TOFU & DUMPLINGS: Comfort Food At Its Finest!

tofu & dumpling textChicken & Dumplings is one of those classic, stick-to-your-ribs meals that’s considered a comfort food by many.  Of course, being a vegetarian, chicken was not an option. That pretty much left a watery broth and a few carrots, onions, and celery.

So I set out to make a hearty vegetarian dumpling soup with flavor and heft. It took a number of tries with a variety of ingredients, but I finally created what I was looking for.

I, also, experimented with the dumpling size. While the larger ones were appealing to look at and faster to spoon out, I found it was messy business to cut into them while eating. I kept reducing the size until I got to less than 1″ in diameter raw – they plump up during the boiling process. Making them bite sized is perfect so you can eat them whole.

TOFU & DUMPLINGS – makes about 18 cups

  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cups (about 2) onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 10½ oz carrots, sliced
  • 1 lb white common mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3½ tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 T arrowroot
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 T butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 8¾ oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium/high heat.  Add in onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté 7 minutes, stirring often.tofu & dumpling5 Add in mushrooms and continue to cook another 4 minutes, scraping fond on bottom of pan (the browned bits). tofu & dumpling6Add dill, tomato paste, garlic, and 2½ tsp of the salt – cook 3 more minutes. tofu & dumpling7Pour in the Sherry and continue to cook until evaporated, scraping any fond formed. tofu & dumpling8Add the water, tofu, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and parsley.  Bring almost to a simmer. In a small bowl, make a slurry by combining the arrowroot with 1/4 cup of the soup. Stir slurry into soup until it thickens a bit – should take a few minutes. Taste for seasoning – adjust, if needed. Keep heating the soup to bring to full boil.tofu & dumpling13As soup is heating up, make the dumplings. Heat the butter and let cool a bit. Then combine melted butter with the buttermilk – it will get clumpy. Whisk the egg white a little, then whisk it into the buttermilk mixture. tofu & dumpling10In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and 1 tsp remaining salt. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and combine.tofu & dumpling11 Form small dough lumps – 1″ or less.  There will probably be about 62. (These will plump up with cooking.) Make sure you form all these balls before you begin dropping them in the soup so they cook at the same rate.tofu & dumpling12When soup has come to a full boil, one by one drop in the dough balls. Wrap a towel around the pot lid and cover. (MAKE SURE THE TOWEL DOESN’T DROP ANYWHERE NEAR THE BURNER!  YOU DON’T WANT A FIRE!!!) The towel will absorb steam moisture so the dumplings don’t get soggy. tofu & dumpling9Decrease flame to medium and cook 11 minutes. Remove lid and allow steam to escape a few minutes before serving.

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CALDO VERDE: A Filling Soup To Warm You Up!

caldo verde textCaldo Verde is a hearty Portuguese soup that is very quick to prepare.  It can be made with or without sausage. (There are fabulous fake sausages available everywhere!)

Normally, when I use fake sausage, I prefer Morningstar’s Sausage Patties. But since chorizo is the sausage of choice in Caldo Verde, I used Morningstar’s Sausage Links.  Next time, I will try using the spiced patties.

CALDO VERDE – makes about 6 cups

  • optional:  6 oz imitation sausage (I used Morningstar)caldo verde8
  • 1/2 T + 1½ T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup onions, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled & cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 lb collard greens
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

If using fake sausage, slice into 1/2″ pieces. Set aside.caldo verde11 In a large saucepot heat 1/2 T olive oil over medium/high heat.  Add in the onions, salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Sauté 3-4 minutes, until onions are translucent. caldo verde9Add in the potatoes and water. Increase heat to bring to a boil, then decrease heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until potatoes are tender when pierced – about 8-10 minutes. caldo verde10While soup is cooking, cut up the collards. First, remove and discard the center stem. caldo verde4Then cut the greens into 1″ pieces. caldo verde5When potatoes are cooked, remove 1/2 cup of the solids and 1/2 cup of the liquid to a blender. Don’t blend yet.

Add the collard greens to the soup in the pot and cook another 8-10 minutes, until green are tender. caldo verde7Start the blender and slowly drizzle in the remaining 1½ T olive oil. When it’s all added, continue to blend for 1 minute. caldo verde2Pour into soup. Add in the sausage (if using), vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning, as needed. (I add another 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.)caldo verde3

CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Eat As Much As You Want!

cauliflower soup6
Once again, we’re nearing sweater-shedding season and those holiday pounds are coming home to roost. But weight-loss doesn’t have to be painful. Starting a meal with a bowl of soup takes the edge off hunger, keeping you from inhaling two helpings of the main course. And, of course, soup can become a main course.

This low-cal CAULIFLOWER SOUP recipe is full of flavor and fills you up enough to leave the table sated. It’s, also, very quick and easy to make.

CAULIFLOWER SOUP – makes about 5½ cups

  • 6 T butter, divided
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4½ cups water
  • 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 3 T chives, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice

In a 4 quart or more sized pot, melt 3 T butter over medium heat. Add in the shallot, onions, and salt. Sauté until onions are soft, but not brown – about 7 minutes. cauliflower soup3Cut out stem core from cauliflower. Remove and discard the outside area – you’ll see a difference in color – then slice up the remaining core. cauliflower soup1Cut the head into 1/2″ slabs. cauliflower soup2Remove 1 cup of cauliflower florets and cut into about 1/2″ pieces – these will become garnish. Set them aside.

Put half of the slabs and all of the core pieces into the pot with the onions. Add in the water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add in the rest of the cauliflower, bring to boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook another 15 minutes, uncovered. cauliflower soup5While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnish:  Into a small skillet, melt the remaining 3 T butter. Add in the garnish cauliflower pieces and sauté over medium/high until golden brown – about 7-9 minutes. cauliflower soup4With slotted spoon remove cauliflower bits to a small bowl. Stir in the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt. Save the butter in the skillet – that will be garnish, too.

Once the soup has cooked, pour it into a blender and purée. You may need to do this in batches if you don’t have a large blender. The soup is hot, so don’t overfill the pitcher. Start blending at a very slow speed, working your way up, so it doesn’t splatter. Clean out pot and add the pureed soup. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning – I add at least a tsp of salt and some ground pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, add in some cauliflower pieces, sprinkle on chives, and drizzle with a little butter from the skillet. (If you want to cut down on calories, don’t do the butter drizzle.)

HOT & SOUR SOUP – Super Duper!!!

hot & sour soup textOne of my family’s favorite soups is HOT & SOUR. Not only does it have an appealing kick, but I love that you can eat a lot of it with almost no calories. Yay! When I start my meal with a big bowl, it takes the edge off my hunger so I don’t inhale half a dozen eggrolls.

Added bonus:  HOT & SOUR SOUP is fast and easy!  Who doesn’t love that?!

HOT & SOUR SOUP – makes about 7 cups

  • 6 cups vegetable stock (homemade or purchased)
  • 9 oz (1 cup) fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 oz canned bamboo shoots
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1¼ tsp fresh grated ginger, or 1/2 tsp powdered
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T + 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 3 T + 1 tsp water, divided
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin

Thoroughly wash shiitakes, discard stems, then cut into 1″-ish pieces. hot & sour6Cut bamboo shoots in half widthwise, then into slivers lengthwise. hot & sour9Press out excess liquid from tofu, then cut into 1/2″ cubes. hot & sour7Bring vegetable stock to a boil.  Add in mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Simmer for 5 minutes. hot & sour1In a small bowl stir together 3 T cornstarch and 3 T water. flour-pasteStirring stock, pour in slurry (cornstarch/water mix). Add in tofu, white pepper, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallions.hot & sour4Simmer 5-10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, and 1 tsp water. Turn off heat. VERY SLOWLY drizzle in the egg in a thin stream, going in all directions. hot & sour2Turn the heat on again and whisk gently to break up egg strands. Serve.hot & sour3

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP: Fills You Up With Flavor, Not Calories!

butternut squash soup textIt’s autumn – that time of year when the days get shorter, the air a little brisker, and the markets display all kinds and colors of winter squash. While, of course, we appreciate them for their beauty – and sometimes cuteness – they’re actually edible, delicious, and filled with nutrients and fiber.

This recipe for BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP is particularly tasty…and extremely low in calories! Bonus: it’s quick to prepare!!!

NOTE: Anyone who’s ever risked life and limb by attempting to slice through a winter squash, may have sworn off cooking with one. BUT…I have the answer: the microwave!!! (This, of course, may not work with a giant pumpkin.)

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP – makes 7 cups

  • 4 T butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 lb butternut squash
  • 5 cups water
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (dark or light – I use dark)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • optional:  Cinnamon Croutons (recipe follows)

Thoroughly wash butternut squash. Place whole in microwave and cook 3 minutes. (Don’t bother piercing it – it won’t explode.) Flip it and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and let cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, cut off the head, then slice through it, exposing the seeds. (Yikes! This sounds ghoulish!!!) Scrape out fibers and seeds and set aside.

In a large stockpot (such as a Dutch oven), melt the butter. Add in shallots and sauté on medium 4 minutes.butternut squash soup6 Add in the seeds and fibers. Sauté another 4 minutes on medium. butternut squash soup7Add in the water and salt, bringing to a boil. butternut squash soup8While liquid is heating, slice the squash (unpeeled) into chunks. Place them cut side down on a steamer basket. butternut squash soup2When the liquid has come to a boil, drop in the steamer basket and cover. Decrease flame to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove basket from liquid, letting squash cool enough to handle.

Place a strainer over a container and pour liquid through it. Discard seeds and fibers. butternut squash soup3Once squash is cooled, scrap squash from its peel, discarding peel. Put squash into a blender and add enough of the liquid to purèe squash. (Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in batches.) butternut squash soup4Empty purèe into the now-empty stockpot. Add in brown sugar and cream. Heat over medium to just before boiling. Taste for seasoning.butternut squash soup5

CINNAMON BREAD CRUMBS

  • 2 slices white bread – good quality
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Remove and discard crust from bread. Cut slices into 1/2″ cubes and place in bowl. Mix in sugar and cinnamon, then stir in melted butter.

Pour onto cookie sheet and bake at 350º F for about 8 minutes, stirring midway.croutons

GAZPACHO – Chilled Soup For A Hot Day!

gazpacho textSummer’s here and sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking….but I want a homemade meal. Gazpacho is the answer! It takes only a few minutes to prepare, NO COOKING, extremely low in calories, and it uses ingredients that are fresh from the garden (or farmer’s market).

This soup is best served icy cold, so I like to make it the day before.

I’ve included a recipe for garlic croutons for you adventurous souls up for a wee bit of cooking, but you can always purchase them, if you like.

GAZPACHO – makes about 6 cups

  • 2 T sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1½ large beefsteak tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion (such as Maui, Vidalia, or shallots), diced
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2½ cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce (use more or less depending on taste)

Into a large glass or ceramic bowl combine the vinegar, salt, and black pepper.

Slice tomatoes in half around the equator. Remove pulp and seeds by poking them out with your finger. Chop pulp and flesh into bite-sized pieces. Place all of the tomatoes into the bowl (including seeds).

Cut off and discard stem, seeds, and filaments of red pepper. Chop pepper into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.

Cut cucumber in half. Remove skin from one half. Slice both pieces lengthwise in half. Scoop out and discard seeds by scraping them with a spoon. Cut cucumber into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.

Add pressed garlic and diced onion into the bowl. Stir all together and let set 5 minutes.

Stir in tomato juice and Tabasco. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

GARLIC CROUTONS – makes 3 cups

  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups 1/2″ bread cubes (cut from Italian or French loaf, or purchased)

In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, and salt. Let set 20 minutes. Strain into mixing bowl, discarding garlic.

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Add in the bread cubes and stir to coat cubes. Pour onto a jellyroll pan, spreading them out. Bake until lightly browned – about 15 minutes, stirring now and then.

BORSCHT – Pretty In Pink!

borscht2 textWith the weather heating up and bulky clothes coming off, I’m always looking for ways to appease my hunger but shred the pounds. Soups are generally my go-to diet food since they fill you up without a lot of calories. But hot soup in hot weather doesn’t really appeal to me, so I look to chilled soups.

For some reason I’ve always been leery of beets. It’s not that I didn’t like them – I’d never even eaten one. When they came in a salad, I let these deep red strips remain untouched…until my husband inevitably asked if he could have them.

I’ve been hearing about how nutritious beets are so I finally decided it was time to face my fear and actually try them. Since my husband mentioned recently that he loved borscht (beet soup),  I figured I’d start there. Not only was the soup super easy, but superb (I’m in an alliterative mood).

Note: Beets stain, so take care handling them. I got a drop on some fabric, but used OxyClean immediately and it came right out.

BORSCHT – makes 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs beets with 1″ of stem remaining
  • 4 2/3 cups water
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 T + 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 T + 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp dried dill or 2 T fresh

Scrub beets clean and leave unpeeled. Into a saucepan place the whole beets, 4 2/3 cups water, onion, sugar, vinegar, and salt. Bring to boil, cover, lower flame, and let simmer until beets are easily pierced with a skewer (about 45 minutes). Remove beets to a cutting board to cool enough to handle.

Line a strainer with a paper towel and place over a bowl. Remove and discard onion from saucepan, then carefully (so you don’t splatter) pour liquid into strainer (DON’T FORGET THE BOWL UNDERNEATH TO CATCH THE LIQUID!). Set bowl aside.

Using the wet paper towel, rub the beets to remove skin. Remove and discard the top and bottom of beet. Take half the beets and shred them (a food processor makes quick and clean work of this). Place in a small bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Take the remainder of the beets and cut into 1/2″ chunks (exact size doesn’t matter). Place in a blender and top with some of the saved beet liquid so that they’re submerged about 1″. Blend until pureed – at least 1 minute. Add in remainder of the liquid and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Into a serving bowl place the shredded beets, pureed beets, lemon juice, and dill. Combine the sour cream and heavy cream. Whisk into the soup. Season as needed. (I added a little more lemon juice.)