Chicken Taco Soup

Chicken Taco Soup Napkin | thelittleredspoon.com

Chicken Taco Soup…. aka my favourite excuse to eat nachos for dinner.

Okay, so, it’s not technically chicken. But I always make this taco soup with some kind of vegan “chick’n” and it just wouldn’t be the same soup without it.

I’ve tried various vegan chicken strips over the years and I have to say, Tofurky’s Slow-Roasted, Lightly Seasoned Chick’n is the best by far. For a long time I would use Yves Veggie Chick’n Tenders since that was the only brand of chicken strips available to me. Now I live and work in downtown Toronto where there is a beautiful, bountiful Whole Foods full of delicious vegan options nearby that stocks tasty meat substitutes like Tofurky Chick’n and Tofurky Pepp’roni Pockets (uhhhhhh vegan hot pockets??? YES PLEASE). Not to make this sound like a Tofurky commercial (I’m not getting paid for this) but dang, they are one awesome brand. I have yet to find something made by them that I didn’t love.
Chicken Taco Soup Mise en Place | thelittleredspoon.com

This recipe is literally so easy. It’s one of the main reasons I keep coming back to it again and again. The other reason being, you know, the nachos. Really all you need to throw this together is a couple of cans, a packet of taco seasoning and some toppings.

Chicken Taco Soup in Pot | thelittleredspoon.com

My vegan version of this recipe is based on this recipe that I’ve been using for years.

Chicken Taco Soup
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5-6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can mixed beans (or legumes of your choice)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (aka strained tomatoes)
  • 1 jar passata
  • ½ cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 package low sodium taco seasoning
  • 1 package vegan chick'n strips
  • optional: 1 can diced green chilis, handful of baby spinach
  • optional toppings: vegan sour cream, vegan cheese shreds, crushed tortilla chips, green onion
Instructions
  1. Dice and saute onion. Cook until soft and translucent. (I bring them to almost caramelized but this is optional)
  2. Add 1 can black beans, 1 can mixed beans (or chili beans, or chickpeas, or whatever you like. I used chickpeas here but pinto beans, kidney beans and black eyed peas also work well), 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 jar passata, frozen corn kernels and package of taco seasoning.
  3. In a separate pan, cook vegan chick'n strips in oil until golden brown and slightly crispy. I like to pull them apart into even smaller shreds with my fingers before cooking - you might be surprised how realistic the texture can be with vegan products, it really is similar to shredded chicken!
  4. Add cooked chick'n strips and cook on medium-low heat covered, approximately 20 minutes. You can cook longer (you could definitely make this in a slow cooker) or eat as soon as its thrown together if you're hungry. Great either way. (I added a handful of baby spinach when it was done cooking for a nice dash of green but you could also add green onion, cilantro or leave out the green all together).
  5. Top with vegan sour cream, vegan cheese shreds and crushed tortilla chips.

 

Chicken Taco Soup Chips | thelittleredspoon.com

So what do you think? Ready to try this incredibly easy, tasty soup? It makes the perfect weeknight dinner because it’s so simple to throw together, and you’ll definitely want the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chicken Taco Soup | thelittleredspoon.com

Just pack your lunch-nachos separately so they don’t get soggy. And then be prepared to fend off your hungry co-workers who are totally jealous that you’re using nachos to scoop food into your mouth instead of a boring old spoon like some basic person.

Chicken Taco Soup Served with Nachos | thelittleredspoon.com

Seriously, did I mention the nachos?

Drop a comment to let me know if you make this recipe. It’s seriously one of my favourite, most-used recipes EVER and I’m really excited to share it with you guys.

BBQ Chickpea Salad

BBQ Chickpea Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

Hoooly smokes! You guys gotta check out this TASTY recipe for BBQ Chickpea Salad from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken! And while you’re there check out, um, I don’t know, EVERYTHING on her entire site, cause this girl rocks! She’s a fellow Toronto vegan blogger with a cookbook in the works! Can’t wait to see it when it comes out cause her recipes are the bomb. I’m going to be using so many of them this summer, like her Creamy Cilantro Lime Corn on the CobLove me some fresh summer corn!

I swapped out carrot ribbons for red onion but kept everything else pretty much the same.

For my dressing, I just whipped something up with what I had on hand – a handful of cashews (I was too lazy to soak them so I just cooked them covered in water in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften them), a couple of spoonfuls of veganaise, garlic, salt, white pepper, nutritional yeast and a few little basil leaves plucked off of my windowsill basil plant. Turned out pretty good!

Check out this salad on It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken and leave me a comment here too to let me know what you think!

Rayhoon

Have you ever tried Persian food? (Also known as Iranian) It’s quite unique! It has influences of Turkish, Greek and other middle-eastern cuisines but is definitely something all its own.

I’d never tried it before, but when we walked past this cute little restaurant in the heart of Burlington’s cute, cobblestoned Village Square, we just had to stop in. I’m game for any new style of cuisine. As long as there’s something for me to eat there, I’ll try it.
Rayhoon Hummus | thelittleredspoon.com

Of course there’s always hummus. I could’ve eaten only this basil-infused hummus and been completely satisfied. It was SUPER creamy. Very well-balanced flavour and the texture was perfect for endlessly dipping our fresh bread that we ordered with it.

Rayhoon Barbari Bread | thelittleredspoon.com

This is the barbari bread that came fresh and warm to our table. Perfect crusty outside with a soft fluffy inside. Heavenly.

Rayhoon Adas Polo | thelittleredspoon.com

The Addas Polo was the only vegan entree on the menu, but hey, one is definitely better than none. So I got this dish which was made with “light & sweet dates, raisins, and fried onions, harmonized with earthly lentils, walnuts, and basmati rice.” Sounded good to me. I love lentils. I had asked if the Dahl Addas (potato and lentil stew) was also vegan but apparently it had dairy in it. Overall I would say it was pretty good, but the combination was a bit too overpoweringly sweet for me. I understand that sweet and savoury with a healthy dose of herbs and nuts seems to be a signature of Persian food, but personally since I lean so far towards the salty/savoury-loving side, it was a bit weird for me.

The dish was supposed to be served with a side of some kind of creamy sauce, so maybe that would have tipped the scales taste-wise, but I asked the waitress to take it away since it wasn’t vegan. Perhaps if the pieces of date were chopped a bit more finely and a there were a bit less raisins I would have liked it more. And of course a girl can never get enough lentils, so I thought it could have used a bit more of those.

Everyone else definitely liked their meals, though. The meat kebobs were a definite hit with the rest of the group.

Check out Rayhoon for some kick-ass hummus next time you’re in downtown Burlington and let me know your thoughts.

 

Rayhoon Persian Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hemp Seed Hummus

Hemp Seed Hummus | thelittleredspoon.com

Hemp seeds. So hot right now.

You can blend these tasty little seeds into anything! I’m obsessed with them! I put them in my green smoothie every single day, sprinkle them over salad, eat them raw – heck, Mr. Spoon and I have even cooked them with shiitake mushrooms as a keto rice substitute. Delicious.

One thing I’ve been wanting to try ever since talking to a hemp seed salesman at the Green Living Show in Toronto earlier this year was blend them into hummus.

I finally got around to trying it and I gotta say – it was awesome. Of course, you could barely even tell they were in there, but I loved knowing that I was getting extra healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamin E and lots of other minerals. What an amazing plant. Hemp really is a gift from nature.

For the hummus, I just made a standard hummus recipe and added 3 heaping Tablespoons of raw shelled hemp seeds. One thing you can do (if you’re not super lazy like I am) is to pick all the skins off of your chickpeas so that the hummus is extra creamy. Personally I don’t mind it with a little extra texture from the skins, I think it’s great both ways.

Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

Hemp Seed Hummus
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-5 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 can drained and rinsed canned chickpeas
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons raw shelled hemp seeds (aka hemp hearts)
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted tahini
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (I buy pre-minced in a jar)
  • Pinch of ground white pepper
  • Big pinch of cumin powder
  • Small pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Garnish:
  • Extra virgin olive oil, paprika, hemp seeds
  • Paprika
  • Freshly chopped parsley (if that's your thing)
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse and continue processing until smooth and creamy.
  2. Taste once blended and adjust seasoning as needed. You may need to adjust any or all of the ingredients to your liking.
  3. Pour into a serving dish and serve room temperature or chilled.
  4. Cover leftovers in an airtight container for 2-4 days in the fridge.

 

Inn on the Twenty

Wine Glass at Flat Rock | thelittleredspoon.com

Ahh.. nothing like a wine trip in the spring

We visited the Twenty Valley wine region in Jordan, Ontario. Tasted a whole bunch of beautiful wines all over the area during our two-day visit and decided to make a reservation at Inn on the Twenty for dinner.

We had emailed twice in advance, asking to have some information sent back about the vegan options. I noticed that a couple of the appetizers looked promising (a couple things looked like they could be veganized easily, and worst case scenario there was a definitely-vegan salad that didn’t sound too boring). For entrees, I saw a vegetable risotto on the menu. That’s what I was mostly concerned about. Would there be cream, butter or cheese in the risotto? I was basically wondering, would I have to get two apps? Or could I have a “normal” dinner and have an app and an entree like the rest of my party.

Inn on the Twenty Heirloom Beet Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

The restaurant ended up not emailing or calling us back, but had definitely received our email. As soon as we sat down, the server let us know she knew who we were, and had heard that there was a vegan in the party. She ran down the menu letting me know which items were vegan and understood my restrictions perfectly. (For some reason, I guess this is a bit tricky for some people… “You mean you’re not gluten-free? What’s the difference? What do you eat?”…. )

She was very helpful and wonderful, and I decided to try the Heirloom Beets without the goat cheese. Thyme-roasted yellow, candy-striped and red beets, toasted hazelnuts, sorrel and sherry vinaigrette. It was served on a little black slab that kind of looked like a blackboard. I added a touch of extra salt because I like salty food, I think a little bit of fancy salt flakes or crystals would do well here. The beets themselves were quite good. I’m sure the soft tanginess of the goat cheese goes very well here to complement them.

Did you know there’s such a thing as vegan goat-cheese-style cheese? It’s usually made with cashews, and you can create the same realistic cheesy-tanginess by culturing it the same way you make real cheese. I bet it would work really well here, too.

 

Inn on the Twenty Risotto | thelittleredspoon.com

It turned out the risotto was, in fact, totally vegan. As-is. No substitutions or omissions necessary. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear this and ordered the risotto. It’s made with watercress puree, sweet peas, spinach, toasted quinoa and radish.

It was very springy and fresh. Very light-tasting, so I was actually able to eat the whole thing. It was cooked to perfection – creamy, but with each grain separate, and slightly al dente. Not too much liquid but not dry. Just exactly right.

I felt very fancy and mature eating this perfectly cooked risotto and sipping on a glass of nice wine in such a nice restaurant.

Inn on the Twenty sorbet | thelittleredspoon.com

For dessert, I believe sorbet was the only vegan thing on the menu. Since I wasn’t completely stuffed after finishing my risotto and we were still finishing our wine, I decided to try all three flavours of sorbet they had that night. Since I didn’t write them down, I couldn’t tell you exactly what flavours they were, other than that they were the perfect combination of sweet and tart. Very delicious.

I had an excellent dinner at the Inn on the Twenty restaurant. Everyone we talked to during our trip raved about this place and how much they love it. The staff treated us like gold, and you can tell everyone who works here takes their job very seriously. It’s the little things that can take a dining experience from good to great, so when the staff is professional, welcoming and genuinely nice, you know you’re going to have a wonderful evening. I could tell just from the way we were greeted when we first walked in that the food was going to be excellent, just because they obviously take care with every little detail in this place.

And of course, not batting an eyelid when I ask what on the menu is vegan is always an extra 20 bonus points in my book.

If you love good wine and good food, consider making a reservation at Inn on the Twenty next time you’re in the Niagara wine region.

 

Inn on the Twenty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pea and Asparagus Soup

Pea Asparagus Soup and Grilled Cheese

What says spring more than snapping the stalks off of perfectly fresh, in-season aparagus? I love using aspargus in the spring. Seeing all the fresh produce once the weather starts getting nicer always makes me want to make a nice bright green spring soup to mark the occasion.

I always find myself checking Anna Thomas’s book “Love Soup” out from the library and using it as inspiration. This recipe isn’t exactly the same as one from her book – but that’s part of the charm of this cookbook. Her writing and helpful advice will get you in the mood to find fresh, beautiful produce and make something delicious out of it.

The book is full of vegetarian recipes – many, if not all, of the soups can be made vegan as well. It’s a wonderful and inspiring cookbook for anybody – vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise. I am usually a fan of cookbooks with BIG beautiful food photography. I typically don’t ever buy or check out books without nice big pictures in them as that’s what inspires me the most. This cookbook has no photos but I always find myself going back to it again and again. I’ve checked it out from the library so many times I definitely need to buy myself a copy – if not multiple copies to give out as gifts!

I really think anyone would benefit from reading and owning this cookbook. It’s truly inspiring – whether you’re in the mood for soup or not, Anna will get you thinking about all the wonderful possibilities of going to the farmer’s market and seeing all the fresh produce for yourself. The recipes are divided into chapters according to season, she has soups for spring, summer, fall and winter. The personal stories she tells about sharing her soups with friends and family will make you want to have a big soup party so you can spend time with your loved ones and feed them a nice comforting bowl of soup made with love.

Chao Grilled Cheese
I didn’t really follow a recipe for this soup, I just made it up as I went along with a bunch of different things I had in the fridge. I made a nice, toasty vegan grilled cheese sandwich to go along with it and it was SO good. “Real” sliced cheese has nothing on these delicious slices of coconut and black pepper flavoured Chao vegan cheese slices I got from Whole Foods. And YES – it melts! And is gooey, stretchy and cheesy just like the real stuff. You won’t go back after trying these slices – trust me. Even if you don’t want to go vegan I’d still recommend them in sandwiches. The combination of sweet coconut and savoury oregano and pepper is just amazing. And this is coming from a person who typically hates black pepper!

Pea and Asparagus Soup
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-5 bowls
 
Ingredients
  • 1 box Batchelor's bigga dried peas (soaked with tablet overnight)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 bundle Asparagus, stalks snapped off
  • 1 tetra pack vegan vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • whatever seasonings you like, to taste
  • coconut milk to thin as needed
  • something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar
  • nice evoo to garnish
Instructions
  1. Soak the Batchelor's dried peas with the soaking tablet in water overnight. Using fresh peas would be better, but I had these to use up so I used them.
  2. Dice and saute onion and celery until translucent, add garlic and saute until fragrant
  3. Add asparagus, breaking into pieces and sauteing until cooked
  4. Add any dried spices now so they can fry in the oil for a minute or two and release even more flavour - use whatever you like, I was sticking with a green theme and used some herbs de provence and a big pinch of cumin because I like cumin very much.
  5. Add veggie broth (making your own is easy and preferable but I'm usually too lazy to do it).
  6. Let simmer for a few hours (depending on how hungry you are and how much time you have, at least 20-30 minutes would be good)
  7. Blend with an immersion blender or by working in batches with a standing blender. Add water or coconut milk to thin as needed.
  8. Taste and season again, adding salt, pepper, lemon juice or whatever you feel it needs
  9. I garnished with the tips of some of the asparagus and some quality extra virgin olive oil
  10. Serve with a nice crusty bread or toasty, crunchy, gooey vegan grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!

Let me know what kind of tasty green spring soup you made! Did you use a recipe? Did you check out Anna Thomas’s book? Leave a comment below.

Wanda’s Pie In the Sky

We came to Wanda’s for a quick lunch during Veggielicious 2016.
The place is in a really cool neighbourhood and has a very welcoming vibe right from when you walk in. You choose your own table and get your own water and cups from a water jug on the bar. You also bring your dishes back to the bus bin when you’re finished. It’s more of a “fast casual” place than a sit-down restaurant.

Wanda’s is an all-vegetarian cafe that also has a lot of vegan options. On the menu for Veggielicious was a $9.99 special

Veggie Burger & Salad Special: A delicious combo of black beans, chickpeas and walnuts, mixed with a secret blend of herbs and spices in one tasty patty. Topped with a truck load of fillings in a fluffy sweet potato sesame bun. Served with either soup or salad of the day. Make it a 2 course affair and add a slice of pie for $5.50 – Vegan varieties available!

We decided to each get the burger special and split one soup and one salad.

Wandas Pie in the Sky Tomato Rice Soup | thelittleredspoon.com

The tomato rice soup came out first. It was very nice and served in a cute little blue bowl.

Wandas Pie in the Sky Veggie Burger and Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

Next our burgers came out with the side coleslaw salad we decided on. They had a couple of different salad options that day, maybe 3 or 4 and they all looked delicious so it was a tough call.

The coleslaw was great, though. Nice and crunchy and with a great dressing. The dressing may look creamy but it was actually vegan and I believe it was made with avocado. Just looking at this picture I can remember the delicious, well-rounded taste.

Wandas Pie in the Sky Vegan Veggie Burger | thelittleredspoon.com
Of course the heroes of this lunch adventure were the tasty veggie burgers. When we ordered, they asked if we wanted the burgers vegetarian or vegan. Of course I said vegan and was hoping that wouldn’t just mean “skip the cheese”. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that there was still a nice vegan cream cheese spread on the top bun, and it was very tasty.

I picked the red onions off of mine because raw onions are a bit too strong for my taste, but everything else was very delicious. All the toppings were great, as was the bun! Nice and fluffy inside but still toasted. The mushrooms were nice, too.

The patty itself was very flavourful and had a nice saltiness which I really liked.

Overall I thought this place was very cute. The staff was very friendly, the food was nice and it had a very friendly, everyone-is-welcome-and-this-neighbourhood-is-one-big-family type vibe. I would definitely come back here to try some of their pies and more food.

Check out Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in Kensington Market and let me know if you think this place is super cute, too!
Wanda's Pie In The Sky Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cosmic Treats

Cosmic Treats was another restaurant we visited during Veggielicious last month. It’s a cute little diner in Kensington Market. I was especially excited to try this place when I saw things like Dorito-encrusted tofu and deep-fried vegan candy bars on the menu… Uh, YES.

I dragged my mum and by boyfriend along with me for this one and I think we all agreed – this place is pretty cool.

For $22 there was a 3-course dinner deal on:

Your choice of beverage – Glass of house red or white wine, pint of beer or Kombucha.
Your choice of Entrée – Chick’un Caesar salad with homemade creamy dressing, croutons and fakin’ bits OR Frito pie – corn chips served with homemade chilli, pickled jalapenos and red onions, green onions, cilantro and Daiya jalapeno Havarti cheese (gf).
Your choice of dessert – Deep-Fried Go-Max! candy bar of your choice drizzled with homemade hot fudge sauce OR Far from Pedestrian Sundae – homemade cashew ice cream with your choice of topping, sauce, whipped cream and a cherry on top (gf option available).
Cosmic Treats Kombucha | thelittleredspoon.com
We decided two of us would order off the Veggielicous so we could try everything on it and one of us would order the Dorito-encrusted tofu and then everyone would taste a bit of everything.
To start off we all decided to share a bottle of kombucha and a pint of beer. This was the first kombucha any of us had had! We all quite liked it – it basically tastes like a lightly fizzy juice or soda. Kombucha is a fermented sweetened black tea that can be flavoured, we had mango flavour. They also gave us water in these crazy tilted glasses.
Cosmic Treats Frito Pie | thelittleredspoon.com

Frito pie – basically a bowl of chili and Fritos that’s served in a Frito bag. Pretty good and definitely an interesting presentation. Way too much cilantro for my taste but if I was ordering this for myself  I would have just ordered it without.

Cosmic Treats Chickn Caesar Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

Chick’n Caesar salad. I see what they were going for here, although the chicken strips were a little overcooked. The salad didn’t blow anyone away but it was still good.
Cosmic Treats Doritos Crusted Tofu | thelittleredspoon.com
The real star of the night was this Dorito-encrusted tofu. It’s crusted with Sweet Chili Heat Doritos – the only vegan flavour. It was delightful! Crunchy and delicious. This is the tofu to serve someone that “hates tofu” and thinks vegan food is “gross” – you will convert anyone with this.
Cosmic Treats Deep Fried Candy Bar | thelittleredspoon.com
Since this place is really known for their desserts, we had to try one of each of the desserts. For the deep fried candy bar, you just go to the shelves where they keep all their vegan candy (which is SO temping, oh man… just thinking about that now, I want to go back and buy some snacks and candy) and pick whichever one you want. There’s basically vegan versions of Mars bars, Reese’s cups, Mounds, all kinds. I decided to go for the Crispy Crunch style one which in hindsight isn’t the easiest to eat deep fried with a knife and fork since the inside is pretty flakey. I would recommend going for the peanut butter cups or something with a different texture but I would try any of those tasty candy bars, deep-fried or non-deep-fried.
Cosmic Treats Far From Pedestrain Sundae | thelittleredspoon.com
As for the sundae, you had your choice of two different (or the same) scoops of their homemade cashew ice cream, with choice of sauce, topping, whipped cream and a cherry on top.
We tried peanut butter and jelly ice cream, coffee ice cream and salted caramel bourbon sauce.
It was really good! The ice cream was very creamy and realistic-tasting. I’ve always loved vegan ice cream, even long before going vegan because I can eat a bunch and it doesn’t give me a stomach ache!

We had a great time at Cosmic Treats and enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood before and after our dinner. Service was great, the waitress was really friendly and the place was really cool.

I would definitely go back and bring someone who has never been here before to try the Dorito tofu.

Check it out next time you’re in Kensington Market/Chinatown or have a craving for some sweet vegan desserts.

Cosmic Treats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato