Warming up February – Tempeh Corn Chowder

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At this point February seems like an impossible month. Each year I forget how difficult it is in this last stretch of winter to do just about anything. I can guarantee my Vitamin D levels are probably non-existent and I just feel hazy in general. What’s worse is that I can’t even turn to the usual pick-me-ups: 1. Because I have no energy or drive to allow inspiration for art (which I usually love creating) and 2. Most things that cheer me up are full fat comfort foods which I told myself I wouldn’t do this year. But! With that said, again I remind myself that I have to come back to balance. If I know that the next 4 hours at work are going to feel less like bashing my head against a wall if I let myself have that chocolate croissant than by all means buy the f*cking croissant. Be reasonable and pick your battles. If you’re looking to juggle ten different things and you drop eight it will be virtually impossible for you to find joy in the fact that you succeeded in two, where as if you only give yourself one or two focuses each and every day the statistics are in your favor.

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 Choose little challenges that matter to you and are reasonable and allow them to change over the course of a day or week. No umbrella terms like, lose weight, eat healthy, be nicer, go to the gym more. These aren’t tangible fixes and they don’t allow room for change. What about no sugar in coffee today, taking the stairs to the office or giving yourself extra time to make a healthy delicious dinner instead of phoning for pizza? Then take joy in completing these little tasks. God, as cliché as it sounds, life is way to short to find there are large portions of it that you are just “enduring” or “tolerating” or worst “waiting for that ten pounds to come off when you’ll feel so much better about everything”. February is about little victories and warmly welcomed cheat days.

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Now with all that said I’ve got a great easy recipe here for you that’s all about comfort and understanding substitutions. This recipe can be vegan or vegetarian depending on if you want to add the last step of sour cream as a thickener. I traditionally find corn chowder to be a thick, heavy, wonderful wintertime soup but my recipe cuts back about 300 of the calories while still maintaining a really wonderful complex flavor at 282 calories per portion. The secret is in substitutions like almond milk, low fat sour cream and my ingredient of the week which is tempeh.

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Tempeh is a super “vegan” scary ingredient that seems more like a dog treat than a yummy addition but hear me out: it’s a fermented soy bean product which is compacted and has a texture similar to sausage. It therefore has all the nutritional bonuses of tofu with an addition of B12 gained in the fermenting process. B12 deficiency symptoms are depression and fatigue. Tempeh is also incredibly low in fat and calories which means that as a substitution for bacon you are saving some big numbers. However, it’s not a meat substitute. Tempeh is not trying to be fake bacon or fake sausage so please don’t hate it just because it doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing. It has it’s own unique flavor and when added to the right dishes can bring a whole different life to food that you’re used to loving.

Back on the topic of substitutions, you wouldn’t believe how drastically you can change a comfort staple into something healthier by cutting down or out the dairy, measuring the oil, avoiding processed condiments and being adventurous with ingredients like tempeh. Try it once and if you don’t dig it I won’t be hurt. If you buy a pack and are wondering what to do with it: this soup recipe is wicked, slightly fried and added in a poached egg sandwich is also nice, stir fried with brussel sprouts and onion, put it on pizza or in an omelete, the world is your oyster.

Now for the recipe:

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Tempeh Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil or 1 ½ tbsp butter (Whatever’s in the pantry is fine by me)

6 strips of tempeh chopped (I found a smoky bacon flavor but just plain or sesame will do the trick)

2 carrots chopped

7 little/new potatoes quartered

1 onion

2 tbsp. all purpose unbleached flour

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1 cup organic vegetable stock

1 cup water

2 bay leaves

Salt & pepper (to taste)

2 ½ cups sweet corn (Frozen or not)

¼ cup no fat sour cream

squeeze lemon juice (for each serving as garnish)

Directions:

Heat up oil in a pan on medium heat and add tempeh. Allow tempeh to crisp before dumping in carrots, potatoes and onion. Cover and cook on a lower heat for 20min. Stir when the feeling arises.

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Stir in flour for a minute and then add almond milk, vegetable broth, water, bay leaves and salt & pepper.  Just a heads up almond milk can have a habit of looking like it’s separating when actually nothing bad is happening. Bring to a boil and then add corn from frozen or defrosted. Let simmer for 15 to thicken slightly. Take soup off the heat and add in sour cream. Taste and season more if needed. Serve with a lemon wedge to squeeze before eating.

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In this version of the soup I made simple pesto pita chips to crumble in but you are more than welcome to use your favorite premium plus crackers or toasted baguettes for the ultimate dipping experience.

Hope this recipe is able to make your February a little warmer. When in doubt make enough to share.

Hope you’re feeling peckish.

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