram are still seedlings and I didn’t have any ginger on hand or I would have sliced a big hunk of that, too. It’s fun to experiment…just make sure every plant is edible and non toxic

After refrigerating for a while to marry the flavors and chill, I poured it into a big glass and garnished with an orange nasturtium flower. Keep replenishing the water and it’ll stay fresh and yummy for about four or five days.

It was so delicious and refreshing! I felt exactly as if I was being pampered at a posh day spa.

Happy first Saturday in April!

Best Ever #Vegan Snickerdoodles

I had a hankering for some old fashioned Snickerdoodles just like I used to bake with my mom, only vegan this time.

I’ve been asked, so to clarify…yes, this is my pic I took of the just-baked Snickerdoodles, not a random Google photo.

I realize that a majority of my recipes are zero sugar and include all forms of kale and tofu and lentils; healthy and organic for the Angels, but they’re not here right now and I have truly eaten enough kale to last several lifetimes, haha.

I developed this recipe after doing tons of online research. The internet offers dozens of variations; some recipes include flax seeds, coconut sugar, and spelt/oat/amaranth/chickpea flours (including gluten free)–but I prefer to keep things simple.

My philosophy is that more people might want to try a vegan lifestyle if it’s not too complicated. At least at first, and then as one delves deeper into cruelty-free living, it’s fun to experiment with more exotic ingredients.

Gather ingredients; Cream of Tartar is the key to snickerdoodle’s unique flavor. I know it’s against all the rules to use Crisco shortening, but once in a while is OK, and it’s awesome for cookie texture.

I didn’t think anything could be better than my Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I was blissfully happy with the results of these crackly, chewy, intensely cinnamon-y full moon shaped pillows of satisfying spicy sweetness. (But not too sweet.)

If you have patience, let them cool for about ten minutes before eating, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to wait. I hope you try them and let me know your results.

My friend is going to drop off a bottle of imported vanilla so I’ll make them again, but I might still use the maple syrup because the maple flavor really enhanced the spicy cinnamon profile.

Caution: I go HEAVY on the cinnamon because I love it so much. If you don’t, adjust the amount to be mindful of your own tastebuds.

The BEST Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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!

Easy Vegan Tofu Mayo

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.

[pah-tay-toe] Confessions

“GRANDMA ATE ALL OF THE POTATOES!”

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’m not sharing these, either!

Scrumptious Vegan Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Dark Chocolate Vegan Cake www.enchantedseashells.comWe have a  bounty of zucchini here at the Casa de Enchanted Seashell garden, and the dilemma becomes what the heck does one do with all of this summer squash?

I made a few loaves of zucchini bread because they freeze well.

I’ll pickle a few jars like I’ve done with cucumbers and then I got the brilliant idea to add shredded zucchini to my favorite chocolate cake to boost the nutritional value and keep it super moist, not that it lasts more than a day or two, ‘cos it’s the best chocolate cake EVER, vegan or not.

Best of all, the zucchini magically disappears during baking, so if you have children who are recalcitrant and don’t like veggies (how is that even possible?) this is a great way to TRICK them, although I don’t really approve of deceit as a parenting technique.

Son and DIL are coming down for a brief visit so that’s the perfect excuse reason to experiment PLUS they’re bringing a friend that Angel Boy was in graduate school with at Yale (bad sentence structure, I know), so it’s just like the “old days” when the house was filled with kids for me to stuff with food.

I old-school shredded the zucchini…

zucchinicake

All dry ingredients go into the mixing bowl.

zucchinicake1 Add the liquids…

zucchinicake2 And the zucchini. So simple, now beat for a couple of minutes to incorporate all the goodness.

zucchinicake3 When it’s out of the oven and still hot, place about 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips on top. When they melt…zucchinicake4 Take an offset spatula and spread to make a delicious and easy topping.zucchinicake6

See how shiny?zucchinicake7

It’s always nice to garnish with garden blooms. I plucked a nasturtium, mint, and lemon verbena.

It’s as yummy as it is GORGEOUS!

zucchinicake8

Dark Chocolate and Zucchini Vegan Cake

  • 1/2 tsp.  salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (squeeze out any excess liquid)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose, I use King Arthur, not because they pay me, but because it’s U.S. grown and an employee-owned company)
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or Amaretto or Grand Marnier)
  • 5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold coffee or water (coffee is better with chocolate) or you could always use soy/almond/cashew/coconut milk.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Mix the first five dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Make three shallow depressions in the dry ingredients.
3. Pour vinegar in one, vanilla/amaretto in the other, vegetable oil and zucchini in the third.
4. Pour coffee/water over all.
5. Mix well until smooth.

Grease a nine-inch pan. Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately twenty-five to thirty-five minutes.  Check with toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Don’t over bake or it’ll dry out. Cool and frost.

Keep It Simple With Brown Rice, Kale, and Tofu #MeatlessMonday

Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a huge increase in the numbers of vegan blogs and vegan recipes (YAY!) but it seems that they’re getting more and more elaborate, as if it’s a sort of competition to create the most difficult-to-prepare meals.

I’m sending a more simple back-to-basics message.

If we agree that one of the reasons for not eating meat advocates for a cruelty-free life to protect animals from a hellish existence on earth, we need to also communicate that it doesn’t always have to be a herculean task to do the right thing.

I’ve been a veg since 1970 and in those 40+ years have seen a lot of people make a similar decision to go meat-free and then, for one reason or another, fall off the wagon.

One of the reasons I’ve heard time and time again is that it’s “too hard”.

I disagree.

Some of my most enjoyable and satisfying meals are the most simple.

Here’s an example of a basic, easy-to-prepare dinner.

Start with my can’t fail One Dish Brown Rice recipe.

It’s PERFECT every time.

1. Add one cup brown rice to a 9×9 glass baking dish.

2. Pour over the rice not quite two cups water plus one teaspoon olive oil.

3. Lay gently on top of the rice one-inch chunks of tofu.

4. Sprinkle pepper, chopped fresh herbs, freshly ground salt (if you must).

5. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.

6. While the rice is baking, I picked a bunch of kale from the garden, cut into bite-size pieces, and steamed it.

7. To serve, sprinkle rice with low-sodium soy sauce, slice an organic tomato and garnish with cilantro or parsley (we grow cilantro year-round in the Casa de Enchanted Seashells garden.

A chilled chardonnay will dance a tango on your palate and complement the earthy rice, tofu, and kale combo.

Simple. Delicious.