Saturday, January 26, 2013

Carrot Soup

Getting over the flu? Trying to boost your immune system? Do you have a fridge full of leftover carrots? Or are you just looking for a warm and soothing meal for those cold winter nights? If you answered yes to one or all of the above questions (like I did), then try some of my rich, milk-less carrot soup. It's sweet, spicy, healthy, and very addicting.

I make it with chicken broth, but use vegetable broth to make a yummy vegan soup. This recipe calls for garlic olive oil, though a teaspoon of minced garlic thrown in at the end will work just as well. Make sure to add one or two teaspoons more butter or oil to the saucepan. I recommend using a food processor for this recipe to get the smoothest consistency.


2 teaspoons garlic olive oil
2 tablespoons Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
dash ground ginger
dash sea salt
dash black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups raw carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1. In a 6 quart saucepan, heat Smart Balance over medium low until melted. Add garlic olive oil and stir to combine. Add onions, carrots, curry powder, red pepper, ginger, salt and pepper and stir to coat, cooking until the onions are tender, about five minutes.

2. Add chicken stock, stirring to blend. Bring soup to a boil, stirring occasionally.

3. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Carrots need to be soft enough to puree. Remove from heat and prepare food processor.

4. In a food processor, ladle a small amount of soup from the saucepan at a time. Puree each batch for at least 20 seconds. Use a spatula to scrape out the pureed carrot soup into a fresh saucepan. It will have a smooth, creamy consistency and a bright orange color.

5. Heat the pureed carrot soup over medium heat until hot, then it is ready to serve. To make a thinner consistency, more chicken broth can be added after the pureeing process.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dairy Free Broccoli Cheddar Soup

My dairy free broccoli cheddar soup is sweet, rich, and creamy, just like the dairy version. I've been craving this soup since one of my friends ordered a big bowl of it at Panera. It looked so delicious I decided to make some. Plus, it's flu season; soup is soothing and broccoli is high in vitamin C. This is my flu shot.

The combination of sweet onion and sweetened almond milk makes a perfect dairy free soup base. I recommend following the first few steps to make any recipe that may call for a cream based canned soup. It can always be pureed in a food processor for a smoother texture. Also, this particular soup can be used as a base for, say, a chicken and rice casserole.

For the cheese part, I recommend using Trader Joe's Shredded Soy Cheese Blend for flavor if you are just lactose intolerant, but it's not completely vegan. For vegan soup I recommend using vegetable broth and Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds, although the flavor is a bit different. To achieve a better-than-dairy-broccoli-cheddar flavor, I added only 1/2 cup Daiya Style Shreds and then 1/2 cup parmesan in this batch. It's amazing to me.

Sometimes I like to use what I call a fake cheese cocktail: a mixture of different soy or veggie based cheeses to achieve a more natural flavor. The cheddar style flavors can be very strong, and they taste more realistic if toned down with parmesan flavor or mozzarella. Experiment with different brands, but I usually agree that less is more when it comes to adding fake cheese. Try half a cup and judge the flavor, then add more if you like it.


1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sweetened almond milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese alternative
3 cups fresh broccoli, chopped


1. In a large saucepan, melt Smart Balance over medium low heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper and cook for five minutes or until onions are tender.


2. Add flour and cook for two minutes.


3. Slowly whisk in chicken broth until well combined and cook for five minutes. Whisk in almond milk, and then stir in broccoli. Cook uncovered at a simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally. Do not bring to a boil.




4. Once broccoli is tender, whisk in the cheddar cheese alternative until melted. Depending on the brand used it can be tricky to melt completely, so I say whisk it. Whisking will also break down some of the larger broccoli pieces, creating a smoother soup. Remove saucepan from heat and serve the broccoli cheddar soup in a colorful bowl with your favorite crackers.



Monday, January 14, 2013

Dairy Free Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

I love cheesy pasta dishes. I was disappointed when I went back to Pittsburgh in August and had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Joe Mama's, realizing that all of my usual orders were smothered in cheesy sauces: Hug Yo Belly Gemelli, Herbed Chicken and Penne, Nonna's Gnocchi... Another Pittsburgh restaurant, Eat 'n' Park, was a common place for me and my husband to go for a quick lunch or dinner. Our usual was their Chicken Broccoli Alfredo. In college we loved to go to The Underground at Carnegie Mellon, where we would get a plate of hot pasta topped with creamy Alfredo sauce and marinara. The point is, I used to order Alfredo all the time.

I gave it up for awhile, refining my tastes by ordering complex pasta dishes at Italian places and trying new things with more nutrion. But lately I've been craving cheesy things. The only solution to that is to experiment with dairy alternative products and to create masterpieces. My dairy free chicken broccoli Alfredo is definitely a masterpiece. It tastes better than the real thing and I'm serious. I could eat this everyday!

I used the best tasting dairy free alternatives: Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk, and Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream. Aged parmesan cheese has very little lactose, 0mg per serving, so it's not going to bother lactose intolerant people in small amounts. In large amounts it will, so if you eat a lot be careful or take a Lactaid pill. It can't be eaten by people with a milk allergy. For a completely dairy free version, I recommend using Vegan Grated Parmesan Cheese Alternative by Galaxy Nutritional Foods. There's also a parmesan cheese alternative on the market called Parma!. It's made with walnuts, salt, and nutritional yeast. I haven't tried it yet but I'll blog about it when I do.

3 tablespoons Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

1/3 cup parmesan cheese or parmesan cheese alternative
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

2 chicken breasts, sliced and grilled
1/2 lb of linguine
1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli


1. Make sure your chicken breast is cooked or almost finished before starting the sauce, pasta, and broccoli. I cut mine into four thin strips and grilled them with my George Foreman Grill the same time I started the pasta. I also recommend broiling for a grilled chicken taste. Start pasta by following the directions for cooking on the back of the box. Prep broccoli for quick light microwave steaming by putting it in a dish with a tablespoon of water and covering it.

2. Once your pasta and chicken are cooking, start the sauce. Melt Smart Balance in a large saucepan over medium heat. After it is melted add almond milk, sour cream, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine.
2. Dissolve the cornstarch in water in a small dish and gradually add to milk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Bring sauce to a simmer. Cook for five minutes or until mixture has started to thicken. Add parmesan cheese and whisk to combine.
3. While the sauce is thickening, steam fresh broccoli for two minutes in the microwave. Go back to the sauce, remove from heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley.

4. At this point, you can cut your chicken into small strips and combine all ingredients in the saucepan to coat with the Alfredo sauce, or you can layer them: pasta, chicken, broccoli, and sauce. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and mangia!