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Category Archives: Cooking

Feast of Leftovers: Thanksgiving Vegan Vegetable Soup!

The Feast of Leftovers is back! A few years back I wrote about making soup with my leftover Prime Rib dinner. and well I have never had so many Google hits on my site on one day. The search terms: Prime Rib leftovers

While my annual Prime Rib problem has been solved, after any holiday feast my fridge requires some serious attention. Earlier in October it was Canadian Thanksgiving day – and since my daughter is now a vegetarian there were fewer meat options and many more vegetable options. And still way too much food!

To create any soup from leftovers, I make things up as I go along! Soup from leftovers is improvisational cooking and experimentation. This is about making something new from a pile of random items in my fridge and creating a whole new flavour experience. The beauty of soup is it takes time to simmer – and you can do other things.

(I have a very non-vegan Sour Cream Biscuit recipe here if you want something to go with the soup. Easy to make while the stock is simmering!)

Step One: Getting a Base

Soup is liquid and so it is mostly water. You need a few strong flavours things to make your tongue happy! Now in this case I did get to cheat slightly – I had bought some vegetable broth to add to the mashed sweet potatoes I had made for Thanksgiving. So into the pot goes the broth (one opened and one unopened). With the broth goes a medium onion (whole), a few sprigs of fresh parsley, a piece of ginger about the size of my thumb, and some peppercorns in a tea ball so I can fish them out later! And then I explore the fridge. What do we find? A half-can of garlic minced tomatoes. A cup of pureed pumpkin. Some crushed garlic I had saved from something else! All into the stock pot. Oh a half-head of cauliflower – it gets chopped and into the pot! Two sad apples that are on their way to be being dried apple heads. They get peeled, cored and cut and half.

Again, make sure you have enough liquid to cover the contents of the pot. Set on stove-top and bring to full boil, turn down and let simmer for about 2-3 hours. Or even longer! Remember when making soup we want to extract the flavour. Letting the stock slowly simmer will intensify the flavours – just don’t let your stock boil away!

And as I have noted before a large slow-cooker is perfect for this first step in the process. If you use a slow cooker set on HIGH until hot (1-2 hours) and then LOW for 4-6 or more hours. Go skiing and sledding. Or sit back and catch up on Netflix while drinking wine. You may need extra bottles of wine.

Before you walk away you will have to hang around and skim! During the early boiling process a thick foam will appear. Skim this off as best you can to keep the soup stock clear.

While your stock is slow simmering you can prepare any additional vegetables you want to add to the final soup. I explored and found a pepper squash, sweet potatoes and carrots. All needed to cook – and pepper squash is best oven roasted. So I prepped the squash by splitting and scooping out the seeds then seasoning with olive oil and a spicy seasoned salt I have to give it some zip.
I then peeled the sweet potatoes and the carrots for about three cups of chopped vegetables. These also are seasoned with olive oil and the spicy seasoned salt. All into a roasting pan and roasted in the oven at 350 F for 1 hour to make sure it is all nice and soft.

When you think the stock is done, I take it off the heat and let it sit 15 minutes to cool and settle. Once the stock has settled you can skim off some anything I don’t like – and then pick out what I don’t want left in the soup (whole onion, ginger root, peppercorns in tea ball)

Step 2: Season the Stock

Take a new pot and place a fine sieve  over the new pot, then gently and slowly pour your stock into the new pot. Sometimes when making soup from random ingredients The last little bit in the pot may be quite thick with sediment so you may decide to not use that part of the stock. In this case I had added the diced tomatoes and while I wanted the flavour in the broth, I didn’t want the tomatoes in my next step!

Now for the taste test! Get a small spoon and sample the stock. What does it need? Salt? Spices? More flavour? Does it need a little more water? Or maybe some pre-made stock to add both volume and flavour. This is the part where you use the magic of your senses to make the soup your own! While tasting is an important part of making soup do remember to use a new and clean spoon for each taste test! I added some curry for a bit more zesty zing!

Always add any other seasoning or flavouring before adding more salt. If you feel you need more salt add it slowly! Once something is too salty there is no saving it. It is better to let people add their own salt to the finished product.

Step 3: Add our roasted vegetables

Once you have adjusted the seasoning (and the volume of liquid) – we will add the oven roasted vegetables to the prepared stock.

I scooped out the pepper squash, and squished the sweet potatoes and carrots with a fork. I even added back the cauliflower and apple halves that cooked with the broth.

Place the soup on the stove and bring to boil. Turn down to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or so to allow the vegetables and broth to marry. Once they have consummated their new relationship we get out the hand blender!

Step 4: Finish the soup and eat!

Let the soup cool and then blend until smooth! Optional: Add some creamy coconut milk to add some smooth happiness for your tongue!

Enjoy!

Remember this is not an exact recipe so you can experiment and find what works best for you.

Basic Random Ingredient Summary
In Stock Pot (I was emptying my fridge so I just grabbed what I had before it went bad!)
2 litres of vegetable broth
1 medium onion (left whole)
2 cups cauliflower
1 cup pumpkin puree (plain)
1 cup pureed whole tomato (canned or fresh)
1 cup carrots (I had shredded carrots I needed to get use up)
2 apples (peeled/cored and cut in half)
1 peeled chunk of ginger (I used a piece the size of my thumb)
handful of parsley sprigs
couple of garlic cloves
tea ball with black peppercorns (and other spices) (tea ball makes removing spice bits easier!)
Add more water if needed to cover vegetables
Optional: Salt to taste if you are using “no salt-added broth”.

Dump everything into your stock pot and bring to boil, skim off any foam. Place on simmer and let slowly simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Key word is slow. Option: use a slow cooker if you have a large one and leave it for 6-8 hours on low. The idea is to simmer out the flavours in a long slow boil. These vegetables will be removed and composted after we make the stock!

Oven Roasted Vegetables for Soup
I had a pepper squash that I needed to use – and I like the oven roasted flavour.
1 medium pepper squash (or your favourite squash!)
2-3 medium sweet potatoes
1 large carrot
1 medium parsnip root

Pre-heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
Cut pepper squash in half and remove seeds. Brush halves with olive oil and season as desired (I use a spicy seasoned salt and black pepper)
Peel and chop the root vegetables (sweet potato/carrot/parsnip) into chunks. Don’t worry about size as the intent is to puree the vegetables with the stock we are making. Place the root vegetable bowl and toss with olive oil and some seasoning (I used curry/salt/pinch of nutmeg).
In a large enough roasting pan place the pepper squash cut side up, and spread the root vegetables around evenly. Place in oven and let cook about 60 minutes. The squash may take longer. You want the vegetables soft with a bit of browning (caramelization) to capture a lovely autumn roasted vegetable essence.
When finished roasting, remove from oven. Let cool slightly, then scoop the squash and squish the root vegetables with a fork. Don’t worry if it is chunky – we’ll fix that shortly!

Putting it all Together
After the stock is ready let it sit to cool for 20 minutes or so. We only want the liquid, so take a soup pot and using a fine sieve, pour the stock into the soup pot. The sieve will remove the chunks. I choose to take out some of the cooked cauliflower and some of the apple to add to the final soup.

Taste the stock in the soup pot and add salt/spices as desired. I wanted a bit more bite so added a teaspoon of Jamaican Curry. Now add the over roasted vegetables (and any vegetables you want to re-use from the stock pot) to the soup pot. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to marry.
Optional: I added 1/4 of orange lentils to the soup to add some protein. Orange lentils take about 20 minutes to cook.

After 20 minutes remove soup from heat and set aside for 20 minutes so we can safely puree the soup! You can use a standard blender if you wish, I have a super-duper immersion (hand) blender that I can stick and the pot and complete the consummation of the soup!
Blend until smooth.

Optional: Add some coconut milk (about 1 cup) with at least a medium fat content to add a creamy mouth feel to your soup.

 

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Recipes: Hungarian Crepes

I love pancakes. I especially love the variety known as crepes – and crepes are even better when cooked Hungarian style as palacsinta.

Palatschinke

Palatschinke (Photo credit: Mario Spann)

Ingredients
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup carbonated water

Melted butter for cooking crepes

Optional:
1 tablespoon sugar for sweeter dessert palacsinta (crepes)

Directions
1) Beat eggs into milk until blended (also add sugar/salt at this point). Pour the egg/milk mixture into the flour until fully blended into a smooth batter. The batter should rest for at least an hour.

2) When it is time to cook the crepes place a crepe pan to heat (or an 8-inch frying pan). While the pan is heating add the carbonated water to the batter and gently stir until just blended.

3) Add a bit of butter to heat in the hot pan and swirl to cover the bottom.

4) Pour a ladle of the batter into the pan and gently tip and twist the pan so that the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. When the top of the batter bubbles, turn the pancake over and cook for 4 or 5 seconds longer. Remove the cooked palacsinta to a serving plate in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Continue until the batter is all cooked. Remember to add butter before cooking each palacsinta.

For savory palacsinta fill with cooked asparagus, ham and Havarti cheese…or some other dinner filling
For dessert palacsinta try plum jam OR cinnamon&sugar OR Nutella with strawberries….

Palacsinta can be served hot or cold.

Feast of Leftovers!

Ahh Christmas – the celebration of life, light, joy, family and feasting!

If your Christmas is anything like mine it involves too much food, too much wine, and too much laughter. But really can you have too much laughter?

The food starts well before Christmas day. There are office parties, lunches with those folks you need to see before the holidays begin, baking, quick bites to eat while shopping. For me the food kicks in to a higher gear starting around December 21st. Because I still have a school age child – the Christmas holidays usually start around that day and so does eating and drinking in a festive way!

Our tradition has become that the tree goes up on December 21st – to honour the solstice. The tree proudly wearing the a star shining brightly, and covered in many lights. That is when the overload begins – so queue the food! Really you cannot have a tree-trimming without a festive meal. And then Christmas cookies and eggnog as you decorate. A bulb for the tree – and a cookie for me!

December 24th is the time for a pre-feast. In my case in can be anything at all from tourtiere ( a French meat pie) to a nice roast beef. This year it was a lovely prime rib since prime rib was on sale! Gorgeous.

And yesterday was a more traditional turnkey dinner.

So today is the Feast of Leftovers! Prime rib, turkey, masked potatoes, every vegetable you can name. Oh it is glorious laid out buffet style for people to pick and choose. Add some fruit and cheese and whatever else is lurking in the fridge and well there you go: Enjoy!

May you also have a Happy Feast of Leftovers!

Ramble: Canadian Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!
It is autumn and we celebrate our time of Harvest blending old world pagan rites, middle-eastern abrahamic beliefs, with new world indigenous traditions. Creating something new, and still some how it is something so old that it has bonded with our global melded human DNA.

Here in what we call the Northern Hemisphere, winter is ahead, and we are thankful for the bounty of these lands, and celebrate the kindness of our neighbours. We will weather the storms that are ahead, finding time to play in the cold and the snow, finding time to sing and frolic in the darkening days ahead – until we see again the light returning. Feeling the warmth of the sun stirring our desires to plant the seeds we gathered this harvest. And begin again our place in the cycle of living.

We are each alone on this tiny little planet drifting in the cold darkness of infinite space. And we travel so much lighter when we travel together: sharing ourselves, sharing our stories, sharing our songs, and sharing our gratitude for what we have with those that will have us and hold us.

Remember we reap what we have sown, and here is hoping we take and share the best seeds so that together we can plant the best of tomorrows.

Happy Harvest Canada, and Happy Thanks Sharing!

Ramble: I Miss You Mom

I haven’t posted for a while because my Mom was in and out of the hospital in the last month, and on January 16 she peacefully passed away. Free at last from the many years of struggle with her health. 

It is strange how we create a routine out of the obligations of life. A pattern is shaped from necessity and reluctantly overlaid. Eight years ago my father died, and my mom asked me to come see her more often. At first it was every other week. Somewhere in there it became a weekly visit. Usually on a Saturday, I’d be up by 6am and on my way. The 2-hour drive a quiet pleasant meditation through lovely Ontario country-side. A stop for a coffee. Sometimes a pause for walk on a trail.
I’d stop at the grocery store along the way and get what was needed, And arrive at my Mom’s usually before 9AM. We would have breakfast, discuss what was new and news, make a to-do list of what needed doing, Check the sump-pump, change the filters, light-bulbs, garden, lawn…whatever. Somewhere in there the PSW would arrive and help my mom with her personal care.
Then my mom and I would have lunch, and we’d cook something extra for the fridge and freezer. Sometimes we would bake – tea biscuits, cake, cookies – so my mom would have goodies to offer her many guests through the week. Her local church/community was simply amazing for how they took turns visiting her each evening.
Sometimes I’d stay for dinner, but usually by 4 pm I’d be heading back on the trek back the other way to my own home. Back to my own to-do list that was waiting for me.
Yes there were times I would feel trapped by the pattern of obligation. Times I just felt too tired, too overwhelmed…
And still I would go – maybe shifting the visit to a Monday…
I am not writing this to grumble and brag. I did what I did because I was available and I could. It was my choice. I am writing this because it became such a part of my life that today, this morning, In this here and now of quiet reflection, I realize and I feel the empty space that is here and now. It feels odd not planning a shopping list, gathering the tools to bring, creating a menu, finding a recipe…
I am writing not to say what I did, but to say how much it is missed.