“Creamy” (Cashew) White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce

I would like to give a shout-out to my girl at OnMyWayToHealth for pointing me in the direction of this recipe!  This is an absolutely AWESOME creamy tomato sauce recipe without the cream!  Cashews blended with a fresh chopped tomato and tomato paste provide a tangy-sweet and creamy base for an amazing but simple Italian classic white wine tomato basil sauce.  As OnMyWay notes, this recipe is great for those transitioning to vegan and trying to satisfy lingering creamy cravings and also as a nice change from the typical red pasta sauce.  Every kitchen needs a few good pasta sauce recipes.  Come summer, we’re all going to need as many tomato recipes as possible, and I’m really excited to be able to add this one to my recipe box!

“Creamy” Tomato Basil Sauce:

Equipment:

  • Food processor, medium saute pan, wooden spoon, spatula

Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh tomatoes, 1 chopped into big chunks, the other 2 diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 heaping cup of roasted, unsalted cashews
  • 2 small yellow onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ~10 big fresh basil leaves, cut into small ribbons
  • 1/4 evoo
  • Dry white wine (to taste)
  • Water (as needed)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add the cashews, tomato that was roughly chopped, tomato paste, 2-3 Tbsp of water and a big pinch of kosher salt to the food processor.  Blend, scrape down the sides, and keep blending until the mixture is silky smooth.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion.  Saute 2-3 mins until softened and then add the chopped garlic.  Saute another 2-3 mins, or until the garlic and onions are just starting to brown.  Add a big pinch of salt, pepper, the diced tomatoes and the cashew-tomato mixture from the blender.  Let cook 1-2 mins, or until simmering.
  3. Once the tomatoes are starting to get hot, add 2-3 splashes of a dry white wine (to taste) and/or a few Tbsp of water.  Without extra liquid the sauce is very thick and creamy.  I wanted mine a little thinner, so I ended up adding probably 3-4 Tbsp of wine and the same amount of water.  Add the basil and let simmer together 5-10 mins or until all of the flavors are deliciously incorporated.
  4. ENJOY!!

Swiss Chard in a Chili in a Pepper in a Mushroom

I like to think of the following recipe as “Vegan Turducken.”  It’s completely unnecessary, more meta than the Matrix, and unbelievably delicious.

What inspired this dish?  Well, I have previously expressed my love of stuffed peppers, and I was looking in my fridge trying to figure out what I was going to do with the extra portobellos and poblano peppers I picked up at the market on Saturday.  And then the thought struck me, “Stuff all the things!!”  And so, the mega-stuffed mushroom was born, and O! how the bellies rejoiced!  Helpful hint: this dish has multiple components and it moves!  So read the recipe once through before  starting.

Vegan Turducken:

IT IS GLORIOUS! The greatest erection to come out of America since Newt Gingrich

Equipment:

  • Knife, cutting board, baking dish (13×9 or larger), large bowl, a spoon and a fork, wooden spoon, liquid measuring cup, med/large saucepan with lid, medium saute pan, metal spatula, range
Ingredients:
  • 2 large red bell peppers, halved and cored
  • 4 small/medium portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 poblano peppers, halved and cored
  • 2 small yellow onions, one sliced into 1/4″ half moons, the other diced (or divide up a large onion)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced, the other 2 chopped
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2-3 leaves swiss chard, chopped into fine ribbons (or use a handful fresh spinach)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup evoo + more for cooking
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Prep the bell peppers and poblano chilies.  Place them in the baking dish, drizzle with evoo, and sprinkle on a big pinch of kosher salt and pepper.  Rub the peppers inside and out to make sure they’re thoroughly and evenly coated.  Place the peppers cut-side down in the baking dish and bake 20 mins, or until peppers are soft.
  2. While the peppers bake, stem the mushrooms and gently scrape out their gills with a spoon, being careful not to break the edges.  Place the portobello caps in a large bowl.  Add the slivered onion and one of the cloves of chopped garlic.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup evoo.  Sprinkle in a dash of salt and a hit of ground pepper.  Whisk with a fork to combine.  Pour the marinade over the mushroom caps and veg.  Mix the portobellos with your hands, and let marinate 10-15 mins.  Make sure your caps are all touching some of the onions and garlic! Don’t let them just sit on the bottom!
  4. Add the veg stock and millet to a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat and let simmer until all the liquid is gone, about 15-20 mins.
  5. By now, your peppers are probably done.  Remove them from the oven, and reduce the oven heat to 350 F.  Let them sit until they’re cool enough to handle.  Revisit your mushrooms caps and swish them around to make sure they all get evenly marinated.
  6. Heat a drizzle of evoo in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the diced onion to the pan and saute 2 mins.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or until the onion is soft and translucent.  Stir in the chard ribbons, a big pinch of salt, some black pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired.  Saute and stir until the chard is thoroughly wilted, or about 5-7 mins.  Once it’s done cooking, add the millet to the saute pan and stir it around to coat it in the oniony, garlicky flavor.
  7. Ok, let’s build some stacks of awesome.  Select a mushroom cap, and layer it with 6-7 thin slices of garlic.  Place a roasted red bell pepper on top of the mushroom, and fill the pepper cavity with a small handful of the onions from the mushroom marinade.  Top that with half of a poblano pepper and spoon in 2-3 spoon fulls of the chard/millet stuffing.  Place in the baking dish and repeat 3 times or until everything is used up.
  8. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and return the veggies to the oven to bake at 350 F for 20 mins.  This will help make sure the mushrooms, onions, and garlic soften in the vinegar marinade steam.  After 20 mins, remove the foil and bake another 10-20 mins, or until all of the veggies are softened to your desired texture, and the top of the millet has started to toast to a golden brown.  Carefully remove the hot mega-stuffed monstrosities with a spatula.
  9. ENJOY!!

 

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

I had spaghetti squash for the first time a few years ago, and as a life-long loather of squash, I was stunned at how good it was.  Ever since then, I’ve been playing with this flexible recipe (as well as other squashy delights!), and am now a marrow enthusiast!  I particularly love this version of this recipe on busy days like today because it’s just so damn easy and doesn’t take a plethora of ingredients, but it’s still elegant and impressive enough to serve to guests.  Just chop everything up, throw it in the oven, and come back in an hour for lunch.

This is an especially great recipe for those of us who live alone and like to cook on the weekends for the entire week.  Depending on the size of the squash (and how crookedly I cut it at the beginning) I can get 4-6 servings from just one spaghetti squash.

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash:

Seriously, who wouldn't be proud to serve this at a party? It's just so damn pretty.

Equipment:

  • Knife, cutting board, large sheet pan (lined with a Silpat, optional for easier clean-up), medium-sized bowl, spoon, aluminum foil, oven
Ingredients:
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely diced (~1/4″ dice)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10-15 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • Evoo
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Cut off the ends of the squash.  Stand the squash up on a flat end, and carefully slice it in half long-ways to make two oblong squash bowls.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and any lose flesh on the inside.
  3. Place the squash boats on a baking sheet.  Drizzle the in-sides generously with evoo.  Sprinkle on 2-3 healthy pinches of salt and hits of ground black pepper.  Rub the oil, salt, and pepper all over the in- and outsides of the squash, making sure it is evenly coated.  When you’re seasoning at this point, remember that spaghetti squash is on the sweet side like most marrows.  This is the point where you have to decide if you want to enhance that sweetness (just a touch of salt) or try to mask it (salt away, baby!).
  4. Place the squash halves cut-side down on the baking sheet, and bake for 45 mins.  Meanwhile, chop the rest of your veggies.  Put all the veggies except the sliced mushrooms in a medium bowl (the mushrooms will turn to mush once the tomatoes and peppers start to sweat).  Drizzle with a little evoo, and sprinkle on a some salt and pepper to taste.  Mix with a spoon, and stir in the chopped parsley.  Set aside, and let sit until squash is done par-cooking.  When the squash only have 1-2 mins left in the oven, add the mushrooms in with the other veggies.
  5. Carefully flip over the squash – watch out that steam is hot!!  Fill the squash bowls with the chopped veg.  There will seem to be too much, but it’s supposed to be mounding out of the squash bowls (otherwise there would be way too much squash with not enough stuffing at the end).  Give the stuffing a press to make sure it’s in there good and to make room for any last bits of veg.
  6. Cover with an aluminum foil tent, and bake an additional 45 mins, or until the veggie stuffing has softened and the squash is thoroughly cooked through.  Carefully remove the aluminum foil tent, and carve the stuffed squash into desired serving size.
  7. Serve squash wedges/quarters whole.  To eat, scrape out the inside of the squash, and it will make long spaghetti-like strands.  Mix with the stuffing like it’s spaghetti and red sauce.

    Interactive Food - nuff said.

  8. ENJOY!!

Buckwheat Zucchini Bread

A few days ago, I went out to my garden and found my first fruit of the season/ever!! This year is my first attempt at a full-fledged organic vegetable garden, and my hard work is starting to pay off!  So far I’ve gotten a couple rounds of rainbow chard, but this zucchini is the first thing I ever grew that I was able to physically pluck off the vine, take right upstairs to my kitchen, and be inspired by!

Zucchini is a super flexible veg, and zucchini bread is one of my favorite ways to use it!  Zucchini has it’s own sweetness, so it’s great to use in breakfast breads, pancakes, and muffins as well as other more traditional, savory options.  I’ve updated the classic recipe by cutting out the oil, upping the spices, and adding buckwheat flour for a whole grain rif.  For a vegan version of this veggie-packed bread, I’ve used egg substitutes, and it’s come out just as good!

Buckwheat Zucchini Bread: (yields 1 loaf)

Buckwheat Zucchini Bread in its most tempting state – oven fresh and piping hot

Equipment:

  • 2 medium and 1 large mixing bowls, cheese grater, 1 8×4 bread pan, cooling rack, dry measuring cups and spoons, silicone spatula, paper towel, flour sifter, oven
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup AP flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large zucchini (should yield about 2 cups grated)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce or other fruit-based oil substitute
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown vegan sugar (white works fine too, but brown adds to the richness)
  • 2 healthy heaping tsp cinnamon (if I actually measured this out correctly, it would probably be closer to 3 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and/or golden raisins (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Grease and flour the bread pan, set aside.
  2. Grate the zucchini into a small bowl with the cheese grater (I like to use the larger grate because you can see the green flecks of the skin after it cooks that way).  Do NOT press or strain the zucchini – it is a huge source of moisture for this dense, fudgey, super-soft bread!!
  3. Sift the dry ingredients (buckwheat flour, AP flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, salt) together in one bowl.  I usually give another extra pinch of cinnamon here for good luck 🙂
  4. In another large bowl, mix together the eggs, applesauce, sugar, and vanilla until all are well-combined.  Add dry ingredients to the wet, and stir to make a dough.  Add the shredded zucchini to the dough, and mix in well.  The dry dough should turn into a wet batter from the zucchini’s moisture.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared bread pan.  Bake 50-75 mins, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  The bake time will vary depending on the quality (moistness) and quantity of zucchini shreds.  Let stand on a cooling rack at least 20 mins before serving.  Recommended way to maximize enjoyment: Serve a warmed, thick slice with melted butter and/or a touch of raw honey (aka the perfect breakfast).

    Trying to hurry and take a picture so I can eat it already!

  6. ENJOY!!

PSA: Salads Don’t Have to Suck

Hokay, so here in the US, it’s summer time.  That means that whether you’re trying to look stellar in that bathing suit or enjoying the amazing displays of the freshest vegetables you’re going to have access to all year, we’re all going to be eating a lot more salad right about now.

I only have one small problem with salads: the lettuce.  Okay, that’s not a small problem. I actually have a big beef against lettuce.  Even buying locally produced lettuce is expensive (much less that stuff they ship all the way from CA or Mexico that sells for 2-3x more than I pay), it doesn’t have very much flavor, compared to other veggies out there it’s kind of a nutritional dud, and lettuce has the shelf life of approximately 5 minutes because you can’t cook it.  Exaggeration aside, I live by myself, so I cook for one. How am I supposed to finish an entire head of lettuce before it starts to wilt?  When I buy a head of lettuce, I feel like I’m signing a contract that I will eat salad for at least two of my meals for the next 5 days, otherwise this lettuce will get soft, become unappetizing, and I’ll have wasted food and money.

So, I don’t buy lettuce – not very often anyway.   But who says salads have to have lettuce?  And no, this is strictly a NO MAYO zone.  Any veggie you enjoy eating raw can be the base of a salad!  Ok ok, maybe you knew that already, but I didn’t realize it until my budget got a squeeze and I thought I had to sacrifice raw, fresh veggies (it didn’t make sense to buy salad stuff if the lettuce would always be partially wasted).  I didn’t eat salad for a long time, but this summer, I will not make the same mistake!  Below are some easy examples of salads you may or may not have known were possible that are perfect for those of us who cook for one (some of which are part of my dinner tonight).

Cherry Tomato and Red Onion Salad

Budget-friendly lettuce-free salad combos:

  • Thinly slice a small head of red cabbage and shred a bunch of carrots with a large cheese grater.
  • Chop celery into matchsticks and combine with some grated carrots and grated broccoli stems
  • Mix bean sprouts with 1/4″ slices of celery and yellow bell pepper strips
  • Combine quartered grape tomatoes, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a red onion, some basil, shaved Parmesan, salt and pepper for a tomato salad (put it on toast and you’ve got bruschetta!)
  • Snow peas, mushrooms, and shredded carrots with some sesame seeds
  • Whatever else you can find cheap

    Red Cabbage and Carrot Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Dressings:

Making your own salad dressing is really easy, affordable, and will save you tons on calories.  Plus you’ll know exactly what’s in them!  I was very disappointed the other day when I looked at the ingredients list of a bottle of salad dressing in my fridge and saw this

So much Natural Flavor that they listed it twice!

This dressing is guaranteed to contain milk (which explains why it looks somewhat creamy without the Ranch-like mayo and yogurt thickness), but milk isn’t listed on the ingredients list at all…

The red cabbage and carrot dressing from the pic above is very simple:

  • Combine 1 clove chopped raw garlic with 1 tsp dijon mustard, 6 Tbsp evoo, 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 pinch of ground black pepper and a pinch of Kosher salt into a small mason jar.  Shake until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Voila!

A good rule of thumb for salad dressings is the 3:1 oil to acid ratio.  Unless you’re having a super light salad, the veg will usually tone-down the acidity of the dressing.  So, when you taste-test, you want the dressing to have some bite to it.  Another one of my favorite dressings is a lemon poppy seed dressing that follows the same rule:

  • Combine 1/2 clove chopped raw garlic, the juice and zest of 1 lemon (usually about 2 Tbsp juice yielded), 6 Tbsp evoo, 2 tsp+ poppy seeds, 2-3 leaves fresh basil chopped into fine ribbons, 1/2 pinch ground black pepper, and a pinch of Kosher salt in a small mason jar. Shake and ENJOY!!

Keep cool out there, everyone!  The produce available this time of year is truly awesome, so feel free to explore and enjoy your salads! 8)

Black Bean, Ranch, and Spinach Pizza

This is how a meal plan should work!  This recipe is made entirely from leftovers from the week before, plus a few pantry items.  All I had to make specifically for this recipe was the dough. I just love it when stuff works out!  I wish it would happen more often…

This combo is loosely inspired by an item on this restaurant’s menu. I put this pizza together, and last night, I gave it the ultimate test.  My 16 year-old sister declared this to be “Sooooooo good!! Best pizza ever!” So, I can’t help but give myself a pat on the back (teenagers are pizza experts, of course!).

Granted, this pizza is not exactly low-calorie, but it is insanely nutrition-packed – so much so that one slice each was plenty for both of us and kept us full the entire night without the dreaded junk-food coma.

Black Bean, Ranch, and Spinach Pizza:

A pizza that takes left-overs to another level

Directions:

  1. Make your garlic pizza dough.  I actually used light buckwheat flour in an attempt to make it whole grain.  I now know that this flour does not rise, so the dough was very dense and it only produced enough dough for one pan pizza.  But! Despite the dough being dense, it was still flavorful and easily edible.  It actually made the dough richer, and I kinda liked it better this way.
  2. Before you precook your pan-style dough, drop 6-8 pea-sized dabs of butter on the crust.  Then precook your dough as directed.
  3. Once your dough is ready to be topped, give a nice layer of ranch dressing.  Then add on a generous layer of raw, cleaned spinach (which I bought to go on top of my black bean sandwiches).
  4. Top with left-over grated cheddar and jack cheese from the fajitas.
  5. Then, crumble up some black bean patties and sprinkle on a generous layer.
  6. Top once again with any left-over cheese (I also had a local bell pepper laced cheddar on hand which I grated up to use on top).  Bake as directed (425 F for 15-20 mins, or until cheese is golden brown and the spinach has clearly wilted).
  7. ENJOY!!

My small pizza yielded 8 servings.