Recipe Book: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Since it’s a wet, rainy day here on the eastern shore, I’m curled up with a few good movies, a pot of tea (a new favorite, Celestial Seasoning’s Gen Mai Cha) and some leftover french onion soup.  What a treat!  Being a vegetarian in today’s society means missing out on a lot of delicious smelling foods because animal products are cheap and therefore in everything.  Including most soups, in the form of beef or chicken stock.  That means that a trip to Panera isn’t actually all that exciting for me.  I have, however, tried their french onion soup (after a certain someone told me it was vegetarian and I stupidly slurped it into my mouth before doublechecking the menu) and once I got passed the initial tidal wave of regret and nausea, I must admit that it was pretty darn tasty.  So I vowed to make up for breaking veggie law by finding the best vegetarian french onion soup possible and sharing it.

And so… I present to you the Best Vegetarian French Onion Soup Ever.

-3 large onions (I used 1 white, 1 yellow, and 1 red for variety)
-4 tbsp butter
-5 cups vegetable stock
-1/3 cup red wine
-1/3 cup coffee
-3 large garlic cloves, minced
-fresh thyme
-salt & pepper
-agave nectar or maple syrup

-Gruyere cheese (be sure to get cheese that melts, as the smoked Gruyere I used only browned)

-Slice the onions into thin strips.  Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-low heat.  Add onions and stir until evenly coated with butter.  You want to caramelize the onions, not brown them, so this step requires patience.  Cook them for about an hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until they’re a nice golden brown all the way through.  This was the first time I’d tried caramelizing onions, and I took the “slow and steady” advice a little too seriously… Needless to say, using too little heat isn’t good either, as they will take forever and you will end up eating dinner at 9 at night.  So start with medium-low and just adjust as needed to keep them from browning (or wallowing in their butter not-so-hot springs).
-Once onions are caramelized, add broth, red wine, minced garlic, and seasonings to taste.  Remember, since it’s lacking the beef broth, this soup is going to rely on seasonings to give it the rich, bold flavor french onion soup needs.  So be generous with the spices.  I used a few sprigs worth of fresh thyme, a good amount of season salt, a dash of pepper, a dash of cumin, and maybe a tbsp of maple syrup.  The onions will have a sweet taste, so you don’t need to add much more sweetness, but the smoky tastes of agave and maple syrup go so well with the caramelized onions that I couldn’t resist adding some.
CIMG2945-Add coffee a little at a time, tasting each time.  You don’t want the soup to taste like coffee, just add to the flavor.
-Simmer for about an hour.
-Heat broiler.  Slice the baguette into thick slices.  Fill individual ramekins or one large casserole bowl with soup and top with a layer of baguette slices.  Cover with a layer of shredded or sliced Gruyere cheese.  Broil for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve.  Drool.  Enjoy.  Live a meatless & soupful life.


Recipe Book: Cream of Kale & Mushroom Soup

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!


I loved Lewis Carroll’s books growing up, and while the latest movie adaptation of his stories had little going for it aside from Johnny Depp and his wonky hat, it reminded me of how fabulously nonsensical his poems are.  I’m starting to think his “Beautiful Soup” poem is the source of my obsession with soup…

This week’s experiment combines my favorite and least favorite vegetables in a creamy, super-nutritious soup.  After binging on snacks and not-so-healthy foods during Sunday’s football party, both my fiance and I weren’t feeling so hot.  In order to soothe our unhappy tummies, I made a big pot of cream of mushroom and kale soup.  While I absolutely abhor whole mushrooms (can you say slimy?), pureed mushrooms add a delicious, smoky flavor to soups – and of course kale makes anything fabulous.

-4 to 5 cups of kale, de-stemmed and torn into bite sized shreds (Red Russian kale is my fav!)
-2 large portobello mushrooms (Feel free to use more than 2 – and other varieties – depending on your level of mushroom love.)
-5 large scallions
-5 cloves of garlic
-olive oil for sauteing
-1 cup heavy cream
-2 1/2 cups whole milk (Of course, Nice Farms milk is always my first choice!)
-salt & pepper to taste
-spices (I love experimenting with new combinations of spices in my soups, so feel free to adventure through your spice rack.  For this soup, I used lemon pepper, turmeric, and fresh ground oregano.)

images-Dice the garlic, scallions, and mushrooms.  (Don’t worry about dicing them super small as they’re going to be pureed.  No need to get your hands unnecessarily garlic-ized.)  Saute them in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms start to brown.  You don’t want them to get mushy, though.  (Helpful hint: the shrooms will absorb a LOT of oil, so don’t be surprised when you have to use unholy amounts.)
-Once the shrooms are cooked, set the mix aside to let cool a bit.  While you’re waiting, pour the cream and milk into a large pot and start heating over medium heat.  Once the shrooms mix has cooled enough to work with, puree in a food processor until smooth.  Add to pot and stir until thoroughly mixed.
-Once the creamy mix in the pot has warmed almost to boiling, add the kale shreds and reduce to low heat.  Season to taste.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow kale to cook.
-Serve with delicious bread and enjoy!


Recipe Book: Chocolate Avacado Cake

So I made this for my mother’s birthday yesterday, and man, was it delicious!  I was a little skeptical at first, because the recipe calls for vinegar, which made the batter a little tangy.  But it was a hit at her party, and so I thought I’d share it with you.

For the cake:
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 6 heaping tablespoons)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-2 cups granulated sugar
-1/4 cup butter
-1/2 cup soft avocado (about 1 medium avocado), mashed until smooth and creamy
-2 cups water
-2 Tablespoons white vinegar (I used rice vinegar, which I’m starting to really like)
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
-4 ounces (half a cup) of very ripe avocado meat
-4 ounces cream cheese (or one 8 ounce package of cream cheese if you want to skip the avacado icing)
-1/4 cup butter
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 package hot chocolate mix
-honey to taste (I used about 1/4 a cup)
(You can also just use a cup of sugar instead of the hot chocolate and honey)
-1 cup fresh, mashed fruit (optional) (I used raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and kiwi… Yumm!)

-Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your cake pan.
-Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside.
-Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.
-Add sugar into the wet mix and stir. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
-Pour batter into your prepared pan(s). Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  (Mine was in there about 45.)
-While the cake cools, make the icing. Peel and pit the soft avocados. It’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on.  Soften butter and cream cheese.  Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Spread on cake, and enjoy!


Recipe Book: Beer-Crust Pizza

Everyone knows that pizza and beer are the perfect weekend combo, but what about beer pizza?  A coworker told me about it, so I decided to look up a recipe.  Man oh man, I’m so glad I did!  This is the best homemade crust I’ve ever had.  It’s perfect – not mushy, not hard, just the right balance between fluff and crunch.  I used a basic organic Pilsner beer I found, but next time I want to experiment with different flavors.  Dogfish makes a beer called Midas’ Touch that’s brewed with barley, honey, white muscat grapes, and saffron.  With some sundried tomatoes crush and added to the dough?  Now that sounds banging.

-2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
-1 1/2 cups semolina (You can just use regular flour, that’s what I did.  Semolina flour is super moist though!)
-2 teaspoons instant yeast
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 ½ teaspoons salt
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 ½ cups room-temperature beer
-pizza toppings (I used local mozzarella and smoked cheddar cheese, homemade tomato & basil sauce, and topped one pizza with pepperoni and the other with tomato and zucchini.  The pepperoni one did get a little soggy because of the oil, so you might have to play around with toppings.)

-Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until you’ve made a smooth, soft dough.
-Cover the dough, and allow it to rise for 30 minutes, or for up to 2 hours.
-Preheat the oven to 450°F with the pizza stone (if you’re using one) on a lower rack.
-Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 10″ to 12″ round.
-Place the rounds on parchment paper, if you’re going to use a pizza stone. Or place the dough on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. For thin to medium crust, bake the pizzas immediately. For thicker crust, let them rise for 30 to 60 minutes.
-Transfer the pizzas, parchment and all, to the baking stone. Or place the pans in the oven.
-Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, top as desired, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the bottom crust is crisp and the cheese is bubbly and browned.
-Remove from the oven, and serve hot.
(Quick Beer-Crust Pizza)


Recipe Book: Fresh Strawberry Cake

One of the guys I work with on the farm had a birthday last week, so I made a strawberry cake with the season’s first pick of strawberries.  This is a recipe I definitely have to share!

Fresh Strawberry Cake

Cake Ingredients:
-10 large fresh strawberries, or as needed
-2 eggs
-1 cup raw cane sugar
-1/3 cup coconut oil (or whatever kind of vegetable oil substitute you prefer)
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur’s whole wheat flour… Yes, it’s my favorite.  Everything comes out sooo moist!)
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt

Icing Ingredients:
-3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
-2 tablespoons butter, softened
-1 cup hot chocolate mix (I used Land O’ Lakes Arctic White Hot Cocoa Mix, but you could use whatever flavor you like – chocolate, caramel, raspberry…)
-1/2-1 cup raw cane sugar (Depends on how sweet you want it.)
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
(You can also add fresh fruit puree to the icing if you want.)

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease small cake pan.  (This recipe makes a surprisingly small amount of dough – probably because it was originally for cupcakes.)
-Place strawberries into a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour the puree through a strainer to remove seeds. Puree should equal about 3/4 cup. Set the puree aside.
-In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and strawberry puree until well combined. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour batter into cake pan.
-Bake in the preheated oven 25-30 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool at least 10 minutes before frosting.

-To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl until smooth, and mix in hot chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to make a lump-free icing.
(Strawberry Cupcakes)

Banging!  The Hispanics I work with all said muy bueno!


Recipe Book: Summer Fruit Cornbread

I’ve been on a dessert kick lately, and this is my latest creation.  Probably my favorite so far, I’d say.  It’s a variation of this Buttermilk Cornbread recipe I found online.

Summer Fruit Cornbread

-1/2 cup butter
-1 cup raw cane sugar
-2 eggs
-1 cup fruit flavored yogurt (I used Raspberry yogurt from a local dairy farm called Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg, MD.  Best milk ever!)
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 cup cornmeal (I always get unenriched, that way you’re not getting all the synthetic vitamins.)
-1 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur whole wheat flour.  It made the bread a little darker than normal, but it tasted just the same.)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1-2 cups of summer fruit (I used about 2 cups of strawberries, but you can use anything.  Blueberry is next on my list!)

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.
-Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
-Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.