Tortilla Soup with Black Quinoa

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This chicken-less, dairy-free tortilla soup, a vegan take on the authentic Chicken Tortilla Soup, won my family over this week! Don’t be deterred by a lengthy ingredient list – I know it looks long but the recipe comes together really fast and if your pantry is anything like mine, you probably have most of these ingredients on hand anyway. I like to use black or red quinoa in this soup but the type of quinoa is a personal preference. The recipe will work well with any type. 

This is a great make-ahead recipe. The soup itself can be frozen and the tortilla chips can be made weeks ahead, stored in a tightly sealed container. 

For the Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow or green pepper, finely diced
  • 1 14-oz. can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, red or green, minced, seeds removed (you can leave them in if you like extra heat!)
  • 1 cup cooked black quinoa
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 fresh lime, juiced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil

6-8 fresh corn tortillas (see directions for baked tortilla chips below)

Toppings

  • Vegan sour cream
  • Fresh avocado
  • Tortilla strips
  • Cilantro
  • Green onion

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add in finely diced yellow onion. Sauté until translucent (4-5 minutes), stirring frequently and adding a tablespoon of water or stock every so often to keep the onions from sticking to the pan.

Add in finely diced yellow pepper and continue sautéing another 2 minutes.

Season with salt to draw out more moisture from the onions and peppers and stir another minute. Add minced garlic and jalapeno, and the spices. Stir to blend, just until fragrant – about 1 minute.

Pour in the stock, crushed tomatoes, quinoa, black beans, corn and half of the cilantro. Bring everything to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Add freshly squeezed lime juice and adjust the seasonings.

When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with vegan sour cream, diced avocado, fresh cilantro and tuck a few tortilla strips into the soup.

Yield: 6 generous servings

For The Baked Tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Stack all 10-inch fresh tortillas on top of each other and slice the whole stack in half, quarters, then eights – as you would a pizza. You should end up with 16 wedges.

Place triangles in a single layer on a baking sheet, salt lightly, and bake for 10 minutes or until browned.

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Baked tortillas can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for several days.

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For the Vegan Sour cream

This is a modified version of a vegan sour cream recipe I found at glutenfreeveganpantry.com.  The original recipe calls for nutritional yeast but I prefer not to use nutritional yeast, and to be honest, the sour cream tastes great without it. The recipe below yields about a cup of sour cream but the amounts are easy to double. Make what you think you will eat in a week because that is about the shelf-life for this sour cream. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2  cup cashews, soaked a couple of hours to soften
  • 2-3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients into your blender (I used my Vitamix).
  2. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed, until very smooth and creamy.
  3. Transfer to a lidded glass jar or any airtight container and refrigerate. 

 

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Blood Orange Popsicles

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Beautiful ruby red  blood orange popsicles with a splash of vodka for the grown-ups. Don’t you just love the colour of these?! This frozen treat is the result of blood oranges being available in just about every supermarket in town lately and Calgary having unseasonably warm weather for the past couple of weeks.  Yep, this is the perfect answer on a hot day and you’ll enjoy these all summer long.

Most store bought popsicles are made of 90% water and contain ingredients like corn syrup, gums, and stabilizers. Making your own means you can avoid all of that and feel good about eating them.

The addition of vodka prevents the popsicles from freezing rock hard and improves the texture so you don’t feel like you are biting into a flavoured ice cube. You can make the popsicles without it though. (And if you’re inclined to add more vodka, don’t – or they won’t freeze hard enough, and may break when you’re trying to get them out of the molds).

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups juice from blood oranges, plus the pulp
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. vodka
  • 1/4 tsp. liquid stevia

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DIRECTIONS

Manually, squeeze the juice from the blood oranges to yield approximately 400 ml juice. Depending on the size of your oranges, you may need 12-15 oranges. Don’t discard the pulp – it adds to the popsicle texture.

Mix in maple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice and vodka. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of liquid stevia. If necessary, adjust the sweetness and tartness by adding more sweetener or lemon juice to taste.

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Pour into 8 popsicle molds and put in the freezer. Freeze several hours (at least 4) or overnight.  

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What are you waiting for? Go buy a popsicle mold – or use dixie cups, and make some popsicles you will feel good about! 

Grilled Greens and Pesto Sandwich

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This is one seriously delicious, garlicky-pesto and avocado combination! The pictures don’t do it justice but it really is a sandwich you’re going to want to eat over and over again.

Tomorrow is National Grilled Cheese Day, but if you’re like me, it’s not the cheese you miss; it’s that satisfied feeling you have after eating certain foods that mentally conjure up memories and thoughts around comfort foods.  It’s definitely a mental thing for me. Sometimes it makes me wonder if my most favourite classics, such as grilled cheese,  should be veganized at all, but then again, there is this. “This”, is an alternative plant-based grilled greens sandwich that is every bit as yummy and comforting as the classic grilled cheese. No need to veganize anything. This pesto-greens combo  is so satisfying  and delicious and will  obliterate any mental anguish you have over giving up cheese!  You won’t feel like you’re missing out at all. Not even a little.

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The pesto provides the awesome flavour and the avocado provides a satisfying creaminess in every bite ( the comforting nature) but the sandwich works well with almost any greens you happen to have on hand. So, be creative and use up your leftovers! 

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You will need a good quality non-stick pan to grill these without the use of oil or fat. I used my ceramic nonstick GreenPan. It is coated with thermolon, which is considered safer than Teflon, especially at higher heats. High heat is thought to break down the nonstick coating, which can cause the release of toxic particles and/or gases. (Regular use of high heat may also shorten the nonstick function of these pans). For a mid-range priced pan, I find that the GreenPan works really well for frying without added fats or oils. (FYI, I am not paid to advertise nor am I affiliated with any of the manufacturers of the brands or products I mention on my blog).

INGREDIENTS

Pesto

  • 1/2 cup kale, spinach, or a combination of both, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, stems and leaves, packed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice

Sandwich

  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Handful of mixed greens (arugula, collard greens, spinach, sprouts)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Your choice sandwich bread

DIRECTIONS

Make the pesto first.

Add the basil and spinach to a food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped. Add in the pine nuts, garlic and lemon juice. Blend or process until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mixture doesn’t have to be completely smooth – a little texture is nice. Pesto keeps well, refrigerated for several days in the refrigerator.

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Rub the outside of your sandwich bread with half a clove of garlic, followed by the cut side of a small onion. This adds flavour and helps to replace the need for butter or oil in the frying pan.

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Spread pesto sauce on the inside of both slices of bread. Top with thinly sliced avocado, tomatoes – if using, mixed greens and the other slice of bread, gently pressing the sandwich together.

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Heat up a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Place sandwiches, rubbed side down in the pan and cook until toasted, fragrant and nicely golden on each side. Depending on how toasted you want your bread, this will only take a couple of minutes each side.

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So, why wait for national Grilled cheese day? Make this sandwich any old day and serve it along side Cream-less, creamy tomato soup. How classic is that combination?

Kim chi

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You have probably heard about the many nutritional benefits of fermented foods but have you also heard that the beneficial bacteria in fermented foods are powerful detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals? That’s only true though, if the fermentation process is traditional. Commercially prepared fermented vegetables such as Kim chi, pickles and sauerkrauts, are generally pasteurized, which kills the lactic acid producing bacteria. Many contain refined sugar too. Commercial  varieties of Kim chi contain both white sugar and shrimp or fish sauce, which means they are neither sugar free nor vegan. In this recipe for Kim chi I replaced fish products with Dulse flakes, a popular red alga that is suitable for vegans, and I replaced the sugar with fresh fruit. 

According to Dr. Ben Kim, whose recipe for Kim chi inspired my own,  Kim chi, made of various vegetables, contains a high concentration of dietary fibers and an abundance of vitamins while being low in calories. It also contains a higher lactic acid content from the active and bacterial cultures of Lactobacilli than you would typically find in store-bought yoghurt. Other sources claim that just a tablespoon of fermented food at each meal can contain up to 100 times more probiotics than a supplement! And, I have read that if you eat a wide variety of fermented and cultured foods, you’ll get a bigger variety of beneficial bacteria from food than you could ever get from a supplement. So, save your money and make your own – it’s really easy to do!

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Ingredients

  • 1 large Nappa cabbage
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 1 medium daikon
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 1 tbsp. Dulse flakes
  • 2 tbsp. Korean ground red pepper flakes (ko choo kah rhoo)
  • ½ apple or pear, coarsely chopped
  • ½ onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger

Directions

Step 1 – Brining the Cabbage and Daikon

Cut the end off the cabbage and discard or save for another use. Quarter the cabbage lengthwise and chop each quarter into bite size chunks. Place some of the cabbage in a large bowl, then add some of the salt and continue alternating cabbage and salt.

Peel the daikon and dice into bite-size chunks and add to the bowl of cabbage with any remaining salt. Using your hands, start tossing the daikon and cabbage in the bowl, massaging gently to massage the salt into the vegetables. And don’t skimp on the salt, as I did the first time I made Kim chi.  According to my talented and knowledgeable friend, Jessica, over at [Pre]Serve Food Skills, the salt is necessary to draw moisture out of the vegetables which will ultimately help the cabbage retain its crispness once the Kim chi is made. Most of the salt will be rinsed off anyway. 

Allow the cabbage and daikon to rest for a couple of hours – at least one hour at room temperature.  If you have time, you can allow the vegetables to sit in the salt for up to 8 hours. You can also weigh the vegetables down with a plate to help them release their moisture more quickly.

I like to massage the vegetables a couple of times during the resting period, squeezing the leaves between my fingers. This step lets me monitor the amount of a brine at the bottom of the bowl, which is an indication of how much longer the vegetables need to sit with the salt before proceeding with the recipe.  

While the cabbage and daikon are resting, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Step 2 – Making the Kim chi

Mix the Korean ground red pepper with 2 tablespoons of warm water to make a paste. Set aside. (It’s worth finding a Korean supermarket for this product as the only substitute would be crushed red pepper flakes, and they just aren’t the same). 

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You may add more or less of the ground red pepper based on your tolerance for heat. 

Cut green onions slice into 1-inch pieces.

Mince garlic and ginger.

Coarsely chop the apple and onion and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until pureed – it doesn’t have to be completely smooth.

When you’re ready to make the Kim chi, strain the brine into a measuring cup and reserve. Rinse the cabbage and daikon thoroughly – two or three times with cold running water. You want to rinse off as much of the salt as you can. After that, squeeze the water out of the cabbage and place it in a clean bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.

Wearing gloves, mix everything together with your hands until the ingredients are well blended. It is important to wear gloves because the red chili flakes can burn your hands.

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Fill wide mouth jars about ¾ full with handfuls of the Kim chi, pressing down to submerge the vegetables in their own brine as you do. (If you find that the Kim chi didn’t yield enough of its own juices, add a bit of the reserved brine – just enough to ensure that the vegetables are submerged).

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Cover jars with a lid. Leave some space at the top because the fermentation process will cause the contents will expand and produce gas.

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The Kim chi can be eaten in 24 hours but you can also leave the jars at room temperature for as long as a week before refrigerating. It will continue to ferment while refrigerated, and will keep for at least a month. That’s all there is to it.

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(See my recipe for traditionally prepared sauerkraut here).