Baby, it’s cold outside: Vegan soups for No Meat March 2

March has come in with a major attitude – something about a lion, right? – but it’s also brought us another No Meat March. This month of pledging to go meat-free, sponsored by The Girls Gone Green, is just the ticket for these cold, blustery days because there are so many fantastic meatless soups. Ah, soup – the ultimate comfort food, king of convenience (sure, you could make just one serving, but why would you ever do such a thing when you can make a crap-ton of it and eat it out of your freezer for months?!) – but I digress.

Here, in honor of the beginning of No Meat March and because I’m seriously thinking about moving to Barbados, is a selection of vegan soups. To your warmth!

Oh, and by the way, the other motivation for this post, and the many such recipe-ish posts coming in March, is to provide suggestions for those trying out a meat-free life as to where to get recipes and how to go about choosing a recipe, so I’ll be discussing those issues in addition to yumminess.

A typical produce share from KYV Farm

Because we are members of a Community Supported Agriculture farm (the awesomely organic KYV Farm) I usually start with the ingredients I have and try to find a recipe that involves those ingredients rather than the other way around. That way I’m sure not to waste anything by letting it go bad. That’s why my go-to recipe resource is always the Florida Coastal Cooking blog. In addition to being a culinary genius, blogger Dawn is also a member of the same CSA as myself. So nine times out of ten, her recipes involve the exact same ingredients that I have on hand. Oh, and she’s vegan too!

It’s fitting, then, that the first recipe, Calming Kale, Carrot, Sweet Potato and Bean Soup, comes from her. Don’t you just love the name? If you really want to see this dish shine like a catwalk model, take a look at the pic on Dawn’s blog, but here’s my version.

Florida Coastal Cooking’s Calming Kale, Sweet Potato, and Carrot Soup

Obviously I didn’t use the optional white beans in her recipe, but only because I didn’t have any. They would have been great in this soup. And before you turn up your nose (or pinch it) at beans, they are a great source of protein and are packed with fiber. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last fall showed that eating a cup of beans a day had positive effects on both the blood sugar and blood pressure of a group of participants who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, so don’t leave them out! But do soak them for at least 18 hours, rinsing several times, if you want to be less…musical. If you use canned beans, dump out the liquid and rinse them very well. This soup was delicious, as are all of Dawn’s recipes!

The next recipe, Carrot Top and Rice Soup, came from KYV’s own extensive collection of recipes on their website. KYV usually leaves their vegetables intact, so you get delicious beet or turnip greens along with the beets or turnips. In one share, we got gorgeous, long carrot tops along with the carrots. I had heard Vivian, one of KYV’s owners, talk about this Carrot Top Soup recipe, so I was excited to finally be able to try it.

Carrot Top Soup and a falafel pita for dinner

It was completely ridiculicious! I’m so glad I doubled the recipe because we’ve been eating it now and then all winter long. I don’t remember if I cooked the rice a little too long or if I just wanted an excuse to use my new immersion blender, but I blended the soup before adding the carrot tops. And, of course, I omitted the final sprinkle of cheese. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Oh, and that’s falafel with soy yogurt tzatziki sauce to go with the soup.

Another holiday gift, to go along with the blender, was the cookbook Veganomicon, otherwise known as “the vegan bible.” I’ll be honest, this is not the cookbook for those short on time. I’ve made three or four recipes out of it so far. All of them have been incredibly delicious, and all of them have involved more time in the kitchen than even I’m interested in spending. However, the Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes will be worth it for you because you’re going to learn from my experience. Besides, it’s a great way to try a new bean if you’ve never had adzuki beans.

Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Soup

First, the recipe calls for Chinese five-spice powder, which I could not find prepared in any store. So I found a recipe online, got the ingredients and made it myself. That could be done well in advance, though, and then you’d have plenty of this aromatic seasoning to use in lots of recipes.

Chinese Five-Spice Blend

Second, it involves peeling acorn squash. Peeling any squash is a pain, but acorn squash, with its grooves, should be peeled ahead of time, maybe when you can sit down with an adult beverage, and certainly not when you’re trying to get dinner on the table. Like other squash, it’ll be fine sitting peeled in the fridge for a couple of days. Third, don’t forget to soak the adzuki beans overnight if you’re using dried. I also left out the sautéed shiitake garnish because I didn’t have any shiitakes at the time, but it surely would have been super-tasty.

The ingredients are 2 tbsp. peanut oil; 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices; 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch slices; 2 tsp. minced ginger; 2 cloves garlic minced; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder; 2 acorn squashes, seeded, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks; 2 firm Bartlett pears, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin (not paper-thin) slices roughly 1 inch long; 4 cups vegetable stock; 1 (15-ounce) can adzuki beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups); about 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice. For the mushrooms: 4 oz. fresh shiitakes, sliced in half (about 1 1/2 cups); 2 tsp. peanut oil; 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil; 1 tbsp. soy sauce.

I’m not going to reproduce the entire recipe here because even though the recipes do tend to be complicated and take a long time, it’s really the gourmet vegan cookbook and is a must for those situations when you want to cook to impress. The recipe is on page 136 though. One more thing: Veganomicon doesn’t list nutritional values, but the calorie count on this soup, without the mushrooms, is 175.8 per serving. If I remember right, a serving was about two cups, so that makes it a hearty, complete meal for relatively few calories.

Next up: a couple of blended soups. These are the kind of creamy, smooth comfort liquids that are great with a hunk of rustic bread on a cold night. Radish Top Soup was one of those efforts to use a “bonus veggie” from my CSA share. Radishes aren’t usually sold in stores with their greens still attached because the greens are so perishable. The beauty of a CSA is that your veggies are usually harvested the morning you pick them up, so you can have all those nice, fresh greens to use.

Radish Top Soup

Radish Top Soup was a complete surprise. I’d never cooked with radish tops before and wasn’t imagining that they’d be anything super-special. Plus, the other ingredients in the recipe didn’t seem like much either. I don’t know if radish tops are just that fantastic on their own or if it was something about the combination of flavors in this soup, but it explodes with flavor. It’s one of those that you just have to say “Wow!” about when you first taste it. It’s really nice when something so simple turns out so incredibly delicious. If – no, when – I make it again, I’ll probably garnish it with a little pile of finely julienned radishes though.

Of course, I used a vegan margarine instead of the butter, vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth and an organic soy creamer instead of the heavy cream the recipe calls for. That’s another good point: Many times you can take a non-vegan recipe and make it vegan with just a few substitutions or omissions (like leaving out the sprinkle of cheese on the Carrot Top Soup). So if you find a recipe that sounds interesting but involves meat or dairy, don’t discount it outright.

Brussels Sprout Soup came out of a need to use up some Brussels sprout greens (another “bonus” veggie) that came with on-the-stalk sprouts from the CSA. These greens are the large, open leaves on the top of the stalk, not the little leaves of the sprouts themselves. Although if you cut off all of the individual leaves, you’ll find the crown, which looks like a huge sprout. That would be a fun discovery to help a child make.

Goldilocks sprouts: The crown, a sprout, and baby sprouts from the top of the stalk

This recipe is also an illustration of my cooking M.O. The first time I make something, I try to follow the recipe exactly. If it’s something I might want to make again, I’ll then decide what changes to make and note those.

Most of the ingredients for Brussels Sprout Soup

Brussels Sprout Soup cooking away

The soup in this recipe was very good, but didn’t have much depth of flavor. I think that comes from using three ingredients (sprout greens, fennel and nutmeg) that all have the same piquant sweetness. The next time I make this soup, I think I might leave out the nutmeg, dial back the fennel and use some thyme or bay—something savory.

Brussels Sprout Soup

Finally, Hearty One-Pot Meal Miso Soup is another of those recipes that makes enough for the freezer. It’s also very convenient in that you can throw in whatever vegetables you need to use up.

Hearty One-Pot Meal Miso Soup

I left out the edamame because I don’t tend to buy it, and I should have used less miso than the recipe called for because the dark miso I had on hand has a very strong flavor. Oh, and I also had some green onions that needed to be used, so I garnished with them. This is a fantastic, healthful (use low-sodium miso) soup that’s very filling. I must say, though, that the 10-minute prep time listed is an underestimation, or maybe I’m just a slow chopper. Save time by cutting the carrots in rounds instead of matchsticks, unless you’re going for fancy.

So now that you can curl up with some warm soup, check out this list of some of our favorite sites for vegan/vegetarian recipes. This is extemporaneous, so like us on Facebook for updates as they come to mind, and send us your favorite sources to add to the list as well! – Best. Cinnamon rolls. Ever. – So jealous of the photography! – More photography envy! – For your baked goods addiction. I’m sorry. And you’re welcome. – Such a nice site 😉 – They had me at peanut sauce. – The illustrations are irresistible. – Scroll down for their extensive recipe collection. – Great for vegans trying to stay away from added oils. – Info about being/becoming vegan as well as recipes. – Fun food. – An inspiring story…and great recipes! – The website of the Veganomicon authors. – Info plus the occasional recipe. – I will be making that Apple and Walnut Cake ASAP!

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