Brrr! We set the clocks back today in the DST areas of the U.S. and you know what that means… more sleep! Yeah, not so much in my house since dogs can’t tell time, but it certainly signifies that the weather is getting colder. So, today the kids will be sorting their summer clothes and getting the winter clothes tried on and put away. And I’ll be thinking about the vegan comfort foods that go best in cold winter. Of course, there are some super-easy-to- veganize dishes that are so standard most of us make them frequently, whether we are vegan or not. These include items like spaghetti, vegetable soup, and oatmeal. But, if we don’t get too complacent about what we are cooking, there are also some slightly less regular and delicious vegan comfort foods that can both warm us up and provide that “zing” that we sometimes need to keep from settling into palatal hibernation in the cooler months. In recent weeks, I’ve posted about Pumpkin Coconut Curry Soup, Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry, Italian Vegetable Stew, Butternut Squash Risotto, and Vegan Chili. All of these foods have the richness and warmth that, to me, means comfort food. But, hey, there are more! In this post, I present 2 more vegan comfort food recipes (though I will say that these two are heavy on the rich and low on the zing), along with a set of general tips for coming up with rich, comforting dishes – with whatever you have on hand.
Tips for Comfort Cooking
- Pick a starch/carb. Comfort foods tend to have a little weight to them and usually get a substantial portion of their calories from starchy carbs. This is part of what makes them so filling and warming. You can use rice, pasta, quinoa, bulgar wheat, beans, some sort of flour, potatoes, etc. Look around and see what is in your pantry to begin your dish.
- Pick a “rich” flavor base ingredient. In non-vegan cooking, this can often be dairy or meat based. For vegan cooking, that won’t work, but creamy soy, tomato, squashes, apples, etc. are great flavor items that resonate with our feelings of comfort. You can also go with faux meat flavors (soy sausage, vegan “chicken” broth) if that suits your tastebuds.
- Pick your “zing” (or zings). What ingredients do you have around that would make a good flavor burst in the dish. This might be something in your spice rack (curry, red pepper, chili oil) or in your vegetable drawer/shelf (onion, garlic, leeks). You certainly don’t have to limit yourself to one, but comfort foods are often relatively simple in number of ingredients.
- Put it together! This is the fun (and hard part). What can you come up with using what you have? At this point, you may want to add some extras in the form of veggies, a protein, and so on.
Vegan Mashed Potato Soup
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 onions, diced
1 lb carrots, peeled and shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 T olive oil
6-8 cups veg broth
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
2 T vegan margarine
fresh black pepper
Put potatoes in large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Put oil in pan on stove and add onion, celery, and garlic. Saute over medium heat until translucent, stirring often. Meanwhile, potatoes in large bowl and mash (using beater or masher) with 1 cup soy milk and margarine. Basically, here you are making mashed potatoes to start. You don’t need them to be super smooth. Some small pieces of potato left in the mix makes the soup have an added heartiness. Add potatoes to pan with cooked onion and garlic. Slowly add vegetable broth until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Do not add too much (though, if you do, you can use potato flour or constarch to re-thicken it). When you get the consistency that you want, add the shredded carrots and cook on a medium low temp until the carrots are tender. You will need to stir fairly frequently or this will form a scalded layer on the bottom of the pot. If that happens, do not scrape at it while cooking. Just stir “above” it so that you don’t mix the scalded bits into your soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
(This recipe makes 2 loaves – freeze one for later!)
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegan margarine
1 cup applesauce
4 very ripe bananas
2 t. baking soda
2 T cinnamon
1 t. salt
6 T soy milk
1/2 t. white vinegar
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. In a second bowl, mash your ripe bananas and add the applesauce. Warm the margarine slightly (don’t melt it) and mix into the fruit well. In a cup, combine the soy milk and vinegar. The vinegar should cause the milk to “curdle” slightly, like buttermilk. Combine the fruit mixture and the milk mixture and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Pour into loaf pan and cook at 300* for 60-90 minutes – or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.