How to Make Vegan Minestrone: Easy and Pantry-Friendly!

A quiet sort of chaos reigns in my household these days. We’ve been fostering a super sweet hound mix named Margaret for four (!) months, and she’s got all sorts of fun little health issues that keep cropping up. The latest? Polyps in both ears, requiring an expensive, complex surgery. As the rescue tries to find a surgeon who’ll offer a discount, they’re fundraising to mitigate the (substantial!) cost of the surgery. (Margaret isn’t in pain, by the way, but the polyps are causing chronic ear infections and could become malignant. She is truly the gentlest, sweetest little girl, though, and I hope an adopter steps up soon.)

For the last two weeks, we’ve also been dealing with a (human) health crisis on Steven’s side of the family. The details aren’t mine to share, but we (mostly Steven!) have been making lots of long trips to the hospital and dealing with the uncertainty of a potentially serious affliction. It’s been draining and scary and exhausting.

And on top of all that, our beloved Prius started making some seriously odd noises — like a prop plane taking off. Our mechanic thinks it’s caused by low tire treads and hasn’t been able to find anything more serious, but as someone who deals with car-related anxiety, the noises leave me discomfited.

Basically, we’ve got a lot of ongoing, unresolved issues. For two chronic worriers prone to anxiety, it’s… stressful.

In times like these, healthy eating tends to fall by the wayside, even for the best of us. We haven’t meal-planned in weeks, grocery trips have taken a backseat to hospital trips, and we’ve been relying on a combination of leftovers, whatever we can scrounge (hey-o, random pot of black-eyed peas, kale, and pizza sauce!), and the occasional dinner shared by our super thoughtful friends who happen to be vegan and live just down the street. Things are finally getting back to normal, but we’re not quite back in our regular meal-planning mode yet.

Collard leaves from the gardenI have managed to make one solid meal in the past couple weeks, though: minestrone. A steaming hot, big ol’ pot of veggie-laden soup, perfect for delivering a dose of the nutrients we’re sorely lacking. I put it together with all sorts of scraps found in the fridge — half a jar of canned tomato sauce from god knows when, baby carrots, a jar of roasted red peppers, some sad little garlic cloves beginning to shrivel and sprout. I didn’t have celery, so I forewent the traditional mirepoix base. I added some little collard leaves picked from the garden; thank goodness for cold-hardy vegetables! Green beans and broccoli — the only fresh veggies in the fridge — went into the pot, along with a small can of diced tomatoes and a big can of cannellini beans. A liberal dusting of herbs, plenty of nooch, and some veggie bouillon rounded out the flavors, and elbow macaroni provided the pasta component. A nice long simmer while Steven drove home from his hospital visit helped meld all the flavors, and we sat down to big bowls of surprisingly delicious soup two Sundays back. A brief moment to catch our breaths, and much appreciated.

So, today, in the style of my template for making lentil soup, a template for making minestrone with whatever you’ve got on hand. Start with these five tips for homemade minestrone, and then read on for more detailed instructions

Cook your pasta separately.

My texture issues might be speaking here, but who wants to eat leftover soup laden with soggy, bloated pasta? Avoid that nastiness by cooking your pasta separately (in bulk) and adding individual portions to each serving of minestrone.

Embrace liberalism (with your seasonings).

Do not skimp on the herbs! Big scoops of dried basil, oregano, parsley, and thyme make all the difference. I’d opt for at least one teaspoon of each herb per 3-4 cups of liquid, but don’t sweat the measurements.

Say yes to yeast.

A big scoop of nutritional yeast adds a funky kick you’d get from parmesan in a non-vegan minestrone. Don’t skip it!

Get creative with your veggies.

Do not feel beholden to traditional minestrone recipes that “suggest” a very particular blend of vegetables! Instead, feel free to add whatever’s in your fridge or freezer. Aim for a blend of veggies with different sizes and shapes to keep things interesting.

Take your time.

Tempting thought you might find it to dig in to your minestrone as soon as you’ve dumped all the ingredients in the pot, give it some time to rest! Simmer your soup for at least an hour to build and deepen your flavors. (If you’re using any veggies that are prone to sogginess, feel free to add them closer to serving time.)

Vegan minestrone soup // govegga.com
One-Pot Vegan Minestrone

Serves 4-6

The basics

  • 2 T olive oil (you can use more if you prefer, or even just water-sauté the veggies if you want to avoid added oil)
  • Diced onion, carrot, and celery (the amounts don’t really matter, but aim for about 1/2 cup of each)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • A small shake red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth (I like Better than Bouillon)
  • 14 ounces diced canned tomatoes (if using whole, smash them up a bit)
  • 14 ounces crushed tomatoes (optional but recommended; use 8 ounces tomato sauce and a little extra broth in a pinch)
  • 14 ounces cannellini beans (or other white beans)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces small pasta, like ditalini or elbows

The veggies (choose 2-3)

  • 1/2 to 1 cup green beans, ends trimmed and sliced into 3/4″ inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 cup small broccoli florets
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
  • Additional 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 cups greens, roughly chopped (kale, collards, spinach)
Method

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on medium. When it begins to shimmer, add the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and garlic. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing burns, until the onion is translucent.

Add your spices and give everything a good stir, then add all remaining ingredients except pasta. Bring everything to a boil, give it a good stir, and then turn it down to low. Let simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the soup is simmering, cook your pasta according to the package’s instructions, then set aside.

After about 45 minutes, check to ensure that all veggies are nice and tender. Season with salt, pepper, and more nutritional yeast to taste. Serve piping hot, with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cooked pasta per bowl. Top with additional nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan as desired.

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How to make vegan minestrone soup // govegga.com
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Smoky Vegan Black Bean Chili

This is a recipe that truly surprised me. After a whirlwind long weekend with family in town (my mom, my sister, and my two adorable—but energetic!—little nephews), I wanted to make something quick and easy for dinner last Monday night after our houseguests rolled out. Chili seemed like just the ticket. Without much fanfare and without trying to fancy it up, I quickly whipped up a batch of black bean chili. And it turned out to be one of the best chilis I’ve made in a while, despite having minimal ingredients. Smoky, hearty, richly flavored and beautifully textured, this chili is going to become a mainstay in my dinner repertoire.

Smoky, Spicy Vegan Black Bean Chili // govegga.com

The secret? Two simple techniques:

  • Use fewer spices, but more of them—lots of cumin and coriander provide rich flavor.
  • Don’t rinse the beans! Instead, leave them in their aquafabulous coating. This makes for a gorgeously thick sauce that holds everything together and binds the flavor.

My only regret? That I didn’t have enough ingredients on hand to make even more chili! This is a small batch, so feel free to double it. (I’d recommend not immediately doubling the serrano pepper and chili powder; instead, taste for spice and go from there.) You could also omit the mushrooms if you’re not a fan, but I really enjoyed how their soft texture played against the beans in this smoky vegan chili.

Smoky Vegan Black Bean Chili

Makes about 4 servings

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 serrano chili, minced
  • 1 heaping tsp cumin
  • 1 heaping tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp smoky chili powder (I used piment d’espelette)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 15 oz fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 32-oz can black beans (Drain (and save!) the aquafaba, but do not rinse the beans themselves; you’ll add them directly from the can with whatever aquafaba remains)
  • 1 cup frozen corn

Method

In a large stockpot, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat, then add the onion. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Add the mushrooms and let cook for another 3 minutes, then add the garlic and serrano chili. Sauté for another 3 minutes, then add the spices (cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, and smoked paprika, if using) and stir to coat. Cook for another 30 seconds, then add the tomato sauce, fire-roasted tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste for spice and salt, then serve with your favorite chili toppings!

Notes

  • I used piment d’espelette, a really lovely chili powder my brother and his girlfriend got me for Christmas from a Seattle spice shop they frequent. You can find piment d’espelette on Amazon or just use whatever chili powder you have on hand.
  • I didn’t add extra salt because the tomato sauce and fire-roasted tomatoes I used contained salt. Your mileage may vary; check your brand of tomatoes and adjust salt accordingly.

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Smoky, Spicy Vegan Black Bean Chili // govegga.com

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you and helps me cover hosting costs. :)

Hearty, Protein-Rich Veggie Stew

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Week Three: Rainbow Week

A coworker recently asked for suggestions of bulk lunch ideas — things she could make and freeze and have ready. I’ll admit I was stumped for a minute. What do I even eat for lunch!?  Sure, I have a few sandwich recipes, but my typical workday lunches are much simpler, usually a cobbled-together assortment of snacks or leftovers. But then my brain jump-started itself and I realized that most of my lunches are exactly what she was looking for: recipes made in bulk(ish), often for dinner, then saved and eaten as leftovers for lunch. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Hearty, protein-rich vegan veggie stew // govegga.com

Take, for example, this hearty veggie stew (that just happens to be bright red — perfect for rainbow week). I grabbed a few fridge and pantry items and combined them to make a super-filling, protein-rich stew that keeps you surprisingly satiated, thanks in part to bulgur wheat and TVP. It’s a versatile recipe you can adjust based on what’s in the house, though I highly recommend adding the whole cherry tomatoes if you have them — they add a beautiful pop of acidic flavor. (My tomato plants soldiered on well into this unusually warm fall, and I’ve still got some sitting on my counter!) It’s a disarmingly simple stew, but the addition of sharp paprika gives it a nice little kick.

This is one of those simple meals that I tend to overlook when planning dinner (and its resultant leftover lunches).  After all, it’s “just” a vegetable stew. But it’s also incredibly nutritious and immensely flavorful. Just the ticket as we move in to the winter and start craving warmth.

Hearty Veggie Stew

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced roughly
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Half a cabbage, sliced into ribbons about 2″ long
  • 5-6 cremini mushrooms, sliced or chopped into chunks (optional)
  • 3 large carrots, sliced into half-moon rounds
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup TVP
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat (or additional TVP)
  • 1 cup veg broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Reduced-Sodium Vegetable Base)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (depending on the saltiness of your veg broth)

Method

Heat oil in a large stock pot over low-medium heat, then add the garlic. Sauté for a minute but do not let burn. Add the spices and stir to coat the garlic, then add the cabbage and carrots. Turn the heat up to medium and sauté for another 5 minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes and white beans. Cook for another 3 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Simmer the stew for at least 15 minutes, but ideally longer, until all ingredients are soft. Salt and pepper to taste, then eat.

Notes

  • Feel free to sub other veggies for the carrots and cabbage — this is just what I had on hand. You could also add some leafy greens at the end if you’d like.
  • For a spicier stew, add a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • To stretch this recipe and bulk it up even further, add 1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked small pasta to the finished stew. Ditalini works great!

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Hearty, protein-rich vegan veggie stew // govegga.com

How to Make Lentil Soup Without a Recipe

lentil soup template

As the DC area grimly prepares for its first blizzard of the season (and, really, our first significant snowfall of the season!), I’m positively gleeful about the impending weather. It weirds me out that we’ve made it halfway through January without snow, and I’m ready to get snowed in. I’ve got good books, good coffee, and good soup to see me through.

Call me plain, but I love a solid lentil soup. I don’t know the last time I’ve used a recipe to make one, though; I usually see what I’ve got in the fridge and the pantry and go from there. And my blizzard batch is no exception. It’s chock-full of add-ins: carrots, celery, potatoes, kale, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and more. I thought it might be fun to share a modular, customizable template for making lentil soup for those times when you don’t want to follow a recipe but do want a little guidance.

Following this template is pretty simple. I’ve divided the ingredients into different sections and indicated how many items from each section you should choose. You can, of course, add more or less depending on what’s in your pantry — this is just a guide. But by sticking to ingredients from each section, you should end up with a hearty, filling soup with diverse textures and flavors. Note that the white wine is highly recommended but not essential. The same goes for most ingredients. Your soup won’t be ruined if you don’t have celery, and the measurements are just suggestions. Be flexible, play with the template, and enjoy.

lentil_soup_template

One-Pot Lentil Soup (a Template)
Serves 4-6

The basics (use all)

  • 1 T olive oil (you can use more if you prefer, or even just water-sauté the mirepoix if you want to avoid added oil)
  • Mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery — the amounts don’t really matter, but aim for about 1/2 cup of each)
  • 3-5 cloves minced garlic
  • Low-sodium vegetable broth (3-4 cups, depending on how soup-y vs. stew-y you want it to be)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils
  •  1/3 cup dry white wine

The veggies (choose 2-3)

  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium golden potatoes, diced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1-2 cups canned diced tomatoes (use the juice, too)
  • 2 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach

The additional protein (choose 1)

  • 1/2 cup Beyond Meat chicken, shredded gently
  • 1/2 cup soy curls
  • 1/2 cup vegan beef chunks, chopped if too large
  • 2 vegan sausages, sliced into rounds and cut in half (sautéed ahead of time, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Additional 1/2 cup lentils

The spices (choose 1 blend or make your own)

  • Basic blend
    • 1 T nutritional yeast
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet)
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • “Beef stew” blend
    • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ginger
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Curry blend
    • 1 T curry powder
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • Salt and pepper to taste

To start, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on medium. When it begins to shimmer, add the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and garlic. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing burns, until the onion is translucent.

Add your spice blend and give everything a good stir, then add the veggies to the pot UNLESS you’re using kale, spinach, or another green. Hold those till later. Add the lentils (including the additional half cup, if using) and the quinoa, if using. Stir everything again and then add your broth. The broth should cover all your ingredients with about an extra inch of liquid.

Bring everything to a boil, give it a good stir, and then turn it down to low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Around the 30 minute mark, add your protein (unless you’re using quinoa or additional lentils) and greens, if using. Add more broth or water, if necessary. Give everything a good stir and cook for another 15 minutes.

After 15 more minutes, check the soup to see if the lentils and potatoes (if using) are soft. At this point, you can also taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. You could also add more liquid if you want it soupier. Simmer for longer if necessary.

When all ingredients are cooked to your taste, add the white wine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and then serve.

~~~

What kind of meals do you like to create off the cuff? Would a template for something else be helpful?

Snow Drift/Pantry Challenge

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Day 26: It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! 

Wow, it’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift?! That’s some weather. Thanks, climate change! Truly, this prompt is really just a pantry challenge — and y’all know how I love a pantry challenge!

I had to set some ground rules for this prompt, though. Roots Market — one of my favorite local grocers — has been celebrating its “grand reopening” throughout the last week, and they’ve been running some great sales. I headed out to Clarksville to stop by and pick up some goodies, like Califia Farms almond milk (two for $7!) and a few Gardein items (buy one, get one free!), along with a pound of organic almonds (on sale for $5.99/lb!). But I didn’t think it would be fair to include anything I bought today, since I wouldn’t have been able to make it out of the house with that big ol’ cold/rain/snowdrift keeping me in. Instead, I used ingredients I already had to put together a super simple, super comforting kale and yellow split pea soup.

Kale and Yellow Split Pea Soup

Truthfully, I didn’t measure everything I put in this soup. If I were snowbound, I likely wouldn’t be worrying about keeping track of everything! And in a soup like this, the proportions don’t really matter; you can’t go wrong. This particular soup was nice and brothy, with lots of kale. Roughly, here’s what went in:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 big bag of Tuscan kale (from TJ’s)
  • ~1 cup dried yellow split peas
  • ~6 cups water + concentrated veg broth
  • Lotsa spices (coriander, cumin, onion powder, turmeric)

This is exactly the type of thing I’d make on a snow day! I’d also whip up a loaf of crusty homemade bread — because what could be better than hot straight-out-of-the-oven bread when it’s cold outside?! Today, I used this recipe, because I wasn’t in the mood to knead the dough. I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I cooked it in a cast-iron skillet instead. And I didn’t include any herbs because I wanted a simpler bread. It was so simple and surprisingly good. Again, perfect for a snow day! (Or, y’know, a somewhat cool early fall day. Same thing?)

Kale and White Bean Soup

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Years and years before kale was thrust into the spotlight by foodies in search of the next food superstar, my mama started making a kale soup that my entire family loved. I thought of that soup today, the first chilly day of the year, and knew I needed to make it. Kale soup, of course, is nothing new, and I do feel silly posting a recipe for something that’s as simple as simple can be. But if you have yet to discover the combination of kale and white beans, this soup is for you.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves six

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced
  • 3 medium-sized yellow potatoes, diced (about 1/4″ cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • Dash cloves
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 10-12 oz. curly kale, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 cups navy beans (or other white beans)
  • 4-5 cups water (or additional vegetable broth)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and spices and give everything a big stir. Add the vegetable broth and turn up the heat to medium. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the water or additional broth Add a big scoop of kale and stir it in; after it wilts a bit, add another big scoop. Repeat until you’ve added all the kale. (Or you can just add it all in at once if your stockpot is big enough!). Add the beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is as tender as you like it. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Kale and White Bean Soup

My version of Mom’s kale soup uses a spice blend similar to that you’d find in chorizo, giving it a smoky, spicy flavor. But you can switch up the spices based your tastes. Like most soups, this one is endlessly versatile. You can also add and remove many of the ancillary ingredients. No celery? No problem. Feel like adding some bulk? Throw in some orzo or quinoa. In a rush? Use Trader Joe’s bagged kale; just pull off the larger stem bits. You could even reduce the spices and add some soyrizo.

Mom’s kale soup is, unsurprisingly, ridiculously healthy. A serving gives you 17 grams of protein, 18% of your recommended daily value of calcium, and 29% of your RDV of iron. You’ll also get lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. Thanks, Mom!

What’s your favorite soup?

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

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11 days into Vegan MoFo and I’ve yet to feature a soup. Shocking! That oversight gets remedied today with a hearty tomato-y red lentil soup that couldn’t be easier to throw together. This ain’t your typical red lentil soup, though—the addition of quinoa not only boosts the nutritional profile, but adds a textural counterpoint to the softer lentils.

This soup is versatile, too. Yellow potatoes could easily stand in for the sweet potatoes, and diced carrots would make a fine addition. If you don’t have quinoa, I suppoooose you could leave it out. And if you prefer a creamier, richer soup, just add some full-fat coconut milk towards the end of cooking. That kiss of lemon juice added at the end is non-negotiable, though. Trust me, you’ll want to keep it.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
Serves six

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2″ knob ginger, minced
  • 1-2 T your favorite curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into small chunks
  • 3 C water
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (or puree)
  • 2 C red lentils
  • 1/2 C quinoa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced scallions or chopped cilantro for serving

In a large stockpot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or so. Add onion and ginger and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add spices and sweet potatoes and stir until the sweet potatoes are well-coated. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, red lentils, quinoa, and two cups of the water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked and the lentils are soft. Check every 10 minutes and add extra water in half cupfuls if necessary.

When the sweet potatoes and lentils are fully cooked, turn off the heat and add salt and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the lemon juice, reserving some for serving. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the leftover lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and diced scallions or chopped cilantro.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils boast an impressive nutritional makeup, and this soup adds a few other key ingredients to nourish you. One serving offers 24% of your daily value of iron and 17 grams of protein… but you might not want to have just one serving.

What’s your go-to soup recipe?

Creamy Caramelized Onion Soup

This story is about soup, but it begins with a McDonald’s.

For weeks now, the McDonald’s a mile or so away from my apartment had had the same message on its signboard: Try our grilled onion cheddar sandwich – $1. Though McDonald’s holds very little appeal for me (veggie options in India aside!), I had to admit that the grilled onion-cheddar sandwich was intriguing.  It lingered at the back of my mind for weeks, in fact.

And then I bought five or so pounds of onions. And then Daiya cheese was on sale at the co-op, and I felt compelled to try the garlic-jalapeño Havarti-style wedge that everyone raves about. And then I realized that I had all the components for something very like a grilled onion-cheddar sandwich.

Instead of grilling my onions, though, I caramelized them. Caramelized onions are (ahem, were) one of my few real culinary nemeses. It’s not that they always come out burnt or inconsistently cooked (though that’s certainly the case sometimes!), but I have never managed to make them perfect, with that mellow, deep sweetness that’s the sign of a perfectly caramelized onion.

Until this time. Armed with a battery of tips from this handy article and a brand-new non-stick pan that replaced our flaking old one, I can proudly say, without a hint of braggadocio or untruth, that I caramelized the shit out of those onions. They were soft with a few crispy bits, a marvel of kitchen science and patience. And they were pretty damn amazing with melted Daiya on slices of seedy whole-grain bread.  (By the way, that Havarti-style Daiya is THE BEST vegan cheese I’ve ever tasted. It’s the only kind I’d ever consider eating on its own, on crackers or something. It’s a sometimes-food, but I wholly recommend it if you’re interested in actually-good vegan cheese.)

Back to the onions. Now that I’d conquered caramelization, my mind was flooded with a tidal wave of ideas for how to harness the rich flavor of these sweet, tender onions. I began to suspect that they’d make a wonderful flavor base for a rich, creamy soup, and was I ever right. Please – do yourself a favor one chilly winter night and spend a little time at the stove, tending your slowly softening onions and stirring a pot of tender golden potatoes in a simple broth. Then blend them together – my brand-new immersion blender did the trick with ease – and let this hearty soup fill all the crevices of your hungry belly.

Quick soup snap.

Creamy Caramelized Onion-Potato Soup

4 medium-sized yellow onions, sliced into half-moons
3 medium-sized golden potatoes, diced (3/4 inch)
1 T olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 med carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp savory
A dash or two of poultry spice
4 C vegetable broth
1 C unsweetened MimicCreme (or any other unsweetened nut cream, or even your non-dairy milk of choice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

First, start caramelizing your onions. I won’t give you directions – use whatever method works for you! You don’t need them to retain their shape for this soup, so it’s okay if they reduce to a bit of a mushy mess – mine did.

After the onions have been caramelizing for about 20 minutes, add the olive oil to a stock pot and heat it on medium. Saute the celery, carrot, and garlic  for about 4 – 5 minutes or until they start softening. Add the spices and give the veggies a good stir to coat them. Add the veg broth and turn up the heat to medium-high. When it starts to boil, add the potatoes and bring the soup to a full boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep it on a low boil for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are softened and cooked through. Add salt and pepper and reduce the soup to a simmer.

By now, your onions should be caramelized. If they’re not, just keep the soup simmering. When they’re ready, turn off the heat under your soup and add the cream or non-dairy milk of choice to the sou,p and then add the onions. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in small batches and removing the cover between pulses to release heat), blend the soup to your desired consistency. I liked mine mostly creamy but with a few small chunks of veggies. You can also add more non-dairy milk or cream to reach your desired consistency. Top with freshly ground cracked pepper and enjoy with a slice of crusty bread.

What’s your favorite way to eat caramelized onions?

Warm Soup for a Cold Apartment

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There are few things more pleasing than coming home from work on a rainy day to a sparkling clean kitchen, a happy dog, and the warm, inviting aroma of freshly made soup. When your darling is waiting with a kiss, well, that’s just the icing on the already perfect cake.

S took a sick day yesterday, but that didn’t stop him from having dinner ready and waiting for me when I got home. No relying on a lazy-day dinner last night! Instead, here’s what we ate:

Top-down view of a bowl of soup with a reddish broth, lots of kale and potatoes, and crumbled veggie chorizo.

Soup, soup, a tasty soup…!

S veganized this recipe for Potato Soup with Kale and Chorizo, a hearty concoction overflowing with tender kale and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes. It was steaming hot, a perfect weapon to combat our chilly apartment. (Let’s just say that our dryer broke at the most inopportune time imaginable – namely, right after S washed a load of sheets. They didn’t fit on my drying rack, so he had to rig up makeshift drying apparatuses in front of open windows… on a 45˚ day. Brrr.)

Our only complaint about the soup was that it was overly salty for our tastes. S learned a lesson from that little problem, though – always buy sodium-free or low-sodium bouillon so you can control the salt level of your soup. (He also learned to check the damn pantry before buying bouillon, because I keep it well stocked, but that’s another lesson entirely.) I’ll happily take an overly salty soup, though, if it means that someone else cooked it for me!

What do you like to come home to on a cold day?

Peruvian Not-so-Purple Potato Soup

When I asked for suggestions of what to make with my CSA haul from last week, reader Emma responded with a great idea for using my pretty purple potatoes: the Peruvian Purple Potato Soup from Appetite for Reduction. With the temperatures dropping and autumn approaching, soup sounded mighty fine to me. I was excited to see how gorgeous my pretty purple potatoes were on the inside. They certainly were striking on the outside:

Close-up of a hand holding out a unpeeled potato with a deep purple skin.

S is taking up hand modeling.

I’ve eaten bona-fide blue-slash-purple potatoes before, so I know what they should look like on the inside. And, friends, it ain’t this:

Two peeled potatoes with normal, potato-colored flesh.

Pale potatoes.

Quelle surprise! My purple potatoes weren’t purple at all! Alas – they were just regular ol’ taters masquerading in more appealing skins. However, I did not let their [admittedly disappointing] pale innards sway me from my desire for soup; I soldiered on with the recipe as written. And even though the results were nowhere near as striking as they would’ve been otherwise, this soup was still a flavorful, filling delight.

Top-down image of a bowl of pale soup, a spoon, and a spice jar of dried cilantro.

100% not purple.

Don’t let its rather lackluster appearance fool you – this is a truly tasty soup. The lime, chili peppers, and cilantro (even though I had to use dried!) made for more vibrant flavors than one typically finds with potato-based soups. I made sure to puree about half of it, so that there were still some potato chunks to contrast with the otherwise smooth texture. S and I were both pleasantly surprised with our meal, and it’s definitely going on my make-again list.

Next time, though, I’ll use truly purple potatoes.