I love soup. I never make it. My sister does and she’s awesome at it. Which is part of the reason I don’t make it. Relative economic efficiency, I guess. I always make other stuff.
But when I looked under my cabinet one day to see these two beautiful crock pots, completely unused, something inside me clicked. And I found myself recently inspired to go crazy with those crock pots.
In the past three weekends I’ve made four dishes which have garnered some serious rave reviews. I don’t remember the exact recipes because I kind of made them up as I went along. That being said, I figure I might as well share what I do remember and leave the rest under the “season to taste” category found in many recipes.
The first recipe? Chicken and Mushroom Soup.
The goal for me first and foremost is hearty. I want to make any food I make feel substantive and hearty. In this case, I didn’t want to do this with noodles. To me, that’s a cop out. So I instead focused on the chicken and veggies to make it work.
- Full rotisserie chicken
- Fresh mushrooms, sliced or cubes. Go crazy. I used a mix of Bellas and Creminis – 4 small baskets.
- Baby carrots (20)
- Celery (5 stalks)
- Parmesan rinds (3)
- Bay Leaves (2)
- Olive Oil
- Pull the chicken fully off the bone. Tear it or rough chop it but I kept it in fairly large sizes.
- Make your own stock. I put all of the chicken bones in a pot, added (to taste) butter, salt, pepper, cayenne, parmesan rinds, and water, and then boiled it for a good 90 minutes. I used 5 cups of water for reference given the size of the crockpot.
- Clean the mushrooms. And then either slice of cube them. But no need to sautee or anything. These preserve themselves well in the slow cooker method.
- Mandolin slice the baby carrots. Rough cut the celery (I went about 1/3″ pieces.) I like the contrasting sizes but basically, get carrots and celery into your crock pot.
- Lightly coat the bottom of the crock pot with olive oil. Toss everything into the crockpot. Add the homemade stock (including the parmesan rinds.) Add additional water depending on the consistency you’re going for. And cook on high for 4 hours. If you want to start the chicken and soup actually going, put half of the water from the stock, the celery and the carrots into the crock pot to start and go from there.
If what comes out isn’t the best chicken soup you’ve ever had, you’re doing something wrong. Or I have ridiculously low standards.
The soup crushed it. Screw noodles. Overdone with chicken IMHO.
I’ve been vegan for a week…except for two meals that were out of my control (thank you Mac’s Speed Shop for running out of veggie burgers last Wednesday). Meals have not been difficult to manage as we’ve discovered a few new amazing restaurants to visit (I’ve been to Luna’s Living Kitchen three times), rediscovered an old favorite (Phat Burrito makes an amazing vegan burrito), and spent extended grocery time at my favorite grocery store in the world, Earthfare.
Even after consulting with experts who make vegan food for a living, the best meal I’ve had was made for me today by my amazing wife. I’m happy to say she also managed to keep her streak alive — she’s now cooked for me exactly one time each year since we first got together. She definitely makes it count as these tacos were tasty, filling, and just downright exceptional. The key is getting substance in the taco (typically provided by proteins) via the potato, which will also provides a great contrast to the brightness and crispiness of the vegetables and lime juice. Appropriately seasoning and crisping the potato is what transforms this meal.
Why am I sharing this:
- Incredibly tasty with ingredients that are readily available at any grocery store, I believe these tacos would satisfy vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike.
- 20 Minutes (how fast can you dice?)
- 45 Minutes (it’s all about roasting the potatoes)
- 1 Large Roasting Potato
- 1 Avocado
- 1 Stalk of Celery
- 1 Small Onion
- 1 Scallion
- 1 Bell Pepper
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper
- 1/2 Can White Corn
- 1 Tsp Minced Garlic
- 1 Lime
- 1 Packet Taco Seasoning
- Corn Tortillas
- Olive Oil
- Salt, Pepper
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
- Peel potato. Cut into equal sized cubes. Mix together with 3 Tbsp Olive Oil and Taco Seasoning to taste. Make sure potatoes are fully coated. Rest on roasting pan and cook in oven for 35 minutes (agitate and turn potatoes over after 15 minutes and 30 minutes to ensure even cooking). Monitor to ensure potatoes get to right crispiness. (Tip: If you have potato/corn starch handy, consider a light dusting of the potato cubes as your final step to help them get even crispier as they roast.)
- As potatoes cook, dice celery, onion, scallion, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and combine with 1/2 can of corn (rinsed) in a bowl with juice from 1 lime and 1 Tsp minced garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. (Tip: My wife also roasted the jalapeno because she’s fancy–I’m streamlining the recipe to quicken the pace for you.)
- Scoop avocado and cut into sizable chunks. Dress with 1/2 lime.
- When potatoes are fully cooked, remove from oven. Set up assembly line of potatoes, veggie mixture, and avocado.
- Heat corn tortillas and assemble tacos. Serve with lime wedges.
- Enjoy and sing the praises of my wife, my cousin (Chanda Masi), and her buddy (Tyler).
With my inability to exercise and my natural ability to increase my waistline, I’ve had to take dramatic steps to manage my health and weight. After a few days of waffling, I ultimately decided to go vegan for one month. Actually, I wasn’t waffling. I had ordered an amazing Valdeon blue cheese from Murray’s in NYC and wanted to work my way through that as a farewell. It was worth it. Wow.
Yes, but this post isn’t about cheese! It’s about the opposite of cheese! It’s about going vegan! It’s about using exclamation points to convince myself that I can do this!
It started yesterday with a visit to Earthfare, which is a regional competitor to Whole Foods, and one which I prefer greatly. The white label options are amazing. The service is great. And the prices tend to be quite a bit more reasonable. For anyone in the Southeast with convenient acess to an Earthfare, I encourage you to visit. The meat, seafood, and poultry options are strong. And the beer and wine selection is very impressive. In this regard, it puts even the larger Whole Foods locations in NYC to shame.
Since I’m down an arm right now, I don’t have the ability to cook too many fancy things. I therefore focused on ingredients I can assemble with one hand (a salad for example) or toss into an appliance that will do the work for me (smoothies and shakes, I’m told, will be my bff).
What Did I Eat:
- Brussel Sprouts – Calm down and stop making that face. I actually made a large plate of these for some guests we had over last night and these were actually completely gone by the end of the night. It was a simple preparation (prune loose leaves, cut stems, cut in half, coat in olive oil, roast in an oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so, flip, roast for another 5, remove and season with smoked salt and freshly ground pepper). Very tasty. Very.
- Cereal – I’m actually loving Almond Milk right now. Soy milk tastes like chalk. I had a Geometry teacher who somehow managed to get chalk on her cheek. I think she would really like soy milk.
- Olives & Vegan Crackers – I’ve realized that I’m going to need to get really creative for textures and bold flavors that I usually pull from creams, cheeses, and richer sauces. Olives handle that well (as do sun-dried tomatoes). Olives kicked-up after being marinated in fresh red chilis and olive oil? Even better.
- Steamed Veggies – I spent most of the day cooking for others (including continuing to perfect my baked crispy chicken wings) so I needed quick eats. The frozen veggies that can be steamed in the pouch are awesome. I spiked them with truffle salt and had a merry old time.
- Beer – Whatever. I’m not going vegan on this.
How Do I Feel:
- I’m 36 hours in and I feel lighter. I just feel a little bit better.
- I also found a great local restaurant, Luna’s Live Kitchen, which goes vegan/local/organic. I had one of their burgers for lunch today and am a pretty happy man. Spicy, tasty, using nuts and seeds to help provide texture and then kicking everything up with a spicy hummus. I will try to replicate this burger.
I’ll post frequently. So far, I think this is going to be easy to pull off. The hardest part will be eating out in groups at restaurants that will look at me like I’m crazy.
You know? Take a number.