Cauliflower Leek Soup

This soup is just as tasty as it's potato-y cousin, but lighter and better for you
This soup is just as tasty as it’s potato-y cousin, but lighter and better for you

My sister asked me last weekend if there was a way to make potato leek soup without the potatoes, and I thought “challenge accepted”. I love leeks so much and don’t eat potatoes, so why not try to make one of my favourite comfort foods better for you?! And since cauliflower is all the rage these days, I figured I would give that a try to replace the potatoes. And success!

This soup is great as is, but adding some thyme, some curry powder, or whatever spice you might like to pump this soup up would totally work because the flavours are mild but delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 a medium cooking onion, diced

3 leeks, trimmed, halved and sliced

1 large cauliflower, broken into small pieces

4 cups vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven on medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add onion and continue to cook, 3 minutes. Add leeks and cook for another 5 minutes until soft. Add cauliflower and stir through. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

 

Blend until smooth with a hand mixer or in a food processor. Should you want a creamier or heartier soup, add 1/4 cup of cream or blend 1/2 a can of chickpeas into the soup.

Serve and enjoy!

French Onion Soup

So simple so good
So simple so good

So I know that EVERYONE is under the impression that French Onion soup needs beef broth and soggy bread to be awesome…and to be honest French Onion Soup with both of those things is crazy good. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here is a surprising truth: French Onion Soup originated in the French countrysides in husband and wife little hostels/b&b’s where travelers stopped for a filling meal and a good sleep. The only ingredients in their soup were onions, water, salt & pepper, and then topped with whatever they could afford at the time. It was designed to be a cheap and long-lasting and easily accessible, and let’s face it, onions are pretty much always good to go.

My French Onion Soup is completely vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free without any toppers, so it’s totally up to you what it becomes. Oh, and did I mention that it is delicious and flavourful and if you never say anything NO ONE will guess that there is no meat involved in the making of this soup. I dare you to take this challenge…

Ingredientsimage

8-12 onions, sliced (the more variety the better)

1/2 bottle of decent, full bodied red (Cab Sauv is best, a French full bodied wine is better, but basically anything you will drink on it’s own but doesn’t cost a ton)

1 carton (900ml) vegetable stock (or even better make your own)

1 carton (refill your veggie stock carton) water

White, non-died string + cheesecloth

2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

3 bay leaves

Parmesan Crisps

1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese + parchament paper

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Half and slice onions by hand or in food processor, making lengthwise strips. Put all strips in large stock pot with lid or Dutch Oven on stove on medium heat, and let cook for 4-8 hours. Remember, the longer it cooks the more flavour you get; these onions will create their own, amazing, delicious juice which is what you want for this soup. The onions should caramelize and can even stick to the bottom of the pot as much as they want, because that’s all flavour. Stir every hour or so. No butter, no oil, no anything is necessary for this process.

Once you have decided your onions are dark enough, add your wine, and let cook/reduce for 5 minutes. Then add vegetable broth, water, and bay leaves. Pack the thyme and rosemary in the cheesecloth, make a “tea bag” and tie/secure with string, then drop in the soup, tieing one end of the string to a pot handle. If you have no cheesecloth, no worries…tie the herbs together and secure to the pot handle without the cheesecloth and your good. Let cook one hour.

Optional: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Place 2 inch round disks of grated parm. Cook for 5 minutes until golden and let cool.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with Parmesan Crisps. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Vegetable Soup

Full of vitamins, iron and calcium, this soup helps you fight the winter germs and fills you up
Full of vitamins, iron and calcium, this soup helps you fight the winter germs and fills you up

I also call this soup “Don’t Get Sick” Soup, because it kicks ass at keeping you healthy when everyone else has a brutal cold. In fact, the veggies in the soup are all extremely high in either Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, or Iron (or a combination of all of them). This soup is also great for vegans and vegetarians who have a difficult time getting Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin A from animal sources. Sometimes I even add chili flakes to the soup when I add the oregano to get that nose running and to rev up my metabolism.

But aside from all of that good-for-you awesomeness, my Winter Vegetable Soup is delicious comfort food that will keep you warm all winter long, and is really easy to make. The beans add a bit of creaminess to the soup, and the richness pairs perfectly with a bold glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ingredients

2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and coarsly chopped

1 medium cooking onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 can of navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium zucchini, chopped

4 cups (half bunch) of kale, leaves only, broken into small pieces

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 can (794g) of whole tomatoes + 1 can of water

1 carton (900ml) vegetable stock

fresh ground salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in Dutch Oven or large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add carrots, celery and beans, season with salt and pepper, add oregano, and cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Add zucchini and kale and cook until kale has reduced, 3 minutes.

Add juice from tomato can, then add each tomato in the can one at a time, squeezing in your hand to break apart, throwing out the greenish, hard core of each one. Rinse the can with water and add that water to the pot. Add the vegetable stock, and bring everything to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

imageLadle into bowls, serve, and enjoy! Keep soup up to one week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer in a tightely sealed mason jar.

 

Note: I always try to buy organic everything because I like to avoid chemicals entering my body as much as possible. Buying whole tomatoes in a can means they have only been processed once, unlike diced or crushed tomatoes which are processed twice or more. This way they maintain more of their nutrients, and we always want more nutrients.

 

 

Button and Wild Mushroom Soup

This "creamy" vegan mushroom soup tastes better than traditional
This “creamy” vegan mushroom soup tastes better than traditional

 

I used to hate mushrooms. Their texture was weird to me, and I wasn’t too keen on their strong, earthy taste. Today I have grown to absolutely love them, but I find myself surrounded by people who still have a hate on for the flavourful fungi. This soup is my attempt to convince even those the most fearful of mushrooms to give them a chance. And it usually works…at least until the bowl is gone.

 

I would like to note that the key to the flavour and richness of this soup lies in the use of a variety of mushrooms. In this recipe I use button, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms, but essentially the sky’s the limit in terms of different types. Use as many kinds of mushrooms as you like. I saved some of each type to slice and add in at the end, but you can leave the soup as is after it’s blended if you prefer.

The more kinds of mushrooms, the more lfavourful the soup will be
The more kinds of mushrooms, the more flavourful the soup will be

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

1 medium cooking onion, diced

5 cups of a variety of button, cremini and shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup sweet white wine like Vidal or Riesling

1 carton (900ml) no salt added veggie stock

2-4 sprigs of thyme

1 carton (945ml) organic almond milk (should only have 5 ingredients max)

salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes (Optional)

Old white cheddar, grated

Truffle oil

Fresh thyme

 

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add onions, some fresh ground salt & pepper, and cook until translucent, 3 minutes. Add all of the mushrooms, or save 1 cup if you like sliced mushroom pieces in your soup.image

 

Place the thyme sprigs on top of the mushrooms, turn up the heat to medium high, and allow the mushrooms to begin sticking to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the white wine and stir, pulling away all of the caramelized bits stuck to the bottom. Reduce for 3 minutes. Add veggie stock, almond milk, and more ground salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and let simmer for 20 minutes.

 

Strining Mushroom SoupBlend soup with a handheld blender. If using a food processor or smoothie blender, make sure you let the soup cool first. Once soup is blended, you have the option to pass it through a fine sieve placed over a bowl to make the soup less gritty.

If you saved some sliced mushrooms, heat a bit of olive oil in the empty soup pot, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the soup back into the pot and heat through.

Garnish with grated old white cheddar, a sprig of thyme, or some truffle oil (or all three), serve, and enjoy.

Being Off Booze

Enough said
Enough said

So I am doing a dry January. For those of you who know me, you are laughing out loud, slapping your knee and crying because me without wine or cider is a ridiculous thought. For those of you who don’t know me, you’re wondering why anyone would put themselves through such a thing. But for those who know me really well, you know that I have been doing a dry January for some years now. And turns out other people do it too…it’s a thing.

Usually being off booze is a real struggle for me, not because I need to be drunk all the time by any means, but because I love a great wine paired perfectly with a delicious dish. Because I love to try emerging craft ciders. And because sometimes all you need is a gin martini with a twist. Don’t get me wrong…I am from up north (like way up north), so I know that if you have to hike into that campsite, a box of wine without the box, also known as a bag of wine, not only travels well but will get you drunk and also makes a great pillow if it lasts through the night. I also know that the fastest, cheapest way to get drunk is doing a shot every once in a while until last call (aaahh…break-ups).

However, perhaps it’s because I have matured into a “classy drinker”, if you will, or because I am becoming more aware that “Toto, I don’t think we’re in college anymore”, but this January being off the booze is not only not hard, but feels just right. I feel awesome. I make it to the gym or yoga almost every day. I am not only eating, but craving healthy meals. And drinking tons of water has become second nature.

But why quit drinking, you ask?

1. Because Dehydration

Drinking even just a “couple” glasses of wine most nights will dehydrate you. Dehydration can easily put you in the hospital, and is terrible for all things internal and external. By laying off the booze you can help aid anything from dry skin, chapped lips, and brittle hair and nails, to stiff joints, muscle cramps, and constipation.

2. Because Horngry

That’s right…it’s horny plus hungry. You have a proverbial hard-on for all things starchy, salty, deep-friedy, saucy, sticky, cheesy, and gooey. Booze makes your body crave things high in both sugar and salt. Essentially, you are sabotaging any healthy changes you are trying to make to your diet, because you will lose and choose shit food too often to keep you on track.

3. Because “You Ugly”

In uni you may have been privy to the learnings from a poster on your buddy’s dorm room wall that he bought at the Imaginus poster sale that read “Beer. Helping Ugly People Get Laid Since 1776” (or something to that effect). However while drinking may make other people more attractive to you (and that’s a whole other pile of wrong), the truth is it makes you unattractive, both long and short-term. When you’re drunk you tend to slouch and stick out your belly. You sweat more which makes your hair look greasier. And regular boozing will eventually lead to serious wrinkles, blotchy skin, and just rapidly age you before your time. Before you know it you will be drinking to handle your own ugly, pre-mature cougary looking reflection, and that’s sad.

4. Because “You Dumb”

It’s true…think about it. You are smarter when you don’t drink. And I don’t mean you avoid making stupid impulse decisions or mistakes…this isn’t a miracle. I mean you are actually more intelligent sans the drinky-poo. Your memory is clearer, your thoughts are more precise, you have better concentration, and you make fewer careless mistakes. While some of the best ideas were once a drunk drawing on a pizza box (aka Trivial Pursuit), I will bet most of the best ideas came from a sober stroke of genius rather than a drunken shot of vodka.

Essentially I am not recommending that you never enjoy a beautiful glass of red again, but saying that it may be time for you to ease up on the reigns. Or at least try a month being off booze and see what happens. My prediction is you will be pleasantly surprised at how awesome you feel, and what you are capable of.

 

Please note that a permanent leave of absence from alcohol may be the best choice for you for many serious and complex reasons. Should this be the case, do not be afraid to ask for help.

 

Thai Red Curry Soup

Thai Red Curry Soup

 

I stumbled across Thai curry paste in one of my first grocery trips in the big city and was so curious and excited. I don’t know whether it was super common then and I was just a small town girl (start singing Journey lyrics here), or whether it has now become more readily available with the popularity of Thai cuisine. Whatever the case, the curry paste in this recipe can be found at most grocery stores, and is the proverbial tie that binds everything together in a perfect harmony of delicious, creamy, spicy, sweet, soupy goodness.

This recipe is a healthier gluten free pascatarian version of the one included on the label of my aforementioned first jar of Thai curry paste, and after tweaking it for several years, this is my favourite and the easiest version. Use a Dutch Oven for best results.

Soup in a Dutch Oven always has more character and depth than cooking in any other vessel

Ingredients

4 tbsp coconut oil

3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 medium cooking onion, chopped

2-3 inches of fresh ginger root, chopped

2-3 cups of frozen Thai vegetable mix OR 2 cups fresh snap peas, sliced red pepper, sliced cremini mushrooms, julienned carrots, beans, and chopped broccoli (see why frozen is better?)

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 400ml can of whole coconut milk

1/2 carton or 450ml no or low salt vegetable broth (Add the whole carton for more soup…it just won’t be as coconuty)

1 tbsp lemongrass paste OR 1 blade of lemon grass, cut into 4 large pieces

1/2 tsp lime zest

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

1 tbsp of coconut sugar (substitute brown sugar but know it’s not natural)

1/3 package of extra firm tofu, cut into cubes

Garnishes: Cashews, fresh cilantro, chilli flakes, lime squeezes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 2 tbsp of coconut oil in a dutch oven on medium heat and let warm. Add the garlic and let cook for 30 seconds. Add the onion and ginger, and let cook until the onions are translucent, 3-5 minutes. Turn pot to medium-high and add frozen vegetables to sear and avoid sogginess; cook 5 minutes (if using fresh vegetables, you can do the same but reduce cooking time 2-3 minutes).

Add fish sauce, coconut milk, vegetable broth, lemongrass, red curry paste, and coconut sugar. Stir the pot a few times, then cover and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The soup should cook down an inch or two. Once out of the oven, remove the lemongrass pieces if you used fresh.

While the soup is in the oven, heat the remaining coconut oil to medium high and place the tofu pieces in the hot oil, turning every 2-3 minutes until all sides are golden brown. Place on paper towel to drain.

Once soup is finished, ladle into bowls and garnish with tofu pieces, cashews, cilantro, and chilli flakes. Squeeze the lime over the soup, then drop in the bowl. Enjoy!

Set up the garnishes and allow guests to build their own soup
Set up the garnishes and allow guests to build their own soup

UP THE PROTEIN: Add cooked chicken or raw red lentils to the soup before it goes in the oven.

WHEN YOU’RE CRAZY HUNGRY: Add a handful of pre cooked quinoa to the bowl before you ladle the soup in for a starch free meal, or use brown rice noodles or brown or black rice if you’re body is craving starch.

Note: This dish can be made vegetarian by adding 1 tbsp salt in place of the fish sauce, and using vegetarian Thai red curry paste.