Monthly Archives: June 2016

Hot List: Presto! Pesto!

Pesto & Hummus Sandwich

Pesto & Hummus Sandwich

As I was reading my previous post for Pasta Primavera I realized that I never posted a recipe for pesto. After all, the pesto possibilities are numerous and a little goes a long way when it comes to adding flavor to your favorite recipes. You can use it in hummus, on sandwiches, in Italian bean dishes, on pizza, tossed with pasta or stirred into sauces and soups. So, why haven’t I shared a recipe with you? Probably because pesto is one of those recipes that doesn’t have to be a recipe and I usually just “wing it”. Well, I’m offering up the following recipe more as a method of making pesto that allows you to adjust it to suit your palate. Traditional pesto contains basil, garlic, pignoli nuts, parmesan and olive oil. I’ve taken out the cheese and oil and added sun-dried tomatoes. If you’re not having a problem with sodium, then mix in a little miso paste for a salty-cheesy nuance. If you’re using it for pasta you might add some vegetable broth or olive oil to coax it onto the pasta. If you’re following an oil-free diet, try mixing it with a small amount of cashew cream. Just place the ingredients in a small food processor and you’re done. Presto! Pesto! Make some pesto and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

3 cloves of garlic
¼ cup oil-free sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup pignoli or walnuts
1 teaspoon miso paste (see note)
3 oz. fresh basil

In food process, pulse garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, pignoli and miso paste until very fine. Add basil and process basil is minced and mixed into tomato-nut mixture. Pesto can be frozen for several months.

Note: you can add a few tablespoons of olive oil if desired. If you don’t have miso paste, you can add salt to taste.

30 Jun 2016

Every Day is Princess Pasta Day: Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Who remembers the Prince spaghetti commercial that declared Wednesday as Prince spaghetti day? If you watched TV during the 1960’s you probably saw it. Some years later they changed their slogan to “every day is Prince spaghetti day.” (I wonder if this was to protect their products against the anti-carb movement that was made fashionable by the Atkins diet.) In our home we always had pasta on Sunday. That was when pasta was called macaroni or spaghetti and the sauce options were either tomato or clam sauce. Boy, how things have changed. I googled “whole food plant based pasta recipes” and came up with 1,910,000 results. That’s good news because I could eat pasta every day for lunch and dinner. I don’t have the patience to read through all of those recipes, so I decided to come up with another one of my own. I was in the mood for something creamy, not too heavy and with plenty of vegetables. Luckily I had everything I needed to make Pasta Primavera:  fresh peas, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and scallions from our local CSA; raw cashews for cashew cream and gemelli pasta in the pantry; and homemade pesto in the freezer. I wanted to get the right size and shape on the vegetables to make it easy to get a little bit of everything on the fork. To do this, I used a ribbon grater for the carrots and squash. The vegetables were sauteed, then simmered in a light vegetable broth and finished off with cashew cream and a few spoons of pesto. I had enough primavera for about one pound of pasta and only two of us for dinner, so I spooned just enough sauce over the pasta in individual bowls and saved the extra sauce and pasta separately. If you have a big crowd, just go crazy and mix it all up in a big, pretty pasta bowl. If every pasta dish was as tasty and nourishing as this Pasta Primavera I would say with certainty that every day is Princess Pasta Day. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pasta Primavera

1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 large carrot
1 cup peas (if using fresh peas, blanch before using)

1-1/2 to 2 cups vegetable broth (or Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
¾ cup thick cashew cream
2 tablespoons pesto (or more to taste)

1 lb. cut pasta (ziti, penne, gemelli)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. If using fresh peas, add them to boiling water and blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce to simmer while preparing vegetables.

Grate zucchini, yellow squash and carrot using a ribbon grater or cut into matchsticks. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and saute scallions until they start to soften and brown slightly, adding broth 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add zucchini, squash and carrots and continue to cook until fork tender. Add peas and stir.

Return water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Add 1-1/2 cups of broth, cashew cream and pesto to vegetables and heat just until it starts to bubble. (Add more broth or cashew cream to achieve desired consistency.) Add pasta to skillet and mix until coated. You can also portion out the pasta into individual servings and spoon the vegetables over top. Store any left over pasta and sauce separately.

30 Jun 2016

It’s a Great Day for Spinach: Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes & Pignoli

Pasta, Spinach & Tomatoes

Pasta, Spinach & Tomatoes

I bought a bag of spinach at my favorite Amish farm stand about a week ago. The thing about me and spinach is that while I know it’s really good for me, I’m so used to cooking it in a lot of oil that it’s hard to swallow of late. Well, that bag of spinach was facing its eleventh hour and just before Bruce was about to place it in the steamer I decided to salvage a recipe for pasta with spinach and cherry tomatoes that was laden with olive oil and parmesan cheese. The process was like a three-act play. I sauteed garlic in vegetable broth, wilted the spinach and removed it from the skillet. I then sauteed garlic in vegetable broth, caramelized the tomatoes and ground fennel and returned the spinach to the skillet. Finally, the pasta was added to the skillet and cooked just enough to soak up some of the saucy flavors of the spinach and tomatoes. Bruce commented that “this is a great way to eat spinach”, so why not make it a great day to eat spinach? Bravo! There you have it. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pasta with Spinach & Tomatoes

Makes 2 to 3 servings

8 oz. cut pasta such as farfalle or penne (whole grain if possible)

4 large garlic cloves, minced and divided in half
8 oz. fresh spinach
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground into powder
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Light vegetable broth

2 tablespoons pignoli nuts

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then lower to simmer until ready to cook pasta.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add one half of the garlic and 2 tablespoons of broth and saute until garlic is lightly browned. Add spinach and continue cooking until wilted. Remove to plate. Add remaining garlic and 2 tablespoons of broth and saute until garlic is lightly browned. Add ground fennel and stir, then add tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes become soft and start to caramelize, adding more broth to prevent sticking. Return spinach to skillet and remove from heat. Cook pasta until just below the “al dente” state, reserving some of the cooking water. When pasta is cooked, add to spinach and tomatoes and cook for another minute or two, adding more broth or reserved pasta water. Sprinkle pignoli nuts over top of pasta.

16 Jun 2016

In Season: Red Potatoes, Asparagus & Mushroom Melange

Red Potatoes, Mushrooms & Asparagus

Red Potatoes, Mushrooms & Asparagus

One of the things I like about belonging to a CSA is that the produce is fresh and in season. This is how we ate long before refrigeration or the food transportation system existed and our species was able to evolve and thrive. Imagine a reality show about a community that ate only food that was in season or preserved after the harvest. For many, including me, that would seem like a harsh reality. The least we can do is buy as much local produce as possible when it’s in season. It’s good for you, good for the local economy and good for the environment.

Here’s a recipe I put together with some of the produce that was in this week’s CSA box. Among other things, we had shallots, red potatoes, asparagus, button mushrooms and rosemary. I steamed the potatoes until they were almost cooked, then browned everything in a non-stick skillet. I topped it off with a creamy cashew cheese sauce, but I bet it would be just as nice served warm with some type of vinaigrette. I can’t wait to see what goodies will be in next week’s box. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Red Potatoes, Asparagus & Mushroom Melange

1-1/4 lbs. small red potatoes
1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about ¾ cup)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1-1/2 lbs. asparagus, tough ends removed and stalks cut into 2” pieces
6 oz. button mushrooms
Herb of choice (rosemary, tarragon, etc.)

Place potatoes in double boiler and steam until almost tender, about 12 minutes. Rinse under cold water and cut into quarters. Set aside

In large non-stick skillet, saute shallots in olive oil or water. Remove to separate bowl. Add garlic and more oil or water and lightly brown. Remove to same bowl. Add mushrooms and saute until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to same bowl. Add asparagus and saute until browned. Remove to bowl. Add a small amount of oil to skillet, add potatoes and cook over high heat until browned. Add ingredients from bowl to skillet and cook until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cheesy cashew cream.

Cheesy Cashew Cream

½ cup cashews, soaked
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tahini
1 large garlic clove (raw or roasted)
¼ tsp fine grain sea salt (truffle salt)
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
¼ cup nutritional yeast
6 Tbsp. water, or as needed to thin out

Place all ingredients in high powered blender and process until smooth. Pour into a squeeze bottle for serving.

09 Jun 2016

Built to Last: Powerhouse Salad

Power House Salad

Power House Salad

I’m always looking for new ways to serve up greens and since it’s summer I’m not looking for something steamy on my plate.  I wanted to make a cool, crisp salad that could be dressed and ready to go at the drop of a sun hat. Have you ever noticed that salads made with leafy lettuces wilt soon after the dressing is added? Have you also noticed that raw kale is built to last? With that thought in mind I remembered a super food salad that I tried on my visit to Wichita last fall. It was loaded with kale, cherry tomatoes, edamame, berries, seeds and nuts and it was cool, crisp and tasty. This salad is packed with so much protein, fiber, antioxidants and flavor that I decided to call it the Powerhouse Salad. The recipe is a guideline because, after all, it’s a salad . . . and anything goes when it comes to salad. The first time I made the salad I used a raspberry vinaigrette, which was tangy, yet tasty. The second time I made an orange-honey vinaigrette that I like even more. You can hand chop the kale and cabbage and grate the carrots on a box grater, but I’ve shredded them all separately right the the bowl of my food processor when pressed for time. You can have some fun with this salad by using different nuts or seeds, adding grated beets or kohlrabi, or creating your own dressing. The salad stays crisp for a few days and tastes even better as it transforms itself into a slaw by the end of the week. Perfect to bring to a summer barbeque that’s sure to be a hit with both herbivores and omnivores. Try this Powerhouse Salad and make something built to last. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Powerhouse Salad

Raspberry Dressing

¾ cup raspberry wine vinegar
3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup or agave
1 garlic cloved, pressed (or garlic powder)

Orange Dressing (may need to double this dressing recipe)

¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed (or garlic powder)
2 teaspoons honey, maple syrup or agave

Whisk ingredients together and let sit while preparing salad.


4 – 5 cups chopped kale
1/2 lb. frozen edamame beans, defrosted
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded green or red cabbage
1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped red or yellow onion
1 kohlrabi or raw beet, grated (optional)
Toss all ingredients in a large bowl with your choice of dressing.

07 Jun 2016

No More Sufferin’: Succotash



Succotash started out as a dish made up mostly of corn and lima beans. Over time other ingredients like tomatoes and bell peppers were added to get us to today’s popular versions. Succotash became popular during the Great Depression because the ingredients were inexpensive and readily available. This combination of grains, legumes and anti-oxidant-rich vegetables was and still is a life-sustaining food. This recipe has zucchini, yellow squash, onions, garlic, lima beans and corn as the main ingredients. I seasoned it with marjoram, an herb related to oregano, and black pepper. The recipe comes together quickly and makes a nice week-day dinner with plenty of leftovers. It’s nice on its own or paired with a baked white or sweet potato or hush puppies. There’ll be no more sufferin’ going on with all that goodness on your plate. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.


1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium zucchini, 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup cooked lima beans or edamame
Dried thyme or marjoram to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, peppers and garlic in non-stick skillet adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. (You can use olive oil sparingly if desired.) Sauté until peppers are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add  zucchini and yellow squash and sauté until are just tender and lightly browned. Add corn and lima beans and cook for a few more minutes. Season and serve.


04 Jun 2016

Corned Beet Rueben Sandwich

Corned Beet Rueben

Corned Beet Rueben

The first time I had a Rueben sandwich was my first time on an airplane. It was soooo long ago that a meal was included in the price of your ticket and the food was actually pretty tasty. I got the idea for this recipe from a menu item at Rise Above Cafe in St. Catharine, Ontario. We dined at this great vegan restaurant a few times while vacationing in Niagara on the Lake. Without further ado, let me get to the recipe as this one has a lot going on.

A traditional Rueben sandwich consists of slices of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing that’s grilled on rye bread. It can be served either open-faced and eaten with a knife and fork or closed for a neater, hand-held sandwich. The first task is to make the corned beets, which is very simple but requires you to keep an eye on the stove while the beets are getting “corned”. The process to make corned beef consists of placing a slab of beef in a brine with allspice, cinnamon, black peppercorns, juniper berries, cloves and bay leaves and letting it sit the fridge for several days. I thought about trying that with sliced beets, but nixed it to avoid using any salt. Instead, I braised the beets in a vegetable broth and all of those spices. I figured the worst that could happen is that I’d have some nicely spiced pickled beets. I was quite surprised that the beets turned out to be a good stand-in for corned beef. The next ingredient was the Swiss cheese. Of course, you can purchase non-dairy cheese, but I opted to use the recipe from the Gentle Chef’s Non Dairy Evolution cookbook. It takes just a few minutes to make and after a few hours in the fridge, it’s ready to use. The last element was the Russian dressing. I used thick, homemade almond yogurt, ketchup and horseradish. You can use vegan mayo in place of the yogurt. As I was building and grilling my Rueben sandwich I was still skeptical of the final outcome, but after the first bite I was knew I was hooked. Does it taste just like a corned beef Rueben? Of course not; no plant food ever will. But it does have many of the flavor components that transport me back in time to that day I enjoyed my first airplane trip and my first Rueben sandwich. Make yourself a Corned Beet Rueben, make yourself some memories and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Corned Beet Rueben Sandwich

Have ready:

Corned Beets (recipe below)
Swiss cheese
Rye bread
Russian Dressing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to broil.  Heat a non-stick skillet on medium. Place a slice of rye bread and sliced Swiss cheese in skillet and heat until bread is browned and Swiss cheese begins to melt. If cheese doesn’t melt, place under broiler for a few minutes. Add a layer of beets, a layer of saurkraut, Russian dressing and another slice of rye bread. Turn over to and cook until browned.

Corned Beets:

3 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. mustard seeds
8 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2 small bay leaves
½ tsp. black peppercorns
12 whole juniper berries
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
2 whole garlic cloves
¼ cup vinegar
2 cups hearty vegetable broth

1 lb. beets, thinly sliced

Place all ingredients in large non-stick skillet, adding water to cover beets. Bring to boil and cook until beets are soft and liquid has evaporated.

Russian Dressing:

Mix the following ingredients in a small bowl, adjusting to your liking:

2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise or yogurt
2 tablespoons ketchup
¼ teaspoon horseradish

02 Jun 2016

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