Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2-Ingredient Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake is dairy and gluten free!

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Great Cake for the Holidays 
As more and more guests show up with gluten and dairy allergies, this is a good dessert to have on hand. It is not vegan, however, as it needs eggs. At the end of this post, you can read about my efforts to veganize this recipe. 

First I will say that I did not invent this. My friend Margarite saw it on the internet and told me about it after I showed her a flourless chocolate cake I found in a magazine. That particular cake had almond flour, tons of sugar, butter, and was very high in calories. I knew that I could make it healthier and even try to make it vegan. But then she showed me this recipe that only had two ingredients - chocolate and eggs. I couldn't believe it! Although she had seen the recipe, she had never made it so I invited her over for the big experiment.

If you make it with vegan chocolate, it will be dairy and gluten free. My favorite chocolate is Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate - 72% cocoa. You can use any of your favorite chocolate chips or chocolate bars - you just need 9 ounces.

You can also spruce up the cake with berries and powdered sugar. 

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Two Ingredient Chocolate Cake
(Gluten Free, Dairy Free if using vegan chocolate)
makes 6 servings

6-inch Spring Form Pan

4 large eggs, room temperature
9 ounces chocolate 
Powdered sugar (optional)
Raspberries to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 6" spring form pan.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook, in 30 second increments, until the chocolate melts. This can take 1 minute or slightly longer. You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler, which is a bit messier.

Melted chocolate

Separate the eggs. Place the whites in a large, clean, glass bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. This can take a while so be patient. 

Beaten egg whites

Let the chocolate cool a bit and then, one by one, whip each yolk into the chocolate until well combined.

Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture. Then repeat with the next 1/3 of the egg whites. And finally, with the last 1/3 of the egg whites.

Pour the batter into the greased 6-inch spring form pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Cool on a cake rack for 15 minutes or so. Then, release.

Release and serve

You can dress this up with powdered sugar, berries, or a scoop of non-dairy ice cream!

Per serving: 258 calories, 21 g total fat, 12 g saturated fat, 141 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 12 g sugar, 5 g dietary fiber, and 47 mg sodium.

Sometimes you just need an egg!
For my vegan followers, I tried really hard to make this vegan. I whipped up aquafaba (garbanzo bean juice) into beautiful peeks of "egg" white. I replaced the yolks with flax eggs and the result was a complete failure! I won't give up trying, but if you want a good laugh, here's how my vegan experiment turned out. It was basically a melted chocolate bar. We scraped it off and ate it anyway :-)

Sometimes you just need an egg!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2017 Holiday Gift Ideas

Gifts for cooks and future cooks!

For you Late Shoppers
Sorry my annual gift ideas is so late. You've probably done most of your shopping by now, especially for Chanukah, but better late than never.

Most Popular and Useful
So the number one gift everyone seems to be buying is an Instant Pot. I can't recommend any gift more than this one. I've bought one for everyone who wants one and even for some who thought they didn't. It will simply revolutionize the way you cook. From dorm rooms to the fanciest kitchens, there is simply no better gift for the beginning or experienced cook!

I highly recommend the 6 Quart 7-in-1 Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

They have a smaller 3-quart one which I think is fairly useless. I own a 6 quart and an 8 quart but I think the 6 quart is the best size for most people. 

A great gift for someone who already has an instant pot is a glass lid for the pot. I use this when I'm using the IP as a slow cooker or to make yogurt. This allows you to see what you are cooking when the pressure cooker lid is not required. 

The Instant Pot glass lid is extremely useful and makes a great gift.

Instant Pot Cook Books, and more
One of my favorite Pressure Cooker Chefs and Cook Book authors is The Veggie Queen. Check out her books, and DVDs on the Veggie Queen Website. 

Jill Nussinow, "The Veggie Queen" has  numerous books on Pressure Cooker recipes.

The Gift of Caring
This has been a really tough year for lots of folks -from those who have suffered hurricanes to those in California who have lost their homes in the fires. So a great gift would be a donation to a food bank in someone's name. To encourage philanthropy, give a family with kids an amount for them to donate so they can give some thought about those they wish to help. Hurricane and fire relief funds are great too, especially if you know someone in the effected areas.

A gift to a local food bank makes a loving and thoughtful gift.

Shop Local
Go to farmer's markets and holiday fairs and purchase locally made gifts. Or buy gift certificates to local restaurants or mom-and-pop stores. These will delight people with gifts and meals they can select for themselves while feeling good about helping their local community.

More Ideas from Previous Years.
I have dozens and dozens of gift ideas from previous years, so here are some links to those. 

2013 - Great Christmas Gifts for Healthy Cooking.

2014 - Chanukah and Christmas Gift Ideas for Health-Conscious Cooks. Many Gifts Under $20 and $35.

2015 - 10 Holiday Gift Ideas Under $25.

2016 - Top 10 Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas.

Check them all out and happy shopping!!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Instant Pot Cauliflower Soup
Vegan And Gluten Free

This low calorie soup is excellent for weight loss.

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Weight Loss Between the Holidays
I'm probably not alone at wanting to shed the Thanksgiving pounds before the next wave of holidays. I've always been a proponent of healthy soups for making this happen. Here's a easy and delicious soup that is less than 150 calories per hearty serving and also has 6 grams of dietary fiber.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable which contains the phytochemical sulforaphane. This compound has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which contribute to its ability to prevent and treat several types of cancer. Inflammation also contributes to many long-term chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and more.

The high fiber content of cauliflower not only helps keep you full, contributing to weight loss, but also helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, helps feed your gut bacteria, reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, and keeps you regular. 

Instead of using cream, this soup gets its creamy texture from potatoes allowing it to be dairy and cholesterol free.

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Instant Pot Cauliflower Soup
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Hand Held Immersion Blender 
Instant Pot

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large head cauliflower, leaves removed, cut into florets
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth*
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
*5 cups for stovetop recipe

Heat the oil in the Instant Pot by pressing the “Sauté” button. Add the onion and celery and cook until they soften, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 minutes. Press the “Off” button.

Add the cauliflower, potatoes, 4 cups of broth, bay leaf, salt, black and cayenne pepper to the Instant Pot. Secure the lid, press the “Manual” button, and set for 4 minutes at high pressure. When done, quickly release the pressure and remove the lid carefully with the steam pointed towards the back. 

(To cook on the stovetop, heat the oil in a soup pot and sauté the onion and celery for several minutes. Add the cauliflower and potatoes, 5 cups of broth, the bay leaf, salt, black and cayenne pepper. Cook on a low boil, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Continue with the recipe.)

Remove a cup or more of the cooked vegetables, roughly chop and set aside. 

Remove the bay leaf and add the lemon juice. Using an immersion blender, blend the remaining soup until smooth. You can also do this in a blender but take care not to over process.

For a chunky soup, remove some of the cooked vegetables before you blend the soup and put them back in after blending. Skip this step for a completely blended soup.
An immersion blender makes blending a lot easier.

Stir in the chopped vegetables, adjust seasoning if needed,  and serve. 

Nutritional Information:
Per serving (6): 149 calories, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 60 mg omega-3 and 219 g omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber, and 438 mg sodium.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Holiday Recipes Deserve Homemade Broth
Instant Pot And Stove Top Vegetable Broth

Homemade broth is far superior to store bought.

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Homemade Broth is Far Superior
When I'm in a hurry, I often just use a Rapunzel bouillon cube for broth. I find most boxed broths taste like dishwater or they can be over salted and just unusable. But for my holiday recipes, I like to make my own broth. Especially on Thanksgiving when I need broth for soup, stuffing, and cooking potatoes or side veggies. 

You can either use fresh vegetables for your broth or veggie scraps that you have been saving in the freezer. But since it's a holiday, let's go all out and use fresh vegetables and herbs. 

Use your Instant Pot for a quick and easy broth or cook or simmer on the stovetop which is just as easy but takes a bit longer. You can double the recipe if needed.

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Instant Pot or Stovetop Vegetable Broth
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 4 cups]

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
1 1/2 cups thickly sliced celery
1 1/2 cups thickly sliced carrots
1 cup mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon peppercorns
Salt to taste

For the Instant Pot:
Heat the oil in the Instant Pot by pressing the SAUTE button. Add the veggies and garlic and cook until they just begin to soften, stirring frequently, about 4 to 5 minutes. Press the OFF button.

Add the remaining ingredients. Cover with water and stir. Secure the lid and press the MANUAL button and set for 10 minutes at high pressure. When done, press OFF and let the pressure come down naturally. Remove the lid carefully with the steam pointed towards the back. 

Strain out the vegetables and herbs. Use immediately or refrigerate or freeze for later use.

For the Stove Top:
Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover with water, stir, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least an hour. Strain out the vegetables and herbs. Use immediately or refrigerate or freeze for later use.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

It's Time To Make Serrano Pepper Hot Sauce
Salsa Picante Makes A Great Holiday Gift!

Turn those garden Serrano peppers into hot sauce.

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Fall Brings Peppers
Fall in Northern California is generally the time to pull out your summer crops and plant broccoli, kale, beets, lettuce, garlic, and other winter crops. The one plant that is still in the ground, however, and that's always late to produce is our pepper crop. 

But now it's time to pick them before the weather turns bad so I picked all the serrano peppers and most of the red pimento and poblano peppers. But what do you do with 3 pounds of serranos when only one is needed to flavor a dish? Well, let's make hot sauce!

I blogged a hot sauce recipe a few years ago using jalapeños and serranos but this year I'm using serrano peppers combined with a sweet red pimento pepper. It's still turned out super hot, but the sweet pepper cut the heat a little bit and gave it a nice flavor.

Sweet red pimento peppers cut the heat a bit and adds a lovely flavor to the hot sauce.

This recipe makes a lot of hot sauce (10 cups) so feel free to cut it down. Or, if you have lots of serranos and want to make this big a batch, fill some cute little bottles and give them away as holiday presents.

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Salsa Picante with Serrano Peppers
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 10 cups]

High Speed Blender
5 quart or larger, enamel-coated Dutch oven 

3 pounds serrano peppers
1 pound sweet red peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped onions
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
3 to 4 cups water
3 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar

Cut the tops off the serrano peppers. Then, cut them down the middle lengthwise. Set aside.
Remove the tops and the inner seeds from the sweet peppers. Dice and set aside. 

Heat the oil on medium heat and cook the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Stir in the serrano and red peppers along with the salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. 

Add the water and cook uncovered, on a medium boil, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are very soft and the water is greatly reduced but not completely dry. (I started with 4 cups of water and it took over an hour for it to cook down so maybe 3 cups of water would have been enough.) 

Add water and boil.

Cook until almost dry but not completely.

Unless you have a really big blender, you will have to blend in two batches.
Place half the cooked peppers and half the vinegar in a blender and process until smooth. Repeat with the rest of the peppers and vinegar.

Unless you have a 12 cup blender, you will have to process the peppers and vinegar in two batches.

Pour the hot sauce into jars and refrigerate. It will last for over a year!

Or pour into small bottles with a cute label and give them away as holiday gifts!

Salsa Picante makes a yummy holiday gift!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Instant Pot Rice With Butternut Squash
Vegan And Gluten Free

A simple way to get more veggies into your family's diet!
It's also a great gluten free side dish for the holidays.

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Did you know the Instant Pot has a Rice Button?
For the first year I owned my Instant Pot, I didn't use the Rice button a single time. I cooked just about everything using the Manual button. One day I thought I'd give that poor neglected button a try. 

Here's a simple recipe for a rice side dish that provides the added benefit of dietary fiber, vitamin A, C, potassium and manganese as well as magnesium, vitamin E and B6.

For the rice, I prefer Tamaki Haiga, the short grain white rice that retains the germ. I call it "white rice without the guilt." (Please note that the Rice button is only timed for white or parboiled rice.)

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Instant Pot Rice with Butternut Squash 
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[4 servings]

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

1 cup short grain white rice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup small diced onion
1 cup grated butternut squash
1 1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water until the water is clear. Drain well and set aside. 

Heat the oil in the Instant Pot using the "Sauté" function. Add the onion and grated butternut squash and cook, stirring frequently, for several minutes. Hit the "Off" button. 

Saute the onions and butternut squash for several minutes.

Stir in the rinsed rice, water and salt. Secure the lid and press the “Rice” button. When the Instant Pot is done cooking, let the pressure come down naturally. 

Remove the lid carefully and fluff the rice with a fork and serve. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cooking Vegetables In Your Instant Pot

Learning to cook vegetables in an Instant Pot can take patience.

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A Quick Status of the Fires
In my last post, we were in the middle of the worst fires California has ever experienced. We are safe now and the fire danger is pretty much over. The air, once filled with ash and smoke, is clearing. And although we are now returning to our normal lives, there are thousands of people in the area whose homes burned to the ground. The community is rallying in many ways, as communities do when tragedies happen. 

First responders have been elevated to gods here in Sonoma county. We ran into three fire fighters in a restaurant last night who finally got a chance to have a meal. We tried to pay for their meals but the waitress smiled and said that someone had beaten us to it. I would guess that wine country firefighters will never have to pay for another meal in their lives!

So thanks for all of your concern, notes, and well wishes. There are many ways to support those affected by the fire. The Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Fund is a good one as 100% of donations go directly to the fire victims. Here are some other ways to help the victims. 

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Are you an Instant Pot Junkie?
You bought an Instant Pot and now you want to cook every meal in it. But to be honest, some things are trickier to cook than others. Especially things that are time sensitive. Without the ability to easily sample during cooking, you can sometimes overcook your food. Certain vegetables can easily turn to mush if they are cooked too long and a few bad experiences can frustrate a new Instant Pot owner but with a little practice and good note taking, you'll come to prefer the results from cooking vegetables in your Instant Pot.

Things that Effect Cooking Time
It's very difficult to just give you specific times for cooking each vegetable because there are many factors that can influence the cooking time. Here are a few of them.

#1 - As in conventional cooking, how you prepare your vegetables will affect their cooking time. If a vegetable takes very little cooking time, slice them uniformly and a bit thicker to be safe. 

#2 - Vegetables that come out of your garden are generally more tender than the ones that are bought at the store. Those usually have been picked days (or more) earlier and shipped to the market. In many cases, like kale for example, store bought veggies might take longer to cook.

#3 - Filling your Instant Pot with lots of vegetables could also lead to over cooking because a fuller pot will take longer to come to pressure. This extra time can contribute to over cooking.

#4 - You can adjust the pressure from high to low. Low pressure will cook slower.

#5 - You can cook directly in the pot or cook vegetables on the rack with the water not touching the bottom of the vegetables. Directly in the pot cooks faster.

#6 - Every pot may vary a bit in temp, etc. 

Cooking Times
The most helpful book I have on cooking times is Jill Nussinow's, The New Fast Food. She has nice tables for cooking various vegetables, grains, and beans. I have literally worn out these pages of her book. Many of the times are in small ranges because they will vary based on the things I've listed above. You can make notes on these tables and eventually you will have perfect cooking times for your favorite vegetables. 
The Quick Cookers
Quick cooking vegetables can cook as quickly as a minute on low pressure, even less. Asparagus, broccoli, halved or small Brussels sprouts, cauliflower florets, chard or spinach, corn kernels, garden green beans, diced new potatoes, and zucchini are quick cookers. 

Moderate Cookers
These can take 2 or 3 minutes and include vegetables like sliced beets, whole Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, eggplant, green beans, kale, mushrooms, onions, parsnip, peppers, sliced or diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, diced turnips, and diced winter squash.

Long Cookers
Some vegetables can take a long time. Whole beets, steamed artichokes, or large potatoes can take 20 minutes or more. Stuffed artichokes can take 30 to 40 minutes.

Tip for Quick or Moderate Cooking Vegetables
I usually cook everything at high pressure, except for the quick cookers, directly in the pot. I start at the LOWEST suggested cooking time. When it's done, I immediately hit the off button and release the pressure. As soon as the pressure comes down, I quickly remove the cover. After testing the vegetables with a fork, if they are not done, I just set the cover back on and let them sit another minute in the pot to cook a bit longer. I do not add minutes to the cooking time unless they are as hard as a rock. In that case, I secure the lid and set it on manual for another minute.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Are Fine But So Many Are Not
California Wine Country Fires

The view from our back porch Monday morning.

Thanks for your concern
Monday morning I was lazily resting in bed when our neighbor called to warn us about the fire. One might have walked past the window thinking it was a beautiful red sunrise but instead the mountains behind our vineyard were ablaze from one end of the horizon to the other. Santa Rosa, a mere 7 miles away, was burning and 50 to 60 mile per hour gusts of wind were blowing in our direction. It turns out this was only one of the many fires across Sonoma county that simultaneously erupted in the early hours. 

This could be the worst disaster in California's history when all is said and done and it's not the least bit done. Fires remain uncontrolled in many places. As of Wednesday morning, 90,000 acres had burned. And these weren't just acres of trees and wooded areas. These were acres full of homes and businesses - in fact 28,000 people live in these affected areas - most of whom are now in evacuation centers. There isn't enough resource to do the counting yet, but estimates say more than 3,000 homes and structures were destroyed as of Wednesday morning and fires still threaten many neighborhoods. Sixteen are confirmed dead and more than 500 people are missing. There isn't a person living in this town that doesn't know someone who has lost their home.

The blaze was so intense and the winds so strong that our house and yard are deep in embers. The largest is an entire page from a magazine that was charred - Doug found it under our back deck. He also found a burnt credit card receipt hanging from one of the vines. 

This charred magazine page flew at least 7 miles to our house.

Entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa have been destroyed like Coffey Park and Fountaingrove. Landmarks, wineries, restaurants, music venues, schools, hotels - destroyed. Doug's Kaiser hospital, my Sutter hospital - not damaged but closed. The local airport is closed because there is no electricity for the terminals. Many roads are closed.

And it's not over. I have friends minutes from active fires knowing that tonight the winds are going to pick back up.

Doug was just at the grocery store. A man, about 70, in the checkout line in front of him had just lost his home in Fountaingrove. He had 10 minutes to get out. He remarked that he was numb but said there is simply nothing you can do in that situation but get out. Seven years ago this man lost his previous home in a fire. 

We are fine and thanks for your many notes of concern. The winds have shifted and even though they are going to pick up again tonight, they are blowing the other way. So unless they shift again, we will remain fine. Masks are needed to go outside and although they may remove the toxic particles from the air, nothing can remove the blanket of sadness that hovers over our beloved wine country. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mexican Sushi With Roasted Poblano Peppers

You can make homemade sushi with just about anything!
A great dairy and gluten free meal.

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What a month!
It's been a crazy busy month here on our farm. First we harvested 5 tons of Pinot Noir, then a little Sauvignon blanc for my private stash. We've also been harvesting lots of veggies, putting in a Zen garden, getting ready to paint the outside of our house, and enjoying visits from our son and daughter-in-law (Vaughn and Karina), as well as our daughter and her fiancé (Linda and Jim), and our nephew Cody. Later today, we look forward to a visit from my cousin Lisa and her husband Rob. On top of it all, I broke my toe last Thursday so I guess I'm going to slow down a bit whether I want to or not!

Part of our Pinot Noir harvest

Poblano Peppers
With the end of summer come lots of peppers. One of our most delicious and prolific is the poblano pepper so today we're going to mix two of our favorite cuisines - Mexican and Japanese by making sushi rolls with roasted poblano peppers and topping them with a spicy red sauce made from jalapeños and serrano peppers. 

See my post, "Make Your Own Hot Sauce" for the homemade hot sauce recipe.

Homemade hot sauce.

Sushi Rolls
Japanese sushi rolls are very versatile. You can roll just about anything in a sheet of Nori and call it a meal. Roasted vegetables are perfect, especially when paired with a creamy avocado and rice. If you enjoy fish, you can make a smoked salmon and avocado roll for breakfast instead of lox and bagels. The combinations are endless.

No need to use sushi rice as any short grain white rice can be sticky enough to be used in a roll. My favorite is Tamaki Haiga, which is white rice that still has the germ. Traditionally the rice is seasoned with rice vinegar and a bit of sugar.

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Roasted Poblano Sushi
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 4 rolls]

Sushi matt

For the rice
1 cup uncooked sushi or short-grain white rice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the sushi rolls
3 or 4 large poblano peppers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 sheets nori
1 avocado, cut into strips
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into strips
Hot sauce to taste

Cook rice according to directions on the stove, in your rice cooker, or in your Instant Pot. Make sure the rice is rinsed well before cooking.

While the rice is cooking, clean and cook the poblano peppers. Remove seeds and cut into slices. Heat the oil in a fry pan on medium heat. Add the peppers and sauté until they blister and soften, stirring occasionally. Set aside. 

The peppers tend to splatter so cover with a cooking screen.

Prepare the rice vinegar by warming the vinegar, sugar, and salt until all is dissolved. Stir this into the cooling rice.

To make the sushi rolls, place all of your ingredients nearby.

Place a sheet of Nori on the bamboo mat. Put one fourth of the prepared rice over the Nori starting one inch from the bottom. 

Place one fourth of the peppers, avocado, and a long strip of cucumber over the rice.

Using the sushi mat, roll from the bottom up. After the bottom edge is over the filling, squeeze it gently with the mat and then roll to the top. Wet the top of the Nori and complete the roll. The moisture will seal it. 

Cut the roll with a very sharp knife into 6 to 8 equal pieces. 

Dap a bit of hot sauce of each piece or serve with a tiny bowl of hot sauce.

Enjoy with a Mexican or Japanese beer!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Instant Pot Butternut Squash And Split Pea Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with extra protein and fiber.

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What to do with all my Butternut Squash
You may have seen last week's post where I shared our magic dirt formula that contributed to us getting 60 butternut squash from a single seed! The obvious next thing to think about is what am I going to do with all this butternut squash?

Part of my harvest.

Today's recipe is a very simple soup that I make in my Instant Pot. Most of the time, I make a very light and brothy butternut squash soup - the kind you sip from a mug. But for a heartier meal, I like to thicken the soup with split peas. The split peas not only make the soup thicker, but they add a significant amount of protein and fiber. While the soup is fat free and very low in calories (less than 200 calories per bowl), it provides a healthy 10 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber. 

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Butternut Squash and Split Pea Soup
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
Potato Masher

1 cup split peas
1 small butternut squash (~1 1/2 pounds)
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme plus some for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Pick through the split peas and remove any rocks or clumps of dirt. Rinse well and drain. Place in the Instant Pot.

Peel, cut, remove the seeds, and dice the butternut squash. Read my post on an easy way to cut a butternut squash. Place the diced squash, onion, garlic, broth, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme in the Instant Pot.

Press the MANUAL button and set for 12 minutes under high pressure. Make sure the quick release switch in the closed position. When done, press the OFF button and let the pressure release naturally. When complete, open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. 

Add the lemon juice and gently mash the soup with a potato masher to break up the large chunks of squash. But don't be too aggressive since you still want small chunks of squash in the soup.

Mash but leave chunks of squash.

Pour into individual bowls, top with some fresh thyme and serve. 

Per serving: 185 calories, 0 g total and saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 58 mg omega-3 and 157 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 10 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 11 g dietary fiber, and 398 mg sodium.