Vegan Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

by Susan on March 4, 2015

My daughter’s favorite fast food meal is Panera’s tomato basil soup. In the scheme of things, it’s a relatively benign choice (though I’m not thrilled when she’s with her father and somehow the soup gets served in a ginormous bread bowl…).

Panera’s ingredients are as as follows: (tomatoes [tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, citric acid], water, cream [cream, milk], onions, seasoning [sugar, modified corn starch, salt, spices, mono and diglycerides], butter [cream, natural flavors], extra virgin olive oil, garlic puree [garlic, water, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate], sugar).

The chain did pledge to ditch artificial ingredients and additives by 2016, but I cannot find any consensus about whether they have eschewed GMOs. If not, there could be some in the corn starch and sugar. Mono and diglycerides are emulsifiers added to processed foods for texture. They can also contain trans fats. Again, Panera maintains they have no added artificial trans fats in their food, but mono and diglycerides can slide under the radar as “natural.”

Nutritional question marks aside, there’s one thing that’s clear: the soup gets its creaminess from dairy. So I decided to try my hand at a homemade version, wanting to capture the flavor of the soup without any dairy OR potentially sketchy additives.

Beside being absolutely delicious (and the girl said I got close to the taste of the real thing!), this one could not be simpler to make. I literally threw it together for lunch yesterday in minutes flat. Use pre-chopped onion and you could practically make it with your eyes closed! But please don’t ;)

The best quality canned tomatoes are the way to go here, and don’t skimp on the fresh basil. I achieved a creamy texture by not shaking my can of coconut milk, and skimming the creamy part off the top. Trader Joe’s also sells coconut cream concentrate, which serves the same purpose.

I used a stick blender to mix this up, and purposely left it a little bit chunky. You can transfer the soup to a separate blender if necessary, and can certainly puree it to be as smooth as you’d like.

As written this one is vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and quicker to make than it probably took you to read this into!

Vegan Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

2 tbs. olive oil
5 minced garlic cloves
1 large onion, chopped
2 28 oz. cans of peeled organic tomatoes, undrained
1 cup vegetable broth (can use chicken if you aren’t vegan/vegetarian)
2 tbs raw honey (or natural sweetener, to taste)
1/4 cup coconut cream**
1/4 cup roughly chopped basil leaves
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt, pepper & crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add garlic and stir continuously for 30 seconds until golden, then add in onion. Stir and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth and sweetener.

Allow to come to a low boil, then lower heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in coconut cream, basil leaves and seasoning.

Use a stick blender to puree soup until it reacher your preferred consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve immediately.

** from the top of a can of unshaken coconut milk OR canned coconut cream concentrate

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Dairy-Free Cheeseburger & Fries Casserole

by Susan on March 3, 2015

It might be a surprise that we’re a big burgers and fries family. There are many ways to make the American classics a little healthier; I love to make my own fries and grill up awesome grass-fed burgers on the grill. Too bad I can’t reach our grill due to the snow covering our deck. And frankly I don’t always have the time or inclination to make fries from scratch on a busy weeknight.

Enter this casserole, which is one of my kids’ all-time favorite dishes. Sometimes I make it with tater tots, but the basic formula is always the same. It’s all of the flavors of a burger and fries, right down to the toppings (we like pickles and tomatoes).

To keep it dairy-free I make my own “cheese” sauce and layer dairy-free shredded cheddar. To keep things clean always opt for organic frozen fries. An option other than traditional fries or tater tots is also sweet potato fries… yum!

This one couldn’t be easier to throw together, and it’s a slam dunk every time. Added bonus that it yields a lot of servings (the girl almost always goes back for seconds, and I love having something so tasty for lunch the next day!)

As written this one is gluten and dairy-free.

Dairy-Free Cheeseburger & Fries Casserole

15 oz. frozen organic french fries, thawed
2 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 cup chopped onion
3 minced garlic cloves
salt & pepper
5 slices cooked & crumbled nitrite-free bacon

“cheese” sauce:
(adapted from Oh She Glows)

1 tbs. organic Earth Balance spread
3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tbs. brown rice flour
6 tbs. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
salt & pepper, to taste

additional ingredients:
2 cups non-dairy shredded cheese
burger toppings of choice: chopped lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup, avocado etc.

Preheat oven to 375.

Brown meat in a large skillet with onion and garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drain any excess fat.

To make “cheese” sauce, melt Earth Balance in a small pot. Mix milk and flour together in a medium bowl, whisking to get out any lumps. Once buttery spread is melted, add flour mixture and nutritional yeast to pot. Allow to come to a low boil, then reduce heat to low and season with Dijon mustard, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes; if it thickens too much for your liking, thin out with a little water or more milk.

To compile casserole, spread half of fries over the bottom of a greased casserole dish.

Top with half  of the meat mixture, then pour half of the cheese sauce over the top. Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese, then repeat the layers.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and top with crumbled bacon. Bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered.

Garnish with burger toppings of choice.

 

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