comfort food · Crock pot · dinner · easy · healthy · Lasagna · lunch · soup · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

Vegetarian/Vegan Lasagna Soup

Last Thursday I got out of work at 2pm instead of my usual 6pm. This is something we do for everyone when they are working a half day on Saturday, but it always feels like I’m skipping school or something. I always feel like I need to do something with this bonus time rather than let it be consumed by trash tv and naps, so I ended up cooking and baking in a frenzy. I really only meant to make granola. We had some leftover plain yogurt from making grapefruit cake, and I was not looking to eat it without something delicious on top (who does that?). Before I got home, I decided I needed to start meal prepping too, so I thought I’d make something easy in the crock pot. I’d been so focused on baking for the farmer’s market that my regular cooking was seriously suffering. I was itching to stretch those muscles, so I got right to it upon arrival home.

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I got the soup started right away, and when I was rummaging in the fridge for lost celery in the crisper, I realized there was some leftover buttermilk that was also from baking at the market. I’d hate for it to go unused, left to be forgotten until several months from now when it is growing into a furry creature. I figured I probably had all the ingredients needed for buttermilk biscuits, so I got to work on that, too. Why the fuck not? I’m waiting for the soup to cook anyway, and the granola was already in the oven. My last biscuit recipe didn’t turn out all that well, so I went to the queen of cooking (IMO) at Smitten Kitchen. Deb never fails me. I only fail myself by touching the dough too much.

Naturally, once the biscuits were done (and they actually had flaky layers!), I took one bite and said to T, “I think we should have biscuits and gravy for dinner.” And so it was. I finished making this soup, but it went straight into the fridge for another night while I went to work on making mushroom breakfast gravy that was based on my original recipe, but included a lot more butter. Fear not – the soup reheats beautifully. We’ve been happily eating bowls of it for the last 3 days, sloppily dipping crusty buttered sourdough into the broth, or crumbling up a biscuit over the top to soak up all the creamy goodness. The last bowl is set aside for my lunch tomorrow, when my deliciously long weekend abruptly comes to a halt. What’s most infuriating is that I finally had all this meal prepping energy a day before this gloriously long weekend. We ate like queens all weekend, but I should really have set more aside for work lunches. It leaves me with 2 lunches, which almost takes me through my arduous 3 day work week (yes, I also have Tuesdays off), so I guess not all is lost.

This recipe used up a ton of ingredients that were on the verge of going bad (or simply at risk for being ignored). The lentils* had honestly been sitting in my cabinet since long before the move from the old place. They desperately needed to be included, and now was their moment to shine. They add the meaty texture that this soup would otherwise lack, with an added boost of nutritional value. Plus, they’re just plain good (to quote one of my idols, Molly Yeh)!

Why aren’t we (me) all using lentils more?

*After further investigation, it appears as though those lentils had been sitting around even longer than I realized. I’ve been looking for ways to use them since asking for your help in this post. Sigh.

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Vegetarian Lasagna Soup

1 pound pasta (I used chickpea based pasta for added nutrients, but any pasta will work here) – sub gluten free pasta if you’re gluten free!

4 1/2 cups vegetable stock

3/4 cup dry brown lentils

1 – 28oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large (or 2 medium) zucchini, diced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1-2 teaspoons powdered garlic (or 2 cloves minced fresh garlic)

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1/4 cup heavy cream, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, red pepper flakes (I added all of these things)

Start the crockpot out with the veggie stock, lentils, onion, celery, oregano, and garlic (and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you’re feeling spicy) on high heat. Stir well and let sit for 2 hours. Add in the can of tomatoes and zucchini and cook for another 2-3 hours. Finally, add in the pasta and cook for another 12 minutes. If you want a creamy soup, now is your chance to add 1/4 cup heavy cream (whole fat coconut milk would be a great vegan substitute here) and maybe a generous handful of parmesan (skip if you’re vegan). Stir to combine and serve with some fancy ass bread from Whole Foods (or homemade if you’re that ambitious). I served mine with homemade biscuits because apparently I think I am Betty fucking Crocker.

 

brunch · Cheese · comfort food · dinner · easy · potatoes · sides · vegetarian

Wisconsin Style Cheesy Potatoes

Without getting too into the details of it, my grandma passed away recently. I am 33 years old, and, naturally, have never known life without her. She definitely played a bigger roll in my life when I was much younger, but, though we didn’t spend much time together as I got older, I always found comfort in knowing she was at home quilting. In her younger years, she was also cooking. As a mom of 14, and a grandmother to countless more, she used to host a giant Thanksgiving dinner (which I think was actually lunch, if I’m remembering correctly). I have very few memories of this, as she lived 4 hours away so we didn’t attend often, but I do remember the food. To this day I still don’t know if she actually cooked everything. Was it a pot luck? Did the community help? I was a mere child that did not concern herself with the logistical affairs of adults. I was just excited to EAT. (Which is the possible title of my future memoir.)

Dinner always consisted of the classic Midwestern staples, such as ambrosia salad (literally just canned fruit, cool whip, jello, marshmallows, and nuts), various “bars” (I seriously don’t know what people from other areas call these as a general term, but they’re basically variations of brownies and blondies), lots of stuffing and potatoes (we LOVE carbs more than any other area of the country), roast turkey, and probably ham. While I’m sure there were other things like sweet potatoes and green beans, I was mostly focused on cramming my plate as full of potatoes, stuffing, and desserts as possible. I was a sucker for those bars. They were so foreign to me, despite my Midwestern upbringing.

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You see, my mom hates chocolate (I know). We also weren’t a dessert family in general. Our desserts were isolated to holidays and vacations, and were absolutely never chocolate based (most of my favorite bars have a thick layer of chocolate). Vacations were a free-for-all, and I recall eating ice cream for lunch and/or refrigerated cookie dough for dinner on several vacations with my mom as a child. Holidays always consisted of pie – both apple and pumpkin. My mom would always ask if we wanted whipped or ice cream, and it wasn’t until I became an adult that I developed the boldness to ask for both. I didn’t realize that this was all semi-abnormal until I was in my early 20’s, when I realized most other families offered dessert after dinner every night. Maybe this is why I have such an affinity for baking and sweets.

My mom loves to bake cookies, as we discovered here, but never baked much of anything else. Grandma, on the other hand, apparently baked quite a bit when she was younger. I discovered several years ago that my grandma used to make cinnamon rolls regularly when my mom was a child. Mom said that the kids would often fight over who would eat the last bite of dough that wasn’t big enough to be baked with the rest of the rolls. I made cinnamon rolls once in my life, and it was about 5 years ago. The whole thing was so time consuming and full of steps that it was the last time I ever attempted it. When I mentioned how difficult they were to my grandma, she laughed and said that she made them all the time for her children because they were so easy. Now I’m wondering if maybe I could learn a little patience and perhaps try it again. If she can do it with 14 children running around, I could certainly do it with one cat and one monster of a kitten at my feet.

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But that’s a blog post for another time. This week I made cheesy potatoes. They were something my grandma made for most occasions, and a staple of the Midwestern diet. They were even served with the lunch buffet after her funeral, which then ended with a huge variety of ice cream treats (her very favorite). This isn’t her recipe, as I don’t actually have her recipe, but it was found in the Waunakee, Wisconsin cookbook that I was given for my wedding many years ago, so I figured it was close enough. These are simple, hearty, and creamy – a true comfort food that will stick to your ribs and keep you warm during a cold winter. This week was the perfect week to make them, as it has been unseasonably cold here in Minneapolis, sometimes only making it up to 25 degrees during the day. I’m enjoying the leftovers more than anything, since they are excellent at all times of the day. I’ve been eating them with my eggs for breakfast a lot. Because of my association with cheesy potatoes, they make every meal feel like a special occasion.

We all remember and honor loved ones in different ways. For me, it’s food. Do any of you have recipes that help you feel close to your grandma? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

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6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 small onion, diced

1 can cream of mushroom soup (the recipe called for cream of chicken)

2 cups milk

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 stick butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add diced onion and saute until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 2-4 minutes. Pour into a 9×13 glass baking dish, or whatever you have. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the top browns slightly. Serve with anything you like – eggs, meat, veggies. Or maybe just eat a bowl of this and call it a meal. You do you.

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Bourdain discovered his love of butter this week.

 

*Cheers to you, Grandma. There’s not a single swear in this whole post.*

Cheese · comfort food · Dating · dinner · easy · gluten free · healthy · lunch · potatoes · quick · soup · vegan · Vegetables · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

Vegan Baked Potato Soup

Y’all. I have been a hermit lately. And by hermit I mean not going to 8 yoga classes a week while also going out with friends/going to friends’ houses several times per week while surviving on 6ish hours of sleep per night (that is like zero to me). Instead, I am spending a lot of time home alone watching The Mindy Project or frequently joining another for some quality Netflix time (while discovering Stranger Things! ZOMG). During my Summer of Anxiety last year, I made the habit of socializing NONSTOP. In fact, I even retook the Meyers Briggs personality test and had actually changed from introvert to extrovert. My personality literally changed due to my anxiety level. How is that even possible?

After that summer things got better, but my schedule did not slow down. In fact, I replaced a lot of my friend time with dating. Remember that one time I went on 6 dates in 5 days? Within that same week I had my “soul crushed” by one of those 6 dates (we’re actually still friends, and were clearly not a good romantic match, so it all worked out). It was all very exhausting. I kept trying to slow everything down, but that seemed impossible while I was still swiping on Tinder.

Being alone often triggered my anxiety, so I made myself as busy as I possibly could.

In the last few months, I have finally been able to actively slow down my life. My anxiety has calmed, and I have found time for myself in a way that hasn’t been possible in a really long time. You know what really helped with that?

Deleting Tinder. Fuuuuuck. Those dates made for good stories, but that was definitely more exhausting than 8 yoga classes a week.

It’s that time of year where many of us start hibernating. Hibernating means comfort food. I literally ate various forms of bread and cheese for 4 meals on Sunday. Yes, four meals. In my defense, I was hungover from the 12 hours of drinking the day before, on top of having a cold that won’t quit. So, no, I haven’t slowed down completely. I’m just finding new things that bring me joy, and not saying yes to everything.

I’m also budgeting like crazy. I made this cozy soup last week without making an extra trip to the grocery store. My new rule is only one trip a week, and only $60 MAX. Last week I only spent $42, and that included 3 different types of cheese. Even shopping at a co-op, this shit is possible. This potato soup is rich and creamy without the cream (cream is expensive). You could definitely add other veggies to it, or even some chickpeas or quinoa for protein. I kept it pretty simple, but did top it with some fancy-ass smoked cheddar cheese (I know that means it’s no longer vegan, but I’m not vegan, so I don’t care).

Side note: These photos aren’t great because of the lack of daylight since daylight savings time ended. It’s been impossible for me to cook and photograph mid-day. It’ll get better, I promise!

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Vegan Baked Potato Soup

3 stalks celery, chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small onion, diced

4 cups veggie broth (I suggested keeping the concentrate around, as it is cheaper and easier – or you can make your own to be really thrifty)

3 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced

1 cup vegan milk of choice (I used cashew, but canned coconut would be creamier)

3 tablespoons flour (to thicken) – can easily be subbed for gluten free flour, or omitted

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional toppings: Cheddar cheese, green onion, bacon/fake bacon

In a large pot with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, saute the onion, carrots, and celery over medium-high heat until they soften (3-5 minutes). Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and the flour. Mix well – the veggies could clump together. Cook for another minute, stirring consistently. Add the potatoes and broth, making sure to incorporate everything well (no flour lumps! I believe in you!). Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Then you have 2 options…. 1. Use an immersion blender (or regular blender in batches) right in the pot to blend everything smooth, OR 2. Scoop half of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth, then return it back to the pot. Option #2 will leave you with chunks, which is my preference. You do you. Once blended, add the milk and some more salt and pepper. Scoop into bowls, top with cheese and green onion, brown up a motherfuckin’ grilled cheese because you’re sick and deserve to have melted cheese with every meal, and go back to watching Stranger Things in your PJ’s.

 

 

comfort food · gluten free · lunch · potatoes · quick · shopping · sides · vacation · vegetarian

Homemade Mashed Potatoes and Vacation Brain

I’m going on vacation today, but my brain has been turned off for at least 2 days. It makes everything more difficult. My patience is wearing thin (and, let’s be real, it’s not great to begin with). I was up late last night frantically packing, because it’s impossible for me to plan ahead. I also insisted upon going to an acro jam, because apparently I wanted to have even less time to pack. And I showed up late to the jam (which, if you don’t know, is just a term for acro people getting together and doing acro for a few hours without a teacher), because I was starving to death. I made mashed potatoes at the last minute, which is silly because it’s not really an on-the-go type of food.

I also ended up going to MOA (for those that aren’t cool and live in MN, that stands for Mall of America) after work last night to return a swimsuit that I purchased online last week. I think I’ve complained about this before, but what is the fucking deal with plus size swimsuits(or is it all of them?)? I ordered one from Torrid with these cute little pink details and a much needed underwire… only to find that it won’t even remotely accommodate my chest. I even tried it on in a bigger size in the store, and technically it fit… but fuuuuck. I was going to have a nip slip for sure, and I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. Fuck that shit. I’m all for a sexy, low-cut look… but I also intend to be swimming and snorkeling. I need to feel secure in my swimsuit. I’m sick of all the stores carrying the some shitty styles in plus size. Like, no, I do NOT want a fucking halter top. Why is this the most common option? Can you even comprehend how heavy my breasts are? That skinny ass fucking strap is cutting into my neck. It’s horrible. And even this one that I purchased last week, which was supposedly made for my body type, is completely impractical. I was literally going to fall out the top of it, and then to make matters worse, there were padded inserts to help push me further out of the top. What. The. Fuck.

Anyway, I did end up finding something I like, but the whole experience was a pain in the ass. I’m just glad it’s not a halter and that it doesn’t have a fucking skirt attached. Stop trying to hide my body. Fuck.

While I’m so excited about all the amazing things I’ll be doing while on this vacation, one of the most exciting parts of it for me is that I will get to turn my brain off for a bit. I’m fucking exhausted. For 2 whole weeks I won’t have to worry about bills, chores, work, or (most importantly) dating. I don’t have to fucking overthink anything, or analyze intentions. I just get to fucking relax and have fun. This trip is so needed right now. And I will get to spend time with a handful of my favorite people, which just makes it even better. Plus, I’ll get to eat mochi every single day in Hawaii.

So these mashed potatoes (is it still plural when it’s just one potato?), like I said, were made on a whim when I was starving last night. I was really craving french fries, but you know, you can’t always have what you want. I’m a big fan of leaving the skin on for mashed potatoes (my mom always says that’s where all the nutrients are), but you’re welcome to peel yours first. I live alone, so I usually only boil and mash one lone potato. It works out really well, because that one potato fluffs up to double it’s size! Try it out. Making mashed potatoes for one doesn’t have to be considered “too much effort.” It’s really easy, actually. Besides, you’re worth the extra effort.

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Homemade Mashed Potatoes

1 large russet potato, unpeeled (but remove all the growths on it, because we all know it’s been sitting in your cabinet for weeks)

1.5 tablespoons butter

A large splash of half and half or milk (~1/4 cup)

Salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil. You only need enough water to fully cover the potatoes. While waiting for the water to boil, wash your potato and chop up into 1-2″ cubes. Once water starts boiling, throw in the potatoes (Carefully! Splashing boiling water is no joke!). I suppose you could just put the potatoes in before boiling the water, but I like to live on the edge. Let boil for about 10-15 minutes (until soft – you’ll know by stabbing a cube with a fork, lifting it out of the water, and it falls right off). Drain and place back into the same pot. Add butter and start to mash with a potato masher. I like to wait until the butter is mostly melted before adding the half and half. Start with a small splash of half and half and mash a bit more. If it’s still too thick, add some more. Continue adding half and half until it’s the consistency you like, and then add some salt and pepper. Taste as you go. You’ll need more salt than pepper, but pepper can be a nice touch.

You could also top this with some green onion, or add in some cooked mushrooms and garlic. Roasted garlic is always good with mashed potatoes, too. But I kept mine simple last night, mostly for a lack of time. Serve with whatever the fuck you want. I did a fake chicken patty and some arugula, because that’s all I had lying around. I wouldn’t judge you at all for serving it with nothing. Just eat that shit right out of the pan while watching some Netflix if it makes you happy. Fuck going out and socializing.

comfort food · Dating · dinner · easy · soup · vegan · vegetarian

Vegan Chickpea and Dumpling Stew

I did it. I made motherfucking dumplings. This is something I never even aspired to! And it was fucking easy!

My friend and coworker surprised me with a cookbook the other day. She was perusing vegan cookbooks when she came across Thug Kitchen, and said it was just screaming my name. Goddamn right it was. Have you guys read this shit? It’s so fucking funny. My favorite line in this recipe was, “…add the dumplings a couple at a time so they don’t get all stuck together in a clusterfuck of dough and dying dreams.” That kills me. Also, I love the word clusterfuck. I’m going to start adding that to my everyday vocab. WordPress insists it’s not a word, but they’re wrong.

So yesterday I had all this shit planned… but I ended up watching Aladdin while making this stew instead. Shit just didn’t work out. No one came to my yoga class in the morning, which is fine because I was then able to have a full on photoshoot for future Instagram posts all by myself. I also kind of love having the studio to myself. Feels a little like magic. But I really did want to teach! I even smudged the place, lit all the candles, swept the floor, and set an intention for class. Sometimes shit just doesn’t work out. That’s okay. A couple other things fell through as well, but whatthefuckever. I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time cooking. I always enjoy that. I should do it more often, actually. Besides, it just means I get to spend more time not wearing any fucking pants. That’s a day well spent in my opinion. Fuck pants.

I’m still Tinder-ing, but I’m trying to be more mindful about how I swipe. And, obviously, no more drunken swiping. Do not drink and Tinder. I finally cleaned up that mess, and just started over. You should also not go on Tinder after being disappointed by a romantic interest. All it does is lead to frantic swiping and frantic emotions. It’s much better to process that disappointment first, then start swiping. I have a date on Friday with someone that may or may not be kind of fucking weird (not in the fun way). It’s hard to tell for sure without meeting, though. Sigh. I just want someone to be excited about. First dates are almost never exciting. They incite feelings of dread and exhaustion. Blah. I’ll get there.

In the meantime, there are motherfucking dumplings! I’m so proud of these little fuckers. They’re delicious and soothing and perfect for a cold afternoon spent inside watching Aladdin, singing your heart out to “A Whole New World,” without any pants on. Fuck. That’s the dream right there. I’m living the fucking dream.

Also, if you haven’t read Thug Kitchen yet, Google that shit right now. You’ll be so happy you did.

Chickpea and Dumpling Stew

For the dumplings:

1/4 cup chives, chopped

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup milk (the recipe calls for almond milk, but I only had regular milk)

For the stew:

3ish cups spinach (the recipe calls for kale, but I only had spinach… also didn’t measure it, just a few handfuls)

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced (the recipe called for broccoli… but I didn’t fucking have any)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil

Salt

2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika (recipe called for cayenne… again, didn’t have any)

7 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup white wine (or broth)

2 – 15oz cans chickpeas

10 cups veggie broth

1 1/2 cups peas (I hate peas, so I omitted this)

1/4 cup chives, chopped, plus more for serving

For the dumplings:

Add all the dry ingredients to a medium bowl and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk together. Then add 1/2 cup milk slowly, mixing well. Drizzle in more milk as needed, until the dough forms into a rough ball. On a floured surface, knead in the chives. Then roll dough out until it’s about 1/8″ thick. Cut into smallish squares/rectangles (about 1″ by 1.5″). Stack them on a floured plate and stick them in the fridge, uncovered.

For the stew:

Heat 2 teaspoons (or tablespoons, which is what I really did) of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions plus some salt. Saute for 5-7 minutes, or until onions start to brown. Add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook for another 3ish minutes before adding the garlic. Stir well, and continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Dump the cooked veggies into a bowl, and set aside. Wipe out the soup pot, or grab another one if you have 2 (I don’t). In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne (or paprika), and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to the pot and warm over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. It’ll be thick as fuck, and really hard to whisk if you have an unnecessarily gigantic pot (like I do). Do the best you can – it’ll all work out. Stir that thick goo around and continue to cook over medium heat, until it smells nutty and looks a little toasted, or about 2 minutes. Toss in the spices and keep stirring for another 30ish seconds. Add 1/2 cup white wine (or veggie broth!) and stir well. Then add 2 cups of broth, continuing to whisk. Once fully incorporated (no flour chunks), whisk in the rest of the broth. Simmer for about 15 minutes, whisking every minute or so (I didn’t really do it that often). It should start to thicken.

Add the dumplings a few at a time, continuing to stir. Let them simmer for about 3 minutes before adding the sauteed veggies and chickpeas. Simmer everything together for about 10 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the dumplings no longer taste raw. Once the dumplings are done, add the spinach and green onions. Cook for another 2 minutes. Taste test and add more seasonings if needed. At this point, I added a shit-ton of salt. Of course, that was also because I ran out of broth and had to use 2 cups of water. Fucking disaster.

Serve this with some freshly chopped chives on top, and buttered toast on the side.

Yes, I realize the butter makes it not vegan anymore. Thing is, I don’t give a fuck. I also used real milk in the dumplings.