Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Recipe: Herbed Pumpkin Soup with Carmelized Onions & Parsley Cashew Cream

New York City was plunged into Autumn this week. The trees have started changing colors, we've all broken out our fall jackets and scarves, and the heat was turned on in our apartment building (thank goodness! Felicity and I have been bundling in quilts in the mornings to stay warm!). To me, fall means pumpkin. Pumpkin scones, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin oatmeal, and pumpkin soup.

Rewind to last Friday afternoon, a lovely day in the mid 70s with sunshine: I was skyping with my mom, wondering what on earth to make for dinner. I wanted something really tasty and easy, and that wouldn't be considered too veganish for my dinner guest. My mom, bundled in a sweater and sipping tea in Minnesota, with weather in the mid-40s, suggested some pumpkin soup.

I had pumpkin in the fridge from muffins I'd made earlier that week. Pumpkin soup sounded easy and wonderful. Felicity and I put on our shoes, and walked to the store to purchase some onions, garlic, parsley, and a lovely loaf of jewish rye bread.

This pumpkin soup got a strong stamp of approval from my non-vegan dinner guest, who is really into good food and is herself an amazing cook. The baby loved it, and I loved it. It was so yummy that Felicity and I finished off our leftovers on Saturday for lunch. It was so yummy that I thought about it longingly for days afterwards, and then cooked it again for Ian last night. It's a good pumpkin soup.

Both times I served this soup with a simple green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, and rye bread toasts. When I ate my leftovers for lunch today, I cubed my very stale rye bread and made croutons, which was absolutely amazing and ramped up the "yum" factor even more.

Herbed Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Onions & Parsley Cashew Cream

You can really use almost any herbs in this soup that would go well with a Thanksgiving meal. I chose sage and some thyme the first time I made this soup, then tried sage and rosemary last night. I tend not to like cinnamon in my savory things, but if you're into that, this would be a good place to try it.

If you don't have an immersion blender, go ahead and use your blender to puree the soup. Don't worry about cleaning it out after you make the cashew cream - it will only enhance the soup. I would also suggest soaking the cashews in the water as you make the soup, it will help them blend more easily , and give a smoother textures to your cashew cream.


2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped

large pinch of salt
pinch of sugar/sucanat (optional)
1-2 teaspoons of wintery herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
handful of chopped parsley
2 cups fresh pumpkin, or 15 oz. canned pumpkin
4 cups vegetable broth (or vegetable Better than Bouillon and water)
splash of apple cider vinegar (optional)
Parsley Cashew Cream (see below)


Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until glistening. Add onion and toss to coat in olive oil. Add salt and sugar (if using), add herbs, and stir again. Allow onions to caramelize, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning or sticking. Continue to cook onions about 20-30 minutes in this manner until they have a deep brown color and are very soft. You can skip this step and just brown them, but caramelizing the onions creates a lovely sweetness to this soup, and is a lovely pair with the pumpkin.

Create a small well in the onions, add a touch more olive oil, and add the garlic and half of the parsley. Saute until fragrant, then stir into onions. Stir in pumpkin and broth and stir until well incorporated. Let the soup cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors combine. If the soup is starting to simmer, reduce the heat a bit, you don't want it to cook at more than a very gentle boil.

When the soup is done cooking, remove it from the heat. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup thoroughly, so no chunks of parsley or onion remain. Add a splash or two of apple cider vinegar if desired, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the soup with some of the cashew cream drizzled on top, or stir all of it in the soup if you're more excited about a decadent taste than a decadent presentation - it will make the soup very creamy and add an extra two Yum Points.

Serves 6, 175 calories per serving. 6 grams protein per serving and high in Vitamin A.

Parsley Cashew Cream

I would suggest soaking the cashews the water for at least 30 minutes before making your cashew cream. If you do this, blend the cashews with their soaking water. If you are unable to do this, the cashews will still make a lovely cream, you may just have to blend them for an extra minute or two. 

Cashew cream can enhance many things and can be used in the place of dairy cream. This recipe can be made without the parsley (and even the salt), and will be equally delicious and a bit more versatile.


1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup water 
2-4 Tablespoons parsley, chopped


Place the cashews and water into the blender. Blend using the high speed until it forms a cream. Slowly add the chopped parsley, and a pinch or two of salt. Continue to blend 2-3 minutes until the cashews and parsley have completely broken down and have created a smooth cream. If the cashew cream seems to thick to you, feel free to add a Tablespoon or two of water, perhaps even more.

50 calories for every 2 Tablespoons, with 4 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of protein.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Cupcake Adventures [Part II]

After making cupcakes this weekend, I felt invigorated,and ready to continue my quest for the perfect vegan chocolate cupcake. Damn it, I know you're out there!

This afternoon, I whipped up the chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (referred to as VCTOW moving forward) by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Everything felt a little easier with these cupcakes - the ingredients were straight-forward, the measurements made sense, and they were lovely and simple, from start to finish.

Granted, these cupcakes aren't gluten-free, but they also don't claim to be the best cupcakes in NYC (by the way, there is no way on earth that the same cupcake recipe I followed carefully on Saturday matches any sort of recipe from the baker that makes the best cupcakes in the city, Ian and I call bunk!), and so don't have impossible standards to live up to.

So, my initial thoughts to compare:

The cupcakes I made two days ago from Babycakes are more interesting; the flavor of the cake itself is much deeper and fudgier, though a bit muffinesque in texture and crumb. The frosting was a big fail: too high maintenance (has to set 6+ hours before spreading, then requires the cupcakes to be refrigerated for storage, which completely destroys the texture of the cupcakes), difficult to spread (these are some ugly cupcakes!), has a very distinct 'soy' taste to it, and is grainy.

The cupcakes I made this afternoon from the VCTOW cookbook were good. My neighbor L., Designated Cupcake Taster #3, said her cupcake was comparable to one you'd find in a bakery. Ian, to quote, said, "This tastes like a cupcake from childhood. I can't believe this is a vegan cupcake." All good, right?

Maybe... I agree that it was a very good cupcake, certainly more of a success than the Babycakes recipe, but it tasted generic to me. The cupcake tasted and felt like it came from a box mix, and while the frosting had a slightly deeper chocolate flavor than you'd find in a frosting tub in the store, it was almost identical in texture and taste.

Some might be satisfied with that, but, as you may recall, I am an obnoxious baker that is looking for amazing texture paired with an interesting and distinct flavor. It was a good cupcake, but it didn't sing. So how do I accomplish this?

The quest continues.

   Overall Grade: 7.625
   Cupcake Flavor: 6
   Crumb: 9.5
   Frosting Flavor: 6
   Frosting Texture: 9

Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake

Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World 
Makes 9-12 Cupcakes


1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 granulated sugar or sucanat
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°F and line standard muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. You may need to sift the mix if you have any lumps or clumps. Set aside.

Stir in the sugar, oil, and vanilla into the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy and well combined (if you used sucanat, it will be grainy and settle towards the bottom - don't worry about this). Add half the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches. Beat until no large lumps or clumps remain.

Pour the batter into the liners, so they are almost full (a little over 1/3 cup). Bake 17-19 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool completely, then frost.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World 


1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine (vegan buttery sticks)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 Tablespoons soy milk or soy creamer


Using a hand mixer, beat the coconut oil and margarine until well combined and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder, continuing to beat until smooth. Keeping the mixer on medium, add the powdered sugar in batches, adding a splash of soy milk here and there as you go to keep it moistened (but be wary of adding too much!). Add the vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more.

The Cupcake Adventures [Part I]

If you know me at all, you know I'm am obnoxious baker. I'm the person that will spend all day in the kitchen, tell you I spent all day in the kitchen, linger as you take a bite of whatever I spent all day in the kitchen making, and wait for you to tell me that I am your baking goddess, and this is the best [insert whatever it is I've crammed in front of you and expected to you eat] you've ever had.

But wait, pause for a moment - vegan baking is a whole new monster. No longer can I refer to my well-loved copy of Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe Cookbook, or spend hours poring over recipe reviews on Epicurious.com to make sure I have the best possible [insert whatever it is I've crammed in front of you and expected to you eat]. I've been baking since the third grade, and I seriously feel like I'm starting from scratch.

Enter the CUPCAKES.

Felicity's first birthday is on December 1st. Being the obnoxious baker I am, I want to make cupcakes. I want to make the most amazing, delectable vegan cupcakes, like the ones from The Cupcake Station in Ann Arbor, Michigan (which can and should be held responsible for what is going on in my thighs). I want to make perfect cupcakes.

I started with Babycakes, the cookbook from the famed bakery in New York City (which I've yet to visit, because it involves one-too-many train transfers for my lazy self). Babycakes (the store) was apparently voted the #1 cupcake in NYC, despite the fact that they are vegan and gluten-free. Wow. Gotta try it, right?

I spent way too much at Whole Foods purchasing things I'd never even heard of, things like coconut flour, potato starch, and soy milk powder. My friend A., who was visiting for the weekend, and I got to work yesterday afternoon, doing the very tedious job of halving the recipe for two-dozen cupcakes in the actual cookbook. Good heavens - halving things like 1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder called upon our very serious math skills, my baking conversion magnet on the fridge, and a calculator. It was intense, but A. and I were up for the challenge. It was only today I found a halved recipe online (doh!)

   Overall Grade: 6.75 (out of 10)
   Cupcake Flavor: 8.5
   Crumb: 7 at room temperature (4 when chilled, as suggested by the authors for storage)
   Frosting Flavor: 7.5
   Frosting Texture: 4

Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from Babycakes
Makes 10-12 cupcakes

If I was to actually serve these at a party, which I might, I would make the frosting the day before to really let it set. I would make the cupcakes about 6 hours, before the party, let them cool completely, and frost the cupcakes 30-60 minutes before the guests arrive, so that the frosting didn't melt, but the cupcakes could avoid being chilled, which really does absolutely nothing for a cupcake. If you must serve these chilled, please let them sit out for an hour or so before serving, it really does make a big difference.


1/2 cup + 6 Tablespoons garbanzo-fava bean flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons arrowroot
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
6 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water
Chocolate Frosting (see below)


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a regular-sized muffin tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, and hot water until well blended, then incorporate into the dry mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour approximately 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it. Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes, then rotate the tin and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tin for twenty minutes, then move to a wire rack until cooled completely. Frost and enjoy!

Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Chocolate Frosting

Adapted from Babycakes

I know the 6 hour chilling thing sounds crazy, but you really do need to wait this long, the texture is much more consistent and smooth, and the flavor is much better.

To make vanilla frosting, eliminate the cocoa powder, increase the dry soy milk powder by an additional 2 Tablespoons, and increase the coconut oil by an additional 1/4 cup.


3/4 cups plain soy milk
1/4 cup dry soy milk powder
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut flour
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice


In a blender, combine the soymilk, soy powder, cocoa powder, coconut flour, agave nectar, and vanilla until smooth, then blend for an additional two minutes. With the machine still running, slowly add the oil and lemon juice, alternating between the two until both are fully incorporated.

Pour the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least six hours before using to frost the cupcakes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Protein for Babies and Kids

Ian and I have been trying to find information on raising a healthy vegan baby lately. All is well while she is getting most of her nutrients from breast milk (this baby, 10 months today, still loves to nurse), but when we move to only 1-2 breastfeeding sessions a day in a few months, we're going to have to be more intentional with her diet to make sure she is getting everything she needs.

I was happy to find this post on Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Kitchen today, which discusses in detail some myths about the amount of protein that humans need, and where we can actually find sources of protein.

Infographic originally posted here.
I especially like the above visual. One ounce of meat has approximately 7 grams of protein, so it's easy to do the math here. Deena Burton cites the following approximate protein amounts necessary for vegan babies and kids:
  • Ages 1 to 3 years: 10-13 grams/day
  • Ages 4 to 13 years: 19-34 grams/day
  • Ages 14 to 18 years: 34-50 grams/day