Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shepherd's, No...Gardener's Pie

Shepherd's pie sounds weird to me. The idea of ground up sheep with mashed potatoes on top grossed me out a long time before I even became vegetarian. However, the concept of shepherd's pie intrigued me. The idea of hearty old Englishmen sitting down for their savory plate of piping hot shepherd's pie with a nicely browned crunchy top of mashed potatoes.When I came across a recipe for vegan shepherd's pie (courtesy of Susan Voisin), it not only looked like it would satisfy my interest in the original, but it looked like it was going to taste 20x better than the original!

If you try only ONE of my wintertime recipes this year, it should be this one. After serving it to my parents on a recent visit, my mom even makes this at home. It seriously is the most amazingly delicious way to eat insane amounts of vegetables all at once. In one small slice (although I can't imagine why you would only want to eat one small slice) you get a healthy serving of spinach, kidney beans, green beans, onions, mushrooms, carrots and celery. Can't beat that! BUT you get to eat them all smothered in a rich, yet surprisingly healthy gravy, and topped with a warm, creamy layer of potatoes, browned to perfection in the oven. Have I convinced you to make this yet? Okay, now gather your ingredients (altered slightly from the original of course):

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk
nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
16 oz. can of kidney beans, rinsed
2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp. dried sage
3 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
crushed red pepper
vegan worcester sauce (about shakes)

Boil potatoes in cubes until tender, then mash with soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. I like to keep mine a little chunky, but you can do it however you want. Set them aside and reserve one cup of the cooking water.

Saute the onions in a sprayed skillet until soft, then add garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms and saute 3 more minutes. Add vegetable broth, kidney beans, green beans and herbs. Simmer uncovered on medium heat for 20 minutes until all vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the pan becomes too dry at any point, add some of the potato water. Add the spinach and stir until wilted, then add the cornstarch/soy sauce mixture. Cook, stirring until thickened. Transfer everything to a large pie plate or baking dish and spoon the potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with rosemary and cook under the broiler for 7-10 minutes until nicely browned.

Let the pie sit for 5-10 minutes before you cut into it. This meal-in-one is a serious favorite for very cold days and/or very hungry days. It heats up very well, and individual slices also freeze very well. Despite the large number of ingredients, most are staples in our house and the actual preparation is very simple.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mexican Pumpkin Soup

It's actually getting cold out there (I know, it's almost Christmas so I guess it's about time) and I'm in the mood for warm, creamy, hearty soup! This recipe is totally easy and the unexpected flavor combination makes it one of the best soups in my repertoire. It's also made nearly entirely out of pantry items, so it's a great think to make in a pinch.

The secret to making this soup thick and creamy without a lot of cream and butter is using the pureed pumpkin as a base. It adds a thick, rich feeling to the broth and a serious depth of flavor. Plus the sweet creaminess of the pumpkin mixed with the spice of the jalapeno, the tang of the lemon juice and the burst of freshness from the cilantro really make the flavor come alive. Lastly, the pinto beans and potatoes make this low fat, healthy dish, a hearty, filling meal.

First, gather up the ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 15-oz can canned pumpkin
1 15-oz can pinto beans, rinsed
1 seeded, diced jalapeno
5 medium red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 Tbsp. marjoram or oregano
pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk
lemon juice
salt and pepper

Heat a large soup pot, add 2-3 Tbsp. of broth and saute the onions until soft. Next add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the rest of the broth, pumpkin, pinto beans, jalapeno and potatoes; then stir in the marjoram, cayenne and cumin. Bring the whole pot to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer about 30 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove from the heat and cool soup for about 5 minutes. Stir in the soymilk and taste. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper and taste again. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Serve garnished with a healthy sprinkle of cilantro on top.

It really couldn't be easier, and it's great to have a soup like this that takes only 30 minutes to cook. I couldn't recommend this dish more highly...especially for those of you who live in really cold climates! Look in your pantry and you may only need 1-2 ingredients from the store!