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  • Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (Plus: how to roast tomatoes + red peppers!)

    It seems that I am on a soup kick lately. Missed that? Well if you did, here you go!

    And now, probably my favorite, right up there with the sweet potato, carrot and coconut soup, is this creamy, dreamy roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Campbell's has nothing on us (ps: have you seen wtf is in canned soup lately? Sheesh). 

    This soup is perfect for a late harvest of peppers, and the last of the tomatoes before the frost hits. You can dunk you favorite grilled hunk of bread into a bowl of this, or make a grilled cheeze (or cheese, however you roll!). 

    However, if you don't want to make the soup, then at least take the time to roast some red peppers and tomatoes. They are great on sandwiches and salads, pureed into sauces and soups, flavor bombs for humms, or toppers for pizza. Whatever you choose, I highly suggest you get on the roasting train soon. And bonus: roasted tomatoes and peppers can be frozen! You can throw them into sauces, soups or even hummus in the dead of winter, and have a pleasant throw-back to summer. Yum. 

    You could in theory roast any type of tomatoes or peppers, but I chose to roast sweet red peppers (Italian Frying Peppers) and some of the bounty of organic heirloom cherry tomatoes from our CSA farm. I loved both of these because they are naturally sweet, so roasting not only adds a nice depth of roasted (go figure!) flavor, but also concentrates those natural sugars, and may even caramelize some of them if you're lucky! 

    If you choose to roast other tomatoes, just follow the same directions for the cherry tomatoes, and cook longer. The goal is wrinkled skin, some brown bits, and a roasty-toasty tomato aroma. You got this. The key is low oven temperatures, and a slow roast so you don't burn the 'maters.

    The peppers couldn't be easier: all you do is wash, chop, trim, smash, broil and optionally peel the skin off, or leave on for a more roasted flavor. Boom.The key to the soup recipe is the creamy basil cashew cheeze. I added a generous spoonful, probably 1/2 cup or so. However, you can substitute 1/2 cup soaked cashews, a handful of basil, and squeeze of lemon juice for very similar results. I have made both versions, and certify that both are equally as delcious and satisfying. 

    Yum allllll around. I promise you won't miss the canned stuff once to try this soup!



    Roasted Tomatoes // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes however many roasted tomatoes you decide to roast - the soup recipe below calls for 3 cups roasted tomatoes // 

    • Tomatoes, washed and thoroughly dried
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Sea Salt

    1. Preheat oven to 300F*. Wash tomatoes (if needed), and thoroughly pat them dry. Slice in half. Place cut side UP on a parchment lined baking sheet. *lightly* drizzle each with olive oil and very lightly sprinkle with sea salt-I used about 3/4 tsp for an entire sheet. Don't use too much, or else too much water will come out of your tomatoes, leaving them a soggy mess.

    2. Bake for 1 to 2 hours, or until the tomaotes look dry, golden in spots, and have slightly wrinkled. Taste as you bake, and pull them out at your desired sweetness/doneness.

    3. Allow to cool, and then store in a covered container for up to 1 week in the fridge. Can be froze as well, but will be mushy when thawed, but still perfect for soup, sauces and hummus. 

    *I have tried baking at higher temps, ~350F, but find the tomatoes get tougher and less intensely sweet the faster they are cooked.


     Wash and dry the tomatoes...

    Cut in half, placed on a parchment (don't skip the parchment...)

    Drizzle with a touch of oil and sprinkled with sea salt, then into the oven!

    Roast...patience...good smells....then you're done!



    Roasted Red Peppers // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; nut-free // makes however many roasted tomatoes you decide to roast - the soup recipe below calls for 1 large roasted red pepper // 

    • Red Peppers

    1. Preheat broiler. Wash, dry and trim peppers of their stem ends. Cut in half, or whatever sized chunks you like, and remove seeds and pulp.

    2. Place peppers on a parchment lined baking tray, and smash them flat with your palm (they won't be perfectly smashed, but this helps them brown more evenly).

    3. Broil for 3-7 minutes, or until you see dark spots and blisters on the skins form. The parchment you use may also turn dark brown-just beware of this! Take peppers out once desired roasted level is achieved. Allow them to cool, and optionally peel the skin off if you'd like-it should come right off. Store in a container in the fridge for up to 1 week. The peppers can also be frozen, but will be mushy when thawed, but perfect for soups, sauces and hummus!


    Procure peppers...wash and dry them.Trim and chop in half

    On parchment, gently smashed, and broiled to blackened perfection. Peel skins off, or leave on for a more smoky flavor. 



    Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; sugar-free // makes about 6-8 cups of soup // 

    • 1 roasted sweet red pepper (see above!)
    • 3 cups roasted tomatoes (see above!)
    • 3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
    • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 3/4 cup sweet yellow onion or leek
    • 1/2 cup soaked cashews*, rinsed and drained (soak for at least 4 hours, up to overnight, using hot water to expedite the process if needed)
    • 1-2 TB nutrititional yeast (optional)
    • Optional: 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, pluse a few more to garnish if desired
    • squeeze fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • salt and pepper to taste

    *I used ~1/2 cup basil cashew cheeze: blend 1/2 cup soaked and rinsed cashews, 2 TB lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, 1 TB olive oil, 2 TB nutritional yeast, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1-3 TB water or enough to help blend into a thick paste consistency. Simply throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until a thick paste. Great on pizza, toast, or used as a spread for grilled cheeze. 

    1. In a pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, and cook onions, garlic cloves and celery until onions are transluscent and soft. 

    2. While that mixture cooks, prepare your cashew cheeze if using (tip: no need to clean the blender after making the cheeze, just carry on with the soup). If not using the cashew cheeze, then drain and rinse your soaked cashews. Place in a blender, and add the remaining ingredients. Start with 3 cups of stock, adding more if you need to help blend the soup.

    3. Once onions mixture is cooked, add to the blender with the rest of the ingredients, and puree everything until smooth. This may take a few minutes, depending on the power of your blender. I blended mine for 3-4 minutes with the Vitamix. Taste and adjust seasonings, and re-blend for a moment to mix. Soup can be stored in the fridge for later, or added to a pan to heat if your blender did not heat it thoroughly. Will last for 3-4 days, or could be frozen for 1-2 months.


    The roasted tomatoes (these we roasted whole as an experiment, and I found out that I much prefer the flavor of the version I shared above with the tomatoes cut in half), 1 whole roasted red pepper and celery. Celery is optional, but adds a nice savory depth to the soup! Only use 1 stalk, as a little goes a long way in pureed soups.

    Onions, garlic cloves, celery and olive oil in the pan. Cook to concentrate flavors and soften.Add everything to the blender:A good dollop of basil-cashew cheeze (if using-if not, just put the soaked cashews in): Blend!!Taste and adjust salt, then either pour into bowls and enjoy right away, or save for later and re-heat as needed. Perfect with a hunk of toasted bread, or your favorite grilled cheezy sandwich.

    Enjoy...think about summer...and get ready for the cold weather. More soup will be needed....



  • Citrus & Basil White Sangria

    Have you been eyeing those bottles of pre-made sangria at your local store? Well, I am here to save you. Don't do it. Seriously, just walk away. It is never as good as you think it will be, and is likely full of sugar...not that you're looking for a health beverage when sipping the 'gria, but if you're going to treat yourself, at least do it with quality ingredients!

    This week, I proclaimed that I needed to take part in more summery activities, despite being busy at school. A picnic dinner was in order!! I made an effort to prep extra pesto and tomato pasta the night before (still loving the gluten-free pasta from Trader Joe's!), using CSA basil and some homegrown tomatoes. And, to make it super special, (drum role!) sangria to sip on while enjoying the evening. Needless to say, I was impressed with myself, considering the past 2 weeks have been super busy and quite stressful at school (read: a major impetus for making this white sangria was the fact that I may or may not have left a bottle of pinot in my freezer, thus renduring the cork to almost explode out of the bottle, leaving my freezer a wine-y, sticky mess; I think mostly frozen white wine is the perfect occasion to make this sangria, and laugh at the crappy last week you had while sipping on the repurposed wine). PS: those are basil flowers floating on top of the 'gria. They are super fragrant and of course, totally edible.

    This sangria is a bit lighter than the traditional red sangria. It has a heavy note of citrus, is fortified with white wine and brandy (or cognac, which is all I had on hand; feel free to use either, or even triple sec if you have it), and is then elevated to a summery level with a basil simple syrup. I have seen recipes that call for various fresh fruit and berries (peaches! raspberries! strawberries!), so add those as you would like. Seriously, who ever complained about boozy-wine marinated fruit on a hot summer evening? If you don't have basil, you can omit it. Mint could be a sub, but it may combat the brandy/cognac flavor...if you try the mint, let me know how it goes! If you'd like to take the sangria to a lighter level, consider topping off glasses of this with sparkling water or ginger beer. Either way, cheers to summer-get out there and enjoy it while it lasts! 

    PS: not a fan of white wine? Or prefer the more traiditional red sangria? Check out this recipe at Minimalist Baker! I may have to make this one for the weekend ahead...!



    Citrus and Basil White Sangria // plant-based; vegan; refined sugar-free; nut-free; oil-free; gluten-free // makes five 8 oz. cups, enough for 2-3 people to share //

    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4-1/2 cup agave, honey or coconut nectar (I used 1/4 to keep it not too sweet; you can use sugar in a pinch)
    • 10-12 large basil leaves
    • 1 bottle white wine (I used Italian Pinot Grigio)
    • 3 oranges or similar cirtus, or 6 clemintines, cut into thin slices 
    • 1/2 grapefruit, cut into thin half moon slices (I used an organic white grapefruit)
    • 1 lemon, yellow skin peeled into 1" wide strips (I got about 6 strips)
    • 1/4 cup brandy or cognac 
    • 1/4-1/2 cup orange juice (I used freshly squeezed, but quality bottled juice works too)
    • optional: sparkling water or ginger beer; fresh berries or peach slices, or other fruit desired; additional basil leaves and flowers.

    1. combine the water, sweetener, halve the lemon strips, and basil in a small pan. Heat to a gentle simmer (if using sugar, be sure it is all dissolved).  Off the heat, and steep for 10-20 minutes. You may do this up to 1 day ahead, and simply place the basil infusion into the fridge in a covered container or jar. 

    2. In a large jar or other container that will hold ~5 cups, combine all the ingredients, other than the sparkling water or ginger beer if using, and any berries/fruit you want to garnish with.

    3. Allow the sangria to steep for at least 20 minutes, up to overnight. Pour into glasses, topping off with sparking water or ginger beer, and garnishing with additonal fresh fruit if desired. The sangria can sit in the fridge in a glass container with a lid for a few days while you enjoy it, or can even be made several days ahead. Enjoy!



    All the stuff!

    The citrus. I love the colors!!

    My super tiny and cute 8 oz. copper pot with the basil, water, sweetener (I used coconut nectar) and lemon peel. Why? Because this is a great excuse to use such a tiny pot, and because my Dad got it for me for christmas last year...so there!

    The finished sangria! This was 24 hours after I prepped it. The flavors steeped, the fruit got boozy, and I got increasingly excited about drinking this as the day progressed. Totally easy and worth it! Cheers!

    Refreshing, slightly boozy, a little herbal from the basil, and a bit tart from the grapefruit. Of course, I sprinkled some basil flowers on top...cause why not?

    Cheers to summer!

  • Fried Summer Squash or Zucchini Pasta Salad

    First off, HAPPY SUMMER! I am so excited. I am running out of time to do my research and write my thesis, but here I am making glorius summer salads. Whatever-you live once, and I LOVE summer. It is right up there with autumn. And, I know I was on a gluten-free challenge, but I also live with an Italian. That means carbs are a reality, especially with pesto season upon us. So what was a girl to do?? Uhh...Trader Joe's to the resecue!! Have you tried their gluten-free pasta made from quinoa and brown rice? I am in love. Indeed, even my boyfriend had a hard time discerning in a side-by-side taste test the difference, and mixed in with a flavorful herby dressing with lots of summer veggies? Win! And at less than $2.50 per one pound bag, you get several servings for an affordable price. Whatever variety of pasta you do use, I think the bite-sized pasta shapes are best here, so save that bag of angel hair, linguini or spaghetti for summer tomato sauce dishes. 

    This pasta was inspired by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Is there any recipe that she shares that isn't simple and delicious? Now, I know what you are thinking: frying zucchini or summer squash? Won't that be super greasy and heavy, on top of an oil-based herb dressing? Asnwer: no (and yes, I too was skeptical at first!). If executed properly, pan frying is actually a dry cooking method; the water in the produce steams away, and higher temperatures, thanks to the oil, produce a brown, crispy texture. The key is to keep the oil at the proper temperature, as oil that is not hot enough can seep into the food, and too hot oil can be a smokey mess. Be sure that when you add batches of the zucchini or squash, that it sizzles right away-and doesn't just sit there in a pool of oil. Yes, you're probably adding some extra calories here, but to help bulk-up the dish and dilute any frying oil that does make it into the zucchini, I added a ton (yes, a metric ton) of fresh veggies. Tomatoes, arugula, green onions, garlic...be creative with what you add in addition to the zucchini, and suit to what is in season. My additions were based on what was in my fridge/CSA box. A nice dose of lemon juice and zest really lighten this salad and make the flavors pop-so don't skip the lemon!!

    I used  olive oil for the frying step, but please feel free to substitue any oil you'd like for this (yes, I do know that it has a lower smoke point than other oils). Virgin coconut, sunflower, grapeseed, etc. would work, too. But please, please use a good quality extra virgin oil for the pesto...it is a requirement, not a suggestion, since it is the basis for the salad's dressing. Not a fan of nutritional yeast or it freaks you out? Then omit it, or add your favorite locally sourced hard italian-style cheese, such as romano, asiago, parmesan (look for a veggie rennet type if you're a true stickler about this, as traditional is made from animal rennet) or even ricotta salata. 

    p.s.: I betcha a picnic or cookout would be a great occasion to make this! And, bonus! You can make it up to a day ahead of time, and let the flavors meld in the fridge. Boom! You're awesome.



    Fried Zucchini or Summer Squash Pasta Salad // plant-based, vegan, gluten-free option, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free option // Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side //

    For the Zucchini/Summer Squash:

    • 3-4 small/medium zucchini or summer squash
    • 3-4 TB olive oil (enough to cover the pan bottom), or other oil for pan frying 
    • Sea Salt

    For the Pesto:

    • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, or other fresh herb combination, like parsley and basil
    • 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic (2 if you like it super garlic-y)
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice 
    • 1 TB nutritional yeast
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 cup walnuts or pinenuts (use sunflower seeds or just omit entirely for nut-free), toasted

    For The Salad:

    • 2 cups gluten-free or other favorite pasta (I used Trader Joe's Quinoa and Brown Rice Rotini)
    • 1 1/2 to 2 cups tomaotes (I used small San Marzano; a similar cherry/grape tomato is perfect here)
    • 1 1/2 TB capers, rinsed (salt packed or brined will both work), OR finely chopped kalamata or other quality olive
    • 3 scallions/green onions, white and green parts
    • 1 TB red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 4 heaping cups arugula or spinach
    • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
    • Nutritional yeast, if deisred (or favorite hard Italian cheese) for topping

    1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside to cool a bit. While you wait for the pasta to cook, carry on:

    2. In a medium to large pan, bring the 1/3 cup oil up to tempertaure over medium-high heat. Slice zucchini or squash into 1/4" rounds. Fry in a few batches, to make sure the oil stays hot. The zucchini/squash should sizzle immediately when added to the oil. Cook until golden brown, then flip. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack to allow excess oil to drain, and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

    3. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients for the pesto. If necessary, add a TB or two of water or more oil to help blend. Taste, and adjust seasoning. 

    4. Cut tomaotes into small bite-sized pieces, chop scallions into small rounds, and add to a large bowl or container. Add the remaining ingredients for the salad, fried zucchini, and the pesto. Gently toss in the cooked and slightly cooled pasta, and adjust seasoning/lemon juice and zest. Serve with freshly cracked black peper and nutritional yeast, if desired. Pasta will keep for up to 4 days, covered in the fridge.



     The zucchini and summer squash, all green and gold and glorius!

    Cut into rounds...and ready to pan fry:

    Fried and fabulous (did you know that is a food cart here in Madison??):

    Ok-we're making progress! The arugula, tomatoes, green onions, capers (I got my salt-packed capers from Fraboni's Italian market in Madison. Love that place, and spend waaay too much when I go there! Fun Fact: my boyfriend's grandfather had a butcher shop right accross the street from the Fraboni's on Regent street, back in the glory days of the Greenbush area in Madison!).

    Ok, now for the pesto! You may toast your nuts (ha!) or sunflower seeds if you are using them. Really, I included this picture because my boyfriend, as awesome as he is, got me an All-Clad Copper Core 10" fying pan for by birthday. Can I tell you how amazing nice cookware is? Such a treat after dealing with my sub-par pans for years! I will slowly have nice cookware...one piece at a time!

    Everything for the pesto into a blender or food processor:

    And there you have it-a delicious vegan pesto perfect for this recipe OR for anything you'd like to use it for.

    Now we gently toss everything together. You are done! Make sure to taste for seasonings and lemon-I usually have to spike mine with another pinch of sea salt. But do your thang!

    Enjoy now, or cover and place into the fridge. You can snack on this all week, or share it at a summer picnic or cookout. Enjoy and HAPPY SUMMER!