Cashew Tomato Basil Soup

Cashew Tomato Basil SoupI’m all jazzed up this week because I just purchased the Breville JE98XL and am delving into the wonderful messy world of juicing. My goal is to increase my family’s nutrition intake, beat off the winter blues, and fight off this plague that has kept me on antibiotics, nasal spray and an inhaler for the first time since I was in grade school.

Weeeeell this morning I made the mistake of making beet juice for my 3-year-old. At the same time that the bright red substance projected through Asher’s straw onto the floor, Everett fell backwards while pushing his plastic shopping cart, biting his tongue hard enough that blood poured out of his mouth. At that precise moment our house alarm went off. Our unfortunate nanny had opened the front door, unbeknownst that we had changed the alarm setting to the “silent for 10 seconds then all hell breaks loose”, which then caused the fattest of our three cats to jump the baby gate onto the stair landing, knocking over almost everything within a two-mile radius.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m kind of digging soups and juices this week. I am especially proud of this Cashew Tomato Basil Soup I created based on a simpler recipe that called for cream and chicken stock. Boo! The rich creamy cashew puree and the fresh pop of thyme combined with the roasted tomato basil base is simply put – spectacular. Spectacular enough to take my mind off the beet stain. For now.

1 1/2 cups whole raw, unsalted cashews
3 lbs Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (or any tomatoes you find on sale!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced (approximately one bunch)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Place 1 1/2 cups of cashews in a bowl of water and soak for at least 12 hours. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread tomato halves onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast tomatoes for about 1 hour. During the last 3 to 4 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler to get a bit of roasted char on the tomatoes. While tomatoes are in the oven, add a generous dollop of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and basils, then season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Pour 2 cups of water and then roasted tomatoes into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cashews from their water and add to the soup. Using a hand blender, puree the soup for 5 or 6 minutes until a rich creamy consistency.


Easiest Chana Masala

chana masalaIn the Western World, turmeric root is often used as an agent to color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But in the Eastern World, turmeric root is widely used as a medicinal ingredient used to treat inflammatory and irritated skin conditions, and to encourage healthy digestion and liver function. Surprisingly, just 1 tablespoon of turmeric contains 15% of your daily iron needs and even contains a moderate amount of vitamin B6 so it’s health benefits are verifiable. Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric has been considered highly auspicious and holy in Hindu and Tamil spiritualism for millennia so I find it especially intriguing as a spice.

My Easiest Chana Masala recipe is so soul satisfying even my toddler eats it (well, he picks out the cauliflower parts and then devours the chickpeas). The warm, bitter flavor of the turmeric and the rich, earthy curry powder are the two shining ingredients in this embarrassingly simple dish that piques everyone’s interest when I heat it up in the office microwave. By now you should know that I like to get my bang for the buck, and this dish does not disappoint coming in at around $10.

32 oz can of diced tomatoes
32 oz can of chickpeas, drained
1 head of cauliflower, stems removed and florets set aside
2 medium onions, diced
1 Tablespoon turmeric powder
2 Tablespoons curry powder
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
Olive oil

Add a generous amount of olive oil to a large saute pan. Saute the garlic and onions on medium heat until they are browning. Then add the cauliflower florets and cook for another 4-5 minutes, constantly turning. Add turmeric and curry powder and mix until well combined with the cauliflower mixture. Add the diced tomatoes and chickpeas, cover the saute and let simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is just soft enough to stab with a fork but still has as bit of a crunch. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately. The great thing about this dish is you can easily improvise and add your favorite vegetables to change up the recipe.

Chard Soup

Red Lentil Chard Soup

red lentil chard soup

I never thought to pair the strong flavour of spicy cinnamon with tangy lemon, let alone in a savory soup dish. But since discovering this zesty recipe for Red Lentil and Chard Soup from Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I am now a believer. Ottolenghi intrigues me as a chef because he is known as a champion of vegetable-based dishes even though he is not a vegetarian. He blends the ingredients of his native Israel with unexpected flavours from the Middle East and East Asia in a very unapologetic and bold way, and many of these recipes can be made with 10 ingredients or less which I especially love. One simple pasta recipe in his famed vegetarian cookbook “Plenty” calls for the home cook to “roughly tear” mozzarella into the pot rather than the traditional “dice” or “cube”. Now that’s my kind of cooking!

This surprising dish can easily be made in one soup pot and a saute pan, and I have changed it up from the original recipe to remove the butter as I didn’t find that it made a huge impact on the overall flavor of the soup, and I thought it would be best showcased as an upscale vegan dish. I have also removed a few steps from the original recipe to simplify the preparation. I imagine you can spend $15 for a bowl of this soup at one of his upscale London restaurants, but you can make a huge pot for the same price at home and it would be a great dinner party opener.

    2 cups Red Lentils
    8 cups water
    1 Red Onion, chopped finely
    1lb rainbow Swiss Chard, leaves roughly chopped and stalks chopped the same size as the onions
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon coriander seeds, whole or crushed
    Olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon
    A handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Rinse the lentils well and place in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 25 minutes; removing any scum that rises to the surface. While the lentils are simmering, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a sauce pan and add the garlic and coriander seeds and saute for 3-4 minutes. I like the crunch of whole coriander in a dish, but crushed seeds would probably be more palatable. Then add the red onions and chard stalks and cook until they start to brown. Add theis mixture to the pot of lentils. Using a hand blender, pulse the soup in the pot for 20-30 seconds until it is partially pureed but still has some nice chunks from the chard and onions. Add about two handfuls of chopped chard leaves and stir well, then add the cinnamon and cumin and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Gently heat the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Finally squeeze in the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the soup infuse with the flavours for another few minutes before serving with a lemon wedge and some cilantro leaves. It is best served with a side of sourdough bread.

BBQ Lentil Mushroom Quinoa Burger

familyOnce a year we get professional family photos taken so that we can have photos of my kids with pants ON and me wearing make-up. Inevitably the day starts with screaming, bribes of lollipops, white truths about going to a “play date” and hurriedly packing dry snacks that can’t ruin the clothes that I painstakingly scoured at Target to find that match in size 3T and 12 months. I get exactly 3 minutes to apply makeup and tell my husband to tuck in his shirt, and then I pack a bag of back-up clothes in case things go horribly wrong. Upon arrival, the kids promptly run rampant and immediately need snacks. We gather them up in arms, and after each group photo the photographer probes “Do ALL of you need to be looking at the camera?” Yes. Snap. “OK, but do ALL of you need to be smiling???” Thanks to the magic of Renee Gooch and Gooch Too Photography in Chicago, none of these behind the scene shenanigans affect the staggering images that are produced. It’s too easy to forget as parents to take pictures of yourselves WITH your kids, and not just a million photos OF your kids.

burger So why not share a messy recipe to pair with the clinically clean beauty of the photography studio?! This week I made vegan BBQ Lentil Mushroom Quinoa Burgers, once again found on Veg Kitchen with Nava Atlas. Served on a whole-grain bun, these make for a healthy lunch and actually hold together better the day AFTER you make them.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons grilling seasonings
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425º F. Heat the oil in a medium skillet and sauté garlic and onion over medium heat until translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute another 4 minutes or until wilted, then transfer the mixture to a food processor, followed by the cooked lentils. Pulse on and off until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed.

In a large mixing bowl combing the remaining ingredients, then add the food processor mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Line a baking sheet with a reusable liner or parchment paper. Use 1/2-cup measuring cup to make a level scoop of the mixture then invert onto the baking pan, and then flatten into a 1/2-inch patty with the bottom of the measuring cup. Repeat with the remaining mixture. This should make 8 – 10 burgers. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully flip each burger, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.


Cashew Cauliflower


We have been taught since early childhood that animal protein is essential to a nutritionally balanced diet, but Dr. Joel Fuhrman of his national best seller Eat To Live argues that the common food pyramid is grossly outdated and misunderstands the nutritional value of vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts. These essential foods provide a more valuable balance of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals by caloric intake that your body needs and craves than animal protein does, and thus are dubbed Nutrient Dense Foods. For instance, you get twice as much protein from 100 calories of broccoli than you would from 100 calories of steak. It also provides your daily needs of Vitamin A, C, K, fiber, and is even rich in kaempferol if you are following a hypoallergenic diet. In addition, 100 calories of broccoli provides more calcium than one glass of whole milk! Dr. Fuhrman does of course leave room for animal protein intake, but the evidence about nutrition in fruits and vegetables is impossible to ignore in today’s modern world if medicine.

Unfortunately, the concept of meat and potatoes as a dinner staple has left a lasting impression on many Americans. I struggle every day to pack substitute lunches for Asher’s preschool lunch, and I cringe at what they consider a balanced meal for children. Apparently these caretakers would prefer that I let my children subsist on fish sticks and Ragin’ Roast Beef Friday than teach them to eat salad!

But enough about broccoli and the failed school food system, it’s time for some cauliflower! Today I’m sharing a Cashew Cauliflower dish that I got from Veg Kitchen with Nava Atlas which is mind-blowingly tasty. Even my roofing contractor walked in today to fix a roof leak and remarked how good it smelled!

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 small red bell pepper, roughly chopped with seeds and veins removed
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup whole roasted and unsalted cashews
1 cup diced pineapple
1⁄3 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, whisk 1⁄4 cup water with the cornstarch until smooth. Set aside. Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Turn heat high and add the cauliflower, bell pepper, and soy sauce and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the cornstarch and the cashews and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the florets have softened. Stir in the pineapple and cook about 5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

This photo of Asher was not staged! He stole my broccoli from the refrigerator. Most likely to get a rise out of me. Proud mama!


Optimist Broccoli and Tofu


I like to think I’m an optimist, but this week I’m going to go ahead and say that this week’s sentiment is I’d rather stab a fork in my eye. After a grueling week at work learning the tough lesson that you learn from failure rather than success, I awoke on joyous Saturday with what felt like shards of glass in my throat and a wheezing cough, and then discovered that a leak in my closet had seeped into 60% of my wardrobe and had soaked all of my leather boots which are now lying helplessly in my bath tub. So naturally I thought about what to eat for dinner.

As a result, I made a delicious gingery peanuty stir fry covered in sriracha which I’m going to call Optimist Broccoli and Tofu. It’s actually based on a simple chicken version from the popular blog Kalyn’s Kitchen so I only take credit for substituting tofu. My broccoli had actually gone soft after almost a week in the refrigerator so I just chopped off the florets and soaked them in cold water for a few hours, brightening them right up into crunchy fresh bites! I love those reminders that plants are living organisms.

1 container of tofu baked into Roasted Spicy Tofu Treat from earlier blog post
2 heads of broccoli chopped into florets
2 red bell peppers, cut into small 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 Tablespoons ground ginger root (not dried ginger)
1 Tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
1/3 cup water

Make tofu according to Roasted Tofu Special Treat and let cool. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, ground ginger, crushed and water. Taste the dressing and see if you want to adjust the seasonings. Heat a large wok on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add 3 Tablespoons of water and immediately throw in broccoli and red pepper. Stir frequently for 5 minutes then add peanut sauce and thoroughly combine. You want the broccoli to remain a bright green color and still have a crunch. Turn off the wok, then stir in the tofu and thoroughly combine. You can serve this right away or refrigerate for a few hours. Garnish with chopped peanuts when serving. Happy eating!