pretend soup

pretend soupWe’ve all been there, someone puts an earworm of a dinner suggestion your way and the only cure it is to make it–or fake it.

Last week Shanna became the inspiration for this meal. She queried for vegetarian-friendly ideas for some root vegetables. The conversation drifted to a delicious sounding Thai coconut milk soup. It made me hungry. However, our pantry was bare and I didn’t think Amtrak would get me to Shanna’s in time for dinner. I didn’t have coconut milk or most any of the other key ingredients for a proper soup on hand. With some creative substitutions I came up with a quick and easy meal that was delicious, even if it just pretended to be a thai coconut soup.

As a warning: I cook by taste and feel. I don’t often measure exactly for cooking. Also, I am currently immersed in writing knitting patterns. This recipe has been proofed for basic coherency, but not tech edited or test cooked. My go-to cookbook is The Flavor Bible so my notes for this are quite condensed: make rice, bake tofu until crispy, make mirepoix, flavor with OJ, chile, and lemongrass substitute, just before serving add in crispy tofu and dairy. Don’t worry, I’ve written out more detailed instruction below.

Pretend Soup
serves 2
dairy, vegetarian, gluten-free



  • rice
  • 1 block tofu
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • dried mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/diced small
  • 1 chile pepper, seeded, de-ribbed, and diced fine. (unless you like it spicy, then allow spicy parts)
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger, minced/diced small


  • 1 tsp dry ginger (can sub 1 TBS if your dry ginger is as old as mine!)
  • 1 TBS agave syrup (can substitute sugar)
  • double shot of OJ
  • 1 TBS lime juice
  • milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  • 1 small container plain yogurt
  • salt
  • pepper[/one_half_last]

psg’s lemongrass substitution, modification of substitution found at Let’s talk – Let’s share. In small bowl mix to combine mint, agave, and lime.




  • Start rice using your favorite method. I love my rice cooker.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  • Slice tofu thin (1/4 inch) and pat dry with kitchen towel.
  • Sprinkle oil with some salt and dry ginger.
  • Lay tofu in single layer on sheet.
  • Sprinkle top of tofu with some salt and dry ginger.
  • Place in oven for 15-20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes … you are looking for a nice golden brown.
  • In a soup pot, heat over low to medium heat start cooking down your carrot, celery, and onion. After a few minutes toss in garlic and some ginger.
  • Cook until vegetables have softened but do not allow to burn.
  • Check on tofu, if nicely golden, flip and cook for 15-20 more minutes.
  • Add as much chile as you are comfortable with. Since this has dairy, the milk soaks up much of the heat.
  • Add in OJ. and reduce heat to low.
  • If it looks too dry add in a shot or two of water.
  • Toss in psg’s lemongrass substitute (mint, lime, and agave).
  • Allow flavors to meld, either on very low (adding in more shots OJ or water as you desire) or with heat off. It depends on how ready your tofu is and how soon you plan to serve the meal.
  • Take tofu out of oven and slice into small strips.

    Just before serving:

  • Add cut tofu strips into pot.
  • Add remaining fresh ginger (if any is left).
  • Add dairy. I started with the yogurt, then added the heavy cream, and thinned with (skim) milk. Warm until just heated through.
  • Serve over rice with as much or little soup as desired.


Lesson from writing up this recipe: I measure with shot glasses, that’s about all they ever get used for. I also like to toss things into pots. I am not a fan of coconut, but I’m not sure it was missing in this recipe.

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While prepping tacos the other night, I lamented to the cat that I had no guacamole to serve. He responded by jumping up, by way of a sprint up my leg, to the top of the refrigerator. He cared not that the sole traditional ingredient I possessed to make this dish was the star.

*sigh* Cats.

Craving set in and neglecting everything, I pulled down several cookbooks and skimmed the internet to see what was traditional. I returned to my refrigerator and pantry to take stock and see if I could satisfy my green slime desire.

Upon close examination, I decided that I did have a few pieces of usable tomato; February in New York not being prime tomato season. I braved the elements and made it to the back of the fridge where I found the emergency lime juice. It’s the green squeeze bulb kind. Why I’m convinced I need to keep some for a lime emergency I’m not sure, but I do know that I am unable to keep fresh limes around for when I need them. Garlic exists in this house in various forms: natural, jarred, powder. It was the difficult ingredient for our household that stumped me. No, not mushrooms. Onion.

Right. I didn’t have red onion, and I wasn’t about to chop up some of the yellow ones I keep in the pantry and toss them in raw. While they might work, I knew the taste would be completely off and E wouldn’t touch the dish. I debated using onion powder but rejected that plan as with only six small pathetic pieces of tomato to balance the avocado, I needed something with some oomph and texture to round out the dip.

Shadow jumped down off the fridge and began to explore the counter, taking full advantage of my reverie and that I didn’t notice he was disobeying house rules. He began to bat around a small packet and I absentmindedly picked up and tossed the packet of fried onion into one of the boxes that I’ve yet to unpack. “Meow?” He challenged as he realized I not only took his play toy but I was not going to give it back.


Yes. Quite nontraditional, but to my limited, non-researched, and in this case extremely unsophisticated palette, it worked.

Penny’s But all I have is the Avocado Guacamole
Please use common sense and refer to other recipes for proportions. This recipe comes with no guarantee of success nor will assistance be provided to find out why yours doesn’t taste good.
Combine the following into a bowl and mix.
Avocado, ripe, cubed and slightly smashed.
Lime Juice. I used the bottled stuff. Not ideal. Not terrible.
Tomato, chopped. I quartered six tiny grape tomato. I’d prefer more, but that was all that was edible.
Garlic, chopped. I used the jarred stuff. I ran out of good local garlic three weeks ago. *sniff*
Fried onion. I had a packet of Osem.

I found it tastier the next morning for breakfast.

I ask you:
What traditional dish did you remake into a tasty repast when key ingredients were missing?

PG with a chai latte

a recipe: simply seven

The other afternoon I was attempting to face down my to-do list and I knew that come dinner time I wanted something yummy, slightly different, and warm. Cleaning out the fridge was a bonus.

365.329 ... 20100114RSimply Seven
served: two as a main course.


  • some minced garlic, I used a super heaping teaspoon of the jarred stuff.
  • a can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed a few times
  • some black olives sliced
  • some tomato, sliced. i used some grape tomatoes that were in the back of the fridge
  • some quinoa, I didn’t measure, approximately ¼ cup
  • bay leaf, I don’t know where my bottle of bay leaves are so I used a few broken pieces..
  • vegetable stock

Turn crock pot on high. Dump first six ingredients in together. Add stock until near top but not quite.
Mostly ignore for the next 2.5 hours or until it’s done. Stir every so often if you are able.

I have a small crock pot. It’s 1.5 quart i think. I should measure it one of these days. If you want to make more or know that you have a much larger slow cooker, add more ingredients. I wanted to use more olives, but we were out.
You may wish to salt and pepper to taste. We do that at the table.

a single lunch into dinner for two

dinner trackerI’ve slowly been filling in the back pieces since I took this photo. Seriously, if I don’t write it down chances are I can’t remember the next day. Since E and I are both culinary creatures of habit, we could end up eating rice and tofu every day of the week.

The rest of this week looked like this:

Tuesday: pasta w/lemon butter & broccoli
Wednesday: fish & chips
Thursday: rice & tuna quiche
Friday: souped up tomato soup w/cheese quesadillas (recipe below)
tonight: pasta leftovers

On Friday I found myself “free at last” and I ran into Manhattan for some eggs (not quite efficient, but I get some exercise out of it, the train is going there ANYWAY, some knitting time, and I get to support a local farmer). BUT that was about all I wanted to be carrying in the rain and wind with a broken umbrella.

Oh no! The cupboards were bare and I was cold and tired! I had chickpeas, tomato soup, some grape tomatoes that are trying to impersonate raisins, some carrots, a shallot, and some corn burrito shells leftover from Monday along with assorted cheeses in the fridge.

I figured grilled cheese with tomato soup would be a wonderful dinner given the dismal weather, and here’s how I turned it into a satisfying gluten free meal with leftovers!

souped up tomato soupsouped up tomato soup with cheese quesadillas
serves 2, gf & dairy
1 shallot
olive oil
handful of grape tomatoes
box of tomato soup (such as Pacific Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato)
single serving box of vegetable broth (such as pacific vegetable broth)
1 10oz can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 carrot
red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat oil in pot on very low & chop shallot fine. Add to pan and allow to slowly caramelize/brown– mostly– idea is for them to soften and not burn. While shallot browns, slice carrot fine, chopping in half lengthwise if it is thick. Add and allow to soften — perhaps 5 minutes, can raise flame if desired (or impatient). Add halved tomatoes. After about 3 more minutes, stir in vegetable broth and bring to boil. Add tomato soup & chick peas and reduce flame and simmer.

While soup is simmering heat griddle for quesadillas. I made these with random cheeses in the fridge, one was goat cheese, one was shredded mozzarella, one a shredded mozzarella-cheddar blend, and the last a poorly “shredded” (i actually tried to slice it thin) monterey jack with tomato and olive.

Serve. I sprinkled mine with red pepper flakes to help combat the joint pain from the rainy weather.

I proclaim this experiment a success. I took things that probably wouldn’t have adequately fed one of us and turned it into a highly satisfying meal for two, in fact there were leftovers!

Wait, how did I take those photos if I’m shomer shabbat? I completed dinner early, plated it, took the photos, and then bentsch licht (lit shabbos candles). Kinda weird, but with sunset so late and a full work day before it, we’re hungry and I generally bentsch a bit early. This week I lit about fifteen minutes before shabbos /really/ started (but it still ends at the same time). ;)

We went shopping tonight and I have found my new popcorn weakness. Microwave popcorn no less (hey we all have to have a vice of some sort). Natural Buttery Salt & Cracked Pepper in a mini bag, which is perfect as that way I don’t eat the entire bag myself and E doesn’t like it so there’s more for me.

Have a great week!