Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals

It snowed here on Friday night. Not a lot, just enough to be pesky. The temperature was supposed to go up to 54F, but it has not done so. There is ice out there, and it is mean. It is also colder than a witchdigger's brass monkey out there (I heard that on TV once, on Mork and Mindy), and walking is about as much fun as driving -- hardly any. Maybe later on I will feel happier about this, but right now, all I have on my mind is what are we going to have for lunch, and I hope that it's soup.

Remember in Alice in Wonderland, when a character (I don't remember which one) sings about soup? "Soup, soup, beautiful soup! Soup of the Evening, Beautiful soup!" Well, I'm not going to get quite that carried away, but heating your freezing person from the inside out is a great way to survive the elements.

Soup is absolutely the best thing that there is to eat on a cold winter day, and I have rounded up a few easy and delicious ways to make soups that are like love and a blanket when it is nasty outside.

I wish that I could get the animals to eat soup. But then, they aren't vegetarians, either. They get insulted if I offer them anything that isn't meat. Well, they are born carnivores, and what can one do? (We have storm coats for our dogs, and I'm sure that the neighbors think that we are nuts.) The cats wear sweaters to go to the vet, but normally, they are indoors, in a heated building of their own, and therefore OK with the cold. Except Felicity the cat. She is a long-haired calico, and didn't groom herself, and recently had to have a haircut at the vet's office. So, Felicity is wearing a custom-fit green sweater, made for her by Mom, until her fur grows back. We have extras, because we have to keep her clean.

We went to see Harry Potter the night that it opened, and enjoyed it thoroughly, except for all the meat eating in the dining room scenes. Which reminds me, my mother's novel, "Merlyn" is due to be released in February, and will be available in the spring, in 25,000 bookstores. We are very excited here. And hey, if you liked Harry Potter, try Merlyn. I mean it. And not just because Mom wrote it, either! ("Merlyn" is a vegetarian of course.)

But here we sit and shiver in central New York State. Just the smell of those soups cooking is enough to make you crazy with hunger. Try these. You'll like them.

7-Bean Soup

  • 4 cups dried beans (as many types as you can find)
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 2-3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. B-B-Q sauce
  • 3 tsp. choppe green chili
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 44 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 6 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped

Wash, pick over, and soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. In the morning, drain & rinse the beans. Return them to the pot with 18 cups of cold water. Add the ginger, and bring to a full boil. Reduce to an active simmer & cook until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 3 hours more. Stir and add water as needed. If you can wait until it's completely done, you'll have plenty to freeze, and it freezes well.

  • Yields: enough for freezing
  • Preparation Time: 3 hours + overnight

Corn Potato Chowder

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions, red if possible
  • 4+ cups boiling vegetable stock
  • 1 lb. thin-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (& defrosted) corn kernels
  • 2 tsp. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 corn cobs

Heat some stock in a pressure cooker. Cook the onions over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the rest of the stock, potatoes, red bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn, and thyme. If you are using fresh corn, add the cobs too for more sweetness.

Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Reduce the pressure using a quick-release method. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape.

Remove the corn cobs (if used). With a slotted spoon, put about 2 cups of the cooked veggies into a food processor and puree them with 2 more cups of the corn. You can just dump the 2 cups of corn into the cooker and use one of those hand-held blenders right in there to puree things together until it looks nice. Stir the puree back into the soup together with the remaining cups of uncooked corn. Add the salt and pepper and simmer until the just-added corn is tender, 2-3 minutes.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: about an hour

Cream of Tomato Soup

  • 4 Tbsp. finely diced onion
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups rice milk
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • seasonings to taste

Saute the onion in soy sauce until it's tender. Add 1 1/2 cups of rice milk and 8 oz. tomato sauce to the onions, and bring to a boil. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 cup of rice milk. Add the cornstarch/rice milk mixture to the soup, stirring constantly until thickened. Season to taste with your favorite seasonings. I used a little onion powder and some spicy Creole seasoning.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

French Onion Soup

  • 1 cup sherry or dry white wine
  • 4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced into circles
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. whole wheat or unbleached white pastry flour
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 5 tsp. black pepper
  • Salt or low sodium soy sauce to taste
  • 6 slices french bread, toasted

In a large heavy stockpot, heat the wine until bubbling. Add the onions and reduce heat to medium. Cook the onions slowly, stirring frequently, for at least 20 minutes, until they become pastelike. Don't cook the onions too quickly, or they'll taste bitter.

Add the garlic and continue to cook 5 to 10 minutes until the garlic begins to look brown. Add the flour, stir well, and cook 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season the soup with pepper and salt or soy sauce. Ladle the soup into a bowl and float a slice of toasted bread on top of each.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: about an hour and a half

Ginger Carrot Soup

  • 1 cup sliced leek
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 9) carrots peeled and cut into 1" length
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cups fresh chopped mint
  • salt
  • ground white pepper
  • fresh citrus slices and orange zest for garnish

Saute the leek and ginger until the leek is tender or about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and saute a bit more. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Puree using a blender in the pot. Add the orange juice and stir in the mint.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: depends upon how you serve it -- add 2 hours if you chill it

Garlic Soup

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. cumin seed
  • 6 Tbsp. parsley, chopped finely
  • 13 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley for garnish

In a soup pot, heat to boiling the vegetable stock and cumin seed. Add the parsley and garlic.

Beat in a bowl, the eggs (or egg substitute), salt and pepper to taste. Add some of the vegetable broth to the egg mixture to heat. Stir the egg mixture into the hot soup and whisk. Simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes