Creamy Mushroom Soup (Dairy-Free!)

I love mushrooms. They are without a doubt my favourite veggie in the world. My love affair with fungi started way back when I was little and my mom would buy canned mushroom pieces to make english muffin pizzas for my sister and I – and we would slurp those slimy little suckers straight out of the tin. Yum!

Once I switched to a plant-based diet, mushrooms became my go-to meat replacement. Marinated Portobello mushrooms instead of burgers, ground mushrooms in chili, burritos and sauces and mixed mushrooms in soups, stirfrys and pasta. I could honestly eat them every day.

mushrooms 1

Unfortunately for me – my family isn’t so keen. My husband will pretty much eat anything I prepare without complaint (bless his heart) but I would go so far as to say that my kids downright hate them. Even my impassioned speeches about the health benefits of mushrooms have had no impact. They just roll their eyes and push a sad-looking pile of brown bits to the side of their plates at mealtime.

My daughter is at an age now that she likes to take a bigger role in preparing meals and I am only too happy to step aside and let her create. But I have noticed that she “conveniently” seems to skip the mushrooms in the dishes she prepares. And that inevitably leaves me with extras at the end of the week.

Just recently I opened my fridge to discover 4 lonely looking containers of mixed mushrooms staring back at me. And I immediately had a craving for cream of mushroom soup! Yes I know it’s spring but this particular day was chilly and rainy and soup sounded just about perfect. And the kids were off at school so I knew I wouldn’t have to listen to their bitter complaints about how gross mushrooms are…..and as an added bonus I could eat the whole batch myself : )

This soup has only a few ingredients, it’s super easy to throw together and it tastes amazing. So if you are a fellow fungus-lover – give this soup a try and slurp up the healthy mushroom-y goodness. It’s a winner!

Creamy Dairy-Free Mushroom Soup

mushrooms 2

4 containers mixed mushrooms (I used button, cremini and shitake)
1 red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt (plus extra for seasoning)
1/2 tsp black pepper (plus extra for seasoning)
1 tsp dried sage
6 cups of vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup of raw cashews (soaked for 1 hour in cold water)
Water (to cover cashews)

Remove mushroom stems and chop into pieces. Heat a soup pot over medium heat and pour in oil. Add onion and saute for 1-2 minutes until starting to soften. Add in mushrooms, salt, pepper and sage and stir to combine. Cook for 6-8 minutes until very soft. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make cashew cream by rinsing soaked cashews under cold water and putting them into a high-speed blender. Add water so that they are covered over by 1-inch and blend for 1-2 minutes until very smooth.

Once soup has simmered, remove bay leaf and pour in the cashew cream. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Asian Broccoli Soup

We are right in the middle of a cold stretch here in South Western Ontario and every day around noon I start nosing around for a bowl of comforting soup to warm me up. I’ve made a few big batches of my all-time favourites lately and stuck them in mason jars in the freezer to save for those days when I don’t have the time or inclination to whip up something on the spot.

Unfortunately, this creamy and delicious broccoli soup didn’t make it to the freezer – I gobbled it all up over 2 days of lunches and dinners. I just couldn’t get enough of the incredible sesame/broccoli/ginger combination… and the toasted sesame seeds took it over the top!

Broccoli is one of those foods that I turned my nose up at as a child but with much trial and error, I’ve learned to love it as an adult. It’s a veritable nutritional powerhouse with high levels if fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus and phyto-nutrients. And did you know that just 1/4 cup of sesame seeds provide more absorbable (and alkaline) calcium than a whole cup of milk?

This heart-warming soup is a breeze to make, tastes great and is jam-packed with nutrients. What more could you ask for on a cold winter day?

Asian Broccoli Soup

broccoli soup

2 large heads of broccoli, cut into small florets (+ 1 stem cut into small chunks)
A 2 inch chunk of ginger, sliced
1-2 tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350. Place sesame seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for approx 5 minutes until lightly browned.

In a large soup pot, boil 8 cups of fresh water with the ginger and salt. Once boiling, add 3/4 of the broccoli florets and the whole chopped stem and cook for 8-10 minutes (make sure the broccoli retains its bright green colour). Transfer the broccoli to the blender with a slotted spoon and remove the ginger slices. Add in 6-7 cups of the cooking water, being careful not to overfill the blender. Also add 1 slice of the cooked ginger, tamari and oil. Puree until smooth. Return soup to pot and reheat to medium-low. Add reserved 1/4 broccoli florets and vinegar and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper. Ladle into serving bowls and top with sesame seeds. Enjoy!

 

 

Veggie Pho Soup

Before I had children and while I was still figuring out my career direction, I spent a few years as a public relations consultant at an agency in downtown Toronto. Although I realized pretty quickly that this particular career path wasn’t the one for me – I did learn a lot during those years and I am especially thankful for the people I met, the skills I honed and the fun I had during that time.

If I am being completely honest, one of my absolute favourite things about working in the middle of a big city was the opportunity to grab some friends and head out for lunch at one of the many amazing restaurants in the area. And there was one particular little spot close to my office called Yummy & Healthy that I absolutely adored. I went there so much that the sweet owner got to know me and would start prepping my Vegetarian Pho Soup as soon as I walked in the door. I couldn’t get enough of that fragrant and spicy broth and the heaping portions of rice noodles, veggies, sprouts and tofu…..delicious!

I have tried many times over the years to recreate that soup and I just haven’t been able to hit the mark…until now. I was fiddling around with a recipe from a recent edition of the Vegetarian Times Magazine and bingo-  I came pretty darn close!

The key to this Pho soup recipe is all in the broth. I threw a bunch of herbs and spices into a big pot and let it all cook together for at least an hour. Then I strained everything out and was left with a tangy and delicious base to build upon. Once the broth is ready to go – I simply simmered my add-ins of choice right in the soup. (However, if you are adding noodles, I would recommend cooking them separately and putting them into the bottom of your serving bowls and scooping the soup over top so that they don’t get too mushy.)

Although Yummy & Healthy is no longer in business, I’m paying homage to the owner and to the many trips I took to that restaurant with this recipe. Wherever the owners ended up – I’d like them to know that the young woman with blue eyes, the sloppy French braid and the ill-fitting Fairweather suit who sat in the corner slurping her noodles would like to thank you for the inspiration : )

Veggie Pho Soup (adapted from Vegetarian Times, Feb 2014)

pho

10 cups vegetable broth (I used 3 cubes of mushroom bouillon mixed with 10 cups of water)
1 cinnamon stick
2 round slices of lime (with rind)
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger cut into thin coins
3 whole garlic cloves
The stems and roots from one bunch of cilantro (save the leaves for garnish)
3 tbsp. tamari (soy sauce)
1 tsp agave nectar
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 stalk broccoli, cut into small pieces
2 stalks of bok choy, chopped
2-3 cups of bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
3 oyster mushrooms, cut into small pieces
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
Rice noodles of choice (I used PC Thai Rice Stick Noodles)
Extra tamari and Sriracha Sauce for flavouring

Place vegetable broth, lime pieces, garlic, cinnamon stick, cilantro stems, tamari and agave into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain and throw out flavourings. (At this stage you can make your soup right away or save the broth to use at another time. It also freezes well.)

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, rinse and set aside.

Bring broth back to a simmer and add in tofu, broccoli, bok choy and mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add sprouts and cook 1-2 minutes longer.

Scoop a generous portion of noodles into the bottom of a soup bowl. Top with broth and veggies and sprinkle with cilantro. Add additional tamari and sriracha for flavouring if desired.

Enjoy!

Warming Minestrone Soup & 10 Things I Love About Winter

I pride myself in being a hearty Canadian girl and as such I usually embrace the winter and truly enjoy the snow and seasonal outdoor activities. But I’ve got to admit that this frigidly cold weather is really starting to get me down. Thankfully a good friend reminded me yesterday that the days are slowly getting a bit longer and slightly warmer temperatures are in the forecast (not to mention that American Idol is starting again next week!) so things are definitely looking up.

winter cartoon

In an effort to remind myself of the positive things about this season, I made a list of a few things that I love about cold Canadian winters:

1. Snuggling up under a blanket in front of a crackling fire (even better with a glass of red wine in hand)

2. Making excellent use of my weather station by checking it 100 times a day just hoping I’m reading the temperature incorrectly (that can’t really be -23 C???)

3. Having a legitimate excuse for staying inside all day in my pj’s watching movies (the weatherman said exposed skin would freeze in 5 minutes for heaven’s sake!)

4. Snow days (bet those warm tanned Floridians never get to experience these special family days. Suckers!)

5. Hot chocolate, hot coffee, hot tea and Hot Toddy’s. Mmmmmmmm……..

6. Building snowmen in the front yard, tobogganing down frosty hills, building snow forts and skating on backyard rinks

rink

7. No dog poop to scoop- each new layer of snow just covers it all up. Booyah!

8. Sculpting toned arms by scraping layers of snow and ice off of my car (not to mention the killer leg muscles from navigating the icy sidewalks)

9. Not having to worry about doing anything with my hair since it will just be stuffed underneath a toque all day (same goes for clothing- I could be wearing my jammies under my coat and no one would ever know : )

10. Relaxing with my family and enjoying hot and comforting foods like this soup:

Minestrone Soup (vegan)

minestrone

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried turmeric
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch allspice
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of chick peas
1 15 oz can of navy beans
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of water
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen green beans (broken into smaller pieces)
1 cup dried pasta (I used little tubes called Ditali Rigati but any small regular or gluten-free pasta will work)

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots, celery and spices and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes until veggies are starting to soften.

Add in tomatoes, beans, broth, water and bay leaves. Stir and heat to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add corn, green beans and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente (almost cooked). Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

I hope you are finding ways to enjoy the weather wherever you live. And perhaps if you are reading this while relaxing in a warmer climate you would send along some positive vibes to us Canadian folks who are currently freezing our freakin’ butts off!