Winter weather's finally hit us, here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. And it IS beautiful if you don't have to be out driving. Schools, roads and lots of businesses have been closed.
Not to be alarmed, we're not snowbound with ten-foot drifts (yet). I work for the School District; any sprinkling of flakes, mixed with a little ice, makes for treacherous driving of those big ol' yellow buses so they tend to err on the side of safety - and make small children happy, canceling school with a "Snow Day".
What it's turned into is Christmas break starting three days early all over the state. Which won't be as much fun when June rolls around... I'm reminding my kids.
We are scheduled for a "really big" storm to hit tonight though, stay tuned.
Actually snow driving hasn't phased me much, so far, (though I'm not hauling 40 screaming students!) my daughter and I found it a great excuse to finish Christmas shopping. It was quiet and relaxing, for a change - there was no one in the stores!
Back home, I realized I should have done a little grocery shopping as well 'cause my pantry is pretty depleted. I'm trying to put off getting many groceries until after Christmas though, so I can manage to get some gifts instead. That budget only goes so far!
Well, we have plenty of potatoes and it was DEFINITELY a soup sort of day so I pulled out one of my kids' favorite recipes to warm them up after the snowman building and snowball fights.
CLAM CHOWDER. Totally vegan and clam free.
Now, as a side note, it's time for true confessions:
See, there was once a short-lived stretch in college when I naively thought that vegetarians did indeed eat fish. It seemed logical, all the "vegetarian" friends I knew ate fish, so I assumed it must have been me who had the definition of vegetarianism wrong (this being the dark-ages of no Internet to set me straight on such things). And during that time, poor college student that I was, I was introduced to the cheap and filling wonders of the "All-You-Can-Eat Soup-And-Salad-Bar" at a local restaurant. Thus I discovered clam chowder. (*Gasp!!*)
And odd as it seems for someone born and raised vegetarian, I loved the stuff. I tend to think their particular recipe was mainly potatoes, as I never remember it tasting strongly seafood-like, but every so often, after reforming from my slightly pescetarian ways, I still fondly remember the Red Apple Restaurant and their never-ending chowder bowl...
Obviously after some thought and a little research - and my own Mother setting me straight (listen to your Mom, she's usually right!!) I reformed from my fishy ways. It was not me misinterpreting the definition and "slandering the name of good vegetarians" (my Mom's words). Poor little clammies and fishies, what was I thinking?
OK then, confessions aside, this is my vegan version of chowder. It's been 25 years since I've had the stuff, so it may not be accurate at all, but anyone I've served it to has enjoyed it and asked for more. Or the recipe. And it's just fun to see the looks on people's faces when I say we're having clam chowder tonight.
(I call it that to irritate my offspring, they tell me my accent is terrible - and it is. The soup's good though!!)
- 1 Tbsp. margarine
- 1 chopped oyster mushrooms (or regular white mushrooms are fine, the oyster mushrooms just have a lighter color and better texture for this, and they're CHEAP at Asian markets
- 1/2 cup chopped leeks (or onions)
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1 tsp powdered dulse or kelp (a kind of seaweed - or use crumbled Nori)
- 1 tsp. smoked salt
Saute the above in a stock-pot until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Cover to steam a bit as they cook if you want, they'll cook faster. It'll smell pretty smoky and fishy for a bit - not to fear, the finished soup is much milder!
- 3 finely chopped sage leaves (or 3 teaspoons dried)
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3+ cups vegetable broth (I usually do 1/2 broth and 1/2 water)
- 6 med red or white or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into smallish chunks
Add the above ingredients and cook at a low boil just until potatoes are soft - about 15 min.
- 1 cup soymilk
- 1 cup coconut milk (A tip I stole from Vegan Dad: Use the 'Thai Kitchen' brand here-it is less "coconuty" when you're just wanting just the creaminess anyway)
- 1/2 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese
Season to taste - I add a splash of Tabasco and a grind of black pepper or some fresh chopped parsley or dill.
(My kids get picky about too many green flecks floating around which is why you'll see the bowl pictured is pretty free of green...).
Serve with lots of saltine crackers. We tend to LOVE those little round "oyster crackers".
Enjoy, and have a GREAT weekend!!