A Simple Fall Pasta

We eat a lot of pasta around here. When my husband and I were first married, he claimed to hate pasta, mostly because he hated pasta sauce. I started serving it to him with a simple garlic-lemon sauce, lots of herbs and fresh veggies and now he eats it so often we call it “Pasta Graham.”

A couple of days ago, I roasted a butternut squash with lots of salt and black pepper, but had no main course prepared and limited time. I ended up tossing it with whole wheat penne noodles, fresh spinach and chickpeas, topped with my usual lemon-garlic-olive oil sauce and plenty of crushed red pepper.

 

Simple, nutritious, and satisfying on a crisp autumn day.

Paula Deen Goes Vegan #1: Banana Coffee Muffins

Let’s ignore the fact that I’m failing the whole “post every day” part of VeganMoFo and move on to the muffins.

For my first Paula Deen challenge, I decided to forego the deep fried, bacon-wrapped, lard-marinated butter balls and go with something simple–these banana coffee muffins.

The only animal ingredients in these are, as in many baked goods, eggs and butter. I replaced the egg with 1/3 cup of soymilk whisked with 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar.  Since bananas already act as a binder, I figured I mostly needed to replace the moisture and leavening components an egg provides. For the melted butter, I substituted canola oil. While I appreciate earth balance and other vegan “butters”, I also like to use minimally processed ingredients, when possible. I used whole wheat pastry flour because I ran out of all-purpose, and replaced the nuts with chocolate chips, because my husband loves chocolatey-banana things and who am I to stand in the way of that love?

The result: Good, but not perfect. I’m a big fan of the marriage of banana, coffee and chocolate and these taste just decadent enough to feel like a treat without being overwhelmingly rich. Really nice paired with a homemade latte!

The biggest problem with the recipe was that they didn’t rise much or get fluffy the way a muffin usually would. I think the soy milk made the batter a little too wet, which I could have counteracted by adding a bit more flour. Next time, I will also try adding a teaspoon or so of baking powder, which should help leaven them a bit more. I may cut back on the oil by a tablespoon or two because I thought they tasted pretty greasy. But this is a Paula Deen recipe we’re talking about, so maybe that’s intentional.

 

Veganizing a recipe almost always takes trial and error but I’m enjoying the challenge! Next time I think I’ll tackle a more ambitious Paula recipe–maybe an entree?

Not!Meat Loaf

Continuing with the accidental comfort food theme of this month, I whipped up a vegetarian meatloaf for dinner last night. I’ve never tasted “real” meatloaf (my husband claims this makes me less of an American) so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to taste like, but my Not!Meat Loaf turned out fairly well! The meatloaf loving husband polished off about three servings all by himself, so we’ll call it a success.

Long ago, in my early teenage vegan years, I used to make a veggie meatloaf from the fabled magical loaf studio. They always came out okay, but kind of like something your weird hippy aunt would serve. This time, I used the meat loaf recipe from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food with a few modifications:

1.We were low on ketchup so I replaced half of the 1 1/2 cups called for in the recipe with a combination of tomato paste and sriracha sauce. The sriracha makes it quite spicy, unlike a traditional meatloaf, which we appreciated.

2. I used green onion instead of red and added about a 1/2 cup of chopped carrots, just   because.

One of the things I love most about the recipes in Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food are their adaptability. Unless I’m thinking ahead and remember to check ingredient lists before I go shopping, I almost always end up subbing or swapping ingredients in recipes, based on what I have on hand. This meat loaf stood up to the challenge. It’s also fairly healthy, as far as meat loaf goes with lots of fresh veggies, soy protein and only a small amount of oil.

Next time I make this, I may try forming the dough into patties for veggie burgers.

Tomorrow’s VeganMoFo post: veganized banana coffee muffins,  courtesy of Paula Deen!

Broccoli: A Love Story

Broccoli and I go way back. Its held my heart in its delicious green hands for years.  I may have the occasional fling with a bunch of brussell sprouts or fall prey to the allure of an eggplant now and then, but broccoli is my vegetable soul mate. Its my dependable dinner-time staple, delicious   as a vehicle for a fancy sauce, or all on its own.

© Euclidus | Stock Free Images

My go-to basic roasted broccoli recipe is inspired by a side dish at  my favorite NYC cafe, ‘sNice. In college, I spent many winter nights at a corner table in their west village location sipping a glass of earl grey tea and munching on this broccoli while I studied. I like it best served hot, but it’s also good cold on top of salads or in wraps. This recipe is nothing special, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. It’s subtle enough to act as a side dish to a heartier entree, but bold enough to stand up as a main dish when mixed with lentils or chickpeas and served with your favorite grain.

Garlicky Roasted Broccoli 

Ingredients:

4 cups broccoli florets

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground coarse black pepper

1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust according to spice preference)

2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced

Method: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a mixing  bowl, toss the broccoli with the olive oil to coat. Add spices and garlic and toss again until well-distributed. Spread the broccoli on a heavy duty baking sheet or large cast iron pan in a single layer. Roast in oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until the broccoli is just starting to brown (be careful not to over cook). Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 minutes. Serve hot or chilled.

While you’re waiting for your broccoli to roast, check out my friend Hayley’s video, all about the magical world of broccoli.

Vegan Brownie Round-Up

Brownies are the perfect, all-purpose dessert. Portable, chocolatey and and almost universally loved. Seriously, if you don’t like brownies, ask for a refund on your tastebuds.

For the first few years I was vegan, I searched for a recipe that would replicate the taste and texture of my favorite, fudgy treat, but it remained elusive. Too many vegan brownies are cakey, crumbly or (oh, the horror) dry. Too many well meaning vegans try to make brownies something they were never meant to be–healthy. So, several years ago, I made it my personal quest to scour every cookbook, blog and vegan recipe site in all the land in search of the perfect, fudgy vegan brownie. Baking and eating all of those chocolatey treats was a tough job, but I nobly bore the burden for vegan-kind.

The following three brownies came out on top. Beside the obvious, they all have one very important quality in common: lots of fat! The secret to a great brownie is not to skimp on the oil and refined sugar. By all means, eat your beans and your whole grains and your applesauce, but keep them far away from my desserts.

1. Super Fudgy Brownies via Northern Veg

     This recipe requires just slightly more effort than dumping a mix into a bowl, and delivers fabulous results. With a slightly crispy top crust and  chewy bite , these brownies are reminiscent of the kind found at school bake sales and church potlucks everywhere.  These are at their fudgiest after a couple hours in the fridge. 

2.The Best Vegan Brownies Ever by Bread and Honey

    I think these are a little richer and more high maintenance than your average brownie. The brown sugar gives it a deeper flavor and a very moist texture that blows away the competition when it comes to taste. This recipe uses a flour-water roux as the binder, which helps keep the finished product from falling apart. Pro-tip: make sure to sift the flour first to avoid biting in to an unpleasant white clump later.

3. Brooklyn Brownie (Cupcakes) adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Moskowitz

   Technically, this is a cupcake recipe, but it’s more like a brownie masquerading as a cupcake at a fancy dress party. It is slightly cakier than I  prefer my brownies, but I love the complexity that the cherry preserves add to the chocolate flavor. Try these guys dusted with a little powdered sugar or a thin layer of frosting. To make them as brownies, double the recipe and spread in a 9 x 13 glass baking pan, and add about 10 minutes on to the baking time. Let cool completely before serving. 

Do you have a favorite vegan brownie recipe?  I’d love to try it!

Cooking and Creating

Does the world need another vegan food blog?

Probably not.

But my life does.  Cooking, baking and writing used to be creative outlets for me. In high school, I combated the stress of the SATs and college admissions essays by spending weekends in the kitchen whipping up new cookie recipes. In college, I battled social anxiety armed with a tray of vegan brownies and an expanding cookbook collection.  While pursuing a college degree and a dance career in New York, I found clichéd sanctuary in the city’s many overpriced coffee shops, where I always did my best writing (and drank the best soy lattes).

After getting married two months before my 20th birthday, I found those moments harder to come by. Writing became a way to pay the bills and, unless you are among the blessed few, the kind of writing that buys you groceries, is not often the kind of writing one does as creative release. I continued cooking and baking, but sticking to a grocery budget tighter than a hipster’s pants left little room for recreational kitchen experiments.

Now, after moving to a new town far from my beloved, expensive Manhattan streets, starting a business and having a baby, it’s time to make time. I need an outlet for no-pressure writing, cooking, creating, eating, and sharing;  a place where I can wax poetic about root vegetables, sing the wonders of scones, and defend tofu to the ends of the earth. If you’re like my husband and prefer your bacon wrapped bacon covered in bacon, stick around! I promise not to preach. No one likes a preachy vegan. Plus, there will be cookies. And everyone likes cookies.

Check back for new posts each week. Come October, expect daily recipes, product reviews, and musings on broccoli* as part of Vegan Month of Food (VeganMoFo). In the mean time, catch me on Twitter and Pinterest.

*Kidding–kind of. Broccoli is a beautiful thing.