Tastes Just Like A Cabbage Roll Soup

Meaty mushrooms make up for the lack of beef or bacon and bam! This soup tastes like the real deal.
Meaty mushrooms make up for the lack of beef or bacon and bam! This soup tastes like the real deal.

Since I stopped eating meat, there are some things I miss; bacon, chicken wings, pulled pork, Big Macs, and cabbage rolls. I love cabbage rolls. They are meaty and starchy and comforting and delicious. And I haven’t had them in over 5 years.

So I set out to figure out how to bring cabbage rolls back into my life…without meat…without rice, but with all of the flavour. And I was actually shocked when it worked…this soup tastes like actual cabbage rolls…the ones with meat…but they are completely vegan. I swear. The meatiness comes from very finely chopped mini bella mushrooms and pure luck. You’re welcome.

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 small cooking onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

5-7 mini bella mushrooms, very finely chopped image

1 medium cabbage, shredded or chopped into strips

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups strained tomatoes

1 can organic diced tomatoes

2 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté, 30 seconds. Add shallot and continue cooking, 1 minute. Add onion and continue cooking, 3 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and mushrooms, and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cabbage, cover, and let sweat, 5-7 minutes. Remove cover, add stock and both kinds of tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 hours. Stir in quinoa, serve, and enjoy!

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Broccoli & Stilton Soup

The Stilton in this soup is surprisingly smooth, creamy and delicious

My boyfriend suggested I make this soup, as he used to serve it in a pub in England. My reaction was much like yours right now (unless you are familiar with this soup) – a blue cheese soup? For real?

I will say that in the past year or so I have developed a like turned to love for most blue cheeses…I suppose my palette is maturing. However, the thought of such a strong cheese with the strong flavour of broccoli in a soup made me very skeptical. But what the hell…I wanted to make something different than the usual cream of broccoli or broccoli cheddar, so I gave it a whirl.

Results: absolutely awesome. My new fave broccoli soup. And you know what? This soup has way less fat than cream of broccoli or broccoli and cheddar because the stronger the cheese the less you need. Even if you don’t like blue cheese I recommend this soup, as Stilton is a bit milder and a bit creamier than traditional blue.

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small cooking onion, dice

1 stalk of celery, diced

1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, broken into small pieces

1 “knob” of butter (2 inch thick slice of a stick of butter)

4 cups vegetable stock

2 crowns of broccoli, broken into pieces

4 ounces (4 x 1 inch cubes) of Stilton

 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (add a bit of water if they start to stick). Add the celery, leek, cauliflower and butter. Stir until the butter is melted, then cover and  let sweat, 5 minutes.

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Uncover and add the vegetable stock and the broccoli pieces with bigger stems. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until all vegetables are soft. Add the remaining broccoli pieces and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove some broccoli and cauliflower pieces and set aside. Blend the remaining soup with a hand blender. If the soup is not thick enough, continue to cook until it reduces.image

Turn the heat to low. Stir in the Stilton, letting some pieces hold their form. Add the broccoli and cauliflower back in. Spoon into bowls, serve, and enjoy! This  soup would be awesome with some walnut crumbs and balsamic drizzle on it as well.

 

Barbecued Eggplant Pizzas

Friday often calls for pizza. Unfortunately, pizza is the devil…it is so bad for you. White flour, processed everything…Pizza Hut pizza is my vice for sure. It tastes like it’s deep-fried, the toppings are questionable, and I honestly wonder what goes into their cheese to make it so ridiculously stringy…perhaps it’s enhanced with rubber. Regardless, of all your drinking with buddies, let’s get delivery, what can come fastest options, pizza is the best/worst choice.

Eggplant Pizzas
Eggplant Pizzas

Enter Eggplant Pizzas…the two or three bite wonders that taste like the real deal because they are one crust away from the pizza pie you are used to. They are delicious, satisfying, and their snacky size makes them feel even more like the perfect party snack. And good news…if you live in a condo/apartment and can’t have a barbecue, they taste just as good in the oven or in a skillet.

Eggplant Pizzas

1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds

1-1/2 cups of shredded cheese (pizza Mozzarella, cheddar/mozza mix, old cheddar, whatever your preference)

Your favourite organic pizza sauce (My weakness is Pizza Quick, but is not so good for you. Really thinly sliced tomatoes sprinkled with oregano will work deliciously as well)

Your favourite toppings (In these photos I sauteed garlic, red onion, criminis, and spinach as my topping. Anything goes, just remember if it’s a heavy topping it needs to be made lighter by shredding or dicing or basically making it smaller)

Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt and place on a cooling rack above a cookie sheet, or invert a small glass bowl inside a large glass bowl and stand slices upright around the small bowl. Let sit for 2-4 hours. WHY? Eggplant can taste very bitter…you may not like it because of this. However, a little salt draws the bitter moisture out of the plant, so salting and draining this liquid will minimize/eliminate the bitterness and create a beautiful taste.

Turn BBQ on med-high, lid closed, and let pre-heat for 10-15min. If using oven, turn on to 350 degrees F and let preheat. If using skillet, drizzle with olive oil and heat on med for 10min.

Pat eggplant dry with a towel, and brush olive oil on both sides…season with salt and pepper.

Grilling eggplant
Grilling eggplant

Place eggplant slices on heated grill on med-high for 10min with lid open and flip. Grill on other side for 10min. (In oven timing is the same. On skillet cook for each side for 5-7min.)

Meanwhile, if your chosen pizza toppings need cooking, cook them! If you like them raw/crunchy, don’t!

Once both sides of the eggplant have been cooked for 10min on each side, place a dollop of pizza sauce on each eggplant slice, top with cooked or uncooked toppings, and then top with cheese.Close the lid of the grill and cook for 5min or until cheese is melted. (In oven turn to broil, open the oven door, and broil until cheese is melted. On skillet, throw a lid on it and cook until cheese is melted).

Add The Toppings
Add the toppings

 

Remove from hot surface and place on paper towel to drain any excess fat, Let cool until you won’t burn your tongue and serve as a snack on their own or with a salad for a meal.

Let me know how they turn out!

 

 

Levels of Awesome

Healthy food is typically boring and lame. I thought so too…how can food taste good without delicious starchy-ness? Without deep-fried crunchiness? Without meaty saturated fatiness? Well, my friend, it is entirely doable, you just have to add dimensions of flavour to your everyday ingredients. Incorporate these suggestions to make your salads, soups, curries, stir fries, sauces and bakes more flavourful and exciting, without adding extra bad for you stuff. Think of it as increasing your foods level of awesomeness a little bit more every time.

 

Roast Roasted Tomatoes 1

Take plain veggies and supe them up a bit. Roast any veg tossed in a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and add them to your recipe as you normally would. Roasted grape tomatoes (10-15min), hot or cold, add a sweeter note to salads. Roasted cauliflower dusted with cumin (35-45min) is a great addition to curry for a hint of charred nuttiness. Roasted nuts (5-10min) add body and texture to dips. Roasted garlic (in beheaded clove in tinfoil, 40min) is good in and/or on pretty much everything. Almost any vegetable can be roasted to add another flavour dimension to a dish.

 

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Sautéed/Caramelize

Sautéeing, to the point of caramelization or not, adds a sweet and sticky dimension of flavour. Adding warm sautéed spinach, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, asparagus, or beans to a salad or omelette can make the difference between an energetic happy chew or a sad, slow chomp. For sautéeing, cook sliced or chopped veg of choice on medium to low heat in 1 tsp of olive oil per handful until desired softness is achieved. For caramelization, cook a bit closer to low and add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan, cooking until veg is super soft and starts to turn caramel coloured. Add balsamic vinegar or hot sauce instead of extra oil for a unique bite.

 

Marinate

It’s not just for meat anymore, although yes, a good marinade can tenderize a nice piece of meat to perfection. Marinating veggies is a great idea too, giving them flavour and juiciness. Marinate cauliflower in curry spice and coconut milk overnight before roasting. Drizzle chopped red onion, zucchini, eggplant and garlic cloves with oregano, olive oil and lemon juice and marinate for an hour before throwing on skewers for the barbie. Even firm cheeses like feta and halloumi can be cubed and marinated in balsamic vinegar to give colour and tang to the outer layer of each piece.

 

ToastToasted Curry Spice

Nuts and spices can become earthier and richer with a bit of toasting. Throw pinches or handfuls of pretty much any nut or spice into a frying pan on medium heat and toast them up a bit. When they start to turn golden immediately take them off the heat and get them out of the frying pan. Let cool and use as usual.

 

Soak

This technique is great for ingredients that are dried or semi dried. Soak dried cranberries or cherries in orange brandy for a brie cheese topper, or as a tasty addition to any salad. Dried whole chilies can be soaked in red wine before being chopped and added to chili, stews or soups. Semi-sundried tomatoes are delicious when soaked in white wine before being tossed in a chunky light vegetable toss. Who am I kidding…soaking is another way to help you get a little buzz on while maintaining good health!

 

What other ways are there to add a new dimension of flavour to a dish? How do you increase your foods awesome factor?

The Vessel: Think Outside the Bread

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be about flavourless, textureless replacements, hungry, empty stomachs and hours and hours of cook time. In fact, healthy eating for me is just as fast if not faster to prepare than a lot of that unhealthy crap, and is also full of flavour and makes me full. You just have to  realize that everything you love can be modified with healthier, more natural choices that will surprise and satisfy.

Essentially every food you eat has a carrying vessel to get it from the plate to your mouth; sometimes this vessel is healthy and has no negative affect on your health, such as a spoon or fork. Other times, this vessel takes something that is potentially healthy and sabotages it, adding empty calories, sugar, a false sense of satiety, and a perpetual craving for salt and carbs. Examples of this are pasta to sauce, rice to stir fry veg, bread to meat, pita to sandwich, etc. If we just focus our thinking on different and delicious ways to carry food from table to tongue, we can mimic much of the same actions for eating certain kinds of food, and I find the way we interact with our food plays a role in how we enjoy food and the art of eating.

What do I mean? Read on, good friend, read on…

Hollow Creminis
Hollow Creminis

Hollow:

-rip the stems out of mushroom caps, large or small, (my faves are cremini) and stuff with tuna salad/cheese or spinach and feta and bake for 15min on 350

-core out sweet or green peppers, careful not to nick the sides, and stuff with a delicious meat and veg mix or omelette mix. Fill 3/4 way, bake on 350 for 10-15min, top with grated cheese of choice, and bake 10 more minutes.

-hollow out tomatoes with flatter bottoms and rounder shapes and eat raw filled with your favourite salad, diced into small cubes instead of being in inch-sized pieces.

A great spot for food storage
A great spot for food storage

-make shooter glasses out of cucumbers by cutting 2 inch thick pieces and hollowing out the seeds almost to the bottom. Fill with hummus, your favourite dip, or nuts and nut butter for a great party app. Or if you are forced to, fill half of them with tequila and half with Clamato juice and give ‘er a go.

 

-take the skin off of and the seed out of an avocado. Fill with sauteed spinach and onions, and then crack an egg into each half. Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes to enjoy a great breakfast dish, and eliminate the need for toast

Top

-Top spaghetti squash with your favourite pasta sauces…it works just as well. Cut spaghetti squash in half, remove seeds, and season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake in the oven flesh-side down at 350 for 35-40 minutes, or until squash is soft. Remove from skin by pulling out “noodles” with a fork, and voila!

-Instead of topping rice with stir fry, top beans, legumes, or more  instead. I like using jarred chick peas or extra broccoli and cauliflower as a filling substitute.

-Make fajitas, wraps, pitas etc. even healthier with lettuce wraps. Boston Bibb lettuce (the kind growing out of the dirt in its’ container) works best. Break off the leaves from the base and top with whatever, wrap and eat. Belgian endive works well for this also, but is very bitter and may not please your palette.

And the list goes on, from cucumber and sweet pepper sandwich “bread” to cauliflower “steaks” and zucchini “noodles”, replacing evils like white flour, potatoes, and rice with good for you tasty vegetables that enhance and compliment flavours is a great way to eat more veggies and still eat “pizza” and “sandwiches”. Don’t think they’ll make you full? Have seconds…have thirds…if consuming extra veg is what it takes to make you full, your body will thank you.