Learning to cook vegan is quite an experience. New ingredients, new rules, and new ways of doing things bring challenges. And fear. I know what I like and I have known that for many years, so to suddenly be cooking with different ingredients and in different ways than I ever have before makes me a little nervous sometimes. Is it going to be any good? Am I going to hate it? Will my family even try it?

Last week, I had three different things I hadn’t ever worked with before, one of which I had made a commitment to cook with before September 1. So on August 31, I set out to reach my goal.

What was my goal? Tofu.

I had never eaten it and never cooked with it.

I also had some fresh ginger root and Napa cabbage that I wasn’t sure exactly how to use either.

Enter Asian-Inspired Fall Spaghetti Squash Noodle Soup. A friend posted this recipe and I decided this would be a good way to try them all.

The description of the soup says, “Strips of spaghetti squash masquerade as faux noodles in this wonderfully low-carb creation packed with other earthy veggies like onions and purple potatoes. Sriracha hot sauce and toasted sesame seed oil infuse this wholesome soup with a slightly spicy, Asian-inspired flavor.” I did make a few adjustments to the way I made it, which I will note in italics below.
1 spaghetti squash
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 c. bell peppers/sweet red peppers, sliced
1 c. purple potatoes, cubed (I used red potatoes, it is what I had on hand)
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely minced
7 c. vegetable broth (I used one box plus 3 cups of water and 3 vegetable bullion cubes)
1 pckg. vegetable miso cup soup mix (optional) (I didn’t have this, and I live in Greenville which I am sure doesn’t have it either, so I skipped it)
1 pckg. firm tofu, cubed (I used extra-firm because that is what I had purchased earlier. I didn’t press it like some recipes call for, I simply pressed the excess moisture out by hand onto paper towels)
2-4 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil (adjust to taste preference)(I used 2)
1/4 c. green onions, diced (I didn’t have these, so didn’t include, but they would have been a great addition)
4 c. bok choy, chopped (Here is where I used the Napa cabbage instead, because I had a head on hand)
2-4 tbsp. liquid aminos (adjust to saltiness preference) (I used soy sauce here and adjusted to taste)
Sriracha hot sauce (optional) (I didn’t have this, so I used 3-4 drops of Tabasco and a couple sprinkles of red pepper flakes)
Cook spaghetti squash: slice length wise, remove seeds, place in a baking pan face down, add water (about an inch high), bake for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. (I always microwave my spaghetti squash. It is faster. I poke holes in it with a knife, then microwave it for 7-8 minutes on high and let it sit for 10-15 minutes in the microwave and finish steaming while I am prepping whatever is next.) Prepare your veggies. Heat up a large pot and pour in your olive oil. Add onions and garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add carrots, bell pepper, potatoes, and ginger. Saute for 5 minutes. Add vegetable broth, miso cup soup mix (optional), and tofu. Cook together for about 20-25 minutes. Then add toasted sesame seed oil, green onions, bok choy, and spaghetti squash noodles (removed with a fork). Add liquid aminos (for salt) and pepper (adjust to your liking). Add desired amount of Sriracha. Cook together for another 5-10 minutes.Makes 4-6 servings.

Even as I was cutting up the tofu, I was panicked because I wasn’t sure what to expect. And as I watched it cook I wondered if I would like it. The soup smelled wonderful and the broth tasted great as I tested to determine if it needed more salt/pepper.

But the moment of truth came when I dished up a bowl and purposely made sure my first bite had a chunk of tofu. And it was DELICIOUS! It had picked up the flavors of the soup beautifully, the texture was more tender chicken-like than I expected and, I even got Mike (Mr. Meat and Potatoes himself) to try a piece. And he liked it. (Although he won’t be changing to a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Ever.)

Dinner that night for me. Lunch the next day for me and a friend. And three more meals over the next three days and the soup is gone. It was filling. Tasty. Just a little spicy. And one of the best vegetable soups I have eaten. I will make it again. And I am already planning for my next “cooking with tofu” recipe. And tempeh. And polenta. and seitan. But with a good first try under my belt, I am feeling a little more ready to see what’s next!

Do you have any stories of cooking with new and different things that you would like to share? We would love to hear them!