Sometimes You Just Want A Vegan Welsh Rarebit Pasta Bake

Hey guys! Hope you don’t mind a Tuesday post, but I spent all weekend in my writing cave and suddenly Monday rolled up and there I was, with no post ready to go. So after spending the morning grocery shopping, here we are, ready to talk two of my favorite things: vegan food and pasta.

Pasta gets a bad rap from plenty of people but you will NEVER hear me say a bad word to the almighty carb. It is a necessary fuel for all of us, plus pasta is truly one of the best things in the world, at least according to this vegan. If you don’t ‘do’ pasta then this isn’t a dish you’ll enjoy, but it was a delicious, fun and indulgent meal that kind of reminded us both of childhood, except you know, vegan.

When it comes to a good pasta bake, I think you only need a few things: pasta, something cheesy and a good dose of aromatics.

Of course, that’s all up to you but here is one of my versions of a cheesy #vegan pasta bake!

Choose your favorite pasta first. I opted for a whole wheat rotini because I think whole wheat pasta adds a flavor and texture that you just don’t get with refined (white) pasta.

Next you have to decide what you want to put in the “sauce”. I like to make the sauce as one big entity but you can make a simple tomato sauce and add whatever variety of vegetables you choose. I opted for onion, bell pepper, garlic and kidney beans because, why not?

Saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper in as little oil as you need to make it how you like it, or you can add a water-soy sauce blend to cook them up. I try to keep my oil/fat to a minimum but sometimes you just want that nice char or carmelization that comes with using oil. Once the veggies are where you want them to be, it’s time to talk tomatoes.

Fresh or canned, that is the question, isn’t it?

For me, yes, that is absolutely the question. Some days I feel all creative and chef-y and I will chop up fresh tomatoes and reduce the hell out of it until I have a thick and chunky tomato sauce worthy of a pasta bake. Other days, I don’t have the energy and I’ll use canned stewed tomatoes that I first, squish with my fingers and reduce it until its palatable. BUT let’s be honest, when you choose canned tomatoes you have to add A LOT of seasoning to get rid of that super sweet taste that is kind of off-putting when it comes to red pasta sauce. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but try them both and see which you find tastier and more time effective.

If you choose beans as your protein, I recommend adding them after the sauce has reduced because you still have to pop this in the oven and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes and you don’t want mushy beans. At least I don’t want mushy beans.

Now the most time-consuming part of this vegan pasta bake is the “cheese” sauce. Since I have a well documented love hate relationship with vegan cheese, I opted for a béchamel style sauce, using unsweetened almond milk, flour, olive oil and nutritional yeast, not to mention salt, pepper, smoky paprika, turmeric, basil and oregano.

Add the oil and flour, stir until blended and kind of meal-y, then slowly add the almond milk. If you want to be creative, and who doesn’t, add some spicy mustard, hot sauce and soy sauce for a Welsh Rarebit style cheesy pasta bake, then add the milk. Slowly still, adding nutritional yeast as needed. I usually start with about 15 grams of nutritional yeast and work my way up from there after tasting it. Always, always taste it as you go. I used about 250-300 ml of almond milk total, adding it slowly, but depending on the size of your vegan pasta bake, you might need more or less than that.

Once everything is done, stir the pasta and veggie red sauce together and place in an oven safe baking dish. THEN it’s time to pour the cheesy vegan cheese-less sauce over the top.

Bake at 200°C/400°F for 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to get a bit of a crisp on top, use the broiler or if you have an electric oven, add the top heat and crank it up for an additional 5 minutes.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then…get your grub on!

Poftă Bună!!!!

From Vegan Dirty Rice to Dirty Fried Rice

So the title is pretty self-explanatory and I forgot to take photos when the Hubs made his delicious vegan dirty rice with kidney beans and veggies and plenty of spices, but I did take photos of my re-mix with the leftovers.

Take your dirty rice out of the fridge and grab a brick of firm tofu while you’re in there. Crumble the tofu and season it like you mean it. Scramble it up in a lightly oiled pan and then toss in the leftover dirty rice.

Toss until everything is coated and yummy. I added a tablespoon of Sriracha and the juice of one lime before tossing.

I also tossed in about a quarter up of green peas because I love the little peas and carrots you get in Chinese takeout!

Don’t forget the soy sauce and any other garnishes you deem necessary.

Pesto Beans & Beyond Sausage

Recently I found myself binge watching this strange British reality show called ‘Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away’ and it’s pretty fantastic in an awful train wreck kind of a way. Anyway, long story short one of the people who owed money was eating beans & sausage, which I immediately thought to myself was kind of protein redundant. Then I remembered we still had a couple Beyond sausages in the freezer and I decided why not vegan-ize it?

But of course I couldn’t just stop with a fancy vegan tomato sauce for the beans. Nope, I wanted something with a bit more flavor since we’re rounding the corner into winter and there aren’t many chances to enjoy fresh basil and I figured, why not pesto beans with the sausage?

Why not, indeed?

This is another recipe you can file under easy weeknight vegan meals because it took about half an hour and that includes all the time it took to get the pesto the right consistency.

As far as ingredients go, I used canned canellini beans (known as navy beans in some parts of the world), pesto, grilled shallots and two Beyond Sausage links. The pesto contains: basil, lemon zest, capers, scallions, parsley, roasted red pepper (about a quarter), hot sauce, lemon juice, and vegan parm (ParVeggio).

Grill the shallots and when they’re almost how you want them, toss the links into the skillet and cook using the instructions on the package. They are fairly greasy so if you use oil to cook the shallots, take it easy because there will be grease. Drain and rinse the beans, then warm through and toss with pesto.

I even put a little smear of pesto under the vegan sausage to bring it all together and I topped it with a sprinkling of smoky paprika because it smells as good as it tastes and it adds such depth to just about everything.

Just in case you’re wondering, yes I did wash it down with something ice cold, but it was Harmin which I’ve showed you a million times so I decided not to today. Well…that and the fact that I’m still getting acquainted with my new phone, hence the limited photos for today’s recipe.

Mushroom & Pea Penne w/Chickpea Alfredo

So we’re going to round out bean week–mostly–with this final meal that actually inspired the theme this week. I’ve been looking for ways to use more beans (and less tofu) in more creative ways. You can only eat so many different bean stew type dishes before you’re ready to pull your hair out and wish for vegan fast food. Or even vegan junk food.

I love hummus. No, we love hummus so I figured if we take chickpeas and thin them out into a sauce, why not give it a go…right?

I looked forward to making this dish all week and when the day rolled around and it was time to decide, I chose to roast a full head of garlic to go into the alfredo sauce, because if you’re going to do this you might as well go all the way, no?

It might seem complicated but this dish was very easy to make. The garlic needs to roast for about 30-40 minutes so I just tossed in the portabello caps as well so I wouldn’t have to do it on top of the stove.

Next, I sauteed Japanese mushrooms with two medium shallots, a handful of yellow bell pepper and about half a cup of frozen green peas. When everything is close to done, toss in the already roasted portabello mushrooms, chopped once they’ve cooled.

Now it’s time for the alfredo sauce. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas (or garbanzo beans depending on where you’re located in the world) and toss them in a food processor along with the peeled roasted garlic. Pulse and then blend until no chunks remain. You might find the texture a bit grainy but this can be easily fixed with water or plant based milk. I kept the grainy texture but not until the chickpeas reached the perfect consistency.

Remove the vegetables from the pot and dump the sauce in, over low heat. Slowly add milk. I used roasted unsweetened almond milk to minimize the flavor interference. Add milk or water as needed to thin out the sauce and then start to season. I used salt, pepper, smoky paprika and nutritional yeast and that seemed to do the trick. Keep tasting as you go and add whatever seasoning you wish.

Just in case you were wondering, the bowl with the drops of Sriracha on it belong to me. 😀

When the sauce is how you want it, add the mushrooms and vegetables to the sauce and stir, adding some vegan Parmesan cheese if desired. If not, drop the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss until coated. Then serve with any garnishments that will enhance the flavor or appearance of your dish.

This dish was easy and super delicious. I hadn’t had anything like this, it was kind of a stoner thought, but it turned out wonderful. Let me know if you decide to try it for yourself!

When You’re In The Mood For A Vegan English Breakfast

So last week the Hubs and I decided to do another “thing”. A few weeks ago we had a soup themed week where we each cooked a variety of soups throughout the week. Another time it was sandwiches. This past week it was beans.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “Beans, gross.” If that’s what you’re thinking then you are wrong. It was a magical week of delicious food, including the Cajun beans & rice from earlier in the week.

But I will admit that maybe this is a way to cheat the bean thing, but since the English have no qualms about having beans for breakfast it worked in my favor. Cos had been asking for a few weeks now for me to make a vegan breakfast fry up so I set out to exploring different ways to get the sausage component done without wasting an obscene amount of time. I watched a few dozen videos on making vegan sausage when I came up on the Vegan But Lazy channel on YouTube. It was fast and easy, and I am happy to report created a very good sausage-like texture without the gross greasy taste.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this plate looks a little underwhelming compared to most English breakfast plates making the rounds on the internet, and that’s on purpose. I wanted the fry up without the eleven hundred calories that typically come along with it. So I kept it simple with:

Seitan sausage

Tofu & turmeric scramble

Roasted herbed tomatoes

Toast & butter

Beans

We’ll start with the sausage since it does require the most prep time. Get the original recipe hereYou’ll need some vital wheat gluten (seitan), chickpea flour or nutritional yeast, herbs & seasoning, olive oil. That’s it. Mix up the ingredients and form sausage shapes and roll into aluminum foil. Simmer for 45 minutes. I followed the Cajun & Italian recipes to the letter, cut them in half and we each had half of one. They were mad delicious!

They aren’t the prettiest, but neither are the ones made with animal flesh, right? But this was what they looked like fresh from nearly an hour of steaming. I brushed them with oil and put them on a sheet pan with the tomatoes so they could crisp up in the oven.

The rest of the meal is easy peasy. Crush a brick of firm tofu and season as you wish. Get my smoky tofu crumble recipe here or check out his recipe here.

The sausages and the tomatoes will cook at the same time and you can toss the buttered bread into the oven during the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking, or use a toaster if you have one.

You can’t really have a proper English breakfast–vegan or otherwise–without a proper beer, can you?

I can’t but as you can see, I completely forgot to get a good photo of them, so enjoy what you can see. We shared an oat stout and a Scottish stout, maybe not very English but very delicious.

Spicy Vegan Cajun Beans & Rice

Rice and beans. Some people hear this dish and turn their noses up at its simplicity while other, like me, think of all the ways I can make this basic meal more interesting. Will I whip up a quick Indian spice? Maybe an herb-y Mediterranean style rice and beans dish for the more relaxed vegan taste buds? Or maybe I’ll keep it simple and take it back to one of my favorite U.S. cities. New Orleans.

Beans are a great source of protein if you care about that sort of thing, but they are also an excellent way to fill out a meal on a budget. And that goes double if you get dry beans. A quick rinse and a soak (quick soak or overnight, the choice is yours), and pop a few cups into a slow cooker, then forget about it until you’re ready to use the beans. One batch of kidney beans and you can have three or four days worth of meals.

So, on to the Cajun rice and beans.

This is a pretty easy meal with a minimal ingredient list. You’ll need beans, choose whatever strikes your fancy but choose a mean that is sturdy and firm so it’ll soak up all the juices and enhance the dish. Pinto beans would be my backup for the dish, or cranberry beans. Take care of the beans however you need to and then grab your cutting board to chop up the veggies.

What you’ll need for this dish is: onion, bell peppers, garlic, celery, plum/grape tomatoes, kidney beans and about 25 grams of crumbled tofu.

The tofu is optional but I wanted to fill it out a little more which is why I only 25 grams.

Add some oil (or not) to a pot and saute the onions, bell pepper, tofu crumbles and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomatoes until the tomatoes start to soften and the garlic begins to brown.

Now you’ll want to grab the sauce you whipped up. I use this sauce mix for Cajun or Louisiana-style dishes because the vegan Worcestershire always seems to miss the mark. In a bowl, whisk up: tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, smoky paprika, vegan Worcestershire sauce, a few drops of dark soy sauce, harissa paste, water & cornstarch. Mix until a sauce forms and add it in with the beans and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the sauce is nice and thick.

You can put this in slow cooker if you want, but you can whip it up on top of the stove in about 30 minutes. Toss in a bay leaf to give it the flavor that it’s been cooking all day. Add Jasmine rice on the side and you’re ready to get your grub on!

If you want more spice, add Sriracha or jalapeno peppers to the top, but I went pretty crazy with the harissa so it wasn’t necessary.

And hey, don’t be shy about tossing those celery leaves right in with the rest of the vegetables. They have the same nutritional makeup and they provide a nice depth of flavor.

Spicy White Bean Shakshuka

Once in awhile a recipe will make the rounds on the web and I’ll think to myself, “I can veganize it.” Sometimes it’s just me being confident because I’ve spent a lot of time over the years tweaking recipes and some of it is an insane level of hubris. But if you want to keep your palate satisfied and always guessing, it helps to experiment. Try new spices and blends to see what you come up with, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Shakshuka is typically a dish made with eggs but since we’re vegan or plant based around these parts, I had to figure out who would become the star of this show. I could have gone the easy route and went for vegan scrambled eggs but that felt like cheating and it also didn’t match what was brewing in my head. Mushrooms could have worked but I wanted my first vegan shakshuka to be a day meal (like lunch) and I didn’t want to spend a thousand minutes cooking a few hundred grams of crimini mushrooms.

Then it hit me. Beans. There are plenty of types of beans and the trick is choosing the right ones. I wanted to use butter beans but because our theme this week is beans (more on that later) and the hubs had already taken them, I went with cannellini beans, also known as navy beans.

The key to a good shakshuka, at least according to the internet and Alton Brown is the thick tomato and chili sauce. Most of the time I would give some fresh tomatoes a boil to remove the skin and use those, but again this was a lunch dish and I wanted to get some work in, so I grabbed a jar of fire roasted crushed tomatoes and mixed them with fresh plum tomatoes. That way you get the sweetness of the jarred stuff to offset the peppers and the tartness of the fresh ones for more depth of flavor.

For peppers, my advice is to know your taste buds. If you can handle spice, go with a hotter chili or use bell peppers like I did and add in a diced jalapeno or serrano chili pepper. Since my hubs isn’t a fan of spice, I compromise by keeping the seeds out of one side and minimizing them on the other. You can always add more spice later.

So we have tomatoes and chilis. Next we need onions and garlic.

You want to get the onions, garlic and peppers sauteed in a small amount of oil (or none of you choose) before adding the tomatoes. I added the fresh tomatoes first, giving them time to cook. Toss in some fresh rosemary and oregano.

Then add crushed tomatoes, and booze if you choose, then let the sauce simmer until it is nice and thick, 15 to 30 minutes.

Here’s the un-dressed up version of Shakshuka

Toss in the white beans and simmer a little longer, and if you’re craving some extra vitamin K, toss in a handful of spinach.

And because I saw it in a photo and thought it looked tasty, I added a few dollops of pesto cream, made with Violife “cream cheese” which by the way is very delicious with a clean flavor. Take some leftover pesto and add a tablespoon or two of cream, dropping it on top of your vegan shakshuka.

Toast the bread, using olive oil, salt & pepper, and chili flakes. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until crispy and then satisfy your appetite.

After a long day of shopping and people-ing, this meal and an ice cold beer was just what I needed to recover.

Time & Figure Friendly Vegan Quinoa Salad

When it comes to eating healthy and eating vegan, you don’t have to resign yourself to a life of salad and tomatoes. Though for the record I should state that there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with lettuce or tomatoes. Or cucumber. Or radishes. Scallions. Or sprouts. I love it all and they are a regular part of my diet because…weight loss.

But that doesn’t mean that a girl doesn’t want a little bit of variety for her taste buds. Most days I eat some version of a salad for lunch because they are healthy, packed with vitamins and a great way to satisfy your appetite without going overboard on calories. I’m down plenty of kilos at this point which means my way is working and I’m sticking to it.

So…quinoa salad.

The best thing about this salad is that you can use whatever you have handy. I made up this recipe using what was in the fridge and we loved every single bite of it.

I started with my usual salad ingredients: Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, scallions. Then I decided to use some of this extra extra large carrot I had on hand and grated some of it, about 100 grams. Throw in half a diced red bell pepper, 100 grams of cannellini beans and you’re almost finished with this easy, healthy vegan salad.

Toss in the cooked quinoa. For this recipe I used organic red lentils because they were pretty and I think added the perfect splash of color to this dish.

Fluff the quinoa and you’re ready to mix the vegetables and grains.

For the creamy dressing on this vegan salad I used veggiegurt, about 80 grams and mixed it with a tablespoon of mustard, a pinch of gochugang (Korean chili past), salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix it and toss with the veggies & quinoa and you’re good to go!

There is a bit of prep work with rinsing and chopping up all the vegetables but I managed to get it all done in less than 30 minutes. And you’ll love even more than this dish was less than 300 calories per bowl!

Calories aren’t everything. Taste does matter and if you give new foods a chance, often you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Easy Meatless Chickpea Balls

I love balls. I’m not ashamed to admit it, no matter how dirty and how naughty it sounds, I do. Chickpeas, lentils, veggie, zucchini, black beans, kidney beans, mushroom balls. You name it and I’ve probably ball-ified it for a recipe.

For the past week or so I was thinking about over-sized “meat” balls. Like the big kind that are so big you have to put them in a muffin tin so they maintain their integrity throughout the cooking process. When the day came, I was excited about these giant chickpea and vegetable balls but I decided if I made them too big, they might come out undercooked or worse, gross.

Making the chickpea balls will take some time, but not too much. Besides, this is only your nourishment we’re talking about, right?

I digress…

For the balls, I drained the beans and dried them as well as I could before popping them into the food processor. I pulsed them a few times until most of the chickpeas were broken up but there were still a few chunks in there. For texture. In a separate bowl I mixed together: shallots, ginger, garlic, red bell pepper, spinach, cumin, baking soda, breadcrumbs and one vegan egg. Pretty easy so far, right?

You can do what you want here, but I blended everything BUT the breadcrumbs, egg and beans first. Then the beans and a quick stir before adding a healthy sprinkling of breadcrumbs and another toss. Keep going until you have a mixture that is malleable enough to shape into balls. Now they’re ready for the oven!

I stuck with the idea of using the muffin tin because it worked and this way I wouldn’t have to worry about them falling apart while they were out of my sight in the oven. I rubbed a little coconut oil on each muffin liner to keep from sticking since the only fat in this recipe is the Arche brand vegegg.

Pop the balls into the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until they’re nice and crispy on the outside and soft & flavorful on the inside.

Now you can get on with your side dishes. I went simple, fries to satisfy my never ending carb craving and sauteed onion, garlic, apple and green cabbage because fresh vegetables are always welcome at our dinner table!

This was a simple meal that took very little prep time. In fact I had enough time to whip up a quick vegan yogurt based remoulade. It was yogurt, Sriracha, mustard, black pepper and diced dill pickle. It is totally optional but the balls needed something and the vegan remoulade was the perfect addition.

Don’t worry if you make too much, toss it on top of a burger or your favorite sandwich or wrap!

Crispy baked potatoes…few things in life are better.

The flavors were incredible and this was the perfect amount of food, which made it a meal I could enjoy without any guilt or fretting over calories. Or fat.

Black Beans: Vegan Two Ways

If you’re anything like me, you always have a bag or two (okay, maybe three) of dry beans in  your pantry. Dry beans are, in my opinion, a vegan staple and people of all diets should always have them on hand.

My husband on the other hand, gets a little antsy about things being the pantry for “too long” so I decided to use them since corn on the cob is everywhere this time of year and I really felt like a black bean salad. But a problem I often have is incorrectly eye measuring stuff, yet I still find myself doing it. Regularly. So…black beans two ways.

Black bean salad is pretty easy to make, even easier when you don’t have to fret about which protein to put in it and whether or not to add cheese. At least I think so.

All you need is…fresh vegetables. I grilled two ears of corn on the stove top griddle and let them cool before cutting the kernels off. Then I chopped a red bell pepper, two scallions, some Romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered, then tossed them into a large mixing bowl. (Is eighth’ed a word?)

Now set aside the bowl because its time to make the lime mustard dressing!

This was pretty simple. All you need is: mustard (I used spicy and sweet), the juice and some zest of a lime, dill, salt, pepper, cumin and smoky paprika. Whisk it and pour it on top and lunch is served.

Don’t forget to add the avocado if you have an avocado lover in your house!

Make sure you toss it until everything is coated and be sure to taste it. Don’t be afraid to let it sit for about 10 minutes before adding more seasoning sometimes all a dish needs is time.

Add a Corona or Negro Modelo to the side and you’ve got a long lunch ahead of you!

 

The problem I had was that I only used 2 cups of cooked beans to make this salad and I had almost 4 cups remaining.

…then my mother in law found vegan gnocchi at the market and got it for us.

What to do with black beans and gnocchi?

Plenty, but what did I choose? Black bean curry with gnocchi.

I don’t know where it came from but that’s how we ended up here so let’s just go with it.

I’ll just get this out of the way now because some consider it controversial. I pan fried my gnocchi in olive oil and garlic. The end.

It’s crunchy and delicious and potato-y and I love it. Boil it if you want.

The curry was a simple one with onions, ginger, garlic, bell peppers and black beans with loads of spices.

I didn’t use coconut milk, instead I made a tomato, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger mix, added water and cornstarch to it and let it thicken that way, but coconut milk is also an option.

Top the gnocchi with the curry, be as generous or as stingy as you want with the liquid.

For the garnish, I thin sliced scallions and mint to cool the spice in the dish.

And that’s how you end up using a lot of beans and creating a new dish!

By the way, we ended up having one full serving of curry left over and we split it over a bed of jasmine rice so technically, vegan black beans…three ways?