The fresh, hang-up-your-winter-jacket feeling is finally in the air – and that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.

Gone are the days where we’ve looked forward to spooning into a big bowl of creamy soup or sitting down to some chicken noodle soup to help shake off the winter sniffles. These days, I’m more concerned with light and bright flavours and less calorie-ridden meals so I won’t look completely undesirable in a swimsuit come June.

Here are two great recipes that just happen to be vegan, but are bursting with flavour.

Spiced Green Lentil and Chard Soup

Serves 5 Total cook time 35 minutes

6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable broth
1 cup (240 mL) white wine 
1 cup (240 mL) water 
2 Tbs (30 mL) tomato paste 
2 cups dry green lentils 
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced 
small fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced 
2 tsp (10 mL) maple syrup 
1 tsp dried oregano 
½ tsp ground turmeric 
½ tsp chili flakes 
½ tsp ground cinnamon 
1 pinch nutmeg 
2 cups thinly sliced red Swiss chard 
To taste salt and pepper

1. Place broth, wine, water and tomato paste in a large pot and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Add lentils and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Add onion, fennel, maple syrup and spices, and continue to cook for 15 minutes.

3. Add Swiss chard and cook until leaves are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve!

Spinach and Cashew Soup with Poblano and Scallion Salsa

Serves 4 Total cook time 30 minutes, not including cashew soak time

Soup:
1½ cups roasted cashews
2 cups (500 mL) water 
4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth 
4 cups cooked spinach 
1 Tbs (15 mL) apple cider vinegar 
1 Tbs (15 mL) maple syrup 
½ tsp cayenne pepper salt and pepper, 
To taste cashew butter, for garnish, optional

1. Place cashews and water in a container, cover and let sit on counter overnight

2. Combine cashews, water and remaining soup ingredients in a blender, and purée until very smooth.

3. Pour contents of blender through a fine mesh strainer into a medium pot. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm on stove until ready to serve

4. Place a couple of spoonfuls of the salsa into each bowl and ladle soup around it. Add a couple of dollops of cashew butter for a little extra richness.

Salsa: 
1 large poblano pepper, halved and seeds removed 
1 bunch scallions 
2 Tbs (30 mL) canola oil 
2 Tbs fresh mint, roughly chopped 
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice 
½ tsp cane sugar
½ tsp chili flakes 
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400º F.

2. Place poblano halves and scallions on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and roast until slightly charred, about 15-18 minutes.

3. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, then give them a rough chop.

4. Add to a bowl with remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

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