Mommy Cafe

Vegetarian home cooking, kid tested and approved

Mashed Potato Soup

Okay, it’s not as weird as it sounds. Really. I’ve seen recipes for “Smashed Potato Soup,” so removing the s can’t make it more weird. Right?

Whatever. It is kind of weird. But in a very delicious way.

So the story is that I was craving soup. Badly. And what I had on hand was potatoes. I didn’t really want a cream soup, because I’m trying to cut back on dairy products (a more palatable way to say I’m leaning vegan — no pun intended). So why not make a potato puree and tell myself it was a creamy soup? It was settled. Mashed potato soup.

For a little extra sweetness, I added a sweet potato to the mix. It adds a great depth of flavor to an otherwise bland soup. And it makes it much prettier as well. If you’re the kind of person who likes to mix their mashed potatoes and peas (me, me, me!!), then by all means, throw in a cup or more of frozen peas a few minutes before serving. Will thought that was the best part of it, after giving the meal two ecstatic thumbs up.

Sorry for not posting a photo… again. Sometimes my taste buds get antsy.

Estimated prep and cook time: 30 minutes       Estimated cost: $5 (or less, using homemade vegetable broth)

Mashed Potato Soup

  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and diced (leave on the peel for extra fiber and flavor)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2T dried parsley
  • 1T paprika

Saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until onion softens. Add russet potatoes and saute, stirring, for two minutes. Add broth. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and add sweet potatoes, salt and pepper, parsley, and paprika. Cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired consistency. I like mine a little lumpy, just like my mashed potatoes! Or, use a food processor and blend in batches.

Taste and add additional seasoning as needed.

Serves 4.

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January 9, 2013 Posted by | Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian | , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Staples

Since last October’s unprocessed challenge, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to labels. And after reading Food Rules by Michael Pollan, I’ve been thinking more about what actually constitutes food. I know what flour is. But is it really still flour after it’s been stripped of all its nutrients and then “enriched” to add those nutrients back in? I have my doubts.

As a result, I’ve been looking at my staples and trying to find ways to make them healthier. For example, instead of all-purpose flour I use white whole wheat flour, which is less dense than a whole wheat but still has all the nutrients… naturally. Instead of white sugar, it’s raw sugar or organic evaporated cane. Table salt won’t be found on my table, it’s sea salt or bust.

In other words, my budget is stretched.

For a long time I was buying organic peanut butter. Spendy stuff. And when we consume a lot of PB&J, it was starting to break the bank at $5 a jar. Then I discovered how ridiculously easy it is to make peanut butter. The ingredients consist of peanuts. That’s it. Just peanuts. Unless you want to make something fancy, like cinnamon or chili peanut butter, in which case you add cinnamon or chili (who would’ve thought?). Drop them in a food processor. Turn it on. Walk away and come back in five minutes or so and you’ll have peanut butter. Yep, it’s really that easy. Kudos, Averie Cooks, for sharing this recipe. Is it still a recipe with just one ingredient?

Another thing I’ve been making is brown sugar. It had never even occurred to me that it could be homemade! For one cup of white sugar, add one tablespoon of unsulfured molasses. Mix with a fork until it comes together. Takes all of 3 minutes. And you can make any amount you need. My new favorite dressing calls for just 1 T of brown sugar. I eyeball the molasses and add more if it doesn’t look dark enough. Crazy simple. Thank you, Joy the Baker, for showing me the way.

Speaking of dressing, I’ve tried a bunch of organic whole foods dressings. I’ve hated them all. Save your money and make your own vinaigrette. Three parts quality oil, 1 part vinegar or acid (red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or some freshly squeezed lemon juice), and a little salt, sugar, or minced herbs to taste. Put it all in a small container with a lid and shake it up, baby. Base your ingredients on your salad, your entree, or your mood. I love red wine vinegar with a little oregano. My absolute favorite is a blueberry vinegar on spinach with fresh strawberries. With a flavorful, quality vinegar, you can get away with less oil — use just enough to make the vinegar stick a little! My good friend Mandy, pantry chef turned food design queen, taught me the way to remember the vinaigrette ratio: vinaigrette is three parts oil, and oil had three letters. It was much prettier when she said it, but at least the concept stuck. 🙂

One of the hardest parts of going unprocessed is no ketchup. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like ketchup, and I am certainly no exception. Nearly a year later I still miss the stuff like crazy, so I tried a couple of recipes. I served this one to Will’s cousin recently, and he exclaimed “This is the BEST ketchup I’ve EVER had!!” I agreed. It’s not quite as easy as the previous items, but it is by no means difficult. Credit to Skinny Taste for coming up with this deliciously easy recipe.

Last but not least, my latest discovery: almond milk. Oh man. This takes a little more effort. I don’t care. It’s worth every minute. Especially after you look at the ingredient list on store-bought almond milk. After much internet research, I tried this recipe. Bingo! My only complaint is that it disappears so much more quickly than the stuff in a box. The solution, I think, is to make two batches: one for everyday use, and one with a little extra honey for making chai tea or, now that the weather is cooling, a creamy hot chocolate.

So there you have it. A handful of ways to lessen your intake of processed foods, save some money in your wallet, and give your taste buds a new reason to thank you.

September 12, 2012 Posted by | Food for thought, Recipes, Vegetarian | , , , , | 2 Comments

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Just the words “tortilla soup” send me to a blissful place. I love the tangyness, the hint of spice, the tender crunch of lightly sauteed peppers in a bath of tomatoey deliciousness. Mmm. Heaven.

Okay, head out of the clouds and feet firmly on the ground.

I have put off posting this recipe for almost a year now. Not because I’m selfish and don’t want to share. The problem is that I can never wait long enough to get a photo before diving in to a big bowlful. Tonight was no exception. My sincerest apologies. But I do believe you will forgive me once you try this dish for yourself.

This is a fantastic soup. It is full of vegetables and vitamin C, and you get to customize it to your particular taste at the table. Want more kick than the kids can handle? Throw in a few dashes of hot sauce. Love sour cream and cheese but your dinner guests don’t do dairy? Add it to your own bowl. Don’t want the same soup two days in a row? Doubtful with this tasty dish, but change it up and add avocados, fresh cilantro, black olives, bean sprouts, cooked noodles or rice, or whatever you find hiding in your fridge.

My favorite way to enjoy this soup is with homemade tortilla chips. Store-bought tortilla chips are good for a lot of things, but this soup isn’t one of them, in my humble opinion. I’ve posted the recipe for homemade chips here before, but for this soup I like to use lots and lots of dried cilantro instead of the coriander. And some salt. Ya gotta have salt.

By the way, this feeds approximately one army. So either halve it, freeze some for later, or invite the neighborhood. And be prepared to force yourself away from your bowl before thirds.

Prep and Cook time: 40 minutes           Estimated cost: $2 per serving

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, anaheim, or poblano pepper, diced finely
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes (or use fire-roasted and the jalapeno)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 2 T cumin
  • 2 T cilantro
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 15-oz cans (or 4 cups) black or red beans (rinse canned beans well and drain)
  • 2 cups frozen corn

Tortilla Chips

  • 10-12 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T cilantro
  • 2 T cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 1 T oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until just tender. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, spices, and salt. Stir well and bring to a soft boil. Add beans and corn. Turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Toss tortilla strips with 2 T oil, cilantro, and cumin. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until crisp.

Serve soup in bowls and top with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, and tortilla chips. Or with whatever your happy heart desires!

Serves 8

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Homemade Pasta

Since I am terribly behind on this blog, and since I’ve been getting vaguely threatening emails from family members about it, I’m cheating a little and making today’s photo challenge a double-blog.

Tonight I made dinner. This alone is a huge accomplishment. I have been so overwhelmingly busy lately that most days I can manage to make a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Most days. The other days I visit my good friend Jimmy John.

However, I went beyond just making dinner today. I made dinner. Ever since last weekend when I was happily reminded of my favorite marinara sauce, I have been craving spaghetti. But a special sauce like this deserves a special noodle. So I bought some good semolina flour, pulled out the pasta cutter, and got to work.

Homemade pasta is so so so much better than anything you can buy at the store. Making fresh pasta means I know what goes into it. I control the type of flour (hold the bleached, enriched, all-purpose please) and the amount of salt. I also get to use farm-fresh eggs, straight from the ladies in the barn. It’s also ridiculously cheap to make. I’ve already listed all the ingredients, except water and a little olive oil. But perhaps the best part is that, with a pasta cutter, it is really easy! The hardest work is in the kneading, but it’s so much easier than kneading bread, so don’t let that scare you.

I’ve been playing around with different flours, but so far the most versatile and fail-proof flour for me is semolina. It’s easy to work with and yields a smooth, elastic dough. Someday I’ll come across the perfect combination of more unusual flours to share (chickpea and quinoa flours are my favorites to play with).

If you are considering making homemade pasta, I strongly recommend you pick up a good quality pasta cutter. This amazing machine rolls out the dough as thick or thin as you’d like, and it also cuts the dough into noodles. For $50 you get a hand-crank machine that packs up into a tidy little square-foot box. If you are currently buying whole wheat pasta, you’ll recoup the expense in no time!

Homemade Pasta

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 T olive oil

Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add eggs, water, and oil and stir with a fork to combine. Using your hands, continue working the dough until all the flour is stuck together. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes or until soft and elastic. Add more water or oil if the dough is too dry, or more flour (by the teaspoon) if too sticky. Cover the kneaded dough with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough to desired thickness (about 1/4″) using either a pasta machine or flour-dusted rolling pin. For spaghetti noodles, cut with a machine, dough cutter, or pizza cutter.

Cook in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

May 18, 2012 Posted by | Recipes, Vegetarian | , , , | 3 Comments

Tuna Pasta Salad

I’ll be honest, I completely forgot that today was the official $5 Challenge day!  Will and I had a picnic lunch with my parents this afternoon, 2 hours from home, so our meal options were severely limited to anything that could withstand the drive there and back.

I improved upon a pasta salad that I brought to a potluck a few weeks ago.  It went over well the first time, but I thought it was missing a little something.  This time around I nailed it!  I added tuna for an extra protein boost, but it can definitely be left out to turn this back to a vegetarian meal.  I used Anaheim peppers, because that is the one thing that has grown in abundance in my garden, but Will thought it was a little too spicy as a result.  I recommend sticking with red bell peppers if you’re feeding kids… or less adventurous adults.  However, even my 1-1/2 year-old buddy loved the noodles, which had picked up a little bit of the heat from the peppers.

Since we were biking after lunch, and because it’s too darn chilly to be filled by a simple pasta salad lunch, I wanted something to round out the meal.  I served some tasty baking soda biscuit-type muffins with local honey– which, incidentally, is great for keeping the ragweed blues at bay!  For the salad and the muffins, this meal probably cost around $6.  Will and I each had lunch size servings of the pasta (okay, I had two), plus the folks had a share as well.  There are easily four servings left.  I’m a little too sleepy to do the math, but I think the cost per serving works out to somewhere around dirt cheap!

$5 Challenge: mission accomplished!

Prep and cook time: 15 minutes     Estimated cost: $5.50

Tuna Pasta Salad

  • 1 box tri-colored rotini, cooked and drained
  • 1 red bell pepper (or something spicier if you’re brave!), diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons

Dressing

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • Dash each of salt, pepper, and sugar, or more to taste

Toss the salad ingredients together.   To make the dressing, combine ingredients  in a small container with a lid and shake until well-mixed.  Add dressing to the salad and stir gently to combine.  This salad is best when chilled for an hour.

Serves 4 for a meal, 8 as a side

 

 

September 17, 2011 Posted by | Recipes | , , , , , | 2 Comments