The Soup Solution

As the days until I have to return to work rapidly dwindle, it seems my to-do list just gets longer and longer.  I’m trying not to stress over it and to instead focus on enjoying these last few days where it’s just me and the little guy.
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Sigh. #maternityleave

I’m especially determined to enjoy this time coming off of last week, which was not the most fun one we’ve had.  I got sick (for the first time in, like, seven years) and my sickness coincided with a major sleep regression for Baby H.  It was a tough week, but we’ve both come out the other end alive and in one piece, and I feel like I’ve definitely earned my stripes through this motherhood rite of passage.

During that hellish week, I found myself with very few chances to eat.  This was partially due to a reduced appetite, and also to my desperate quest to catch any amount of sleep I could whenever the opportunity presented itself.  One thing that worked out amazingly well for me though was the super-simple standby of soup and crackers.

I bought this box of Imagine tomato soup a couple of months ago when I was stocking up for maternity leave, and it was perfect. Not only was it quick and easy on the tummy, but there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup to help you fight off bouts of the chills.
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I normally would skip over any tomato soup labeled “creamy,” but I was familiar with the brand so I decided to check the ingredients list, and what do you know? It’s vegan!
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It tastes exactly like the sugary, canned junk of my childhood but is so much more wholesome.  And don’t worry, I balanced out the healthiness of the soup by adding some crushed up Wheat Thins (speaking of sugary junk! haha) on top.
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Now off I go to play with my boy 🙂

Blogging With Baby

Oh my goodness.  That blogging once a week goal I set a few weeks ago didn’t exactly pan out, did it?

In terms of time management, this baby business is so much harder than I expected it would be!  Turns out Baby H is a pretty clingy little guy and wants to be held almost all the time.  Now that he’s almost six weeks old, he’s becoming more aware of his surroundings and is more interested in playing, so I have increasingly more opportunities to put him down while I play with him, but he still seems to prefer to spend the majority of the time in my arms.
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I’ve discovered that he loves to be in his baby carrier, so at least once a day I try to strap that on and get some stuff done around the house.  Eating and tidying up his areas usually comes first, followed by catching up on emails (especially as we continue our search for a nanny for when I go back to work in just six short weeks), followed by trying to finish up the endless amount of thank you cards and birth announcements I still have to send out.  After that, I would probably next turn to blogging, but unfortunately, I have to consider it a victory if he sleeps long enough for me to do even one of these things.

Nevertheless, today I find myself with a few extra minutes and dying to check in with the blog world!

As you can imagine, my eating habits have been less than ideal during these whirlwind past few weeks. Sometimes I don’t even realize I haven’t made time to eat at all until I find myself absolutely ravenous while breastfeeding at 3:00 a.m. and have to make myself a quick bag of microwave popcorn just to stay upright. The majority of the time, I just eat whatever is available, quick, and *clean* (take my word on this one…trying to eat spaghetti with one hand while holding a sleeping or nursing infant in the other does not end well).

One thing I’ve been eating like they’re going out of style lately is lentil dishes.   They’re cheap, filling, and taste good warm or cold…all wins for me at the moment. Finding time to cook has been one of my biggest challenges of all, so I’ve been buying most of my food pre-made, but I did also actually make two dishes myself!

Store-bought:
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So good. Exactly what you’d expect from TJ’s.

I also got a really tasty lentil soup from a local cafe called La Provence, which has a bunch of great veg options:
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And finally, I whipped up a batch of the tried and true Veganomicon classic, Snobby Joes.
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These were a lifesaver, as I was able to scoop them up with tortilla chips using only one hand. I definitely want to make another batch ASAP.

I also made a Lentil Celery Root Soup using this recipe from Fit Pregnancy.
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To veganize, I just subbed agave nectar for the honey and left off the parmesan cheese. The soup came out pretty good–it’s pretty sweet (in fact, you could probably leave out the honey/agave entirely), and very thick. Definitely best enjoyed with some crusty bread. The recipe also made a TON so my freezer also found itself with some new additions.

I’ll be back again just as soon as I can find the time 🙂

Lemony Red Lentil Vegetable Soup

Happy New Year everyone!!!

A few days ago I got a hankering for lentil soup and decided that my very favorite Easiest Lentil Soup would be on the menu for dinner.

It had been a while since I made the recipe so I pulled up the blog post on my laptop for reference (kind of a cool feeling cooking from your own recipe!).  Then I went to gather my ingredients and realized that somehow, some way, I was fresh out of brown lentils.

I’m pretty sure this has never happened before.  What to do??

Rather than nix my lentil soup plan, I decided to make one with red lentils.  If you’ve ever cooked with red lentils you know they have a slightly different flavor and a much different texture than brown or green lentils, so I also adjusted the flavor profile of the original recipe.  Here is what I came up with (and it’s really good!):

Lemony Red Lentil Vegetable Soup
Serves 8-10
Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free
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Ingredients
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth (check to ensure it is soy-free and/or gluten-free if these are concerns)
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. sea salt  (or to taste)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
3-4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from about half of a lemon)
Optional: additional veggies! (see Note)

Directions
Line the bottom of a large stockpot with water and begin to warm it over medium-high heat.  When the water begins to steam slightly, add garlic and onions and saute until onions soften, about 5 minutes.

Add carrots and celery and saute another 2-3 minutes, until softened.  (If anything is sticking, add a few splashes of water or broth to unstick it.)

Add the remaining ingredients (except for the lemon juice), stir to combine, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, stir, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Note: Additional vegetables such as fresh tomatoes, zucchini, or spinach would also be delicious in here.  For tomatoes or squash, I’d go for about 1 1/2 cups and add them about halfway through the simmering time (otherwise they’ll turn to mush).  If using spinach, add 1-2 cups at the same time as the lemon juice and stir until wilted.

This makes a ton of soup which is great for leftovers!  I also froze a couple of portions to have on hand for after Baby H makes his or her debut.  Not long now…

Favorites from the 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck

As always, this past weekend’s Virtual Vegan Potluck was a ton of fun, with so many tantalizing dishes and beautiful photos to peruse!

It’s an honor to participate but selfishly I also LOVE the VVP because I always discover so many new blogs and come away with dozens of new, amazing recipes to try!  In case you didn’t have a chance to browse the 85+ dishes that were presented this weekend, I’ve collected some of my personal favorites for your viewing pleasure.  It was tough but I narrowed it down to two from each course (except in courses with less than seven submissions, in which case I chose only one favorite).

Please note that all photos are the property of the bloggers whose dishes they show.  I am reposting them ONLY so that you can appreciate the talent and hard work of the bloggers, and in the hope that you will give them a visit to check out the recipes for yourself!

Appetizers
Lemon-Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto and Mushrooms from Seasonal Veg Head
Vegan Dilled Ceviche from Veggie Inspired
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Beverages
Festive Spiced Tahini Hot Chocolate from Bunny Kitchen
Cranberry-Grapefruit White Wine Spritzer from Glue and Glitter
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Salads
Tropical Fruit Salad with Raspberry Dressing from Parsley in my Teeth
Rosemary Infused Grapefruit and Kale Salad from The Glowing Fridge
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Breads 
Rosemary and Meyer Lemon Focaccia from Yup, It’s Vegan
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Soups/Stews
Creamy Lemon Asparagus Soup from Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen
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Sides
Lentil Sweet Potato Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette and Crispy Shallots from Veganizzm
Cranberry Pomegranate Pear Sauce from A Journey with Tiffany
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Mains
Mushroom Duxelle Ravioli in Cashew Cream Sauce from Astig Vegan
Seitan Marbella from Fried Dandelions
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Desserts (aside from my own Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp of course!)
Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Truffle Tart from My Darling Vegan
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Pretzel Frosting from Veggies Don’t Bite
Lemon Curd Tiramisu from Marfigs’ Munchies
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Okay…I couldn’t pick just two desserts…

Another VVP in the books.  Now, off I go to get started on recreating some of these delights!

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Has fall weather hit you yet?  It has certainly come to us.
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A few weeks ago I bought the most beautiful head of orange cauliflower at the farmer’s market and had one of those moments where I was so excited to eat it that I didn’t know where to start.

Of course, I was 25 weeks along at that point and the “experts” say that at 25 weeks a developing baby is roughly the size of cauliflower, so obviously the first thing to do was to take a belly comparison pic.
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Don’t mind the frumpy PJ’s…it’s getting harder and harder to find comfy clothing!

But after that there were actual choices to be made.  Finally, in the interest of simplicity and seasonally-appropriate fare, I settled on a hearty soup.
Cauli Soup
This soup is rich and filling with a deep, savory flavor that will warm you from the inside out!

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4
Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (about 4-5 cups)
5 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 small (or 1 large) russet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 turmeric
4 cups vegetable broth (or reconstituted bouillon)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup nutritional yeast (optional but highly recommended!)
Couple dashes cayenne (optional)

1. The roasting: Preheat the oven to 425.  Place cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring or flipping at least once about halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and nicely browned.  Take out of the oven and let cool slightly, then remove the garlic cloves and set aside.  Also set aside about a cup of cauliflower.

2. Warm some oil (or a thin layer of water) in a stockpot over medium-high heat and saute onion until tender and beginning to turn translucent.

3. Add potatoes, cumin, and turmeric, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute.

4. Add broth and bay leaf, stir, and bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

6. Add cauliflower and garlic, stir to combine, and simmer another 5 minutes.

7. REMOVE THE BAY LEAF, then puree, either in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor.

8.  Stir in the reserved cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast and cayenne if using.  Taste and adjust spices as necessary.  Enjoy!

This soup doesn’t take long to pull together, but if you are really short on time, you could consider skipping the roasting step. The flavor will be a little less deep, but the soup will still come out delicious. For the unroasted version, peel and finely chop the garlic and saute it along with the onion in step 2.  In step 3, add the cauliflower along with the potato and simmer both in the vegetable broth (steps 4 and 5) until tender.  Once tender, use a strainer to remove some of the florets to set aside, if desired.  Then blend and season as indicated in steps 7 and 8.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Simple Soup-Making & Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup with Kale (in a Bread Bowl!)

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I lurrve me some soup. I could eat soup every day of the year, no matter the season. And I’ll tell you, making a tasty soup at home is incredibly simple.

There are approximately 69084023948 amazing vegan soup recipes available on the web, and even more in cookbooks. I’ll admit though that sometimes I’m too lazy to follow a recipe for soup or to shop for ingredients. This is where it comes in handy to know a few basics for throwing together a delectable liquid dinner from whatever you happen to have lying around.

Almost all vegetables (except for maybe like, iceberg lettuce) can go into a soup. So if you find yourself with a surplus of carrots, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, potatoes, squash–really anything!–a soup is an easy, tasty, and cost-effective way to use it up.

Every soup follows the same basic formula: saute some onion and garlic (in either water or olive oil, depending on your preference), then add broth and beans/veggies/grains/potatoes and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until everything is tender. At this point you can puree, or just eat it as is. If using grains or leafy green veggies in a pureed soup, you’ll want to puree first and add these ingredients last.

It’s really that simple!

Here it is broken down for you mathematical types:
Pureed or “creamy” soup = ([sauteed onion + garlic] + broth + beans and/or potatoes) + blender  <–adding other veggies is optional but encouraged!
Brothy soup: = (sauteed onion + garlic) + broth + vegetables and/or grains

Broth can be actual storebought or homemade broth, or it can be water + bouillon, or it can be just plain water (though if you’re going with plain water, be prepared to add some serious seasonings to avoid blandness).  You can also sub in part of the broth in a recipe for another liquid like soy milk or canned coconut milk for extra richness.

Here is an example of the formula in action: Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup with Kale that I threw together last night from stuff I had in the house.
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This recipe is probably quite similar to the White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup from Vegan With a Vengeance as well as the Roasted Garlic White Bean & Kale Soup from the Domestic Vegan blog (which sadly no longer exists). I’ve made both recipes dozens of times and it’s extremely likely that they sub-consciously informed my soup-making, so I just want to make sure I give credit where credit is due.

Ingredients
2 bulbs roasted garlic (see note)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cups broth
3 cups (1 large can) white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped kale
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional add-ins: nutritional yeast, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, other spices and seasonings (see note)

Directions
Follow the formula! The only difference here is that you don’t have to saute your garlic because it’s already roasted. So:

1) Saute the onion until softened.
2) Add broth and beans. Bring to a boil then back down to simmer for about 10 minutes.
3) Puree the soup (or lightly blend to keep some texture, if you like it a bit chunkier).
4) Add kale and stir until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. It’s ready to serve!

Note on roasting garlic: Simply stick 2 bulbs of garlic in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and forget about them while you do other stuff. Let them cool a bit (about 10 minutes is usually enough time) and then squeeze or peel to remove the roasted cloves.

Note on seasonings: Isa uses sage and a bay leaf in her white bean soup, and Domestic Vegan used rosemary, crushed fennel seeds, and a bay leaf in hers. All of these flavors are amazing and I encourage you to use them if you have them (1 tsp each if using dried; 1 tbsp if fresh…add them with the broth and beans in step 2 so the flavors have time to infuse the soup). Just make sure you remove the bay leaf before blending!
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Oh, and about those bread bowls

I buy the smallest-sized boules I can find (Trader Joe’s usually has them but I found these at my local Stop & Shop yesterday) and use Chloe Coscarelli’s method to prepare them–cut off the top and scoop out the inside, then brush the inside with olive oil (to keep soup from leaking out), and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Use the extra bread for dipping (like you needed me to tell you that!).

More simple soup recipes:
Easiest Lentil Soup
Sunshine Soup (a brothy soup that I also pureed because I’m a rebel like that)

I’m also submitting this soup to this week’s Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck!

Babymoon in Chicago and a Trip to the Iconic Chicago Diner

Last week, I reached the halfway mark of my pregnancy, which coincided perfectly with H’s and my trip to Chicago for our babymoon!
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For those who don’t know, a babymoon is basically a final trip you take with your partner where it’s just the two of you before baby arrives, and it’s a great chance to connect and get excited about the upcoming changes in your lives and relationship. Yeah, it’s kind of trendy, but H and I do love to travel and so we embraced it!

We stayed in the beautiful Swissotel overlooking the Chicago River (thanks, Hotwire!). Our room had a view of Lake Michigan (and some other buildings, obviously). It was amazing!
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I had never been to Chicago before and I have to say, I was blown away by what an incredible city it is.
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We packed a lot into three days, while still managing to build in plenty of time to relax in our lovely hotel. Here are some of the highlights:

We took a boat tour along the Chicago River with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (which I HIGHLY recommend).
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We walked through Millenium Park and stopped to take pictures by the famous Cloud Gate.
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We also stopped by the outdoor Goose Island shack for some refreshments and cornhole. I was happy to discover that they make their own (caffeine-free!) root beer and it was delicious!
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We visited Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.
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It’s a really interesting stadium. It originally opened in 1924 and underwent major renovations in 1978 and 2003. During the most recent renovations, the stadium was totally modernized, but they were required for historical preservation reasons to keep parts of the old structure intact. The result is a venue that, according to H, “looks like a UFO crashed into the Greek parthenon.”
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The really cool part is that you can walk around the entire outside colonnade area, even when the stadium itself is closed.
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We also visited Wrigley Field, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and went to a Cubs game!
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The Cubs lost, but I’m told that’s kinda what they do.

The biggest thrill of the trip (for me anyway) was our pilgrimage to the Chicago Diner, one of the oldest and most famous vegetarian restaurants in the U.S.
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This place exceeded all of my expectations. It was flawless.

I started with the soup of the day, a curried cauliflower soup (YUM):
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H and I also split the peanut butter cookie dough shake:
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This was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

And for the main event, I had no choice but to sink my teeth into the storied Radical Reuben:
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Oh my God. I devoured every last messy, succulent bite. The mac n’ Teese was pretty good too! It was my first time trying Teese and I give it a thumbs up.
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After we left, I actually started to cry a little because I was so happy that I finally got to go to the Chicago Diner, and sad because I don’t know when I’ll get to go back (that one I’ll blame on the hormones).

Our babymoon was everything I hoped it would be. Chicago is an incredible city and an absolute blast! It’s definitely a place I know I’ll be visiting again in the future.