Creamy Harissa Tomato Soup {vegan}

One of my favorite things on a cold rainy day is tomato soup and a chilled glass of white wine at this cozy restaurant walking distance from my house. I love to sit and watch the rain and chat with friends. I wanted to recreate that cozy relaxed feeling yesterday (minus the wine, darn) when the rain came pouring down and the sky was covered in dark gray. 

Creamy Harissa Spice Tomato Soup | Vegan | Gluten-Free | #puremamas

I don't usually make tomato soup - believe it or not. I do a mean homemade marinara over pasta, but rarely soup. I keep saying I'm going to perfect a recipe for it, but often the idea sounds too boring for some reason.

But yesterday my left brain was in a funky mood...and I got the idea of adding a middle eastern flair to tomato soup - and whelp, this Harissa Tomato soup was born. Harissa is Middle Eatern spice that uses hot peppers. 

I wanted this dish to be creamy but not coconut (and I don't use real cream in any of my cooking)so chose macadamia nut cream. Sometimes I prefer it to cashew cream. It seems fitting for this recipe. But you can sub cashews and/or coconut cream instead if you'd like.  

Cream Vegan Harissa Tomato Soup with Gluten-Free Croutons | #puremamas

I though the addition of roasted raw cherry tomatoes would give it some extra flair as well - roasted tomatoes are an excellent addition to any tomato dish.

I decided to just throw the onions and garlic in the oven with the tomatoes to save time. But you can always sauté the garlic and onion with the olive oil instead - but that is an extra step. Omitting that step sounded appealing to me.

roasted tomatoes and onions | vegan | #puremamas

In addition to the harissa spice, the unique part of this soup is the addition of the homemade croutons. I love these croutons. My mom gave me the recipe years ago but it was made with butter. I sub vegan butter and they turned out just perfect. I use them all the time in caesar salads and kale salads as well. They are made in the microwave though, which I guess isn't the "greenest" or healthiest option, but sometimes the microwave is a life saver and if you only do it three times a year, so what

Tomato Soup with gluten free croutons | vegan | #puremamas

I hope you and your family love this soup as much as we did. Add a glass of cold white wine and you'll be so cozy and warm on a wet gloomy evening. Share with friends. And remember to slow down while you enjoy this soup because that's part of the feeling I was trying to recreate - not feeling rushed or stressed and just watching and listening to the rain come down. 

Tomato Harissa Soup | vegan gluten-free | #puremamas

Harissa Tomato Soup Recipe

yields 4-5 bowls


  • 7-8 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) large cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 large white or red onion, cut into chunks
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • sea salt + pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp olive oil or spray coconut oil


  • 1 cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked in water for an hour (discard soaking water before using)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5oz can or box of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • handful fresh basil leaves and/or oregano
  • 1 Tbsp sweetener (like cane sugar or honey)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt 
  • 2 tsp Harissa spice paste

garnish: croutons, vegan sour cream + fresh herbs of all kinds


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  1. Spread the first 3 ingredients (tomatoes, onions and garlic) onto a greased baking/cookie sheet. Sprinkle veggies with sea salt and pepper.
  2. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the veggies are soft and tomatoes start to brown on the bottom and onions start to brown on the sides.
  3. Meanwhile, in a Vitamix or other high speed blender, combine the soaked macadamia nuts with the veggie broth. Blend until creamy and there are no more chunks of the mac nuts. It should look like a cream. 
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender container.
  5. Add the roasted veggies and garlic. 
  6. Blend everything until smooth or just a tad bit chunky (depending on how you like your soup). 
  7. Transfer soup to a medium sized pot and cook on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. Taste test the soup and see if it needs more pepper or salt. Salt brings out the flavors but you don't want to overly salt it. note: You will probably have to cover the soup because it does bubble and burp making a big mess. 
  8. Serve warm with croutons, (vegan) sour cream and fresh herbs. 
gluten-free microwave crouton recipe | crispy crunchy and just perfect | #puremamas #vegan #glutenfree

Gluten Free Crouton Recipe (microwave)


  • 5 pieces of sourdough or other white gluten-free bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


  1. In a microwave deep baking dish add the bread cubes and chunks of butter throughout (see image). Spread evenly. Sprinkle with garlic powder and sea salt. 
  2. Microwave bread for 1 minute 30 seconds.
  3. Stir and mix well with wooden spoon. 
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 about 3-4 times. The bread should be brown but not burned. The bread will not be soft when it's finished. 
  5. Let sit and cool. They will get very crunchy. 

Gluten Free Lemon Vanilla Bean + Coconut Muffins

Looks can be deceiving. These basic little muffins might look a little dry or boring on the outside but don't let them fool you; they are sweet, gooey and delicious on the inside. These muffins are gluten-free and vegan which is a win for plant-based eaters. I worked really hard on these muffins; but trying to recreate the gluten-filled traditional wheat flour muffins is almost impossible. So instead of being hard on myself I decided to just rethink the way a muffin should look and feel and accept the outcome. These muffins are more like a cross between a donut and a cupcake. Um, yep, you heard me right. So I think I should call them cake nuts or muffnuts? Or maybe not actually. (I'm laughing really hard right now)

lemon vanilla bean gluten free muffin recipe | #puremamas

These little muffin doughnut cupcake hybrids are yumI So instead of being bummed I decided to give myself a darn high five (that isn't really a thing). I mean who wouldn't want to eat something that has the texture of a muffin/donut/cupcake and tastes like lemony coconut cream vanilla bean pudding? Nobody!

gluten free lemon muffins | vegan #puremamas

Another high five moment this week: I finally got myself a legit big girl camera a few days ago and I've been experimenting ever since. I have been a Nikon gal since the start of my blogging journey for not other reason except that is the camera I had here at home. But now, after all these years, I decided it was time to play around with the Canon toys. I am not going to claim to be a good photographer because I'm far from it. So to say I'm a Nikon person or a Canon person would not be honest. I truly have no clue about most of it (but I do not use the auto feature, I can tell you that). I can however say with confidence that I am extremely thankful for Lightroom because the editing part is where I have experience. But I assure you I will get better at using this camera - it's one of my 2017 new years goals. 

vanilla bean + lemon gluten free vegan muffins recipe | #puremamas

Anyways, my kids loved this recipe. All 12 muffins are gone! Devoured! And I just made them an hour ago (oops, maybe they need a lesson in moderation). I ate two though and my husband had at least one. But they are THAT good. You can add berries to this recipe as well - we did blackberries one time and my kids wouldn't eat them. Just the thought of berry chunks made them less appealing. But please use this recipe as a base and have fun with it. You can make blueberry or raspberry muffins. Get creative. 

Not to mention these little gems are gluten-free and vegan! The lemon glaze topping is optional (it is made with powdered sugar) but adds a very cupcake or donut like dimension. A healthier option would be my berry chia seed jam.  Of course my kids liked them better with the glaze (duh). You could also top them with walnut butter for added protein or mashed banana for natural sweetness. 

gluten free vegan muffin recipe | #puremamas


Yields approx 12 muffins


  • 1 cup all purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, approx 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (lemon peel grated with a fine cheese grater)
  • 1 egg substitute (or 1 real egg if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp coconut cream (the thick white stuff at the top of the can)
  • 5 Tbsp (about 3/4 stick) vegan butter (plus a little extra for greasing the muffin pan)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Divide the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients into separate bowls. Beat the wet ingredients until thoroughly mixed (about 1 minute) using a hand mixer or by hand with a whisk. 
  3. Stir dry ingredients together and then sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 
  4. Using a hand mixer (or you can mix by hand) combine everything really well until mixture is wet and there are no clumps. 
  5. Grease a standard size muffin tray with any extra vegan butter or coconut oil. 
  6. Divide the muffin batter into the muffin tray. 
  7. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Keep checking them to see how they are doing and to be sure they haven't gotten too brown.*
  8. Let them cool. Glaze them after they cool. Or eat them as is without the glaze.   

*please note that these are gluten free muffins so they won't be exactly like the traditional wheat flour muffins. They don't get as airy and fluffy, but here are some tips to help them rise. These remind me more of a cupcake inside. 



  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted to remove chunks
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice or almond milk


  1. Using a hand mixer blend all of the above ingredients until well mixed and there are no more visible clumps.
  2. When the muffins have cooled almost completely, you'll want to top them with this glaze. Glaze will harden. 
gluten free vegan lemon vanilla bean coconut muffin recipe | #puremamas

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on the recipe. I'd love the feedback and feel free to tag me @julinovotny on Instagram if you do in fact make these. 

Warm Quinoa Salad + Garbanzo Bean Garlic Croutons

I just got back from a few nights in Portland, Oregon to celebrate my sisters big four oh. Wow, what a special day. We had a nice time at the Enso urban winery / tasting room. It was a lovely venue if you're looking for throwing a party in the area. The wine was really good. 

Warm Quinoa Salad w Garbanzo Bean Croutons | #puremamas @julinovotny

And then I flew back on Sunday, missing my sister and her family. It's so nice to be able to getaway from my own kids and family sometimes. It's a definite recharge. And I got to spend time with my nieces and sister without having a baby screaming at me or my boys needing something. That connection is important if even only every few years. 

Warm Quinoa Salad | Honey Mustard Dressing | Garbanzo Bean Croutons || simple, easy, quick, delicious, healthy and warming! #puremamas @julinovotny

While I was up in Oregon I made dinner for all six of us adults. And there wasn't much in the fridge, but I made do with potatoes, lentils, broccoli and brussel sprouts. To make the meal more exciting I whipped up a honey mustard dressing to pour over it. The dressing was great! And I've made it 4 times since then (and it's only been 3 days, ha, it's that good). 

For this blog post I wanted to pair it with quinoa and cabbage. The garbanzo bean croutons were an after thought and made the salad that much better. My kids even loved it and so did our baby sitter. It's a really simple, clean but festive salad. Bring it to your New Years eve pot luck or even Christmas day celebration. It's a guilt-free dish that everybody will rave about. See my YouTube video tutorial at the bottom of this post for more details. 

Honey Mustard Dressing


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp vinegar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp stone ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic


  1. Put everything in a high speed blender.
  2. Blend until super cream. (or you can also just whisk it together, but I love using my blender)

Garbanzo Bean Croutons


  • 1 can garbanzo or cooked garbanzo beans. Drained/strained/dried
  • Spice mix (1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp chili powder)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 2 clove raw garlic, minced (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F
  2. Line baking/cookie sheet with parchment paper
  3. Bake for 20 minutes

Quinoa + Cabbage Salad

yields 3 side dishes or 2 dinner meals


  • 1 cup dry quinoa 
  • 1 Cup baby kale or spinach
  • 2 Tbsp chopped shallots 
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped or raisins
  • toasted almonds
  • 1/2 of the Mustard Dressing above (add more to taste)
  • Garbanzo Bean croutons


  1. Cook quinoa in a rice cooker with equal parts water. OR cook according to package. 
  2. In a large serving bowl add warm quinoa, greens and cabbage. Toss everything with salad tongs. Add the rest of the ingredients. 
  3. Toss again so the dressing coats the salad. 
  4. Serve. Top with fresh herbs and more toasted almonds. 

Happy Holidays! Hope you all have a safe, cozy and family-filled holiday. 

Hugs xoxo


"Cheesy" Crispy Baked Fries [nut free | dairy free | vegan]

I love love love potatoes. And of course, so do my kids. We devour them in minutes around here. We dip them in all sorts of sauces - aioli, pesto, ketchup, mayo, bbq sauce and today: cheese sauce (plant based cheese sauce, of course!). 

This time my cheese sauce is nut-free. I usually use cashew sauce for creaminess but this time I used pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead. 

#puremamas @JuliNovotny Crispy Fries Recipe || Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipe
Crispy Baked French Fries | Recipe via @julinovotny #puremamas | vegan & gluten-free

Everybody always asks me how to get the fries to taste crispy! I have an answer for you: corn starch! You don't need more than 1 Tbsp of corn starch to crisp them up and it's an optional ingredient. If you want to keep your cuisine cleaner and not use powders, then great, you do not need to add it. But don't expect your fries to be overly crispy unless you cook them for a really long time and most of the moisture is gone. That works too but the fries tend to be almost rock hard. 

Crispy Potato Fries || Cheese Sauce (vegan + nut free) || Recipe via #puremamas @JuliNovotny

The Kennebec potato seems to work best for me. It's got a really soft skin and they are easy to cut. Much easier than a russet or sweet potato. They also cook quickly and crisp up really nicely. 

Half of my potatoes were cooked on a deep dish baking sheet but one had parchment and the other did not. I prefer the cooking without the parchment for quicker cooking potatoes and crisper texture. But, of course that means I might have to scrub the pan a bit harder at clean up. 

Crispy Baked Fries Recipe

Yields 2 cookie sheets or 2 medium bowls full


  • 4-5 Kennebec Potatoes (keep skin on), cut into long chunky slices
  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 3 pinches of sea salt


  • Zip lock bag, freezer size (for mixing ingredients)
  • Oil for baking pan/tray or parchment paper for lining pan/tray (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 430 degrees F (convection bake). 
  2. In a zip lock baggie combine everything but the oil/parchment for the pan. Seal the zip lock bag and shake and mix with hands.
  3. Once potatoes are completely coated, spread out evenly onto lightly oiled baking trays (or covered in parchment). Do not overlap potatoes. 
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on oven. Keep an eye out because if they do not have parchment paper they are quicker to cook and if they are thinner chunks of potato they are also cook quickly. So cook time will vary. They are done when both sides are browned. I like to swap trays from top tack to bottom rack and bottom rack to top rack for even cooking. 
  5. Once fries are done, remove them with a metal spatula so they don't get crushed or mangled. 
  6. Dip in your favorite sauce. See below for my nut free vegan cheese sauce recipe. 

Cheesy Sauce [nut-free version]



  1. Blend everything up in a blender on medium and then high speed. You'll have to scrape the sides of the blender a few times to get it all mixed evenly. 
  2. This will take about 2 minutes to get all the chunks removed and evenly mixed and creamy. Add more water if necessary. 
  3. Use this sauce as a dipping sauce or just squeeze it all over the fries before serving. We did the latter and dipped the cheesy fries into bbq sauce. So good. 
I'd love it if you would pin this image to Pinterest; It would make my day! Have a wonderful week everybody! And if you decide to make the recipe, please share your image on Instagram, I'd love to see your creation. Feel free to tag #puremamas

I'd love it if you would pin this image to Pinterest; It would make my day! Have a wonderful week everybody!

And if you decide to make the recipe, please share your image on Instagram, I'd love to see your creation. Feel free to tag #puremamas

Rich "Buttery" Pecan Pie Bars || Grain-Free Dairy-Free

I decided to whip up some pecan bars yesterday because this time of year always reminds me of my grandmas famous pecan pie. I used to love it as a kid but it always left me feeling really full and a tad guilty. I stopped eating it after a few years knowing it wasn't all that healthy.

pecan pie bars || gluten-free grain-free dairy-free [vegan] @julinovotny #puremamas recipe
Pecan Pie Bars! Sure, sign me up! @julinovotny #puremamas | vegan + gluten-free

So this year I tried out a few different "healthier" (vegan) recipes and then developed my own special creation. I guess you could call these paleo and vegan pecan pie bars because they have no grains and no refined sugars or animal products like eggs or dairy. There is only a little coconut oil and they are sweetened with dates and maple syrup. 

There is something about the smell and taste of lightly toasted nuts but pecans in general are so festive and aromatic. If you haven't already tried my pecan milk spicy hot cocoa recipe, please do - recipe is over on my Instagram account - I made a video tutorial as well

pecan pie bars || gluten-free grain-free dairy-free [vegan] @julinovotny #puremamas recipe
Pecan Pie Bars! Heck yes! Vegan Gluten-free Recipe @JuliNovotny #puremamas

This recipe is fun on a rainy day because it's really easy and simple. It looks like it takes hours and might be tricky but nope, it's really quick and the kids can help out with it as well. 

If I had to describe the flavor and texture of this healthy pecan pie bar I would say something like: Think short bread meets date balls or something like that. 

pecan pie bars || gluten-free grain-free dairy-free [vegan] @julinovotny #puremamas recipe
Rich "Buttery" Pecan Pie Bars || Vegan Grain Free @julinovotny recipe

Rich + "Buttery" Pecan Pie Bars Recipe

yields 12 bars



1 cup coconut flour

1 cup almond flour

4 Tbsp melted coconut oil (paleo) or room temp vegan butter spread

4 Tbsp maple syrup

pinch sea salt


1/2 cup chopped fresh dates

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1/3 cup date sugar or coconut sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup chopped pecans + extra for topping

1/4 tsp sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Put raw pecans onto a baking dish and bake for about 8 minutes until well toasted but not burned.  


  1. By hand or in a food processor combine and mix/whisk together the flours and sea salt. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix/blend really well until well combined and dough is formed. 
  2. Press dough into a casserole dish or deep dish square baking pan. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown on edges as shown. Let cool completely before adding topping (you can put it into the fridge to cool quicker). 
pecan pie bars || gluten-free grain-free dairy-free [vegan] @julinovotny #puremamas recipe


  1. Combine all the ingredients except for the toasted pecans in a sauce pan.
  2. Heat the saucepan on medium until the mixture comes to light boil. Using a whisk, whisk it all together until melted and sauce like. About 2 minutes. Let cool. 
pecan pie bars || gluten-free grain-free dairy-free [vegan] @julinovotny #puremamas recipe

Finally Combine Crust + Filling

  1. Transfer the warm (not boiling hot) sauce to the cooked (but already cooled off) crust. Using a spoon spread the mixture evenly over the top. 
  2. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Turn off oven. Remove Pecan Pie Bars and let sit until cooled completely. 
  4. Serve Immediately or let set in the fridge and serve the next day. 


XOXO - Juli

pecan pie bars || gluten-free grain-free dairy-free [vegan] @julinovotny #puremamas recipe

My recipe is a combination of a few I found online. Check out these two recipes for other grain and gluten free vegan options: & FoodFaithFitness