sage

Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche + more to top [if you want to keep it vegan, skip the crème fraîche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of crème fraîche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional crème fraîche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Thanksgiving Series: The Best Squash Casserole

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This recipe is loosely based off of a dish from Tracy’s cafe in Mountain Brook, Alabama. I absolutely adore this recipe because it has lots of cheese and good variations in texture. However, I did add a few green ingredients to spruce it up, because without them it is very yellow.

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It is a very simple dish, but it makes a ton of food! I cut the original in half and it still made probably 6 or 7 servings! (Okay, maybe I added in more cheese than it calls for…)

Before we get started just a quick note about the consistency of the filling: it will seem very very liquidy and thin, but I promise you that much of this bakes out. If you make the filling too thick to start with, the casserole will end up dry!

 

Squash Casserole

makes about 6 servings

Ingredients

4 medium, yellow squash
3/4 cup (about 1 medium) yellow onion
5 leaves fresh sage
2 tablespoons chives
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon almond milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
plain bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to top

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First, wash and de-stem the squash. Slice them into thin (1/4 inch) rounds.

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Prepare a pot of salted water to boil the squash. While you are waiting for the water to boil, dice the onion, make sure there are no large pieces.

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Chop the chives along with the sage. Mince the garlic.

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Once the water is boiling, cook the squash until they are very tender. This usually takes about 6-8 minutes. A fork should slide through even the thickest pieces very easily.

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While the squash is cooking, combine the onions, sage, chives, and garlic in a large bowl. Add in the butter and cheese.

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After they are tender, drain the squash thoroughly and add them to the bowl. Mix everything together until the butter has been completely melted by the squash.

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Add in the milk and eggs, being careful to continually stir so as not to overcook the eggs. It is fine if they cook just a bit, but they still need to act as a binder for the casserole filling.

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Add in the salt and pepper.

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Pour the filling into your pans and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs, then parmesan cheese.

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Cook in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the filling is bubbling up.

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Enjoy!

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Thanksgiving Series: Southern- Style Dressing

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I wanted to have a little Thanksgiving series on the blog for several reasons. I make unique, Southern, family-inspired recipes that are all vegetarian friendly. I have fiddled with the ratios and with veggie-friendly substitutions until I can find the right balance of flavors that best represent the culture that I come from, as well as our deep-abiding commitment to good food.

In addition, all of these dishes make only 3 or 4 servings. Now that I am living so far away from everybody, it is difficult to make it home for Thanksgiving. Here, we end up having small-portions (because there’s only two of us), so I also edited all of the recipes so that I’m not making enough to feed twenty people!

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I am posting the recipe for dressing first, mainly because it is very near and dear to my heart. This is an edited version of the recipe that my Mimi used when I was growing up.

We would always travel up north to Decatur, Alabama for Thanksgiving. There, my Mimi would make the best dressing you’ll find east of the Mississippi! Even better, she’d make me a special, little dish of meat-free dressing — with no chicken broth.

In the South, community is everything and food is a huge way that we bring people together and communicate our love for one another. The food culture out there is a really, really special thing that I have never experienced anywhere else. Each family has its own set of traditions and recipes that they follow. The recipe that I use has a little bit of my dad’s family in it, and a little bit of my mom’s. Homemade cornbread, in the tradition of the Deep South, and tons of fresh sage, a Sicilian flavor that (in my opinion) completes the dish!

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Before we get started with the recipe– a word about terminology. In the South, we are very particular about our Thanksgiving food vocabulary. Dressing is what we are making here. It will never ever go inside of a bird, and it is completely vegetarian! Stuffing is at some point inside of the turkey. It is never vegetarian, and often more crumbly than dressing. Southern-style dressing is very moist and really like nothing else you’ve ever tasted! Keep this in mind when you make the recipe- do not make it dry! It is not meant to be cake-y or like any other casserole, it is wetter than that and this is part of what makes the dish Southern and delicious!

 

Southern-Style, Vegetarian Dressing
[Recipe inspired by Mimi’s own dressing! (she even has her own blog, which you can check out here!)]

Makes only 4 servings!

Ingredients

1/2 stick salted butter
1/3 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of herbs d’Provence
10 medium-large leaves of fresh sage
3 cups cornbread (you can make your own using my recipe for Johnny Cake— half of this recipe will make the perfect amount of cornbread you need)
3 cups of stale, white bread (I used a pugliese loaf)
1/3 cup mushroom gravy (be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it’s vegetarian!)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 egg

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Grease two, small pans with salted butter and preheat the oven to 350° F.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Chop the onion and the celery.

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Sautée them in the skillet with the butter for several minutes.

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Add the salt, Cajun seasoning, black pepper, and herbs d’Provence.

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Wash and carefully slice the sage leaves into small strips. Finally, add them into the pan with everything else.

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Cube the cornbread and the pugliese loaf (you can measure out the cups by cubing).

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Put the cubed bread into a large bowl and add in the gravy and 1 cup of the vegetable broth. Stir everything together and use your spoon to break apart the bread cubes into smaller pieces.

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Add in the cooked vegetables and stir that together.  Finally, add in the egg as a binder. Stir everything together and use the rest of the broth to insure that the mixture is the correct consistency. You want to make sure that the dressing is wet but not soupy. It should be fairly mushy, like cooked grits or polenta.

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Pour it into your dishes and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the dressing is browned on the edges and solidified (but still moist). If the dressing becomes too dry, you can add a bit more broth and cook it for longer. If it is too wet, just cook for longer.

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Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

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