chilled carrot & harissa soup

i am a year older (and wiser?) i celebrated my 26th birthday last weekend with an epic day that included a 6-hour yoga workshop, a few hours of stand up paddle boarding around lake union with friends, brewery hopping around fremont and ballard, my favorite sherried mushroom toasts from ocho and spoonfuls of hot cakes. it was perfection. perfect warm weather. wonderful friends. delicious cider made with champagne yeast (!). such a wonderful way to start my 26th year of life. 

most enjoyably, i allowed myself to take the full day 'off' on my birthday... which i'm discovering is a tricky thing to do when you are self employed. there is always emails you can respond to, menus to plan, shopping lists to organize, food photos to snap and blog posts to write... and when you do take a day 'off,' the next day is just a game of catching up - or so it seems. in this case, the whole week felt like i was playing catch up. this afternoon i've finally caught up with myself and finally found time to write a new blog post here and over at 'good food life' blog! 

i can't complain. i am somewhat dumbfounded that my business has grown so rapidly. i've been presented with amazing clients and a wide range of opportunities to grow my skill set! i am thriving in my new career and best of all, helping others thrive on delicious plant-based meals! 

chilled carrot & harissa soup ~ serves 4
1 pound carrots
1 red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon harissa paste (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon tomato paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
fresh cracked pepper to taste
4 cups water
1/2 cup raw almonds
4 medjool dates, pitted

optional toppings:
1 small bunch parsley
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
pinch aleppo chili flakes

soak almonds and dates in water for 8 hours or overnight. drain off water and replace with 4 cups fresh water. in high speed blender, process until smooth. 

in a large sauce pan bring a couple inches of water to a boil. cut carrots into small 1/2-inch cubes and toss into boiling water. cook over medium heat until fork tender - at least 10 minutes. in the mean time, peel and roughly chop red onion. in a separate pot or pan, heat a olive oil over medium heat and saute slowly to caramelize but not too browned. 

finally, strain cooked carrots and add carrots & onions to blender with almonds milk. add all other remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. chill for at least 3 hours.

peanut butter pretzel banana ice cream

i don't know who fist started making banana vegan ice cream, but whoever it was - thank you for your brilliance. i hadn't tried making it until recently and have been experimenting with flavors and additions. i honestly love just the blended frozen bananas, with a splash of almond milk and vanilla bean. maybe topped with some chocolate covered sunflower seeds (who else is addicted to those? anyone?) i've tried adding a scoop of peanut butter. awesome. but even better was the addition of crushed peanut butter filled pretzels. oh my! this is my new favorite treat for a hot summer day... 

peanut butter pretzel banana ice cream ~ serves 2
3 spotted ripe medium bananas 
1/4 cup or more vanilla almond milk (homemade if you like!) 
20 peanut butter filled pretzels, quartered or crushed 
(or 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 2 servings regular pretzels - or gluten free pretzels - crushed inside a ziplock bag) 

peel bananas and slice into small bites. spread banana bites out on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop into your freezer for 2+ hours or overnight. 

remove from freezer and toss frozen bananas into a high speed blender. add 1/4 cup almond milk to start. start on low speed, pushing down bananas often with spatula or blender tamper tool. once combined, blend at medium to high speed until smooth. add additional milk only if necessary, as it will turn into more of a smoothie if you add too much milk. (if using regular peanut butter, add 2 tablespoons and blend in just add the end). 

scrape the blended frozen bananas into a bowl and add chopped peanut butter filled pretzels (or just crushed pretzels if using regular peanut butter). toss to the mixture into the freezer for about 30 minutes to set. scoop and serve with a few additional crushed pretzels on top or a sprinkle of sea salt. note: do not freeze too much longer than 30 minutes, as it will harden into a blob shaped popsicle. the recipe can be halved, if you want to make just a single serving.