Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons

Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons

During my first semester in college, I gained about 25 pounds. For a short person like me who never had any prior issues with food or weight, it was dramatic. It was the result of terrible cafeteria food, too many fat free animal crackers, and definitely too many midnight dorm room pizzas. That New Year’s Eve, I resolved to get the weight off… and fast. My best friend told me that she was doing this thing called the master cleanse so, naturally, that sounded like a good idea. I’m sure you’ve heard of it – it involves a concoction made of lemon juice, maple syrup, and black pepper. Only I didn’t like black pepper and maple syrup was expensive, so instead I decided that I would just drink lemon juice mixed with water for as many days as were directed in the “cleanse.” During those first few weeks back at school, while everyone would have their cafeteria trays full of pancakes and whatever other breakfast food, I’d fill my tray with four glasses of water, sit down, and start squeezing my lemons. Everyone thought I was crazy, but the idea of just eating reasonably and sensibly didn’t make sense to my college self, who wanted to be thin NOW. Well, I was crazy and drinking only lemon juice isn’t actually sustainable (no love with those lemons), but this line of thinking stayed with me for a couple of years while I yoyo’d up and down in weight. That was until one day I learned that if I just ate pretty well and avoided crazy ups and downs, everything would be ok – and it has been.

So this year, like every year, I have no New Year’s diet resolutions other than continuing to eat delicious, wholesome food with some room for fun foods. Just like this tomato soup (wholesome) with grilled cheese croutons (fun!). It’s all vegan but I promise you won’t even know it because it’s so creamy even though there is no actual cream. We’re partnering with ALDI on this post because they carry delicious organic produce and some A+ pantry staples as well.

Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons

Because it’s winter, I intended to make this soup using only canned tomatoes, but when we got to ALDI, their organic fresh tomatoes just looked so darn good. So I roasted onions, tomatoes, and garlic which I later blended with canned tomatoes, chickpeas, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme.

Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons

This soup is SO good. It’s tangy from the tomatoes, creamy from the chickpeas, and so so satisfying. I’d say yes to a bowl of this every day of the winter. Jack, who is not the biggest fan of tomato soup, could not get enough.

Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons

It’s delicious on its own, but the fun, yummy grilled cheese croutons really take it over the top. I used ALDI’s Knock Your Sprouts Off Sprouted 7 Grain Bread and their Earth Grown Vegan Shredded Cheese. I have to tell you that I’m so excited about this vegan cheese because: 1 – it tastes really good, 2 – it actually melts great, and 3 – it’s so affordable!

Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons Vegan Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Cheese Croutons

Happy New Year’s soup making!

Pesto Pasta with Arugula

Pesto Pasta with Arugula

The first snow came early in Chicago this year. It was barely November and we were driving to an appointment. It was snowing, and then all of the sudden it went from “really charming” to “wow it’s really coming down!” Now I learned to drive in snow, so I know how to pump the brakes (before anti-lock brakes existed) and to turn into the slide. But after living in Austin for so many years, I got soft. It was always funny to me how the slightest hint of snow in Texas meant that schools were closed and roads were abandoned, but when our first real snow day happened here in Chicago, my first though was “how many people are really going to be on the road?” Well, the answer ended up being way too many – we sat in the cold car way too long, wearing way too-light coats, staring at brake lights and a grey sky. I thought – really – what have we done?? I write a blog about vegetables, I’m shooting a book that’s due before May (when the spring farmers markets open) and we’ve moved so far from the sun!

We got to where we were going – an industrial area in the Pullman neighborhood where, situated on the roof of the Method production facility, is Gotham Greens. I’ve been obsessed with their locally grown greens the moment I came across their deliciously spicy arugula (among other greens) earlier this year at Whole Foods. We got a tour of their rooftop greenhouse and even though it was cold and miserable outside, it was so warm and sunny up there. There was a sea of the softest butter lettuces, my favorite spicy arugula, and the loveliest scent of fresh basil. My first two thoughts were: 1. Could I just hang out up here all winter? I could bring my laptop and maybe they could put a desk in a sunny corner for me? and 2. How hard would it be to build a greenhouse on our rooftop so that I could go up and pick local fresh produce (and hang out in the warmth) all winter?

Pesto Pasta with Arugula

Later that night, with a fridge full of greens and a pantry full of not much else, I made this five minute arugula pesto pasta because, well, we weren’t about to head out into the snow for any additional groceries. I used Gotham Greens’ vegan pesto, which I love, especially when I’m too lazy to make my own. This recipe for kale pesto would also be great here (and would be delicious using their fresh basil if you wanted basil pesto instead of kale pesto). The key to pesto pasta is to reserve some of that salty, starchy pasta water to loosen the pesto enough to make it a light sauce over the pasta.

Pesto Pasta with Arugula

Healthy Vegetarian Dinner Recipes

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

Happy 2018!

Usually I start a new year by posting smoothie bowls, salads and all of my favorite light and fresh things, but… well… it’s -3 degrees outside here in Chicago so I thought I’d start this year off with my favorite hearty, healthy, and most importantly warming recipes that you might want to make for dinner this week.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli (pictured above)

The title kind of says it all – this recipe includes an easy lemony white bean puree that’s made with ingredients that you probably have in your pantry right now. Pour it over brown rice pasta shells and tons of sauteed broccoli.

Sweet Potato Noodles with Garlic & Kale

Sweet Potato Noodles with Garlic & Kale

If you got a spiralizer for Christmas, now’s the time to break it out! Noodle some sweet potatoes and toss them in a pan with tons of kale and garlic for a quick veggie-packed dinner.

Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas

Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas

One of my favorite recipes from our cookbook, these enchiladas are perfect to eat for dinner when it’s cold outside. They’re stuffed with roasted butternut squash and black beans and they’re topped with a smoky chipotle tomato sauce that will take you only a few minutes to stir together. Make these quicker by roasting the butternut squash in advance! (note: the photo above is the step before they go into the oven).

Pumpkin Tortilla Soup

Pumpkin Tortilla Soup

Obviously, I’m craving spicy things today! Tortilla soup is one of my favorite soups, but it’s rarely served vegetarian at restaurants so I make my own. This hearty soup has a tangy & smoky broth, plus a fun crunch from the tortilla strips. It can be made with butternut squash instead of pumpkin if that’s easier to find.

Herb & Garlic Mushroom Pasta

Herb & Garlic Mushroom Pasta

This is one of my favorite recipes that I made this past year. If you love mushrooms, you HAVE to make this pasta dish. Even though it seems very simple, it’s big on flavor because mushrooms and tarragon are a match made in heaven. A touch of cashew cream with Dijon mustard makes it just a little creamy and oh so luscious.

Crispy Butternut Squash & Poblano Tacos

Crispy Butternut Squash & Poblano Tacos

Ok, if I had to pick TWO favorite recipes from 2017 this may be my second favorite. That butternut squash looks fried, but looks can be deceiving – it’s coated with crispy hemp seeds and panko and baked. The creamy poblano sauce takes these tacos over the top.

Vegan "Cheesy" Broccoli Soup

Vegan “Cheesy” Broccoli Soup

Based on how many times I’ve seen this one tagged on Instagram, I’m assuming that this creamy broccoli soup is a fan favorite. Traditional cheesy broccoli soup is so very unhealthy, but my version packs a ton of vegetables and is husband-approved.

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti "Bolognese"

Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese”

A super hearty pasta made with lentils and mushrooms instead of meat!

Sustenance Sweet Potato Stew 

Sustenance Sweet Potato Stew 

If you’re trying to eat more vegetables in 2018, here’s a great place to start. This stew packs 4 cups of sweet potatoes, 3 cups of broccoli, 4 cups of swiss chard, among other things. What’s amazing about this recipe is that it all fits in one pot 🙂

Sweet Sesame Tahini Noodles

This sauce in this recipe is so good! Pour it over noodles, lots of kale and any vegetables you like. You can serve these noodles hot or cold. Keep extra sauce in the fridge for flavorful lunches!

Macro Bowls with Turmeric Tahini Sauce

Macro Bowls with Turmeric Tahini Sauce

When I truly need a reset meal, this is what I make. Brown rice, steamed vegetables, some kind of legume (pictured: mung beans), a little sauerkraut or pickled ginger, and a turmeric tahini sauce to bring it all together. I hope that this one proves that eating healthy is not at all boring!

Sweet Potatoes, Many Ways

Sweet Potatoes, Many Ways

For those cold nights when you really don’t want to cook much – roast some sweet potatoes and stuff them with one of these filling options!

Let me know if you have any dinner recipe requests for 2018!

No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna

No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna

I’m so excited about this recipe because, who doesn’t love lasagna in the middle (err… beginning) of winter! Growing up, lasagna was my favorite food. Even though my mom made it pretty darn often, I was always excited when lasagna night came around. But this version of lasagna is no ordinary lasagna because instead of noodles, I used paper-thin sheets of sweet potato! It’s what veggie dreams are made of.

I hope Santa was good to you last week… if you found a KitchenAid® Artisan® Stand Mixer under your tree, do yourself a favor and go get this Vegetable Sheet Cutter Attachment as a gift to and from yourself. It’s so fun! Just look at that long sheet of sweet potato!

No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna

Since these noodles aren’t noodles, I had to do some experimenting to figure out what works and what doesn’t as a filling. The biggest takeaway is that the filling can’t have too much moisture. This means using one layer of marinara sauce at the bottom instead of diced canned tomatoes throughout. It also means making a mixture of ricotta and feta cheese (rather than just ricotta), which helps to thicken up the filling. The feta also has the added benefit of adding a tangy bite, which is so delicious in contrast to the earthy sage throughout the filling.

No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna

Also, you can see in the photo above that my sweet potato noodles are not all the exact same size… nor did I peel them. Since sweet potatoes come in different shapes and sizes, you’re not going to get perfectly rectangle noodles (although if you get a short/fat potato, you’ll get really close) – just get crafty while piecing them together however they fit together best. I used 3 smaller strips of “noodles” for the first layer, and wider strips for the middle and top layers. No wasted food scraps here (any extra scraps we did have we gave to the pups who love sweet potatoes).

No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna

This recipe could not be more simple – from start to finish, it took me less than 30 minutes to assemble. The noodles don’t need to be pre-cooked, so all you have to do is mix together the filling and layer this up. A warm and cozy dinner (or in our case, lunch, after we took these photos!) awaits.

No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna What should I noodle next? Sweet potato manicotti? Maybe a multi-root vegetable lasagna?
  No-Noodle Sweet Potato Sage Lasagna

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Baked French Toast

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Baked French Toast

Tell me, what’s your breakfast weakness? Pancakes? Waffles? Mine is French toast. Eggy bread that’s soft in the middle and crisp around the edges with a good dash of cinnamon throughout… what’s not to love? Well, it can often be quite an indulgent sugar bomb, which is why I like to make it at home where I can use ingredients that are a bit lighter. I usually make French toast on the stovetop for just myself and Jack, but today I’m sharing this baked version which would be so delicious for Christmas morning or a holiday brunch where you’re cooking for more than 2 (though Jack had no problem finishing this off…).

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Baked French Toast

This French toast is lighter than most – I swapped out heavy cream for almond milk and instead of regular sugar I used Truvia Brown Sugar Blend. I get SO MANY requests for lower sugar recipes stevia-based sweetners. That’s why I’m happy to share this recipe in partnership with Truvia.

The best thing about Truvia Brown Sugar Blend is that the texture is the exact same as regular brown sugar because it’s made from a blend of Truvia Natural Sweetener and brown sugar. The blend is sweeter than regular brown sugar so you use half as much for the same flavor and sweetness but with 75% fewer calories than full-calorie brown sugar. I mixed it with cinnamon and sprinkled it all over this dish before I baked it. It caramelized on top in the oven giving the top of the bread a delightful crisp edge. 

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Baked French Toast

This recipe is super easy to make. Start with challah bread that’s a few days old and slice it pretty thick. Dip it in the egg/almond milk mixture, and load it into the baking dish.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Baked French Toast

Sprinkle with the Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and cinnamon mixture before baking. Once baked, I topped mine with pomegranates and toasted almonds, but feel free to serve this with whatever toppings or fruit you like – blueberries or raspberries would be delicious!

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Baked French Toast