Monthly Archives

May 2013

recipes, Soups and Stews

Roasted Tomato Soup

Ermahgerd! My very own contributor account!  As was probably already apparent in this post, one of my favorite things to do with our new blender is to make delicious, creamy soups.  I have already spoken on my hatred for canned tomato soups and my love of raw or almost raw tomato soups, but this week I felt like trying something a little different.

I’ve always found that one of the best ways to pull flavor out of vegetables is to roast them. Quick, high-heat roasting and slower, low-heat roasting are both great ways to improve the richness and complexity of many different veggies.  Things like root vegetables get roasted all the time, but not everyone has tried roasting other, less likely candidates – like tomatoes. Which is a shame, because roasted tomatoes are infinitely more flavorful than raw or stewed.  And since they’re so flavorful roasted, this soup needs very little else in terms of seasoning to taste amazing.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Serves 2

Ingredients:

10 medium to tomatoes, preferably still on the vine
1 large onion
6 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth (or more for a thinner soup)
Sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if desired
Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and oil a roasting pan.  Place your tomatoes into the pan and drizzle with the olive oil.  Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper then place them in the oven for an hour and a half.
2. While the tomatoes are roasting, peel the garlic and roughly chop the onion into large pieces.  When the tomatoes have been roasting for an hour and a half, remove them and add the garlic, onion, and two sprigs of rosemary to the pan.  Return it to the oven and roast for another one to one and a half hours.
3. After the roasting is completed, remove the rosemary from the pan.  Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic into the blender with the broth, cayenne, and remaining rosemary sprig.  Purée until smooth.

Gorgeous tomatoes on the vine, pre- and post-roasting.

Even though this soup sees a lot of time in the oven (up to three hours), it does not involve much active cooking at all – it’s great to make if you have a leisurely morning or afternoon available.

One of my favorite things to do with a soup like this is to eat it with a nice, crispy sandwich.  Grilled cheese (Daiya, of course) with avocado was my choice for today, which isn’t the healthiest option, but it’s certainly delicious.  Allysia may prefer to dip her grilled cheese into a pile of ketchup, but a bowl of fresh tomato soup is always my dip of choice.  That’s it for today – see you guys/gals next time!
mains, recipes

Michael’s Birthday Feast: Hasselback Potatoes

Happy Friday!

Last week was Michael’s 26th birthday, so to celebrate we made a skype dinner together, because we’re all food nerdy like that.  Even if I was back home we probably would’ve done the same thing, except the difference is that there wouldn’t be two different climates for cooking (read: having the stove and oven blasting during Austin’s hottest day thus far does not align with Saskatchewan’s mild spring day).

Sweating buckets was worth it, though, for the resulting “dude meal” (so-called by my roommate), and I definitely didn’t have to be a dude to enjoy it.

The star of the show was the Hasselback baked potato, which was scallop-sliced and rubbed with garlic butter, and later topped with melted Daiya cheese, green onions, bacon bits (I have a bag of dehydrated coconut bacon…so good), and a wonderful white mushroom sauce.  Michael topped his ‘tato with a dollop of plain yogurt – he had no sour cream, but it worked all the same.  For how pretty it looks, it was intensely easy to make, and we concurred that it was our new favorite way to enjoy a baked potato.

The supporting cast consisted of sauteed asparagus, topped with the same white mushroom sauce as the potato, and some veggie sausage slices.  Ketchup made an appearance on my plate, too, because ketchup is the condiment of the gods.  Michael enjoyed vegan seafood as the protein portion of his meal, made by the company Sophie’s Kitchen (which he talked about in an earlier post), this time testing out the crab cakes and scallops.

Hasselback Baked Potato with Garlic Butter
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 medium Russet potato, washed
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
1 garlic clove, minced
Small handful Daiya cheddar cheese
Assorted toppings (sour cream, chives or green onions, bacon bits, etc.)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Make the garlic butter: Heat the margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When melted, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Remove from heat.

3. To prepare the potato, make 1/4-inch slices widthwise all the way down the length of the potato.  If you place a wooden spoon on each side of the potato (lengthwise), your knife won’t cut all the way through the bottom of the potato, making flawless slicing easy-peasy.  Pour the margarine on the potato and rub it into the crevices.  Place the potato on a baking pan and bake for 50 minutes, adding the cheese on top of the potato in the last 7 minutes or so, to melt.

Serve with whatever toppings you like, in whatever quantity you like.  Enjoy!

The white mushroom sauce was creamy and rich without being unhealthy, and I’m excited to share that recipe with you next time.  Happy weekend, guys!

Brunch, recipes, sandwiches

Eggplant BLT: Vegan Sunday Brunch, Episode 44

Greetings!  We are here to bring you a slightly belated brunch post, but a brunch post nonetheless!  This week’s idea was based around the fact that Sunday marked the first day after the end of our super-healthy lifestyle trial, and as such, we could eat whatever we wanted.  I was most excited about the opportunity to sauté and brown things, so we came up with the idea to make some baked eggplant bacon.

We wanted to use our bacon on a nice, simple sandwich, and decided on the classic BLT, something we’ve never blogged before (for shame).  Our vegan BLT consisted of eggplant bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato (so I guess it was a BLAT), with some mustard and vegennaise spread on the toasted bread.  On the side we served a quick coleslaw and a super-simple tofu scramble with some melted Daiya.  All in all it was a pretty amazing brunch containing lots of the delicious treats that we gave up for the last thirty days.

Since we both had access to different ingredients (and Allysia doesn’t want to buy a bunch of stuff a month before coming home), we each made the eggplant bacon recipe a little differently, and the changes are noted below.  

Eggplant Bacon

1 large eggplant

1 dried chipotle, soaked in water for an hour
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or omit and use smoked paprika instead)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Cut the ends off of an eggplant and slice lengthwise into quarter-inch slices (using a mandolin or a sharp knife).
2. Mix all remaining ingredients into the bottom of a long, flat dish and toss the eggplant in it. Let it sit for one hour, rotating the eggplant strips once. 
3. After the marinating time has elapsed, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the eggplant slices on it. Reserve the marinade liquid.
4. Bake the eggplant bacon for 30-40 minutes. At the 15 and 30 minute marks, baste the pieces with some of the remaing liquid.  After the final basting, keep an eye on the bacon, as it will go from nice and golden to charred black very quickly. Leave it in as long as you dare to help it become crisp, but do not overcook it.

Note from Allysia: The majority of eggplant slices turned out chewy, not crisp (with the exception of a few burnt pieces), so it might not be a good standalone bacon (our tofu bacon is better suited to that purpose).  However, the flavor is great and it went really well inside a sandwich.

Yeah, so I used kale instead of lettuce.  Kale is nice on a sandwich!  Also I recommend you guys pray to the phone gods for Michael, since he has lost the ability to upload pictures –  but I saw his meal via Skype and it looked awesome as always, you’ll just have to take my word for it this time.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

food and product reviews, recipes, Soups and Stews, Uncategorized

Blendtec Unboxing and Delicious Cauliflower Soup

On Monday this week I got one of the best surprises of my life.  I arrived home from work to see a little piece of paper sticking out of my mailbox – a little piece of paper that told me I had a parcel waiting at the post office.  I had, of course, been expecting this, but I had not entirely expected it to arrive one day early.  The drive to the post office was full of excitement and anticipation, and the drive box home more so.  Once I got back into my house I sat down with my package, my camera, and my iPad, and had to share this momentous occasion with Allysia over Skype.  So, once we were both good and ready, we looked at what sat in front of us.

Even the sight of the box still fills me with happiness.

Popping the box open reveals the sweet treasure inside.

First up is the information package.  A blender-based cookbook, warranty information, and a DVD!

The cookbook itself is in full color, coil-bound, and even hard cover!  In a surprising moment of awesomeness, I opened the book to a random page and saw a recipe for cauliflower soup.  Allysia and I had just talked about making cauliflower soup the previous day – it seemed like a sign.

Next up is probably the most exciting part: the blender bowl.

We opted to go for the slightly newer and slightly more expensive Wildside blender jar.  This jar has a few advantages over the standard Fourside jar.  It has a roomy 3 quart volume and a special shape involving a fifth side in the blender jar.  This fifth side apparently shifts the blending vortex a bit so it mixes ingredients much more efficiently.

The blender lid followed the jar.  Shiny and gorgeous.

Another exciting moment: the blender base.  While the normal Blendtec blender is beautiful, we choose to upgrade to the Designer Series (for the same price as the regular blender!)  You can’t get these delivered to Canada through the Blendtec website, but we ordered from Upaya Naturals and got it in only a few days!

The biggest reason we got the Designer Series, aside from the awesome red color, is the touch screen on the base.  All of the controls are operated through this screen, and it just looks solid black when turned off.  It looks cool, works well, and talk about easy to clean!

And now we have a little before and after photo.  Definitely an upgrade.  High-end blenders tend to get a bad rap for being massively huge and taking up too much counter space (especially a certain other brand of blender), but comparing the Blendtec to a cheap Walmart blender, the size different isn’t anything absurd.

Once the blender was powered up it became even more lovely.  The six picture buttons correspond to preprogrammed blending cycles.  From left to right they are for: mixing batters, crushing ice, making smoothies, creating ice creams, juicing produce, and blending/cooking soups.  The large slider at the bottom of the faceplate allows you to select a blending speed manually and speed it up/slow it down at will.  The bottom-right button, shaped like a heartbeat monitor, is the pulse button (clever!).

The blender itself is amazing.  The blending cycles work really well – they speed up/slow down the blades automatically, allows the blender to chop through rough ingredients before speeding up to blend.  One thing that I noticed is that this blender does not create as much heat a other high-speed blenders.  The Designer Series has some improved venting which allows it to blend without heating the ingredients too much.  Great news for smoothie lovers and raw foodists alike!  Another interesting feature becomes apparent only when the blender is powered up.  For the first few seconds a number will flash onto the screen.  This number is the total number of times the blender has been used.  We have owned ours for less than forty-eight hours now, and it has been used twelve times.

One of the first things I wanted to do with this blender was create a smooth and awesome blended soup using some of the random ingredients I had laying around.

Creamy Corn and Cauliflower Soup
yields 2 large servings
1 medium sized head of cauliflower (about 3 cups, roughly chopped)
2 medium sized potatoes (about 1 cup, roughly chopped)
2 ears of fresh corn
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground thyme (fresh would work better, but alas, I had none available)
salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:

1. Boil a pot of water large enough to hold the potato, cauliflower, and corn.  Add the potato first, then the cauliflower, then the corn so everything cooks the appropriate amount of time.
2. Pan steam (or saute) the onions and garlic.

3. When the veggies are cooked, drain the water.  Cut the kernels off of the corn cobs and place all the ingredients in a blender jar.  Use only 3 cups of veggie broth to start, adding more until the desired consistency is reached.  Blend until smooth.

Alternatively, you could save some of the cooked veggie and stir them into the soup after blending for a slightly chunkier soup.

A little side note: in keeping with our super healthy eating plan I opted to boil and steam the veggies for this soup.  I can only assume that roasting the corn, potato, and cauliflower would make the soup even more incredible.

Apparently being able to blend corn completely perfectly is a rare thing indeed.  The Blendtec did it with ease.  The soup was smooth after about thirty seconds of blending.  After struggling with a super cheap blender for so long, it is so nice to have access to perfectly smooth soups and smoothies.  I’m a big fan of green smoothies in the morning, and this blender destroys kale leaves like nobody’s business.  I love our blender like a newborn child. Peace out.

mains, recipes

Sushi Party (With Pickled Ginger Recipe)

One of our goals for this week was to each create a blog post your reading pleasure.  When this came up, I (Mike) instantly jumped up and passionately proclaimed that we would make sushi, and that it would be my blog post.

The first thing I did was create a list of the different types of sushi and accouterments I wanted at my party (in this case, a party for one).  I decided to make nigiri (the type of sushi usually consisting of a lump of rice with a hunk of veg or protein attached), maki (your standard assorted rolls), miso soup, and a miniature rice bowl.  I surveyed my ingredients and decided that I could make nigiri featuring avocado, marinated tofu, zucchini, and some no-tuna pate.  The rolls would be an assortment of whatever I had around, and the rice bowl would include some chives, avocado, tamari, and assorted spices.

The usual condiments for sushi include soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger.  I had a small amount of pickled ginger on hand, but I really wanted to take another crack at preparing it from scratch.  A little research led me to some interesting information.  Apparently there is a reason why pickled ginger is often dyed pink.  Traditionally, only young ginger was used for the condiment.  This ginger was shaved thinly and then salted and massaged.  After letting it sit for a length of time, boiling vinegar and sugar was poured over the ginger.  This is where the magic happens – apparently a chemical reaction happens between the salted ginger and the boiling vinegar that causes it to turn slightly pink!  The chemist in me loves tidbits like this.  We won’t go through quite that much effort to pickle our ginger, but I did have a healthy way to dye it pink, using our good friend the beet.

Homemade Pink Pickled Ginger
Makes about 1 cup

about 6 inches of ginger root, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 small beet (unpeeled is fine)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Rice wine vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar, really)

Directions:

1. Once the ginger is peeled, continue using the peeler to skim very thin pieces off of the root. Collect all of your pieces is a bowl and add the salt.  Massage the ginger for a minute or two to work in the salt.  Let it sit for an hour or so.

2. Once the ginger has sat, bring a pot of water to boil.  Take your beet and cut 3 quarter-inch thick circles from it.  Pop two of the circles into the pot of water and cut the other beet circle into chunky sticks.  Set aside the beet sticks for now.
3. Add the ginger to the boiling water and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.  Once the time is up, strain the ginger and remove the beet circles.
4. In a small mason jar or resealable container, pour the agave nectar and about a tablespoon of each of the vinegars (if you don’t have multiple vinegars, just use more rice wine vinegar).  Add the ginger and one or two beet sticks to the jar and shake it up a bit.  Add more vinegar, in a 50:50 ratio, until the ginger is completely covered.
The ginger will need to sit and mellow for a while before you will want to eat it.  Luckily, the boiling reduces that time greatly.  It will be perfectly edible and not too astringent after a few hours, but it is ideal after sitting overnight.  The pickled ginger can be refrigerated more a few months without worry.  I love how brightly colored the ginger is, but especially love the fact that it wasn’t done with any weird chemicals!

With the ginger finished, I was ready to make the sushi.  I won’t go into the finer points of sushi rolling, but I will cover a few general points:
  • Proper sushi requires short-grained rice.  Cook the rice using 1 cup of rice to 1 1/4 cups of water.
  • When the rice in done you will need a mixture containing rice vinegar, salt, and sugar.  I would use 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Stir this into the rice.
  • For most sushi rolls, spread the rice very thinly on the nori sheet, covering just over one half of the sheet (more for a fatter roll, less for a thinner roll).
  • Place the fillings on the rice in a neat little pile, keeping each item together.
  • A bamboo mat is not required for rolling.  Carefully wrap the nori and rice around the fillings, trying to keep the roll nice and tight.
  • While rolling, lightly dampen the end of the nori sheet to help it stick and close properly.
  • The most common problem people run into while rolling sushi is that the rice does not ring around the food perfectly.  This all just comes down to practice.  Delicious practice.  I am actually incredibly proud of myself that my rolls turned out so well.
  • For nigiri, cut a nori sheet with scissors into thin ribbons and dampen them slightly.  It can take a few tries to get the ribbons looking nice and not cracking.

The first of my sushi rolls is a fairly standard veggie roll with tofu, chives, carrot, beet, cucumber, and avocado.

This second rolls uses shredded kale instead of rice as the base.  Very delicious.  Fillings are similar to the above roll.

The other rolls present include a simple cucumber roll with a squirt of sriracha and a roll created using the no-tuna pate.  I meant to include the pate in the other rolls, but I completely forgot about it.  Oh well.

One thing you may notice right away is that this sushi party involves a lot of food.  Probably almost enough for two people.  One of the best parts about eating sushi is the variety on the table in front of you.  In light of this, I always like to create a bunch of different things, and then save some leftovers for the next day.  I even ate my leftovers for breakfast!

During every sushi party there tends to come a point where you get tired and annoyed and you curse the very thought of making sushi.  This usually occurs about ten minutes before you get to put the first piece in your mouth.  But oh man, once that first piece hits your taste buds (and the wasabi hits your sinuses), you know it was all worth it, and you will totally do it again.  Have a good one, friends.