Vegetarian Comfort Food

A cool wind blows along the street and leaves dance along the sidewalk in front of us. A chill hits me as I pull my sweater around me and pick up my pace as I walk back to the house. October is here and it's time to cook!

This is one of the best times of the year to be a cook. The autumn harvest brings us an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and cooler temperatures make a hot oven the aroma of pies baking and a swirl of hot soup a welcomed treat. It's also a great time to be a vegetarian or, if you're not, take an opportunity to eat like one. This month, a special bevy of autumn recipes from our very own Victoria Smith will have you thankful for fresh, crisp apples, heavy pumpkins and a warm kitchen! It's the very best of vegetarian comfort food. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Apple Soup

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 apple, washed, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon good quality curry powder
  • 5 cups vegetable, chicken or other stock
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 cup evaporated skim milk or half and half
  • Paprika

Sauté onions in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add the diced apple and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with curry powder and sauté one minute longer. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put half the onion/apple sauté in a large pot. Add the stock and pumpkin puree. Bring this mixture to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, put the other half of the apple/onion sauté and the apple juice concentrate in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add to the soup pot. Add evaporated milk and continue cooking until the soup is very hot. Do not boil again.

Serve the soup garnished with a spoonful of the apple/onion sauté and a dash of paprika.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Vegetarian Microwave Meatloaf

  • 1 package of Meatless Hams-burger (Morningstar Farms)
  • 1/2 package tofu (extra firm) cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup of ketchup
  • 3 slices of American cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (seasoned)
  • Margarine (to grease pan)
  • Grated cheese

Heat the meatless hamburger in the microwave for 3 minutes, on high (heat it in a Pyrex measuring cup) and then cut up the tofu into small cubes and place them in a glass bowl then add the meatless hamsburger and mix. Add the seasoning to the mixture. Add the ketchup and the cheese to the mixture. Add the bread crumbs to the mixture and then mix it very well until everything comes together. Grease a glass meatloaf pan with margarine. Add the mixture to the pans (smooth it out). Then sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Cook it for 7 minutes in the microwave on high. Serve it hot or warm.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Pumpkin Cheese Risotto

  • 7 to 8 cups chicken stock, canned or homemade
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice*
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 sage leaves for garnish

In a saucepan, heat stock to a simmer and holds at a very slow simmer.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan next to stock, heat butter and add onion. Cook over medium heat until translucent. Add rice, stir, and add 1 1/2 cups hot stock.

Stir until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add another 1 1/2 cups hot stock. Repeat a third time adding pumpkin and sage. Repeat with another 1 1/2 cups hot stock and add salt and pepper to taste.

Continue to stir until most of the stock has been absorbed by the rice. After about 25 to 30 minutes, taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Rice should be firm but tender (al dente). Leave risotto a little runny before adding the cheese so it will have a creamy not stiff texture. Ladle into soup plates and garnish with a sage leaf.

*Arborio rice, the short-grained variety best suited for risotto, is available at Italian and specialty food stores. If you cannot find it, California pearl rice is a good substitute.
  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Baby Potatoes with Dill

  • 2 pounds small yellow boiling potatoes (about 1 inch)
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Place the potatoes in a pan so they fit snugly in a single layer. Add water to come halfway up the potatoes. Add the butter and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pan with the lid slightly ajar. This steams the potatoes, and at the same time the buttery water evaporates to a glaze.

When the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes, remove the lid. If there is still a lot of water left in the pan, turn the heat up and boil it down. If there is no water left and the potatoes look greasy, add a tablespoon of water and heat to make a creamy-looking glaze. Toss with the dill and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Pumpkin Nut Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: salt and nutmeg
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree or 1 cup solid pack canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped pecans and black walnuts (may substitute raisins or any combination to equal one cup)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt and ground nutmeg. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, milk and eggs. Mix well.

Add dry ingredients, oil and nuts mixing until just moistened. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Do not over mix.

Spoon batter into well greased (use vegetable oil) 9 x 5 inch loaf pan or two 7-1/2 x 3 3/4 inch loaf pans, may use aluminum pans.

Bake (in the middle of the oven) large loaf for 65 minutes or two mini loaves for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan. Use a knife to go around the edge of the pan to loosen bread from the sides of the pan, invert, cool on a cooling rack or plate. Slice and serve.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Chiffon Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Crunch Topping

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or one 16 ounce can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 8-ounce carton low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (filberts) or pecans
  • Pastry for nine-inch single-crust pie or one frozen pie crust

For pie filling, in a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix well. Add eggs, one at a time beating lightly with a rotary beater after each addition. Stir in sour cream and milk. Mix well. Set aside.

For nut topping, in a medium bowl combine brown sugar and melted margarine or butter. Stir in chopped hazelnuts or pecans.

Line a nine-inch pie plate with pastry. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Remove and pour the filling into the pastry shell. Sprinkle evenly with nut topping.

To prevent over browning, cover the edge of the pie shell with foil. Bake at 375°F oven 25 minutes. Then remove foil and continue to bake about 20 minutes more or until center appears nearly set when shaken. Cool on a wire rack. Serve chilled. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour