Kitchen Sink Soup

So everyone knows soup is the best. There’s nothing more comforting on a chilly fall day, and there’s nothing better than a soup you can make with what you already have at home.

In this post I want to share a semi-recipe with you. I know everyone wants an exact recipe they can just blindly follow, but what I have to offer right now is a great general guide for making a tasty soup, even when the pantry is a bit empty. It requires a bit of courage to cook without an exact recipe. but I promise you that this is very flexible and hard to mess up recipe, so you’ll almost definitely end up with something good. There’s a lot of information here, but it’s REALLY REALLY simple, I just write a lot because there are so many options, so don’t be scared off. It’s also not the most beautiful looking soup, but that’s why it’s perfect for a cozy fall evening at home. Or for sharing with friends. Or anything, it’s delicious! Let’s go!

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The general idea is to combine veggies, lentils, and spices, and then just blend it all and eat! Pretty brilliant. Here’s a general list of ingredients you might consider using:

-Your base veggies: onions, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, whatever! I don’t think there’s a wrong combination. The more you put in – the more soup you’ll have, and you can pretty much grab any veggie you have. I would recommend having at least one onion and 3-4 carrots for a small pot of soup, because they make a great base.
Greens. I’m all about the greens. Whatever you have, spinach, kale, chard, or beetroot greens are all great options. Just make sure not to overdo it if your greens are particularly bitter or spicy (like mustard greens or collard greens), unless you know you like it. You can use a lot of greens if you have them, since they tend to shrink anyway while cooking, so they won’t usually be too overpowering.
Lentils. Maybe I should say legumes, but I honestly always make this with lentils so I don’t want to make any promises. I like to use a mixture of green and red lentils, and I usually just, sorry to say, eyeball it. Sprinkle it on top until it looks like enough (if you insist, about 1/3 cup of each for a small pot or a bit more than 1/2 cup each for a big pot might be the general area you want to be in). I do think that you can probably use beans instead of lentils, and I invite you to try it! Just remember that if you’re using beans – they have to be precooked! They take a long time to cook so either cook them beforehand or use canned (and strained and washed) beans.
Crushed/diced tomatoes/tomato paste. This is not a must, but especially if you’re not using fresh tomatoes, I would recommend adding some canned toms. Why? because they’re delicious. And you should always have some stashed away in your fridge, so it’s prefect for when you’re lazy to go to the grocery store. A small can of diced/crushed for a small pot, or a couple of tablespoons of paste should do the trick. If you want a more tomato-y soup, feel free to go for it with more.
Spices and herbs! Time to be creative. If you have go-to spice mixtures you can try them here, or you can go for the safe cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander, and whatever else feels right (maybe some oregano or thyme). I also highly recommend using some fresh garlic, or powdered if you don’t have it. Fresh herbs also always help, dill, basil, cilantro, and, of course, parsley can all be good. Again, once cooked these won’t be as potent so you can feel free to add quite a bit. A squeeze of fresh lemon after cooking is done also goes a long way.
Water/broth. Duh. Using broth is always better (you can get those bouillon pastes in a jar, they tend to be a lot more thrifty than the cubes), just make sure to taste the soup before adding salt if your broth is salted!

Now, here’s how to do it (once again, generally):

1. Heat up olive oil in your pot and then saute your onions until lightly translucent. You don’t have to chop them very small since we’re going to blend the soup, but the smaller they are – the faster this will be. If you’re using fresh garlic, add it a bit before the onion is ready and give it a nice saute. Once again, you can keep it in pretty big chunks.
2. Add your (harder) veggies. Pretty much everything other than greens can go in at this point. Again, you can leave the chunks quite big (saves a lot of chopping time), although trying to keep the harder veggies smaller and the softer veggies bigger can be a good way to ensure that they all get an even cook. You can also add your lentils, fresh herbs, and any tomato-y canned goods at this point. You can also add spices, but you will have to adjust those after blending.
3. Cover with water/broth. Usually covering everything and then adding a couple of inches is enough. Depending on how thick you like your soup and how many lentils you have, you might want to add more broth. You can do this at any point during cooking, so if it’s starting to look a bit low – just add more.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20-40 minutes. About 10 minutes before finishing the cooking time you can add your greens. If you’re not using lentils the cooking time will be shorter. Basically just check the soup and cooking is done once the veggies and lentils are soft. Give them time, a bit of overcooking won’t kill anyone in this case and you want them to be nice and soft for blending.
5. Carefully blend until smooth, using a hand blender or in batches in a regular blender (let the soup cool first if you’re using a regular blender). At this point you can adjust the spices and consistency. If it’s too thick – just add some more broth! If you don’t have a blender you might be able to try doing everything with finely chopped veggies, and see how it turns out!
6. That’s it! Eat and be merry. You can serve it over rice or with a nice slice of bread, and it will be SO filling.

Now it’s time for you to go and experiment. The fun of this soup is that it comes out a bit different every time, and that you really can use (almost) anything you have. Go find your favorite combinations and enjoy!

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Secret Ingredient Iced Tea

I know what you’re thinking. Summer’s over. Kids are back in school, pumpkin-spiced lattes are almost back, and everyone’s generally sad.

WELL, I don’t know about you, but where I live it’s still as hot as hell and all I want to do all day is drink icy drinks.

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So, iced tea! It’s really so easy that it almost seems silly to write a recipe for, but there’s a secret ingredient I wanted to hare with you: baking soda! I know it sounds weird, but if you don’t like the bitterness tea can have, this will take it away and make your drink super smooth and refreshing. Highly recommended. I learned this from ths recipe and used it as an inspiration. Mine’s probably better if you’re not actually from the south and can’t handle drinks that are 95% sugar.

By the way, if you don’t have a big glass pitcher and you like iced tea, I recommend investing in one. You could probably make this is a pot and then transfer to any pitcher once it’s cold, just make sure you don’t make it in anything that’s not heat resistant, because you will regret it. Also, when using glass containers, be careful not to make quick changes in temperature or they might break. Never put cold water on hot glass, that is. When I make it I even let it cool for about an hour in room temp before putting in the fridge, just in case.

Here it is:

Ingredients:

4-6 tea bags (you can use whatever you want, black, green, herbal. In my last batch I used a combo of green and herbal lemon-ginger.)
1/8 teaspoon (AKA pinch) baking soda
2 cups boiling water
Sugar/other sweetner, to taste (I used less than 1/2 a cup and it came out way too sweet to my liking, so I diluted it with more water later. I would say start with 1/4 cup and go from there)
-6 cups cold water

Process:

  1. Place the tea bags in a large glass measuring cup (or other heat-resistant container) and add the boiling water*.
  2. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes (oops, I didn’t cover mine. Still came out great!)
  3. Take out the tea bags and pour the mixture to a 2-quart pitcher/jar.
  4. Add the sugar, stir well until it’s dissolved, and add the cold water.
  5. Chill for a few hours and serve over ice. Or not.

That’s it! Easy, right? And a million times cheaper than buying in a coffee shop. AND, the funnest part: you get to experiment with different types and flavors of tea!

Enjoy, before the summer is really over!

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*Little tip: if you don’t have a big glass pitcher and you like iced tea, I recommend investing in one. You could probably make this is a pot and then transfer to any pitcher once it’s cold, just make sure you don’t make it in anything that’s not heat resistant, because you will regret it. Also, when using glass containers, be careful not to make quick changes in temperature or they might break. Never put cold water on hot glass, that is. When I make it I even let it cool for a bit after steeping so that when I add the cold water it won’t crack, and after mixing I let it cool again for about an hour in room temp before putting in the fridge, just in case.

Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies!

I love cookies. I don’t discriminate, I love cookies of all types, shapes, and sizes, but we all know that not all cookies were born equal, and even in my book double-chocolate brownie cookies have a special place.

These cookies are soft, chocolaty, reminiscent of brownies, and extremely easy to make. Oh, also, they don’t have margarine so you can feel a little better about yourself. The recipe comes from Michal Shamir, and this is the original post, in Hebrew.

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Ingredients (recipe says it makes 25 cookies, I got more like 16):
-About 3 oz vegan chocolate (I used chocolate chips, about 1/2 cup)
-1/4 cup canola oil (or 2 TBSP canola oil and 2 TBSP coconut oil)
-1 cup regular white flour (ideally unbleached)
-1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s “Special Dark” which is extra chocolaty)
-1/2 TSP baking soda
-1/2 TSP salt
-1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
-1/3 cup white sugar
-1 TSP vanilla extract
-1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
-3-4 TBSP vegan chocolate chips

Process:
1. Melt the chocolate with the oil in the microwave or using a double boiler. In the microwave: use a big microwave safe bowl and heat up for one minute, mix, then 30 seconds, and then keep mixing and microwaving for 20 seconds at a time until completely melted.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Add the sugars, applesauce, and vanilla to the chocolate mixture and mix well.
4. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate and mix just until the mixture is smooth. Overmixing can mess up the texture.
5. Fold in the chocolate chips and try to gently spread them around the dough.
6. Place the dough in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to harden a little, and preheat the oven to 340 f.
7. Create little balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. They will spread a little so leave some space between them.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until the sides are firm. Do not be tempted to bake them for longer, they will still be soft and won’t look ready, but they’ll harden when they cool.

That’s it! The only thing left to do is to try not to eat them all in one sitting.

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Super Easy Sweet Maple-Tahini Spread

I know, I’ve been gone a while. I’m going to try to regain your trust by sharing this very simple spread that will make you happy.

Many people don’t know that tahini tastes delicious in its sweet form (like halva, for those of you who know what it is), but it’s actually one of my favorite things to do with it. I’m using maple in this recipe because it’s very accessible in the US, but I actually usually make it with date syrup (which you can find in Mediterranean stores), and I think you can probably use agave as well. Just choose what works for you. It’s really flexible and easy, and goes perfect on bread, with fruit, or honestly just by itself. Tahini is also high in protein and calcium and has a bunch of other good stuff, so you’ll be happy and healthy.

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Ingredients:
Tahini
Maple syrup/date syrup/agave
-Optional: cocoa/carob powder

Process:
-You might notice I didn’t write quantities. That’s because it really depends on how sweet you want it. Some people suggest using a 1:1 ratio, but I find that to be too sweet. I recommend starting with the amount of tahini you want to use, and then adding maple syrup and mixing until you’re happy with the sweetness level. If it’s too sweet just add some tahini.
-This is basically all there is to it: mix the ingredients until you get a smooth spread. You might want to add a bit of warm water until you reach your desired consistency (depending on how hard your tahini is).
-Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will probably harden a little once cold so you can add some more water and mix to make it soft again when ready to use. It will keep in the fridge for a few days, but you can really make this whenever you want so you don’t need to make a lot at once. Enjoy!

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A little un-photogenic but delicious nonetheless!

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On some toast, looking real orange

 

Hanukkah: Baked Sufganiyot!

Sufganiyot are a version of jelly doughnuts that you eat on Hanukkah, and they’re among my favorite things in the world. As you might know, Hanukkah is all about oil so these are usually deep fried. Personally I hate deep frying (not necessarily because of health, just because it’s not fun), so I made these baked sufgnaiyot. They’re a little more cakey and taste a little like sweet challah bread, but they’re absolutely delicious and I promise you that you will not be disappointed in them.

You can also fill them with anything you want. The traditional filling is strawberry jelly, but you can use any jelly, make a chocolate filling, halva filling (tahini+agave or maple syrup), or any other creative idea. Also, you can make them whenever, not just Hanukkah!

The recipe comes from a blog in Hebrew called Lo Al Hachasa Levada, by a cool lady named Nofar. The recipe does require some planning ahead because the dough has to rise, but it’s really quite simple and cheap to make. You can also leave them without filling and they’ll just be delicious sweet buns.

Ingredients: (makes about 25 in my experience)

For the dough:
-3 1/2 cups white unbleached flour
-1 tbs yeast
-1/2 cup sugar (or a little less if you like it less sweet)
-3/4 cup soy milk (microwave for a bit so it’s warm)
-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
-1/3 cup oil
-1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
-Your favorite jelly
-Chocolate filling: vegan chocolate chips + a bit of soy milk

Process:

Making the dough:
1. Sift the flour into the a big bowl and add all the other dough ingredients, except the salt. Knead for a few minutes, add the salt and keep kneading for about 15 minutes (if you’re using a mixer – 10 minutes would be enough). The dough should firm up and remain a little sticky, and still be knead-able. If it’s too hard or too dry add some more milk. The dough should stay a bit sticky and soft or it will dry.
2. Roll the dough into a ball, oil your hands and tap it lightly to oil it (to keep from drying). Cover and leave to rise for 2 hours. You want to keep it somewhere warm. I heat the oven up a little and then turn off and put the dough there, or you can put it in the oven with a container full of very hot water.
3. Once the dough doubled in size make it into little balls, about the size of a cotton ball and place in a pan, about an inch away from each other (I put them on parchment paper). Cover and leave to rise for another hour.
4. Preheat oven to 340 and bake for about 20 minute. It’s very important to not over bake them because they will dry, so when they start browning a tiny bit on top – take one out and open to see if it’s baked on the inside.

Filling:
1. It’s best to fill them when they’re warm. You can use a piping bag, or an oral syringe which you can get in any pharmacy. You just stick it right on top and fill it.
2. If your jam is hard – warming it up can help. To make chocolate filling I just microwaved (20-30 seconds at a time) chocolate chips with a few tbs of soy milk. You can add your favorite liquor or some instant coffee to the chocolate for something extra.
3. If you want it to look like the traditional sufganiya, especially jelly-filled ones, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top with a strainer.

It’s best to microwave them for a few seconds before eating (be careful, the filling will be hot!). Beautiful.

Powdered sugar on top!

Powdered sugar on top!

The chocolate ones are a little ugly because they were the victims of a brushing attempt!

The chocolate ones are a little ugly because they were the victims of a brushing attempt!

Spiral Veggie Tart

So this dish is really impressive visually, but it also tastes good! Seriously, it looks amazing and will definitely impress any guest. It’s mostly just a ton of veggies which is also good.

It’s a bit more time consuming because you have to peel and assemble, but it’s very affordable and not very hard to do.

Gorgeous thing.

The original recipe comes from Laila Gohar on Food Republic, and has some animal ingredients, so this is my veganized version. There are three components to the tart, and you can play around with each of them: base, “cheese”, and veggies. For this base I made a simple crust, which turned out pretty good (although too thick!), but you can try making any crust you like, a store-bought one, or even be creative and make it with filo dough, or maybe mashed potatoes on bottom if you’re gluten free?

For the cheese I made a little tofu spread which is based on a quiche filling. You can get creative with vegan cream cheese, tofu cheese, cashew cheese, or whatever else you like. The point is to have something to “glue” the veggies to the crust.

As for the veggies, I think root veggies and squashes are the best. I used carrot, zucchini, summer squash, and sweet potato. Eggplant and beets should be very good too. So here it is:

Ingredients:
For the crust:
-2 cups flour
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp sugar
-optional: spices (garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano)
For the “cheese”:
-1/2 package extra firm tofu (7 oz)
soy/almond milk
-2-3 tbs nutritional yeast
-2 tbs Dijon mustard
-salt, pepper, nutmeg, sage
For the veggies:
-2-3 carrots, of different colors if you can
-1-2 zucchinis
-1-2 summer squash
-1 sweet potato

Process:
1. Start by making the crust. Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until you have a nice dough. Stretch it on a round pie pan (don’t leave it too thick) and bake for about 10 minutes.
2. Make the cheese. Blend all materials in a blender until smooth. I didn’t write how much milk to put because it depends on how hard your tofu is. The harder it is – the more milk you will need. You might need a few tbs or about 1/4 cup, just add a little at a time and blend until you have a creamy consistency, but not too watery.
3. Spread the cheese on the crust and start peeling the vegetables. This is the most time-consuming part, so make sure you have patience and a decent peeler. Start peeling them lengthwise into long strips, and try leaving a bit of the outside colorful skin (in zucchini and summer squash) on at least one side of each slice.
4. Assemble the veggies on the crust. Start by rolling a strip on zucchini into a spiral and place in the very middle of the pie (skin side up), and start adding the other peeled veggies around it. You can see the technique in this video.
5. When you reach the end of the dish, drizzle/brush with olive oil (I was thinking mixing a bit of agave with the oil and then brushing might be tasty), sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any other spices (I did sage and garlic), and cook at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

That’s it! If you have extra you can make tiny personal ones in muffin molds. I think it will be easier to cut once cooled, but it will be hard to cut anyway, just because it’s so beautiful you don’t want to ruin it!

Here are some pics of the steps, enjoy it, and impress your friends and enemies with it!

Start with a crust

Start with a crust

Add your first veggies

Add your first veggies

Add even more veggies

Add even more veggies

Until you cant add no more

Until you cant add no more

Put it in the oven and voila!

Put it in the oven and voila!

 

Savory Biscuits for the Soul

So here’s a recipe that’s literally the best. It is my go-to recipe to bring to potlucks, it’s really easy and realllly savory and heart-warming. It comes, once again, from VegWeb, and it goes perfectly with fall soups and just with itself because it’s so good.

Ingredients:
-2 tbs apple cider vinegar
-1 cup soy/almond/other nondairy milk
-1 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
-1/3 cup nutritional yeast
-5 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp dried herbs of your choice (I like garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano)
-1 tsp salt
-5 tbs margarine

Process:
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Make “buttermilk” by adding the apple cider vinegar to a measuring cup and then filling up with milk to the 1 cup mark. Stir gently and set aside to curdle.
3. In a mixing bowl combine the flour, nutritional yeast, baking powder, herbs, and salt, and mix well.
4. Cut the margarine into the flour mixture and mix until the mixture becomes crumbly. Sometimes I find it useful to use my hands.
5. Add the “buttermilk” and mix until somewhat even, the mixture will be sticky.
6. The original recipe says to make a ball out of the mixture, and roll out on a lightly floured surface, and then cut biscuits with a sharp cutter. I usually just use my hands to make little balls out of the dough, and then flatten them a little to look more like biscuits.
7. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or use parchment paper) and bake for 10-12 minutes.

So good! As you can see in the pic, I also added some more rosemary right on top of them before baking, just for show. Oh, and a bonus: the dough tastes really delicious unbaked, so make sure you scrape it off that bowl and your fingers!