Tag 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?!

♥ 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.

♥     ♥     ♥

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.

♥ It Really IS A Vegan Burger

It’s been a rough few days in Vegan Land. Unless you are living under a rock, you have already heard about the VegNews scandal. Ad nauseam.

So, VegNews lied. So, VegNews took the easiest and most cost-effective path available to them, despite the  fact that it was outright deceit. They used stock photos of burgers, ribs, stews, etc. to represent vegan meals in their vegan magazine. And, to add insult to injury, VegNews handled their PR nightmare very poorly. But, I’m over it. Really.

What I am not over, however, is the fallout in the vegan community. Call me naïve, but I have never witnessed so much hateful dialogue on vegan blogs and Facebook pages before. And this is among vegans! So, VegNews betrays our trust and our vegan ideals and, in response, we turn on each other?!

To make matters worse, the story was picked up by news syndicates such as CNN, The New York Times, and NPR. The comments on those websites are not  kind to vegans, or veganism, either. The air of smug self-satisfaction is palpable: of course the magazine used meat photos . . . because vegan food isn’t appealing or satisfying! To my thinking, that perception is the real tragedy of this unfortunate situation. And that perception could not be more wrong.

Of course, the general sentiment (as well as a lot of jokes at the collective vegan expense)  is that malnourished vegans are deprived and frustrated wanna-be-meat-eaters. That is, we are deprived and frustrated by our inability to duplicate the taste of meat for our sanctimonious and holier-than-though enjoyment. Heh?! Say what?!

I choose to respond thusly:

My (not professional) stock photo of a vegan "burger".

Okay, I will concede that one (ignorant) point. I haven’t been able to “duplicate” the taste of meat. What’s more, I do not want to! It is true, my Portobello mushroom burger does not taste anything like dead cow. It tastes better! Deprived? No. Frustrated? No. Satisfied? Oh, yes! [And about 1/3 of my total daily protein requirement, too (according to NutritionData.com).]

To enjoy this better-than-beef “burger”: caramelize sliced red onion in olive oil over medium heat and add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar toward the end of the cooking time. In a separate skillet, gently cook the Portobello mushrooms over medium heat and brush them frequently with good quality balsamic vinegar. When  the mushrooms are tender, place the mushrooms and onions on prepared buns with a slice of non-dairy cheese and condiments/burger fixings of your choice.

We enjoy our Portobello burgers on homemade bread machine buns* with  the caramelized onions, Vegenaise, romaine lettuce and pepper jack cheese from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.  And a serving of sweet and tangy sandwich slaw on the side. And J’s “kickass” homebrew in the background.

* Note: I made the buns whole wheat by substituting the total flour amount in the original bun recipe with 2-3/4 cups + 1 Tablespoon white whole wheat flour + 3 Tablespoons soy flour. I also added in 2 extra tablespoons of warm water to adjust for the high altitude.

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If you’re feeling like I am (disillusioned and worn out from the VegNews fallout and negativity), I offer you some diversion therapy: squirrel antics on the other side of the dining room window!

Deprivation. Longing.

Big dude: problem solved.

Big dude: squirrel acrobatics.

Little dude: everyone wins (except the displaced birds).

Little dude: he takes matters into his own hands (paws?).

More deprivation. More longing.

As you can see, there ain’t no deprivation in this vegan house!

Although, the frustrated cats may beg to differ.

♥ Ain’t No Sheep In Our Cottage Pie

Snow!!! After months of teasers, we finally have some snow here on the island. Just as we are packing up to move to South Lake Tahoe. Very timely.

It’s a perfect day for comfort food; a hot bowl of stick-to-yer-ribs goodness.  I must have known this when I made dinner last night.

J loves “pub food”. He’s a reformed meat and potatoes guy, after all. I once witnessed him order shepherd’s pie at an “Irish” pub in Singapore with a stout beer to wash it down. Despite the fact that it was 4:00 in the morning Pacific Standard Time. Despite the fact that it was 80 degrees and humid outside. Did I mention that we were in Singapore, which is located practically on the equator? But, J is a predictable guy no matter where his travels take him: I have also seen him order cottage pie and stout at an “English” pub in Dubai. It’s even hotter there, but less humid (as if that matters when the thermometer  reads 100 degrees). Myself, I couldn’t find enough ice to make me comfortable and meanwhile J is scarfing down winter stews!

I made my first shepherd’s pie–or cottage pie, depending upon whom you ask–after going vegan, so I can’t rightly compare my version to the meat-eater’s version. But we love this dish; it’s hearty and  filling and it tastes even better the next day after it sets up, as all good comfort food should. This dish is perfect for Thanksgiving…or Saint Patrick’s Day.

My version is adapted from a vegetarian recipe passed on to me by a friend years ago; I think the original recipe came from Gourmet magazine.

It’s even better the next day!

♥     ♥     ♥

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:

Stew:

3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts), sliced 1/2 inch thick and halved

1 pound small mushrooms, quartered

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

3 to 4 peeled garlic cloves, minced

4 medium carrots, cut into half moons

4 smallish parsnips, cut into half moons

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 750-ml bottle of red wine (I use Our Daily Red; it’s what I always have on hand)

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3-1/2 cups no beef base (preferred) or vegetable broth

1 pound beef-style seitan, rinsed and cut into stew-size pieces (I use  2 9-ounce packages of Gardein Beefless Tips, the pieces cut in half)

2 cups frozen baby peas

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Topping:

2-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

1 pound (approximately) celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

10 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) non-dairy butter (optional: can be omitted for lower fat)

1/2 cup plain soy milk

1/2 cup non-dairy cream (or equal amount of plain soy milk for lower fat)

1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

Warm a splash of broth over medium heat. Sauté the leeks, mushrooms and the salt, if using, until the leeks are soft and the mushrooms just begin to give off liquid. Next, add the garlic, carrots, parsnips, black pepper, thyme and rosemary and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just tender. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl or platter.

Add the wine to the pot and boil until it is reduced to about 1 cup (about 10 minutes).

Add the broth to the reduced wine and bring it to a brisk simmer. Whisk in the flour and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Add the seitan pieces, peas, and the cooked vegetable mixture to the pot and  cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parsley.

While the stew is simmering, cover the potatoes, celery root and the garlic cloves with cold water in a 4 to 5 quart pot and bring to a boil (I use a steamer insert in a large pot). Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes and the celery root are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water (especially if making this dish ahead), then drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, bring the non-dairy butter (if using), soy milk and cream (if using), and salt/pepper to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture is steaming. Stir in the parsley and remove the pan from the heat. Or, microwave the soy milk, cream (if using) non-dairy butter (if using) and salt/pepper just until the butter is melted and the mixture is steaming. Stir in the parsley.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Coarsely mash the potatoes, celery root and garlic cloves with the hot milk mixture. Use the reserved potato water, if necessary.

Spray a large, shallow (I use a a 3 quart and 2 inches deep glass baking dish) baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and place on a larger 4-sided baking sheet. Transfer the stew from the pot to the baking dish. Spoon the potato mixture over the stew and spread evenly to cover. The decorative parsley shamrock is strictly optional!

Bake at 375F for 30 to 45 minutes, until bubbling. Turn the broiler on and continue baking (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn) until the potato topping is a lovely golden brown, about 5  to 10 minutes longer.

Note: The stew and the potato topping can be made 1 day ahead  and chilled separately; be sure to reserve an extra cup of the potato-cooking water. Reheat the potato topping slowly, adding just enough cooking water to reach  the desired consistency.  Bring the stew to a simmer over low heat before topping with the warm potato mixture. Bake according to directions.