Sunday, February 27, 2011

Quinoa Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce (gluten free)

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what "new" vegetarians and vegans eat before they realize that they haven't compromised anything in their dietary habits and that there is an abundance of food available to them. Until I went vegan, there were foods I avoided simply because I didn't know how to cook them and didn't want to risk buying something "gross" or "weird." All I can recall eating excessively in the beginning was pasta and sauce because it was easy, satisfying, and didn't require much thought or preparation.

Well, as they say, old habits die hard and sometimes you just want to eat something simple and satisfying that doesn't come out of the freezer section at the store. And sometimes, as they say, you want to feed to birds with one scone and make something simple with just a touch more class. So here's my new take on the pasta and sauce staple. It's 100% gluten-free, meat/cheese analog free, and goes well served with sauteed kale and broccoli. The sauce recipe makes a little over one standard store-bought pasta jar of sauce so, if you don't use it all up at once, you will have plenty for leftovers!

(Makes about 4 servings of pasta and 30oz sauce)

1 box Quinoa Pasta (I used pagoda shaped)
1/2 medium sized butternut squash
1 organic red pepper, quartered
1 stalk celery
2 medium organic tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 cup water
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 - 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp raw turbinado sugar
1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp (a pinch!) cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil, for spraying on veggies


Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut the butternut squash in half. Remove the seeds from one half. Spray the flesh side with vegetable oil and lay, cut side down, on a non-stick baking pan. Spray the quartered red pepper with oil and place it cut side down on the baking pan. Roast for 40-50 minutes. You may need to remove the red peppers from the oven at the 40 minute mark to prevent them from burning through. If they are somewhat burnt on the edges, that's ok! The butternut squash may take the full 50 minutes!

While your veggies are roasting, prepare the rest of the sauce ingredients. In a food processor fitted with a grating/chopping disk, mince the celery. Remove the chopping disk and put the blade attachment on. Set aside. In a saute pan, place the olive oil and garlic and saute on medium high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the onion and saute for about 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with a touch of salt. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl of the food processor. Blend until well combined. Add the tomatoes. Blend again.

When your roasted veggies are done, scoop out the butternut squash from the skin and place it in the food processor along with the roasted red pepper. Blend until fully combined. Next, pour all of the ingredients into a medium sauce pan. Add the water, tomato paste, nutritional yeast, and sugar. Cook on medium low stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Next add the thyme, salt, black pepper, and cayenne.  Stir well. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Make the pasta according to the package instructions.

Serve alongside sauteed and seasoned kale and broccoli or your favorite veggies. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mango-Blackberry-Coconut French Toast

Did I go on a tropical island getaway? No, not so much. Just another Saturday morning in snowy New Hampshire. Saturday mornings have become all about getting up to make a big breakfast, leaving the dishes for later, cuddling with the dog, catching up on Dexter, and not "officially" getting out of bed until noon. Now all I need is someone to come make this for me so, I don't have to get up at all. Until then, here's a quick recipe that won't take away too much of your laze time and proves you don't need dairy or eggs to have a delicious breakfast. What more can I say about french toast? Oh yeah: It's freaking delicious!

Go ahead, have it with a mimosa. You deserve it. It's the weekend.

(serves 2, or 1 large serving) 

4 slices soft, vegan whole wheat bread (just make sure there's no eggs, dairy, or honey in it)
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp all purpose flour (arrowroot or cornstarch will do)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Fruit Topping

1 small mango, skin removed and cubed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 tsp coconut extract (or vanilla if you want)
1/4 cup fresh blackberries (frozen is fine, *see directions for instructions)
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
powdered sugar, sifted, for garnish


Cut each slice of bread, vertically into 4 pieces, if desired. Set aside. In a small bowl, toss the mango, syrup and coconut extract together. Set aside. Set the blackberries aside in a small bowl. If using frozen blackberries, thaw them in 2 tbsp warm water and let them soak and turn the water red (you can pour this liquid on the toast when it's done, to turn the syrup the red color shown in the photo). In a shallow bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the batter.

Spray a non-stick pan with oil and heat on medium low. Place the bread in the bowl with the batter, making sure each side, including the edges, is lightly covered. It is very important that you not soak the bread through! Place each slice in the pan and fry until golden brown on each side and crispy. Remove from pan and stack the bread on individual plates, 3 slices laid vertically on the bottom, then 3 on top of that horizontally and so forth. Arrange the fruit topping on top of the bread, sprinkle with coconut flakes and sifted powdered sugar. Serve with additional maple syrup and/or vegan butter if desired. Enjoy!

Curried Asian Sweet Potato Lentil Stew: Two ways!

About a month ago, my wonderful newly vegan mother (I'll never tire of saying that), in an effort to help with my cooking endeavors, cooked a massive amount of brown lentils. And then a few weeks after that, she bestowed me with an Asian sweet potato. Mothers. What would we do without them? Starve, probably. Anyway, since then, I've been saving lentils in my freezer not exactly knowing what to do with them. Since I've never been a fan of lentil soup, I thought that would certainly be out. But then it occurred to me, that the reason I've never liked lentil soup wasn't because I didn't like lentils, the flavors just never appealed to me. So, I decided to get creative and play with the flavor of my favorite cuisine, curry, and this is what came of it!

If you can't find Asian sweet potatoes, that's okay. I think this would be absolutely fabulous with regular sweet potatoes, if not better, as they're much sweeter. Also, you can chose to use vegan bouillon cubes, but if those aren't available to you, feel free to substitute the stock with canned or homemade low sodium vegetable broth instead.

This is delicious and you can serve it however your kind vegan or soon-to-be vegan heart pleases! Also, be aware that this recipe makes a lot. You will have leftovers, so freeze some, have a party or better yet, bring some to your dear ol' mom!

(makes about 8, 1 cup servings)

4 cups water
2 vegan vegetable bouillon cubes, I used Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 large Asian sweet potato, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, reserve 1/2 cup of chickpea liquid prior to rinsing
3 cups cooked lentils
1/4 bunch red kale, de-stemmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


In a large stock pot, add the water and bouillon cubes (or just the veggie broth if using) and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, potato, onion and garlic and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes until carrots and potato are tender and can be pierced with a fork. Next, add the chickpeas, the chickpea liquid, and lentils, stir, and simmer for another 10 minutes until the lentils begin to break a part and thicken the soup. Add the kale, spices, salt and pepper, and stir well. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir, and serve in individual bowls or accompanied with brown basmati rice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

S'mores Pops!

Now all you need is a flashlight and some ghost stories.

It's been snowing like crazy this winter and it's seriously making me feel like summer is never going to get here, let alone spring. One of my favorite activities every year is camping and canoeing with friends along the Saco river in Maine. It always ends up being a memorable time, and part of that good time and any camping trip is: the s'more. So, in a fit of nostalgia and wishful thinking I decided to make a version of the delicious, gooey dessert treat you would eat on a sandy bank along the river or in the deep dark woods of bear country. And let's face it, who doesn't like eating food on a stick? It's virtually mess free! That being said, this is a great treat for kids!

A little note about the ingredients:

This recipe deviates from the original s'more in that I don't toast the marshmallows because that would render them shapeless and too soft to be dipped in the melted chocolate. And, I used Back To Nature Madagascar Vanilla Wafers because vegan graham crackers have proven to be rather elusive for years (almost all brands contain honey). I've been informed by some friends lately that Nabisco makes a graham cracker that is honey-less and that Health Valley makes a vegan amaranth graham cracker that you can find at some Whole Foods stores or online at Vegan Essentials. I can't wait to try them!

You may be wondering, "But what about the chocolate? Is it vegan?" and "Don't marshmallows have gelatin?" The answer to both of these is "yes." But vegan chocolate is available online, at stores like Whole Foods, and virtually anywhere gluten-free foods are sold (many large chain grocery stores have dedicated "gluten free" aisles). I used Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips which can be found in most grocery stores. Vegan marshmallows are a little more tricky. I recommend using Dandies Marshmallows by Chicago Soydairy. They're delicious, they melt in your mouth, and taste like the marshmallows you grew up loving. You can buy them online or use the site to search for a store that carries them near you. Lately, they are becoming more readily available in large specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods.

Now on to the goodies!


1 package vegan marshmallows (see note)
10 oz semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips
1/2 box vegan vanilla wafers or graham crackers
lollipop sticks (found in bakery/party decoration stores)


First, poke a hole through the center of one marshmallow with a lollipop stick. Repeat with two more marshmallows to create a stack of three (or one or two depending on the length of your lollipop sticks). Set aside.

Crush the cookies by putting them in the bowl of a food processor and pulsing until they are finely chopped. Don't go too crazy, you don't want them chopped so fine that you've made cookie flour. Alternatively, you could crumble them with your hands. Pour out the cookie crumbles onto a flat plate and set aside.

Next, in a double boiler, or in a small metal bowl over a sauce pot containing about 3/4 cup water (see picture), melt the chocolate chips, on medium low heat, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, to avoid burning. Once the chips are all melted, remove the bowl from the sauce pan immediately and pour the chocolate out onto a flat serving plate.

Roll the sides and the top of the marshmallow in the chocolate sauce, letting any excess drip off. Then roll just the top (or the whole thing if you want) in the cookie crumbles. 

Place the final product on a piece of wax paper to cool and dry. Or better yet, prop them up in a small bowl that's fitted with something in the center to keep them upright and in place. If you happen to have a block of styrofoam lying around, you can poke them into it. Serve slightly cool and gooey, or refrigerate for 5 minutes so that the chocolate hardens a bit. Either way, enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tofu Vegetable Quiche with Herbed Crust

Look Ma, no eggs! That's right. It's another quiche recipe, this one is bigger and more badass than a mini quiche can ever hope to be. I've got way more things going on this week than there is time in a day so, I have to make sure my mind doesn't wander to the kitchen when it should be studying. Solution? Make a massive quiche and eat quiche for dinner all week. Why the heck not? While most young whipper snapper college students are eating pizza, I'm the old lady who's enjoying a delicious quiche because "it's kind of like pizza." And it is, except it's a lot healthier.

Anyway, here's a tasty, savory, eggless dish that's sure to make your life a lot easier and your dinner guests amazed that it you could accomplish a quiche without eggs. Quiche is not only time efficient and delicious, it's flexible too! Add whatever vegetables you want, or omit the ones you can't stand. The crust recipe is arranged, but adapted from the Healthy Happy Life blog. My only issue with this recipe is that the crust isn't as soft as I would like it to be. I used sorghum flour which can be pretty rough stuff once it's baked, but softens up nicely over time (read: leftovers). Even if you have a gluten allergy, I recommend using other flours (bean or oat will probably be fine).

(makes an 11 inch quiche)

1/2 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/3 cup all purpose flour (any variety works)
1/4 cup sorghum flour (or chickpea flour, oat flour, white whole wheat, etc.)
1/3 cup ground flax seeds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp ground sage
cornmeal for dusting
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for glaze
1 tbsp agave nectar, for glaze

Veggie Saute:
1/2 small zucchini, chopped small
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1 cup red kale, chopped
3/4 cup broccoli, chopped very small
5 to 6 baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped, reserve a few slices for garnish
2 small tomatoes, chopped, reserve one slice for garnish
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Tofu Filling:
1-12 oz package firm tofu, drained and pressed to get all the moisture out
1/2 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tbsp sesame tahini
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)

You will also need:
parchment paper
dried beans (or dried rice)


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray an 11 inch tart or pie pan with oil. Dust the inside lightly with flour.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the crust (water through sage) and work into a kneadable dough. You may need to flour your hands or sprinkle some flour on the dough a few times if it sticks to the sides of the bowl or your hands. Once it's clearing the bowl and your hands, lay it on a well floured surface and knead it until it's a smooth and uniform dough ball. Sprinkle more flour on top and with a floured rolling pin, roll it out until it is thin - but not paper thin - and a little larger than the circumference of your tart/pie pan. Lay it aside on a flat, floured surface and sprinkle the area you were just working in with a little cornmeal. Drag the bottom of the dough in the cornmeal and then lay it in your pan. Shape the dough into the pan, trying to get the edges to be as uniform as possible by pushing the dough from the edges and up the sides. You may need to remove any excess dough hanging off the edges and use it to create edges if one side of your crust has smaller edges. Brush the dough with the agave/oil glaze. Poke three small holes in the center of the dough then cover with a piece of parchment paper and place some dried beans (or dried rice if you don't have beans) on top to prevent the dough from rising.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove parchment paper and beans/rice, and set aside to cool while you prepare the quiche. Turn the oven up to 375 F.

Heat a non stick pan on medium heat and add a little bit of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the onion and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, and pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to exude their juices and the broccoli is bright green and soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until they exude their juices and deflate, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and kale and cook until just wilted. Add in the oregano, and the salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tofu filling, except the salt, and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the salt and adjust to taste (if you're salt conscious, remember that there's salt in your veggies already). Blend again and then pour into the veggies. Stir the tofu filling and the veggie saute together until well combined.

Pour into the crust. Garnish the top of the crust with the pepper slices and tomato. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown in color. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Update: If you end up having an overflow of quiche filling, you can make crustless mini quiches! Pour some of the leftover filling into small baking tart pans or into a muffin tin and bake at 350 F for 50 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Let them cool for about 10 minutes. Serve alongside steamed veggies!