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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Sorghum Gingerbread Houses

Please ignore the mess in my kitchen. I was up all night baking this thing. 
Every year, I bake a gingerbread house for a little place called the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired. They throw this competition in which local pastry chefs compete in building gingerbread structures in order to raise money for the center. This is one of their signature fundraisers and is a whole heck of a lot of fun to participate in. All of the houses are put up on display and locals can come in, vote for their favorites, and even win these structures in a silent auction for display in their homes, offices, country clubs, and more! Every penny goes to benefit the center. Let me tell you a little bit about it...

The CCVI is one out of eight schools in the United States that aids young children that are either blind or visually impaired. I've been to the school a few times, and they have caring teachers that are there, patiently helping toddlers and young children navigate the world well enough to attend conventional schools in some cases. They offer personalized tutelage, they have parent groups to get together with others, and they're all around good people. The thing I love the best about Kansas City is that there seems to be no shortage of folks that want to help other folks. The city isn't exactly altruistic, but it sure is a place that humanitarians can have their choice of places to volunteer at and make a positive impact on the world.

Let's get onto sorghum, though, shall we? After all, it's in the title of the blog...

This is sorghum. It's a cereal grain that grows tall, like corn, and is native to Africa. Traditionally, much like corn, it's grown as livestock feed, but if you're from the American south, you know all about sorghum syrup and its many uses. Sorghum was - and still is - a cheaper alternative to honey and molasses. The syrup made from the grain is bountiful, and the plant itself is drought resistant, which makes it far more sustainable a crop than sugar cane or corn. The grains can be turned into a sweet and sticky syrup, but also popped like popcorn, cooked like a risotto, and has found its way into the gluten-free market to make as a grain bowl. Ground into flour, with the help of xantham gum, you can make yourself a tasty bread. If you're not trying sorghum, you're missing out.

Molasses, while tasty and recognizable, is a byproduct of cane sugar. I don't need to tell you that cane sugar isn't exactly the most-sustainable thing in the world. By making switches to coconut sugar, beet sugar, and sorghum, you'd be surprised how much environmental impact it would have. I don't have all day to tell you about the corruption in the sugar business, but I can tell you this: sugarcane is one of the thirstiest crops in the world, and it's a much quicker and easier solution to make sustainable switches than to look around for fair trade, sustainable cane sugar. Furthermore, cane sugar has lead to significant losses for the environment, especially in the realm of biodiversity. This, along with many other reasons, is one you should take into consideration before making sugar cookies with white sugar versus coconut sugar, or gingerbread cookies with molasses versus sorghum.

This gingerbread house, like many others, was made with this adapted recipe for gingerbread. I love this recipe because it's very structurally strong, is easy to roll thin while maintaining its integrity, and is still tasty enough to snack on the scraps. It's strong because it has a low amount of fat and no eggs, so therefore will last quite a long time. Best of all, the sorghum makes the dough pliable so you can easily work with it. Shall we?

Sorghum Gingerbread House Dough
yields enough to make one small house - double for a medium house!

  • 112 g coconut sugar
  • 230 g sorghum syrup (I like the dark, but you can use light if you like)
  • 90 g coconut oil, vegetable shortening, or vegan butter substitute
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
    • Use paste, if you can! The smell will be much nicer in the end
  • 350 g AP flour, plus more for dusting
Sift together the flour and spices, then rub in the fat with your fingers. Stir in the remaining ingredients by hand, with a wooden spoon, gently, until everything is homogeneous and well-incorporated. You may use this immediately, of course, but it can set for up to 24 hours at room temperature, wrapped up in plastic wrap, divided in two equal discs. You'll notice that I've omitted any leavening agent - this is because when things like baking powder or baking soda are present in a cookie recipe, they make things rise and they make things soft. We don't want a soft cookie, we want a strong one, nor do we want one that will rise and will change shape on us when baked. 

Now, let's talk about your design. You can print out an easy template online with printer paper, or you can sketch one up on cardboard. You need to be pretty good at math and have some basic engineering skills to draw one up on your own. Or, you know, you can cheat and have your husband (who's good at it because he's an architect, not because he's a man) draw up a design for you. 

This house is based off of pan-Lithuanian/Belarusian architecture, taking inspiration from folksy traditional homes. I rolled out the pieces of dough quite thin, about 3/16", all on parchment paper so it was easy to trace and transfer to a sheet pan. I suggest cutting out the shapes with the raw dough first before baking at 350 for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, take out the cookies and work quickly, for heaven's sake, at this next bit. 

Please label your pieces. This will save you so much heartache and headache in the long run.
Take your template and lay it gently over your cookie. Using a pizza wheel or a small, sharp knife, trim away the edges that have bloomed out and spread during the baking process. This will give you a nice sharp edge! Bake again for another 10 minutes before removing from the oven. Take another sheet pan and lay it very gently atop your baked cookie, only allowing the weight of the pan to flatten out the cookie's surface. Remove the pan and re-trim the cookie if necessary to your shape. Allow to cool completely before you start building with it!

Always mark with pencil, not pen! You can also use edible markers, if you plan to eat it later.

I highly suggest that you use plywood as your base. It's strong, cheap, and readily available at most hardware stores. My gingerbread base was 2' x 2', which was large enough for my house as well as a few added extras for decoration. Consider this, though:

Don't make a gingerbread house that's too big to display in your own home. I suggest that you find a place in your home that you'd like to have your house displayed, measure out the space, and design around that. This house can fit nicely on a side table or atop a chest of drawers. If you'd like a smaller house that can fit on your dining room table, design accordingly.

Slow and steady wins the race. This house took me about 12 hours total.

You're also going to want to have plenty of straight and heavy things to set your walls against. I used soup cans, vases, and bottles of wine to hold my cookie pieces in place while the royal icing dries. I strongly suggest working in batches on this, and building slowly. Don't rush! Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was it built using royal icing. 

Royal Icing for Decorations
  • 1 egg white from a large egg
  • Powdered sugar, A/N
You're going to want an icing that's thin enough to pipe, but thick enough to hold its shape. I suggest using a piping bag without a tip in it for the gluing together, and then use a small, fine round tip to decorate. 

You can start decorations on the pieces you know you'll be needing them on, such as the trim on the front or the side windows. You can also use other tips to create shell designs and comb designs. You can really let your imagination go wild on this! Use plenty of candy, of course, if that's your game. You can also use and modify your own cookie recipes to create design elements for your house. On my house, you'll see:

Ready for voting and judging!

  • Red velvet shortbread cookies (the tiles on the roof and shutters on the windows)
  • Sugar glass (the windows and the lake)
  • Flood-consistency royal icing (the melting snow on the roof)
  • Slivered almonds, tossed in edible gold dust (shimmery rocks and tiles around the pond)
  • White chocolate and pistachio discs (for stepping stones and piped in long pieces for logs)
  • Stiff-consistency royal icing (the icicles, window trim, and more)
  • Homemade marshmallow (the snowy ground)
  • Gum drops and candy canes (for fun!)
You have free range on this one, so use this recipe and these techniques to build the gingerbread house of your dreams. Some planning should go into this, but if you wing it, just remember: it's only cookies, it'll be okay. 

Can you eat this? Sure. Do you want to? I don't know...do you? After you spent all of this time on it? 

Need some inspiration on the gingerbread house of your dreams? Check out Pinterest and Instagram! My skills aren't anywhere near the kind that these trained pastry chefs have, but I still have fun doing them. I highly suggest you have some fun doing them yourself with your kids, your sisters and brothers, your parents, your friends...anyone in your life that you'd like to see have a little fun! 

Unbelievable! I've finally finished! I had other plans for today but I desperately need to shower - I've got icing in places you shouldn't have icing.... but let me talk you through my gingerbread house first! I call it "Pavasaris Ateina", or "spring is coming", to you and me. I had a great aunt that came over for Lithuania and she describes her fine home in autobiography. When she comes to America, she and the rest of her family are subjected to extreme poverty, and she recalls fondly her fine and beautiful home that they once had before it was burned down by the Cossacks. I know it's not the most traditional subject for a gingerbread house, but I would like to think that in the depths of winter is the time in which we need some bright and cheerful hope the most. As they say, It's always darkest before the dawn. I know that we're all tired, but we all need to keep fighting. There is some good in the world and it is worth fighting for. Do you like my gingerbread house? Come and see it at the Webster house, starting tomorrow! It's complete with red velvet shortbread roof tile, marshmallow snow, sugar glass windows, white chocolate stepping stones, and more! And please vote for me! Every single penny donated by voting goes to benefit the children's center for the visually impaired... Or, you know, you could just buy it! Buy it and put it up in your home! See if you can find the hidden gelt... #foodiechats #foodblogger #wannabgourmande #KansasCity #midwestlife #dairyfree #gingerbreadhouse #ccvi #gingerbreadlane #candy #chocolate #gbbo #biscuits #shortbread #redvelvet #candycane #holidaydecor #happyholidays #christmas #parve #pareve #baking #instabake #cookiedecorating #sugar #immigrantsmakeamericagreat #hope #lithuania @ccvi1952
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

I hope you've enjoyed. If you live in the Kansas City area and would like to see my gingerbread house, please head to Webster House in the Crossroads, at 1644 Wyandotte Street, and snap a selfie with it! You can drop a dollar in the "People's Choice" jar to vote for me, or make a bid on it yourself. Or hey! Make a bid on one of the other houses that are there, if you like those better! I assure you, you won't be disappointed in what you see. My favorite part of this 'competition' is seeing the different interpretations that each chef has on what they think a gingerbread structure should be.

Happy baking and happy eating!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Last Single Cabbage Roll

These were the star of #Foodiechats last Monday
A little less than a month ago, I married the most wonderful, kind, generous, sensitive, intelligent man I've ever met. Our wedding was beautiful, the food was lovely, and I was so happy to take this next step in my life with someone that I was so proud to call my husband. This journey has been a long one. B and I have been together for over four years now, and he's now lovingly taken to telling me my favorite line from his wedding vows:

"From now until forever."

I look forward to many years together. In my vows, I promised that he'd always get the last slice of pizza, the big piece of fried chicken, and that no matter what, his home would be full of good meals, as would be the rest of his life. I show love by cooking, and he's my favorite person to cook for. Now,  you would think that I'd have chosen something a little more loving and poetic than Lithuanian cabbage rolls as the last meal I cooked for him before he moved out of our house the week before our wedding. You would think that I'd take "the last meal" before our wedding day with a little more thought. You'd probably think that I'd put something a little more photogenic on the table, wouldn't you? Well guess what!

I didn't. I put dumb old cabbage rolls on the table and looked across to my then-fiance and realized: this is the last meal I'll cook for him until we're married. As you can imagine, I about cried. The next meal we'd have together would be our rehearsal dinner, of course, and then our wedding tacos, but I didn't make those. Oh, sure, I made the cake, but that wasn't a meal. The last meal I had made for my husband before we were married were dumpy old cabbage rolls. And you know what?

He loved them. He loved the cabbage rolls, ate them heartily, and kissed me lovingly and thanked me for taking the effort to cook him such a nice meal. I was near tears with how embarrassed I was over the silly things and he loved them! Looking back on it now, I can only assume that it was the stress and jitters of everything all coming to fruition. He'd proposed on Valentine's Day and we got married on October 21st. I'd planned the best wedding I could and I'm so happy with how everything turned out.
I'm making a funny face but I love the movement in this shot.
Those veils are hand-sewn and hand-embroidered by yours truly!

And I looked freaking fabulous, too.

Anyway, on to the cabbage rolls! These won foodiechats and had the most-response out of any photo I've posted in recent memory. It turns out that cabbage rolls are an emotional food for many! It's a humble dish by nature and one that's seldom found in restaurants. You get cabbage rolls from grandmother's table, not the gastropub in the hipster part of town. (Or maybe you do nowadays? I don't know, I've never seen them there.)

Holishkes are the traditional Jewish stuffed cabbage that are usually stuffed with a minced meat of some kind, sometimes with rice to fill it up, and then simmered in tomato sauce. It's a pretty common dish at Sukkot, which is a fall harvest festival in which you eat like a pig for seven whole days. Balendeliai (which means 'little doves'), or Lithuanian stuffed cabbage rolls, are eaten just because.

While you can stick to the traditional recipe of forcemeat with rice, I honestly like to make cabbage rolls using leftovers. No, really! You take you leftovers, roll them up in a sturdy veggie burrito, and simmer them in a sauce...then boom! Your leftovers have been reincarnated into something that looks like you did it on purpose. This is what I did for the last single cabbage roll.

Chicken Cabbage Rolls
yields a dozen cabbage rolls, plenty for two with leftovers
  • 1 young cabbage, quite small - or a regular-sized cabbage using only the more tender leaves in the middle
  • 1 lb shredded chicken meat (this was leftover from the chicken tacos I'd made the other night)
  • 1 cup onion, diced quite fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced quite fine
  • 1/4 cup fennel, shredded fine
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
This doesn't sound like a whole lot, but trust me, it'll be plenty! You're only using it to stuff things, and each roll won't take more than three tablespoons of filling safely. Then again, I had a rather small, young cabbage that I'd grown. These ingredients sound like a mishmash of leftovers. I have news for you: they were. This was a dish I'd thrown together without even thinking about the fact that it was the last meal I'd cook for my wonderful partner before we were separated then married.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix your chicken, diced veggies, and rice in one large bowl. Don't worry about seasoning this part, you'll season the broth vigorously. Meanwhile, bring to boil a medium sauce pot of salted water, and prepare the cabbage. You'll want the younger, more tender leaves so be sure to peel away the larger layers. Trim the hard stem part away, only an inch or two of it, with a paring knife. Using tweezers or your bare fingers - only if you haven't any feeling left in them anymore, like me - blanch your cabbage leaves for about 30 seconds per leaf, just enough to bring out the color and make it soft enough to roll. I suggest doing all the leaves at once so you can lay them flat on a warm plate, ready for rolling.

See? Nice and tight, like little cigars!
When ready, take a spoonful or two of your filling and smash it into a cigar shape. You'll roll by rolling up the bottom, just to cover, and then folding in the ends/sides, nice and tight, to look like an envelope. Roll it up firmly yet gently, almost like you're swaddling a baby bird, and then store them on another plate with the seam down. Repeat until you have no more filling!

Take your favorite dutch oven (I've got mine that I inherited from my great-grandmother) and get it nice and hot on the flame. Add a tablespoon of a neutral oil and let it heat. Once you're good and hot, sear the cabbage rolls, seam side down, to seal, and then on the other side to get some flavor. You will most-likely have to this in batches, but that's okay. Once everything's all seared, you'll reintroduce your cabbage rolls, arranged as tight as you can arrange them, to your pan. Pour in the beef stock, the tomato paste, dill, bay leaf, and whole smashed garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and adjust seasoning. You want to make sure that your cabbage leaves are wholly covered. While you can keep it simmering on the stovetop, I like to use the oven.

Pop the lid on your dutch oven and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Traditionally, you serve this with lots of sour cream and fresh dill, maybe even some scallions if you're feeling fancy. We don't do dairy in the house, so we like Tofutti's sour cream substitute. The best part about this food is that you can set the pot on the table (with a pad underneath that hot pot, of course!) and serve straight out of the cooking dish. I also love that you can make these a day ahead and just heat up as needed, which - trust me - I did, all throughout the week of the wedding. Fortunately, I had my best friend and Maid of Honor Riley there to keep me sane while she lived with me for the week. Bless her.

Riley, you've saved my life so many times. Thank you so much for being my best friend.
So that's it! That's the delicious cabbage roll, that made a spark of interest on the #Foodiechats chat! Thanks so much for reading. If you try any of my recipes, subscribe to me and comment below on your results.

Thank you so much! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Vegan Doughnuts

I throw around the term 'vegan' a lot. I know I've stated before that I am not a vegan, but whenever I eat a dish that has no meat in it, it's automatically vegan because there is no dairy in them. My husband and I have been totally dairy-free for a few years now, and it's honestly gotten much easier with time. There are many products out there that make going dairy-free or vegan very easy, and you'll hardly have to sacrifice a thing! A word on donuts, though, before we begin:

The doughnut as we know it is an all-American food. We've seen doughnuts in popular culture for generations, and it's even mentioned back in old receipts books (that's old timey speak for 'recipe books'). You can cook them in a cast iron pot with boiling fat on the prairie, and what sounds more American than that? But what if I told you that this was not an indigenous treat? I'm sure you wouldn't be that surprised.

Doughnuts originate from Dutch cultures, and they were brought over to the Americas by the same people that brought us pancakes - which means, yes, "Dutch Pancake" is a tautology. You can find all sorts of nifty tidbits of info on the Dutch influences in American cooking in this lovely book, Cookies, Coleslaw and Stoops. Isn't learning great? I think so.

So the doughnut, originally Dutch, has made its way into our hearts. Gourmet doughnuts have emerged in the last few  years, and they are plastered on Instagram in droves! And why not? It's an enriched dough that's been deep-fried in fat and either rolled in sugar or slathered with glazes and toppings and stuffed with fillings that would make anybody blush! My favorite doughnuts are jelly doughnuts, especially with raspberry in them. I also love a good s'mores doughnut, glazed with chocolate and stuffed with caramel and marshmallow. (I've never actually bought one like that - I make those.) You can let your imagination go wild when you create your own doughnut! Just follow these simple instructions...

Vegan Doughnuts
yields: enough (you'll see what I mean)

  • 300 g AP flour (two cups and change)
  • 3 g yeast
  • 20 g cane sugar
  • 75 g vegan butter (you can use high-ratio vegetable shortening in a pinch)
  • 135 g warm coffee (leftover from the morning brew is just fine, warmer than body temperature but not so hot as to scald your fingers)
Combine the flour, yeast, and sugar into the bowl of  your standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Cut the butter into 1/2" chunks and distribute among the flour, then turn on your mixer to let the hook stir in the fat and yeast. Turn off the mixer, pour the coffee straight in, and allow everything to come together. Will this have a coffee flavor, then? Hardly - it'll be barely noticeable, but you do want the subtle complexities and gentle acids of your coffee to add depth and elevate the flavorings of the doughnut you'll add later...and the acids will cut the glutens to make sure that you won't overwork your dough and get nasty tunneling. You're looking for a very smooth dough that easily passes the window test, so let this little dough take its time and knead for about 8 minutes.

Remove the dough ball from the mixer and gently, lightly lubricate the bowl with some neutral oil. Smooth your dough into a nice round ball in your hands and roll around in the bowl of your mixer. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to proof, or rise. They call it proofing because it 'proves' the yeast is working while it rises! This should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. 

Meanwhile, let's talk about fat and deep-frying! You can spend your  money on a fancy deep-fat fryer that you'll only bust out every so often but will otherwise keep space on your counter and collect dust for months on end...or you can do what I do and fire up a stock pot! If I'm doing a large amount of deep-frying, say for fried chicken or croquettes, I'll use my big dutch oven. If it's just doughnuts, I'll use my 6 qt stock pot that I picked up at a thrift store, who knows when. 

You can also spend the money on nice liquid soybean or grapeseed oil, which has a high smoke point and you can get a lot of yield out of it...or you can just use creamy vegetable shortening out of the big blue drum - you know the kind. Why use this kind? I'll tell you in one word: cleanup. 

It is exponentially easier to clean up a fat that turns solid at room temperature, that you can scrape into your trash, than it is to strain and properly dispose of used liquid fat. But hey, if you want to strain your fat and bribe some guy at the local Chinese place to let you use their grease dumpster for it, be my guest. 

Oh, and let's remember: safety first. Always wear a full apron when dealing with fat, and keep a thermometer handy to make sure that it doesn't go over 400 degrees. You're going to want to be at about 350 degrees F for your doughnuts. And never, ever EVER throw water on a greasefire! Just turn off the heat, cover it, and walk away. Don't touch it, don't try to move it. Turn off the heat, cover it, and walk away. If you throw water on boiling fat, it will explode everywhere and you will get hurt. To prevent fat boil-over, never fill your vessel more than halfway up with fat. I think for my little pot, that's about three cups of shortening, heated. Please be safe!

So once your dough is proved, let's get cutting. 

Lightly flour your cold marble surface and choose your cutters. I took these two rounds from my cutter set. I floured them, my hands, and my rolling pin before very gently rolling out my dough into a 1/2" thick slab.You can do many different kinds of shapes, if you like. You can even do hearts or stars! I do like the traditional rings and I, of course, save the middles for doughnut holes. But what's to be done with the excess? 

I like to take my excess and roll out into a square, then cut in strips. These create a very charming, rustic long john! You can fill these, of course, or you can just leave them as is. You can also cut crossways as well as long ways to create square doughnut holes. Heck, cut square doughnuts! You can do whatever you want - you're the one that's eating them, after all.

Lightly flour again and place on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silpat mat to keep from sticking. Leave in a warm place to let them have a second rise while your fat is coming up to temperature. Remember, you're looking for 350 degrees F for optimal doughnut frying! While it's coming up, start thinking about your toppings. 

I had this caramel dark chocolate ganache left over from my wedding, so I melted some of it down to a liquid state for glazing. (For my basic ganache recipe, find it here!) I also took some granulated cane sugar with some cinnamon, cardamom, sumac, and a tiny hint of cayenne to create a sugar doughnut. You can also chop up things like candy bars, graham crackers, mini marshmallows, baked meringue cookies, heath pieces, sprinkles, your favorite cereal, and freeze-dried fruit to use as toppings! 

If you're just a fan of the classic glazed, do this:

Basic Sugar Glaze
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter substitute, melted
  • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp almond milk/coconut milk/hemp milk
Mix until smooth and flavor as you like! Correct the consistency as you need to - it should be a little gloopy and not too runny. I really like using vanilla paste for this particular glaze, but you can do any flavor you like and color appropriately. If you find yourself a pistachio flavoring, for example, don't be afraid to color it a festive green color! And a cherry flavor? Why, pink, of course, must be the answer. Pop it in a piping bag and set aside.

Now that your toppings are all in place, make sure that you have a way to get your doughnuts and doughnut holes out of that hot fat. I like chopsticks for big rings, and a pasta spoon to fish out the holes and long johns. And please make sure that you're nice and organized before you begin - because once you start frying, you're not going to be able to stop.

I always fry my doughnut holes first, dropping them gently from a few inches above the surface of the hot oil, stirring them around, and letting them cook to GBD (golden-brown delicious) before fishing them out. Shake them a little before you drop these ones in your spiced sugar mixture, and then toss them about with a restrained vigor. Evacuate and set on a plate!

You can also shave chocolate atop to give yourself a little texture!

I'd fry the larger doughnuts one at a time, if I were you, especially if you're a beginner. Use the chopsticks to gently turn them over and then fish them out through the hole. Either dump them straight in the sugar mixture or use a paper towel to dab them gently before letting them fall face-first into your ganache. If you glaze them, simply run your glaze around the doughnut in a ring so the glaze falls off and cascades down. If you'd like a more opaque effect of frosting, let the doughnuts cool a little before you glaze them and add sprinkles. 

Keep going until all of your doughnuts are finished! These will keep under plastic wrap for at least a couple of days, but I promise you that they won't last that long. 

So there you have it! Easy vegan doughnuts that will impress and let loose your creativity. I hope you enjoy the recipe, and try it for yourself. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Wedding Soup - Vegan Pumpkin Curry Soup

Hey all!

Wow, oh wow, what a crazy last couple of months it's been. For those of you that are not following me on Instagram or Facebook (though you should be, it's updated daily, unlike this), I should give you this update: I just got married.

That's right! B and I tied the knot at long last and are now continuing our life together as husband and wife. But hey, you didn't come here for that, did you? You came for the delicious wedding soup recipe! Why wouldn't you want to know why a vegan pumpkin curry soup is called 'wedding' soup? Well, let me tell you...

We got married on October 21st at a glorious little venue, surrounded by friends, family, and the most glorious floral arrangements you could imagine. A part of our aesthetic were these beautiful Jarrahdale pumpkins, that are a ghostly greenish-gray. They are spooky and autumnal without being kitschy, and that's just what I wanted for my enchanting wedding. We had, of course, lots of pumpkins left over so I told my guests to take them home, as many as they wanted...so long as I got first pick.

B and I honeymooned in the Grand Canyon and came back to a mess of a house - but hey, that's how we left it. And the pumpkins? Why, they were perfectly happy to be right there in the garage. It's cool and dry down there, and the perfect place to store produce. A pumpkin will keep for months in the right conditions, so they really are an excellent crop to have growing in your garden.  Do I plan on growing these in my garden from now on? You'd better believe it. It's not every day you get to designate yourself your own wedding pumpkin, now is it?

This recipe was made a bit on the fly, so I just copied down what I did, as I did it. You must remember that a pumpkin is a living creature, so each one will taste a little different than the last. Some may be firmer, some may have more water - just remember to follow your own instincts and taste as you go, changing as you need and as you like ... just like in life! And just like in marriage! Oh, and like in marriage (or in any long term relationship you get yourself into), patience is required. This recipe takes two days!

Wedding Soup
yields quite a lot, serves 8 - 10 

  • 1 medium Jarrahdale pumpkin, roasted (see following)
  • 6 Tbsp vegan butter substitute or canola oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped (never mind the peel)
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small habanero pepper, minced (wear gloves, if you please!)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp hot curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground mint
  • 2 Tbsp white miso
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Vegan sour cream, to serve

First thing's first - let's get that pumpkin roasting. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F and cut your pumpkin in half. Be careful because it's a rather thick pumpkin with a smooth skin. Take your time and cut it in half safely. Scoop out all the seeds and cut deep scores on the insides. Rub the insides of the pumpkin with either oil or your favorite vegan butter substitute, and don't be stingy with it. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 2 hours, or until the pumpkin is very soft indeed. In the meantime, prep all of your vegetables and wash and rinse the pulp to harvest your seeds. It won't matter what size you chop your vegetables to, so long as they're all the same size, as you're going to be pureeing all of this anyway. 

And, yes, I did label the jar "wedding seeds" in the cupboard. #JustWitchyThings
My pumpkin yielded a whole jar full, once rinsed and let dry! You can save them in an airtight container in a dark place, of course, for your garden next spring, or you can cook them. Roasted pumpkin seeds can be excellent snacks, and you can cook them into a lovely candy brittle, if you so choose. I'm saving mine for the garden, so I'll be keeping them in my cupboard until spring. 

Once it's roasted and very soft, I advise you to let it cool overnight in the fridge. This will make everything much easier and a bit safer to handle in the fridge. Besides, I only used half of the roasted pumpkin for my soup! It was too much for my Dutch oven to handle all of the pumpkin, so I took the other half and pureed it instead, and then popped it in the freezer for later use...probably to make pies or cakes later in the year as the holidays go!

Now that it's the next day, ideally early in the morning, and your pumpkin half is cool enough to be handled and scraped out, take all of the vegetables that you've already chopped and sweat them in 2 Tbsp of your favorite vegan butter substitute, with the lid on, until rather soft and aromatic, which should take 15 minutes on medium heat. Add in your scraped out pumpkin, two cans of full-fat coconut milk, and your 2 cups of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for about 30 minutes on low. It's at this point that you stir in your spices and miso, and then turn off the heat. Let it sit, covered, for 20 minutes, before you remove the cover, stir again, and then pop in your fridge to let cool all day (ideally overnight). But what the heck are you doing this for?


Pumpkin has a delicate flavor, so you don't want to cook it for too long - after all, you've already roasted it - and the spices don't want to be murdered in the heat, but slowly allowed to seep in and dance with the other flavors that you're developing. Think of a tea! You're making a cold-brew soup. Right? Right!

When you come home from work  - either that same day or the next day - you're ready to finish the soup. Simply bring it up to a boil again, taste for salt and seasonings, add more or less miso depending on if it's too spicy for you, and then turn off the heat. Take out your vitamix (or whatever blender you have) and blend in batches. And dear GODS above, please start on the lowest setting possible. This is an absolute crucial thing to do when dealing with hot liquids, so please do be safe. 

You're blending the soup in batches, going from lowest to highest, blending for at least 1 minute per batch, to ensure that this is the smoothest and creamiest soup you ever did sup. Pop in a clean and warm serving kettle and retire your dutch oven to the sink, and serve tableside. You may finish with some tofu sour cream and some mint, if you like, or just have it with a grilled cheese (made from vegan cheeses, of course).  

I made enough for dinner for 8 people, so I gave some to our neighbors across the street - one of which is the fabulous @Mia Mercado, the author of "An Ode to Soup" (so you know I had to give her and her husband some). We froze some, as well, and are keeping the rest for lunch during the week.

This soup is a fabulous concoction, so smooth and creamy that you'd never know it was vegan. I encourage you to give this pumpkin soup a shot during fall, a.k.a. Soup Season. Thanks so much for reading, and wish me luck on married life! May your own love life leave you so satisfied with the taste of it that you end up scraping the dish. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!