Kitchen :: Easiest Ever Carrot Soup!

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Here in my world, lots of friends have been posting the latest version of "Five (or 10 or 20) Things You May Not Know About Me" on Facebook. I haven't posted mine yet, although I was "tagged" a couple weeks ago and apparently am supposed to do so. One of these days I'll get around to that. In the meantime, here is one thing you may not know about me: I haven't eaten meat since July.

Here's the deal. Although I cut most dairy from my diet nearly 25 years ago after being told I was lactose intolerant, it wasn't enough to resolve the almost daily abdominal cramps and other digestion problems that had plagued me my entire life. I decided enough was enough, and I needed to make a major change, so in August I took part in a 30-day raw/vegan challenge. Since then, I have adopted a mostly vegan diet (on occasion I eat eggs), and I have never felt better. After not feeling well for so long, it has been a revelation to enjoy days completely free of headaches and painful cramps. Truly, it is incredible to just feel normal.

I have been having fun experimenting with new meat-free recipes, although I must admit the thought of a vegan Thanksgiving has me stumped. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I've gotten some great inspiration from sites like Get Vegucated and Greatist, but I still haven't actually committed to any of the recipes. So yes, my reign as the queen of last-minute (worse than last-minute?) holiday planning continues.

No matter what I decide to serve, I've got to try and keep things simple. The rest of my omnivorous family will be eating traditional turkey, and since I really don't feel like making two completely separate dinners, I am hoping to cobble together a mix of side dishes that will appeal to everyone. This creamy carrot soup might just fit the bill. In a sea of complicated, multi-step Thanksgiving recipes, this soup shines as a beacon of utter simplicity. The flavor is complex enough to stand on its own, or you can dress it up with a drizzle of fruity olive oil and a grind of black pepper. A holiday recipe that doesn't require an oven and comes together in under five minutes? Now that's something to be thankful for.

Easiest Ever Carrot Soup

This soup is a riff on a recipe I developed a couple years ago after being invited to participate in a "local ingredients" soup recipe contest. Although I didn't win the contest, my soup did get rave reviews from friends and family. I like this version even better, because it requires no cooking and yet somehow retains all the silky texture and warming flavors of the original.

Use organic whenever possible.

4 large carrots, unpeeled, cut into 1/2" rounds
8-12 large Medjool dates, pitted (~1 cup)*
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon EACH:
 - onion powder
 - garlic powder
 - sea salt
 - freshly ground black pepper
 - cinnamon
 - chickpea miso (or other mild miso paste)
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup raw cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight and drained**
4 cups warm water

Make it:
1. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.*** Blend until silky smooth and warmed to desired temperature.

2. THAT'S IT! The friction created by the high-speed blender will heat the soup sufficiently for service. Didn't I tell you this was the easiest soup ever?

Yield: about 6 cups. Best served as soon as it's made, but it can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator in a covered container. Re-warm in the blender.

* The dates need to be VERY soft to blend smoothly. If yours are dry, soak them in warm water for an hour or so, until soft. Drain before using.

** Soaking the nuts makes them easier to digest, but in a pinch you can skip this step. You can read more about the benefits of soaking raw nuts and seeds here.

*** Note that a high-speed blender is essential for the success of this recipe. Don't want to drop hundreds of dollars for a Vitamix or BlendTec? Consider picking up one of these budget-friendly "rocket" blenders. A bargain at around $25, they pack a powerful blending punch, although they only hold about 2 cups at a time. I cut the recipe by 1/4 and made it in a Bella blender that I received as a gift. It turned out perfectly!