Winter carrot soup

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Makes 6 servings
This colorful soup makes an elegant first course or light lunch.  It's a breeze to make because the ingredients are staples you are likely to have on hand.
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 carrots, coarsely grated
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
4 cups vegetable stock 
One 6-ounce can tomato paste 
1 tablespoon soy sauce
 ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
 ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
 ¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Croutons for garnish
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Combine 1 cup of the stock and the tomato paste in a measuring cup; whisk until smooth.  Add to the pot with the remaining ingredients.  Cover and increase the heat to high. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Advance preparation
This soup will keep for up to 4 days in a covered container in the refrigerator.
When stirring in the stock, add one of the following: ½ cup chopped apple, cooked brown rice, or raw cashews.