Easy Peasy Smokey Mac N Cheesy

5 Mar

Hello, friends! It’s been a long, long time since my last post and for this, I apologize! Life has been overwhelmingly busy with work, with friends, with my newly adopted crippled hamster (yes, a hammy!), and with studying for the veterinary technician national exam. There have also been some recent changes to the way I feel comfortable creating recipes so, finding myself in the recipe writing, experimenting, and cooking “mode” is rare. Hopefully for all, posting this recipe will help me get back to form. So, as you can imagine, with the precious little time I have to cook for myself, when I do cook, it’s almost always easy, filling comfort food. Usually that means a massive, loaded salad, but every once in a while, it’s a pasta dish. I love pasta almost as much as I love casseroles and anything that requires an oven to cook.

Recently, I posted a photo of the less involved version of my Sweet Potato Baked Mac N Cheese on my personal Facebook page that got quite a bit of attention and requests for the recipe so, here it is, folks! This is a “staple” recipe in my book and one that I turn to whenever I need something quick and filling and good enough for lunch the next day. As far as I’m concerned, it gives its maddeningly unjust, sad, and fat laden dairy counterpart a swift kick in the arse–mostly because it’s free of animal exploitation (awesome!), and obviously because it’s delicious. Feel free to add vegan sausage, hot dogs, or broccoli–if you’re so inclined–to make it more hearty. I also recommend adding crisp tempeh bacon or barbecue spices if you like, to make it more “smokey.”

Until we meet again…enjoy!
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Walnut, Mustard, and Cilantro Pasta à la American Chop Suey

22 Jan

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine made a delicious brunch that included this very simple topping of crushed walnuts and cilantro over a bed of steamed kale. I’d never had anything like it and weeks later, it’s been hard to forget it. So, I started to think of other ways to incorporate it into a meal and, one late night after work when I was too hungry to go grocery shopping and had to make do with what was already in the house, this is what I came up with. This recipe has definitely replaced my standard, too-lazy-to-cook-”pasta and sauce”-go-to and is now living comfortably next to my smoky mac and cheese recipe on the list of easy, quick, comfort meals.

I love the unique flavor of this dish, how filling it is without being overly heavy like most pasta dishes, and how easily and quickly it’s put together. The flavor isn’t overly powerful, but it’s present, if that makes sense. It’s pleasantly delicious, somewhat creamy without using cream, and sure to hit the spot if you want to make a pasta dish that isn’t your standard red sauce and grain meat and cheese variety, but is still comforting.

All the ingredients are healthy, vegan pantry basics and easily found in your standard grocery store. They are also easy to substitute for a gluten free version. Even better yet, this recipe is a two for one deal: the walnut, mustard, and cilantro mixture itself would make a nice dip for crackers, if you’re so inclined. Personally, for that purpose I’d go with a cracker that’s just a simple base–like a rice cracker–to highlight the flavor of the dip.

Enjoy!

Raw ingredients and final product!

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Red and Green Bean Dip

24 Dec

It’s Christmas Eve and all I can think about is food. Shocker. As I said in an earlier post, I am out of commission for a big, extravagant Christmas menu. Thanksgiving left me beat and I have been way too busy and overtired from work to even sit down and commit myself to looking up recipes or to try to invent something on the fly. Maybe next year. Definitely next year. Suffice it to say, that I have to feed my family something. I just haven’t figured out what that something is yet. For now, I’ve just had my mind on all those Christmas parties people go to in which they need to bring a dish to share. Why not a fun appetizer that will go flying off the table? Why not a nice festive looking dip?

So, here’s the final piece to my Christmas appetizer trio. This dip is something that came up out of need for something quick and easy to snack on and it hit the spot! The flavor is bold without being overpowering. What I love most about it though, is the festive presentation of the green kale and red kidney beans against the white bean background. It’s also thick and hearty and will serve as a nice lunch, if you’re so inclined. I recommend serving it with crackers that can hold up to it–I used sesame melba crackers. I prefer not adding oils to food if it isn’t necessary (and this dip doesn’t need it) but, if you’re using crackers that are more inclined to break in a dip, you can smooth out the dip by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

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Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms

24 Dec

Here’s the second addition to the Christmas appetizer mini showdown. I tested these out two nights ago for dinner and fell in love. I couldn’t keep myself from eating (a lot of) the mashed potatoes before I even got to stuffing the mushrooms. But it’s because I like mushrooms–correction, it’s because I love mushrooms–that I soldiered on and completed the dish as I refrained from just “double fist-ing” the potatoes in one hand and mushrooms in the other and putting them straight into my mouth. I know, I know, the image isn’t a pretty one. Shrug. What can ya do?! Lucky for me, there was a small portion of mashed potatoes left when the mushrooms ran out…

This recipe is pretty simple and will stand alone as an impressive, hearty, and comforting addition to any party table. That is, if your guests like mushrooms. I know some people don’t. I also know those people are super crazy. Ok, maybe only just a little crazy. Or not at all. Whatever. Enjoy these savory morsels alongside your other appetizers or as a side to your main dish. No one will complain that you didn’t try and make something delicious and pretty! Besides, who doesn’t love food you don’t have to use utensils to eat? Really crazy people, that’s who. Don’t invite crazies to your parties. Happy HanukkahChristmasKwanzaNewYearAtheistPartyTime!

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Stuffed Dates

24 Dec

I spent enough time in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day for both holidays so, with Christmas coming up in just 1 day, I figured I’d take it easy and work on a whole meal consisting of appetizers (okay, maybe there’s a lasagna in my family’s future too). Anyway, a few days ago, my housemates and I celebrated the first night of Hanukkah. One of my housemates brought almond butter stuffed dates to the table. They were so delicious and easy that I started thinking of other ways to enjoy them and make them more presentable, if you will. So this is what I came up with. I’m simply just sharing this for the sake of sharing yet another super easy vegan delight that will have everybody at your party thinking, “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?!”

As of late, dates have been my go-to source for dietary fiber and potassium. They also pack a powerhouse of good carbohydrates; the kind you need in the middle of a long day of work. Fill these with whatever you fancy. I found that the yogurt filled dates were my favorite. I highly recommend So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt if you can get your hands on it and, if like me, you try and stay as far away from the grittiness of soy based yogurts. Another way to enjoy the yogurt filled date is to add some freshly grated citrus like lemon or orange to the top. If you want a combination of sweet and savory, try filling these with vegan cream cheese. If you have kids, this is probably a really good way to get them to sneak something super healthy into their snacking habits! Enjoy!

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Homemade Stuffing with Chestnuts, Walnuts, and Fresh Herbs & Thanksgiving 2011 Recap

16 Dec

Garlic and herb mashed potatoes with mushroom, onion, and leek gravy; carnival squash stuffed with savory homemade walnut and chestnut stuffing; sweet potato casserole with maple and brown sugar pecan topping; Gardein stuffed turk'y, arugula salad with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, roasted squash seeds, grape tomatoes, and fresh heart persimmons served with an agave-lemon vinaigrette; vegetables (parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, onions, green beans) slow roasted in an apple cider, herb, and nutmeg baste; and of course, whole berry cranberry sauce.

Hello, friends! I’ve been away from the blog world for a while since Thanksgiving and the break was much needed. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner came and went with much success. As you may have picked up, my family, despite not all members being vegan, celebrates all holidays with vegan food. Thus, since I’m the most enthusiastic of cooks in my family, it falls on me to plan the menu and make it. This year, thankfully, I had the help of my mother. Usually, I’m no fun to be around in the kitchen, but she stuck with me and proved to be a much needed skilled assistant and taste tester!

I like Thanksgiving dinner because it requires very little planning. I already know what I’m going to make: potatoes, stuffing, gravy, veggies, pies, and either a homemade turkey substitute (last year it was a meatless bean meatloaf) or a prepackaged one, if the option for a good one (like Gardein not Tofurky) exists. So, it’s not the planning that worries me (unlike Christmas) but the logistics of physically carrying out a huge meal by myself or with only one other person. Especially, when I cook this meal any place but my own kitchen.

This year, I was able to make my holiday pies, Pear and Apple Pie and the Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Apricot Crust, in advance and freeze the former over two nights and prepare the latter the night before. For the record, many a warm slice of pear apple pie was had with vegan coconut based vanilla ice cream! I arrived at my mom’s house at 11 AM and began prepping around noon. I didn’t leave the kitchen once until we ate, which was around 6 PM. So as you can see, there’s been good reason for my absence on here. I’ve spent enough time in the kitchen for the rest of the year! And yet, I was back at it a week later to bake cakes, quickbreads, and brownies (for fun!) for my coworkers and friends and a birthday cake for my lovely mom. The eating never ends around here.

I’m currently in the works of coming up with ideas for our Christmas menu. Last year I made pizzas for lunch, lasagna for dinner, cookies and cheesecake for dessert, and vegan eggnog. I’m looking to simplify my life this Christmas. But a vegan pecan pie has been requested and so complexity is in order, I take it.

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving. My family was very happy to be full. The highlight of this meal was the gratitude and happiness on my non-vegan brother’s face when he realized he was eating “real food” and the grace with which he went back for seconds and thirds and then took home leftovers. My other brother, who couldn’t join us for dinner, called me the next day to tell me how blown away he was by the meal and the pies and how they succeeded in “knocking him out on the couch” as a proper Thanksgiving meal should. The hours on my feet, the back pain that ensued…it was all worth it just to hear that.

I’ve included here the recipe for my homemade stuffing. I made a similar nut-less version last year, but I think the new changes take the cake! It was definitely the most popular item this year as was, oddly enough, the impromptu salad dressing I made. I will write up the gravy dressing as soon as I get a chance, but until then, please enjoy the stuffing! Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Apricot Crust

23 Nov

For some crazy reason, I didn’t think I was busy enough this holiday season and so I decided to make two pies for my small family Thanksgiving get together. There are four of us and two pies. It’s a bit indulgent, but hey, why the heck not? Like I said, I like pie and I like custard type pies especially. So, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be an experience to remember without a proper pumpkin pie, right? Right.

Here’s a recipe I came up with for two reasons. First, after making the pumpkin cheesecake with the gingersnap oreo cookie crust, I couldn’t wait to try a full-on gingersnap crust. It only seemed fitting to hold the crust together with delicious dried fruit like you would a raw crust, and dried apricots caught my eye so, dried apricots it was! The second reason for constructing this pie was an attempt to make a vegan pumpkin pie that was creamy, but didn’t involve using silken tofu (or any soy for that matter) in the place of heavy cream. One of my family members is sensitive to soy and since we celebrate our holidays vegan, I wanted to make sure that I had a traditional pie option that would please everyone. Naturally, I sought solice in cashew cream and as per usual, cashew cream saved the day!

What came of this creation was an incredibly creamy, rich pumpkin pie with a crust that you won’t be able to stop yourself from eating. I’m really pleased with how “rustic” and homemade in appearance the pie came out as well since I’m not a fan of heavily manicured food (think: cupcakes). Some of the edges of the crust burned a little during baking because I “flash baked” the pie for a few minutes at first. I’ve removed that step to (hopefully) prevent that from happening again, but even if it does, the pie is still delicious and it actually adds a nice color contrast to the crust. The taste will hardly be affected.

I’m excited to present it to my family. I hope you will consider sharing this with yours as well!

Remember folks, imperialism and cultural imperialism (a.k.a how the first Thanksgiving came to be) is super awful, but in the spirit of forgiveness, peace, and justice for all creatures – have a happy vegan harvest! Continue reading

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