So, I know this soup sounds a little weird. When I first mentioned it to Peter, he was not enthused. Yogurt soup with Barley and Spinach? I mean… what? And I know that the picture can only add so much. Yes, it’s a yellow-greenish colored soup. But really, this soup is good. It’s warm and hearty, and packed with flavor. I made a giant batch and ate it every day for lunch for a week until it was gone. A piece of good crusty bread makes the soup even better.

This is another one of those recipes that I used to love as a kid, but haven’t had for years now. It’s also something that definitely wasn’t vegan. That’s okay — I love a good challenge, and this soup turned out to be surprisingly easy to veganize. The key is to find some really good plain soy yogurt. For me, this meant using stuff that was home-made. If the yogurt is sweet at all, I really don’t think it would work. I’m not sure which cookbook this recipe originally came from, but here’s my version:

(Vegan!) Yogurt Soup with Barley and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 to 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lb spinach or 1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach (you could also use a mixture of greens)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups plain soy yogurt (1 pint)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or 4 teaspoons crushed dry mint
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges to squeeze over individual bowls of soup

Preparation

  1. Bring stock to a boil over high heat; add barley. Cover and cook for one hour, or until tender. Meanwhile, defrost the spinach (if using frozen), and cut into strips.
  2. In a small pan, blend the cornstarch and water. Stir in the yogurt and sugar. Stir over medium-high heat until it boils, then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter or oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft but not brown.
  4. Stir in the mint, and mix into the soup. Add the spinach when the barley is tender, stir in the yogurt mixture and bring to a boil. Cook for three more minutes.
  5. Thin the soup with more stock or water if needed, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the onion butter or serve on top of each individual bowl.
  6. Don’t forget the lemon wedges!

 

This Mixed Mushroom Soup is a recent recipe from 101 Cookbooks that also features barley. Unfortunately, with mushrooms being one of the main ingredients, I’ll have to make it when Peter’s not around. We’ll see…

I Love UO

November 15, 2010

Check out my slideshow for incoming University of Oregon students!

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This recipe was inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’a Vegan with Vengeance cookbook. About three years ago now, when I first decided to become vegan, this was one of the first cookbooks that I got, and it’s been a go-to ever since. Along with The Joy of Vegan Baking, Isa’s cookbook taught me that being vegan did not have to mean giving up delicious tasting food, or delicious tasting baked goods, for that matter. At this point, I’ve learned how to veganize just about anything. Another valuable trick that I learned from Isa is how to make healthy, low-fat, delicious tasting baked goods. Using the skills I’ve learned, I attempted to turn this recipe into a slightly more healthy, low-fat version of the original. Surprisingly, these cookies not only turned out great, but I might even argue that they are better than the original recipe. They are soft, chewy, and even somewhat light and fluffy. They are plenty sweet, and pretty, too! Here’s my recipe:

Sparkled Ginger Molasses Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 2 teaspoons fresh, minced ginger
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • about 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, for rolling cookies in before baking

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the the wet ingredients: applesauce, canola oil, sugars, molasses and almond milk.
  3. Add the fresh ginger and the crystallized ginger.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: whole-wheat flour, salt, baking soda, powdered ginger and cinnamon.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well.
  6. Form cookie dough into one-inch balls, and roll in the turbinado sugar before placing on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes, and let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Homemade Granola

November 11, 2010

This is something that I’ve been wanting to make for a long time now. Ever since my dad became gluten-free a few years ago, Wendy has been making him homemade, gluten-free granola, with gluten-free oats, dried fruit, and nuts and seeds galore. Besides eating it for breakfast with soy yogurt, soy milk, or even heated up in the microwave as hot cereal, I can’t help snacking on it straight out of the jar whenever I’m home.  The stuff is just that good. Sometimes, when I time things just right, I happen to be home when Wendy actually makes the granola. There is nothing better than waking up in the morning to the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg drifting up the stairs from a fresh batch of granola in the oven.  Those are the times when I get to bring back an entire bag of granola all for myself.

I got the recipe from Wendy awhile ago, but it always seemed like somewhat of a daunting endeavor. It involved so many oats, and so much chopping of dried fruits and nuts… and for some reason, I had it in my mind that it would need to bake for hours in the oven. Luckily, I was wrong. Making granola was both surprisingly quick and easy. Who would have thought?

I pretty much followed Wendy’s recipe, but changed a few things here and there.  Mostly, I just added a little bit more oil to make it crispier, as per Peter’s request.  Here it is:

Homemade Granola

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups oats (preferably multi-grain, rolled, and NOT the quick-cooking kind)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I also sprayed some on and mixed it in while the oats were baking.  Maybe add 2 extra tablespoons instead?)
  • 1/2 cup honey (I used a mix of honey, brown sugar, and agave nectar, heated in the microwave so it would pour and mix in easily)
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 1+ cup any or all: walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, etc. (I chopped them just a bit)
  • 3/4 cup any or all: flax, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried, ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, raisins, chopped apricots, plumbs, etc.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (except dried fruit).
  3. Stir in all wet ingredients so that the dry ingredients are equally covered (think of tossing a salad).
  4. Evenly spread the granola mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and put into the oven.
  5. Bake at 250 degrees F. for 30-45 minutes (or until lightly toasted), stirring every 10-15 minutes so that it doesn’t burn.
  6. About five minutes before taking the granola out of the oven, add the dried fruit and fold it in to the granola.
  7. Done!

Next time, I think I’ll try Heidi’s Big Sur Power Bars Recipe from 101 Cookbooks.  Check out her awesome video!

Mexican Home Fries

November 6, 2010

In my search for some international news about Mexico (to fulfill my assigned blog post topic for the week), I had a hard time finding something non-violence or drug related. However, after looking a bit deeper, I found a great little blog post on The New York Times.com about el Dia de los Muertos, which occurs each year on November 2. For all of the non-Spanish-speaking Americans out there, that translates to the Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition that dates back to pre-Hispanic times and celebrates the annual return of those who have died. In Mexico, the celebration is held in cemeteries where dead family members are buried.

Aside from tacos, corn, hot chocolate and pork with pineapple, traditional food includes sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, or Bread of the Dead. People place sugar skulls on alters after writing the name of the person who died on them, and round, cinnamon-flavored Pan de Muerto represents the circle of life, with sesame seeds to symbolize the tears shed when a loved one dies.

Here’s a photo I found of a sugar skull. Look how small it is!

This year’s main alter honored those who fought in the Mexican Revolution and the Mexican War for Independence. Those who go to the festival put photos of deceased family members on the alter and light candles, placing them alongside fruits, flowers, sugar skulls, Pan de Muerto and marigold flowers.  The smell of marigold flowers is believed to guide the dead to the site.

Lots of marigold flowers. :)

Now, on to more interesting things. Mexican Home Fries! This was one of my all-time favorite recipes as a kid. Until now, the last time I had it must have been almost ten years ago now. Recently, I found the original recipe, and was excited to see that it could easily be veganized just by leaving out the cheese, and substituting creamy plain soy yogurt for sour cream.

Mexican Home Fries

Ingredients

  • 6 to 7 small potatoes
  • 4 to 6 corn tortillas
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic (chop very large cloves into smaller pieces)
  • 1 heaping cup onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
  • a generous amount of black pepper
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into small strips (or a combination of red, yellow and green bell pepper strips)
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted black olives (or sliced or left whole for more texture)
  • 1 tomato, chopped (cherry tomatoes work great, too)
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • plain soy yogurt, for garnish
  • minced fresh cilantro, for garnish (I left this out since I didn’t have any, and it was still great without it)

Preparation

  1. Scrub the potatoes, and slice thin.
  2. Tear the tortillas into small, 1 or 2-inch pieces, or cut them into wedges.  Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet.  When it is hot, add sliced potatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring over medium-high heat, then add the garlic cloves and onions.  Keep the heat medium-high, and use a spatula to move the potatoes around until they are brown and crisp.  This takes about 15 more minutes.
  4. Add cumin, salt and pepper.  Stir until seasonings are well-distributed.
  5. Add bell pepper strips, tortilla pieces, olives and tomato.  Cook and stir about 10 to 15 minutes, until everything is well blended the tender.
  6. Stir in crushed red pepper and lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, and keep stirring until potatoes reach a desired crispiness.
  7. Serve hot, with plain vegan yogurt and minced cilantro on top.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Makes: 4 to 6 main-dish servings.

Surprise!  Peter made cookies again. I have to say, I am still somewhat amazed that he is able to just throw ingredients together and come up with something edible. While this has worked well for him in terms of cooking, I warned him about the chemistry involved in baking, and of the dangers of deviating too much from original recipes. So far, he has pretty much completely ignored my advice. We’ll see…  I still have my doubts as to how long he can keep it up.  While normally I might be worried that I was starting to lose my place as Supreme Baking Queen of the house, my fears were calmed when I realized that while Peter may have a talent for making recipe-less cookies, he lacks confidence in baking anything with an already established recipe. I discovered this about a week ago:

“You should make snicker-doodles!” I suggested when he offered to make cookies.

“But I don’t know how to make those,” he replied, a little sheepishly.

“Oh, that’s okay,” I said. “Make whatever you want then.”

As long as I know that I’m still the true baker of the house, I can enjoy Peter’s cookie-making skills without fear.  With that being said, these most recent cookies of his are probably my favorite ones to date.  :)

Oh, and of course, for everyone’s enjoyment, I’ve posted the recipe as it was written in Peter’s own words. It just wouldn’t be the same otherwise.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Sandwich Cookie Recipe

Dry Ingredients

  • 1+ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash of salt (this wasn’t part of the original recipe, but Peter thinks it needs some for next time)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1-inch slab vegan butter (warmed)
  • < 1/4 cup peanut oil (that means “less than 1/4 cup”)
  • < 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1+ tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water
  • a good, 1-second squeeze of agave nectar
  • 1/2-second squeeze of maple syrup

Chocolate Filling Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips
  • 2+ teaspoons vanilla
  • 3+ tablespoons soymilk

Preparation (makes both cookies and filling at the same time)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients for cookies in a bowl.
  3. Put chocolate chips into a small pot with 1+ tablespoon soymilk. Turn on stove burner to low/very-low heat, and let chocolate chips sit for about 2 minutes, then begin to stir lightly for about 10 seconds.
  4. Mix wet ingredients for cookies in a separate bowl.
  5. Check the chocolate chips.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla; stir. You want the melting process to be very slow and gradual so that the chocolate doesn’t burn.
  6. Mix wet and dry ingredients.  Check chocolate chips again; stir.
  7. Spoon dough onto cookie sheets.  Put both sheets into oven for 6 minutes.  Rotate cookie sheets after 6 minutes from top to bottom to ensure that cookies bake evenly.
  8. Right after sheet rotation, add 2 tablespoons soymilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla to chocolate chips; stir. The chocolate chip filling should be a “frosting” consistency.
  9. Take out cookies after 6 more minutes (12 minutes total baking time); let cool on cookie sheets.
  10. Spread chocolate chip filling onto one cookie and sandwich with another.

Makes 12 giant sandwich cookies, which Peter recommends cutting in half once they’re done.

After doing a quick Google search for “vegan sandwich cookies”, the first thing that popped up was The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.  I’ve never heard of her before, bit it looks like this Kelly Peloza girl might know a thing or two about quality vegan baking.  Check her out! I’ve got my eye on her recipe for Bakery Style Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (with A Hint of Maple). Best of all, she even managed to shape each cookie into a heart.  :)