The Kinder Kitchen

Hearty Corn and Vegetable Chowder

There’s plenty of cold weather left, at least in my neck of the woods, so soups, stews, and chili are still in high demand and enjoyed by all in the Cuoco household!  This flavorful, rich chowder is no exception- when I whipped it up a few weeks ago, murmurs of “Oh, yeah, this is good stuff” and “Oh wow, yum!” could be heard ’round the table, so I knew it must be shared with my readers.

Now, let’s settle an issue here: what exactly IS chowder?  Originally, it was a thick, chunky fisherman’s stew made with seafood, and nearly always involved the use of milk or cream.  Interestingly, the word chowder even comes from the French word for cauldron, which fishermen usually used to cook most things they ate at sea.

These days, however, the definition has become more vague and inclusive, and we can call most any chunky soup with a creamy element chowder, and with the wide variety of dairy replacement options available to vegans, it’s easier than ever to achieve the silky creaminess needed for a truly satisfying chowder.

Side note: you know how when you say (or type) a word over and over, it starts to sound nonsensical and made-up?  CHOWDER CHOWDER CHOWDER CHOWDER CHOWDER.  Yep.  That’s what it’s like inside my head, folks.

This recipe for Hearty Corn and Vegetable Chowder is amazeballs.  It’s oil-free and only 170 calories per cup, making it a huge score for those of us adhering to a more whole foods, plant-based diet, but rich and creamy enough that you would never guess it’s not a dairy-based soup.  It whips together fairly fast, making it an excellent weeknight meal for busy families.

Alright, enough yammering, let’s do this!  Start by doing what I call “getting your act together.”  Chop all veggies, measure out seasonings and broth, etc.  If you want to get all fancypants, call it mise en place- French for “putting in place” or “everything in place.”  It’s a good habit to get into when cooking, because then you’re never stuck having to stop stirring or whatever and risk your food burning in order to measure something out or chop something.  Plus, it makes you feel like the host of your own coking show when you have all of your ingredients all ready to go in little dishes! 

 

Hearty Corn and Vegetable Chowder
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups diced Russet potato (about 1/2 " cubes)
  2. 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
  3. 1 cup diced carrot
  4. 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  5. 1 cup diced white or yellow onion
  6. 2 cups fresh, frozen, or canned corn
  7. 1 box (32 oz) low-sodium vegetable broth, OR 4 cups homemade veg broth
  8. 1/2 cup cashews (see notes for nut-free alternative)
  9. 1 cup water
  10. 1 tsp garlic salt, OR 1 tsp sea salt and 2 cloves minced garlic
  11. 2 tsp dried parsley
  12. 1 tsp thyme
  13. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  14. White wine, optional
  15. Black pepper to taste
  16. Fresh parsley for garnish, optional
Instructions
  1. First, chop all veggies and measure out ingredients to have at the ready.
  2. In a high-speed blender, blend cashews and 1 cup water until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large soup pot, cook celery, carrot, onion, and bell pepper in a few splashes of water over medium-high heat until fairly soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. If using minced garlic in place of garlic salt, add it to this step.
  4. Add garlic salt, parsley, thyme, smoked paprika, and stir well to combine. Cook another 5 minutes or so, until the water and moisture from the veggies has mostly evaporated and you can see brown bits starting to cling to the bottom of the pot. Don't let it burn!
  5. At this point, if you would like to use the white wine, add a few splashes to the pot to deglaze. See my notes if you prefer not to use wine.
  6. Add the potatoes, corn, broth, and cashew/water mixture.
  7. Bring pot to a boil, then cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  8. Using a handheld wand blender, briefly blend until about 1/3 of the chowder has been coarsely pureed. Alternately, you can put about 2 to 3 cups of the chowder in your blender and briefly puree, then add back to the pot.
  9. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
Notes
  1. Using white wine to deglaze the pot: If you're unfamiliar with the term "deglaze" it's basically fancy-talk for putting cold liquid into a hot pan to loosen up the gunky brown bits from the bottom. Those bits are full of flavor, and deglazing with wine not only loosens them so they can mingle with the rest of the ingredients, the wine itself (the alcohol will burn off) lends a lovely depth of flavor. However, if you prefer not to use wine or simply don't have any, you can deglaze the pot with vegetable broth or water.
  2. Nut-free alternative: If you prefer not to use cashews due to an allergy, or would simply like to pare down the calorie content further, you may use 1 cup non-dairy milk of your choice instead.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

Vegan Potato Cheese Sauce

Golden, gooey cheesiness!
Golden, gooey cheesiness!

 

 

 

“I’d go vegan but I could never give up cheese!”

 
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this, I’d probably be set for life.

 
It’s a sentiment I understand. In my first months of being vegan, I worried that I would never experience the joy of cheese again. Tangy, salty, savory, melty, gooey cheese. Over the years in my pre-vegan days, I’d tried a few non-dairy cheeses, and was not impressed. I vividly remember making hamburgers for my boys and slapping a slice of soy cheese on each, hoping it would melt. It didn’t. My son Charlie, who was about 3 at the time, poked at it skeptically and said, “Mom do I have to eat this toy cheese?”

 

Experiences like this did not make me enthusiastic about the giving up of cheese when I decided to be vegan, but once I found out that dairy cheese is far from a cruelty-free product, I knew I could never eat it again in good conscience, and as I learned more about the non-dairy cheese products available nowadays and tested them out for myself, I breathed a sigh of relief. These newer products had more complex flavor profiles, a more satisfying mouthfeel, and more importantly, MELTED! Today’s vegan doesn’t even need to rely solely on store-bought non-dairy cheeses with the abundance of DIY recipes available online. I sometimes come across a product or recipe that doesn’t please my palate, but at least now, when someone says, “I’d go vegan but I could never give up cheese,” I can say to them with confidence, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to!”

 
I thought I’d make this blog’s inaugural recipe my own rendition of one that is quite popular among the vegan/plant-based crowd at the moment (though I was working on this recipe long before similar ones started popping up!), and popular for good reason! This cheesy sauce is thick and velvety and sure to please (and fool!) everyone, and doesn’t rely on gobs of oil to achieve a rich, smooth texture and taste…in fact, it’s oil-free! When I gave my mom a jar of it to sample, I asked her if she could identify its main ingredients, and she couldn’t! Its versatility can take it anywhere from mac and cheese to nachos to chili queso dip and beyond, and the star ingredients may surprise you, but they work together to create a truly satisfying cheesiness.   Be sure to check out my recipe for Lentil Nachos Supreme at the end of this post using this very sauce!

This recipe makes enough to fill about 1 3/4 quart Mason jars.
This recipe makes enough to fill about 1 3/4 quart Mason jars.

 

Vegan Potato Cheese Sauce
Yields 1
A rich and tangy vegan cheese sauce that is sure to satisfy your cravings! Suitable for mac n' cheese, nachos, baked potatoes, or any dish you'd like.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced to equal about 4 cups (russets will work, too)
  2. 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds to equal about 1 heaping cup.
  3. ½ large yellow or white onion, diced
  4. ½ cup cashews (see note below)
  5. 2 teaspoons each garlic powder and onion powder
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  7. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  8. ½ cup nutritional yeast
  9. 1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
  10. 2 teaspoons each mellow white miso paste and tomato paste
Instructions
  1. Cover the potatoes, carrots, and onion in a large saucepan with about 4 cups of water, and boil until soft.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the veggies and transfer to your blender, then add all remaining ingredients. DO NOT throw out your veggie water! You'll need it for blending.
  3. Add to the ingredients in the blender 2 cups of the veggie water, and blend on high until fully incorporated. If you have a blender with a tamper, you may need to use it to get things going. If you have a regular blender, you may need to stop and shove things down a bit with a spatula. Add a bit more of the water, blend, and repeat, until you get a free-flowing cheesy vortex happening. If you find that you've added too much water and your cheese sauce is too thin, you can blend in more tapioca or cornstarch a teaspoon at a time to thicken it back up.
  4. This cheese sauce is ready to rock and roll! Try it on this Lentil Nacho Supreme recipe below, then pour the rest into jars and refrigerate for up to a week.
Notes
  1. Cashews: if you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, cashews can be added dry without soaking. If you are using a standard blender, I recommend soaking the cashews overnight for a minimum of 8 hours, OR boiling them until very soft before blending.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

 

LENTIL NACHOS SUPREME (serves 4)

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cheese1

 

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup (plus a bit more) vegetable broth or stock

2 cups cooked green lentils (not green split peas!)

1 cup each diced white or yellow onion and diced bell pepper of any color

1  14oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained but not rinsed

1  4 oz can diced green chiles

1 TBS taco seasoning  OR 1 tsp each ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder

2 tsp Mexican (or regular) oregano

About 1 cup of That Potato Cheese Sauce

Any additional nacho toppings desired, such as black olives, salsa, guacamole, etc

 

DIRECTIONS

Heat broth til bubbling in a large skillet.  Sautee peppers and onion in the broth til soft, adding additional splashes of broth to the skillet if needed to keep from sticking.

Add all other ingredients and another splash of broth and heat til bubbly.

Spoon the lentil mixture onto tortilla chips, drizzle with the cheese sauce, and add desired toppings.

 

Enjoy!

 

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