Favourite Recipes: Vegan Mac and Cheese

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This recipe from Fine Tune Pilates is touted as the best ever, and I have to agree.  I tried four or five different vegan mac and cheese recipes before finding this one, and it is by far the best I’ve had.  Plus it’s easy to make, and uses sweet potato as the sauce base, allowing you to sneak an extra veggie into this yummy pasta dish.  I make this dish regularly; R and I both love it.

I do make a couple of modifications from the original recipe.  First, I do not add whole sunflower seeds (though I do use them in the sauce).  Also, I use more kale than the recipe calls for; about twice as much.

More significantly, after preparing the recipe as written, I pour the whole thing into a casserole dish, top it with panko or breadcrumbs, top the crumbs with lots of tiny dots of vegan margarine, and bake it for about 25 minutes.  The crumbs add nice texture to the finished dish.  I like to eat it with ketchup (much to R’s chagrin), but it’s also great with just some fresh ground pepper, or even hot sauce.  Delicious!

Favourite Recipes: Cheesy-Squashy Stuffed Pasta Shells

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This recipe from Luminous Vegans is one of my favourites of all time.  These pasta shells are stuffed with a mixture of cashew cheese, roasted squash, and fresh herbs, and will completely blow your mind.  They are that good.  I’ve made them to rave reviews for a few different family members.  Everyone says they can’t believe there’s no “real” cheese in them.  They are so creamy and rich…. Seriously.  Make them.

I follow the recipe for the cashew cheese exactly, but I put about ¾ of the batch into the shell filing, rather than the ½ cup suggested.  I bet you could put it all in and it would be great too, I just like to keep a little bit to put on sandwiches so I hold some back.  I use jarred roasted garlic pasta sauce on top.

This recipe is a keeper!

Vegan Jalapeño Meatballs

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These spicy little beauties are a great way to elevate the classic go-to vegan dinner of pasta and tomato sauce.  Crisp on the outside and yielding on the inside, they’re packed with flavour and totally addictive.  (Try not to eat them all out of the pan before they hit the table!)

I’ve been wanting to try making (no)meatballs for a while now.  Since I stopped adding it to Mexican dishes, the Yves Meatless Ground Round in my freezer has been looking lonely.  So, after reading up a bit on vegan and nonvegan meatball recipes, I got a bit of a sense of the basics and decided to give it a try.  The jalapeño on my windowsill begged to be included, and I can never say no to hot peppers.

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Yields 4 servings

  •  1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons hot water
  • ½ large Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • Cooking oil (I use canola)
  • 1 good-sized jalapeño pepper (see below for prep)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 package veggie ground round (I like Yves)
  • 1 tablespoon each dried basil and oregano
  • ¼-1/3 cup breadcrumbs (if you don’t have any on hand, toast a bread heel then whir it in the food processor)
  • ¾ tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the flax and water to make a flax egg; give it a stir and let it sit for a few minutes to gel.

Heat some oil over medium heat in a skillet and add the onion.  Let it get cooking while you finely chop the jalapeno.  If you’re a bit hesistant about spicy food, remove the seeds and membranes and discard, keeping only the green flesh.  For a spicier dish, keep the seeds and membranes and chop the whole thing.  Be careful to avoid touching any cut surfaces with your fingers.  Add the jalapeno and the garlic to the pan.  Stir every minute or two until the onion is translucent and very soft, then remove from heat.

Crumble the ground round into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the onion mixture (making sure it’s cool enough to handle) and all other ingredients, starting with a ¼ cup breadcrumbs and adding a bit more if needed.  Mix well with your hands, really smushing it all together.

When forming the balls, keep in mind that small is better.  In order to ensure to that they cook through, keep them to about inch in diameter.  I used a ½ tablespoon hemispherical spoon to form them and it worked well.  Make sure the balls are well formed and packed.

Heat the pan back up to med-low heat and add a generous amount of cooking oil.  Add the meatballs.  The key to cooking them evenly is frequently shaking the pan to roll them around (if they aren’t rolling adequately, gently turn them with a rubber spatula).  They need to cook slowly to firm up the centre; at least 15 minutes.  When they are nicely browned on all sides, they should be done.

Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, or skip the pasta and just dip them in marinara or hot sauce.

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Gnocchi with Roasted Veggies and Fresh Herbs

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This is a very easy and flavourful dish that is great for serving guests.  Because it’s only lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, the vegetables and herbs really stand out and are so, so delicious.

This recipe makes a lot; probably about 5-8 servings.  I always make a big batch because I like to have some leftover to eat the next day (or two!).  This recipe is also very forgiving and easy to adapt.  All of the amounts listed are suggestions; they can vary a lot and it’ll still turn out wonderfully.  The veggies listed are my favorites, but you could sub in anything that roasts nicely (sweet potato, eggplant, fennel…).

If you’re vegan or serving vegan guests, read the ingredients on the gnocchi to make sure no milk is sneaking around in there.

  • 1kg package gnocchi
  • 1.5 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1.5 cups grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 medium onion (I use vidalia but yellow, white, or red would work)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1.5 cups crimini mushrooms (small ones if possible)
  • 1 large or 2 small red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (I prefer Italian but curly is fine too)
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Chili pepper flakes – optional.  (I use about a tablespoon… a teaspoon might be safer unless you love spicy food)

The veggies take longer to prepare and cook than the gnocchi, so I recommend putting a big pot of salted water on the stove when you get started, but waiting until the veggies have been cooking for at least 10 minutes before you get going on the gnocchi.

Preheat the barbeque or oven (see below).

Microwave the squash cubes in an appropriate dish for 6 minutes on high.

Put aside the tomatoes.  The goal with the rest of the veggies is to prep them so that they are in pieces about the same size as the gnocchi or a little bigger.  Cut the onion into large wedges then separate the layers.  Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into about ¾ inch pieces so that you have thick half-moons.   If the crimini mushrooms are small, leave them whole, if they’re large, cut them in half.  Chop the red pepper into gnocchi-sized pieces.  Put the veggies (including the partially-cooked squash, and not including the tomatoes) into a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss to coat.  Then either barbeque (my preferred method) or roast them.

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Whichever method you choose, add the tomatoes (also lightly coated with olive oil) when the other veggies are almost finished; the goal is to warm them but not cook them so much that they break their skins.

To barbeque, heat the BBQ on medium-high, and place the veggies into a large grill wok.  It’s ok if they’re kind of heaped in there; they’ll shrink.  Use a large metal spatula to gently stir and turn over the veggie pile every few minutes until they’re soft inside and slightly charred outside, about 20-25 minutes.

To roast, heat the oven to 375.  Spread the veggies in single layer onto one or two cookie sheets (you can cover them with tinfoil if you want).  Roast for about 20 minutes or until done, with a bit of char.

While the veggies are cooking, get the pot of water boiling, then add the gnocchi.  It will cook VERY fast.  The pack usually says 3 minutes but honestly, I find it’s more like 1-2 minutes.  I always just try one after about 90 seconds to see if they’re done.  Avoid overcooking the gnocchi or it’ll turn into mush.  Chop the fresh herbs, not too finely.

When the gnocchi is done, drain it and place it into a large bowl.  (If you’re still waiting on the veggies, add a bit of olive oil to keep the gnocchi from sticking together.)  Add the veggies, herbs, lemon juice, and chili flakes if using, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil if desired.  Toss it all gently together and serve.

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