Creamy pumpkin soup and Quinoa Risotto

I lived in Florida for about four years, and during that period I lost touch with nature’s season. Being born and raised in Croatia, my body, mind and senses were very into with the passing of the seasons. All the changes happening in nature affect our bodies, and influences our lifestyles greatly. Therefore, even without thinking about it consciously, I learned a lot about eating foods that are local and in season. I know the strawberry season is short and sweet, and a perfect announcement of the upcoming summer. My grandparents had a vineyard, and we would religiously pick grapes in September as they ripened (Croatians make a big deal of the grape picking and vine making ritual).

However, living in South America, then Florida made me lose sense of time and seasons’ passing, as all days seemed more or less the same and the nature unchanging. Only now that I’ve moved to Northern California, I am becoming more in tune with that beautiful process of change that the world goes through each year. Although the seasons are not as pronounced as they were in Europe, the variety of available local and organic ingredients shows the nature is changing. I’ve been eating apples, pears, oranges and potatoes all winter long! And I’m so ready for a change…

Luckily for me, the local market is slowly growing every week! I also use a home delivery service every two weeks, that grows all organic produce near Sacramento - I’m all for supporting local farms. I’ve taken full advantage of the fall/winter/early spring produce; it all seems to mix into one season for me, as the climate doesn’t vary that much here in the cold months, from October to March.

Here is a delicious warming recipe that will have you covered until the summer time produce arrives (we are almost there)!

Creamy pumpkin soup and Quinoa Risotto

This is a whole dinner in one package! You obviously do not need to prepare these two recipes together, as they are just as delicious on their own. However, if you are hosting a dinner party, this full meal with satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike. It is rich in plant based protein (hello quinoa!), very creamy and savory although it doesn’t have a drop of dairy, and bursting with flavor from three different preparations.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

{makes 2; vegan, gluten-free, Ayurvedic, soy-free, sugar-free, low fat}

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 of small pumpkin, or 1/4 of a medium-big one. About 2 cups cubed.
  • 1/2 cup zucchini
  • 1 vegetable bullion (I use Rapunzel, with sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (I use vanilla even in savory preparations)
  • pinch black pepper
  • OPTIONAL: Cashew cream* to top

Pumpkin is so delicious and creamy on it’s own, it is a perfect ingredient for a simple and quick soup. According to Ayurveda, it is healthy to eat mono-meals, or meals consisting of as few ingredients as possible, and this soup surely fits the bill. You can omit the milk and spices and just add salt and water, it will be tasty enough! I was low on pumpkin so I mixed it up with zucchini, you may notice the color is a bit more greenish. Zucchini comes from the same family as pumpkin and is equally creamy, but doesn’t change the flavor.

Instructions:

  1. Core, peel and cube the pumpkin and zucchini. Bring water to boil, add the pumpkin and cook for about 8 minutes - it will get soft and tender very quickly! Add zucchini and cook for another minute (you can put it in raw as well). Pierce with a fork to see if pumpkin is done, it should be slightly falling apart but not too overcooked.
  2. Place veggies in a blender, add 1/4 cup almond milk, and fill up the rest on cooking liquid. You may not need all of it, and here it is up to you - the thicker you want the soup, the less water you put. I usually go for half solid, half liquid ingredients.
  3. As you may discard some of the cooking liquid, I like to put my bullion in at the end with the spices, it dissolves quickly, specially in a Vitamix. Blend and serve hot!

Quinoa Risotto with Romanesco Broccoli

{makes 2; vegan, gluten-free, Ayurvedic, soy-free, sugar-free}

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup dry quinoa (I used white, red or tricolor with work too)
  • 1/2 cup Romanseco florets
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch pink Himalayan salt
  • punch pepper, oregano , turmeric (or any spices you prefer)

Instructions:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. If there are no directions, it takes about 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of quinoa. Cook uncovered in salty water for about 30 minutes. You will be able to tell when it’s done, as it will grow in volume, get a bit transparent around the edges, and release something resembling a little sprout (the thin, hair-like string).
  2. In the meantime, prep your Romanesco. In a saucepan or frying pan, heat up the oil and add the florets, stir-frying for about 8 minutes or until tender and brown around the edges. When quinoa is done, stir it into the pan and mix thoroughly with the veggies and oil, adding any spices you wish at the end. And done!

Colorful Salad

No meal should be served without fresh produce, and I love a good salad with my risotto. As I already had plenty of ingredients in my soup and main course, I made a simple side salad.

  • 1/2 head Romaine
  • 1/4 head red cabbage
  • 2 tbsp balsamic and olive oil mixture
  • 2-3 tbsp cashew cream (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut the romaine in small pieces, same with red cabbage - the strips have to be paper thin, not big chunks!
  2. Stir in your favorite dressing, or a mix of balsamic and olive oil, and top with cashew cream if you have any.

CASHEW CREAM:

The good, old cashew cream is one of vegans and raw foodies favorite preparation. As you can see, it goes well with soups and salads alike, and is a great addition to any preparation.

  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup + water
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (really adds richness to the flavor, and B vitamin)
  • 1/2-1 lemon (juice)
  • pinch salt
    DIRECTIONS:
  1. Place in a high speed blender and blend until a smooth cream is created. The thicker you want it, less water should be added (you can always add more as nuts tend to drink some water).
  2. If you do not have a Vitamix or a similar blender, blend for a long time, at least 5 minutes. It can be stored in the fridge for at least 3 days. Add optional spices for a variety in flavor - I like sun dried tomatoes, or smoked paprika. Chilly works great if you like spicy foods.
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