Vegan Creamy Potato and Herb Soup

In my life, I do not think I have ever eaten or made anything specifically intended to be vegan.

I may have eaten a salad with no animal products here and there but I would never have called it a vegan salad. It was just vegetables.
Wait, I take that back. Most salads I make have some sort of cheese in them or are topped with bacon. So, maybe I haven’t had as many vegan dishes as I once thought.
In my defense, adding bacon and cheese to a salad is the only way I get my husband to eat them.
And therein lies my problem. I could totally be vegan. I could! Except for the fact that I love cheese. I gave it up one year for Lent and it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Milk, eggs, meat, fish, etc, etc, I could totally live without. I have done it before so I know I would manage.
When you have something like almond milk which tastes way better than regular milk, you don’t even miss regular milk.

Blend it up with some wonderful fresh herbs, leeks, and potatoes and you have a hearty healthy vegan soup. Seriously, the fact that it is “vegan” is like an after thought.
You’ll be asking yourself, “This? This is vegan?”
Imagine what some of your other favorite soups would be like vegan-itized. The heaviness of dairy disappears and the hint of chicken or beef is gone and all you really have is a dish in which the herbs and vegetables are the center of attention. And boy do they shine!
Ingredients
2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Leek, cut in half length-wise and cleaned
1 Clove of Garlic, grated
5 Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Teaspoons of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Pepper
4 Cups of Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 Cup of Fresh Basil Leaves
1 Cup of Fresh Parsley
1/3 Cup of Fresh Oregano Leaves
First, rinse each half of the leek under cool running water to remove any dirt or grit. Then roughly chop the leek.

Next, peel the potatoes and then roughly dice them.
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium/low heat. Add the leeks and sauté for about two minutes. Add the grated garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté another one to two minutes.

Add the potatoes to the pot and sauté them for five minutes. Pour in the unsweetened almond milk. Cook leeks, potatoes, and garlic for twenty to twenty five minutes.
Roughly chop the basil, parsley, and oregano. Add the herbs to the pot.

Turn the heat off and let the soup cool for about five to ten minutes. Start adding about a cup of the cooled soup at a time to a blender until the whole soup is blended.
Or if you are lucky enough to have an immersion blender, go to town blending the soup until it is thick and creamy.

Top each bowl with a little bit of freshly chopped herbs and serve!

Oh! One more thing before I go! If you or anybody else you know of loves soup you have to check this out! Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast and Le Creuset You could win some great stuff even if you aren’t a food blogger!

Simple Sunday Supper: Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Loin with Kale and Potatoes

When I was younger, I hated Sundays. I spent the whole day being grouchy about the return to school the next day 
I would begrudgingly get in my pajamas and lay in bed. My mom came in to read me a good night story.

On a normal night, my mom would read me one chapter, then I would sail away to dream land.  On Sunday nights, I sat there with my eyes open but heavy, asking for chapter after chapter. If there was a moment of weakness where I started to drift off to sleep, my mom would stop reading. I would sense the change and wake back up and ask for another chapter and tell her I wasn’t tired. 
I kept thinking there was some way to delay the inevitable. 
Now that I am an adult, I love Sundays. I have accepted that the work week is around the corner and am ok with it. 
I don’t want to ruin my entire day by worrying about the next one. Because no matter what it is coming. 
What I didn’t notice when I was younger was the quiet peaceful feel of a Sunday.
Now I love the slow cooked Sunday supper. I love the smell of a roast cooking away all day.

I love the quiet walk to and from church. I love the peace of mind I get on a Sunday. There isn’t anything you can do to stop the work week from coming, so you might as well enjoy what you have in Sunday. 
Ingredients (serves 4)
2lb. Boneless Pork Loin Roast
2 Garlic Cloves, grated
1 Teaspoon of Salt
½ Teaspoon of Pepper
2 Sprigs of Rosemary
3 Slices of Prosciutto
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
2 Shallots, sliced
2 Cups of Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 Cup of White Wine
4 Russet Potatoes, halved
1lb. of Kale, stems removed
¼ Teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes  
Preheat the oven to 325. 
Combine the grated garlic with the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the garlic, salt, and pepper mixture all over the pork loin. 
Lay the two sprigs of rosemary length-wise on top of the loin. Cover the sprigs with the prosciutto. Using kitchen string, securely tie the prosciutto in place. 
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the pork loin to the Dutch oven. Sear the bottom of the loin for three minutes. Remove the loin from the pot.
Add the shallots to the Dutch oven. Cook them for a minute or two. Pour in the white wine and chicken stock. Use a rubber spatula and deglaze the pan.

Place the potatoes and pork loin back to the Dutch oven and then place it in the oven.
Cook the roast for two and a half hours. 
After two and a half hours, remove the Dutch oven. Add the kale and red pepper flakes to the pot and return it to the oven with the lid on for another half an hour. 
When the roast is done, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. Cut a tiny slit in the crispy prosciutto crust and slide out the sprigs of rosemary.
This is a super easy meal to make that just so happens to look impressive. It is great for a slow Sunday supper or for a holiday dinner. 
Sit back and enjoy your dinner, because tomorrow it is back to the grind.

Chelada

On vacation you are a totally different person. I love vacation Stefanie.
She is, for the most part, a rather fun-loving and genuinely happy person. How to merge vacation Stefanie with everyday life Stefanie?
These guys!

I don’t really know if Chelada is the actual bartending 101 book (if that actually exists) name for this drink. All I know is that at my brother’s super bowl party, his head chef at the place he manages, made these and called them cheladas….So I’m going with that name.
Vacation Stefanie is pretty easy-going and can be talked into most things, even when it happens to contain Clamato juice as one of the main ingredients.
At an all-inclusive resort for our honeymoon vacation Stefanie and vacation Michael were talked into having this drink when the poolside bartender said. “This one’s on me!” and handed this crazy concoction over.

Everyday life Stefanie was heard somewhere, muted in the background, saying under her breath, “You idiots. The drinks are all on you! You already pre-paid for this shit!”
Vacation Stefanie did not notice, because she was too busy fist pumping and chanting, “Free drink! Free drink! Free drink!”
So, with another weekend upon us, here is a drink your everyday life self is saying you probably won’t like, where as your vacation self is on your shoulder with a pitchfork and a Tommy Bahama shirt saying “Dooooo it!!! You deserve it. You know you’ll like it!”
Ingredients (for one cocktail)
2oz. Tequila
6oz.Corona
6oz. Clamato Juice
Tajin Seasoning
The Juice from Half a Lime

Rim the edge of a pint glass with Tajin seasoning. (Can be found at any local Latin/Mexican market.)

Add a few ice cubes to the pint glass. Then add the tequila,Corona, and Clamato juice.

Squeeze in the juice from half of the lime and toss a few shakes of Tajin in if you are feeling so inclined. Give it a good stir.

Kick back and let your vacation self out to play for a little bit!

Black Bean, Goat Cheese, and Jalapeno Empanadas

My husband and I met in college. We dated for seven years and have been married for about seven months. Having been around each other for such a good amount of time, we have come to have some interesting discussions/debates.

One of our favorite discussions has to do with hypothetical food and sports challenges. I will explain.
While out to dinner, I asked my husband, “If you were in the MMA ring with Chuck Lidel, how many seconds would you last? And no you can not just run around in circles trying to avoid his attack.”
My husband is scrappy, but certainly not MMA material. He replied, “Maybe five second.”
Our other favorite question is “If you were a competitive eater, what would be your specialty; hot dogs, tacos, meatballs, pizza slices…”
I swear I have a different answer every time. My husband however is fairly convinced he can out eat anybody when it comes to soft shell tacos or chicken wings. I have yet to put money on this but I do have to admit I would like to see him try.
After coming in contact with these little empanadas, I think I have found my hypothetical food of choice. They are light and flaky. You don’t technically need utensils to eat them. You don’t have to dunk them in a glass of water to eat them quicker. I am guessing I could eat twelve to twenty-four of these guys. But would I want to?
Maybe…
Ingredients (Makes 16 empanadas)
2 Cups of Flour
½ Teaspoon of Salt
2/3 Cup Shortening
10 Tablespoons of Water
1 Cup of Canned Black Beans
8 oz. of Goat Cheese
2 Jalapenos
¼ Cup Vinegar
1 Teaspoon of Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Water
Salt and Pepper
1 Tablespoon of Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Egg White
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening using a pastry cutter until pieces of the shortening are about the size of peas.

Add half the water then mix with a rubber spatula. Add the remaining water and mix well. Form the dough into a ball.
Roll out the dough to about a 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into four inch circles. Lightly flour both sides of the circle. Place the little circles of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Drain and rinse the black beans. Add them to a medium bowl along with the goat cheese. Using a fork, mash the two ingredients together until they form a paste.
Thinly slice the jalapenos. Leave the seeds in, otherwise the heat from the jalapeno gets lost in the beans and cheese. Add the sliced jalapenos, vinegar, sugar, and water to a small bowl. Microwave the jalapenos for two minutes. We are going to make the jalapenos slightly pickled before we add them to the mix.
Let the jalapenos cool for a minute or two. Drain the jalapenos, give them a rough chop, and then add them along with the salt, pepper, and cilantro to the bowl with the black beans and goat cheese. Mix the chopped jalapenos into the black beans and goat cheese.

Place about a tablespoon of the mixture in the center of the dough. Dab a little bit of water along the edge of the empanada circle. Fold one side over the other and press the edge sealed with a fork. Continue this process for all empanadas.

When all empanadas are properly assembled, coat the top of each with a little bit of the egg white wash. This will help them become more golden in the oven.

Place the empanadas in the oven and bake for forty five minutes until golden brown.

Top them with some hot sauce, pico de gallo, sour cream or all of the above and GO. TO. TOWN!

I only ate six…. I could have kept going, but my common sense kicked in and reminded me I am not a competitive eater.

Chardonnay Poached Lobster Linguine

A lot of people say they do not like lobster unless it is drenched in a lot of butter. I do love me some butter, but I am not one of those people.

I like lobster. I think it has a sweet flavor on its own and doesn’t need any butter in fact (Somewhere Paula Deen just fainted). In the Midwest, lobster is available but more costly. So, lobster is held to this high standard as being a special occasion food.
The first time I ate lobster was in the 8th grade. It was quite the momentous occasion.
You see, I was into sports in grade school. I swam, I played volleyball, and I played basketball. I was pretty athletic and kind of good at all of these sports (if I say so myself). I was on the A team for volleyball and in the advanced swimming groups. Then it was time for basketball. 6th through 8th grade, every year, I tried out and every year, the same thing—I ended up on the B team…Guess I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.
Well, I shouldn’t say that. I was good at basketball. I guess I just wasn’t “A team material.” So I settled into my role, more Jeremy Lin than LeBron James, and played my little heart out for that B team.

At the start of our little engine that could season, my fellow B-teamers and I were told by our coach that, if we made it to the playoffs, he would cook the whole team a filet mignon and lobster tail dinner.
It was our last year in grade school,l so we figured, “What did we have to lose?” That year, we ended up going all the way to the playoffs! I remember my one shining moment when, in overtime, I scored the game winning free throw to move us on to the next round. It was glorious. The coaches from the A team were there to watch. Every point I scored I felt like I was showing them what they were missing out on for all those years.
We ended up placing third in the overall season. We got a trophy and everything. There were two great things that came out of our victory. The first was that the amazing A team finished in third as well. To them though, it was a failure of a season.

The second great thing was that we all went over to our coach’s house and he really did cook us lobster tail and filet mignon! We all felt like such winners. Even though we only got third, we celebrated like we won the championship. Ever since then, I have always held lobster as a very, very special occasion food that will always remind me of that awesome basketball season.
Glory days!

Ingredients
1 lb. Whole Wheat Linguine
1/2 cup Olive Oil
4 Large Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
1 Teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
4 Lobster Tails
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Cups of Chardonnay
1 Tablespoon of Fresh Basil, chopped
¼ Cup Chopped Flat-leaf Parsley

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. (Not longer than 7 minutes.) Drain well. Place off the side to cool.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the lobster tails, season with salt and black pepper. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Place a lid on the skillet and simmer/steam the tails for eight minutes. After eight minutes, remove the lobster tails.
Simmer the wine over medium/low heat for an additional eight minutes. After eight minutes, turn the heat to warm or low because you are going to need to add the lobster back to the warm sauce.
Meanwhile, chop the parsley and the basil. During this reduction time, you are also going to shell the lobster.

Turn the lobster tail on its back, using a pair of kitchen shears, cut length-wise down the center between the legs. Crack each pair of legs back towards the shell. Start peeling off pieces of shell. Think of it like a large shrimp. Similarly to a large shrimp, the lobster tail has the intestinal tract that you will need to remove as well. To do that, cut length-wise along the back of the lobster tail. Don’t go too deep. You will see the tract and be able to pull it out in one piece. I know it’s gross, but just keep your eye on the prize!

After all the lobster has been shelled, cut it into large chunks, and add it back into the skillet along with the basil and parsley. Be sure to reserve some parsley and basil for garnish.

Add the cooled linguine and sauce to a large bowl and toss well. Season with salt and black pepper.
Sprinkle the pasta with the remaining parsley and basil and a squeeze of lemon juice, toss once more and serve.

Even if it is just an ordinary weeknight…This is a great meal to make it extraordinary!
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