Thai Coconut Curry Squash Soup

I happen to be a huge fan of curry – Thai and Indian. I have a distinct memory of being hungry one day a few years ago, and my dad whipping up the most delicious yellow lamb (when I was eating meat) curry over white rice. There’s just something comforting about it. Is that just me?

Anyway, I was really craving Thai last week. Just kidding, I’m really craving Thai always, all the time, forever and ever. I spend half of my income each month on Cozy Noodles, Duck Walk, Noodles in the Pot and Penny’s in Chicago. It’s a sickness I don’t want cured.

But I was particularly craving Thai curry. My sister-in-law recently sent me a Thai soup recipe and I happened to have three small winter squash sitting on my counter waiting to be made into that creamy, Thai coconut curry soup. The original recipe I based this off of called for two acorn squash, but I had one acorn squash and two tiny blue hubbards, so I went with it. As I’ve said before, we make this easy, we do what we want in the kitchen.

I don’t even know what to say about this soup. It’s so easy and forgiving, exactly how you want a recipe to be. The only time consuming part is roasting the squash and that’s just like a nice little way to warm up your apartment while you unwind after work. And it’s so creamy. Seriously like velvet. It’s perfect with a little piece of toasted roti or naan or whatever carb sounds awesome for dipping.

Pairs well with an imported light beer because we’re obviously pretending we’re in Thailand while we eat this.

Thai Coconut Curry Squash Soup

Adapted from In My Bowl

What you need:

-3 small winter squash (I used one acorn and two acorn-sized blue hubbard squash)
-1 tbsp coconut oil
-pinch of salt
-14 oz can light coconut milk
-2 tbsp red Thai curry paste
-1-2 cups vegetable broth
-salt and pepper

What you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Halve and seed your squash (you can reserve seeds for roasted squash seeds). Place squash on a lipped roasting pan, flesh side up, and coat with coconut oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 60-75 minutes, until fork tender and skin looks loose.

2. After squash is done roasting, let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove squash from skin and place flesh in a medium stock pot. Mash slightly with a fork.

3. To the stock pot, add entire can of coconut milk along with curry paste. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and add vegetable broth (anywhere from 1-2 cups, depending on how thick you want your soup).

4. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Blend with an immersion blender, or in batches in your food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Best served with a sprig of cilantro and a squeeze of sriracha.

NOTE: This can also be frozen in single servings (1-2 cups) in Ziploc freezer bags for up to six months. Just allow to thaw in fridge the night before you intend to eat it, then reheat in small sauce pan over medium heat.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

To be fair, I told you I would do this. I said “I don’t like pumpkin.” Then I continued to tell you I would probably/definitely be making a pumpkin pie. From an actual pie pumpkin that I pureed.

But then I was thinking of all the labor and calories involved and how there’s zero reward for me because, of all the pumpkin things, I think pumpkin pie is the worst.

Chocolate, however……. let’s talk about chocolate. Chocolate I’m on board with. You don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies? Throw some chocolate in there. Don’t love vanilla ice cream? Hot fudge, obviously. Don’t like Mexican food? You’re dumb and need to re-evaluate your life choices. But try some mole.

So the next obvious choice was to make something with that fresh pumpkin puree that included chocolate chips. Chocolate chip pumpkin loaf. Basically banana bread, but starring banana’s understudy, pumpkin. And you get to use all the cinnamon and nutmeg and happy Fall feelings.

I’m not going to include how to puree an actual pie pumpkin in this post. You can find that all over the Internet. And unless you actually have a pie pumpkin lying around from a CSA or your own personal pumpkin patch, it really doesn’t make a difference. Just buy some organic pumpkin puree in the can. We want this to be easy. We want this to be rewarding.

Added bonus: we made this vegan cuz we are morally righteous. And it makes it so moist and amazing. (You can totally make this non-vegan with butter and an egg. But I seriously do think it’s more moist with the flax and oil.)

Disclaimer: This is in no way on the “How to Look Hot in Your Sexy Mouse Costume on Halloween” diet. It’s horrible for you. This is on the “How to Gain Extra Padding for Warmth in the Winter” diet. Bring 3/4 to work and make friends.

This pairs well with the first scarf-worthy Fall day and a cup of warm chai tea with a touch of cinnamon and almond milk.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

Adapted from Joy the Baker

What you need:

-2 cups all-purpose flour (can probably sub wheat flour, will change texture slightly)
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (pre-mixed or Joy’s instructions)
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tbsp finely ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water
-1/2 cup canola oil
-1 cup organic pumpkin puree
-1 cup light packed brown sugar
-1 tsp almond milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-3/4 cup chocolate chips (some Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips are vegan, as are Trader Joe’s semi-sweet)

What you do:

1. First thing you’ll want to do is create your flax seed egg. Combine the 1 tbsp of finely ground flax seed with 3 tbsp of water. Set aside. This needs to sit for about 30 minutes to gel a bit.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan with margarine (I used Earth balance), line with parchment paper and then grease the parchment paper as well.

3. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinammon, nutmeg and salt.

4. In a large bowl, combine your wet ingredients, starting with your flax seed egg, canola oil and pumpkin puree. Mix well, then add brown sugar, almond milk and vanilla.

5. Add your dry ingredients from the medium bowl with your wet ingredients in the large bowl. Mix until very well combined, then you can add your chocolate chips.

6. Spread into your greased loaf pan and then bake for about 50-55 minutes. To ensure the center is cooked, pierce with a wooden skewer. Continue baking in 5 minute increments until the skewer comes out clean or near clean.

I was feeling like I needed a LOT of extra padding for the winter. So I went ahead and baked up a homemade vegan pizza right along with my pumpkin bread.

7. Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool on a plate or go ahead and serve warm.

 

UPDATE 10.28.14: I made this again, this time with melted Earth Balance instead of vegetable oil, a sprinkle of baking powder in the flax mixture just before combining with the pumpkin and margarine, and a heaping teaspoon of molasses instead of almond milk and baked for 55 minutes exactly. It was definitely better, the batter was thicker and it gave the bread a better texture overall. Up to you which way you choose!

A Weeknight Dinner Feat. Strange Pink Potato and Grilled Tofu

I have so many potatoes. I have a potato problem. I’ve gotten them every week for the past 4 weeks in my CSA. Pounds upon pounds of potatoes.

I mean don’t get me wrong, I like potatoes. I think they’re delicious. But they have very little nutritional value. I really can’t justify eating more than one or two in a day.

Eventually I’m going to have to make enough mashed potatoes for an army or something and freeze them. But last night I decided to eat just one of those suckers. The way I used to growing up – good old fashioned microwaved “baked” potato.

Yes, I’m writing a food blog post in which one of the staples of my meal was a nuked potato. It’s fine. There are no rules here.

It was exciting though. Once I scrubbed the potato clean, I realized it was a red-skinned potato. Pretty normal, nothing new. But after cooking it and slicing it open, it was revealed to me that my potato had pink flesh. Has anyone ever seen that?? It was new to me. Tasted the same, but was an interesting surprise.

I had my pink potato with a delicious marinated grilled tofu and boiled kale with lemon and garlic. Recipe below. This pairs well with a sudden drop in temp, a lack of motivation and a glass of cheap red wine.

Baked Potato and Grilled Tofu

Marinated Grilled Tofu with Boiled Kale and Baked Potato

What you need for tofu:

One package extra firm tofu*
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (vegs omit; contains anchovies)
2 tbsp dry red wine
juice from 1 small lemon
1/2 clove garlic, minced/pressed
1 tsp brown sugar

*NOTE: I used Trader Joe’s Organic Sprouted Tofu – it comes in two packages. I only used one, which is about 7.25 ounces of tofu, enough to serve two people. If you use more, just adjust the marinade quantities accordingly. I find the marinade tastes the same even if you just eyeball the ingredient proportions.

What you need for kale:

1 large bunch kale
juice from 1 small lemon
1/2 clove garlic, minced/pressed

What you need for potato:

1 large potato, any variety (mine was about 11 ounces)
1 tsp margarine (Earth Balance)
2 tbsp sauerkraut
2 tbsp light sour cream, optional (vegans omit)

What you do:

Let’s start with the cardinal rule when working with tofu: Press the shit out of it. It’s obvious when it’s not pressed. It’s watery and too soft and flavorless because even if you marinate it for hours, it can’t absorb any of it since it’s packed with so much water.

So we start by taking our tofu and slicing it into four equal “steaks” (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick). Put a dish towel down on a hard surface and place a thick layer of paper towels over it. Add your tofu steaks on top of the paper towels and put another thick layer of paper towels on top of the tofu.

This is where it gets fun. Find the heaviest things you own and place them on top of the covered tofu. I used two big cookbooks PLUS my KitchenAid (like, that thing weighs as much as I do). Let it sit like this for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably an hour or two. (Admittedly I only did 40ish since I was tired and hungry.)

While your tofu is being pressed, wash your kale. Slice the leaves away from the stalks and cut into relatively large pieces (about 2-3 inches or so in diameter). You can also wash your potato while you wait. And have a glass of wine. Maybe watch some evening TV. I don’t know, it’s your life.

When your tofu is nice and pressed, mix all of your marinade ingredients (soy sauce through brown sugar) in a small bowl and place in a freezer bag. Add your tofu, so it lays flat, and allow to marinate for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t need long, since tofu absorbs quickly.

While your tofu marinates, place a medium-large pot of water over high heat. You’ll bring this to a boil.

Now I’m about to tell you to do a whole bunch of things at once. Don’t panic. They aren’t time sensitive. This shouldn’t be scary.

First, we’ll focus on the potato. Now that it’s washed, stab it thoroughly all over with a fork. Place on a microwave safe plate, uncovered, and nuke on high for 5-6 minutes (less if it’s smaller).

While that’s happening, coat a grill pan with a bit of canola oil and place over medium heat. (You can also use a regular frying pan. We’re inclusive here. Whatever you’ve got. I just wanted grill marks.) Place tofu on the grill pan and heat on both sides, about 5-6 minutes each.

While your tofu is grilling, check if your water is boiling. It is? Awesome. Throw all that pre-chopped kale in there. Make sure it’s fully submerged, and boil for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain like you would pasta, and add juice of one small lemon and 1/2 clove of garlic. Toss well.

Your potato will stay hot, so it’s okay if that’s done cooking early. The kale tastes fine lukewarm. The last thing finished should be the tofu. Top the tofu with some of the remaining marinade right before you take it off the grill.

Slice open your very fancy pink microwave potato and top with some margarine and kraut. I also added light sour cream because that’s delicious, but I’m sure it would taste just fine without it and then the whole meal is vegan.

First Day of Fall: Sweet Heat Roasted Squash Seeds

As of tomorrow, September 23, 2014, it is officially Fall and I am officially not crazy anymore. Well, I’m not crazy for obsessing over this season way too far in advance. I’m still crazy in other ways. Good crazy.

ANYWAY, I wanted to do something to celebrate the official arrival of Fall. Not to mention the fact that my apartment is filled with all types of winter squash from my CSA. And that it’s actually cool enough keep my oven on for more than an hour. Right now, I have a big fat spaghetti squash, three cute lil baby delicatas, one buttercup and one acorn squash. And one pie pumpkin which I will eventually use for a disgustingly laborious pumpkin pie that I will not eat since, as previously discussed, I do not like pumpkin pie. I am simply a Fall-loving masochist. See, good crazy.

I decided to roast the spaghetti squash first, simply because it would have the most seeds and I wanted to bake them. Because when is the last time you had baked winter squash seeds? Too long ago, that’s the last time.

This recipe could not be easier. If you don’t like the idea of sweet heat roasted seeds cuz you’re crazy in the bad way, you can drizzle them with oil and salt instead and bake them the exact same way.

Sweet Heat Winter Squash Seeds

Sweet Heat Roasted Winter Squash Seeds (And Roasted Spaghetti Squash)

What you need:

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half longways, seeds and strings removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of S&P
1/2 tsp coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
2 tsp Sambal Oelek (or Sriracha or dried chili flakes)
Drizzle of Agave

What you do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle your halved, seeded spaghetti squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flesh side down on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Let roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until it smells sweet and the skin is slightly browned. If you want the flesh to be slightly softer, you may choose to put about 1 tbsp of water in the roasting pan.

While squash roasts, clean the seeds. Remove any remaining flesh and place in a bowl or colander to rinse completely clean. Lay seeds out in one even layer on a paper towel to dry for about an hour while the squash roasts.

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When squash is finished roasting, remove and let cool for about 20 minutes or longer, until cool enough to handle.

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While squash is cooling, set oven to 300 degrees F. Put seeds in a small bowl and toss with coconut oil, chili sauce and agave. (If you do not like the flavor of coconut oil, feel free to use something more neutral, like canola oil.)

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Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place seeds on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly browned. Let cool and enjoy! You can keep these in an airtight container for about a week. Mine were gone within 24 hours… And that was me showing restraint.

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When squash is cool enough to handle, remove flesh from skin by scraping lightly with a fork. Serve warm with drizzle of olive oil, lemon, garlic and parmesan. (Or however you prefer. I personally don’t think it works well as a “substitute” for spaghetti, so I like it this way. The undressed flesh will keep in the fridge for several days and reheats fine in the microwave.)

Both the squash and seeds pair well with a cold Crispin, a warm blanket and a Fall-scented candle. Happy First Day of Fall!

I’m-Hungover-But-Don’t-Want-to-be-Fat Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I used to get really hungover in college. Don’t get me wrong – I also get the occasional pukey, head-pounding headache hangover these days. But nothing compared to college.

And in my hungover brain, calories never matter. Anything I can choke down that won’t come back up will do the trick to cure it. Preferably very greasy. Preferably of the Asian persuasion. Preferably college budget-approved.

In Madison, there’s this place called Asian Kitchen. Everything they serve is loaded with MSG. I love it. They make this lo mein that I always used to eat when I was hungover. One minute I would be on my deathbed and after eating an entire quart (no, literally) of that lo mein, with about half a cup of grease pooling at the bottom, I felt like a million bucks.

But like, I got a lil porky the year I ate the most lo mein. And I’m pretty sure it was the lo mein. Not all the alcohol that led to the hangovers that led to the lo mein. Yeah. Pretty sure.

Anyway, this is a guilt-free, paleo, vegetarian, every-diet-under-the-sun-approved alternative for my current, “adult” hangovers. You know, if I have some left over. I am obviously not capable of cooking while hungover.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Paleo & Vegetarian Cauliflower Fried “Rice”
(Adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves 4

What you need:

1 medium head cauliflower
cooking spray
2 large eggs, beaten (vegans omit)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1-2 large carrots, finely diced
1/2 medium head broccoli, chopped into small florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger powder
4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (vegans omit)
2 tbsp Sambal Oelek (Asian chili sauce; omit if you don’t want spicy – you could also substitute Sriracha, which I’m assuming more people have on hand)

What you do:

Rinse cauliflower thoroughly, remove stem and roughly chop into small florets. In batches, fit as many florets as you can into a food processor and process until fine, but not mush. (I have a mini food processor that only holds 2 cups at the moment, so I had a lot of batches and I ended up making it a little too fine, like cous cous, which was okay. Do yourself a favor and use a bigger one.) Set cauliflower “rice” aside.

In a small bowl, beat eggs. Coat a large saute pan with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Once warm, add eggs and scramble. Don’t over cook. Set aside.

In the same pan over medium heat, add sesame oil and saute onion, carrots and broccoli until tender, about 4-5 minutes. You may want to cover for about a minute to steam the broccoli. Add garlic and ginger and stir to combine over heat for an additional minute.

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Raise heat to medium-high and add cauliflower “rice,” soy sauce, fish sauce and Sambal Oelek. Mix, cover pan and cook cauliflower, stirring frequently, until tender inside but slightly crispy outside, about 6 minutes. Mix in the egg.

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Remove from heat and enjoy! You may choose to top this with some scallions (I had none) and adjust seasoning to taste. I think cooked shrimp or tofu would also be a welcome addition.

Pairs well with cheap sake and/or a bad hangover.

Roasted Squash and Caramelized Onion Tarts

It’s not Fall. I’m sitting here pretending it is, but it’s not. It’s too hot to roast vegetables. It’s too hot to stand over your stove top caramelizing onions. Especially when your kitchen is a narrow little thing in your un-air conditioned, one bedroom Lincoln Park apartment.

But here I am sipping my hot Pumpkin Spice Latte (joke’s on me – I hate pumpkin), dreaming of hay rides, pumpkin patches, baking apple pie and – yes – roasting the buttercup squash I got in this week’s CSA and caramelizing my onions.

But it’s okay. It all comes together in this amazing Fall-inspired tart. I think it was worth it. And maybe by the time anyone else makes this, it will actually be appropriately cold enough to be doing so.

This pairs well with a tomato jam, sauteed spinach, cheap white wine and Christmas music. (WHOA – that escalated quickly. My bad. Apparently we’re just doing all the seasons way too early this year. Also, I don’t celebrate Christmas.)

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Roasted Squash and Caramelized Onion Tarts

Makes 4-6 tarts

Crust (from Joy the Baker – minus the sunflower seeds):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Filling (Adapted from Joy the Baker and Epicurious):
2 medium onions
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp sugar
1 small squash
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup parmesan
1/2-1 tsp fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

First, to make the crust, in a medium bowl combine flour, salt, seeds, and black pepper.  In a small bowl whisk together egg, egg white, water, and olive oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir together with a fork.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough comes together in a disk. If necessary, add a sprinkle of water or flour to reach desired consistency. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Slice into 1/2 to 1 inch thick circles and place on a baking sheet. Smash garlic and put on sheet as well. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and roast for 25 minutes.

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While squash is roasting, chop onion into 1/4 inch semicircles. Melt butter in wide pan over medium heat, add onions and toss to coat. Keep at medium heat for 10 minutes, and if your onions are sticking or drying out, reduce to medium-low. Sprinkle with sugar. Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring every few minutes (not so frequently that they aren’t browning). Add some water to the pan if they appear to be drying out. Once well caramelized, remove from pan to a small bowl and set aside.

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When squash and garlic are done roasting, remove from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, scoop squash away from rinds into a large bowl, with the garlic. Mash roughly with a fork until garlic is well combined. Add caramelized onions, parmesan cheese, herbs, salt and pepper and mix with a fork. Set aside.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out into a disk about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into either four equal sized squares, about 6×6 inches.

Lay pastries out on a clean work surface and add 1/3 cup of filling to center of each. Top with a sprinkle of goat cheese. Lightly brush the edges around the filling with egg wash and bring two opposite corners of the dough together into the center and pinch together. Lift the two remaining corners up to the center and pinch together to seal. You should have a square tart with an X on top. Carefully lift and place on lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough squares.

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Brush the tops of each tart with egg wash and bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tarts are golden brown/bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving warm. Tarts can also be reheated in a warm oven covered with foil.

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Don’t share. Just kidding. Kind of.

Vegan Tomato Soup with Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno

My brother has been vegan for over a year now. He does it for all the right reasons – the industrialization of food has gotten out of hand, its sustainable, and humans are the only creature on earth that puts their most basic desires over the most basic needs of other creatures.

I’m totally down with the message. I tried it. It’s really hard. For now, I’m just trying to avoid eating other mammals. I figure I’m doing a bit of my part.

But occasionally I do make a super delicious vegan meal. And this one had a bonus cuz I had about 6 pounds of tomatoes from the past two weeks of my CSA boxes (community shared agriculture – its very trendy right now) that I needed to use.

Also, post-Labor Day has gotten me believing its Fall now. It’s still 75 degrees. But Fall is coming (eventually) and that brings brisk weather and brisk weather calls for warm tomato soup.

So we made tomato soup to freeze for Fall/Winter and we vegan-ized it! (Then ate a bowl of it in 75 degree heat with non-vegan toaster oven quesadillas for dipping and a big spoonful of Greek yogurt. Oops.)

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Vegan Tomato Soup with Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno
(Adapted from Cooking Light’s “Fresh Tomato Soup” recipe from October 2008, “Melanie’s Garden Tomato Soup” recipe from June 1999, and this Oh She Glows recipe – which I also intend to make.)

What you’ll need:
1 head garlic
1-2 jalapeno, mostly seeded and halved (I used one and there was very little heat)
1 large carrot (or 2 medium), chopped
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion (or 2 medium), diced
1/2-1 tbsp dried basil (or fresh if not intending to freeze)
3 pounds garden tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel loose skin from garlic, chop head off of bulb and place on baking sheet along with seeded jalapeno and chopped carrot, drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil. Roast for 35 min (take out jalapeno and carrot when tender, keep garlic in for full 35 min). Let cool 5-10 min, squeeze garlic from bulb and reserve (along with jalapeno and carrot).
2. In a large pot, heat remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and add diced onion, dried basil, and roasted garlic, jalapeno and carrot. Cook 4 min, stirring frequently.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock, and S&P and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; Simmer 15-20 min. Use immersion blender to blend smooth. (Or process in batches in food processor.)

Serve hot in 1 cup servings with 1-2 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt or sour cream(vegans omit, duh) and fresh basil. Pairs well with microwave quesadillas or grilled cheese and cheap wine.

If freezing, pour into quart-sized freezer-proof containers immersed in ice water. Stir to release heat, cooling slightly and immediately freeze. Will keep in freezer for 4-6 months.

(Side note: Sorry no pics again. I’m working on it.)