Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup

I’m not normally one to ask for recipes at a restaurant, but when we were in Estes Park over Thanksgiving, I had an amazing Carrot Chile Soup at Ed’s Cantina.

Maybe it had something to do with the cold I was recovering from, but the soup was exactly what I needed that day for lunch. Although I didn’t get the exact recipe, I got enough about the ingredients to come up with my own version.

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I started off by sautéing onions and ginger in olive oil, and then adding a ton of chopped carrots (this may be the most carrots I’ve ever used in a single dish). I’m sure the version I had in Estes Park didn’t have ginger, but I thought it would work well with the spiciness and creaminess of the soup.

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Next I added a variety of chopped peppers. I like things spicy, so I used poblano, Serrano, and bell peppers.

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After adding some veggie stock and allowing the soup to simmer for a little bit, I blended everything together with my immersion blended (one of my favorite kitchen gadgets), added a little vegan cream, and it was ready to go.

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This soup is definitely getting added to the rotation!

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup
Inspired by the Carrot Chile soup at Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park

2 small onions, diced
1.5″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
7 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 poblano peppers, diced
4 Serrano peppers, minced
1 quart veggie stock
6 ounces almond milk or vegan “cream”
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom soup pot over medium-high heat, then add the onions and ginger to the pot along with 1/2 tsp salt. Saute until the onions are softened and starting to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrots and cover to cook until they are somewhat soft, being sure to stir them every 5-6 minutes so they don’t burn or stick.

Next, add all of the diced peppers. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the veggie broth, making sure all the veggies are covered. Put the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes. 

Once all the veggies are cooked, reduce the heat to medium-low and purée the soup using an immersion blender. I decided to not purée until it was perfectly smooth so that it had a little bit of texture. Add the milk or cream and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

You can top the soup with tortilla strips and thin slices of fresh red onions, or treat it as you would a tomato soup and serve with a grilled cheddar cheese (vegan or otherwise!) sandwich.

Blueberry Vanilla French Toast

This weekend, I decided to make breakfast. I had a lot of sourdough bread left over, so I thought I would try French toast. One of the breakfast places my family often went to on summer vacation has blueberry French toast that uses tiny Maine blueberries and is delicious.

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I started off by slicing up some day-old (really several days old!) bread, and soaking it in a mixture of almond milk, vanilla and almond extract, and brown sugar. The brown sugar really helps to create a crust on the French toast.

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As the slices of bread went into the hot pan, i pressed the blueberries into the uncooked side of the bread.

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After the toast was crispy on one side, I carefully flipped it over to finish cooking on the other side. I only sent a few blueberries flying across the kitchen!

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The toast was great served with some warm maple syrup, and accompanied by some of Jon’s espresso.

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Blueberry Vanilla French Toast
1 cup almond milk (preferably unsweetened)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract 
2 Tbsp vegan butter
12 slices day-old bread (sourdough or other crusty bread is best)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
Maple syrup for serving

In a shallow dish, combine the almond milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Heat about 1/2 Tbsp of the vegan butter in a skillet (preferably non-stick) over medium-high heat. 

Once the butter is melted and starting to brown, quickly dip enough slices of bread in the almond milk mixture to coat both sides. As the bread cooks, press several blueberries into the uncooked side of the bread.

After the first side of the French toast is golden brown and slightly crisp, gently flip the toast over, trying to keep the blueberries embedded in the bread. Cook the second side until golden brown and crispy. 

Continue to cook the toast in batches until all slices of bread have been used. Serve topped with a little bit of the vegan butter and warm maple syrup.

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Three Bean Soup

Fortunately for Jon, my long hiatus from blogging doesn’t mean there was no cooking, just that I’ve been too busy to write about it! In addition to work, I’ve been quilling–making pretty things out of rolled paper strips!

Since it is definitely fall/winter here, I decided to make this three bean soup.

I started off by sautéing diced onions, carrots, and minced garlic in some olive oil, then adding lots of diced peppers.

After all the veggies are slightly softened, I added a good amount of freshly ground cumin, one of my favorite spices for soups and chilis. Cumin smells great as it heats up with the onions and peppers!

Next, I added some fire-roasted diced tomatoes, veggie stock, and the beans. I used black beans, cannellini beans, and navy beans, but you could really use any combination of cooked beans that you like.

After the soup simmered together for about 30 minutes, I served it topped with an avocado garnish made with freshly chopped avocado, tomato, and lime juice, along with some warm crusty bread. Yum!

Three Bean Soup

2 small onions, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced 
3 medium carrots, finely diced 
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced 
3 jalapeños, minced 
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar 
6 cups vegetable stock 
2 Tbsp freshly ground cumin 
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 can (15 ounces) each of black beans, cannellini beans, and navy beans, drained and well rinsed
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, fire roasted if possible 
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Avocado Garnish
1 avocado, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
2 tsp lime juice

In a heavy bottom soup pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the onion, garlic, and carrots, along with 1 tsp salt. Saute until golden brown, being sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. 

Next, add the red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan. Allow to cook down for a minute, then add the peppers and jalapeño. Cook for a few minutes, until the peppers are slightly softened, then add the ground cumin and cook until fragrant. 

Add the diced tomatoes and vegetable stock. Reduce the heat slightly, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Once the soup has reached a simmer, add the beans. Reduce the heat to medium, and cover to cook for about 30 minutes.

If using the optional topping, combine the avocado, tomatoes, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Before serving the soup, taste to adjust seasoning if necessary. Top each soup bowl with the avocado garnish, and serve with a slice of warm, crusty bread.

Cuban Inspired Black Beans with Barley

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Work has definitely been keeping me busy. Topping off the end of a week where we launched two different products, there was a torrential downpour and hail on my walk home on Friday night. It seemed a fitting end to a hectic and somewhat stressful week!

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Since cooking always helps me unwind, I decided to make this black bean dish. It is loosely inspired by Cuban Black Beans in Molly Katzen’s Heart of the Plate.

I started off by chopping onions, a carrot, garlic, and green onions, then sautéing them in olive oil.

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Next, I added pineapple and red pepper to add some sweetness and extra crunch, along with cumin, turmeric, and Aji Amarillo chile powder (a recent discovery at the Savory Spice Shop).

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Once the spices were heated through, I added black beans and lime juice and covered the mixture to simmer for a few minutes.

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After simmering for a few minutes, the sauce had thickened, the flavors had all melded together, and the beans were ready to eat!

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I decided to serve the beans on top of barley, although rice works just as well. Green onions add a nice crunch and fresh flavor.

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Cuban Inspired Black Beans with Barley
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can (15oz) black beans, drained and well rinsed
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups barley, uncooked
1 Tbsp freshly-ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground Aji Amarillo chiles or cayenne (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flakes, plus more to taste (optional)
1/4 cup lime juice

In a sauce pan, boil 5 cups of water. Salt well, and add the barley. Reduce the heat and cook the barley until tender but still slightly chewy, 20-25 minutes.

In a sauté pan, heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, and the white parts of the green onion, and sauté until very soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes). Season lightly with salt.

Add the pineapple and red pepper and sauté for a few more minutes, then add the cumin, turmeric, chile powder, and red pepper flakes. You can omit the chile powder and red pepper flakes for a less-spicy dish. 

After the spices are heated through, add the black beans and lime juice, then stir to combine. Add a little bit of water if there is not enough liquid in the pan to make a light sauce. Cover, reduce heat to medium, then simmer for about 7 minutes until all the flavors are combined. Taste and add salt or pepper as needed.

Serve the beans over the barley. Top with chopped green onions and red pepper flakes for a little extra kick.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

This ravioli is one of the few ways that Jon actually asks for butternut squash. He will eat it in other formats, but wrap it up in pasta dough and serve in a creamy sauce and he gobbles it up!

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As with almost all my dishes, I started off by dicing up onions, and sautéing them in olive oil. This dish also uses lots of fresh sage, with about half going into the ravioli filling, and the rest going into the sauce.

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Once the onions were softened and the sage had released lots of flavor, I added the butternut squash. If you were feeling very ambitious you could dice up a fresh squash, but this is one of those times when using frozen is actually better (and easier)!

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Once the squash is cooked and flavored with turmeric, a little cayenne, and other great flavorings, it is ready to be made into ravioli.

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The ravioli are very easy to make, if a bit time consuming. It is a little easier if you make an assembly line with several wonton wrappers laid out at once to be filled and formed.

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The filling is just about the perfect amount to use one packet of wonton wrappers, resulting in a very-satisfying fleet of ravioli.

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The sauce was simmering away while I formed all the ravioli, so it was all ready for them as they came out of the cooking water.

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The ravioli cook in batches in just a few minutes, and float to the top of the water once they are ready.

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After all the ravioli was cooked and had simmered in the sauce for a minute, it was ready for serving. The ravioli is perfect topped with freshly ground pepper and a little vegan Parmesan cheese. Yum!

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Butternut Squash Ravioli

1 onion, finely diced
20 sage leaves, in a chiffonade
16 ounces butternut squash, diced (frozen works well)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
24 ounces vegetable broth
6 ounces white wine
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 package wonton wrappers
3 Tbsp vegan butter, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp flour
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 Tbsp of the vegan butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil/butter is heated, add the minced onion and a small amount of sea salt. Sauté the onion until it is very soft and slightly caramelized. 

Add half the sage, along with the turmeric, allspice, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper and some freshly ground pepper. Sauté for 1-2 minutes to toast the spices, then add the butternut squash. Add a small amount of water, then cover. Cook until the squash is very soft and then mash the squash with the onion/spice mixture. Taste the squash mixture, and adjust seasoning if needed. 

Remove the squash mixture to a bowl. In the same pan, start the sauce by heating the remaining vegan butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté with a little salt until it is caramelized. Add the flour and sage, and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a low simmer to thicken the sauce. 

Meanwhile, start forming the ravioli. Place a wonton wrapper on a cutting board or plate, and add about 2 tsp of the squash filling into the center of the wrapper. You may need to use more or less filling depending on the size of your wrappers. Brush water on the edge of the wonton wrapper, then fold in half and pinch to seal the edge together. Continue forming ravioli until you have used either all of the wonton wrappers or all of the filling. If you run out of wrappers before filling, you can add the extra filling to your sauce.

By now your sauce should be thickened slightly. Add the white wine and vinegar, then cook for another minute. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 

Cook the ravioli in well-salted boiling water in batches of 10-12. They will only take 2-3 minutes to cook, and will float to the top of the water when they are done. Gently remove the ravioli from the water and add to the pan with the sauce, stirring gently as you add each batch to keep the ravioli from sticking to each other. Serve in shallow bowls topped with freshly grated pepper and a little vegan “Parmesan” cheese (of course, you can use the real stuff if you prefer!). 

Makes 4-6 servings.
Recipe created by Jennifer

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White Beans with Kale and Cabbage over Farro

I’m finally starting to recover from my annual sinus infection, which usually takes me out for a solid week. This year seemed especially bad, but now that I’m feeling better I’m back to cooking for more than just basic sustenance (or letting Jon feed us!). This dish was loosely inspired by a recipe in Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate, but with a fair amount of improvisation.

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I started off by cooking some farro using a similar method to risotto. After sautéing some onion in olive oil, and toasting the farro, I gradually added homemade vegetable stock until the farro was cooked but still chewy.

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While the farro was cooking, I started off by sautéing onions, celery, and carrots. Once these were soft and flavorful, I added several of my favorite herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, and sage), along with some red pepper flakes, which are truly a staple in my kitchen. Next I built up the sauce by adding some vegetable stock and white wine vinegar.

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After the sauce had come to a simmer, I was ready to add sun dried tomatoes, kale and cabbage. (Jon says sun dried tomatoes and cabbage? Seriously?!?)

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The veggies cooked for a few minutes, and then I was ready to add the white beans. Fortunately, I had previously cooked some white navy beans, so I had plenty of fresh beans available for this dish. Yum!

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After the beans were warmed through, they were ready to be served on top of the farro. With all the veggies in this dish, it definitely felt like a good dish to continue getting me healthy. 🙂

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White Beans with Kale and Cabbage over Farro

2 cups uncooked farro
2 onions, finely diced
6 cups veggie stock, heated
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 bunch lacinto kale, removed from ribs and torn into bite size pieces
1/3 head green cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano, basil, sage, and thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked navy beans

Start the farro by heating 3 Tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Add 1 of the onions and sauté until slightly softened. Add a small amount of salt, then add the farro. Sauté the farro for a few minutes, then add about 2 cups of the veggie stock. Cover, and add veggie stock as it is absorbed until the farro is plumped up but still chewy. I needed about 4 cups of stock and it took about 25 minutes to cook. You could also use similar grains such as whole wheat berries.

While the farro is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, and sauté until softened. Next add the celery and carrot along with some sea salt. Cover and allow to sauté until the veggies are quite soft and slightly browned. You may need to add small amounts of veggie stock to the pan to keep the veggies from sticking. 

Once the veggies are quite soft, add the garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes. Next, add about 1 cup of veggie stock, the white wine vinegar, and the sun dried tomatoes. Reduce heat slightly and cover to allow the sun dried tomatoes to soften in the sauce. 

Once the sun dried tomatoes are plumped up and soft, add the cabbage and kale, stirring well to combine. You’ll probably want to add a little more sea salt at this point. Cover the pan, and allow the kale and cabbage to cook slightly in the sauce. You want the kale to be cooked, but still somewhat crisp. 

Finally, add the white beans and stir gently to combine. Cover and allow the beans to simmer in the sauce for a few minutes until they are heated through. Before serving, taste the bean mixture and adjust salt and add a little more white wine vinegar if you want the sauce to be a little sharper. 

To serve, place the farro in an individual soup bowl, and top with the bean mixture. 

Mediterranean Pasta

One of the ways I commonly cook is to make what Jon calls “pasta concoctions”. Sometimes these turn out really well and end up on the menu, and other times…

A more successful pasta concoction is what we call Mediterranean Pasta, which is basically a tomato sauce with olives, artichoke hearts, and lots of other yummy vegetables.

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Although there are a fair number of ingredients in this recipe, it is quite easy to make. I started off by sautéing most of the veggies along with turmeric and tomato paste until everything is slightly softened and flavorful.

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While the veggies are cooking, I chopped up the artichoke hearts and cut the olives in half.

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I then finished adding the other ingredients to the sauce, including vegetable broth, tomatoes, and red wine vinegar. After everything was combined, I covered the sauce to simmer for a few minutes.

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This sauce tastes fairly rich because of the olives, so I like to serve it with a simple salad.

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By the time the pasta is done cooking, the sauce has simmered long enough to thicken slightly and meld all the flavors together. I used rigatoni, but you could use any larger pasta shape such as penne or rotini. I love pictures of pasta. 🙂

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Next I mixed all the pasta into the sauce, hoping my pan was large enough to hold it all! Make sure to save a little bit of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce.

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Finally, I dished the pasta into bowls and topped with a few red pepper flakes.

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Mediterranean Pasta

1 lb Rigatoni, cooked al dente
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, miced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
8-12 ounces pitted olives (Greek mix, kalamata, or similar), sliced in half
4 artichoke hearts, quartered
10 peppadew peppers, finely diced
5-6 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced (I prefer the vacuum packed ones rather than the ones packed in oil)
1 cup vegetable stock
1 large can (28 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp red pepper flakes plus more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the water for your pasta.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, then add the garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until softened. Do not allow the garlic to brown. 

Add the diced peppers and peppadew peppers, and sauté for a few minutes, flavoring with salt and freshly ground pepper. After the peppers are slightly softened, add the turmeric and tomato paste. Sauté for a few minutes to release the flavors of the turmeric.

Next, add the veggie stock and red wine vinegar. After the sauce is simmering, add the sliced sun dried tomatoes and cook until softened. 

Stir in the diced or crushed tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes, and more salt and pepper if needed. Cover and reduce heat to medium. The pasta water should be boiling by now. Salt the water well, and cook the rigatoni until al dente. It will cook for a minute in the sauce, so you don’t want to overlook the pasta in the water.

Allow the sauce to simmer while the pasta is cooking. When the pasta is done, taste the sauce to adjust seasoning, then add the drained pasta along with about 3 Tbsp of the pasta cooking water. Stir to combine, and allow the pasta to cook in the sauce for another minute or two. 

Serve in pasta bowls topped with additional red pepper flakes, if desired. If you aren’t eating vegan, it would also be really good topped with a little bit of crumbled feta or tangy goat cheese. Since the sauce is rich, it is nice to have a simple salad on the side.

Serves 6-8.