Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple-Spiced Pepitas… & My Farewell to Sarabi

Hi guys. When I started planning this post, it was a simple recipe share. Yesterday, however, we lost our beloved Sarabi kitty. It was a very hard day. She was 18, so she certainly had a long, happy life with us. In the spring we learned that she was having troubles. The vet informed us at the time that we might only have another few weeks with her. But, beautiful Sarabi gave us her love a little longer.

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Paul and I adopted Sarabi when we were living in Newfoundland. We were married a couple of years, and heard about a litter of kittens through a colleague. We took a drive out and found little Sarabi. While I was holding another kitten, Sarabi climbed up Paul’s leg. We said “well, she’s the one“! She was a frisky kitten, and a bit of a furry menace in her early years! She regularly chewed through electrical wires. Yes, wires – to lamps, keyboards and mouses (they had wires then), and more. She kept us on our toes for sure! When we moved to BC, she came with us. And, when I was pregnant with our first daughter, Charlotte, she was right there with me. Sleeping by my belly. The days leading up to Charlotte’s birth were very stressful for us, we had many tests and medical professionals interpreting my pregnancy and ultimately I was induced early. I remember Sarabi snoozing snuggled by my belly, offering her comfort. Once Charlotte was born, she was so good to her. She didn’t become jealous or react oddly, just continued to sleep where we were with our new baby. When Charlotte spoke, her first word wasn’t ‘mama’ or ‘dada’… it was “ah-boo“, as she pointed to Sarabi. And, Sarabi was with us as our family grew with both Bridget and Hope. She even helped us welcome our puppy, Ollie, this year. However, she was still top dog in this house! We would escort Sarabi through Ollie’s playroom ensuring he didn’t excitedly lunge at her. She quickly caught on to that special treatment, too. In her old age, she kept frequenting the area just to get a rise out of the pup!

Yet, she was becoming frail and slow, we knew her days with us were limited. It’s no surprise that she spent her last hours yesterday under Charlotte’s bed. Those two had a special connection. We all took turns going in and talking to Sarabi and stroking her. Later in the day, Charlotte was bringing her upstairs to me as she passed away. Charlotte said she heard one last purr. The girls are doing okay. It is hardest for Charlotte because Sarabi really was her love. Her nickname in school last year was “cat lady” as she is always sketching cats. Our younger girls are processing it differently, I don’t think they quite understand the finality. It’s been hard for Paul and I, as Sarabi was with us almost as long as we’ve been married, through so many of our milestones together.

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This picture is from the photo shoot for my upcoming book. I took some special photos with miss Sarabi, sitting on our “nest” chair – another one of her favorite spots. I’m so grateful to have these photos, they really capture her sweet, peaceful, elderly spirit. Goodbye for now, miss Sarabi. Thank you for your love, we will miss you.

With Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, we will honor Sarabi. We’ll look at photos, share our memories, and give thanks for the many years she was with our entire family.

For your Thanksgiving dinner, I have this Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple-Spiced Pepitas recipe to share. It’s festive yet easy to make, lightly spiced, and very comforting. You could serve it as a starter, or as part of the main course with other dishes. This post has other Thanksgiving menu ideas.

Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving.

x Dreena

Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple-Spiced Pepitas - #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree #oilfree by Dreena Burton, plant-powered kitchen

Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple-Spiced Pepitas

link to share/print recipe

This is feel-good soup. In the autumn when the chill sets in, it is just the most comforting soup that helps you ease into the fall season. It’s perfect for a Thanksgiving starter, or served on Halloween to warm the kiddos before they head out in the cold. The pumpkin seeds are optional, but add a deliciously spicy crunch!

2 tbsp water
1 1/2 cups onion
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 – 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 tsp allspice
1 – 14 oz can (398 ml) pure pumpkin puree
4 cups water
1 dried bay leaf
3/4 – 1 cup soaked cashews or soaked almonds (skins removed, see note)
1 – 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the water in a large pot over medium or medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, salt (starting with 1 tsp) and spices. Stir, cover, and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the pumpkin, about 3 1/2 cups of water, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat and let cool slightly. While waiting, you can prepare the pepitas (see below). Then, remove bay leaf from soup and discard. Transfer soup to a high-speed blender, along with the cashews and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. (If using a standard blender, you will need to puree in a couple of batches). Puree the soup until completely smooth. Transfer mixture back to the pot, using remaining 1/2 cup of water to loosen any soup from blender, scraping down sides and transferring back to the pot. Taste, add extra salt or lemon juice to taste, and serve, sprinkled with the seasoned pepitas (see below). Serves 4-5.

Soaked Nuts Note: You can use anywhere from 3/4 – 1 cup of soaked cashews or almonds (or a combination of both). If using soaked almonds, you can easily slip off the skins with your fingers after they have soaked. It’s not critical to remove them, but a nice touch.

Maple Roasted Pepitas

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cinnamon
few pinches sea salt

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or toaster oven tray) with parchment paper. Add the pumpkin seeds to the sheet/tray, and add the maple syrup, ginger, and cinnamon. Toss through to combine. Sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt. Bake for 5-8 minutes, tossing once through, and watching so they don’t burn. As soon as the start to become aromatic and toasted, remove from the oven/toaster oven. Let cool on the tray. As they cool they will become crisp.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple Spiced Pepitas, by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree #oilfree

Returning to Blogging: Peanut Thai Vegetable Stew

Hello friends. I’m officially back to blogging! I was very touched by your heartfelt comments on my last post. I read them all, quite a few times. Your kindness reached me during a rough time. Thank you.

I’ve had some personal insights in the last couple of months. My journey has just begun. I have more to learn and absorb, yet I am feeling far more optimistic, supported, and peaceful. I realize this sounds very vague. What I’ve discovered and am discovering is not easily put into words for a blog post. At least not right now. What I can say is that this process is helping me live with more awareness. Some days are easier than others, as it’s a process. Still, it’s allowing me to appreciate and respect who I am, and learn to make choices that are in alignment with this new understanding.

As obscure as this might seem, one thing that is very clear: my work is very much a part of me. So, I am most certainly continuing, with some changes. These changes may not even be obvious for you all, and will hopefully help me work with more balance.

Finally, in returning to blogging my intention is to share delicious plant-based recipes for you to enjoy, without judgement. Most of us judge ourselves harshly in one or more areas of our lives. I’m not immune to this judgement, these past months have helped me recognize that. I hope to present my recipes and ideas to you in a place that feels welcoming and encouraging so I can continue to share nourishing foods that will satisfy and delight!

With that, my return to blogging begins with this Peanut Thai Vegetable Stew from Let Them Eat Vegan. It is full-flavored and will infuse a little exotic into your weekday meals. Many of you have reached out to tell me how much you love this dish, so I wanted to share it while the weather (for most of us) is still a little cool. Enjoy… :)

Peanut Thai Vegetable Stew by Dreena Burton, plantpoweredkithcen.com

Peanut Thai Vegetable Stew

ReciPage link to print/share

This beautifully flavored stew is brimming with vegetables and tofu in a creamy peanut-coconut sauce that is not too rich or heavy. Sure to become a favorite!

1 tbsp water
2 cups onion, diced
5 medium-large cloves garlic, minced
2 – 2 ½ cups yams, peeled and chopped in bite-size chunks (see note)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/4 – ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like the ‘heat’!)
1 stalk lemongrass
1 ½ – 2 cups zucchini, halved or quartered lengthwise (depending on thickness of zucchini) and sliced about ¼” thick
1 cup red, orange, or yellow pepper, chopped in chunks
2 cups vegetable stock
3/4 – 1 cup water
1 can (400 ml) light coconut milk
1/2 cup + 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter (can substitute almond or cashew butter)
1 tbsp tamari
1 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
½ – 1 350-g pkg (12-oz) firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes, about ¾” (see notes for use and substitution)
6-8 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, loosely packed (can substitute Swiss Chard leaves)
2 ½ -3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
fresh cilantro for serving (optional)
few lime wedges for serving

In a soup pot over medium heat, add the water, onion, garlic, yams, salt, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes. Cover and let cook for 5-7 minutes. While cooking, prepare the lemongrass. Cut off the lower yellow bulbous portion (about halfway), and remove the outer tough leaves (discard outer leaves along with upper portion of stalk). Using your chef’s knife ‘bruise’ this bulbous portion. Cut a few shallow slits in the stalk and then use pressure on your knife to open and bruise the stalk, to help release its flavors (do not chop the stalk, keep in one piece). Add the lemongrass, zucchini, bell pepper, stock, water, coconut milk, peanut butter (start with ½ cup + 1 tbsp), tamari, and fresh ginger. Stir through and increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low/medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. After this time, add the tofu (see note) and gently stir through. Simmer covered for another 3-5 minutes, or longer until yams have completely softened and can be easily squished. Add the fresh spinach and lime juice (start with 2½ tbsp, and add more if desired), stir through and serve immediately (so spinach stays a vibrant green color). Taste, and if you’d like a full peanut flavor, add the remaining 1 tbsp of peanut butter, or more if desired. Remove piece of lemongrass before serving. Serve garnished with fresh cilantro if desired, and with a lime wedge to squeeze juices on individual portions. Serves 4-5.

Ingredients 411:

1) You can use the orange-flesh tubers that are most commonly known as yams in Canada (but as sweet potatoes in the US), or you can use the yellow flesh tubers most often labeled as sweet potatoes in Canada.

2) You can choose to use either the full package of tofu, or a lesser amount to your preference. If you’d like a very substantial stew, use the full package (or most of it). If you’d like a lighter stew with fewer pieces of tofu, use roughly ½ of the package, and refrigerate the remaining tofu (tightly wrapped in plastic).

Savvy Subs and Adds:
If you don’t care for tofu, add a can of black beans (rinsed/drained first; roughly 1 3/4 – 2 cups). The beans will give similar hearty substance as the tofu.

It This Apron Could Talk: Do not add the spinach until just ready to serve. If making this soup ahead of time, omit the spinach and then reheat soup, adding the spinach for last minute and then serve!

Peanut Thai Vegetable Stew from "Let Them Eat Vegan" by Dreena Burton

Have you made this stew yet? If so, please share how you enjoy it!

It’s good to be back, thanks for all of your support. And, shout-out to Emma Potts for the glorious food photos!

x Dreena

Now Available!: Plant-Powered 15 ebook (vegan, oil-free, gluten-free)

So, the last few months you may have been wondering what I’ve been up to. I’ve been posting plenty of recipes, but haven’t been talking much about personal things or our family. Truth is, I have been swamped since September with both work and mama responsibilities, and it’s been challenging to keep up. (My next post I’m going to talk about just that, the mothering ‘balance’, so I hope you’ll be with me and share your insights too.)

On the work front, I’ve been very busy for a few reasons. First, I had plans to start another cookbook. That plan still exists, and I’m in the final stages of a contract. So, I will have news for you soon about my next big book project!

Then, I got this crazy idea in my head back in December, that I could do an ebook. I love it when I get these crazy notions thinking I can “do it all”. Yeah. Crazy lady. It started like this…

Do any of you remember my holiday cookbook promotion? Well, once people started trying these recipes and I was posting details about the promo on facebook, I received a lot of requests to turn those recipes into an ebook.  HUH! I never even thought of that! Until someone planted the seed, and off I go running.  So, I procrastinated on the idea for a month or so, because I knew it would be a lot of work – with a new learning curve. I just wasn’t sure if I could pull it off (without pulling out my hair)!

PP15cover

Until one day, I get an email from one of my readers, Lynn McLellan. The email subject line reads: Recipe “Feed”back. I open the email nervously, thinking I’ve messed up something in a recipe or two (because that’s what us neurotic cookbook authors think). Was I ever surprised to open the email and see that Lynn had taken photos of EVERY recipe in the Plant-Powered 15 package and shared her feedback on EACH recipe!  I was humbled and teary, that she took the time to put all that together for me to read.  And, it was a sign to get off my behind already and put this ebook together! If you are with me on facebook, you have seen some of this ‘feed’back, as I’ve been posting examples. For instance, Lynn said this about my “Coconutty Cookies”:

Wow! I couldn’t get enough of these. They taste like little coconut pillows! So light and satisfying. In fact, they were so good I made a second batch right away while I still had the ingredients handy. That’s how fast they disappeared! 

Coconut Pillows, eh? Yep, that name stuck!

I asked people on facebook again… should I do this? Do you still want it? Would you buy it? Then THEY told me to get off my behind.  So I did. And here it is!

While I’d love to go on about how clueless I was in the beginning working on this project, I will spare you that dull reading. What I will tell you is that I got lucky. Sometimes people come into your life at certain times, and you have a feeling it’s for a reason. That happened when Nicole Axworthy emailed and said she’d like to help me with the photography for this book. I already knew of Nicole’s talents, because she is the co-author of the Tiny Treats ebook with Lisa Pitman (I sang its praises on FB and mentioned it in this post). I LOVE that ebook. The recipes are insanely creative, and the photos are simply stunning. When I bought that book and opened it on my computer, my jaw dropped. So, needless to say I was pretty stoked that Nicole wanted to work with me on the Plant-Powered 15!

Nicole captured every recipe in the Plant-Powered 15, in a full-size photo. One thing I hear from readers most often is “we want more photos of recipes”. I couldn’t agree more. (And, as a side note, my next book will also have photos of every recipe).

So, what types of recipes are in the Plant-Powered 15? To start, all the recipes are whole-foods vegan recipes. And, all the recipes are made without any added oils. That’s what you have been asking for, with emails and facebook comments and tweets and more… that’s what I’m delivering. You can be sure you aren’t losing flavor, though. Many of us know from a culinary perspective that fat is a flavor carrier. You are NOT losing flavor in these recipes. The flavor stays, and some whole-foods fats are included in certain recipes to ensure texture and taste are not sacrificed! These recipes are all also gluten-free if you are able to eat certified gf oats. Not all recipes use oats, of course, but that is the only ingredient that requires mention for gluten-free readers.

Here are all the recipes included in your Plant-Powered 15! (along with a few sample photos)

  1. Almond Zen Granola
  2. Pumpkin Seed and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Bars  Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Chip Oat Bars from the Plant-Powered 15 ebook
  3. Creamy House Dressing
  4. Green Goddess Dressing
  5. Orange-Miso Dressing
  6. Wonder Spread  Wonder Spread from the Plant-Powered 15 ebook
  7. Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes
  8. Presto Pistachio Pasta  prestopistachiopesto
  9. “SweetBalls” (yes, I said it!)
  10. Umami Sun-Dried Tomato and Almond Burgers
  11. Sneaky Chickpea Burgers
  12. Mac-nificent  Mac-nificent - from the Plant-Powered 15 ebook
  13. Coconut Pillows
  14. Sticky Almond Blondies  Sticky Almond Blondies from the Plant-Powered 15 ebook
  15. Peanut Butter Munchy Squares

The Plant-Powered 15 is now officially available! You can pick up a copy here:
Add to Cart

View Cart

And you can also link through to purchase on my “Books” page at anytime.

Please come back and tell me your recipe experiences from this ebook. I’d love to know which recipe caught your eye first, what you tried straight away, and which recipes are your favorites!

Pureed Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew with Chickpeas (vegan and gluten-free)

My kitchen has been filled with sweet potato goodness this past week. I have created at least three new recipes using glorious, nutritious, delicious SWEET POTATOES!  These recipes are for a new project (hope to share details very soon)!

sweetpotatopeanutstew2

Today, I am sharing this most satisfying, flavorful, Pureed Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew with Chickpeas.  It combines sweet potatoes with earthy spices, a good dose of fresh ginger, and just a small amount of peanut (or nut) butter.  The nut butter isn’t heavy – you know how sometimes you have a peanutty or nutty stew, and it’s just too rich and cloying?  This one gives depth of flavor without overwhelming the other ingredients.  The soup is pureed and then whole chickpeas are added for more texture and protein.

But FIRST, let’s share a little sweet potato luv

Sweet potatoes are truly one of my very favorite plant-powered foods.  If you know my books, you know that I use sweet spuds often in my books, and make the distinction between orange and yellow varieties.  In Canada, most grocery stores label the yellow spuds simply as “sweet potatoes”, while the orange spuds are called “yams” (either jewel yams or garnet yams).  Why there is so much variance in classification I do not know – and it causes confusion since in other areas yams refer to these huge tubers.

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam

When I specify using one versus the other, it’s not just for color.  The texture and flavor of sweet potatoes differ by variety.  The orange spuds are sweeter than the yellow, and also more moist and somewhat more fibrous (stringier).  The yellow are a little more dense/dry, and not quite as sweet.  I often use them for sweet potato fries, because they do not crush/squish as easily.  But, both are delicious for sweet fries, and for many other recipe uses.  (If you have Let Them Eat Vegan, try out the “Sunshine Fries with Fresh Rosemary and Coarse Sea Salt” using the yellow sweets!)

Our whole family loves sweet potatoes.  Oddly, our eldest loves them baked, but not so much as fries, whereas the younger girls love them pretty much any way!  Whenever I make them into fries, hubby says “how can anyone NOT like sweet potato fries, they’re like candy?!”  They become so caramelized and sweet, they really are almost like candy!  Perhaps that’s why some folks don’t like them as fries?  Are they too sweet for french fries purists?!  I don’t know… I just know WE love ’em!  (YOU?!)

sweetpotatopeanutstew

So, let’s get to this stew!  This recipe is from my 3rd book, eat, drink & be vegan.  If you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Puréed Spicy Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew with Chickpeas gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free  LINK to RECIpage to print/share

1 tbsp water

5 1⁄2 – 6 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (see note)

2 cups onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

3 – 4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp cumin seeds (not ground cumin)

3 – 31⁄2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp paprika

1⁄4 – 1⁄2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

2 cups vegetable stock

3 cups water

2 1/2 – 4 tbsp fresh ginger, grated (adjust to taste)

2 tbsp natural peanut butter (can substitute almond or cashew butter)

2 cups cooked chickpeas

3–4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

lime wedges (for serving)

fresh cilantro, chopped (optional, for serving)

In a large pot on medium heat, add water, sweet potatoes, onion, celery, garlic, salt, cumin seeds, ground coriander, paprika, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 5–7 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add stock, water, and 1 tbsp ginger (reserve remaining 1-2 tbsp). Stir to combine and increase heat to bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15–18 minutes or longer, until sweet potatoes have completely softened. Stir in remaining ginger (adjusting to taste) and peanut butter. With a hand blender, puree soup until just smooth.  Stir in chickpeas and lime juice, and serve with additional lime wedges and fresh cilantro.  Makes 7-8 servings.

Note: This soup uses the orange-flesh tubers that many people know as sweet potatoes. In some countries, like Canada, they are commonly referred to as yams. You can use garnet or jewel yams … or sweet potatoes; just be sure the flesh is orange.

sweetpotatopeanutstew3

Do you have a favorite – orange or yellow sweet potatoes?  Why?  What are some of your favorite sweet spud recipes?

Sugar-Free Vegan Caramel Apples

Did you love caramel and candy apples as a kid?

Sugar-free caramel apples by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen #vegan #glutenfree

I sure did, though as a juvenile junk-food-junkie, I opted to eat the caramel or candy – but leave the apple behind (so sad)!  Don’t believe this ‘Queen Bean’ had such a penchant for junk? … Proof that my sweet tooth started pretty darn early… frosting was my gateway to mars bars, fun dip, Mackintosh’s toffee, and pixy sticks.

2 year old sugar boost!

These days I prefer a treat without the processed sugars, chemicals and colors… and a caramel apple that won’t pull out a filling! (The candy of my youth has provided comfortable living for quite a few dentists!)

In my prevegan days, I once made more traditional caramel apples. They were messy, sticky, and SO much clean-up. I can assure you these caramel apples are far easier – yes, some prep and cleaning, but much simpler.

These apples are made with a date caramel, which is pretty effortless compared to stovetop caramel – it just requires a couple of steps (soaking the dates, then draining and processing with a few other ingredients).  Once the caramel is made, you smooth a layer around your apples of choice, and add a coating (if you like).  Here is the caramel, up close!

Let’s talk about the apples for a moment…

I think one of the reasons I never cared much for the actual apple part in those candy and caramel apples of my youth is because it was typically a McIntosh apple.  I’m not a fan of McIntosh apples to begin with – a little sour and mealy for my liking, I prefer a crisp, crunchy, sweet apple like Gala, Fuji, Spartan, or Sweet Orin.  So, as a kid, to bite through a sweet, sticky caramel coating into a sour apple… not my idea of food fun.  Might be appreciated by older kids and adults, but for me – did NOT work.

You can choose any apple you like for these treats, but I opt for one of the sweeter, crisper varieties mentioned above.  Then… for coatings.  In these photos you’ll see I”ve used coconut (unsweetened), and also grated chocolate (use a vegetable peeler to get some shavings from a chocolate bar).  Obviously if using the dark chocolate these apples aren’t entirely sugar-free – but with a good quality, higher cocoa content dark chocolate, the sugar content is much lower than a milk chocolate.  Then, do you see the other coating?  That is almond meal!  I think it is fabulous with the caramel. You could also combine the almond meal with dark chocolate, that would be incredible. At first, I wasn’t sure if the almond meal would fly, but it DOES.  And, because it is much finer than chopped nuts, it holds to the caramel very well!

I think I’ve talked enough, it’s time to snack! Enjoy…

Healthy, Sugar-Free Vegan Caramel Apples gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free

RECIpage link to print/share

1 1/2 cups pitted dates, lightly packed

1/2 cup plain non-dairy milk (to soak dates)

3 1/2 – 4 tbsp raw cashew butter (see note and can substitute)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean)

1/8 tsp (rounded) sea salt

couple pinches freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

4-6 organic apples (or more, depending on size)

popsicle sticks or spoons

Coatings: unsweetened shredded coconut, grated chocolate, mini chocolate chips, chopped dried cranberries, almond meal!, chopped pecans, etc.

First, combine the dates with the non-dairy milk in a bowl.  Let soak for about an hour.  Then, drain the dates, gently pushing the excess milk through a sieve.  In a food processor, combine the dates with the cashew butter, vanilla, and sea salt (and nutmeg, if using).  Process until very smooth, scraping down the processor bowl as needed, and puree again.  This will take several minutes.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate.  When ready to coat your apples, insert a popsicle stick into the stem end of each apple (if you don’t have any sticks handy, try inverting a spoon so you insert the handle into the apple and you hold the rounded ‘spoon’ end).  Then, simply lift the apple and use a butter knife or spatula to coat your apples with the caramel (not too thick as the caramel is very sweet, but thick enough for it to be substantial and for the toppings to adhere).  Place in a container or on a tray or baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and serve, or refrigerate for up to a day before serving.

Nut butter Notes:  I really like raw cashew butter in this caramel for a couple of reasons.  First, it is a very thick/dense nut butter, so it helps make the caramel a little thicker.  Second, it has a mellow, soft taste that works well in this caramel.  But, you could substitute regular cashew butter, or raw/regular almond butter, or macadamia butter.  So, for best flavor I’d choose either cashew, almond, or macadamia nut butter.  If you have a nut allergy, you can either opt for sunflower butter (and maybe add some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice – it IS pumpkinfest! – to the mixture to bump up the flavor), or omit altogether and just have a date paste.  This also works if you want to reduce the fat content in the caramel – you can either reduce the nut butter or omit it altogether.

Kitchen Tip:  This makes a softer caramel, easy for spreading.  If you’d like a firmer caramel, simply omit the soaking step, and combine the dates with the cashew buttter (or other nut butter), using the full 4 tbsp (1/4 cup).  The mixture will form into a ball in the food processor.  You can use it to roll for little chewable caramels for children that can be left as is, or coated in grated chocoate (or ground chocolate chips).

Leftovers?: If you have leftover date caramel, it can be kept in a container, refrigerated, for a week or longer.  Use it as a spread for toast, sliced apple or pear, muffins, crisp breads, etc.

Have you ever made caramel apples?  What is your apple of choice?

This recipe has been submitted for the FoodiePages CHEF’S BOX Challenge – wish me luck!

“Hello Vegan” Bars + more recipes!

Happy Friday my plant-powered friends!  I decided to add more content to my recipes page today, so you will now find recipes there for (click the photo to link directly to the recipe)…

Jerk Chickpeas

Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls

Vegveeta Dip!

No-Fu Love Loaf

Moroccan Bean Stew

Moroccan Bean Stew

Plus, two recipes that you might not have seen or tried just yet!…

Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Hummus from the hummus chapter in eat, drink & be vegan:

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (from ed&bv) photo credit: fullatlast.blogspot.ca

Plus, these babies!  “Hello Vegan” Bars from Let Them Eat Vegan:

"Hello Vegan" Bars (photo credit: tahinitoo.wordpress.com)

Hope you enjoy, have a great weekend!

Have you tried any of these recipes? (if so, have any favorites?)… and, what plant-powered dishes are YOU cooking up this weekend? 😀

Vegan Soup For The Soul: Tomato Lentil Soup with Cumin and Fresh Dill

Though it’s almost June, many days I am making soups as we are having some cool and damp spells.  Those of you that have been with me for a while know that I love soups.  LOVE.  For a few reasons…

(1) They are usually easy and quick to make.

(2) Typically the batches are large so you can refrigerate or freeze some for another lunch or dinner.

(3) They are the perfect vehicle for getting in the most nutrient-dense ingredients, like legumes, vegetables, and grains.

Not only do soups make it easy to get a healthy and delicious meal on the table, they are deeply comforting and pleasing to the senses.  There is something very soul-enriching in making and eating soups.  The chopping and prep calms my mind, the simmering of the stew fills the house with aromatics, and there is a feeling of ‘plenty’ to see a large pot of soup waiting to be eaten on the stove. Indeed, soups are soul-satisfying. So much for me that I my soups chapter in LTEV is called Vegan Soup for the Soul. :)

And, most often our whole family enjoys soups and stews.  Except when our girls detect pieces of bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and the most dreaded – whole spices!  The mood drifts from calm to mildly irksome as I watch them picking out one piece of onion, then red pepper, then cumin seed – and on.  Drives me banonkers.  (Kid-approved vocab, no need to call me on it.)

I made this Tomato Lentil Soup with Cumin and Fresh Dill from LTEV recently, and was SO surprised by our daughter’s reaction when I served it.  Went something like this:

Daughter:  What soup are we having tonight?

Me: I’m not sure if you remember this one, I haven’t made it for a while – have a taste.

Daughter: Yum, I LOVE this soup, this is the soup you made on New Year’s Eve!

That would be New Year’s Eve TWO years ago!  I was shocked she remembered it, particularly because I hadn’t given it a quirky name like “Sniffle Soup” – which they know very well.  But, their friends joined us that year on New Year’s and when I asked her how she remembered, she said “oh, I remember this soup because we all brought it downstairs and had it with that yummy bread and everyone loved it“.  We remember the food we love and memories are created, apparently even as wee ones.

Another food we love is cashew cheese.  For this version, I added fresh herbs and a just a couple of sun-dried tomatoes (one of the suggestions in the Truffled Cashew Cheese – recipe is in Let Them Eat Vegan).

Doesn’t the cheese look thick and rich and savory?  It is.  And, this bread is magnificent!  It is a gluten-free bread that I bought at a local shop – Antony and Sons.  It is made with coconut flour, and if I recall it has no yeast and also no oil. Yet, it isn’t dry and crumbly as some gf breads can be.

I share this soup with you today, because maybe it’s a little chilly where you are too… or maybe because you’d like to create a few new soup memories.  And, for the picky-poos in your house, they won’t notice ANY of the whole spices or veggies.  Trust me.  (Or at least, trust your beloved immersion blender!)

Tomato Lentil Soup with Cumin and Fresh Dill gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, oil-free   

ReciPage link to print/share

This soup may surprise you. Looking at it, you wouldn’t think it is as delicious as it is! The flavors are not aggressive, but meld in such a way that keeps you coming back for just one more ladleful.

splash of water

1 1/2 cups onion, chopped

3/4 cup celery, chopped

½ cup carrots, chopped

4 large cloves garlic

2 ½ cups white potato, peeled and chopped (OR 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, added later, see note)

1 – 1  ½  cups cauliflower, chopped

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dill seeds

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups red lentils, rinsed

2 cups vegetable stock

3 ½ – 4 cups water (more if using cooked rice, see note)

1 bay leaf (optional)

1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced tomatoes

2-3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

Heat the water in a large pot over medium or medium- high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, potato (if using), cauliflower, cumin seeds, ground cumin, dill seeds, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir, cover, and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lentils, stock, 3 1⁄2 cups of the water, and the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils have cooked through and are softened. Then, add the tomatoes (and brown rice, if using instead of potato), and turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth. Turn on the heat again to medium-high, and cook the soup for another 5 or more minutes to heat through (you can return the bay leaf to the soup or not).  Once reheated, stir in the fresh dill, remove the bay leaf, and serve, sprinkling with extra fresh dill, if desired (chives or green onions are also nice addition, as pictured).  Serves 6 or more.

Savvy Subs and Adds: If you have leftover cooked brown rice, it substitutes well for the white potato. Simply omit the potato, and add the cooked rice later in the cooking process, along with the canned tomatoes.

Serving Suggestions: Try with a large Classic Caesar Salad, topped with Brazil Nut Parmezan.

Recipe from Let Them Eat Vegan.

I most love making soups with beans… lots and lots of beans!  What are your top-picks when making soups, and do you have a favorite soup recipe?