Vegan “Chicken” Noodle Soup

Recipes

We are now 5 days into the New Year, and I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of myself so far (cue laughter – a whole 5 days – wooo!) But seriously, everything is going just swimmingly. Still no alcohol, smokes or sweets, which is making me feel incredibly good and energized at this point. My meal plan and shopping for next week is complete. I purchased the majority of my produce from local vendors at my city’s farmer’s market this morning (as well as some other goodies I will share with you), and I even made “chicken” noodle soup from scratch as well as a loaf of French bread to go with it. I am on a roll (or on a loaf?)!

The farmer’s market this morning was amazing despite the freezing cold temperatures and the wind – oh the wind. At one point one of the vendors tents started to flip over, the poor young girl underneath didn’t really know what to do as I grabbed the leg of the easy-up and pulled it back down to earth. Luckily, the vendor next to her was able to tie their tents together and provide some weights for the legs – it was an all out event. Anyway, I was up before the sun this morning, which NEVER happens. I am going to attribute this burst of morning energy to my lack of toxic intake the past 5 days. It was so nice to have coffee and get ready at my leisure while the sun rose. I went to the window every ten minutes or so to see how the sun’s progress was going along with my own. I met my mom at the farmer’s market and we were able to pick up several items including carrots, potatoes, broccoli, celery and even some olive oil and homemade lotion. Here’s a little picture of the things I got that weren’t produce related:

I haven’t tried the biscotti or the spices yet, but both look and smell divine. I cannot wait to enjoy the biscotti tomorrow with my morning coffee. The biscotti comes from a local baking company called The Upper Crust Baking Co. They’ve been around for about 30 years and source their ingredients locally which I think is pretty cool. You can even order some of their products online and have them shipped to you (seriously, if you try this let me know how it goes). The olive oil is from a company called Theofani’s and is possibly the most delicious olive oil I’ve ever tasted. It’s difficult to explain, but something about the flavor is so fresh – so fresh that I wanted to sip the olive oil straight from the sample cup (which I did – no shame). I’ve decided to dub this my “special olive oil” which will be used only for dipping breads and making dressings and not cooking – this stuff is too delicious to be mixed with other ingredients. The last two items come from one of the nicest booths my mom and I met during our visit. Herban Wild is a family run business that offers everything from all natural lotion bars to spice mixes to loose tea blends. The lotion bar is made with local beeswax and feels and smells absolutely amazing. They were also offering samples of their Wild Nettle Chai tea that I cannot wait to purchase (although, my mom did buy some so I guess I could steal some of hers until I get my own). The owners made the tea with sweetener and a little bit of almond milk – it was absolutely divine! It was also a nice touch on a gloomy day that really required you get something warm to drink. All in all, there weren’t as many vendors as there usually are on a good weather day, but I’m grateful to have found the ones that were willing to brave the weather like my mom and myself.

Now, back to the produce… The carrots, celery and potatoes were a part of my meal plan for the week. With the weather being as gloomy and as cold as it is I knew I wanted a soup mixed in for the week. And the only thing better than soup is bread – which I also made and will post about later on. My go-to soup is usually tomato bisque with a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich, but this week I really felt like switching it up (especially since fresh tomatoes aren’t in season). I made the quick and easy decision of tagging in some vegan “chicken” noodle soup. I put chicken in quotes because I do not eat chicken and instead used Beyond Meat’s grilled chicken strips, which are actually just some type of plant protein formed and marked to look like grilled chicken. It really is a great substitute and worked out perfectly for my purposes. This recipe was fairly easy to make as well – as usual I did some research into a couple different chicken noodle recipes (vegan and non-vegan) and sort of mixed them together to create the perfect version for me and what I had on hand in my kitchen. (However, big shout-out to http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com who gave me the idea for using the Beyond Meat chicken strips in soup. I have used them as a substitute in many other recipes such as salads, sandwiches and even enchiladas, but I hadn’t tried a soup yet. Check out their blog for loads of other great vegan recipes and meal planning info.) The result – a comforting and tasty soup that will not only provide loads of leftovers for the week of rain ahead but provide a warm nostalgic feel of winters past with mom’s or grandma’s homemade chicken noodle.

What’s your favorite soup recipe to make when the weather is gloomy? Do you buy your ingredients from a farmer’s market? And, are there any go-to products that you’ve found from local or small shops?

Vegan “Chicken” Noodle Soup

3 medium sized carrots, cut into rounds

2 larger sized red potatoes, cubed (you can peel these too if you like)

3 stalks of celery, cut into slices

3 tsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp onion powder (equal to about 1/2 onion diced)

1 bayleaf

1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced (equal to about 3 cloves)

1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta (or whatever pasta you prefer)

1 bag of Beyond Meat chicken strips (make sure to get the unseasoned variety)

4 cups vegetable broth

3-4 cups of water (depending on the consistency you like your soup to be)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place olive oil, celery, bayleaf, onion powder and garlic in the bottom of a large soup pot and cook over medium heat until they just start to soften or about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients (start slow with the water to build up your consistency, keep in mind the soup will cook down so you may have to add more water as you go) and stir to combine.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, stir occasionally.
  4. Once the soup comes to a boil, place a lid on the pot and reduce heat to low and let simmer until the pasta and potatoes are cooked through. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind, you can let the soup simmer longer to enhance the flavors, but the liquid will dissipate and the ingredients will become softer the longer you cook it.
  5. When finished, add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with homemade bread or rolls for a real crowd pleaser.
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Easy Homemade Granola Nut Bars

Recipes

This week has been a lazy one filled with late mornings, take-out dinners and lots of free time. Not having to work has been a blessing and a curse when it comes to sticking to my New Year’s resolutions. It’s a blessing because I don’t feel the need to take smoke breaks or have a drink after a long work day, but a curse in that I find myself with a lot of free time and the desire to go out instead of staying home. In an effort to spend less money eating out, I finally went grocery shopping today. I sat down and planned out meals for the week that I can prep on Sunday and set a guideline for dinners and extras that will be needed in between. Meal prepping is part of my New Year’s Resolution #4: Become more self-sustainable when it comes to food (you can read a full post about that particular resolution here).

Shopping went fairly smooth with list in hand, and I actually decided to wait to buy my vegetables and herbs until tomorrow when I can hopefully find everything I need at my local farmer’s market (rain and farmers willing). Things only went slightly awry when I realized I had forgotten to include any sort of snacks or in between foods for my husband and I to take to work – things like granola bars, nuts, crackers, etc. Thankfully, I remembered (because I cleaned out my pantry recently) that I had a bag of raw almonds and a bag of raw peanuts at home. This lead me to the idea of making homemade granola nut bars. I’d never done it before, but how difficult could it really be? All you need is some of your favorite healthy ingredients, some oats, and something to make it all stick together. I hit the bulk section of my local grocery store and picked up some more items to throw into the mix. I love this section of the grocery store because it feels like you can get the exact amount of everything you need without all the extra packaging. You could even bring your own bags to cut down on waste. The prices can look a little daunting – the cashews were marked at $11.99 a pound – but considering you only need about 1/2 cup of each ingredient for this recipe doesn’t make the cost too bad. What I ended up with was a bag of raw cashews and a bag of dried cranberries (I got about 3/4 lb of each and still had enough leftover to make this recipe a couple more times). I knew I had a pretty exciting thing going so I headed home to start on my creation.

Many of the recipes I looked up online had way too much sugar for my taste, others used vanilla and that’s not really my thing either. I wanted these to be as natural and close to the flavor of the ingredients as possible. Eventually, I was able to come up with my own mixture, which I think worked out pretty well and was easy to do. My husband enjoys the dark chocolate drizzle over the top (which took me a thousand tries to get just right) and I love the tart snap of the cranberries mixed with the assortment of raw nuts. It should also be mentioned that this recipe could work with any multitude of ingredients. I would just be aware with chocolate or marshmallows (if you’re more into sugar) to add them when the mixture is closer to room temperature so your ingredients don’t melt all over the place. Let me know what I should try as my next combination and if you’re taking any steps to live life more frugally or sustainably when it comes to food!


Easy Granola Nut Bars

2 1/2 c. Oats, old-fashioned

1/2 c. Almonds, chopped

1/2 c. Cashews chopped

1/4 c. Pumpkin seeds, sprouted

1/4 c. Peanuts

1/4 c. Dried cranberries

1/4 c. Honey

1/4 c. Brown sugar

1/4 c. Butter, unsalted

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 c. Dark chocolate bar, broken into pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and place oats, almonds and cashews on a baking sheet. Once oven is preheated, bake them for 9 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  2. Line a 9” square (or round if you don’t have square) baking pan with parchment or foil.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar and butter. Stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add the oat/nut mixture, honey/sugar mixture and the rest of the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and stir until well combined.
  5. Once the ingredients are combined, press the mixture into the prepared 9” pan with a spatula making sure there are no large air bubbles in the mixture. This was the most challenging part for me – I thought I pressed enough, but will press twice as much next time to really make sure the ingredients are firmly stuck together.
  6. Place the pan with the mixture in the freezer to set – about 20 minutes or so depending on how thick your mixture is and how well you pressed.
  7. To make the drizzle, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between until melted. Be very careful not to overheat, if you have tiny pieces of chocolate left I suggest heating at 10 second intervals and stirring until completely melted.
  8. Remove 9” pan from freezer and cut granola/nut mixture into desired shapes/sizes.
  9. Drizzle melted chocolate over the top of your pieces and let rest until chocolate sets/hardens.
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Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

Recipes

Christmas this year was extra special to my little family for a couple of reasons. First, it was basically our one year anniversary in our new house. The previous Christmas we had moved in only a couple days before and so we were only able to accomplish minimal decorations and a small Christmas breakfast. This year was the complete opposite. The house was filled with decorations (actually, still is), a giant tree and the smell of fresh bread and Christmas cookies. I even had time to make a dried orange garland – more on that in another post. Not only was our house filled with Christmas spirit, but our hearts were as well as we were able to host not only my family but my husbands family as well. Christmas Eve was dinner with my in-laws, their other children, their children’s children and a couple other in-laws of the in-laws (phew!) that tagged along. I cooked a big prime rib dinner per my husbands request and let the festivities begin. Since I knew children would be present, I wanted to make a special after-dinner drink for them (and the kids at heart).

Rosemary Bread

Recipes

Bread, bread, magical bread. Is there anything better than bread? It’s even better when you can make it at home and serve and eat it warm right from the oven. I had never been one for making bread before. Sure I had tried a couple easy roll recipes now and then, but I had never gotten into making actual loaves or rounds before (other than quick bread recipes like pumpkin or banana). But, this year for my birthday, I bought myself my first ever Kitchenaid – lucky me my birthday is always near Black Friday ;). And ever since having this beautiful piece of equipment, I’ve been baking up a storm. Cookies, cheesecakes, muffins, but best of all bread. I’ve been making about two loaves with every recipe I try so that I’m able to make one and give one away to my carb-loving friends. Their favorite recipe so far? This amazing rosemary bread. I’ve been told it’s identical to the bread from Macaroni Grill, but since I haven’t been there in several years I can’t say for sure. Either way, this bread is delicious, flavorful and perfect as a side or all on its own.

Hazelnut Coffee Creamer Recipe

Recipes

pexels-photo-374780As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more aware of the foods I put into my body. Mainly, I try to stay away from items with lots of preservatives and ingredients that I can’t pronounce. Some would say that giving up coffee would be a good place to start when trying to rid your routine of things that are less than great for you, but I am a coffee fanatic and so to that I say NAY! However, I did cut out coffee creamer about a year ago and started drinking my coffee black. I think what really got me thinking about it was that fact that you could leave most creamers in those little restaurant cups, or the giant pump bottles, out on the counter, unrefrigerated for days, weeks and maybe even months. That seemed odd to me. Isn’t creamer a sort of dairy product? How is it possible that it can sit out without spoiling? So I looked to the ingredients, and was surprised by all of the ingredients on the bottle that I was unable to pronounce.