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Creamy Tomato Soup in a Homemade Bread Bowl!

26 Aug


I am definitely a Fall and Winter person. I love feeling all snuggly in a hoodie and throwing on lots of cozy layers. So even though it hit 95 here in Denver today, I couldn’t get my mind off of making some soup in a bread bowl! My garden has been overflowing with ripe Roma tomatoes, so a creamy tomato soup just seemed right.

For the bread bowl, I just used this recipe from my previous French Bread post, except this time around I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose. Still quite nice and fluffy. I let the dough rise twice–once right after it was mixed and then after I shaped them into boules. I recommend re-shaping them once again after they have risen because they tend to widen a bit as they rise. You want all the seams in the dough to be on the bottom (kind of like when you turn the ugly side of the Christmas tree toward the wall where no one will see it).

The tomato soup is a staple for me, especially when I’m looking for something quick that I can whip together in a few minutes. For a super fast and painless meal, use canned, diced tomatoes (though, of course, the flavor isn’t the same!) I soaked about 1/2 cup of raw cashews in water for about an hour to make the cream for the soup. In a large stock pot, I sauteed some olive oil, lots of minced garlic and chopped onion for a few minutes until the onion became translucent. I added chopped, fresh roma and beefsteak tomatoes and let simmer until the flavors mix and everything starts getting soupy. This soup has to be really thick otherwise when you pour it into the bread bowl, it will immediately just soak in and everything will get mushy. No good. To thicken the soup up, I added some cashew cream that was quickly made by processing the soaked raw cashews with a bit of water until you get a thick consistency. Since I like my soups thick and creamy, I threw everything back into the blender and whirred it all up until very smooth. I may have added a bit too much cashew cream, hence the reason why my soup is more orange than red! Still very savory. Fresh basil paired well with this.

When you make this, be sure to bring your appetite! Or just make your boules smaller πŸ™‚ Since my beloved is spending the week in Michigan, I have an abundance of food and no one to eat it. I might try freezing the leftover boule and then thawing/re-heating when I’m ready to use it as a bread bowl again. We shall see how that goes.

My Friday night was spent whipping this together, watching American Pickers and falling asleep with a book in hand. When did I get so old? My energy was completely absent today and I am blaming this on forgetting to make some coffee. Terrible how I’ve become so dependent on it and I’m only a week into Fall semester…! Tomorrow is this month’s garden work day at the community garden…got to get to sleep so I can be a weed-pulling fiend! Goodnight all! Happy weekend! πŸ™‚

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First Time Trying Polenta!

25 Aug

My tastebuds no longer find polenta shrouded in mystery. I’ve seen polenta in so many vegetarian recipes, but have had yet to try it and experiment with it. At its most basic, polenta is just corn grits that is boiled until a thick paste and can pretty much take the form of whatever dish you’re thinking of (sweet or savory!) I just picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill corn grits, googled for some general advice/ideas on what to do with polenta and pretty much just made it to see if I would even like it. This really isn’t a recipe or specific dish per se because I just wanted to use up some veggies I had sitting around. And the avocado was staring deep into my soul, beckoning me to devour it. So it goes. I am loving all the roma tomatoes I keep picking from our garden! They are small, sweet and beefy and I seem to be eating them with every meal. Yay lycopene! Overall, I really enjoyed the polenta! It was creamy and I can see it having much potential to develop into any sort of dish. I baked my polenta because I wasn’t too in the mood for mush! This went well with some roasted veggies on the side.

Basic Polenta

  • 1 cup corn grits / meal/ polenta stuff
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups milk of choice (I used almond)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Spices of choice (i.e. onion powder, garlic, chili powder, sage, rosemary…depends on the dish you’re looking to make!)
  • 1 cup of shredded vegan cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Tbsp of favorite sweetener (this was an afterthought to the dish–just a hint of sweetness would make this even better)
Bring liquids to a boil in a large pot. Slowly whisk in corn grits and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thick, being sure to avoid lumps. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. The polenta can be eaten this way or fried in a pan for a few minutes, spread into a thin layer on a greased baking sheet and cooked for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once during that time. There are also many other ways to prepare polenta! Just do some googling and experimenting. Leftover polenta is awesome. I think I will be slicing some of mine up and grilling it! Yum.


First week of fall semester has been conquered! Just 14 more…eeek! I really think I’m going to enjoy my “Religious Movements of the US” class. I am constantly fascinated by the objective study of religions, their ideologies and effects on society and truly get sucked in by learning about cultural taboos, similarities between all religions and their historical background, whether rooted in fact or fiction. This can be a touchy subject for many people, but I love this sort of controversy and seeing what it stems from. Thank you, anthropology! πŸ™‚ My professor for the course is definitely a button-pusher–from the moment she made her grand entrance into the classroom, she’s been dropping f-bombs, pushing boundaries and forcing us to think about our own beliefs. I really feel I learn the most from eccentric, critical professors that force your to think outside the box. Classes such as this one make me feel like the amount of money I’m putting toward my education is worth it. πŸ™‚ But now, it’s late and I have to get up early! Goodnight moon!

Three Bite Brownies with a Peanut Butter Cookie Middle

15 Aug

CHOCOLATE! One of my major weaknesses. Don’t get between me and a chocolate bar. I will fight you for it. For some reason I had a craving for some chocolatey, peanut buttery goodness this weekend and needed to find a unique way to combine the two. I came up with a brownie with a peanut butter cookie in the middle…but haven’t thought of a better name. These are only three bite brownies if you have a large mouth and like to just dive in and devour your food. I didn’t want something overwhelmingly sugary and really hate using refined, white sugar. I used the glorious and versatile maple syrup to sweeten this treat up. Also, applesauce replaced butter, reducing the fat and contributing to the sweet moistness of the brownies.

Brownie Recipe (adapted from here)

  • ΒΌ cup Applesauce
  • ΒΎ cup Maple Syrup (or try honey, agave nectar, stevia, etc)
  • Egg replacement equivalent to 1 Egg (1 tbsp flaxseed ground with 3 tbsp water = 1 egg!)
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla (I ran out of vanilla, but they still tasted great without!)
  • Β½ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • Β½ tsp. Salt
  • 4 tbsp. Cocoa
  • Β½ cup Chopped nuts (optional)

Thoroughly mix all wet ingredients first. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Slowly add to wet ingredients, but do not overmix. Slowly fold in nuts, if using. Time to make the cookie dough!

Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from here)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used a mix of crunchy and smooth…mainly because I ran out of crunchy.)
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Then dump into one bowl! Dough will be thick and pretty dry. You will definitely have some leftover, so make them into cookies! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll about a tablespoon of dough in your hand and flatten with a cup. With a wet fork, make criss-cross marks. Sprinkle some sugar on top and pop into the oven for about 11 minutes.

To assemble the brownie/cookie things: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray/grease a muffin tin. Spoon about a tablespoon of brownie batter into each muffin groove. Take about a tablespoon (or slightly less) of the peanut butter cookie dough, roll into a ball and flatten in your hand. I made mine slightly smaller than the muffin circle so that the brownie part could encompass the peanut butter cookie completely, hiding it from the world! Place the peanut butter cookie onto the already spooned brownie batter, then cover with another 1.5 tbsp of brownie batter (or however much you want!) Just make sure the cookie is completely covered in the brownie goop. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. It’s a little hard to tell if they’re done, but really, you can’t go wrong because there’s no egg! No worries! πŸ™‚ If you really have a sweet tooth, sprinkle some powdered cane sugar on top. Now, go find someone who doesn’t know what you were concocting in your kitchen and surprise them with a bite!

This was a great dessert that didn’t make me feel too guilty to indulge in! The maple syrup was a “barely-there” flavor and didn’t make you feel like you had just stuck your tongue into a bag sugar. Of course, this might not be appealing to everyone, but I enjoyed the light sweetness and didn’t feel like I had to go take a nap after eating. Applesauce kept these moist and they’re still moist even a day later! Just remember to wrap them up or store them in a bag. Great additions to these would be some chocolate chips, carob chips, or some broken pretzels (salty+sweet=amazing).

French Bread / Grilled Vegetable & Pesto Paninis

11 Aug

Ah, the beloved crusty french bread. A seemingly difficult task to recreate this fluffy/crispy dichotomy, it turns out to be a rather simple recipe with a few basic ingredients. When I stumbled across this recipe at “Gourmet Mom On the Go”, I immediately knew I had to try it. Such an easy approach to making something I would typically buy in the store. I pretty much followed her recipe exactly, except I made it even easier…by utilizing by bread maker. Lazy lazy, I know, but it got the job done without me worrying if I had killed the yeast! I also didn’t roll the dough out like she did…I just kind of blobbed it together until it was a nice shape. Sidenote: shape it into a boule and you have an AWESOME breadbowl for a hearty soup! Might have to try this in the winter… This bread was perfect for what I had in mind for dinner: PANINIS!

We’re getting to that awkward point in the week where it’s too soon to go to the grocery, yet you have to use some creativity to figure something out for dinner. Zucchini squash, heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, bell peppers, and a quick spinach pesto make these hearty paninis. The squash and bell peppers were tossed in some olive oil + salt/pepper and grilled for a few minutes. I whipped up the spinach pesto using a couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach (feel free to sub some fresh basil in there), walnuts, garlic, salt+pepper, and olive oil. Whizzed it in the VitaMix until pasty and spread it on the sliced french bread. I bought a couple heirloom beefsteak tomatoes the other day from a little farm that’s across the street from the library I work at…in the middle of the neighborhood! Such a neat little farm. The tomatoes tasted SO good fresh, no need to grill or prepare them any other way. Layered the grilled vegetables on top of everything and whipped out the panini press. It’s always nice to kind of feel like you’re justifying having a ridiculous amount of kitchen gadgets by actually using them. If you don’t have a panini press, just make them like you would a grilled cheese. Or even throw them on the grill if you’re looking for those authentic grill lines. Quick and easy dinner using ingredients I already had. Love it.

The bulk of my day tomorrow will play out as such: up early to go to a couple intriguing estate sales to scope out some Pyrex, whip together a fruit salad for a pot luck at work tomorrow, work, rejoice at being one day closer to having the children out of the library and back at school, and finally, come home. Relax. Possibly do something with the butternut squash that’s been sitting on the counter. Perhaps. But now? TO BED!

Taco Pizza

7 Aug

deelish.

I saw Pioneer Woman’s post on Taco Pizza back in May and was intrigued. A combination of two things I adore: taco + pizza.Β  PW made the recipe very easy to follow and rather a quick meal to throw together, as long as you have the ingredients. I tweaked it a bit for my own tastes (and made it vegan!)

Taco Pizza, originally by the Pioneer Woman!

I only changed a few things, but followed her recipe pretty closely. Instead of black beans, I used vegetarian refried beans as the base (or sauce, I guess) of the pizza. I also used Mexican-style veggie crumbles, heated in a pan with cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder + some water. I smooshed the pizza onto my Silpat, making it thinner than I normally would. I assembled it as such: refried beans generously spread around, veggie crumbles, & vegan cheese (I grated some Follow Your Heart cheddar…not as good as Daiya, but it got the job done.) This was baked for about 20 minutes. Once done, I spread some homemade salsa on top with chopped fresh baby spinach.

My favorite part of this dish was the sour cream mixture drizzled on top. I made this using raw cashews (soaked for one hour), lemon juice and salt. Processed until smooth, then added one avocado. Along the way, just to help with texture and thinness, I added some water. Lastly, Cholula hot sauce was folded in and voila! A very flavorful, but dairy-free sour cream substitute. It was very rich-tasting and creamy, thanks to one of my favorite things in the world: the avocado. This had a sort of refreshing, cooling effect to the spiciness of the fresh salsa and pizza. YUM. Happiness.

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese (Made with Homemade Cashew Milk!)

5 Aug

oh, it was so good.

I’ve been so curious about making cashew milk. Such an intriguing idea, soaking cashews for a few hours, blending, and voila! Cashew milk! It just seems too easy! How would it taste? Is it good to cook with? Is the texture funky? My first try at using cashew milk worked wonderfully! I used my mom’s recipe for Mac & Cheese that uses a bechamel sauce and breadcrumbs. She even made this for my birthday one year and put candles in it because I LOVE MAC&CHEESE that much. Making this with cashew milk was a breeze and was much richer and creamier than using other alternative milks.

Cashew Milk

  • 1 cup RAW cashews
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups water

Place cashews in a bowl with enough water to cover. Let soak for at least a couple hours (overnight is best!) Place cashews in high-quality blender and slowly add water. For a thicker, creamier substance, add less water. I used about 2 cups water for the sauce, but for regular cashew milk, add 3 or 4 cups. I didn’t add any sweetener, but if using for drinking or sweet dishes, add a couple tablespoons of maple syrup, honey or agave nectar.

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

White Sauce (Bechamel)

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance!)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cashew milk, heated
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • A few dashes of garlic powder πŸ™‚
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (used Daiya here)

i'm always looking for a reason to show off my pyrex πŸ™‚

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add flour.Β  With a whisk, stir flour until well mixed. Let cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly, but be careful not to let burn. Slowly add the hot cashew milk and continue stirring. Bring to a boil and keep stirring as the sauce thickens. Add spices. Lower the heat and let cook a couple minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese. Set aside.

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 9 oz dry whole wheat noodles (sure, you can use macaroni, but other noodles work just as well!)
  • 2 cups cheese sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly made breadcrumbs

Boil noodles until al dente per your instructions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour boiled noodles into a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish and pour the cheese sauce over. Gently mix until well incorporated and spread cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs over the top.Β  Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly! EAT.

Notes:

  • Homemade mac and cheese is just so far superior to boxed. Reading through this recipe, you will see how it really isn’t hard at all to make a great homemade version that you can pronounce all the ingredients of! Slightly more time consuming, but completely worth it instead of using powdered cheese crap in a box πŸ™‚
  • Need more cheesy-ness? Add a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the sauce. It will give it a nice yellow color and that “cheesy” nooch flavor!
  • In the mood for something spicy? Add a bit of cayenne pepper to the bechamel and throw in some chopped jalapenos.
  • Pair with a side of lightly steamed broccoli and some Pinot Grigio!

Cashew milk? I LOVE IT. I have grand plans for this delightful homemade milk! Fettucine Alfredo would be GREAT with this! So many possibilities. I’m inspired!

At the advice of a couple of my co-workers and my piqued interest, I’ve been reading up on CANNING! We are going to have a ton of heirloom tomatoes once they all ripen and I don’t want them to go to waste. We also joined a local Fruit CSA and will have tons of apples and peaches soon! Canning has always made me a bit nervous because it seems like so many things can go wrong! And now, at higher altitude, EVEN MORE CAN GO WRONG. BUT! I will prevail. Working at a library is wonderful because I have so many great resources right in front of me. I literally have about 3/4 of our collection of cookbooks checked out…I’ll return them eventually…If anyone has general advice/words of wisdom on canning, please share! πŸ™‚

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal & Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers

5 Aug


Looks like I have some bloggin’ to catch up on! Yesterday morning had me craving something sweet and filling…and oatmeal easily fulfills that task! Oats are high in fiber and help lower cholesterol…and taste good. Always remember to use rolled oats and not quick! I’ve been inspired by Kath over at Kath Eats Real Food because she always has such great looking oatmeal! Check out her “Tribute to Oatmeal” page for lots of tasty variations!

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal with Sliced Raw Almonds, Chia Seeds and Wheat Germ

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • Lots of cinnamon! 1-2 tsp
  • 1 tbsp of your favorite sweetener (i.e. honey, agave nectar, etc)
  • pinch of salt
  • Nutmeg, cloves, or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond milk (or water or any non-dairy milk you prefer)
  • Any toppings you like. In this case I used sliced raw almonds, chia seeds, wheat germ

Throw chopped apple + spices + sweetener into a saucepan. Let cook for a minute or two…then add rolled oats, stir, and add the almond milk. Bring to a low boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes (though everything takes longer at high altitude!) or until you have your preferred consistency. Top with tasty things and enjoy in your favorite dish (in my case, in my UGLY mug!)

Yum. So many different things you can do with oatmeal! This made enough to split between two people (I get so full after eating oats).

I had some green bell peppers sitting on the counter form the farmer’s market this past weekend and they were just on the brink of being too far gone, so I had to use them! I was able to whip this meal up in under an hour. Lots of protein from the quinoa and a variety of veggies make this a healthy, hearty dinner.

Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 4-5 Bell Peppers, tops cut off and seeds/innards cut out
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (or use fresh!), not drained
  • Small can of sweet peas
  • Small can of sweet corn
  • 1/2 medium sized zucchini squash, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder (I LOVE GARLIC)
  • Vegan shredded cheddar cheese (highly recommend Daiya brand)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Parboil the bell peppers for 5 minutes, drain and set aside. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the inside of each pepper.

Prepare quinoa per your brand’s instructions. Add diced tomatoes, peas, corn and chopped zucchini. Mix spices in!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In an oven-safe dish (PYREX IS AWESOME), place bell peppers upright. Carefully spoon the filling in. About halfway, add a layer of shredded cheese. Continue to fill up to the top and then add more cheese! Breadcrumbs would be tasty too. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until everything is looking cheesy, goopy and delicious.

Notes:

  • Want more protein? Add some black beans to the mix! Cilantro, jalapenos, onion and cayenne pepper would make this a great spicy dish!
  • No quinoa? Use rice or couscous!
  • Looking for a meaty version? Add your favorite veggie crumbles, like Gimme Lean!

Yesterday was tasty, I must say. So glad it’s FRIDAY! Most likely going GARAGE SALE-ING (sailing? yes. like on a boat.) tomorrow to try and find some interesting things. Estate sales are the best! Just have to weed through all the crap to get to the good stuff. Happy Friday!