Category Archives: Vegetarian Friday

Vegetarian Friday: Cheddar soup

I’ve seen various versions of this recipe floating around online. Most of them are obscenely high-calorie, unduly complicated, make way bigger batches than anybody really wants to eat, or can’t be accessed without scrolling through somebody’s elaborately monetized blog that takes forever to load, so as usual, I glanced at ingredient lists and photos on Pinterest and then riffed on the general idea. Ron liked the results, and he never likes cream-type soups.

Ingredients
12 baby carrots
1 small potato
2 leeks
3 ribs celery
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. flour
1 bottle Newcastle or similar ale
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 bay leaves
2 c. skim milk
2/3 c. veggie broth
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar

Chop up carrots and steam in the microwave until soft. (The easiest way to do this: Throw the carrots in a bowl with about a tablespoon of water, cover with a saucer, and nuke for 5-6 minutes.)

Chop the leeks and celery (note: Just use the white and light-green parts of the leeks — not the leaves) and saute in olive oil until soft. Add 2 tbsp. flour and cook over low heat until flour starts to brown, stirring constantly. Deglaze the pan with part of the beer, then add the rest slowly, stirring as you add it. Add salt and bay leaves.

Bring beer-leek mixture to a boil over medium heat. While beer is cooking, dice the potato and cook it in the microwave until soft. (I just poked a hole in mine, stuck it in there on the baked-potato setting, and then diced it, using a clean cloth to handle it so I didn’t burn my fingers. The peel came right off that way, and it was easier to cut.)

The carrots give the soup a yellowish tinge even before you add the cheddar.
The carrots give the soup a yellowish tinge even before you add the cheddar.

Add milk and veggie broth to the pan and simmer over low heat until the bay leaf starts to release its flavor. (You’ll know this is happening because it will suddenly start to smell awesome.) Add cream cheese and let it melt, stirring occasionally.

Remove bay leaves, stir in diced potato and cheddar cheese, and serve. Makes about 4 big servings.

Hot, thick soup and a heavy-bodied beer make a nice dinner on a cold day.
Hot, thick soup and a heavy-bodied beer make a nice dinner on a cold day.

This soup is especially nice on a cold day, accompanied by a good English or Irish beer.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Mashed potatoes and green-chile gravy

On vacation in 2014, I ordered something called a green-chile parfait at a little diner in Gallup, New Mexico, the name of which escapes me at the moment. Said parfait was a Coke glass in which the cook had layered mashed potatoes, green-chile sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese. The execution was kind of mediocre (I think they made the parfait and then microwaved it in the glass, because it had some hot and cold spots in it), but the idea? Brilliant.

I don’t have any parfait glasses, so I just made a bowl of skin-on mashed potatoes and topped it with green-chile sauce and shredded cheddar. It was delicious. Here’s how to make it:

1. Click over to the Visit Albuquerque website to get the green-chile sauce recipe I used. I forgot where I’d stashed my plain cumin, so I subbed a tablespoon or so of my usual homemade taco-seasoning mix for the cumin, and I upped the garlic to three cloves because I grew up in a town full of Italians, and if you’re going to use garlic, you might as well do it right. For the broth, I used a cup of water and three of those vegetable-stock cubes I froze last summer. It turned out very well.

Green-chile sauce is basically brown gravy with onions and green chiles in it. It's good on just about everything.
Green-chile sauce is basically brown gravy with onions and green chiles in it. It’s good on just about everything.

2. Bake two potatoes, cut them into chunks, and mash them up, skins and all. (Time-saving tip: Potatoes bake well in the Crock-Pot. Wash them up and cook a bunch at once; when they’re done, you can dice them up or mash them and freeze them for later use.)

3. Layer potatoes, green-chile sauce, and shredded cheddar in a bowl and nuke until the cheddar melts.

Serves two, with enough green chile left for a batch of huevos rancheros or a couple of wet burritos.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Mom’s fruitcake

NOTE: I managed to let the entire Christmas season get away from me without posting the holiday blogs I’d planned, so this recipe is either too late (seriously: Don’t make it today and plan on eating it Sunday, or you’ll be terribly disappointed) or impressively early. If you assume the latter and make it now, it should be spectacular by December 2017.

People who regard fruitcake as a punchline are miserable souls who have probably spent their lives eating the wretched commercially prepared alcohol sponges that pass for fruitcake in those gift baskets you buy for people you don’t really like.

It is entirely possible to make fruitcake that tastes good. I know because my mom has been doing it for decades.

Before we start, I need you to understand three important principles concerning fruitcake.

Principle 1: Candied fruit has no place in a fruitcake. People who think it does probably drink flavored coffee and approve of the designated hitter.

Principle 2: Green-tinted maraschino cherries are a Communist plot to destroy humanity. They are little green balls of mint-flavored poison, to paraphrase Patrick. Never, ever put them in a fruitcake for any reason.

Principle 3: Booze has a legitimate purpose in fruitcake, but that purpose is not to get you drunk. If you’re making fruitcake to hide your alcohol consumption, click here.

Now that you understand the basics, you’re ready to make fruitcake the way God intended: Using my mom’s recipe.

Ingredients
1 c. cider or apple juice
1-2 c. dried apricots*
1 pkg. whole dates (10 or 12 oz.)
1 c. raisins or currants
16 oz. red maraschino cherries, drained
1 c. English walnuts
1 c. pecans
1 c. hazelnuts or Brazil nuts**
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 c. orange juice or maraschino syrup
1/4 c. apple juice
1/4 c. molasses (NOT blackstrap)

Chop fruit coarsely. (Mom says poultry shears work well for this.) Boil 1 cup apple cider or juice and pour over dried fruit. Mix. Dump nuts on top of fruit and set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine liquid ingredients. Add to batter alternately with 2 cups of the flour, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add remaining cup of flour to fruit, which has been soaking in the juice, stirring to lightly coat fruit.

Add fruit to batter all at once, blending well so fruit is coated with batter.

Pack into greased and floured loaf pans so that each one is 3/4 full.

Bake at 275 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cakes are a medium brown (at least an hour and 15 minutes; probably longer, depending on your oven).

Let cool in pans, remove, wrap in clean towels moistened with cider or hard liquor (Mom swears by Southern Comfort for this; I’ve gotten good results from Kilbeggan’s, but any decent whiskey is probably fine), then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator in a big ziplock bag.

About once a week, check the moisture level and re-moisten the towels as needed to keep them damp. Mom says to alternate between booze and cider for this or the fruitcake will end up tasting like whiskey, which is NOT what you want. Your goal here is just to keep it from drying out or getting moldy while it ages.

As long as you keep the towel moist and the bag sealed between snacks, fruitcake will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. The longer it ages, the more the flavors will blend, so I wouldn’t even touch it for at least two weeks.

I like to keep fruitcake in the refrigerator and eat it after hard workouts. The nutritional content is just about ideal for refueling after a long run.

Emily

*You can substitute other dried fruit for some of the apricots. Mom has had good luck with dried pears and dried pineapple. Check the comments, because she’ll probably weigh in with suggestions.

**Black walnuts are also wonderful, but don’t use more than a half-cup, as their flavor is pretty strong, and you don’t want them to overpower everything.

Vegetarian Friday: Quinoa salad

This fall, we attended a family cookout at my in-laws’ house, and their next-door neighbors — a pair of world-class back-to-the-land hippies — brought this great quinoa and black bean salad that tasted like a cross between tabouli and Texas caviar. Ron and I both liked it, but the cool hippie neighbors left before we had a chance to exchange email addresses with them, so I did some Googling, ran a few Pinterest searches, and cobbled together something I think is pretty close to what we had at the cookout. As always, feel free to adjust proportions to suit your personal taste; the only really important part is that you have a 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio.

Ingredients
1/2 c. red quinoa
1 c. water
At least a dozen cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 bell pepper
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch scallions
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Cumin and chili powder to taste (I used my homemade taco seasoning)
1 can black beans

Several hours before you plan to serve the salad, put quinoa in a strainer and rinse thoroughly. (Don’t skip this step, or the quinoa will taste bitter.) Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed — about 15 minutes.

While quinoa cooks, prep your vegetables: Rinse the tomatoes and halve them if desired, dice the pepper, and mince the cilantro and scallions.

Drain and rinse beans and stir them into the finished quinoa, along with the olive oil, lime juice, and spices.

Chill the quinoa-bean mixture for several hours. Stir in the vegetables just before serving. (If you add the vegetables while the quinoa is still hot, they’ll wilt.)

Makes about four big servings. This salad makes a good lunch all by itself, as quinoa is very high in protein.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Jalapeno soup

For several months, I’ve been seeing recipes on Pinterest for something called “jalapeno popper soup.” Some of the recipes looked better than others. None of them really impressed me, but the concept was solid enough, I decided it was probably worth making my own version.

The results were pretty good. I have an idea for a substitution, which I’ll include below. (If you’ve read this blog much, you probably already know what it is.)

Ingredients

1 pkg. cream cheese (I use Green Mountain’s Greek yogurt kind to boost the protein and cut the calories)
2 c. veggie broth
2 tbsp. butter
1 smallish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. flour
About 1 c. of canned jalapenos, chopped coarsely
1 c. shredded cheddar
2 tbsp. taco seasoning (click here for a recipe)

Nuke the cream cheese in 30-second bursts, stirring after each, until it melts.

Dump the melted cheese into a pan.

Nuke the broth until it’s hot through.

Whisk the broth into the cheese, a little at a time.

Saute the onions in butter until they become translucent and start to brown. Add the garlic, stir once or twice, and then add the olive oil and flour and stir constantly until the flour browns to make a roux.

Remove pan from heat and whisk the roux-onion-garlic mixture into the cheese mixture.

Whisk in the jalapenos, taco seasoning, and about a cup of shredded cheddar and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.

Garnish with jalapeno slices and serve with crushed tortilla chips.

Yes, I basically just ate an entire bowl of queso with a spoon. Don't judge me.
Yes, I basically just ate an entire bowl of queso with a spoon. Don’t judge me.

The Pinterest recipes claim the soup tastes “just like a jalapeno popper,” which is obviously a lie, because jalapeno poppers are either breaded or battered and deep-fried. I’m sorry to be the one to break this shocking news, but soup is never going to taste like deep-fried fair food. It’s soup, not midway fare. Get with the program.

What this soup will taste like is a pretty good queso. To make it taste like a really good queso, I’d swap the jalapenos for roasted green chiles. (You saw that coming, right?)

Feel free to disregard that suggestion if you really, really like the taste of jalapenos. I don’t. I can eat them if there’s no other hot pepper available, but I can name a half-dozen other varieties I like better. (Which reminds me: One of these weeks, I need to give y’all a tutorial on cooking with habaneros. They’re magic.)

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Quick apple wrap

This is sort of like an apple turnover, but much better for you.
This is sort of like an apple turnover, but much better for you.

This isn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, and I’m not even sure what to call it, but it tastes good, takes about five minutes to make, and is loaded with fiber and various other nutrients that make it an excellent snack for refueling after a long run, a hard workout, or a day in the garden.

Ingredients
Apple
Whole-wheat, low-carb tortilla (I like the ones La Tortilla Factory makes — expensive but nutritionally excellent)
Cinnamon
1 tsp. caramel ice-cream topping or honey
Butter

Core the apple and cut it into thin slices (I use a corer/slicer gadget similar to this one to save time, then cut each slice in half).

Microwave the slices until soft (about 2 minutes in my microwave, but your mileage may vary). While the microwave is running, melt about half a tablespoon of butter in a skillet.

I used caramel sauce because I was craving a caramel apple, but honey or a little butter and brown sugar would work just as well.
I used caramel sauce because I was craving a caramel apple, but honey or a little butter and brown sugar would work just as well.

Place slices in the center of a tortilla. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce or honey.

I left this in the pan a bit longer than necessary and probably had the temperature too high. Cook yours on medium, and watch it closely if scorched spots bother you.
I left this in the pan a bit longer than necessary and probably had the temperature too high. Cook yours on medium, and watch it closely if scorched spots bother you.

Wrap up the tortilla like a burrito and fry gently on both sides. Don’t scorch it (as I obviously did) — you just want it in the pan long enough to warm it and pick up a little bit of butter.

If you use the fancy tortillas like I did, you’ll end up with a snack that’s got about 10 grams of protein and 17 grams of fiber, along with just a few simple carbs to replenish your blood sugar after a workout.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Tomato-pepper soup

I found this recipe from Budget Bytes by way of Pinterest.

I riffed on it only slightly, so rather than plagiarize someone else’s recipe, I’ll just tell you the bits I changed, and you can click on over to the link above to get the full recipe, including tips for making it vegan without losing much flavor.

Here are my modifications/notes on the recipe:

1. Saute the onion until it’s translucent BEFORE you add the garlic, or you’ll scorch it. Garlic should never be sauteed longer than about 30 seconds — as soon as it starts to smell good, take it off the burner.

2. Diced tomatoes are fine if you can’t find crushed or don’t have any on hand.

3. If the 16-oz. jar of red peppers is cheaper than the 12-oz. jar, it’s fine to use all of it.

4. Remember that vegetable stock we made a while back? Two of your frozen cubes and a cup and a half of water will work well here.

5. I’m lazy and like my flavors assertive, so I used a tablespoon of my Italian seasoning blend in place of the basil and thyme. If you prefer less spice, start with the original recipe and go from there.

6. Skim milk is fine in place of whole if you’re counting calories (or just don’t have any skim milk on hand).

I love tomato soup. Ron usually doesn’t, but he really liked this recipe, which I served with pesto, some leftover crostini I’d bought for another project, and a generous helping of Parmesan cheese, so we’ll be having it again in the near future.

Emily