My Mom’s Potato Soup

Another wonderful comfort food my mom used to make was her potato soup.  It was always a special day when she made the soup as it was also a labor of love (kind of like the lasagna!).  I used to get drafted in to helping her peel potatoes, a task that is still not one of my favorites!  She had an old mandolin that she would use to slice the potatoes.  Sometimes she would give me one or two slices of raw potato to eat.  I think that’s when I learned to like raw potatoes.  She would use those beef bullion cubes that dissolved in water…they were sooooo salty, but I used to love to lick them!  She would carefully slice the bacon and leeks, ensuring the leeks were paper-thin.  She would also ‘coddle’ sour cream and raw egg yolks (or bring them to room temp, then temper with the cooking liquid so it didn’t curdle when you put it in the hot soup).  I still remember how much I liked tasting that raw egg/sour cream mixture…today I can’t believe I used to eat it!

After I moved out on my own,  I also learned to make the soup, and it always was a favorite.  After starting my plant strong journey, I made several attempts to make the soup, sans any animal products.  Vegan bac-O’s work well, but getting the soup to thicken is always tough (I never wanted to try a tofu sour cream…I’m just not a fan).  My cooking skills have evolved over the past few years, and I think this last batch is as close as I can get to my mom’s potato soup, without using animal products.

I did learn to make my own vegan bac-O’s using Textured Vegetable Protein from another bloggers recipe which I’ll share at another time.   In the past I’ve used vegetable broth and the soup seemed to be lacking.  This time I remembered that Happy Herbivore has a No Beef Broth that I’ve used before.  I tried it this time and it was a success.  The recipe for the no beef broth is in Happy Herbivore’s Every Day Meals (On the table in 30 Minutes or Less) Cookbook.

Here’s the yummy recipe that is a keeper.  I didn’t take any pictures as I was concentrating on cooking, but I have a finished photo…it was very yummy!
Mom’s Potato Soup


6-8 Yukon potatoes
2-3 medium Yukon’s cooked, peeled
1-3 leeks, depending on size
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
2 Cups Happy Herbivores No Beef Broth
1 Cup vegetable stock (low sodium)
6 cups of water (or enough to cover potatoes)
1 tsp liquid smoke (hickory)
2 TBS (or more)  whole wheat pastry flour or some other type of flour (I don’t recommend cornstarch)
2-3 TBS Vegan ‘bac O’s’ (I made mine with Textured Vegetable Protein)
1/2 -3/4 Cup Almond or soy milk
1. Peel and thinly slice potatoes (about 1/4 inch or so) and rinse and soak in cold water.

2. Dice onion, shallot and garlic and thinly slice the stalks of the leeks (don’t use the leaves in this soup).

3. Heat soup pot and add a little bit of veggie broth.  Add the onions and saute over medium heat about 5 minute, till they start to turn opaque (not quite clear).  Add about a tsp of bac uns for fragrance then add garlic, shallots and saute until they are fragrant (3 mins?).  Add leeks, and loosen them up while sauteing (add a little more broth if necessary). Saute about 3-5 minutes…they should start to fall about and be soft.

4. Add about 1-2 tbs of the flour to the mixture and mix well (don’t add any liquid yet).  Stir until well blended and all items are covered with the mixture (it will kind of gooey).

5. Add broth, water and drained  potatoes.  Depending on the size of your potatoes, you may need to add a little more broth or water to cover the potatoes.

6. Bring to boil, then turn heat down to a simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until potatoes start to break apart and most leeks and onions have disappeared.

7. Puree the cooked potatoes, a little soy milk and a about 1/4 cup or less of the hot broth in a food processor, immersion blender or blender (I used an immersion blender). Add this to the soup and stir.  I added a few more bac uns for a little flavor.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley (I was out this time!) and serve with some warm crusty bread.





Lasagna-A True Comfort Food

My mom made an awesome lasagna when I was growing up.  I liked it so much it became my ‘birthday meal’ year after year – I never tired of it.  It was rather labor intensive, so she would only make it two or three times a year, but it was always made on my birthday!  I learned to make the recipe myself, which had 3 kinds of cheeses in it, and a homemade tomato sauce.  She opted not to use mozzarella, but used scarmoza cheese, which was a little firmer than mozzarella.  I would always be allowed one slice as a treat while the dish was being prepared.

Fast forward to February 2012.  I had just finished a 28 day challenge at Whole Foods and had read the Engine 2 Diet (by Rip Esselstyn) TWICE!  I was eager to try the recipes in the book.  After watching Rip make the Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna in The Kitchen Rescue, I had to make this comforting dish.  As with most lasagnas, this was just as labor intensive as others, but well worth it.  It uses no cheese or dairy products, but uses mashesd sweet potatoes for that creamy ‘cheesy’ texture.  My husband and I loved it.  I’ve made it several times since then.  While I enjoy the recipe, I was looking for a more traditional lasagna recipe that could be adapted to a plant strong diet.  This is where my creative juices kicked in.  I made several versions experimenting with different vegetables and items to replace the cheese.  One version was made with a white bean ‘ricotta’.  It was ok, but didn’t stand up during the cooking process and seemed rather ‘flat’.  I stumbled across a tofu ricotta from Happy Herbivore (  I LOVED it!  I roasted some hefty veggies and my veggie lasagna was born!  I’m not a huge fan of plain tofu, but I’ve discovered some very good uses for it including an awesome chocolate mousse type dessert!  It has a perfect texture, when mixed,  that resembles ricotta.

This is a perfect plant strong, hearty lasagna that freezes well.  My somewhat critical husband actually loves this recipe and gets excited when I tell him I’m making it.  As with most lasagnas, it’s rather labor intensive, but I use no boil noodles which helps a lot.


Kirsten’s Veggie Lasagna


– Muir Glen Portobello Marinara sauce (or any other no oil sauce)
– 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes, NoSalt added (I use Eden)
– Cooked Bulgar (optional)-Maybe a cup
– 1 1⁄2 tsp Italian seasoning
– No cook lasagna noodles (I had Barilla on hand) DON’T COOK THEM AHEAD OF  TIME!
– Sliced zucchini/yellow squash (used pre-sliced from Whole Foods)
– Mushrooms (I used about a pound, whole, but you could use pre-sliced)
– Happy Herbivore’s tofu ricotta (see her recipe)
– White cannellini beans…blended first (or you can blend up some cooked potatoes if you don’t have beans)-add this to the ‘ricotta’ recipe and mix well
– Frozen chopped spinach (I used a whole bag from Trader Joe’s)
– Nutritional yeast blended with sesame seeds (I used a 1 to 1 ratio and blend in my coffee
grinder) and added to bread crumbs
– 2 -3 Plum tomatoes, sliced thin

1. Heat oven to 425, place sliced squash and mushrooms on pan lined with parchment.
Roast for about 20 minutes until slightly browned. Remove from oven.

2. Heat sauce and canned tomatoes in large pot, add Italian seasoning and basil. Add cooked bulgar (about 1 cup or amount desired…this adds a bit of ground beef texture).
Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until heated through.

To assemble:
3. Place some sauce in bottom of 9×13 pan, then place 4-6 noodles on top of sauce. Place another layer of sauce over noodles, then layer mushrooms and squash on top, then layer some spinach on top. Spread some tofu ricotta on top, then place another layer of noodles on top and repeat, sauce, vegetables, spinach, ricotta, sauce. Place another layer of noodles on top, then finish with sauce. Place sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with nutritional yeast/sesame seed/crumb mixture.

4. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove foil last 5 minutes. Let rest 10-15 minutes.

5. Leftovers may be frozen.

I forgot to take pictures of the step by step assembly, but here are a few of the process:

Roasted Veggies
roasted veggies








Happy Herbivore Tofo Ricotta










Sauce with bulgar added










Tofu ricotta and spinach layer









Finished Lasagna










Ready to eat!

Letting Go of What Might Be Holding You Back

My mom passed away in February 2009 and my dad passed away the following year in January  2010, the day before his 80th birthday.  As an only child, I was the one who had to go through everything in their house before the Estate took things over to prepare it for sale.  I had a lot of help from many good friends.  Over the course of about 2.5 months, we laughed, reminisced, saved, and tossed.  My parents were not pack rats, but they still had a lot of  ‘stuff’.  Some of  the things that came to my house were my mom’s Cusinart food processor (quite a workhorse), a few bowls, and bread baskets, blankets that hold fond childhood memories, a lot of memorabilia and among other things, my mom’s Estee Lauder Bronzer.  I learned a lot about make up and positive self-image from my mother.  I used to love watching her put make up on every morning.  It’s become a daily ritual for me as well.

As I’ve move through the grief process, I’ve allowed myself to miss my parents, to thank them, and to pray to them for guidance.  I mostly have been looking to them for guidance in figuring who I actually am, and what I should be doing with my life now that they are gone.  Since they have passed, I have lost my confidence in myself and feel very lost in my life.

Not too long ago, after some rather stressful life events,  I came upon the realization that it was up to me to find these answers.  It was up to me to take care of myself and my parents were no longer here to take care of me.  It was something I was holding onto, not wanting to let go of the ‘hope’ that mom and dad would come to my rescue and make things all better.  Nope…not gonna happen.  It’s totally up to me to do this now.

I’m starting to feel better about this and it seems to be a little easier to let go of certain mementos that I need to let go of.  Mind you, there are still a LOT of things that I’m keeping, for a scrapbook to be created at a later date; but there are a lot of things I can now let go of.  Whether it’s something physical, or a way of thinking, or a thought…sometimes you need to let it go to be able to move forward in your life. That’s where I am now.  Re-evaluating everything in my life…do I need to keep it, put it on hold, or toss it.

Today…it was time to let go of the Estee Lauder bronzer that my mom used for many years.  It took me 5.5 years to use it up.  And as it started to crumble over this past week, I panicked…not wanting it to empty…as I though I would lose a part of my mom if it went away.  I know it sounds silly, but this is what one’s mind does in the grieving process.  So today, I tossed the empty bronzer into the garbage.  A part of me is a little sad, but a part of me feels relieved and free.

It’s time to start moving forward in my life and find my self-confidence once again!