Tag Archives: vegan

Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme

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Near the end of my spring term, my biochemistry professor began a week on both an uplifting and cynical note: he encouraged us not to stress about the class or final too much and then relayed the stark truth that we never know what the next day will bring and we should make the most of enjoying the present. I could tell from the weeks previous that something was happening in his personal life that was challenging, and though he shared only a hint beyond that particular day, his words really stirred me.

 

I’ve shared only a little of it here, but in the past couple years I’ve been going through somewhat of a personal growing up/life upheaval. Above all, I guess I’m slowly learning to simplify and downsize what I accomplish in a day and opt for a little less stress and “striving to.” I’m also working on letting go of a manic hold on the future and just let it happen. My mantra of High Intention, Low Attachment, one I learned from a Running on Om podcast, is one I have to remind myself daily. In the spare moments I have now, I’ve been trying to take it all in with all my senses: the colors, the scents, the sounds, and yes, the flavors.

 

I can for sure say I fail as much as I succeed, but I think it’s a growing up kind of pursuit that I need in the way that only big life challenges can ask of us.

 

One way I’ve been achieving more of living in the moment is by moving many meals outside. The other is by working with the freshest produce, whether it’s from our own garden, harvested right before dinner, or from local farms. We are truly spoiled in this season and getting to walk outside and harvest a basket of something different each day has me being reminded that being able to do so was both a major priority for William and I, and that we are so privileged to do so. It is a privilege I do not take for granted.

 

Wherever you’re at in this season within the grand scheme of things, whether everything is wonderful or larger struggles have come your way, I hope you take a little moment to stop and look around, and find simple joy in the process.

 

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Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme, serves 4-5
Soup might seem an ironic thing to eat in this warm season, but energetically, it is helpful to our bodies to be heated mildly so we can use our internal thermostat to self-regulate back to a comfortable state. It is much less harsh and draining than eating very cold foods, like ice cream or large helpings of cold melon, to cool down quickly. For this reason I think, I tend to favor light soups more in the summer than in other seasons. This one, with its emphasis on fennel, is quite light and simple. The flavor of the fennel really shines through, and there is just a sweet hint of the honey and thyme with each bite. You’ll want to serve it as starter or on days when only a light meal is preferred. As I note in the directions, taste and adjust flavors at the end. Depending on preference, you might want to add more or less salt, honey, lemon, or even cashew butter. 

1/2 tsp. coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 large fennel bulbs, diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup cooked white beans or garbanzos
1 tsp. salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbs. cashew butter
2 tsp. honey

  • Melt the oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add in the diced onions, celery, fennel, and thyme. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened but haven’t yet browned. Add a splash or two of water as needed.
  • Add in the garlic and cook, uncovered, for about a minute more. Add in the beans, then pour in the broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • When the soup is done simmering, pour it into a blender in batches, to bring it to a smooth puree. On the last batch, spoon in the cashew butter and puree in.
  • Add all the now pureed soup back into the pot and then bring up to a simmer again. Add the lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and honey. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust as needed. You might find it needs more salt, pepper, lemon juice, or honey. Add a small amount of whatever it needs until it tastes balance and “right.” You’ll know and it will be lovely.
  • Ladle into bowls, and serve with warm bread as desired.

Raw Carrot Cake, for a birthday

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Dropping in super quick on this mid-summer day. The weather around here is finally reaching its appropriate (hot and summery) temperature  and The Recipe Redux is celebrating a birthday. I think you all know I prefer to celebrate birthdays with carrots, in the form of cake, so we’re going to be enjoying this weather-appropriate tiny Raw Carrot Cake.

It is tiny because I decided to make a little one to serve four to six and as you may know, raw desserts can pack a lot of nutrition in dense little (tasty!) bites. Savor them slowly and they are so worth it.

 

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Raw Carrot Cake, serves 4-6
I’ve been experimenting with this recipe for quite some time and nearly made it for my own birthday in lieu of a baked carrot cake. It’s super easy and can be made in any pan or container. If you’re going with a single layer, a 4×4 inch size would be best, or double the recipe for a crowd and it will fit easily into an 8×8. Otherwise, find your tiny flat-bottomed container of choice and layer it up, as I did. A couple more notes on ingredients: I tried a variety of flour ratios and really prefer a good base of oats as I don’t enjoy all nuts but this can be made with all almond flour to equal 1 cup in total. The addition of orange zest or essential oil in the cake and frosting is completely optional but brings a really nice flavor to finish so use only if you prefer or have on hand. 

Cake:
1/2 cup medjool dates, soaked for a few minutes
splash of water from soaked dates
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup oats, finely ground
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
zest of 1/4 of an orange, optional

Frosting:
1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
2-3 Tbs. reserved date water, as needed
1/2 Tbs. brown rice syrup or honey
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
1/2 Tbs. melted coconut oil
zest of 1/8 an orange or one drop orange essential oil

  • Line two circular pans of choice or a 4-inch square dish with parchment paper, leaving some of the paper to come up the sides, and set aside.
  • In a food processor, puree the oats until they come into a fine flour. Then transfer them to a small bowl and pulse the dates in the processor with a splash or two of their soaking liquid until they come into a chunky paste. Add the vanilla and puree a little longer until almost smooth. Add the grated carrots and pulse a few more times so they are broken down a bit more but not completely smooth. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the oats. Add the almond flour, spices, salt, and orange zest if using. Mix it with a spatula or spoon until evenly mixed. Then, press this cake mixture into the parchment lined pans. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to frost.
  • For the frosting, in your food processor again, combine the soaked and drained cashews, 1-2 Tbs. reserved date water, brown rice syrup or honey, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Blend on high until you have a smooth and creamy consistency. Then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and drop of orange oil or zest and puree again, adding a little more date water as needed if it’s really thick. Scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for about an hour to firm it up.
  • To finish, lift the cake layers from their container, and frost using as much of the cashew frosting as you prefer. Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for about 5 days.

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The Best (Humble) Carrot Cake

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I turned 30 this last weekend. It was a birthday that both crept up and one I had been thinking about for a while. When I was a teenager, I imagined I’d have my career and life 100 percent sorted by now, already fabulous at or well on my way to being a professor/dean/mom/farm wife/NGO executive/etc.

Hah. The last decade has taught me life doesn’t work so linearly. I’m only just beginning to give myself the opportunity to reach for the career I think will fulfill me–the one that doesn’t have more emphasis on the glamorous or romantic title or idea of it but will actually make me feel full in the daily in and out. And I know now I may well pivot in process. I’m learning we change our minds as time goes on.

I’ve also learned that second, third, fourth, and more tries are often necessary to get something right. For instance, and definitely on the lighter side, I made myself birthday cake. I do almost every year as I love the opportunity to experiment with exactly the flavors of cake I want to enjoy, but I also don’t care for cake or sweets often. Last year I made myself a cardamom vanilla cake with cashew cream frosting. I know because the (failed) recipe was sitting among my draft blog posts for the whole year. This year, I was torn between re-experimenting with that flavor combination and making my absolute favorite, carrot cake. I chose the cardamom vanilla. I even nerded out completely and experimented with three different frostings ranging the full spectrum from all natural/nutritious ingredients to completely not. I generally don’t even like frosting.

Anyway.
The finished cake was gorgeous.
Even if one finger lick of the frosting gave me an immediate sugar rush. 
It was pretty, rustic, and exactly the effect I was going for.
See?

 

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Looks can be deceiving.
I’ve learned that multiples of times over the past decade as well.
The vanilla cardamom was no good. Too dry even on the second attempt and following ratios I know should have worked. The cardamom’s flavor was barely apparent.

 

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Now over any desire to eat cake but with a fridge full of two more (much less sweet) frostings, I found myself with the overwhelming desire to go bake that carrot cake. I adapted this old favorite recipe.

It looked humble.
It tasted delicious.
I found myself eating much more than I needed* and not caring.

A light lesson for sure, but somehow it was fitting that my grand plans for a 30th birthday cake that had more outward beauty than actual enjoyable substance failed completely while the humble, comforting old favorite won out the day.

The same could be said for the day itself as I had visions of a big party or grand adventure to bring in the new decade, and ultimately decided to do exactly what I wanted, i.e. went out to a quiet dinner with William at a very Eugene restaurant, chose a table in the back corner that was a bit like we were eating in a cozy closet/backstage, enjoyed a meal that was basically a tasty plate of spinach, and then wandered home to watch an also very Eugene movie. And then I woke up the next day, my actual birthday, stayed home, baked cake, read, made a nice dinner but nothing more special than normal, and generally just relaxed.

It was the best.
*Also, no one really needs cake.
But sometimes the process–of failing, of trying again, of eventually succeeding, and of getting to share the experience and result with loved ones, whether it’s baking and eating cake or something much more challenging and life changing–is simply good for the soul.
I’m learning that too.

 

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The Best Carrot Cake (gluten-free + vegan optional)
makes two 6-inch layers 
 
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in warm water or black tea
1 cup whole-grain gluten free flour mix, below (or 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if not making gluten-free)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 plus 2 Tbs. canola oil
6 Tbs. aquafaba, 2 Tbs. ground flax + 6 Tbs. water, or 2 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 2 large)
cream cheese frosting:
4 oz. vegan (or regular) cream cheese
3 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
3 Tbs. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease, flour, and then line cake pans with parchment paper.
  • Soak the raisins in a small dish of warm water or black tea.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a medium bowl.
  • Whisk the brown sugar and oil together in a large bowl. Then add the aquafaba, flax mixture, or eggs; every method works well so use whatever you prefer. Then stir in the applesauce, vanilla, and flour mixture.
  • Drain the raisins from their liquid, and then fold them and the carrots into the mixture until combined. Divide the batter amongst the two prepared cake pans, and then gently lift and drop each filled pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. This will allow for more even baking and a flatter cake top. Bake until the layers are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and cool about 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Then set them aside on a rack to cool completely.
  • For the frosting:  Blend the cream cheese and coconut oil together in a food processor. Then add in the vanilla and maple syrup. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set up before icing the cake.
 
My Whole-Grain Gluten Free Flour Mix
2oo grams brown rice flour
200 grams millet flour
200 grams sorghum flour
100 grams buckwheat flour
150 grams tapioca starch
150 grams arrowroot starch
  • Sift all the flours together.  Use 1 cup for this recipe and save the remaining for other uses.

 

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat. Birthday playlist below!


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