Sometimes you just need soup. And now that winter has finally hit with a good three or four inches of snow that I am forced to shovel, I am thrilled to come back inside the warm house to be greeted by this hearty, filling, vegan soup. Best part – like most soups, you can experiment and throw in whatever you like, whatever you have on hand.
Vegan vegetable quinoa chickpea soup
Ingredients (you can play with this as much as you like… this is just what I’ve done)
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion or two shallots, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup dry quinoa (I use tricolor quinoa)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon dry basil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 or 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 container (about 15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
28 ounces (about two normal-sized tins) of crushed tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tin coconut milk
Any vegetables you want to throw in
Salt, pepper to taste
In a soup pot, saute the onions/shallots, and if you are using the carrot and celery saute those too. I have not always added these, and the soup is good without them. Add a pinch of salt and continue to saute until soft. Just before adding other ingredients, throw in the garlic and saute for half a minute.
Add the fennel seeds, basil, Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast, and stir. Add the rinsed quinoa and chickpeas. Stir and saute for one minute or so. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth and coconut milk. Stir. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cook with the lid on for about 20 minutes.
Stir now and again to make sure the quinoa does not stick to the bottom of the pan. After about 15 minutes, throw in whatever frozen vegetables you want to add (I threw in some broccoli). Then at about 20 minutes, throw in the fresh veg that don’t need as long to cook; I added some quartered zucchini and a few cups of baby spinach leaves. Once you add the vegetables let it cook for another five or ten minutes until the veg achieves a consistency you like.
Finally, after much experimentation, I have achieved the perfect consistency and flavor for my mashed cauliflower. Side benefit: it’s vegan (although you could add a bit of butter if you wanted when you’re blending it). I wanted it to be flavorful and have the same consistency as fluffy mashed potatoes.
In the past when I’ve tried to make this, I used fresh cauliflower, which somehow didn’t soften up well enough, and I got something less than cohesive and almost grainy. The frozen cauliflower, added directly from the freezer releases liquid as it roasts, helping to soften it while still allowing the cauliflower to take on a nutty, roasted flavor. It’s also a lifesaver because this can be done on the fly if you have cauliflower in your freezer, as I always do.
I also added an onion to the pan because previous attempts to make mashed cauliflower didn’t end up having much flavor. Once roasted, of course, you don’t want the cauliflower to have too much liquid in it because it will be too watery/soupy when blended. Somehow I got the right ratio of everything this time, and the texture was just like the mashed potatoes I wanted to emulate.
The downside is… I couldn’t get a good photo (as if I ever do). I mean how can mushy, mashed-up, grey cauliflower ever look good? And when, frankly, I am a terrible photographer and the lighting in my house is bad (especially at 4 a.m. when I made this)? Try not to let the dull look of this dish as I prepared and photographed it put you off. I assure you, as much as this looks like slop (as many of my best-tasting meals do), this is amazing.
1 package (600 grams) frozen cauliflower florets
one small or medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper to taste, if desired
In a medium-sized roasting pan (or a medium cast iron skillet, which is what I did), add the oil, chopped onion and cauliflower. Roast in the oven at 200C for about 20 minutes, add a pinch of salt, stir, and return to the oven for maybe another 20 minutes at 180C. It’s ready when the cauliflower is completely roasted and soft/mashable.
Mash up the bigger pieces of cauliflower and add salt, pepper and cayenne before transferring to a bowl. Use a hand/stick blender to mix blend to a mashed potato consistency.
Taste to make sure you like the seasoning (and season to your taste).
Aquafaba, the equivalent of four egg whites
1 cup sugar
Several tablespoons of sifted unsweetened cocoa
(You could also add vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean powder when you’re adding the cocoa. You can also add a lot more cocoa if you prefer. I used about two tablespoons, so it has a light chocolate touch.
Heat sugar and aquafaba, whisking together, in a glass bowl over a saucepan filled with water, gently simmering.
When the sugar is completely dissolved, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to whisk at high speed until it comes together in medium peaks.
Can you believe that this is chickpea water?!
Sift cocoa in and this point and continue to whisk – this will take while but will become fluffy eventually.
Put in individual serving bowls and refrigerate for a few hours.
It’s not ‘pretty’, and this won’t be quite like the mousse you might be used to. It is very light but has a chocolatey marshmallow flavor.
This is a very simple version of a kind of vegan “mousse” you could make if you want something chocolate, light, easy, and vegan. I will soon try another version.
On this day of torrential downpours, excessive reading and television viewing, I am not sure that there is a better time to experiment with food.
As I previously wrote, I don’t like cooking. Baking and candy-making is a bit more up my alley. Sometimes, various ingredients I use in cooking, like a tin of chickpeas, have castoff bits. Normally you strain your beans, sending the valuable bean water down the sink. But in fact, this miraculous liquid (also known as aquafaba) can act as an egg-white substitute and used to make vegan meringue, vegan Swiss meringue buttercream, and any number of other things… like espresso meringue cookies (my first aquafaba experiment).
the miracle juice…
… looks like mucus
I had some chickpea water leftover from one of my ugly cooking extravaganzas, and I thought about what kind of sweet things I could attempt. I thought back to a baking/candy-making disaster of my childhood. My mother tried to make traditional divinity candy many years ago, and it requires (as all divinity does) such extensive beating that she burned out her ancient hand mixer. She’s never made it again, despite replacing the hand mixer with a more heavy-duty stand mixer.
I should also note here that corn syrup is called for in this kind of recipe, and apart from believing that corn syrup is flavorless and bad, it’s also just not sold here. I use golden syrup instead.
I recently watched the lightweight but engaging Nadiya’s Time to Eat on Netflix, in which the affable host, Nadiya, visited the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery and made a recipe using Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is something I use liberally and always have on hand for my baking.
I had never given much thought to the syrup but had a gab with S about it, and he said he always thought, as a kid, that there was a dead lion on the label. We looked it up, and indeed, it is a dead lion with bees buzzing around it, bearing text related to a Biblical passage (Judges 14:14): “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. A rotting lion carcass seems like an unusual slogan and brand position for a sickly sweet baking ingredient, but it has remained the same since the beginning. I read up a bit on Abram Lyle only to discover that he was a teetotaler and devout Presbyterian Scot, and is quoted as having said he’d “rather see a son of his carried home dead than drunk”.
Not terribly strange, but when you consider that his company merged with the rival Tate enterprise (to form Tate & Lyle), it’s strange bedfellows. Henry Tate, best known perhaps for giving his name and art collection to numerous art galleries in the UK, also gave freely to “non-establishment” causes and workers’ conditions. What struck me, in contrast to Lyle, was that he established a bar to let his workers have a good time (and probably to keep them out of trouble, trouble being bad for productivity, of course). Though Lyle and Tate the men never met each other, it’s hard to think Lyle would have approved of this kind of recreation. I love the contrast and kind of wish the men had met, and we could have a semi-fictional miniseries on the competing sugar refiners, along the same lines of The English Game to tell what could probably be a fascinating story. Much more fascinating than the tale of how my experimental aquafaba divinity candy turned out.
Aquafaba vegan divinity candy
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup golden syrup (or corn syrup, which isn’t sold here, and is not as nice or flavorful as golden syrup anyway)
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons aquafaba/chickpea water
1 teaspoon vanilla
(Add chopped nuts, if desired)
Heat sugar, water, syrup and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Add a candy thermometer, and continue cooking until the mixture reaches hard ball stage on the thermometer.
Separately, beat the aquafaba with a mixer using the whisk attachment until it holds a stiff, meringue-like shape.
Very slowly add the sugar mixture and vanilla into the beaten aquafaba, and beat until stiff peaks form. You must beat to get the stiffest possible peaks; divinity will not hold its shape if you don’t beat it to the right consistency. That means you are going to beat, beat and beat some more… and you will be very happy that you have a stand mixer that can work autonomously.
To give you an idea of how much time the beating will take, know that I read a whole book. Between waiting for the syrup mixture to reach hard ball stage and the interminable beating stage, I read Virginia Woolf‘s A Room of One’s Own in its entirety. I’m a fast reader, and it’s not an excessively long book. But you get the idea. This is a very easy recipe – but it’s extremely time consuming. You will, however, be able to do multitask while the mixer works its magic. I think the “hard ball” waiting period was about 30 minutes, and then the beating process to reach the final product was another 30 minutes. Obviously this can differ, but this is just what worked for me.
At the very end of the process, add nuts if so inclined. Oh, I also added a wee pinch of red food coloring just to get a subtle tint for the final product.
Make small, rough blobs of divinity on pans lined with parchment or wax paper, or put into a pan and cut into squares. Let the little overly sweet balls set. I don’t eat stuff like this but did take a wee taste to make sure these at least taste edible. Apart from being sickeningly sweet (which some people like), they have a more complex flavor than if I’d made them with corn syrup, and also have a deeply vanilla flavor (thanks to the vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder I added).
I don’t like cooking, and I don’t enjoy shopping for food. Preparing anything beyond just throwing asparagus or broccoli into a roasting pan or whipping spinach and kiwi together in a blender with frozen berries is taxing and not how I prefer to spend my time. But now that we’re facing the dregs of my cupboards, I’m just making whatever is… possible. Something vegan… and ugly as usual.
Chickpea quinoa concoction
1 cup quinoa (I used a tricolor mix; rinsed)
1.5 cups water
1 tin crushed tomatoes (you could use stewed tomatoes with chilies, peppers, garlic or just plain tomatoes)
1 tin chickpeas, drained (you can of course also use fresh chickpeas)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil (butter if you don’t care if this is vegan)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of black pepper
pinch of turmeric
pinch of salt
Heat oil in a large pan and add onion; saute for about five minutes, add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the spices (cayenne, cumin, pepper, turmeric).
Increase heat on stove to medium-high. Add the rinsed quinoa, water, tomato. Stir. Add in the chickpeas. Stir again. Bring to a boil.
Stir, reduce temperature to low to maintain a low simmer. Cover the pan, let cook for 15 or so minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for a minute or two.
Serve on its own, with a flatbread, with a dollop of sour cream (or non-dairy sour cream) or whatever strikes your fancy.
In a post-tooth extraction/infection world, operating with ingredients on hand, the diet becomes overwhelmed by soup. Smooth soups. Good thing soup is a favorite – and easy. For a few days running, I’ve been on a semi-spicy black bean soup (a variation of this recipe) kick, but blended everything so as not to disturb the sensitive mouth. But today I had a bit of pumpkin leftover from something else, some must-use coconut milk and, most of all, hunger.
Hunger led me to the latest soup experiment, which is a take-off on my old go-to pumpkin curry soup recipe. In my updated version, I have guessed at the ratios – you can spice it to suit your own tastes, of course. I am not sure about the measurements. This is a super inexact recipe.
I added white beans to this because I wanted to thicken the soup a bit, add a bit of protein and a bit of texture. White beans don’t add much flavor, so this won’t ruin the flavor profiles of anything else you have going on.
On medium heat, saute the onion until golden. Add garlic and spices, stir and cook for about two minutes. Remove from heat until other parts of the soup are ready.
1 cup water
1/4 cup (or so) coconut milk
2 teaspoons vegan bouillon cube or powder (or equivalent)
15 (or so) ounce white beans (I used rinsed, tinned beans)
Mix all the liquid ingredients together with white beans in container or pan you can use for blending. Blend together with an immersion blender. When smooth, add to the spice mixture and return to medium heat.
15 ounce can pumpkin (or the “meat” of a baked butternut squash)
I only had about half this amount of pumpkin, and you adjust to your taste. Obviously. Mix this pumpkin into the simmering soup base. Let simmer about 10 or 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and blend with the immersion blender.
1 cup coconut milk
Coriander garnish if desired
Return the blended soup to low heat, mix in coconut milk until warm enough to serve.
Not long ago some acquaintances were raving about some protein bars that happen to come from Sweden. I will eventually get around to experimenting with making some approximation of those… but in the interim, doing my customary recipe research, I found a recipe for vegan chocolate protein ‘bliss balls’. I’m always looking for vegan stuff to try as well as gluten-free options (and this can be gluten-free too as long as your oats and protein powder of choice are GF). I’m not big on “protein bars” or snacks or what have you, but I know they are popular with many, so here’s my first foray into this world. Very easy, requiring no baking at all – just a bunch of ingredients thrown into a food processor and a tiny bit of mess when you roll them.
Vegan chocolate protein bliss balls (recipe)
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup oats
46-50 grams vegan chocolate protein powder
1/3 cup packed, pitted and chopped dates
about 1/4 cup almond milk (or water)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired
Throw everything into a food processor. Blend until you have a thick, smooth paste that you can easily roll into balls. You can then roll this in some coating (I used unsweetened cocoa powder). Store in the fridge. I think I made about 24 from this recipe.
I really can’t tell you what these taste like – I have never tried them and I am a bit too disgusted by dates to even put one of these in my mouth to find out if it’s edible, so I will have to rely on others to give me a verdict.
The other day I found coconut condensed milk at the store (yes, THE store, which is actually one of many stores) and thought this might be a good time to try it out in a basic, simple holiday candy favorite: chocolate truffles.
My normal chocolate truffle recipe is easy, and I went with the same recipe only substituting with vegan chocolate and condensed coconut milk. The vegan chocolate I bought really didn’t meet my satisfaction – it was too complicated as a non-milk, non-dairy chocolate, and I think using raw chocolate from Rawchoklad Fabriken, which I already have in abundance, would have been a better choice because it’s so completely basic and pure.
I am not entirely sure why I thought vegan anything was necessary. I don’t eat any of this stuff, and I don’t really know many vegans locally. But I have a vegan colleague who makes exceptions when it comes to sweets. But still it was just the experimental me who tries these things out.
I was skeptical when I had made the recipe and put it in the fridge to chill… but today when I rolled them out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the texture/feel worked. They were a little difficult to deal with once they got a bit too warm in the hand, which yielded a rough kind of ‘ball’, but I am sure it’s fine.
Last year, a few times, I made some black bean millet sweet potato burgers. I do not have the patience for this (mostly the sweet potato part since you need to fully bake the sweet potato first), especially when just cooking for myself, so today I attempted something similar – Sunday dinner. Not pretty but relatively tasty. It’s missing something I cannot pinpoint but is still quite edible.
1 cup cooked millet
1.5 cups drained and rinsed black beans
1 small red onion, shredded
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
pepper, to taste
Cook the millet, or use leftover millet. Slightly mash the black beans. Mix the spices together in a separate bowl. Mix everything together, mashing slightly. Form patties and cook on a medium-high griddle or pan in olive oil or another preferred oil.
Naturally you can experiment with the spices and with a topping (tomato salsa? guacamole? mango salsa?). I just used a blob of slightly spicy mustard to dip it in.