Potato Leek Soup

I’m keeping lunches simple this week. This means a big pot of soup.  Isa Does It Potato Leek Soup is a limited ingredient, fast cooking soup that serves 8.  Compared to most of Isa’s recipes this is pretty basic, but sometimes that’s just what you want.  It is also probably one of the cheapest meals to throw together on a budget.

The most time consuming part of this soup is cleaning the leeks.  Once cleaned you get them cooking; I sautéed with splashes of water to omit the olive oil from the recipe. IMG_5932

After the leeks cooked down add the potatoes, broth and seasoning.

IMG_5936Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through then mash (I cheated and used the immersion blender).  Add a bit of cashew cream and woo-hoo you’re done.  A beautiful, creamy whole food plant based soup!

IMG_5939Simple as it may look and sound, this soup is rich with flavor.  It has a wonderful texture and the creaminess makes it seem hardy and indulgent.  I topped with fresh ground pepper and served with a Wasa sourdough cracker (they’re oil free!) for some crunch.  As the number of servings warned this recipe makes a lot (much more than you would think from 2 pounds of potatoes and 1 leek); I froze what was left after packing this week’s work lunches.


Isa Does It Recipes: 13


Engine 2 Challenge: Week 3 Wrap-Up

Even though I’m not following the meal plan in the eBook when I started the Challenge I had printed out some of the recipes thinking I would give them a try.  I’d completely forgotten about them until I was cleaning up some of the papers lying around the dining room table and happened upon the stack of recipes.  Looking them over I decided to incorporate some of them into the last two weeks.

Monday I had off from work and French Toast from the eBook seemed a good treat to enjoy my late start to the day.  I’ve had difficulties finding oil-free breads but had bought some Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins that I’d yet to try so why not english muffin french toast.  I have fond memories of raisin bread french toast from my graduate school days eating at Angelo’s near the University of Michigan medical campus; it’s so good it still gets the homepage cover photo.  The base of the Engine 2 recipe is mashed banana and non-dairy milk with cinnamon and vanilla.  This certainly isn’t Angelo’s but it was very good and a whole lot healthier.


For my on-the-go breakfasts, I made a batch of steel cut oats in the Instant Pot.  I decided to experiment with the basic recipe from Jill Nussinow by adding pumpkin puree and cranberries.  Recipe below:

1 cup non-dairy milk
2 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla
pumpkin pie spice

I cooked in the Instant Pot electric Pressure cooker for 3 minutes and let the pressure release naturally.  Split into three ~1 cup servings and top with brown sugar and chopped walnuts.  Made for a great grab-and-go breakfast to reheat in the microwave.

Lunches consisted of leftover falafel burgers and a salad dressed in fresh lemon juice and topped with a scoop of hummus.  The burgers were even better left over than when first made; the flavors developed more and the texture was firmer.  The whole wheat fat-free pitas I found at Wegmans were also a great success, really good! [Father Sam’s Fat Free Whole Wheat Pita Pockets; the mini size were just right for the burgers]


I finished up the Dilly Stew for dinner early in the week, had a falafel burger the first night I’d made them, and Happy Herbivore Cheater Pad Thai later in the week.  I was running out of rice noodles so my Pad Thai was more veggie than noodle but always delicious.

IMG_5908Rounding out the week’s dinners I made Broccoli Rabe Penne from Forks Over Knives Cookbook (I only have an instagram pic of that one).

For a sweet treat, I went back to the Challenge e-book and made the Banana Peanut Butter Oat Cookies.  A very satisfying little snack and love the banana, peanut butter and chocolate combination.


I also made a microwave baked apple courtesy of Fat Free Vegan.


Overall Week 3 has been a great success in term of food.  However, fitbit doesn’t lie and I’ve dropped my average steps below 10,000 this week.  The goal for the final week of the Challenge is to get my average daily steps to at least 12000 and get back to daily 5k on the elliptical for a strong finish.

I almost forgot the exciting news!  I signed up to go to the Engine 2 Retreat in Portland this April.  I’m so excited.  Portland was on the bucket list and E2 had the retreats on sale so why not.  I can’t wait!!!

Falafel Burgers

I’ve been wanting a good burger of late and thought I’d try a new one instead of my usual Happy Herbivore Quick Burgers.  I settled on the Falafel Burgers from Isa Does It thinking they’d satisfy the burger craving and also be good served on salad for lunches.

The recipe is simple but there are a few time factors to keep in mind…it is recommended to use dried chickpeas rather than canned as the canned beans are too soft for this recipe.  Not a big deal but requires some pre-planning.  Making beans in the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker I suppose) saves a lot of time.  It took some experimenting to get it right but 1 cup of unsoaked beans cook for 30 minutes (plus the time to build and release pressure).  The second time consideration is a refrigeration step after preparing the base for your burgers.  Something I’d missed until I was already preparing but it gave me time to make the Miso-Tahini Dressing and Hummus that were suggested accompaniments.

The recipe has all the components you would expect from falafel.  Garlic, parsley and cilantro are pulsed in the food processor.

IMG_5892The chickpeas and spices are added and the mixture is refrigerated prior to forming into patties.

IMG_5895Miso-Tahini Dressing is simply garlic, miso and tahini thinned with water to a dressing consistency.  The hummus is standard fare other than the addition of some kalamata olives.  For the hummus, I used canned chickpeas and substituted water from the can for the olive oil to fit the Engine 2 Diet.

IMG_5904I even managed to find whole grain oil-free pita pockets in Wegmans!  I smeared the pita with hummus and topped the burger with a bit of the dressing, cucumber, tomato, and red onion.  Served with a small salad, a handful of homemade baked sweet potato fries and a scoop of hummus for dipping this was diner worthy fare.

IMG_5901I really enjoyed this burger.  It had all the flavors of falafel and turned into a burger I didn’t find myself missing the fried aspect.  I’ve tried making falafel baked in the oven and its never quite the same, but as a burger it was quite satisfying.  There is no flour or other binder  in this burger so it does not have a firm texture of a typical black bean burger; despite this, it holds together quite well.  The Tahini-Miso Dressing was a bit strong for my taste but I did enjoy a small amount – more as a condiment than a dressing.  I did however pile on plenty of hummus.  Leftovers were served with a salad dressed only with fresh lemon juice, black pepper and a generous scoop of hummus.

Isa Does It Recipes: 12






Engine 2 Challenge: Week 2 Wrap-Up

I’ve reached the half-way point of the Engine 2 Challenge!  This week was not quite 100%; the weather seemed to call for wine and there was a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast on Monday.  I think I did  better this week than last all in all and, as a bonus, I’ve lost 4 lbs since starting the Challenge.

Breakfasts included my favorite Scrambled Chickpeas from Isa Does It served over Cajun Roasted Sweet Potatoes and topped with avocado, tomato, scallion and cilantro.  This time I substituted cilantro and lime for the dill and lemon juice of the recipe.


I also made Cranberry Orange Oatmeal for breakfasts.  This quickly became a favorite (I even chose this over vegan pancakes this weekend!).  Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup water or non-dairy milk
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 teaspoons sugar (I used brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
zest and juice of one clementine
1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts or slivered almonds

Combine all ingredients except the nuts in a small pot and bring to boil stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and continue to stir 1-2 minutes until the oats thicken.  Smash cranberries with a spoon against the side of the pot so the juice bursts into the oatmeal.  Serve topped with chopped nuts.


For lunch, I had salad or leftover Indian Buffet (Happy Herbivore Chickpea Tikka Masala, Roasted Curry Lemon Cauliflower, and brown rice).

Dinners early in the week included Indian Buffet or leftover Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant.  Later in the week I had Isa Does It Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings.


I also satisfied a craving for pizza.  I had come across a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust on Pinterest and was intrigued but honestly not expecting much.  I had only roasted half a head of cauliflower for the curried cauliflower early in the week so figured I’d give the pizza a go to use up the remainder; here is the recipe.  I only made the crust from this recipe and came up with my own toppings.   I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of chickpea flour and doubled the recipe, resulting in a crust that was about 7 inches round and 1/4 inch thick; as written it seems the crust would be very thin or the pizza very small.  I topped with homemade pizza sauce (halved recipe/left out the oil), spinach, peppers, red onion, and black olives.   The outcome was surprisingly delicious!  It is easier to eat with a fork but could be picked up.  I will definitely add this to the rotation as a healthier pizza option.


The weather had me wanting to bake.  Early in the week I made Chai Breakfast Cake, which was delicious but went to waste after a couple of days since I enjoy baking more than eating baked goods (I typically prefer salty treats to sweet treats).  Thursday another 14+ inches of snow fell.


Forks Over Knives Bursting with Berries Cobbler seemed the remedy to the winter blah; one of my favorite FoK recipes and I somehow still had blueberries frozen from my summer picking adventures.  I halved the recipe and made it individualized rather than in a baking dish.  This dish also holds up in the refrigerator so wastage is limited.


IMG_5226The thing I find myself missing the most is bread and texture, crunch specifically.  While skimming my cookbooks trying to decide what to bake I saw Chili-Lime Corn Chips in the Happy Herbivore Cookbook.  Somehow I’d missed this recipe in my past perusing.  Chi-Chi’s corn tortillas are oil free and fairly easy to find; to make chips you simply cut them up and season with a mixture of chili and lime zest before baking.  Crunch cravings happily satisfied!

Now to push for 100% plant strong for the last two weeks!

Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings

No sooner did I get my power back last Friday did I start hearing of the next storm expected mid-week.  I wanted to be better prepared this time around so I could at least have some nice hot comfort food if the power went out again.  A co-worker was able to find propane for my table top stove just in case and perusing the Stews, Chilis & Curries section of Isa Does It kept me going back to Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings.  This dish was also a good excuse to splurge on the Dutch Oven I’ve been eyeing for months; it arrived Wednesday evening and was put straight to work in advance of Thursday’s storm.


This dish is a simple stew of onion, celery, carrots and potatoes.  It starts out with a roux, which by definition is created by cooking flour with fat…not so good for the Engine 2 Challenge, but I decided to use water instead of the oil and see how it went.  I was able to achieve a thick mixture, but it was not browned or toasty as the cookbook describes.  To this, you add in the onion and cook a bit before adding in broth and the remainder of the vegetables.  With everyone in the pot you cook until the potatoes are tender.

IMG_5864At this point you add some beans and top with dumplings before covering to cook the rest of the way through.  The dumplings also contained a bit of oil.  Here, I replaced the oil with pumpkin puree; inspired by Fat Free Vegan Susan Voison’s Pot Pie with Pumpkin Biscuit Topping, which I had made for Thanksgiving.  The dumplings pillowed quite nicely.


IMG_5866The stew was lovely.  It has subtle herbal flavors and a lovely thickness you expect from a hearty stew.  The beans and dumplings add some texture (the pumpkin seemed a fine choice to replace the oil).  The dish also reheated well though gratefully I did not lose power and didn’t have to rely on my tabletop stove for the reheating.  I did, however, get over a foot of snow on Thursday – perfect stew weather.


Isa Does It Recipes: 11




Plant Based Indian Buffet

We’re now midweek through Week 2 of the Engine 2 Challenge!  I’m doing better this week than last and hoping to maintain electricity through the coming storm.  Every so often I get a hankering for Indian food and decide to make an assortment of dishes for an at-home buffet of sorts.  Happy Herbivore has a lot of options to choose from in her various cookbooks, which makes it easy with no modifications necessary.  I had intended to make Red Lentil Dal (Happy Herbivore Cookbook), Chickpea Tikka Masala (Everyday Happy Herbivore), and Vegetable Korma (Happy Herbivore Abroad).   I decided to scale back after I remembered I’d be in training three days this week offsite and uncertain of the microwave situation; I also still had some eggplant leftover.  To keep it simple I chose Chickpea Tikka Masala.

Chickpea Tikka Masala is a great dish and very fast and easy to pull together.  It gets it’s creaminess from blended silken tofu and it’s flavor from Indian spiced tomato sauce.  Instead of plain brown rice, I went looking on Pinterest for something to make it more interesting.  A recipe for Indian Rice became my inspiration but I simplified it even more.  I  used 1 cup of basmati brown rice and 2-1/4 cups water (per the cooking instructions on my package) and added 1 tsp each of ginger, turmeric, fennel seeds, cumin and  2 teaspoons of coriander.   I cooked the rice about 40 minutes and stirred in frozen peas (I didn’t measure but would guess more than the 1/2 cup that the recipe called for.  The rice was just what I was looking for – flavorful but not spicy.

Finally I had bought cauliflower thinking I’d add it to the Korma but decided to roast it so that I could have it going in the oven while I was working on the tikka masala.  The roasted curry cauliflower I usually make uses oil to coat the cauliflower with the curry spices.  I was trying to decide what to use in place of the oil – water, broth, tahini, tamari…when I looked over the recipe, saw lemon zest and decided lemon juice.  I modified the Simply Scratch recipe as follows:

I used 1/2 head of cauliflower, the zest AND juice of one lemon (I didn’t measure), curry powder, garlic powder and turmeric as called for and omitted the remaining ingredients.

1/2 head Cauliflower, cut into bite-size floret
1 Lemon – Juice and  Zest
1 tablespoon Curry Powder
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric

Toss cauliflower to coat with the spiced lemon mixture, place in a single layer on parchment-lined cookie sheet and roast in 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

The modifications definitely result in a more prominent lemon flavor than the oil-based version, but it is still a very satisfying dish.  I may up the amount of curry next time around to spice it up a bit.   All in all a very good plant strong meal and another successful modification.


Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant

The first meal I made when the power came back on after nearly 3 days without was an old favorite, pistachio-crusted eggplant.  This dish is a Vegetarian Times find from a few years ago that I’ve now made many times, with some modifications.  I had bought the necessary ingredients thinking I would be packing up to stay with family until the power (and heat) returned and knowing this recipe is something that mixed diets would enjoy.  The power returned as I was packing the car and I ended up staying home to get my house back in order while this comfort casserole was cooking away in the oven.

As promised in the other day’s check-in post here are the modifications I make to this recipe.  The modifications are really quite simple.  First, I halve the recipe and make it into a casserole instead of the cutlets described.  When halved the recipe fits nicely in an 8 x 8 pan.


I often add nutritional yeast to the finely chopped pistachios; usually about 1/4 cup nutritional yeast to the 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios.  The most obvious modification to those who are plant based, replace the oil-packed sun dried tomatoes with sun dried tomatoes sold in pouches.  Simply rehydrate them in warm water for 10 minutes or so before draining and blending with the roasted red pepper and garlic.

The sundered tomato mixture is more of a paste than a sauce.  I typically serve this dish with a side of pasta topped with homemade tomato sauce; Forks Over Knives tomato sauce is my go-to (modifications to that recipe are simple add-ins like fennel and crushed red pepper).   Since I have sauce on hand anyway, I line the bottom of my casserole dish with the tomato sauce.

To make this dish into a casserole, I use my mandolin to thinly and evenly slice my eggplant and place a layer of eggplant over the tomato sauce layer.  Next, top the eggplant with a smear of the sundries tomato mixture, followed by a sprinkle of the pistachio mixture before moving on to the next layer of eggplant.  Once you’ve reached your top layer of eggplant, smear and sprinkle as before but I also add a bit of tomato sauce on top (especially around the edges).  This time I had a fresh tomato that had seen better days so took some inspiration from Engine 2 Raise the Roof Lasagna and topped my eggplant casserole with thinly sliced tomato before one more sprinkle of the pistachio mixture.

It does take longer to cook as a casserole, 40 minutes or so, but I prefer it this way.


As an aside, I have made the E2 lasagna a few times and it is delicious, albeit a more time consuming affair to assemble; well worth it for a Sunday night dinner.