Super Easy Tomato Basil Soup

The other night I served a winner for dinner- at least as far as Master Eight & Mr Sustainable Suburbia were concerned. Ms Just-Turned-One didn’t like it and Ms Four wouldn’t try it, but hey, three out of five (I include myself) is about the best I can hope for – and it’s especially gratifying that everyone who did eat it had seconds.

So, here’s the recipe. Now, I just made this up as I went along out of ingredients I had on hand, and I didn’t measure anything, but it’s pretty straight forward.

Ingredients

1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 parsnip, peeled
3 bunches baby bok choy, washed thoroughly (I used the leaves and stems)
About a cup of chopped fresh basil, loosely packed
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can puréed tomatoes
1 375ml jar summer tomato & basil pasta sauce (the brand was Bertolli’s Five Brothers)
2 tbsp tomato paste
About 1-1.5 litres of water
About 0.5-0.75 tsp salt
About 1.5 tsp sugar

Chop the veggies – you’re going to purée them, so how small you chop them will depend on how long you have to cook them. I put them on at about 2pm and puréed them about 5.30, so Iwas able to cut them fairly big.

Chuck them in a large saucepan (at least five litres) with the water and canned and jarred goods. Add the tomato purée and the roughly chopped basil.

Simmer until everything is soft, ideally at least an hour to give the flavours time to mix. Two is probably better. Blend (I used a stick blender) until relatively smooth (or until you get the texture you want really), then add salt and sugar (which removes some of the tartness of the tomato) to taste.

Cook for a bit longer, then serve with grated cheese and your favourite bread. We had Turkish bread with it, which was yum. Even those who turned their noses up at the soup enjoyed the bread!

A vegetarian frittata recipe (or, Failing at my vegetarian dishes challenge)

Well, apparently challenging myself to cook two new vegetarian dishes a week was optomistic. One new dish (of any sort) per week seems to be about my limit. However, thinking about it has at least meant that we are eating more vegetarian in general.

Last night, for instance, we had burritos. Often we’ve been having them with beef and beans, but last night I just made the beans.

Tonight we’re having a vegetarian fritata (recipe below) and a salad. I’m conscious that Kid Number One doesn’t like fritata, so I’m putting lots of feta in the salad as well as shelled, steamed and peeled broad beans (from my Mum’s garden).  Not entirely sure if he’ll like the beans either, but he’s enjoyed helping to shell and peel them anyway. And I know he likes feta.

Sweet Potato and Feta Frittata

Serves 4-8 (or 2!) depending what else you have with it

Ingredients

  • 1 small or 1/2 a large sweet potato
  • about 5 large silverbeet (Swiss chard) leaves, or equivalent
  • two smallish tomatoes
  • a few sprigs of parsley
  • about 100g feta cheese – in Australia I use Southcape Marinated Fetta made from cows milk which is really yummy, but probably any good feta would do.
  • 8 eggs, taken out of the fridge earlier so they are at room temperature (ideally)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • a pinch of salt

You will also need

  • 1x26cm saute pan with a heavy base, with lid
  • A medium mixing bowl
  • A whisk (or just a fork really)

Instructions

  1. Slice the sweet potato up into 1 cm thick slices. You can leave it like that or chop it into smaller chunks as you prefer.
  2. Pre-cook the sweet potato however you like, I put it in a ceramic bowl in the microwave, with plate over the top, for about 3-4 minutes and then check it.
  3. Meanwhile, chop your silverbeet and parsley as finely as you like, I do the silverbeet in about 1-2 cm strips, and cut those up further if I’m using large leaves, and steam it for about a minute (or microwave for a few seconds – maybe 15?) – just to soften it a bit. If you want to include the silverbeet stem, I’d steam it for a little longer. Alternatively use baby spinach leaves and don’t bother pre-cooking at all. (Sometimes I don’t even both with the silverbeet).
  4. If you have an electric stove it should be heating up by now. You want it heated to a medium temperature.
  5. Put the saute pan on the stove to heat through.
  6. Slice the tomatoes into about 1/2 cm thick slices
  7. If you are using the marinated feta, fish about 100g out of the jar now so most of the oil can drain off it.
  8. Beat the eggs, water and salt together in a medium bowl.
  9. Pour a little bit of oil from your marinated feta to lightly grease your pan.
  10. Tip the sweet potato into the pan, pour the egg mixture over the sweet potato and quickly add the greens and the feta. You are aiming to keep adding stuff until you can’t get anymore under the egg. You want to do this quickly before the egg cooks too much while you can still stir it around to get it all spread evenly.
  11. Lastly add the tomato slices – spread evenly over the top and push them in just under the egg if you can (it doesn’t matter if they don’t go all the way under though).
  12. Now, put the lid on and turn the stove down to low. Cook until almost set, about 15-25 minutes (check after 15 and see how set it is). Now you can finish it off under the grill, with the lid off, but you can also leave it for longer on the stove if you have the patience.
  13. Serve with a large garden salad.

Edited to add: Kid Number One did eat the frittata after all, but picked out the sweet potato, but Kid Number Two pretty much only ate the sweet potato so between them they did okay! I forgot to put the feta in the salad and no-one really liked the beans much  (me included) 🙁 , but the oil from the marinated feta made a great addition to the salad dressing. Yum. Oh, and I also forgot to take a photo of the frittata. Next time…

Easy vegetarian dishes, post number 3: tofu burger

I am falling behind on my pledge to cook two new vegetarian dishes each week. Last week I only managed one. Unless you count the rhubarb pie, which I really don’t, because after all, how many desserts have meat in them anyway?

However, tonight I cooked the tofu burger listed in my original post. It was very easy and, I thought, quite yummy. I used 600g of tofu instead of 550g, and half way through remembered that US tbsp are bigger than metric tbsp, so I had also put in extra of all the sauces, so then of course I had to add extra oats and breadcrumbs to reduce the wetness… so all in all I probably just put in a bit extra of everything.

I’m not sure how many people it was supposed to serve, but I think we ended up with about 14 patties, which was waaay more than we needed for our little family, especially because neither of the big kids were particularly impressed (read: both picked the patty out after a few bites and just ate the bread rolls  with salad and tomato sauce (ie ketchup) – I think it was the texture they found odd, not the taste.  Might add more breadcrumbs for a firmer texture next time).  And that was despite the fact that I made them bigger than the recipe said, since they seemed too small when I followed it properly.

I have cooked and and frozen the rest, so I’ll try to remember to update this post when we defrost them to report how that goes.

Overall, I think it was a pretty good recipe, simple and tasty. Hope I’ll be able to bring the kids around to it eventually. Maybe we’ll BBQ them next time…

Vegetarian risotto recipe with pumpkin, spinach and feta – New vegetarian dish No. 1

In keeping with my pledge to cook more vegetarian dishes, I tried this easy risotto recipe last night. This was a delicious recipe a friend cooked me for lunch earlier in the week, which I modified (of course – I can’t help myself) and served up to my family. The husband and I enjoyed it. Kid number one ate the feta and a little of the risotto (the rice) but no vegies. Kid number two nibbled on some feta and decided she didn’t like it. And babe number three ate a little of the rice and chewed on the broccoli and asparagus.

Here’s the recipe:

steamed pumpkin with greens

Ingredients

1 medium onion, diced
2 cups arborio rice
4½ cups stock (whatever sort you like, but obviously it’s not vegetarian if you use a meat stock)
~1 cup chopped pumpkin
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
~½ cup chopped broccoli
~1 cup baby spinach leaves
pinch salt
350g jar feta cheese marinated in olive oil and herbs (I used a brand called South Cape, but I’m sure there are other options)

Instructions

  1. Heat a large pan (I used a wok shaped pan with a flat bottom) over a medium high heat and add about 2 tbps of oil out of the feta (smells divine as it heats).
  2. Saute the onion until translucent and starting to turn golden.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the 2 cups of arborio rice and stir until it begins to change colour (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until absorbed (instead of stock, you could use white wine for this step).
  5. Add another 2 cups stock and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly. Add more liquid as necessary to achieve a nice texture for your rice. This took about 1/2 hour and I reckon I added close to another cup of water. You could use more stock, but my stock was homemade and quite concentrated.
  6. Now, this is the tricky bit. While that’s happening you need to steam the other vegies. I had Kid Number 1 help with the stirring, but if you don’t have someone to help, well you just have to make sure you are organised with the vegetables all chopped beforehand. So – I steamed the vegies one kind at a time, because they take different lengths of time, but just reusing the same water.
    • Pumpkin – I didn’t time it, opps! But I think it was about 10-15 minutes. According to this eHow article on How to Steam a Pumpkin 15 minutes should do it. Unlike this author I just served with the skin left on, but this can depend on what sort of pumpkin you choose (and how lazy you are!).
    • Broccoli – I used frozen and steamed it for about 5 or 6 minutes.
    • Asparagus – I steamed this for about 5 minutes, but 3 would have been fine.
    • Spinach – this I didn’t steam at all!
  7. Once it’s all cooked, drain the excess oil off the feta (but keep it, it’s great for cooking with) and pour the feta in to the rice and mix gently. Do a taste test to see if you need to add some salt. Then add the baby spinach and steamed vegetables. Stir gently until well mixed and the spinach is wilted.
  8. Serve. Yum!

Serves 4 adults. Probably took me about an hour all up.

Note:  The vegetables are all optional really. My friend just used baby spinach, and she used 2 leaks instead of an onion. The marinated feta is really the defining characteristic of this risotto. The pumpkin was a really good addition though, as was the asparagus.

Full disclosure: I actually used chicken stock, so it wasn’t a strictly vegetarian dish, but only because I had some on hand after cooking a roast chicken on the weekend, so it wasn’t as though I went out and bought it (which I would have had to do to produce a vegetable stock today).

Some easy vegetarian dishes and a pledge to eat less meat in November

Meat eating – especially red meat eating – is a hazard to the environment.* And we have too much meat in our diet: we need more vegetarian dishes. Preferably ones the kids will eat. And we shall have them, starting with the recipes below.

I used to be a vegetarian. When I first got involved with my (now) husband he was a meat eater who ate very few vegetables. So we met somewhere in the middle, initially eating only organic or bio-dynamic meat. But somewhere along the line (was it when we became two-half-incomes plus kids instead of double income no kids?) my standards slipped. We still buy some organic meat, but not all. And then there are the kids, who are both voracious meat eaters. And not such voracious vegetable eaters. Especially the older one.

So my pledge for November is to introduce two new vegetarian recipes each week. I’m going to look for things that will tempt my children, but I’m not going to worry about that too much, because I know they probably won’t respond well to new food the first time it’s presented anyway. I’ll just make sure there’s salad and bread on the side. I’m also going to preference quick vegetarian recipes, because Babe Number Three is pretty tired by dinner time, so if it’s not something I can pre-prepare in the slow cooker, or cook a big pot of and freeze some, it needs to be quick and easy to make.

Vegetarian dishes already on our menu include:

  • Vegetarian chili
  • Cheese and beans burritos
  • Pasta with a veg tomato sauce
  • Quesadillas
  • Various soups (pumpkin, zucchini, vegetable)
  • Dahl curry

New Vegetarian dishes we are going to try:

I’ll add more links as I decide on them, and to keep me accountable, I’ll report back on how the new dishes go (and what the kids think) as I go. In fact, I might even ask the kids for some words of review! 🙂

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*Although, according to that link, a 2003 Swedish study found that organic beef was (surprise surprise) better for the environment than other beef (40% less emissions and 85% less energy used).

Vegetarian dishes
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