Tag Archives: soup

Slow Cooker Vegan Lentil & Spinach Stew

It’s been awhile since I created and shared a new recipe with you all. I have been in a bit of a culinary rut as of late, mostly cooking tried and true classics for the past couple of months. Today, however, I felt the urge to create something new on impulse and thus this Slow Cooker Vegan Lentil & Spinach Stew was born. I love a good plant-based soup, and particularly one that you can make entirely in the slow cooker, minimizing the active cooking time to almost nothing. This recipe ended up hitting all of the marks with its five minutes of prep and incredibly warming, earthy flavors and feel. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Slow Cooker Lentil & Spinach Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Absurdly Easy
  • Print

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups green lentils
  • 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups Spinach
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


Combine all ingredients onion thru bay leaf in a slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on low 6 hours or high 3 hours. When ready to serve, stir in the vinegar and spinach until wilted. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

One of the best parts of travel is indulging in the foods of the lands in which you are visiting. You enjoy the distinctive flavors and cooking styles, and maybe even receive a little culinary inspiration to take home with you! When I was in Scotland this past October, my mum and I stopped in at a little place that had been recommended to us by several locals: Clarinda’s Tea Room. Clarinda’s Tea Room is a truly quaint establishment with soft tea-time-like décor, serving up affordable, comforting, tasty breakfasts and lunches along with a bounty of cakes, scones, biscuits, and of course, tea.

We enjoyed lunch at Clarinda’s, opting for the half sandwich and soup special. That day, the soup du jour was a Honey Roasted Parsnip Soup, and it was delightful. Being Scotland in the autumn, the weather is quite gray, cool, and rainy, and so many seasonal dishes feature hearty root vegetables that are warming and comforting; this soup was exactly that.

Clarinda’s Tea Room – Honey Roasted Parsnip Soup


Whilst eating the soup, I received the inspiration and came up with the concept for my own root vegetable soup. Just over a week after returning to America from the United Kingdom, I put that culinary inspiration to the test and this was the very tasty result!

My version! Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup


This Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup is both sweet and savory, soulfully warming and superbly comforting. It reminds me of that Parsnip Soup I had at Clarinda’s, and is in many ways a colorful cousin to that soup. Sweetly roasted carrots and parsnips, savory sautéed onions, pungent garlic, and woodsy thyme and rosemary give this soup great depth of flavors that contrast and complement one another. The addition of cannellini beans makes this soup even heartier with a boost of protein, but also helps the soup to become creamy when pureed without the addition of any dairy products. This soup is completely vegan, requires very few ingredients, and can be put together in a pinch!

I’m really proud of how this recipe has turned out, and am even more taken with it as it was conceived in Scotland; now, anytime I make it, I will always remember my incredible journey there. And all of us can eat this soup for its great and cozy flavors that are perfect to be enjoyed all fall and winter long!

Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 large or 3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 large or 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5-6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the parsnips and carrots on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the honey, half of the salt and pepper, and the thyme leaves. Toss until all the carrots and parsnips are coated well. Roast for 30 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven.

Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and season with a pinch of salt and pepper, cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the roasted parsnips and carrots, toss all together. Add the beans, vegetable stock, rosemary, and bay leaf. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Uncover and remove the bay leaf. Puree by use of immersion hand blender or by transferring the soup to a food processor in small batches. Puree until completely smooth. Serve and enjoy!


7 Johnny La Pasta Recipes To Make This Fall

Fall is here in all its glory! I, like so many others, adore this cozy and colorful season (even if Southern California still gets random Summer heatwaves).There is something special about this time of the year, you can just feel it in the air, and what’s more, you can taste it in the food! Fall centric food is definitely my favorite; the warming flavors and seasonal ingredients, it’s all so good!

I have several recipes of mine that are perfect for this time of year; a few of them even embody Autumn themselves! And as we move ever into October, I thought it would be nice to consolidate all those recipes in one place for you to peruse, study, and cook! So, here are 7 Johnny La Pasta Recipes you should make this Fall!

(1) Stuffed Acorn Squash

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My Stuffed Acorn Squash is the foodie personification of Autumn! Sweet and warming acorn squash contrasted and complimented by a stuffing of spicy Italian sausage, crisp celery and onions, tart green apples, crunchy bread crumbs, and earthy sage. All topped with melted Havarti Cheese. This is my favorite Fall recipe.

(2) Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

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A Vegan’s delight! This Chili is so hearty and rich while being completely plant-based! One of my most popular recipes!

(3) Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza

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My Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza  is THE Pizza of Fall! Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts, Crisped Bacon Pieces, Caramelized Onions, and Balsamic Sauce make this one incredible gourmet, artisan pizza!

(4) Garlic Rosemary Chicken

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Garlic Rosemary Chicken – the simplest and most flavorful roast chicken recipe ever! My go to especially in Fall and Winter! Healthy and hearty all at once!

(5) Johnny’s Tomato Soup

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A hearty and healthy Tomato Soup that feeds both the body and the soul. This soup is made hearty in flavor by bold rosemary and bay leaf, and is made creamy by pureed cannellini beans that also add a punch of protein. Mindless to prepare, easy on the wallet, and tasty to the tongue!

(6) Easy Bolognese

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Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of pasta with Bolognese sauce; and no recipe is easier than this!

(7) Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream


My Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream is the perfect healthy Fall dessert! Just a few ingredients for this nutritious treat!

Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!

Ciao friends! I am starting a new series on this blog called “Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!” which I will be publishing every other week or so. The intention behind my roundup is share links to other online material for your weekend browsing that I found interesting, informational, and otherwise inspiring that hopefully you will as well since we are all like-minded people here!

So here it goes – Johnny’s Weekend Roundup for the weekend of August 12, 2016!

Continue reading

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

As an avid supporter of Meatless Monday and the concept that we can eat less meat and also go about the cultivation of the meat that we do eat in a more sustainable way, I am constantly looking to try new and exciting vegetarian and vegan dishes. I love eating at vegan restaurants and seeing what they’ve come up with and I myself really enjoy making vegan and vegetarian dishes; in fact, some of my most popular recipes are vegan like Johnny’s Tomato Soup.  I do, however, often get stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking vegan for myself. I usually rely on another cook’s book or blog to tell me what to do. One day, however, I decided to be adventurous and experiment in the kitchen using ingredients that I love and crossed my fingers that a great vegan dish would be born from all of it. Lo and behold this chili happened!

What I love about this chili is that it is incredibly hearty in texture, flavor, and feel when in all reality; it is an extremely light and nutritious veggie packed dish. Chunks of Portobello mushrooms mimic chunks of beef that you might find in one chili. Finely chopped cauliflower emulates ground meat that you might find in another chili. Other veggies and spices give the stew a rich and warming flavor profile. The result is a chili that is thick and filling while also bringing the nutrition without any animal products.

I loved this chili so much; I made it two weeks in a row and knew that I had to share it with you! I hope you enjoy this new vegan friendly dish from yours truly. Buon Appetito!

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, big diced
  • 3 cups cauliflower, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and Pepper


Heat the olive in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cook until tender, another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and sage, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Coat the veggies in the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!


Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market Costa Mesa

On Wednesday December 2nd (aka Britney Spears’ Birthday, praise!) my colleagues and I went for our weekly “Lunch Bunch” outing to Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market in Costa Mesa, CA. When this restaurant was proposed as our lunch spot for the day, I really had no idea what it was. It was then pitched to me as a fast casual concept with an emphasis on local, seasonal, quality ingredient sandwiches and salads that are equally as healthy as they are tasty; “Sounds like my kind of place!” I said and with that we were off.

Mendocino Farms does two things – sandwiches and salads, that’s it! Sure, it’s only two categories, but what they do, they do WELL. Mendocino Farms sources the ingredients for their sandwiches and salads from local farmers, ranchers, and bakers who exercise best practices; the produce is fresh and often organic, the meat is free-range and vegetarian/grass-fed, and the bread is made with the best grains and baked fresh daily. And let’s not forget that the sandwiches and salads that are offered boast fantastic flavors and combinations.

The restaurant itself is both airy and earthy – very bright and welcoming. The kitchen is open for guests to see the culinary team in action. The décor has a definite artisan-feel with a big splash of health-emphasis. When you enter, you are greeted by the very friendly and helpful staff. They check to see if you have visited before, and if you haven’t, they give you an overview of the menu and their offerings. I really enjoy restaurants that have team members that speak with you about their offerings as it somehow makes you feel more connected to the food. In addition to explaining the menu, they also emphasize that they are very flexible when it comes to dietary preferences; gluten-free breads are available to substitute for other breads, they are more than happy to hold the cheese if you avoid dairy, and in general help you to order a meal that suites your tastes and needs.

A fast-casual restaurant, you order at the counter and then pick out your own table and wait for the food to be brought to you. What is really awesome, is that before you order, they are happy to offer you samples of the side salads and soups that they have available to add onto your meal so that way you can get a better feel for what you are ordering! Once you are seated, the food is brought to you on a small baking sheet and you are ready to enjoy lunch! Now, let’s get to what my colleagues and I had.

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The Blue Plate Special with Half Farm Club and the Healthiest Salad Ever

I ordered the Blue Plate Special -a ½ a sandwich with a side salad or cup of soup – with the Farm Club and the Healthiest Salad Ever. The Farm Club is masterfully comprised of local farm, free-range turkey breast, smashed avocado (always a yes), prime Applewood bacon, herb aioli, tomatoes, greens, pickled red onions and “Mom’s seeded whole wheat bread”. The bread was incredibly hearty and comforting while also remaining light, the vegetables fresh and full of their natural flavors, the avocado perfectly green, the bacon superbly crispy, and the turkey fantastically fresh and clean tasting. There was just the right amount of everything on this sandwich. The Healthiest Salad Ever included thinly sliced raw beets, ginger, carrots, and kale, black rice, golden raises, toasted hazelnuts, and chopped orange segments. It was sweet and refreshing, a perfect pairing with my sandwich. I was rather satisfied!

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Korubuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

Some of my colleagues were a bit more adventures than I was on this trip. A few of them tried the Korubuta Pork Belly Banh Mi; a play on a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, caramelized Korubuta Pork belly, a housemade pickled daikon (no idea what that is) and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers,  jalapenos, and chili on a panini ciabatta. Apparently, this sandwich was spicy and hearty all at once. A definitely good choice for meat lovers and Asian food lovers alike!

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Peruvian Steak Sandwich

The Peruvian Steak sandwich was another big hit! Spicy aji Amarillo marinated steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, and shredded romaine on a panini-pressed torta bun. Though I didn’t try, I was told that the steak was decadent and the premium ingredients all worked together to create a sandwich that was rich, perfectly spicy, and superbly satisfying!

Mendocino Farms Falafel

Enlightened Falafel Wrap

The Vegan Enlightened Falafel Wrap was one of the biggest winners of the day. This would probably be the one I would order the next time I return, and trust me; there will be a next time. This veggie friendly wrap is constructed from Mendocino’s housemade falafel-spiced V7 patty, Mendo’s classic hummus, a vegan tzatziki, grape tomatoes, shredded romaine, julienned cucumbers, pickled red onions wrapped in a panini pressed whole wheat tortilla. This was so fresh and zesty as well as fulfilling. It’s encouraging to see a restaurant have such great options for our vegan friends!

We also sampled sides of the various side salads. In addition my Healthiest Salad Ever, we tried the Curried Couscous and the Sriracha Potato Salad; both were surprisingly delicious! Could’ve eaten giant tubs of both! Keep in mind, some of Mendocino’s menu is seasonal and so some items may vary from time to time, but that’s part of the foodie fun!

In summary, our visit to Mendocino Farms was beyond satisfactory. It was so wonderful to find a fast-casual restaurant with a healthy vibe, foodie flare, and ethical practices. I will definitely be returning in the future for more tasty sandwiches!

For more information, visit Mendocino Farms’ website here: http://mendocinofarms.com/


Johnny’s Tomato Soup

Ciao all! Johnny here with my inexpensive, unbelievably simple, super healthy, and incredibly delish recipe for my Tomato Soup! There is no way around it; tomato soup is one of the most comforting dishes you can enjoy. A bowl of tomato soup comforts you when you’re feeling under the weather or helps you to cozy up with a good movie or book on a chilly evening in at home. And my tomato soup will be your new favorite! With budget friendly ingredients and requiring minimal effort to prepare, this soup is vegan and healthy while also being warming and hearty. Cannellini beans within the soup pureed after cooking give the soup a creamy texture without the need for cream or dairy. Rosemary, red pepper, and bay leaf give the soup earthy and warming notes. This soup makes a great quick weeknight dinner and is perfect to take  a left over cup to work or school; hell, it’s even perfect for a Friday night with a good movie and bottle of wine! I make this soup almost every other week during Fall and Winter and anyone who has ever had it has always been thoroughly pleased. Hope you enjoy!

Johnny's Tomato Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: absurdly easy
  • Print


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • ¼ -1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional Toppings: Olive oil drizzle, cracked black pepper, light sour cream, Greek yogurt, parmesan cheese, goat cheese


Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and carrots, sprinkle with a ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes until tender. Add the crushed garlic, mix together, and sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Add the cannellini beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir. Bring to a boil over the medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Uncover and fish out the bay leaf, discard. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and creamy with no chunks of veggies left. You can also puree in a food processor, but be very careful! Ladle into bowls and add your desired toppings. I personally like to do an artsy drizzle of olive oil and add some crushed black pepper to keep it light but tasty. Enjoy!