Come On, Get Happea

Incorporating vegetables into dessert has long drawn the ire and skepticism of food enthusiasts across all boundaries- And for good reason. Aside from the untouchable legacy of the carrot cake, most attempts to enter into this arena have never been about enhancing flavor, but decreasing guilt. Red flags should immediately arise anytime food is not created with the taste being of foremost importance. Largely perpetrated by health food gurus trying to “hide” a bit of added nutrition into everyday cookies and cakes, such efforts have only been to their detriment. It’s no wonder that something like Green Pea Cookies would warrant further explanation to wary Americans still haunted by childhood demands to eat their peas and carrots before getting dessert. Turns out that this concoction is far from avant-garde in Singapore, where this simple snack was born.

Despite the vibrant coloring, there isn’t the least bit of “green” or vegetative flavor to be found. Instead, each delicate if slightly crumbly dome imparts a strikingly nutty impression, not dissimilar from classic tea cookies. The difference here is that without a cloak of confectioner’s sugar shrouding the outside, a much more nuanced, balanced taste is able to come through. Plenty sweet but offset by a notable punch of salt, the overall experience is something far more impressive than the humble appearance suggests. Crunchy pieces of dried peas speckle the insides throughout, keeping the texture enjoyably varied from start to finish.

Providing celiac sufferers with a gluten-free alternative was certainly a thoughtful brand extension, but I’m afraid that this version falls a bit short of the mark set by the originals. Vastly drier, there was more powder than cookie in my sample package, and the slightly bitter cereal note of rice flour was immediately obvious. That said, they would no doubt have fared much more favorably if I didn’t have the gluten-full treats to compare them to.

Also available for the sweet pea connoisseur is a growing family of pea cookie flavors. While I didn’t have the opportunity to sample the cranberry cookie, the chocolate-dipped variation successfully brought these green nuggets up to the next level of dessert decadence. The sturdy sheath of dark chocolate coating does have a tendency to slide off like an over-sized slipper, but tailoring be darned, it’s still a perfect fit in my eyes.

If you’d like to see vegetables treated with more respect come the final course of a meal, look no further than Green Pea Cookies. Help support their mission (and get in on the pea cookie action for yourself) by contributing to their KickerStarter campaign, going on now.

Samples were provided by the Green Pea Cookie company but I was not compensated for my time. All opinions, photos, and recipes are solely my own.

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Super Summer Soup

Gardeners everywhere are now harvesting the first and second rounds of the summer’s bounty, their sweat and tears paying off in ripe, juicy fruits and vegetables. In come the tomatoes, beans, and of course, zucchini. Whether they’re living on the east coast, west coast, or in between, just about every person who has a square foot of fertile land seems compelled to dedicate it to zucchinis. Such an easy-going and prolific plant, those green vines are more than happy to sprawl out and replicate endlessly anywhere; no environment is too unfriendly, it would seem. And thus, as we enter into the heat of August, we too enter into the season of zucchini. Like an invasive species, there’s no stopping these green cucurbits from taking over gardens everywhere, and filling up refrigerators with bottomless bowls of squash, large and small, sweet and bitter, but all of them the same; Delicious.

Personally, zucchini overload has never been a problem for me. Quite possibly because even such a hearty plant refuses to ever develop into more than a tangle of limp vines under my care, I’m one of those people that envies those complaining about how to use up their overwhelming yields. Regardless, this time of year screams “zucchini!” loud and clear, so who am I to ignore such firm prompting? Into the kitchen with store-bought but still local squash I went.

When it comes to soups, it doesn’t get much easier than this. Yes, you must bear the heat of the oven for a solid half hour, but suit up with ice packs or even bags of frozen peas if you have to, because it’s so utterly worth the pain. With only chopping and no further hands-on labor required, it’s a small sacrifice to make.

Satisfying and filling thanks to the addition of gently crisped chickpeas, but still light and refreshing due to the simple sea of broth surrounding them, zucchini never felt more at home outside of the field than in this concoction. Highlighting their fresh flavor, slightly sweetened by drawing out the natural sugars while roasting, this is the kind of soup that I’m happy to eat both hot and cold. On such oppressive summer days, however, I do highly recommended going the chilled route.

Yield: Makes 2 – 4 Servings

Roasted Zucchini and Chickpea Soup

Roasted Zucchini and Chickpea Soup

Satisfying and filling thanks to the addition of gently crisped chickpeas, but still light and refreshing due to the simple sea of broth surrounding them, zucchini never felt more at home outside of the field than in this concoction. Highlighting their fresh flavor, slightly sweetened by drawing out the natural sugars while roasting, this is the kind of soup that I’m happy to eat both hot and cold.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Roughly Chopped
  • 2 Medium Zucchini, Quartered and Chopped into Bite-Sized Pieces
  • 1 15-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cups Cooked) Chickpeas
  • 2 – 3 Small Cloves Garlic, Unpeeled
  • 2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil or Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • Fresh Parsley, as Needed

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. This makes for really easy clean-up; all you have to do is toss the aluminum when you’re all done, no washing required!
  2. Arrange your chopped veggies, drained and rinsed chickpeas, and garlic cloves on the prepared baking sheet in one even layer. Drizzle with your oil of choice, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Slide everything into the oven and roast for 35 – 40 minutes, until the onions are just lightly browned and crispy around the edges, and the zucchini is nice and tender. Let cool if you plan on serving the soup chilled.
  4. Peel and finely mince the roasted garlic, and place them in a medium-sized pot, along with the stock and nutritional yeast. Please note, make sure you use a really tasty broth here, because the flavor is very prominent. It should go without saying, but I recommend homemade if at all possible!
  5. Gently scoop the roasted veggies and chickpeas off of the sheet, and stir them into the pot as well. Heat gently until warm if a hot version is desired, or chill for at least an hour for a chilled soup. Before serving, top with fresh, minced parsley.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 192Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 417mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 7g

Souper Bowl

So clueless am I about quite possibly the most important televised sporting event of the year, I was all in tizzy over making time in my schedule to watch the commercials this past weekend. Naturally, after getting so worked up trying to balance the few hours that stood between me and Monday, I found out the big game isn’t even due to take place until the following weekend. So much for being prepared!

But the good news is, it got me thinking about appropriate eats and treats, and now I have a recipe to share a few days early, instead of late. While gathering ideas for this most American and macho “holiday,” my thoughts inevitably circled back to one key ingredient: Cheese. Be it in queso dip, melted over pizzas, slathered on top of crackers, or, incomprehensibly, squeezed from a can, any gathering related to football that’s worth its salt is paired with a giant brick of dairy. Still in a rather cheesy mood myself, it felt like as good a time as any to unleash a creamy, savory solution for the vegan crowd.

Though it tastes indulgent and approaches an unnatural shade of orange, I assure you, this belly-warming bowl if soup is none of the above. Gaining its hue from nothing more suspicious than carrot juice, it packs a decent wallop of veggies, far more than the standard bowl of melted Velveeta topped with a few sad florets. Gaining its bulk not from processed cheese-type products, but white beans instead, this soup has some serious staying power, sure to keep you energized through a rowdy party, or just a chilly winter night. Still, don’t tell the guys what’s in it- They may not even guess!

Yield: Makes 4 - 6 Servings

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Gaining its golden hue from nothing more suspicious than carrot juice, it packs in a serious serving of veggies along with comforting cheesy flavor.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, Chopped
  • 1 – 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1 Cup 100% Carrot Juice
  • 1 15.5-Ounce Can Cannellini, Navy, or White Beans
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons Tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Barley Miso Paste
  • 1/2 – 1 Cup Vegetable Stock
  • 4 Cups Frozen and Defrosted or Par-cooked Broccoli Florets
  • Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium sauce pan, over moderate heat, lightly saute the chopped onion in the oil, allowing it to cook for 4 – 8 minutes, until translucent. Add in the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3 minutes.
  2. Pour in the carrot juice, cover, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the beans, nutritional yeast, tahini, lemon juice, and miso in your food processor or blender. Once the mixture in the saucepan is ready, pour all of that in as well, and blend on high for 2 – 3 minutes, until completely smooth and creamy.
  4. Thin out the soup to your desired consistency with vegetable stock, starting with the lesser amount first and adjusting further if necessary. Add in the broccoli, and pulse just briefly to break it down into bite-sized chunks and distribute the pieces throughout the soup. Add salt and pepper as need, and serve hot.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 292mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 12gSugar: 4gProtein: 17g

Veggie Love

Come Valentine’s Day, it would seem that one edible aphrodisiac is on the mind and one only; Chocolate. While I may have my own chocolate-covered plans as well, it’s a crying shame that vegetables are barely even considered when it comes time for a seductive or romantic dinner.

Light, fresh, and invigorating foods should be what’s on the menu, and what could fit the bill better than those much-maligned vegetables? Thank goodness for Vegetable Love 2009, which asks everyone to think of sexy veggie recipes for the holiday.

For an occasion such as this, I tend to think that simplicity should reign, lest that complicated unchicken cordon bleu ends up burning in the oven while you’re busy fussing over the already over-reduced pan sauce you’re making on the stove. Nope, I’ll stick with something fool-proof and guaranteed to satisfy, thank you very much!

Roasted red pepper soup is certainly nothing extraordinary in and of itself, but with a simple garnish of “sour cream” hearts, this unassuming starter is sure to kick of your meal on the right foot. Flavorful without being heavy or cloying like many pureed soups can be, this one definitely won’t weigh you down.

Yield: Makes 1 - 2 Servings

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Flavorful without being heavy or cloying like many pureed soups can be, this one light starter won’t weigh you down.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Large Red Bell Peppers
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Medium Onion
  • 1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and place your peppers on a baking pan lined with a sheet of aluminum. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, smash your cloves of garlic and roughly chop the onion. Move them into a medium saucepan, and add in the broth and bay leaf. Set over medium heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  3. Once the outsides of the peppers are nicely charred, pull them out of the oven and crimp another sheet of aluminum on top to form a nice little package. Let it rest for 10 minutes to steam. Peel the skin off and remove the seeds and membrane. Transfer the cleaned peppers into your blender or food processor. Remove the bay leaf from the broth, and pour the contents of the saucepan, along with the vinegar. Thoroughly puree until completely smooth, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

To make the hearts or just a creamy topping to swirl in, mix together 2 tablespoons of vegan sour cream and 1 teaspoon of plain non-dairy milk until smooth. Transfer the mixture into a small piping bag or squeeze bottle. Squeeze two small dots right next to each other onto the surface of the soup, and then drag a toothpick right down the center, between them. Wipe off the toothpick between hearts to keep it clean and separate.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 54Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 651mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g