Vegan soup.jpg The 2014-15 winter season has proven once again to be obstinate, intrusive — and, yes, bone-chillingly cold across much of the U.S. The end is near, and a new season is not far off on the horizon. But as many of us continue to hunker down, surrounded by snowdrifts that are seemingly taller than we are, there are a few delights that can help us make it through the remainder of this season as Old Man Winter howls his last gasps before heading into hibernation. One way of taking comfort is by preparing an assortment of vegan soups. I, personally, am a vegetarian. I’m a novice in the kitchen, but I have dabbled with recipes in my never-ending quest to prove non-carnivores can find joy in eating as well. (When the topic of eating and meal planning came up recently, a well-meaning acquaintance recently said to me, “Do you even enjoy eating?” I’m hoping this article will help back up my statement with a resounding, “Yes!”) Having written the above, I will admit I have found it difficult adopting a vegan diet. Hailing from Wisconsin, where cheese, milk, ice cream and yogurt are as abundant as the snow blanketing my yard, it admittedly has been difficult removing all forms of dairy from my diet. But there are exceptions, especially when it comes to soups! Oh, the things you can do with a vegetable … The website has posted a number of vegan soup ideas that have piqued my interest. A sampling of the strictly vegan soups includes red lentil, sweet potato minestrone and creamy corn chowder. When I go grocery shopping this weekend, I am going to purchase all of the ingredients needed to prepare a roasted cauliflower soup. In addition to incorporating two heads of cauliflower into the magnificently simple recipe, the soup’s ingredients calls for olive oil, a large onion, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and, of course, water. To add a little kick this winter, this recipe, posted on The Bojon Gourmet, caught my eye. It’s called miso and soba noodle soup and includes roasted sriracha tofu and shiitake mushrooms. See, you can make an amazing concoction out of tofu! The author/creator of this intriguing soup recipe has incorporated a plethora of healthy ingredients that are aimed at boosting a person’s immune system — perfect during this chilling season! The cornerstone of the recipe is a fermented miso paste that has been proven to have a wealth of good bacteria. When you incorporate such other oh-so-good-for-you ingredients as whole grains, vegetables and proteins, it is not unfathomable to make a solid meal out of this soup. On the aptly named website Vegan Coach, author Patty Knutson outlines a smattering of vegan cream soups, bean soups, miso and other masterful medleys that will please most any pallet. “Vegetable soup is comforting,” Knutson writes on the site. “It calms the mind and soothes the soul. And the simple addition of beans or whole grains can turn your masterpiece into an incredibly healthy soup.” I concur! In a nod to my heritage, I would be remiss if I did not put the spotlight on Knutson’s Irish Stew recipe, which incorporates a fun, flavorful mix of green beans — no Irish dish is complete without greens! — cashews, brown rice, sauerkraut, dill weed, nutritional yeast, organic Tamari and topped off with a sprinkling of sea salt. On a list of nearly a dozen vegan soup recipes on the Real Simple website, a winter lentil soup practically jumped out of my laptop and clamored for me to prepare it. In less than an hour, even the most novice cook (that would be me!) can whip together a collection of quick-cooking lentils and make a masterful, healthy concoction to help chase away the wintertime chills. In addition to the star ingredient — lentils! — this vegan soup recipe calls for leeks, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and kale. The unabashedly proud site Raw Vegan Power assembled a list of 25 soup recipes that are — you guessed it — comprised of vegan ingredients. Speaking of the collection of concoctions, the site’s authors write, “All ingredients are fresh produce that can absolutely make you burst with energy, health and vitality.” You had me at the word energy. I seemingly lack it during these frigid days that are punctuated with long nights. The spicy cream of tomato raw soup was among the recipes on Raw Vegan’s roundup. It caught my eye because I like a little kick as I indulge in something different. This amazingly simple recipe calls for a blend of natural ingredients, including roma tomatoes, celery, carrots, an orange and lemon, bell peppers and, to give it that strong persona, a jalapeno. Some of the other intriguing soup recipes on Raw Vegan Power’s website include a chilled raw cream of celery soup that could double as a smoothie if prepared a certain way. Also noteworthy is the nectarine ecstasy soup and a creamy broccoli soup that is free of dairy. As I scoured the ‘Net for vegan soup ideas, I also stumbled upon a site called Mother Earth News and enjoyed reading a piece on the site by vegan chef Janet Hudson. She has shared her expertise and belief in a vegan lifestyle in the appropriately titled cookbook, “The Easy Vegan.” Hudson’s recipe for creamy almond soup caught my eye. Of all the nuts out there, almonds are among my favorite. A cornerstone of this flavorful soup is almond milk, which I have begun drinking regularly in lieu of regular milk (Sorry, Wisconsin dairy farmers!). Other intriguing ingredients in this recipe include peppercorns, saffron threads and almond paste. If you’re anything like me, it can be all too tempting to indulge in processed sweets as you enter your own state of hibernation. But some of these immensely healthy vegan soup ideas have reminded me comfort food can take on a whole new meaning by incorporating any number of natural ingredients. Stay warm, stay healthy and remember — Old Man Winter’s visit is temporary. Warmer days are ahead.