Tag Archives: bell peppers

Vegan Baked Ziti

Cold weather always makes me want to bake something.  Something warm and aromatic and comforting.    Something your grandmother might have made for the family.  Something that feels like a hug and tastes like a whole lotta love.  I give to you the perfect answer:  Baked Ziti!

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I had never made baked ziti even before becoming vegan, and never had a grandmother make it for me.  But for some reason, the squat little rigatonis in my pantry thought that’s what they should be.  Who am I to argue with cute pasta?!  To the Google!  A few short clicks later, I had two recipes to inspire me; one classic, and one vegan.  Here’s what I came up with:

ingredients

For the ziti:

  • 1 pound short tubular pasta, such as rigatoni or penne or ziti, prepared according to the package
  • 1 pound vegan sausage  (I used Gimme Lean brand–very sausage-y)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped  (I had chopped bells from my garden in the freezer and used them)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar prepared marinara sauce  (I had most of a jar leftover from making pizza)
  • Vegan Parmesan for topping

For the cashew ricotta:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover them by at least an inch
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP of fresh basil or 1 1/2 tsp dried
  • a couple shakes of paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400F and spray a 9×13″ pan.  Prepare pasta according to the package.

Drain cashews and place in a food processor with lemon juice, garlic, basil, paprika, and salt.

all in the processor

Blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.  This should take 3-5 minutes.

blend until smooth

Brown the sausage.  It can be hard to tell when vegan sausage is brown.  Cook, breaking up with a spoon or spatula until it doesn’t feel sticky anymore.  Use a splash of veggie broth or No Chicken Broth (my personal fav) to help keep it from sticking to the pan.

brown sausage

Add onions and peppers and cook until onions are transluscent, about 5-7 minutes.

add onions and peppers

Add tomatoes and marinara, stir to combine.

add tomatoes and sauce

Add cooked pasta and cashew ricotta.  Doesn’t that ricotta look amazing?!

add pasta and ricotta

Stir to coat the pasta evenly and transfer to the prepared 9×13 pan.  Shake some vegan Parmesan over the top.

spread in pan

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the top pasta is getting a tiny bit crisp.

baked

Scoop out with a serving spoon and get your smile on.  You’re gonna feel like your Grandma stopped by with a warm apron-wrapped hug and some pasta to show how much she loves you.

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Just the thing when winter comes a-callin’.

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It snowed almost 6 inches the night I made the ziti.  We were expecting a dusting to MAYBE an inch.  Brrrrr!  It sure was pretty, though.

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Our crab apple trees looked just lovely, and leftover ziti was a perfect warm-me-up after playing outside in the snow.

 

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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, Garden produce, lunch, Potluck, recipe, vegan, Vegetarian

Chili-Stuffed Peppers

This year has been a very good year for peppers in my garden.  This is the Big Bertha Bell pepper I picked this week that inspired a cruise around my fave vegan blogs for a stuffed pepper recipe.

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Success!  The Fat Free Vegan to the rescue!  I modified her recipe just a bit and loved the result; definitely a keeper.  I grew up eating peppers stuffed with a burger mixture, which I always loved, and these are just as yummy!

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I had everything I needed in my pantry and garden:

ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 package fresh mushrooms, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (or more to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed well (or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans)
  • 1 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup prepared rice (I cooked 2 cups, and saved the remainder for other recipes)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or more, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 bell peppers

For toppings:

  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • cilantro, chopped
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 400F.

Saute onion in a bit of veggie broth or water until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

saute onions

Add mushrooms, jalapeno, and garlic.  Cook until mushrooms soften, adding broth as needed to prevent sticking.

add garlic mushrooms jalapeno

While onions and mushrooms cook, cut an opening down the side of each pepper, leaving the stem end on.  Carefully remove ribs and seeds.

cut opening in peppers

Chop the pepper parts you just cut off and add them to the pan.  Saute for a few more minutes to allow them to soften.

add diced pepper

Add beans, corn, fire roasted tomatoes, and spices.  Stir to combine and cook for a minute or two to blend the flavors.

add beans corn tomato spices

Add cooked rice.  1 cup was what looked right to me, but add more or less to your own taste.  Stir to combine.

add rice

Spray a pan with cooking spray and arrange peppers in it.  Stuff each with the filling.  Don’t they look yummy?!

stuff peppers

Bake 30-40 minutes, until peppers are tender.

bake til tender

Arrange toppings next to a pepper to serve, or place them on top.  Enjoy!

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I couldn’t stop making the yum sound.  I was a bit worried these wouldn’t be as hearty as a meat-stuffed pepper, but turns out they are just as satisfying if not even more so.  I had a fair amount of stuffing left over, which we’ve made into some mighty yummy burritos.  I think it would also be fabulous as a squash stuffing, and as a topper for a tofu scramble.  Yum, yum, yummy!

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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, dinner, Food memories, Garden produce, lunch, recipe, Vegetarian

Kung Pao Tofu

I know I say this a lot, but this is my new favorite way to enjoy tofu.  Yes.  Tofu.  Tofu is the chameleon of vegan foods, taking on the flavors of whatever you cook with it, while providing a nice texture your mouth will enjoy.  This recipe was inspired by the clearance corner of the local grocery store.  It’s located right next to the produce department–very, very convenient for this vegan!  Anyway, a recent visit produced a variety of Asian sauces and marinades, including a Kung Pao sauce.  Kung Pao has always been a favorite Chinese take-out option, so why not try it at home?  With tofu.  Oh, yeah, yum-o-palooza!

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I Googled around and found most Kung Pao recipes had peppers, onions and squash–staples of my vegan fridge.  I also had a bit of broccoli and a head of cauliflower.  Essentially, this is a stir-fry of whatever veggies you have, Kung Pao sauce and usually peanuts.  I used cashews instead.  Here’s what was in my recent Kung Pao, cut all veggies to a similar size–about 1 inch.

ingredients

  • 2 bell peppers (different colors), diced 
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • broccoli
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/4-1/2 head of cauliflower
  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu
  • Kung Pao sauce–enough to coat the veggies
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cashews

Squeeze moisture from tofu and dice.

cut tofu into cubes

 

Lightly spray a large fry pan or wok with cooking spray and saute tofu until golden.

saute tofu til golden

Set tofu aside and add peppers and onion to the pan.  Saute until onions start to caramelize–about 5 minutes.

saute peppers and onions

Add the rest of the veggies to the pan and  saute until tender-crisp, another 5-10 minutes.

add squash cauliflower and broccoli

Gently add tofu back to the pan, avoiding breaking it up.

add tofu back

Add cashews, gently stir to combine.

add cashews

Add enough sauce to coat the veggies and tofu.  I used about half the jar.

add sauce

Serve over rice.  How pretty is this?!  The pre-made sauce makes this company-worthy meal quick and easy.  And taste?  Yum-o-palooza!  I liked it just like this, but Michael added some hot sauce to kick up the heat.  Red pepper flake would be awesome as well, or a sambal chile sauce.  Mmmmmmm.

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Terrific Tofu Scramble

I missed eggs more than meat when I became vegan.  Our switch from omnivore to vegan began Jan 1, 2013, while Mr18 was still home on his winter break.  Mr18 LOVES omelets, and was more than happy to eat up the eggs left over from our former eating habits.  Let me tell you; making those omelets knowing I couldn’t have one was just killer then.  Now that we’re almost 3 months into veganland, making omelets for Mr18 while he’s home for spring break is no biggie.  Especially now that The Happy Herbivore‘s Basic Tofu Scramble is on my breakfast menu!  She states this is her favorite way to eat tofu and I must agree, especially for breakfast.  (I do love the tofu chocolate pie I made a week ago….)  I find this scramble very egg-like.  So egg-like that I honestly no longer crave eggs.  We love the scramble with sauteed onions and peppers and boiled potato cubes mixed in; both as is and as a filling for breakfast burritos.  A seriously yummy, hearty protein-rich breakfast.

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You’ll have this scramble on the table as quickly as you would using eggs.  Makes enough for 4, or 2 with enough leftover for burritos the following day.

ingredients

  • 1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed a bit to release most of the water
  • 3-4 TBSP nutritional yeast (provides the cheese flavor, I use 4 TBSP)
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • non-dairy milk as needed to prevent sticking
  • salt and pepper to taste  (I’m loving truffle salt in this recipe, if you can find it)
  • Mix-ins of your choice.  I have about 1/4 each of three different colors of bell pepper, 2 small potatoes and 1/4 of a red onion.

Prepare your mix-ins by boiling or sauteing.  I saute in veggie broth to keep the fat content low.  Set aside.

cooked veggies

cooked potatoes

Collect and measure all the spices, etc.  The recipe moves along more smoothly if you can add all of them at once.

Drain and press the moisture from the tofu and crumble into a large pan over medium heat.  Stir and break up larger pieces until it resembles the consistency of scrambled eggs.  Cook 3-4 minutes.

cook crumbled tofu

Add the nutritional yeast, mustard, garlic and onion powders, turmeric and cumin.  Stir to coat and continue to cook until all water evaporates.  Add non-dairy milk if you need to loosen the scramble up a bit and to prevent sticking.

add and stir in spices

Mix in prepared veggies and continue to cook until everything is warmed through.

add veggies and potatoes

Taste, season with salt and pepper and serve! Looks like eggs.  Tastes a LOT like eggs.  Exactly what I was craving for breakfast today!  Can’t wait for the breakfast burritos tomorrow morning.

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Filed under breakfast, comfort food, dairy-free, Garden produce, recipe, Vegetarian

Rainbow Spring Rolls with Spicy Plum Sauce (Served with Thai Cauliflower Soup)

I just love it when the flavor ideas I have in my head come together.  I have a recipe for Thai Pork in a crock pot; full of lovely, delicate spices, served with yummy black forbidden rice..  I also had part of a head of cauliflower left over from making cauliflower steaks from the middle part.  AND I wanted to try making spring rolls because I finally found rice paper in one of the grocery stores I shop.  The perfect culinary storm resulted in one super yummy meal.

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Let’s talk about the soup first, because you’ll want to start it before the spring rolls.  I made it using the Thai Pork recipe with a few exceptions:  1.  I cooked it in a large pot on the stove.  The slow cooking was mainly for the pork.  2.  I wanted it more broth-y so I doubled the amount of broth (No Chicken Broth), doubled the Thai spices and used half again as much green curry paste: So 4 cups broth, 2 TBSP Thai spice blend and 1 1/2 TBSP green curry paste.  3.  I used cauliflower instead of the pork.  Chop up approximately 1/2 a head (about 2 cups-ish) of cauliflower in bite-sized pieces.  Otherwise, make the recipe as is from the link above, cooking the carrots, onions, garlic and cauliflower in broth and spices for about 30 minutes before adding the peppers, curry and coconut milk.

cauliflower soup

After starting the soup, make black “Forbidden” rice according to package directions and set aside.  Legend has it that this rice (which isn’t a true rice) was so special it was grown for the emperors.  Commoners were forbidden to eat it.  If you can’t find it, use your favorite rice,  I like the flavor and color contrast of the black.

Finally the spring rolls.  Spring rolls are more of a technique than a recipe.  You can include any veggies you like, tofu, mushrooms, shrimp,…..  I would avoid juicy veg like tomatoes unless they’re seeded.  Spring rolls can be enjoyed as a meal or an appetizer or snack or lunch!

spring rolls

Because the rice paper is transparent, it’s fun to make your ingredients pretty.  I made 14 spring rolls and had a bit of sliced veg and rice paper leftover.

ingredients

  • 1 package rice paper
  • 2 nests of red rice noodles, prepared according to package directions  (any thin rice or bean noodle will do)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 carrots, thinly sliced and cut to match the length of the peppers
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 5 green onions, mainly the white part, thinly sliced and then chopped on a diagonal into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced

Prepare all your veggies and place on a cutting board or platter to make the spring rolling more efficient.  Prepare noodles and place in a bowl near the veggies.

chopped rainbow

Soak each piece of rice paper in warm water for 15-20 seconds–until it becomes pliable, but not gummy.  Place it on your working surface and arrange your filling in the lower half.

filing on rice paper

Fold the lower end of the rice paper over the filling.

fold up bottom

Fold in the sides.

fold in sides

Roll it up tightly.  Don’t worry if you don’t roll each roll identical to the last, they’ll be yummy no matter what.

roll up

Place your rolls on a plate or platter.  Don’t worry  they stick to each other, they’ll come apart without tearing.

on platter

Now to make the dipping sauce.  This recipe makes a sweet-hot sauce–my preference.  Michael dipped some of his rolls in hot mustard, and I’ve had some yummy peanut sauces for spring rolls.  So, find your favorite or make a variety to choose from!

The ratio that I like is 2/3 plum sauce to 1/3 Sambal Oelek.  I like the heat to stay in the background.  Adjust it to your heat tolerances.  Both of these sauces can be found on the Asian aisle in your grocery store.

sauce2

Time for the perfect flavor storm!  Place some black rice in one corner of a bowl and ladle in the soup.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge to squeeze over the top.  Grab a couple of spring rolls and a personal bowl of dipping sauce.  Exquisitely yummy.

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Whole Lotta Love Very Veggie Lasagna

Lasagna is popular around my house.  It’s one of those meals with a whole lotta love baked right in.  Where does that love live?  In the tomato-y sauce?  The savory fillings?  The cheese?  I worried a bit that the love came from the cheese, when I decided to make a vegan pasta.  Once assembled, baked and tasted…..no more worries!  All the love was still there.

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I gathered up a rainbow of veggies from my fridge, noodles, sauce and nutritional yeast and tofu for the spectacular roasted cauliflower “ricotta.”

ingredients

For the ricotta: (From a recipe in Appetite For Reduction)

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used my current fav ingredient–truffle salt!)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • cooking spray

For the rest of the lasagna:

  • Your choice of veggies that YOU like.  For example, I used:
  • 1/2 each 4 different colored bell peppers, rough chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped into quarter-moons
  • 1 small yellow squash, chopped into quarter moons
  • 2-3 cups assorted sliced mushrooms (I have button, cremini, and shitake)
  • 9-12 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package  (These rice noodles were more narrow than the noodles I usually use, so I needed 12 rather than the usual 9 to cover the width of my 9×13 pan for the three layers)
  • 1 quart prepared pasta sauce  (I used my zesty pasta sauce)
  • 1 package vegan alfredo sauce, prepared according to the package (optional)
  • veggie broth for sauteing veggies

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon sheet or spray with cooking spray.

Prepare the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions, drain and set aside.

Prepare the vegan cheese sauce, if using, and set aside.

Chop the cauliflower into 1/2-ish pieces.

chop cauliflower

Place on prepared baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.  Toss with your hands to distribute the salt evenly.  Spray with cooking spray one more time and spread in an even layer and bake for 10 minutes.

season and roast

Flip it with a spatula, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes–until lightly browned, tender and yummy.

perfecty roasted

While the cauliflower roasts, drain the tofu, squeezing out as much of the moisture as you can.  Wrap in in a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out some more.  I’m learning that the key to tofu is getting it as dry as possible.

press moisture from tofu

Use your hands to crumble the tofu so it resembles ricotta.  Add another 1/4 tsp salt, the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and pepper. Mix and set aside.

season crumbled tofu

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the tofu crumble and mash it into the tofu with a fork or a potato masher.  (Steal a little taste here, this is yummy enough to eat by itself!)  Set aside.

mash cauliflower into tofu

Heat about 1/4 cup veggie broth in a large skillet.  Chop the veggies and add to the skillet.  Saute until they’re cooked to your liking.  I like them just getting soft, but with a little crispness left.  Aren’t all the colors pretty?  It’s super healthy to eat lots of different veggie colors.  Season with salt and pepper.

saute veggies

Add the mushrooms and cook til almost soft.  Add additional veggie broth as needed.

add mushrooms

Lightly coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  Spread 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta sauce over the bottom of the pan.

spread sauce in pan

Stir the rest of the sauce into the veggies.

add sauce

Form a layer of noodles (3 or 4 depending on the size of the noodles) and top with 1/2 of the veggie-sauce mixture.

layer noodles and half veggie sauce

Form another layer of noodles and spread about 3/4 of the ricotta evenly over the top.

layer noodles and most of ricotta

Add one more layer of noodles and top with the other half of the veggie mixture and the remaining ricotta.

top with remaining ricotta

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove foil and spread the vegan cheese sauce on top, if using and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

baked

Cut into the size pieces you want and enjoy!

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This lasagna is vegan, low-fat and gluten-free, due to the rice noodles.  No meat.  No dairy.  No gluten.  Very little fat.    Absolutely no loss of yum.  This is some seriously healthy, seriously yummy, whole lotta love lasagna.

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Even better the next day.  What veggies will be in YOUR lasagna?

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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, dinner, Gluten-free, recipe, restaurants, Vegetarian