Category Archives: Comfort Food

♥ Slow Cooker Hominy Soup

I’m happy to report that I am (finally!) a working woman again. I have been fortunate in that I was able to transform my volunteer work into a paid position. To my way of thinking, that makes every paycheck a bonus. Having Fridays off does not suck, either. Yaaah me! 🙂

Now that I’m away from the house during the week, the dinner schedule has drastically changed around here. I’m lucky enough to be off by 4:00 in the afternoon and I live a mere 5 minutes away from my new office. But, when I return to the house, the greyt boys are my first priority (sorry, J!) and not the usual dinner prep work. Luckily, we have just enough daylight left to take a walk down the street to the boys’ favorite hang-out spot.

The meadows adjacent to the lake are chock full of squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, coyote and bear. The greyt boys practically go berserk with all the delightful scents and sights they encounter. And they love to eat snow, which is funny considering that both of our boys spent their racing careers in very hot climates.

The slow cooker has become my best friend since I returned to work. In fact, I think I might be forming an almost-romantic attachment to mine. It’s reliable and it’s dependable and when I return home from walking the dogs after work, it’s waiting for me with a hot, home-cooked meal. I’ve known a lot of men that can’t deliver on those basic desired qualities! Now, if it could only shovel the driveway…

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Slow Cooker Hominy Soup

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

4 cups yellow and/or white canned hominy, drained and rinsed (alternatively, use 2 cups hominy and 2 cups frozen corn kernels)

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 small zucchini, sliced in halves or quarters

2 small yellow squash, sliced in halves or quarters

2 poblano peppers, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 8-ounce package soy curls (chicken-style seitan works, too), soaked for 15 minutes in filtered water

3 cups vegetable broth

1 14-ounce can tomato sauce or tomato purée (preferred)

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon azafrán or saffron (see note)

2 teaspoons Mexican oregano leaves

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Optional Garnish:

Shredded green cabbage

Diced tomato

Diced avocado

Chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, zucchini, yellow squash and peppers until crisp-tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Cut the heat and remove the pan from the burner to cool.

Meanwhile, drain the soy curls and cut into bite-size pieces. Add to the slow cooker with the hominy, vegetable broth, tomato sauce or purée, tomatoes, crushed red chilies, bay leaves, azafrán (saffron), oregano, thyme and salt. Stir in the cooked vegetables and turn the slow cooker to ‘low’. Cook for at 8 to 10 hours. Add the corn the last 30 minutes, if using.

Serving suggestion: place a handful of shredded cabbage in a large soup bowl and ladle the soup over it. Garnish with diced tomato, diced avocado and/or chopped cilantro.

Note: The azafrán (saffron) ingredient won’t make or break this recipe. If you have it on hand, great, but know that buying this costly ingredient for this dish is strictly optional. Myself, I use it liberally because I happen to have a large box of Iranian saffron in my pantry. That’s one of the few perks of being married to a man who deploys to the Persian Gulf (way too) often: care packages from the Spice Souk in Dubai. I’ve been spoiled by having access to some of the world’s best spices at dirt cheap prices.

Can't you almost smell the heavenly aroma of the Spice Souk?!

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♥ Turkish Spinach And Lentil Soup

Baby, it’s cold outside. I know I sound like a broken record, but we are still snow-less here at Lake Tahoe. If you ask me, the lack of snow hardly makes the freezing temperatures worthwhile.

I like winter for the simple fact that I am able to justify serving soup for dinner for days on end. I love soup. In fact, I could live on it year-round. It’s the ultimate comfort food, as far as I am concerned. There’s nothing better than a bowl full of hearty and belly warming soup after coming in from the cold.

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Turkish Spinach And Lentil Soup

Adapted from Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant

Ingredients:

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed

5 cups water

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 red onions, roughly chopped

4 medium carrots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1 Tablespoon Mediterranean oregano

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending how spicy you want it

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

6 to 8 cups No-Chicken or vegetable broth (depending how thick you like it)

1 cup quinoa, soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed

1 16-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed

Directions:

Rinse the lentils and bring to a boil in the water. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and carrots until the onions just begin to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, rosemary, cumin, cayenne, sea salt and bay leaves. Cook for a few minutes, but don’t allow the garlic to brown.

Meanwhile, begin soaking the quinoa in water.

Add the parsley and the tomatoes; stir and cook a few minutes. Then stir in the tomato paste until blended.

Add the broth, the lentils and the drained quinoa to the tomato mixture and lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the quinoa is cooked.

Add the spinach and cook another five minutes or so until the soup is heated throughout.

Serve with a side salad and crusty bread.

♥ Sausage, Chestnut And Mushroom Stuffing

Happy Christmas . . . five days ago. Yeah, yeah. I’m a procrastinator and a slacker. Guess what my New Year’s resolution is going to be.

It hardly seems like December here in South Lake Tahoe. We should have several feet of snow by now. Instead, it’s unseasonably warm and sunny. The snow machines are working overtime on the mountains. Meanwhile, the beaches are still accessible.

Nevada Beach with Heavenly in the background.

Call me crazy, but I chose to spend the holidays doing this:

Man-made snow at Heavenly Mountain.

Instead of this:

Holiday insanity at a random Walmart.

“Baby” S came home for Christmas, too. I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen making his requested foods, like the Irish Car Bomb Cake. The traditional holiday cookies. And, the best holiday dessert, ever: Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake. And, of course, our traditional holiday foods.

This stuffing is one of my favorite things about the holidays. By the time Halloween rolls around, I am already jonesing for it. I don’t remember where the original recipe came from, but it wasn’t a vegan recipe to begin with and we’ve made so many changes to it over the years that we now call it our own. But, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to enjoy stuffing. Sometimes I halve this recipe for a regular old Sunday dinner side dish.

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Sausage, Chestnut And Mushroom Stuffing

Ingredients:

1 pound Gimme Lean sausage

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

1-1/2 pounds mushrooms, halved (quarter the larger ones)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 stick non-dairy butter

±14 ounces vegetable or No Chicken (preferred) broth

2 8-ounce cans water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and chopped

3 teaspoons ground sage

6 to 8 cups dried, unseasoned bread cubes (I use half sourdough and half whole wheat bread)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325F.

Brown the sausage in the oil over medium heat with fennel seed, sage, salt and red pepper flakes.  Add the onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the non-dairy butter and the broth and bring the liquid to boiling.  Remove from the heat and add the water chestnuts and the sage; stir to combine.

Pour the sausage mixture over the bread cubes and stir to combine.  Add more broth if necessary.

Bake in a large shallow dish (I use an 11 x 15″ 4-quart Pyrex), covered with foil, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes to brown.

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Now that the holidays are winding down, it’s time to dust off my copy of Appetite For Reduction and do some serious damage control. Yes, dear readers. That will be New Year’s resolution number 2 for me.

"Baby" S on the slopes. He grew the mustache just to irritate me, I think.

♥ Giving Thanks For Leftovers

I hear a lot of supposedly good-natured ribbing that our Thanksgiving holiday is somehow lacking because we don’t cook a turkey. And I just do a mental eye roll and silently count to ten. Since when does the giving of thanks for the blessings in one’s life and gathering with family and friends only have meaning and significance when done over the mutilated carcass of a gentle and sentient being? Personally, I think the holiday has more value and significance when it is thoughtful and compassionate.

Peace on earth for ALL creatures.

Every year I swear that I won’t do it: that I won’t spend the entire Thanksgiving day (and the night before) in the kitchen cooking . And then, every year, I do it anyway. So much for resolutions. But, on the plus side, we always stretch the leftovers through the weekend. One marathon cooking day equals several days of feasting for us.

A good looking plate of leftovers.

Our Thanksgiving feast wasn’t lacking for anything. We enjoyed a Tofurky Roast baked with turnips, parsnips, fennel root and mushrooms. I made a simple baste for the Tofurky using the recipe on the box, but I added dried thyme and rosemary leaves, in addition to the sage, along with a tablespoon of pomegranate concentrate. Add a generous dollop of homemade cranberry sauce, Momma’s special holiday stuffing and savory red wine mushroom gravy over all. So good!

Sausage chestnut stuffing with mushroom gravy.

No self-respecting holiday meal would be complete without homemade rolls. I adapted this recipe for the bread machine for what is now our favorite dinner roll recipe (and it makes good doughnuts, too). I substitute plain soy milk and Earth Balance for the milk and butter and EnerG Egg Replacer for the egg. I also increase the amount of yeast called for in the recipe. Best of all, the bread machine does the work while the Tofurky and the side dishes are roasting in the oven.

These rolls are so light and fluffy; they practically melt in your mouth.

I like to try a new recipe every year, and this year I chose this recipe, from Urban Vegan. Fig-Pecan Stuffed Acorn Squash will surely make repeat appearances at future holiday dinners. The figs and pecans with the squash are such a delightful combination and perfect for Thanksgiving. I generally followed the recipe (as much as I ever do), but I increased the pecans to 3/4 cup and decreased the agave to 1/4 cup. I also stirred in a scant 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt into the filling before baking.

A side dish so good it should be served on a dessert plate.

As a kid (and still to this day), I detested the standard Thanksgiving side dish of candied yams with marshmallows baked on top. In fact, it is because of this childhood trauma that years elapsed before I willingly made a yam side dish for my own family at Thanksgiving. Now, it’s glazed yams (from fresh and not canned in heavy syrup) with candied nuts in place of the marshmallows, or it’s nothing.

Forget the marshmallows, walnut toffee is where it's at.

The Chinese five spice powder in the glaze makes this exotic side dish something special, and it has become a holiday staple for us. Of course, I don’t follow the recipe exactly. I substitute Earth Balance for the butter and I add a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper to the glaze. I replace the corn syrup in the toffee with maple syrup and I increase the amount of walnuts to 1-1/2 cups. A word of warning, though: it’s a good idea to halve the recipe if you aren’t cooking for a crowd.

Past Thanksgivings, I made both a cranberry apple pie and a pumpkin pie (yeah, I spent a lot of time rolling pie crusts). Then I discovered this recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake With Candied Cranberries and now I make just one dessert. The combination of pumpkin and cheesecake with the candied cranberry topping provides the best of our favorite desserts and it is a perfect end to a Thanksgiving dinner.

A perfectly fitting Thanksgiving dessert.

I make my cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and I have found that you can easily halve the amount of sugar and water for the candied cranberries (like the recipe says, though, the leftover syrup is wonderful on pancakes and waffles). I recommend placing the cranberry topping on each slice of cheesecake just before serving (I learned this the hard way this year). Otherwise, the cheesecake gets a little sloppy. Still yummy, but not so pretty.

So, what are your favorite holiday side dishes?

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving holiday. And that life’s blessings, big and small, are bountiful throughout the year.

And may we have the strength to survive the remaining weeks of the holiday madness. ♥