Slow cookers have been a fixture in many kitchens since the early 1970’s when Rival reimagined the slow cooker originally invented by Irving Naxon. In 1936 Irving invented a bean cooker so his Jewish mother could honor the sabbath by not working. By using his slow cooker pot, his mother was able to serve a traditional meal of bean stew called cohlent at the end of the sabbath after Saturday services, and still adhere to the tradition of resting on the sabbath. All I have to say is THANK YOU, IRVING NAXON! The invention of the slow cooker is arguably one of the greatest kitchen appliances of our time! I know personally, that there were many family dinners that would have never happened had it not been for my trusty slow cooker!
And yes…it’s a slow cooker, not a crockpot. Just as all facial tissues are not Kleenex, all cotton swabs are not Q-tips, and all petroleum jelly is not Vaseline. My personal preference for a slow cooker is the Ninja Cooking System. It has slow cooker, oven, and stove top cooking settings which make it extremely versatile and user friendly!
Today I’m sharing a recipe for Slow Cooker Red Curry Lentils and Vegetables that happens to be one of my favorite meals of all time! I love Indian food, but living in the middle of Iowa, authentic Indian is pretty hard to come by! I’ve experimented with several different recipes I’ve found on line and come up with my version of an Indian Red Curry that I love, and that my family will happily eat every time I serve it!
Put the lid on, set the temperature to low, and walk away while dinner cooks itself!
Your patience is rewarded…dinner is served!
Like all good slow cooker recipes, the preparation is simple and straightforward. And to save time, much of the prep work and recipe assembly, save for stirring in the lentils and coconut milk can be completed the evening before actually cooking the dish. The flavors are spicy from the red curry paste, roasted red chili paste, cayenne, and red pepper flakes, and warm and rich from the addition of more curry powder and turmeric. Potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and bell pepper add plenty of flavor and texture. Even my husband, a certified carnivore, loves this dish! Served over basmati rice it is filling and satisfying, and it’s one of those meals that I think is even better served leftover the next day!
Slow Cooker Red Curry Lentils and Vegetables
With minimal preparation, a warm and savory spicy red curry lentil dinner can be yours when you get home from a long day at work!
Raise your hand if you’re busy, stressed out, running out of patience, and burning the candle at both ends! I can almost feel the breeze from all those hands waving in the air! 😉 This time of year is without a doubt the most joyous for many of us, but it can also be the most stressful! There’s so much to do…year-end work projects, shopping, cooking, baking, holiday parties, school music concerts, church youth programs, house guests, decorating, secret-keeping, gift wrapping…the list goes on and on! But no matter how busy life gets, we’re better able to cope with the craziness if we’ve fueled up properly before heading out the door! To that end, let me introduce you to my Best Ever Slow Cooker Oatmeal!
This oatmeal comes together in a few minutes in the slow cooker, simmers for a couple hours, and makes enough to feed 8 people once, 2 people 4 times, 4 people twice….you get the idea! Make it on Sunday, refrigerator single serve portions, and heat them up in the morning when your rushing to get ready for work or to get the kids out the door for school! It’s deliciously satisfying and will keep you going all morning. There’s also something about a warm breakfast on a cold winter morning that just seems to set a more positive tone for the day! And as a mom I always felt better about sending my kids to the bus stop on a belly full of homemade oatmeal, though I rarely had time to make it for them. This recipe solves that issue!
Another time this recipe would be a perfect addition to your breakfast recipe arsenal is when you’ve got a house full of guests. Maybe family is in town for the holidays. Maybe your college age kids are home for the weekend with a couple friends in tow. Maybe your 10 year old hosted a sleep over and you’ve got a hungry bunch of kids to feed. No matter the scenario – whether you’re making a pot full for yourself to have for breakfast all week, or to feed a crowd, this oatmeal is fantastic – and it’s a recipe you’ll be sure to turn to over and over again!
One of the things I like most about oatmeal is that it’s like a blank canvas that can be painted with variety of flavors and toppings! This recipe itself is simple – unsweetened vanilla almond milk, water, old fashioned oats, real maple syrup, a dash of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, and a smidgen of almond extract combine to make the basic oatmeal. What you do to your own bowl of oatmeal is completely up to you! I suggest serving fresh berries, nuts, bananas, extra syrup for those who like it sweeter, and more almond milk for those who prefer it thinner. You might also serve it with applesauce like this homemade version, toasted coconut, dried fruits, or even chocolate chips for the kiddos! My favorite bowl is topped with blueberries, sliced bananas, and walnuts! There are no rules when it comes to personalizing your oatmeal!!!
Let this Best Ever Slow Cooker Oatmeal simplify the breakfast frenzy for you and your family! You’ll be happy they ate a healthy breakfast, and they’ll be fueled up and full until lunchtime!
Best Ever Slow Cooker Oatmeal
This will be your go-to recipe for a hearty and hot breakfast to feed your hungry crew, and keep them fueled up until lunch!
On Monday I shared a recipe for Crockpot Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce and I promised a dessert recipe using that most delectable tart and tasty sauce…drum roll please…here she is…Spiced Orange Cranberry Torte! Isn’t she BEAUTIFUL?!? Ok…so yeah I’m probably a little biased, but I just get so excited when something turns out exactly even better than I imagined! And just take a gander at that crust to filling ratio…I love my crust!!! 😉
So not only is this dessert show-stopping gorgeous, and devastatingly delicious, it’s also vegan, sugar-free, and no-bake! C’mon…it just doesn’t get any better than that! With a little advance prep work like making the Crockpot Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce, and the Honeyed Orange Peel, assembling this dessert is a cinch!
Do you remember eating those orange slice candies that come in a 2 for $1.00 bag? The kind you get at the farm supply or convenience store? I loved those candies growing up. My grandpa always had a bag in the glovebox of his car and every once in a while, my grandma would reach in and hand my brother and I one of those little gummy jewels! I loved the fresh taste and the way they made my tongue tingle just a little bit! I wanted to recreate something similar in taste and texture, but since I don’t use sugar I had to find an alternative method to and make “candied” orange peel. In the end I came up with Honeyed Orange Peel. It’s a little – ok lot – stickier than the kind made with sugar and water, but the taste is spot on, and even though the peels are sticky, they’re perfect in this recipe!
Once the cranberry sauce and orange peel is ready, it’s a pretty simple assembly process. The crust is made in the food processor by combining pecans, almonds, walnuts, and dates with a little orange juice and zest and a splash of vanilla. The spiced orange filling is made in the blender from soaked and drained cashews, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, honey, and our honeyed orange peel! Since it’s a raw dessert the only real thing you need to keep in mind as far as prep time is that it does need a at least a couple hours to set up in the freezer, and preferably overnight if possible.
This Thanksgiving instead of making 2 separate desserts – one for the vegetarians/vegans at your table, and one for everyone else – simplify your menu by making just one dessert. This Spiced Orange Cranberry Torte is so delicious that absolutely everyone will be praising your dessert skills! And unless you tell them – they’ll never even suspect you fed them a raw vegan dessert! One dessert to please everyone…now there’s something to be thankful for!
Spiced Orange Cranberry Torte
A Thanksgiving dessert to be especially thankful for as it's sure to please everyone - from the carnivores to the vegans - at your holiday table this year!
2 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water at least 2 to 3 hours, then drained
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup chopped Honeyed Orange Peel
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch each of nutmeg & cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce ~ link to recipe in body of blog post
For the Honeyed Orange Peel
Place orange peel strips in large saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil over high heat, drain, and repeat 4 more times.
After 5th boiling process return softened peels to the pan, add 3/4 cup honey and 1 cup water and stir to combine and coat the orange peels.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours until peels are translucent.
Watch closely last 30 minutes of cooking time so as not to simmer away all the liquids in the pan and burn the peels.
When translucent, remove peels from pan to cool, then store in refrigerator.
Reserve any leftover orange honey from the saucepan to include in the torte filling!
For the crust
Combine all crust ingredients in a food processor.
Process until mixture resembles crumbs and sticks together when a small amount is rolled in your hands.
Pour crust mixture into a 9" springform pan lightly greased with coconut oil.
Smooth and compress crust into bottom of pan.
Place in freezer to set up slightly while preparing the filling.
For the filling
Combine all filling ingredients except Cranberry Sauce and Honeyed Orange Peel in the pitcher of a high speed blender.
Blend until completely smooth, adding more orange juice if necessary.
When filling is smooth add chopped honeyed orange peel and pulse just a couple times to incorporate the peel.
Pour filling into chilled crust.
Cover with plastic wrap and return to freezer for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, to completely firm up.
Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving.
Remove rim of springform pan, spread 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce on top and garnish as desired.
Cut into 12 to 16 small pieces with a very sharp knife. It's a very rich dessert - a little goes a long way!
Store leftovers in freezer.
As an alternative to spreading cranberry sauce over the entire torte, you could dollop a small amount on each individual piece. The leftovers are delicious even with the frozen cranberry sauce, but it stays frozen well after the leftover torte is ready to be served!
Thanksgiving Dinner must-haves for me include the usual suspects…turkey, potatoes, stuffing, Apple Wheat Berry Salad, Green Bean Casserole CEBH Style, some kind of bread, a delicious dessert like the one coming up in my next post, and cranberry sauce. Unfortunately, in my immediate family I’m the only cranberry sauce aficionado…but that has never stopped me from making it just for myself! So today I’m sharing my recipe for a simple Crockpot Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce that you can make days ahead and check at least one item off your to-do meal preparation list!
When I was growing up my mom made what she called cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. In reality what she made was actually a cranberry relish since it wasn’t cooked. I remember her clamping the old fashioned grinder onto the end of the counter, then cranking the handle like crazy to grind a bag of frozen cranberries and a couple oranges into the bowl which I was tasked with holding. It was a big responsibility for me to make sure I held that bowl still and didn’t let any of the juices dribble onto the floor! Then she added sugar – what seemed like mounds of sugar – to sweeten that tart relish. After that, she’d pop it into the fridge to chill and macerate for a day or two before our Thanksgiving feast.
This recipe borrows the basics ~ cranberries and oranges ~ from mom’s cranberry relish, but omits the sugar, and instead, sweetens the sauce with maple syrup and honey. Then I spiced things up just a little bit with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. And finally to add a little depth of flavor I splash in some vanilla. The ingredients simmer in a crockpot over low heat for just a couple hours, until the berries are softened. About 90 minutes into the cooking process I mash the berries with the back of a spoon until they’re somewhat crushed, but still have plenty of texture. I let it continue to cook about 30 minutes more, transfer the sauce to a storage container, and pop it in the fridge until ready to serve. The sauce will thicken as it cools and be the perfect texture to accompany your expertly roasted turkey, to top a luscious dessert (subscribe so you don’t miss the next post for just such a dessert), or as a condiment on your leftover turkey sandwiches!
Whats your favorite food related Thanksgiving memory? Tell me about it in the comments…I really do love to read them all!!!
Crockpot Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce
Here's the easiest, most delicious, make-ahead Cranberry Sauce recipe you've been looking for to round out your Thanksgiving menu!
Every once in a while I get super excited about something I’ve concocted in the kitchen, and this amazingly delicious Raw Chocolate Espresso Torte is one of those times! This is also the final post in my Cashew Cream Recipe Series, and to be honest, I’m kind of sad about that! I’ve had so much fun coming up with new and unique ways to use cashew cream that I kind of hate to see it end. But like Chaucer said…”All good things must come to an end.”
I’m so happy with the way this torte turned out. The crust…oh my goodness…the crust is to die for! I’ve always preferred a nice thick crust on bars, cakes, and tortes, so I made sure this one was extra thick, a little chewy, a little crunchy, a little sweet, and a little salty. Basically it’s a perfect crust and you’re going to love it as much as I do! But of course, a torte is not a torte without something luscious to top off that perfect crust! This filling is so good you guys! People who know me, know how much I love chocolate and how much I LOVE coffee, so that classic flavor combo was a no-brainer for this fantastic dessert!
I know you’re wondering how something this gorgeous can possibly adhere to my CEBH Guidelines – and I understand your skepticism! But this is exactly what gets me so pumped up about cashew cream! Before I switched up the way we eat I would never have imagined that some ground up nuts and a few other simple ingredients could result in a dessert this luscious and decadent! The best part though – you could totally serve this to guests and they’d never in a million years guess it was a “healthy” dessert!
Dont get me wrong – there are still calories here! And it’s not something you should eat everyday. But for the occasional special treat – this would be perfect! And for those of you who require dairy-free, sugar-free, and/or gluten-free desserts, or for those of you who only eat raw – then this is the perfect recipe! The crust is made of walnuts, pecans, and almonds – all of which lend to its crunchy texture, while the dates lend a chewy sweetness which is enhanced with a dash of almond extract. The filling is made of cahsews, maple syrup, organic cacao, a little instant espresso powder, another splash of almond extract, and just for fun – a handful of chocolate covered espresso beans!
To make the crust, process the nuts, dates, almond extract, and espresso powder until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Then press the crust mixture into a springform pan lightly greased with coconut oil.
Flatten and smooth it down into the pan so it’s level and well compacted.
Then pop it into the freezer to set up while you make the filling. I used the food processor since it was already dirty from making the crust (remember…I’m lazy), but you’ll get a smoother filling using a high power blender like a Vitamix! Add the soaked and drained cashews, maple syrup, almond extract, cacao, and espresso powder and blend until smooth and creamy. Stir in espresso beans by hand, then pour filling into the prepared crust.
Cover loosely with plastic and return to the freezer to set up for several hours, or preferably, overnight. Remove from freezer about 20 minutes before serving. Remove springform ring, cut into 12 slices and serve as desired.
Raw Chocolate Espresso Torte
Chocolate with just a hint of coffee in a velvety cashew cream filling, and nuts and dates that combine to make a delectable crust are the perfect union in this raw vegan torte!
A few weeks ago I made some Butternut & Quinoa Fritters and I talked about how I was much more a butternut girl than a pumpkin spice girl, and as much as I really liked those fritters…this soup is everything! I’ve been making a version of this recipe for many years now and I’m not even sure where the original recipe came from, but over the years it has morphed into the soup it is today! Most butternut squash soups are a little bland if you ask me, and part of that is because they’re usually a blended soup. While this soup is blended as well, many of the ingredients are added after the butternut base is blended so it’s got a little ‘chew’ to it!
Truthfully I went through a phase a few years ago when I made this soup at least twice a month, and ate it for lunch almost every single day for weeks on end It is such a hearty and satisfying, yet healthful soup that I felt really good about eating so much of it! And then it was like someone threw a switch and I was done…couldn’t eat it anymore. It was one of those times when too much of a good thing really was too much of a good thing! Thankfully enough time has passed that I’m craving it again – and as soon as I took that first taste…wow…it’s like my tastebuds did a happy dance! 😉 I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I made it again!
The flavors in this soup make me so happy! It’s sweet and savory and spicy thanks to the chipotles in adobo. If you’ve never cooked with chipotles before, this is the perfect recipe to start with. Personally – I’ve got tastebuds of steel so I use an entire can of chipotles in this pot of soup, but obviously you should adjust the number you use in your recipe to suit your own tastes. The butternut, onions, and garlic are roasted, which enhances the natural sweetness of the vegetables, and mellows the garlic so even though I use an entire bulb, it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. I’ve used a vegetable stock in this recipe, but you could certainly use chicken stock if you prefer. The ‘chew’ to this soup comes from the fire roasted corn and tomatoes, black beans, and the fresh kale. The original recipe called for spinach, but I feel like the kale holds up better…the spinach had a tendency to get a little slimy…ewwwww! By removing the cream cheese that gave this soup it’s velvety finish and substituting cashew cream instead, it’s even more luscious than the original! And the best part is, by using the vegetable stock and cashew cream, the finished product is 100% vegan!
So first thing is soak the raw cashews at least 2 hours – or up to overnight. Then peel the butternut squash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and discard them. Then cut the squash into chunks for roasting. Cut off both ends of your onions and peel off the outer layer, then quarter them. Place the squash and onions in a gallon size bag, drizzle with olive oil, and shake until the vegetables are well coated. Turn them out onto a baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. To prepare the garlic for roasting, cut the top portion (about 1/4″ to 3/8″) off the bulb of garlic. Drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap in a double layer of aluminum foil, and place on the baking sheet with the squash and onions. Pop it all into a 425 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven when the squash and onion are tender and lightly browned.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large stock pot, add the vegetable stock, and garlic once it’s cool enough to handle. Simmer 10-20 minutes over medium heat.
Tip: Once the garlic has cooled enough to handle, the individual cloves can be removed by gently squeezing the bulb from the base, or by using a knife to pluck the cloves out of the bulb.
Before blending the butternut, onion, garlic, and stock mixture, reserve a couple ladles of liquid to use for blending the cashews into cream. If you have an immersion blender I definitely recommend using it to blend the soup. That’s the main reason I use such a large pot for this recipe – there’s less chance of spattering yourself – and your stove – when blending in a deep stockpot. Remove the pot from the heat while using an immersion blender. For the cashew cream, blend the soaked and drained cashews in a blender with the 2 ladles of stock until the cream is perfectly smooth. Always use extreme caution whenever blending hot liquids!
After blending the squash, onions, garlic, and stock until smooth add the chipotles and blend once again until smooth, then add the cashew cream and blend until well combined.
Return the pot to heat and stir in the corn, tomatoes, and beans. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until the soup is heated through. Finally, stir in the fresh kale and cook another 8-10 minutes until the kale is wilted. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve as desired. For me, a bowl of this soup is a complete meal – my husband likes a piece of rustic bread with his. Of course, he also ruins it by adding crackers…sigh…some habits are hard to break I guess!
Roasted Butternut Chipotle Soup
This is the perfect Butternut Squash Soup recipe you've been looking for!
1 7 ounce can chipotles in adobo - amount used depends on your preferred level of heat
2 cups frozen fire roasted corn
1 14.5 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch fresh curly kale, torn into bite sized pieces
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2-3 hours, then drained
1 bulb garlic
2 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare squash and onions for roasting by tossing them with the 2 tbsp olive oil, turning them onto a baking pan, and sprinkling with about 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.
Prepare garlic for roasting by trimming 1/4" to 3/8" from the top of the bulb with a sharp knife. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp olive oil, wrap in 2 layers of aluminum foil and place on baking sheet with the squash and onions.
Roast vegetables for 40-45 minutes until tender and slightly browned.
Combine roasted squash and onions in a large stockpot with the vegetable stock. Simmer over medium heat for about 10-20 minutes, adding roasted garlic once it's cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, place drained cashews in blender, add 2 ladles of warm vegetable stock from the pot, and carefully blend until perfectly smooth.
Temporarily remove stockpot from heat and blend contents with an immersion blender until smooth.
Add desired number of chipotles with some of the adobo sauce and blend once more until smooth. This is a good time to taste test the soup base for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, or chipotles and adobo if desired.
Add the cashew cream, blending one last time until well combined, then return the pot to the heat.
Stir in frozen corn, black beans, and tomatoes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes until heated through.
Toss in kale and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 more minutes until the kale is wilted and cooked.
Fall + Soup = Happy Me! There’s so many reasons to love soup! It’s warming and delicious, it’s healthful, it’s practical, it’s inexpensive, and it’s simple to make. And once the soup is together, all you need is a salad or some bread and you’ve got a perfect meal! The possibilities for different soups are limited only by your imagination…and thankfully I’ve got a very active one!
The recipe for Dairy Free Potato Leek Soup I’m sharing today is a true family favorite. This exact version, however, is an adaptation of the potato soup I used to make. My old recipe contained milk, cream, butter, and usually ham. It was pretty darn good, but it sure wasn’t something that fit into my CEBH Lifestyle! However, never one to back down from a challenge, I decided that since we love the flavor of this soup so much, I had to find a way to make it healthier so we could still enjoy it. The biggest hurdle was achieving the creaminess I wanted without actually using ANY dairy! So once again, I turned to cashew cream, which combined with almond milk, became an even creamier and more delicious soup base than my original recipe!
Every time I make potato soup I can’t help but think of a time when my in-laws were celebrating an anniversary and my husband, his 3 brothers, and all the spouses and grandchildren were at their house. His mom had made big pots of chili and potato soup, and I chose the potato. Now his mom has a real thing about tiny cookies (seriously her cookies are exactly 1.5 bites each), tiny pieces of pie (who cuts a pie into 10 pieces?), and apparently cutting potatoes into teensy tiny itsy bitty pieces. Seriously – she cut them so tiny that by the time she served the soup, the potatoes were completely disintegrated! When those of us who ate the potato soup compared notes later that day we were cracking up because NONE of us got even a single bite of potato!!! All we had was potato flavored milk with a few miniscule onion pieces!
See all those beautiful big pieces of potatoes? You’ll never be left wondering where the potatoes are in my soup! 😉
Anyway – I’m the polar opposite. I like big chunky potatoes in my soup so you know exactly what you’re getting! And, as the recipe name implies I include leeks for their mild oniony flavor (if leeks are unavailable I substitute a sweet onion), celery for its earthy taste and texture, and finally carrots for sweetness and beautiful color. As for seasonings – I prefer to keep it really simple in order to avoid overpowering the potatoes. I use a little fresh garlic, a little more salt than I would typically use in a soup, and ground black pepper. A LOT of ground black pepper! Then I topped it off with some fresh chopped red bell pepper.
The prep for this recipe is simple, but like with many of our recipes I recommend making the cashew cream earlier in the day, or if you’re like me, just always have some prepared and ready to go in the fridge. I use baby potatoes so all I have to do is clean them up and cut them in half. Then peel the carrots and slice them, slice the celery, chop the garlic, and slice the leeks~white and light green parts~into 3/4″ to 1″ pieces.
Tip: To wash the leeks, slice them, then separate the rings of the sliced leeks and submerge them in cool clean water. I put them in a colander, then place it in the sink. Let the leeks soak a few minutes, swishing them a few times with your hand to loosen any sand and dirt caught in the layers. After a few minutes the dirt will settle to the bottom of the sink, and you can lift the washed leeks right out of the water to drain before cooking.
In a large stockpot, sauté the leeks and celery in a drizzle of olive oil. Once they are softened add the minced garlic and cook another minute or two.
Next add the carrots and potatoes. Pour in the almond milk, season with half the salt and black pepper, and bring it all to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer about 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the carrots and potatoes are fork tender. Once the potatoes are cooked, stir in the cashew cream, heat through, and check for seasoning. My personal preference is to go heavy on the pepper in this dish, but I’ll leave it up to you to determine what you like best! I also find that I use more salt in this soup than I do in any other recipe I make…all those potatoes need a lot of salt!
The cashew cream lends a velvety smoothness to this soup that I was never able to achieve with any other ingredients!
Doesn’t it look fantastic? Don’t you just want to dig right in??? Serve it with some crusty bread like this jalapeño cheddar and enjoy the perfect fall meal!
Dairy Free Potato Leek Soup
Creamy, velvety, and delicious....this is the perfect potato soup!
Hands up if tomato soup takes you back to your childhood! It sure does for me! I remember coming home from school for lunch (yep – we lived that close) and being thrilled to walk in the back door and find grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on the table! There is something undeniably comforting about that warm bowl of tomato goodness that I’ve never outgrown. What I have outgrown however, is any sort of desire to eat soup from a can! And as it happens – I really like to make soup. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my favorite things to make – and to eat! While I tend to make more soups in the winter, I still enjoy stirring up a pot of soup other times of the year as well!
Fall recently started, and I thought this would be a good time to whip together a Roasted Tomato Bisque with some of those end of season tomatoes I’ve been spying at the last few farmers markets. Unfortunately our city is suffering some devestating near-record flooding and this weekend’s market was cancelled. I feel horrible for everyone affected by this disaster. Personally our home is unaffected, as is my business location, but the pain is felt by everyone, as we all know someone affected by the flooding. On the flip-side, our community has come together once more and worked to build levies, donate emergency supplies to those evacuated from their homes, and prayed – there’s been a lot of praying going on here! Anyway…no market meant improvising by using store bought tomatoes instead of garden fresh, but by roasting them the flavor is naturally enhanced and the soup turned out fantastic!
I cringe a little when I think back to the tomato soup I grew up eating. Sorry Mom! But that gloppy, blobby, yukky, (all technical culinary terms – at least for me 😉) odd colored soup from a can is pretty gross! And of all the junk they add to canned soup, there’s one very important ingredient they forgot…the FLAVOR!!!! Store bought canned soup simply does not compare to the healthfulness and flavor of homemade! Plus making soup is so simple! Pretty much anything goes, so it’s perfect for picky eaters (sneak in those veggies)! It’s perfect for health conscious folks like me because by making my own soup I’m in control of the ingredients, i.e. NO ARTIFICIAL CRAP! Soup is perfect for warming bellies, hands, and hearts on the coldest of days. For all those reasons and more soup is one of my favorite foods…it’s like a hug in a bowl. Or in a mug – yeah – soup is a hug in a mug – that’s my new motto! 😉
So for today’s soup I used Roma tomatoes, an orange and green bell pepper, Vidalia onion, garlic, organic tomato juice, olive oil, salt & pepper, a little basil, and to give it that final creaminess – cashew cream. Its meals like this when I really, really, really, wish I could still eat more than the occasional nibble of cheese, because this soup would be fantastic with a delicious gooey grilled cheese sandwich! I’ll be the first to admit that as delicious as tomato soup is all on its own, something savory and crispy just seems to enhance that wonderful tomato flavor. So since I nixed the sandwich idea, I thought I’d try a savory granola to sprinkle on top. And it is fantabulous! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this a long time ago! I combined oats, sunflower seeds, pepitas, white and black sesame seeds, olive oil, and some seasonings – tossed it all together – and toasted it in the oven for 25 minutes. It’s savory, salty, spicy, crucnchy – just perfect to top off a warm bowl of Roasted Tomato Bisque!
So I started off by making the savory oatmeal crunch with which I garnished the soup. It was super simple – I placed the oats and seeds in a gallon bag, dumped in the seasonings, olive oil, and worcestershire sauce – gave it all a good shake to evenly coat all the ingredients, poured it all in a baking pan and stuck it in the oven for about 25 minutes. I stirred it once halfway through the baking time, removed it when it was done, and set it aside to cool.
While the oatmeal crunch was baking I prepped the tomatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic for roasting. Because this is a blended soup, the vegetables don’t need to be perfectly chopped! I halved the tomatoes, and rough chopped the peppers and onions, then tossed them with some extra virgin olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet. I also sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper.
The roasted garlic is such a delicious component of this recipe. I love – like LOVE – garlic, but sometimes it can overwhelm a dish because of it’s strong pungent flavor. But roasting it…you guys…it’s like garlic candy! Sweet and aromatic, and so much more mellow than unroasted garlic. And it couldn’t be easier to make, especially since we’re already roasting the rest of the veggies. To oven roast garlic, cut the top about 1/4 off an entire bulb. Drizzle it with olive oil, wrap it securely (I use 2 layers) in aluminum foil, and roast it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Which just happens to be exactly how long the tomatoes, onions, and peppers need to roast to slightly caramelize! 😉
After the vegetables are roasted, pour them into a large stock pot, and set the garlic aside to cool a bit. I use a much larger pot than really necessary simply because I’ll be using an immersion blender and I feel like it’s a bit safer if I’ve got a larger pan – I’m less like to splatter hot liquid all over myself that way! To the pot of roasted vegetables, I add the tomato juice and bring it all to a simmer. While the soup simmers, carefully unwrap the roasted garlic, and when it’s cool enough to handle, gently squeeze from the bottom of the bulb and the roasted cloves will pop right out! Add the garlic to the soup pot, remove the pan from the heat and blend it with an immersion blender. If you don’t have one – and I highly recommend you purchase one if you don’t – the soup can be very carefully transferred in small batches to a regular blender and blended that way. Please just exercise extreme caution if you use this method. Once the soup is blended, return it to low heat, add the basil and cashew cream, and heat thoroughly.
Ladle the soup into bowls, top it with some of the delicious savory oatmeal crunch, serve it along with some bread – or a classic grilled cheese sandwich, and enjoy your amazingly delectable dairy-free, 100% vegan, Roasted Tomato Bisque with Savory Oatmeal Crunch!!! Warm your belly (and the bellies of those you love) ~ and warm your heart at the same time! ❤️
Roasted Tomato Bisque with Savory Oatmeal Crunch
This dairy-free tomato soup will warm your heart as it warms the bellies of your loved ones!
Here we are on #5 of the CEBH Cashew Cream Recipe Series…time flies when you’re having fun! And I am having so much fun coming up with new and interesting ways to use my new culinary secret weapon – cashew cream! Today I’m sharing a recipe that is simple and rustic, yet so incredibly flavorful, and still special enough to serve to guests.
I may as well start with a confession – I’m in love with spaghetti squash! I discovered this amazing vegetable about 30 years ago when my son was a toddler – a typical kid who preferred not to eat vegetables, and then only if they were drowning in cheese sauce! 😕 But the day I brought home a spaghetti squash was a turning point. And boy oh boy – did we ever eat a lot of it the first few months after I discovered he liked it! Of course, he ate his fair share of cheese-sauce drenched spaghetti squash, but he also ate it with marinara sauce and even just with butter, garlic, salt, and pepper! I think part of the appeal was that I’d let him help “turn it into noodles”! Kids love to help in the kitchen, and even at 3 1/2 years old he could easily help shred the squash once it was cool enough to handle!
The sauce is what makes this dish so rich and delicious! It’s loaded with garlic and mushrooms, plenty of salt and pepper, seasoned to perfection with a generous amount of thyme, and of course, finished with delectable cashew cream to give it the creaminess you might expect from a decadent cream and butter laden Béchamel sauce. When I say it’s loaded with garlic I mean it’s got some….loaded to me would be probably twice what I used in this recipe, but some people (my husband) prefer it when I use at least a modicum of garlic self control! Nevertheless, the garlic really shines through and pairs so perfectly with the thyme!
I wish I could share some special secret for selecting the best spaghetti squash at the market, but honestly, I have never gotten a bad one! As with all produce I obviously try to select squash with no obvious bruises or soft spots, but mostly what I consider most is the size! Typically I buy what I’d consider a medium squash (about football sized), this yields 4-6 cups of cooked squash which is enough as a side dish for 4, plus a little leftover for the next day! Of course only you can judge how much you’ll need to feed your crew, but for this recipe I used a medium sized squash and 24 ounces of cremini mushrooms to yield a generous 6 servings!
Tip: To prepare the spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the halves cut side down in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them. Add about 1″ of water to the bottom of the pan, pierce the outer shell of the squash a few times with a sharp knife, then place in a 375 degree oven. Check for doneness after about 30 minutes and continue baking, checking every 5 minutes until done. Squash is done when a sharp knife glides through the outer shell. Remove from oven and carefully transfer to a working surface to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the inner flesh with a fork until it resembles spaghetti noodles.
To prepare the sauce, simply clean and slice the mushrooms, garlic, and shallot. Then sauté them in a large skillet over medium heat until they are softened and the liquids produced by the mushrooms have mostly cooked away. After that it’s a simple matter of adding the cashew cream, salt, pepper, and a generous amount of thyme, stirring it all together and warming it through, then pouring it over the cooked and shredded spaghetti squash.
This is a dish that is rustic but yet classy at the same time! I served it to family, but wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to guests! And for me – it qualifies as comfort food! It’s rich and meaty from the mushrooms, sauce, and seasonings, yet light and very healthy thanks to the spaghetti squash! It’s a meal in itself for me, but for my family I paired it with some grilled chicken and a side salad. We all enjoyed in immensely, as I hope you do too!
Spaghetti Squash with Creamy Mushroom & Garlic Sauce
A delicious and rustic side dish, or vegan main dish, that's pure comfort food - yet sophisticated enough to serve guests!
Welcome to the second installment of our Cook Eat Be Healthy recipe series featuring cashew cream! Today we’re talking Vodka Sauce! A rich, creamy, tomatoey sauce, perfectly and simply seasoned to enhance the flavors of whatever dish in which you choose to use it. And on top of all that goodness – it’s vegan as well!
But first let’s address the elephant in the room! What about that bottle of Vodka?!? I feel like I need to explain why it’s so humongous!
Last October I had my second rotator cuff surgery in a 13 month period, and I wasn’t able to drive for several weeks. So I decided to try ordering from our local grocery store via their new on-line shopping service. It was super convenient, I was able to pick exactly what I wanted, and then either my husband could pick them up, or I could have them delivered! I figured it was a way to let Mr.CEBH off the shopping hook, and considering it was just me, the 2 cats, and Netflix for 10 hours a day, the on-line shopping experience was a welcome distraction. I planned our meals according to what I could prepare with just one arm, then I’d make my list and submit my order. It made me feel at least a little bit productive, when otherwise I was pretty much useless when it came to doing my normal activities around the house.
Anyway….I could lie and say I wanted the bottle solely for culinary pursuits……but I’m no liar! I could fib and say I would never drink alcohol while still taking an occasional pain pill….but I’m no fibber! In truth what I wanted was an itty bitty bottle of vodka and a big bottle of orange juice. You know – for medicinal purposes only! But here’s the thing…the bottles don’t look very big on the screen when doing on-line ordering. And being as how I’m used to measurements in ounces, not milliliters, I feel like this was an honest mistake. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉 I can only imagine what the person pulling my groceries thought when they got my order. Lots of fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, cereal for my husband, orange juice, and the world’s most ginormous bottle of vodka! I bet they wondered what was going on here!!!
Now in keeping with my theme of full disclosure, I did indeed enjoy an occasional nip from that bottle of vodka, but for the most part, it’s been hanging out in the freezer just waiting for me to come up with the perfect recipe in which to use it! I’d had vodka sauce before in a dish at an Italian restaurant we visited in North Carolina, and I loved it. But for some reason I guess I thought it was too difficult to make at home. I mean, if I paid big bucks for it at a restaurant, it seemed like it must be a pretty involved recipe! But guess what?!? I was wrong – and happily so! I did some research and discovered that Vodka Sauce is delicious in it’s simplicity! Somehow the vodka contributes to a depth of flavor that transcends the sauce’s simplicity, and elevates it to a level that really should not be attainable considering the few ingredients in the sauce.
So to review the ingredients….vodka….duh! Canned crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of red pepper flakes. I’m not sure if vodka sauce traditionally contains red pepper flakes, but I’m not really a traditional kind of cook…..so……add it or leave it out. It’s completely up to you! If you’ve read my posts before you know that I like love spicy foods, so I’m always adding extra heat to most my dishes! It’s just who I am!
What is it about vodka sauce that makes it seem like cooking it should be a complicated and time consuming process? Or is it just me? Maybe I think anything with booze in it is fancy?!? Hmmmm….not sure how I feel about that! The good news is that the alcohol completely cooks away and there’s absolutely no residual vodka flavor to the sauce, so it’s 100% kid friendly!
Anyway – down to cooking – dice up 1 small onion fairly small. Into a large saucepan add the EVOO, onion, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 or 3 minutes – just until the onion starts to soften and become translucent. Then pour in the vodka and continue simmering over medium heat for about 5 more minutes.
After simmering the onions, garlic, and vodka, pour in the can of tomatoes. I use crushed tomatoes with no added sugar. Some recipes call for puréed tomatoes and that would work just as well, I just happen to prefer a teensy bit of texture in my vodka sauce. I think it’s more of a rustic sauce with the crushed vs. puréed tomatoes. After adding the tomatoes (and red pepper flakes if desired), continue simmering another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly reduced. Finally it’s time to add the cashew cream, and to check it for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Adding the cashew cream is my favorite part…I love swirling it together! It’s just so pretty!
In a few weeks I’ll be sharing at least one recipe using the vodka sauce we’re making today, but for now, I’ll let you decide how to use it. Some ideas would be to serve it very simply over pasta with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Or maybe you’ll choose to use it in homemade lasagna. How about instead of traditional pizza sauce? Or served over some zucchini noodles with a chiffonade of basil…oh my gosh….that would be divine! Anyway – for now it’s up to you. But for heaven’s sake just make it – and eat it – you’ll be glad you did!!!
Vodka Sauce ~ Vegan
A rich and creamy vodka tomato sauce made without butter or cream, yet even more delicious than the traditional recipe!