Creamy vegan carrot ginger soup

Yesterday morning F and I went for a lovely, quiet hike with friends and all throughout we were kissed by notes of fall. Actually, it was light rain that left those soft caresses on our faces, but it was kind of the same thing. The cool drizzle was so welcome after weeks of dry heat, and it only enhanced the colors, fragrances and general changes signifying the turning of the seasons. It offered a chance to pause within and explore without. It inspired feeling that was both contentedly free and pleasantly melancholy.

Time and again, no matter how well we are conditioned to expect it, it’s amazing and startling and mystifying how we can awaken as if magically into a new season. Like watching kids grow. One day back-to-school banners highlight a sort of sullen near outrage because in truth summer is still actually in full swing. Then blink, we may as well be preparing for the departure of pumpkin spice lattes in order to make way for the pleasures of peppermint. Those rare chances to pause, wherever we find them, mean everything.

I’ve got nothing to complain about, but have been feeling a little buried under must-dos lately. That’s why despite plenty of kitchen play I haven’t been recording much, and why this post will be so short. It’s also part of what makes this soup so perfect for sharing right now. The busyness, and ushering in of autumn. This is simple, easily adaptable, robust and flavorful soup that is resonant with the season. Bright and ablaze with one of fall’s signature colors, yet comforting and soothing in a way that grants a moment of stillness in a sip. It’s scrape the pot and savor each spoonful soup. That’s all you need to know. Try it (and tell me how you change it to be a just-right-fit for you). You’ll see. 🙂

Creamy vegan carrot ginger soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 yellow onion, diced
  2. 7 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  3. 3 medium gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  7. ½ teaspoon ground paprika
  8. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  9. Dash red pepper flakes (quick light shake)
  10. ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained
  11. 1 cup coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Coat a stockpot or large saucepan with cooking spray or heat water to cover bottom of pan. Saute onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add carrots, potatoes, ginger, and spices (garlic powder through red pepper flakes) and cook a further 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add cashews, coconut milk, and 5 cups water to pan and bring to a near boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until carrots and potatoes are tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree, or puree in batches in a blender. Adjust seasonings and add liquid to taste as needed.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Felix’s 4th Birthday Vegan Ice Cream Cake

This recipe has it all. It’s divine. It’s simple. It’s quick. It can be tailored to taste in seconds according to whim. What it doesn’t have–in this post, I mean–is a selection of pictures to accompany it and do it justice.

I didn’t expect to feel compelled to post this dreamy concoction…little F’s turning four-years-old dream birthday cake. There are so many things I didn’t expect to be mulling over lately. Most of all, despite being perpetually nostalgic and overly conscious of time, I didn’t expect quite how much it would floor me that my baby is now FOUR. I didn’t expect to find myself still freelancing, out of the classroom, at this point. Somehow over the years opportunities have kept emerging that have allowed me to keep juggling and prioritizing a flexible schedule I’ve loved. Somehow years of being steadily conditioned to flux hasn’t kept me from being any less surprised when things appear, nor any less disappointed when they end. But somehow the flow keeps going, and it’s all OK.

More than OK. Four is FABULOUS. Four is imaginative, bold, cuddly but increasingly self-assured. Four is taking initiative and sharing the play, wonder and discovery. Four is forming opinions with innocence and genuine reflection. Four deserves this birthday cake…and so does any age after. There is no doubt this cake method is the base of new evolving traditions in our house.

This recipe is owing hugely to this amazingly scrumptious recipe and post from the brilliant Minimalist Baker. And a very liberal take/modified version of this incredible chocolate banana bread turned cake from Chocolate Covered Katie bliss. I short-cutted the simple method even further by laying down three slim layers of the cake/bread mixture in three identical loaf pans lined with parchment paper and baked all at once. All you do after the layers cool is lay down a slightly softened layer of vegan ice cream of choice, top with the second cake layer, then another ice cream layer, then final cake layer; cover with foil or container lid and freeze. When it’s time to serve, let soften enough to invert out of the pan on a plate. I topped with rich, gooey melted dark chocolate with a little bit of coconut milk. Add a candle on top…absolute birthday decadence guaranteed to bring on lasting satisfaction from the wide-eyed appreciative reaction alone. (By the way, our choice of ice cream was a layer of So Delicious almond milk cookies and cream ice cream and another layer of So Delicious coconut milk oregon berry ice cream…swoon!)

This cake was the perfect way to round out a perfect birthday week for one very excited four year old. From waking up to a spangly decorated house on birthday morning to windblown first-time Go Kart excitement as a family in the afternoon to a special 2nd annual birthday hiking party with lovely little friends on the weekend following…everything about turning four has been pretty much magical. This cake complements all that–layers and layers of joy you just want to sink your teeth into and linger over.

Of course, my heart is overflowing and sometimes achy. Because, four came–and will go– so darn fast. Some days I want to sob my heart out with the kind of ice cream diving dose worthy of any respectable rom-com. This cake is good for that, too. 

Vegan ice cream cake
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Ingredients
  1. 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  2. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  3. 1 tbsp vinegar
  4. 1/4 cup almond milk
  5. ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  6. ½ cup dark chocolate chips, melted
  7. 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  8. 1 tsp baking soda
  9. 1 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  11. 2 pints non-dairy ice cream of choice (We loved mixing So Delicious Coconut Milk Oregon Berry with So Delicious Almond Milk Cookies and Cream)
  12. 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  13. ⅓ cup almond milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line three 9×5 loaf pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine first six ingredients, mashed bananas through melted chocolate. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda baking powder, and cocoa powder. Pour dry into wet, and stir until just evenly combined. Transfer to the loaf pans and spread out evenly.
  3. Bake approximately 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into loaf layers comes out clean.
  4. Top one of the cake layers with ice cream (keeping in the pan). Carefully remove second layer from parchment and place on top of ice cream layer. Top with another layer of ice cream and place the final cake layer on top.
  5. Cover and freeze at least one hour. Let soften 20 minutes before serving.
  6. Melt dark chocolate with coconut milk in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. To serve, invert onto a serving plate and top chocolate sauce.
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Crunchy ginger quinoa lettuce wraps

This recipe is kind of an oldie. I made it over four years ago for Ancient Harvest and can’t believe I never logged it. Like most of my favorite recipes (at least when it comes to both preparing and eating them), it’s super easy to assemble and adapt depending on time and inclination. Maybe you’ve got a rainbow bounty of crisp fresh produce you can’t wait to chop, tear, and julienne– in which case it could be delightfully time-consuming (remember, Mary?). On the other hand, maybe it’s a normal reality kind of day and you would love something zesty, crunchy, colorful, healthy and energizing with whatever happens to be left in the fridge. Provided you’ve got a decent blend of substitutions and the main dressing staples, you can throw your own superb variation together less than 30 minutes.


My favorite form of these wraps is forsaking the wrap part. Just toss in a bunch of greens with the filling for a most satisfying salad. Kale goes better than lettuce anyway. But then, sometimes lettuce wraps have the perfect refreshing crispness. So pretty with a touch of novelty about them.

I’ve been returning to some soul-soothing oldies lately. Renewed appreciation for the competitive aspect of trail running. This quinoa obviously, and a whole bunch of used-to-be standby recipes that have enjoyed a reestablishment of status lately. And a little bit poetry, which I once made time for with a fervent sort of passion that kind of evaporated for several years. (When F  was born it was replaced largely by lilting rhymes and songs.) But this year, I’ve found the poetic longing resurfacing. I feel so fortunate to know eclectic and dynamic writers who have  inspired me to take a stab at submitting again, and am so thrilled and honored to have had a poem accepted in a beautiful journal of poetry and photography.


The funny thing about good things…how quickly do they put you on edge anticipating bad things? After the initial joy and gratitude, contentment and rush of optimism, I mean. Are we all somewhat conditioned to wait for the proverbial ball to drop? One glaring response would be, of course that’s just life. Ebb and flow, highs and lows, light and shadow. Then again, how much does the sharp reality check offer safeguarding protection that can come close to outweighing the limitations on our willingness to fearlessly enjoy the now?

In any case, for two weeks in a row I felt gifted with experiences that made me feel validated in areas that are important to me. And I felt so supremely grateful. As well as momentarily but mightily apprehensive about what the next impending down might bring. It’s due soon, a persistently whiny voice insists. I even go so far as to determine internally that it’s probably going to take the form of something like [X] happening, which will make me feel really foolish for spending all that time fearing [Y], which would have been bad but not as bad. It is frustrating being stuck hanging out with myself when I think like that.


But as you know, somehow I force cooking to become a daily exercise in cultivating the type of mindfulness and lessons I want to maintain more naturally. And when I made this quinoa, I thought ‘why haven’t I recorded this in the files yet’, which I already explained. Then at dinner, little F munched and crunched appreciatively, declaring how much he loves the eddy-mommy beanies, and I thought, ‘good…same but different…and it’s still good’. Which somehow transitioned easily into quietly contemplating the many ‘still good’ things.

We are living in tumultuous, tense, and deeply unsettling times. I am well aware what a place of privilege it is to have the luxury of worrying about what tomorrow might look like. It is enough know there will be things that will still be good, and I can keep striving to be good, too.

Crunchy Ginger Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. ¼ head red cabbage, slivered
  3. 2 medium carrots, grated
  4. 1 red pepper, sliced
  5. 3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  6. 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  7. ¾ cup edamame, shelled and thawed
  8. ⅓ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  9. ¼ cup low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
  10. 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  11. 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  12. 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
  13. 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra lime to serve
  14. 1 – 2 heads romaine, or other large-leafed lettuce
Instructions
  1. Separate the head of lettuce into individual leaves. Rinse and dry, either with a salad spinner or by hand, using clean kitchen towels or paper towels to pat the leaves dry. Refrigerate between layers of clean, dry paper towels until ready to assemble and serve.
  2. Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add cabbage, all other vegetables, and peanuts to quinoa and toss to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger and lime juice with a fork or whisk. Add to quinoa mixture and stir to coat.
  5. Spoon filling (approximately ⅓ to ½ cup per leaf) into the center of lettuce leaves, taco-style. Serve with lime wedges.
Notes
  1. Transform into a salad instead for a quicker, filling meal! In place of lettuce leaves, mix in chopped kale or mixed greens into quinoa mixture.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Quinoa carrot cake cookies (and Pikes Peak Ultra 30K)

I’d almost forgotten how much I love trail running. Not just on my own, but as a participant in an official group event, competitive or not. I’d just about forgotten too, how much I enjoy these gluten-free, vegan, oil-free (or not, if you prefer), lightly and naturally sweetened, easy on the digestive system cookies. That is the loose stretch of a connection between the recipe and narrative of this post. Sorry the record of the race experience is the dominating presence by far. It was my first official run event in two years after all.

carrot cake cookies (1 of 1)
First, about those “cookies”. They’re more like breakfast bars, but cookie shaped. I love them. They’re currently one of my favorite portable on-the-go breakfasts/snacks/lunches, and little F likes them too. They may taste a little more cookie-like and less like energy bites with the inclusion of coconut oil, but I prefer them without. You could totally give them a sweet treat lift with a bit of glaze if you wanted to. And the race connection? They’re good pre-run fuel. Generally, I prefer to go on empty. Even my former fave of banana and peanut butter was too much for the odd long run I tested it on in this last build up. But race day, I wanted to have a little bite beforehand, and carrot cake for breakfast works a treat. (Here’s where you skip the rambling race record to recipe below.*)

Living in Boulder County, perspective can become a little (a lot) warped. It’s not uncommon for people to ask questions along the lines of “How many ironman distance triathlons are you doing this year? How many ultras? ” within a minute of being introduced. When I tell people here that “these days I am only doing a 50K or two a year” the immediate response is often nods of understanding, if not a questioningly raised eyebrow confirming I’m a slacker. So it’s easy to feel hesitant when it comes to logging race memories for “just” 30K, especially when coupled with average ability. But it was such a beautiful, perfectly challenging course, and kind of a breakthrough mentally, in its way. Besides that, I had the best cowbell crew I could have ever wished for.

When I originally signed up for the Pikes Peak Ultra 30K, held in Colorado Springs from Bear Creek Regional Park, I intended to run the 50K. Typically, the longer I go the more competitive I can be, and to a point the less nervous too. But early on I realized too well how unprepared I would be for the 9000 feet of elevation gain in that event, let alone the altitude. Little F is a stellar household helper, but without family nearby Dave and I continually alternate to accomplish a number of things, workouts in particular. There just isn’t time to get into the hills or up high the way I’d like to, and training efforts need to be efficient even when sustained. For that reason, the week approaching this event I started to take on a few more jitters than I expected, become a little crankier, clouded by feelings of niggling aches and fatigue.

But it’s hard to drown in anxious anticipation the way I used to when a little person keeps you laughing and on your toes. Heading down to the Springs the afternoon preceding, we were caught in a pounding freak storm on the highway in a 50 minute delay caused by a crash. It would have been frustrating–it was, for Dave as generous driver both ways–only little F and all “the guys” (stuffed animals who comprise ‘the class’ when playing school) were so wowed and gleeful we couldn’t help but be a little bit delighted, too.

pike
Race morning, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Lightly misting, but temperate. Just right for running. Not too chilly for a singlet, but not hot, just pleasant. The previous day’s rain had the effect of making the trails feel firm and grippy, not muddy or loosely gravelly. Dave had prepared me for mentally taking the course in thirds. Side note–my amazing husband solves problems, assesses situations, and prepares ahead of time so very exceptionally. Sometimes I wonder idly by how much his skills are superior to mine, and whether I’m secretly far more crafty and opportunistic than I am willfully conscious of when it comes to taking shortcuts in letting him dig in so well on my behalf. (Thank you, thank you, darling Davy!)

Pikes 30K (4 of 4)
The first segment was a solid 5.5 mile climb of about 1600 feet right out of the gate. Competitors weren’t as chatty as my experience in 50Ks; I guess the distance being that much shorter really made a difference. Still, the trail running vibe has a different intensity to road, one that feels more laid back and friendly even as everyone strains and suffers. Nearing the close of the ascent, I started talking with an older guy who it turns out is clearly related to mountain goats. “Your walk-run strategy is working great for you,” I said to him, striking up conversation after miles of leap frogging. He was a modest, convivial man. Not talkative, but not reserved either. I don’t know what his background is, but just from the mile or so we ran together I was impressed by his genuine appreciation for being out there and for the way he without doubt plugs away with passion and keeps on showing up.

Pikes 30K (2 of 4)The middle third of the course, began with a descent on singletrack, sharp in spots, where my running companion dusted me for many miles and where I internally berated myself a bit for how my descent can let me down. At least when it comes to anything close to technical. But the trail was shadowy and beautiful, with mist hugging the peaks all around us. And I knew (from Dave’s preparation, not mine again), I just needed to focus on getting to mile 12 and the top of the next big hill before a major boost in momentum. While on a stretch of steep road connecting trails, Dave and Little F happened to pass by in the car on their way to a hike. “Go Mommy!” I could hear little F whooping even as they rolled down the hill behind me. “Mommy’s fast!” No caffeine infused gel could have possibly given a better, more lasting lift than knowing my little boy was proud of his mama in that moment.

The final section was mainly the beginning in reverse. As cautiously as I approached the middle descent, my legs were all about letting it rip and pounding down the 5.5 mile (mostly) descent to the finish. I knew my quads would pay the price–they were already sore–but it was fun to try to fly. Especially knowing my fast little sprinter was waiting to jump in on the finishing stretch.

About that “breakthrough”–there were two things. One, the biggest hurdle was definitely getting to the starting line but not in terms of training. That part I loved and looked forward to. It wasn’t the actual signing up, either (because Dave , ever supportive, did that for me, too–thank you, honey!!). The challenge was getting over the guilt and the fear that has been present in my mind since Dave’s injuries forced him to give up something that has been so special to share. Even as he has found the same kind of satisfaction in mountain biking, I still feel the shadow of what might be, if I do too much. At this point I’m guessing that won’t ever go away. Because, aging/practical reality/a number of things. But it’s so liberating to be able to relish getting out there again, owning the joy of just showing up.

Another notable aspect came from a semi awkward moment of irony strangely freeing, in the final ½ mile or less. A woman had passed me on the ascent early on, about ⅓ of the way in. We were cordial, greeting each other with breathless nods of “good job” and minimal eye contact. I didn’t expect to see her again, but in the final mile I found myself closing in on her. By the time we were 800 yds from the finish, I had to pass her, and in my head I felt conflicted. On the one hand, she’d managed to be ahead of me for all those tough miles. It seemed kind of unfair somehow, in a laid back event like this, to go by her. On the other, I did pull her back on my own efforts, so why not? When I pulled alongside her, I couldn’t help myself. “I don’t really want to pass you,” I said. “Want to finish strong together?” “Let’s,” she responded, surprised. “Thank you.”

Pikes 30K (1 of 4)The story could have ended there with some nice warm fuzz. Only what actually happened is that she took off at a strong clip I didn’t feel up for trying to match. I was happy with my performance, busy looking out for little F and his promised sprint to the finish together, and totally in touch with internal gratification and contentment. That was the breakthrough. I’ve always done my best in all areas when I can focus on finding out what the best is I can do on the day, without thought of others. This was no exception. Admittedly, I secretly knew I probably wasn’t in her age group, something she couldn’t have been sure of. Who knows but I would put more mojo in had I not had that knowledge. But  it was strangely liberating not to, and not at all like losing. The feeling was validated all the more when, to my surprise, I was handed the prize for first place Master’s female at the finish. That felt amazing. Big hugs from my two stalwart supporters, even better. Can’t help but admit, I can’t wait to pick the next one and go again. But I can choose smart, thinking long-term healthfulness, and wait, too.

Quinoa carrot cake breakfast cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa flour
  2. 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  3. 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  4. 1/4 cup ground flaxseed/flax meal
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  8. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  9. 1/2 cup raisins
  10. 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded carrots (lightly packed)
  11. 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  12. 1 ripe banana, mashed
  13. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce OR ½ cup applesauce and OMIT coconut oil, below
  14. 2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil *optional
  15. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  16. 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional but recommended)
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Curried quinoa pilaf

I’ve been sitting on this simple, comforting dish for weeks. Problem is, the only time I’ve had lately to log it has been when experiencing end-of-day brain burnout. So now I’m trying early morning power posting–quick, efficient, and just the basics. Which is actually really appropriate for this hearty, easy meal.

quinoa pilaf3 (1 of 1)
There’s lots to love about this ‘pilaf’. For one thing, it’s delightfully versatile, in that it can be tailored to taste; it can just as easily make for a filling meal or an accompaniment. I added baked cubed tofu to bulk into a main meal, but other proteins would complement just as well if you’re not into soy. Switching things up as a side is easy, too–almonds for cashews, cranberries for raisins, addition of apples…there’s an awful lot of leeway for play considering how little active time it actually takes to make.

quinoa pilaf (1 of 1)
I’m veering off the promise of bare bones only–just quickly–but when
I first made this I almost made myself laugh out loud. Because on first bite, a warm swell inside was accompanied by my brain randomly reacting with this thought: mmmmm…yummy like Rice-a-Roni. And you know I can’t have had Rice-a-Roni more than a handful of times in my life. Not that I have a particular problem with the product. But–you know, right? What I mean?

quinoa pilaf2 (1 of 1)

The more I read, observe, listen, learn, reflect, the more reasons I discover to deplore corporatization of our food system. The ugliness is endless, from the strategic profit at the expense of human health to the intent marketing directed at children. I’m rather obsessed. And yet I’ve still somehow attached sentimentality to boxed foods I hardly have any actual experience with. Whether testament to marketing genius or fickle-minded weakness I have no idea and don’t expect to solve in a hurried post about curried quinoa. But on the upside, the simple, soothing spice blend of this quick and easy makes for really good grounding when those convenience box cravings set in. Satisfying them is about saving time on little effort, and yielding something flavourful. Bonus, we can ditch the boxes and make said yields healthy too. Maybe you need to budget up to 30 minutes to make it, but the actual effort you put in hardly exceeds opening a box of spices within a box of grains to simmer in a pot. 🙂

Curried quinoa pilaf
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  2. 3 cups water or vegetable broth (or 1.5 cups each)
  3. 1 tablespoon curry powder, divided
  4. 1 tsp. ground ginger
  5. 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1 14-ounce pack organic firm tofu, cut into cubes
  8. 2 cups broccoli florets
  9. 2 cups cauliflower florets
  10. 1/2 c. raisins
  11. 1/3 c. roasted cashews
  12. Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tofu (if using), broccoli and cauliflower florets on a baking sheet in one layer. Lightly coat with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and browning at edges.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water or broth to a boil. Add quinoa, ginger, turmeric, 2 teaspoons curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, until quinoa is soft and fluffy (approx. 12-15 minutes). Stir in raisins and set aside, covered, until vegetables are cooked.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine all ingredients. Enjoy!
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

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