Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Soup

and some musings on missing routine

Hi! Welcome to “good mood food” from Kale Me Maybe’s Carina Wolff. If you’re somehow reading this and aren’t yet subscribed, be sure to do so below. You can expect recipes in your inbox every Tuesday, and paid subscribers get extra recipes, behind-the-scenes content, and more!

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Something that I’ve been thinking about recently is that I don’t know what my “normal” life looks like. I have no routine anymore, and it feels strange.

At the end of 2019, right before the madness began, I moved out of my apartment in Santa Monica, where I had been living for five years with my best friend. She had just moved to San Diego, and I moved across town into a new place with Grant, who I’d been dating for a year, long distance. That move was actually exciting for me. I loved our new neighborhood, and Grant and I fell into living together so easily.

The hard part was not being able to start “regular” life with Grant after COVID hit. I was looking forward to integrating him into my LA life, spending time with my friends and taking him to concerts, introducing him into my flow. The start of our relationship involved physical distance between each other — and then right when we closed that gap, it involved physical distance between others.

Right before the vaccines started to become available to the general public, we decided to move out of our apartment and even considering moving to a different city. This past February, we put our stuff in storage and moved into my parents’ house with the idea that it would be our “home base” as we spent a month or so in different cities of interest. We started in Austin, which was fun and a great place, but we decided not for us right now — we missed LA (particularly Grant, who had been the main driver of the “Leave LA” plan). We got our vaccines, and before we could even plan our next destination, cases were dropping, and life was beginning to look like it might return to “normal” again. Our friends and family began resuming their wedding plans and activities, and we had so many different places to be over the summer, we decided it didn’t make sense anymore to travel the country. So we decided to stay in LA (still at my parents’ house) and look for a place of our own.

Even as things have opened up, life has not felt “normal” since. The Delta variant reared its ugly head, eliminating that short-lived, carefreeness that seemed to liberate us all in May. It’s hard to relax and enjoy life when people are still getting critically ill and the internet is ablaze in a vitriolic debate over vaccines and politics. I feel removed from my social circles, as we are living farther away out in the suburbs. Looking for a place to live is taking up a great deal of time and energy, and I just want to be settled so I can have my routine back.

I am not a rigid person. I can be very organized and ambitious, and I like to plan because I like to set myself up for greater chances of success. But I don’t stick to strict schedules, my workdays are all over the place, and I am all for spontaneity — in fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to travel (anyone who knows me knows I’m notorious for booking a last-minute trip somewhere and just going for it).

But the part of me that likes routine, that likes to plan my future and know what’s ahead, feels uneasy with the idea that I don’t know what my normal life is anymore. When things really do settle down and the risk of the pandemic dips for good, I don’t think my life is going to go back to what it was in 2019. My friends are getting married and having children. We aren’t meeting up in large groups for boozy brunches and late-night warehouse parties. And I’m okay with the change. I mean, I’m getting married, too! But it’s an odd feeling to not know what to expect. So much time has passed between then and now, that I have to create a new normal. That sounds daunting and scary because I have no idea what it’s going to look like.

Sometimes, I worry about sharing my feelings on the internet like I used to because I don’t want to come off ungrateful or like I’m always complaining. I love so much of my life right now, and I know I’m in a privileged position where I have a comfortable place to stay, rent-free. Having no routine is a small price to pay, and this is not lost on me. But I feel it creeping into my thoughts, into my mental health. I miss the little things, like having my own kitchen and using my own dishes, my dinner routine with Grant, being able to have friends over, the privacy.

Although my situation is specific, I realized I can’t be alone in experiencing this lack of normalcy. So much time has passed from the start of this pandemic to now that I doubt anyone knows what their “normal life” looks like anymore. What other point is there for me to write and share other than to express something that we can all relate to?

If I’ve learned anything in my adult life, it’s that you can’t predict or control the future, and that includes all of the good things. There is beauty in the unexpected, and trying to write out your own destiny will just provoke your anxiety. It’s hard to be in it, waiting for those major life moments to come around. But when they do, and they surprise you with such gusto, it’s that much sweeter. I know my routine will return, and in the time being, I’m embracing the positives: the abundant spent time with my family, the flexibility and freedom to travel (hello, Italy next month!), the luxury to be able to be picky to find the perfect home. The opportunity to start fresh.


RECIPE!

This vegan soup is inspired by Carolina Gelen’s famous tomato soup! I made a few tweaks (adjusted some ratios and used red peppers as the base), but the basic premise is the same: roast everything in the oven, blend, and serve!

Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 3 large red bell peppers, cut into slices

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 head of garlic

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish

  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (plus more to thin it out, if desired)

  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • Optional: Fresh thyme, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread the bell peppers and onions in a large baking dish/baking sheet. Toss in 1-2 tbsp olive oil until evenly coated, and season with salt. Remove the excess papery skin on the garlic head, and slice off the top so 1/4 inch of the cloves is exposed. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Add to the baking dish/baking sheet, and bake everything for about 30 minutes until peppers and onions are soft.

2. Add the roasted ingredients to a blender (let the garlic cool before pushing the cloves out), along with tomato paste, fresh basil, coconut milk, vegetable broth, crushed red pepper, and salt, leaving out a few pieces of pepper to top off the soup, if desired. Blend until smooth, and transfer to a bowl. Top with fresh thyme and basil, some chopped pieces of pepper, and a swirl of extra coconut milk, if desired.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!

Last week for paid subscribers: A recipe for Herby Salmon with Pistachios & Hot Honey, along with my formula for building the perfect bowl.

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