Smooth and Bright Chickpea Soup

I make hummus all the time, but I never really thought of making pureed chickpeas into a soup until I saw this recipe. What a great idea! However, being vegan, I can’t really puree chickpeas in stock and call it a meal… I mean 90% of the time hummus is the only thing I can eat at a non-veg restaurant, so I pack back a lot of lightly seasoned chickpeas. I need a little bit of oomph behind them to make them work preparing at home. So, this is my take on a creamy chickpea soup. The inclusion of fresh vegetables slowly cooked in olive oil goes a long way to making this dish truly satisfying.

Smooth and Bright Chickpea Soup
Makes 2 servings

1 500 mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1 head garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 vegetarian chicken-style bouillon cube (for 2 cups of water)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
red chili flakes, to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low until uniformly soft, fragrant, and beginning to brown. Add garlic, pepper, and rosemary, cooking quickly for 1 minute. Add chickpeas, then fill the chickpea can with cold water and add to the pot as well. Bring to a boil, add the bouillon cube, stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then allow to cool slightly. Add the soup to your blender of food processor and pulse until just smooth- not the consistency of baby food, you should still be able to see some flecks of carrot, but it should coat the back of a spoon smoothly and not seem too fibrous. Return the pureed soup to the pot with the lemon and parsley, warm over medium heat until good and hot. Enjoy with some red chili flakes sprinkled over, some good crusty bread and a glass of Cabernet. Or water. Whatever floats your boat. 

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter

Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods. Soft pillows of potato dough take perfectly to light treatment- just a bit of Earth Balance and garlic, a splash of wine, maybe some fresh herbs. They also go well with tender vegetables like spinach, asparagus, fresh peas, and scallions. As a result, I usually associate gnocchi with spring. However, a dose of earthy mushrooms and brown butter will go a long way to making a spring dish seem more winter-appropriate. This is super easy to make, taking approximately 25 minutes altogether, and can easily be adjusted to suit the group you’re serving. In my case, I was cooking just for myself, but made enough for two meals.

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter
Serves 2, or one very hungry person

1/2 package gnocchi
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 generous handful criminis, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2 generous handfuls baby spinach leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
A grind of pepper and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, or whatever your favorite salt is
1/4 lemon, and/or a splash of dry white wine

Put on a pot of water to boil for the gnocchi. Meanwhile, melt the  Earth Balance in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and criminis. Stir occasionally, until the vegetables and Earth Balance are browning lightly. Add the gnocchi to the water once it is boiling, and be prepared to drain it as soon as the gnocchi float to the top.  As soon as the Earth Balance is a warm, golden colour and the vegetables are looking toasty, add the remaining ingredients. Drain all but 2 tbsp of cooking water from the gnocchi once it is cooked, and toss them along with the reserved water into the pan with the vegetables. Toss a few times and cook for about 2 minutes, coating the gnocchi in the sauce. Serve with a kitten, and maybe a glass of wine…

Nippy Vegan Mac and Cheese Casserole

I love Daiya, I really do, but I also love good nippy flavours, and Daiya is a mellow, versatile cheese. Thankfully, because of it’s versatility, it’s easy to modify your Daiya recipes to be more or less nippy, depending on your preferences. In this case, the nip comes from miso, tahini, nutritional yeast, good dijon, and good dark tamari. It sounds like a lot, but this pulls together in about 20 mins, minus the baking time. You can, of course, enjoy it without the final baking step. I like it both ways.

Nippy Vegan Mac and Cheese Casserole
Serves 4 as a main course (please eat it with a salad… or something green :P)

2 cups macaroni or small pasta of your choice
1 package of Daiya Cheddar
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
3 tbsp Earth Balance
9 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp Spike seasoning
2 tbsp cashew cream or butter
2 tbsp light miso paste
2 tbsp really good quality white wine dijon
2 tsp tahini
2 tsp good quality dark tamari
a grind or two of pepper


2 cups bread cubes
1/3 cup Daiya cheddar
spray oil
Spike seasoning

Put your pasta water on to boil, and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Stir in nutritional yeast to form a thick paste. Slowly add two cups of the soy milk, mixing it well into the nutritional yeast/Earth Balance paste. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and immediately turn down the heat to low. Now, add the Daiya to the sauce slowly, stirring as you go. By now the water should be boiling, so add the pasta and give it a stir. Meanwhile, combine all the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1/2 cup of soy milk, but not including the broccoli, in your mini blender, or whatever you use for blending things in your house. Blend until smooth, and add it to the cheese sauce, mixing well. Check for seasoning and add more of things as you see fit. Remember, all the flavours will dilute a bit when combined with the pasta, so they should be extra flavourful now. When your pasta is almost but not quite done, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water. Let it come back to a boil, then drain extremely well- let it hang out in the colander for a while and give it a few good tosses. Put the pasta and broccoli back in the dry pot, and pour cheese sauce over. Use your discretion here, I prefer really saucy mac and cheese, but you might not. Prep a baking pan by spraying it well with oil. Pour pasta and sauce mixture in the pan, up to the brim. Top with bread cubes, give them a quick spray of oil, sprinkle Daiya, paprika, and a bit of Spike seasoning over top, and bake for about 20-30 minutes. If you don’t already, you may want to line the bottom of your stove with tinfoil, since this may bubble over.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini

I spent the day trying not to be too sick, trying to write my thesis, trying not to get too distracted, trying not to tear the boy to pieces in the middle of it all. There was a lot of trying. It was a trying day. Trying days call for one of two things: take-out, or pasta. In this case, it was pasta, due to the fact that I couldn’t bring Wok Box home on the bus in -17 degree weather without it freezing (not that the bus came, mind you- after standing outside in that nonsense for 30 minutes I split a cab with the other bus stop attendees.)

Rummaging through the fridge I found and almost wilted box of baby spinach that the boy abandoned (I eat the boxes of arugula, he’s in charge of the spinach) and so figured I’d do something with olive oil, spinach, garlic, spaghetti. But then, right next to the bag of leek tops waiting to become broth, I found about a third of a tub of Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. I had heard of recipes for Alfredo sauce that use cream cheese before- more stable than regular Alfredo, cream cheese bases are often used in food service to reduce the risk of separating at uneven temperatures or over long wait times. I figured, how hard could it be? As it turns out, it’s ridiculously easy. Hardly even a recipe. Exactly what I needed after a day like today.

Since I refuse to have just pasta for dinner, I served it up with some frozen green and yellow beans, and made up my usual Chick’n Scallopini recipe. It’s quick, super easy, and delicious. The boy doesn’t like it, I should mention, but he dislikes most chicken-style seitan, so that’s no surprise.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini
Makes 2 servings for people who live in sub-zero climates, probably 4 elsewhere

For the pasta:

4 servings of spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
1/3 tub Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, packed
1 teaspoon Spike, or salt alternative

Make pasta. When cooked but still firm, drain all but about 1/2 cup of cooking water. Put in back on the stove over medium-low heat, make a well in the center and add garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Put the cream cheese in over the top of the pasta teaspoon by teaspoon. Stir it all in until the water, garlic and cream cheese are blended. Add a bit more water at this time if it’s getting too dry, then add the spinach over top, and put on a lid. In about 1 minute the spinach should be starting to wilt, stir the Spike and the spinach into the pasta. Serve soon. If it gets stogy, add more water and reheat.

For the Scallopini:

1 package Gardein Chick’n Scallopini, or 4 chicken-style seitan pieces
flour for dredging
olive oil for pan-frying
1 teaspoon of Spike seasoning or salt alternative
2 teaspoon tamari
2 tbsp water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 2-inch sprig of thyme, or about 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp vegan butter
juice from 1/2 a lemon
freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat a skillet on medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil. Dredge frozen chick’n pieces through flour, and place in hot skillet. Give the pan a shake, wait a minute, then flip. It should be browning. Sprinkle Spike over, and turn once or twice more to get a bit of golden brown around the edges and crispiness all over. Remove the scallopini, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the garlic, thyme, tamari, and water, cooking two minutes, stirring up all the brown pits from the bottom of the pan. Bit-by-bit, stir the vegan butter into the sauce. Finish with the lemon and pepper, to taste. Feel free to add a bit more water if it needs to loosen up. Return scallopini to pan and quickly coat with sauce, serve over pasta with a side of steamed freezer veg… or something better, if you have it.

Lemon-Garlic Beefless Tips and Broccoli with Wild Rice and Daikon Sprouts

Have you had Gardein’s Beefless Tips? They are so. Very. Delicious. Tonight, the boy was craving broccoli and beefless tips, and I was too sick/tired to cook anything that I had planned, so he won. We had some wild rice blend kicking around, a mix of wild rice, red rice, and brown rice. I also decided that some peppery daikon sprouts would offset all that earthiness nicely, and it really worked well. These sprouts are gorgeous, perfect, tiny little leaves in purple and green. They taste just like daikon too. Which is awesome, by the way, if you haven’t had it. Just like a radish.

Lemon-Garlic Beefless Tips and Broccoli with Wild Rice and Daikon Sprouts
Serves 4

1 package Gardein Beefless Tips, or any fake beef
1 1/3 cups wild rice mix
1 head broccoli, florets and young stems, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 small red onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp lemon pepper
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup daikon sprouts

Get the rice going in your cooker, or according to directions on the stove. About five minutes before the rice is set to be done and you have everything mise en place, add the vegan butter, lemon pepper, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and broccoli. Stir, add a splash of water if it’s looking dry, and put the lid back on. In a hot, oiled skilled, add red onion and beefless tips. Cook, turning a few times, until the onion is browning and the beefless tips are browned on all sides. Add garlic, cook for one minute. Push beefless tips off to the side of the pan, leaving most of the garlic and onion in the center of the pan. By now, the rice and broccoli should be ready, so add them to the center of your pan with the onions and garlic, and stir them in, trying not to mix in the tips. Serve by placing a quarter of the rice and broccoli mix under a quarter of the beefless tips, and top with a quarter of the sprouts. Or more. You can’t really have too many sprouts, you know.

Vegetarian cat approves of this dish

Sick Food

I am sick. Ugh. This leaves me mostly not wanting to cook. Unfortunately, filling my body with pre-made foods, fat, salt and starches might feel good temporarily, but it doesn’t give me the fuel I need to get better. Enter Ye Olde Vegetable Mishmash. Yes, that’s the technical term. It goes something like this:

1) Find vegetables in your fridge and freezer. Anything will do. You aren’t making it to the store any time soon, so use what you have.
2) Chop veg in roughly equal-sized pieces. Add some aromatics and alliums. Leeks, onion, green onion, garlic, shallots, ginger, lemon grass, herbs, etc. Whatever you have on hand.
3) Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add veg in order of cooking time, from firmest to leafiest. You want to add leafy or grassy vegetables at the very end after everything else is done.
4) Finish wish a splash of acid (lemon, lime, cider vinegar, wine), a splash of tamari or a swirl of miso, and some red chili flakes or black pepper. Ta-da!

Have a bowl or two of quinoa or oatmeal with seeds and nuts sometime through the day in addition to this, and you’re set. No more than 15 minutes standing time, tops.

This time with yellow zucchini, red chard, a lone shallot, garlic, and lemon


Breakfast Barley with Red Chard

I have been looking for a savoury, grain-based warm breakfast dish for a while. I always have my criminis and kale on toast, or tofu scramble as back-ups. But I was looking for something that I could make ahead in a bigger batch to warm for breakfast over a few days with just a quick pass through a hot skillet. I tried making an oat-based dish to start, since I love oats, and I especially love savoury oats with tamari and hot sauce (!). But that wasn’t going to work- oats don’t reheat well. On the other hand, barley is sturdy enough to survive multiple reheats and still keep its shape and texture. Lovely stuff. It has good stick-to-your-ribs qualities, and is traditionally used in savoury dishes, so coming up with this wasn’t much of a stretch. If you don’t have a seasoning salt that you like, such as Spike or Old Bay, go ahead and use regular salt, but consider adding some onion or garlic powder in addition.

breakfast barley and red chard

Breakfast Barley with Red Chard
Makes 2 servings, multiply as desired

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots
1/2 cup pot barley
3-4 leaves of red chard, stems diced and leaves torn into bites
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
pinch of saffron, soaked
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp pepper
sprig of thyme
sprinkle of lemon

Cook the shallots and chard stems in the oil until fragrant and starting to turn golden. Add the barley and garlic, stirring regularly for about 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil then simmer on low, stirring occasionally. When thick (about 15-20 minutes), add another 1/2 cup of water and stir in the spices. Place the chard leaves on top of the barley and cover the pot (do not stir). In about 3 minutes, the chard leaves should be bright green and wilted, stir into the barley and serve. I recommend enjoying this with some pita, to soak up all the tasty sauce. Refrigerate unused portion, and reheat on a hot skillet with a splash of water for the next day’s breakfast. Or elevenses. Depending on how you roll.