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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. Since 2009 Aunt Nettie has known people were struggling to stretch their dollars during the recession. So she focused her tasty recipes on low-cost ingredients that would still offer delicious, healthy, stick-to-the-ribs foods, yet were affordable.

With the economy improving and more people back at work, Aunt Nettie felt the time was right to ease up a bit on strict bargain-bin shopping and gussy up the menu with a few small splurges.

Aunt Nettie is still happy to answer questions that come her way, but what she loves most is offering seasonal fixin's that inspire her while shopping at the farm stand.

Howdy there darlin's,

Well, dontcha know it's soup weather again and my, oh my, it do feel mighty fine and fully satisfyin'. Now, I don't mean ta set them wonderful salads aside fer the winter. No, siree, I don't do that! It's jes that soup is what I'm a-cravin' right now 'cause I got the shivers jes goin' out ta git the mail.

An', y'all know how nice it is ta warm up yer belly with soup that has such good flavers you'll say yes ta seconds without a hitch.

Now, once ya gots the onions sliced up, why it's mighty easy fixin's and you'll have plenty o' leftovers unless yer feedin' a pack o' hungry kin. An' yer gonna love how easy it is ta caramelize them onions.

Used ta be that I would stand over the stove and stir an' stir an' stir them onions fer near 45 minutes to git them caramelized, but not any more. Jes tuck 'em inter the oven an' let the oven do the work fer ya. Much as I like cookin', I'm jes fine with what them young folks call "short cuts." An' puttin' them onions inter the oven ta caramelize is one o' the best dern short cuts I done learnt over the years.

Best thing is that today, there's some mighty fine tastin' vegan cheese that melts in the blink of an eye. So, now, here's wishin' y'all a deeeeelicius bowl o' French Onion Soup, country style. Now, y'all let me know how ya likes it.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Here's a vegan approach to a favorite classic soup that provides a satisfying warm-up when the weather turns chilly. You'll definitely want to make this large quantity just so you can enjoy the leftovers. In today's busy world, we no longer have to stand over the skillet for a good part of an hour to caramelize the onions for the soup. Just let the oven do the job, while you chat on the phone, assemble a little salad, or make dessert.

Here's another plus. Thanks to several determined food scientists and chefs who spent hours experimenting, today's vegan cheese is a divine taste of nirvana. Here's to a great bowl of old-fashioned French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    Caramelized Onions
    6 medium-large brown onions, about 4 pounds, sliced about 3/8-inch thick, slices cut in half
    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

    The Soup
    2 quarts (2 liters) vegetable broth or water
    1/2 cup (120 ml) low-sodium soy sauce, Bragg Liquid Aminos, or Tamari
    4 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 tablespoons dry red wine
    2 1/2 teaspoons Spike Original Seasoning
    3/4 teapoon salt

    6 to 8 slices whole-grain bread
    3 to 4 cloves garlic, cut in half
    6 to 8 slices vegan Jack or mozzarella cheese or 2 cups (480 ml) shredded

  1. TO PREPARE THE ONIONS, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (Gas Mark 5) and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Have ready soup bowls and saucers to put under the bowls.
  2. Pile the onions into the center of the baking sheet and roast them for 30 minutes.
  3. Use a spatula to turn the onions over, again piling them into the center of the pan. Roast 20 minutes longer.
  4. Sprinkle the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce over the onions and use the spatula to mix them well. Spread the onions into a single layer and roast 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until they are ultra soft. The onions are now ready to enjoy.
  5. TO PREPARE THE SOUP, raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. (Gas Mark 6) and have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Transfer the onions to a 8 to 10-quart (8 to 10-liter) stockpot, and add the broth, soy sauce, garlic, red wine, Spike seasoning, and salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 12 to 15 minutes to blend the flavors.
  7. TO SERVE THE SOUP, toast each bread slice until the bread is firm. Rub each slice with a half-clove of garlic and lay a slice of cheese on top.
  8. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls (not plastic), and float a slice of cheese-topped bread in each bowl. Put the bowls on the baking sheet and warm in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  9. Using oven mitts, carefully place each soup bowl on a saucer and serve with pride!

Suggestions: Caramelized onions make delicious salad enhancers, but they're also irresistible added to sandwiches, included as a side dish, used as a topping for baked potatoes, or sprinkled over a finished dish for garnish. Refrigerated, leftover onions will keep for 1 week.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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