Tag Archives: tomato sauce

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

Chicken Parmesan

The other night was one of those too-lazy-to-go-to-the-store-gotta-make-dinner-with-what’s-in-the-house kinda nights.  If you have chicken, milk, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, pasta sauce and pasta, You could make a yummy and yummy-looking meal like this:

Ingredient amounts will vary depending on how much many servings you’re making.  You can make chicken parm for two or a whole crowd.  I didn’t measure, so all measurements are approximate.

  • 1 pound chicken tenders (I like the portion size of a tender.)
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I like panko for the extra crunch!)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 package pasta of your choice, prepared according to package directions.
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (This is my Zesty Pasta Sauce!)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9×13 pan with oil a spread a bit of the pasta sauce over the bottom.

Place tenders a few at a time in a sealed ziploc and pound to a uniform thickness, around 1/4-inch thick, using a wooden mallet or something similar.

Stack them up on a plate until all are pounded thin.

Create a breading station of shallow bowls in this order: milk, flour, egg, and then bread crumbs.

Dip each tender in milk, then flour; shake off excess.  Then dip into egg and then breadcrumbs, coating evenly.  Place into a hot pan with 3 TBSP oil.  Fry until each side is golden brown and chicken is cooked through.  Work in batches, overcrowding will steam the chicken and you’ll loose the nice crunch.  Add extra oil as needed.

Drain on paper towels. Don’t they look yummy already?!  All crispity-crunchity?!  Mmmmmm….

When all tenders are cooked, place in prepared pan and schmear with some pasta sauce.

Then top with shredded cheese.

Bake 30 minutes, until cheese is melty and bubbly.

Serve with prepared pasta and garlic bread.  Top with shredded parmesan if you like.

Such an easy and yummy meal.  Great for the fam on a weeknight, impressive for company, fancy-schmancy enough for date night!  Have a bite!

Super yummy left over as well.  One pound of tenders, a jar of pasta sauce and a package of spaghetti was enough for the three of us and then left overs for two the next day.

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Zesty Pasta Sauce

I’m a reader.  I’m a gardener.  I work at keeping my carbon footprint as small as possible.  My BFF Becky knows me really well, and a few years ago recommended the perfect book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It’s a memoir of the year she and her family lived as locovores–written in Kingsolver’s characteristic style with all sorts of compelling essays on the whys of eating locally.  I keep this book with my cookbooks in the kitchen, so the recipe for this pasta sauce is at the ready when I need it. 

How satisfying to have some of your summer saved in beautiful jars!  How spectacular to have the flavor of summer on your pasta on a cold, grey winter’s day!

This is quite a project–totally do-able–but time consuming.  Set aside a day, make yourself as much working space as possible, and gather up a rather imposing (But really do-able!  Really!) bunch of ingredients.  I’ll give the amounts of each from the book; you may need to adjust amounts according to how much tomato puree you end up with–more on that later!  The best plan is to wait until you have LOTS of tomatoes and make a bunch of sauce all at once.  I freeze tomatoes while I accumulate them.

NOTE: You MUST stick closely to the recipe if you’re canning for proper pH. If you’re freezing the sauce, feel free to add fresh veggies.

This recipe will make 6-8 qts–any combination of quart or pint jars or freezer boxes.

  • 10 qts tomato puree ( I use all sorts of tomatoes.  Paste tomatoes, like romas, thicken the sauce faster.)
  • 4 large onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dried basil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 TBSP dried oregano
  • 3 TBSP salt
  • 2 TBSP ground, dried lemon peel
  • 2 TBSP thyme
  • 2 TBSP garlic powder (or more, to taste)
  • 2 TBSP dried parsley
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Start with blanching the tomatoes to make them easier to peel.  Cook briefly in boiling water–just until peels start to loosen, about 1-2 minutes.  I use a blancher–a double pot with a strainer that lifts out.

As soon as peels show evidence of cracks/loosening, dump them into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  I fill my (very clean) sink with cold water and ice.

Peel and chunk the tomatoes. 

I set up my processor next to the sink, with a bowl to place the chunked tomatoes in and a measuring bowl to measure the puree.  An apron is recommended–tomatoes squirt and splash as you peel them and pour the puree from the processor to the measuring bowl to the cooking pot.

Place chunked tomatoes in the processor and puree to a fairly consistant smoothness, but not liquified.  Pour puree into the measuring bowl, keep track of how much puree you have as you go along, pouring into a large stainless steel or enamel stock pot.

When all tomatoes are pureed, figure your total amount of puree and adjust the rest of the ingredients in the recipe accordingly.  For example, if you end up with 5 quarts of puree, cut all amounts in half.

Peel and chop the onions and sweat/soften them in a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add a small amount of water if needed, but NO OIL if you are canning! 

While onions are softening, measure out the rest of the ingredients and add to the puree.

Add onions to the mix when they are soft.

Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for two to three hours until sauce has thickened to your liking.  (Your kitchen will smell amazing!) Stir frequently, especially toward the end, to avoid burning.  Meanwhile, heat water in a canner, wash jars and rings or sterlize in a dishwasher.  Rinse jars and rings well and hold in hot water.  Boil lids and hold at a simmer.

Fill jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

IMPORTANT–NOT OPTIONAL: Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice OR 1/2 tsp citric acid (Fruit Fresh) to EACH quart jar. (Half as much per pint.)  This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic.

Wipe rims, place lids and adjust rings.

When all jars are filled, lower them into the boiling water of a canner.  Most canners hold up to 7 jars at a time.

 

Process (boil) quarts for 35 minutes, pints for 25 minutes with the lid on the canner.  Start the time when the water starts to boil again after placing jars.

Carefully remove jars with a jar lifter and let cool.  Listen for the metallic “thunk” indicating the jars are sealing.  The lids will be concave when sealed.  Label with whatever you decide to call your sauce, along with the date you canned it.  (The sauce will keep for a year in normal house temperatures–not that it will last that long!)  Have fun!  Be creative!  BFF Becky calls hers “Romalicious.”  🙂

There ya go!  You just made the yummiest pasta sauce ever!  Use it on pasta (duh!), or as a pizza sauce, a sauce to jazz up a meat loaf, a sandwich spread, or most any time a recipe calls for tomatoes!  Mmmm!  Yummy!

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Filed under Books, Canning and preserving, comfort food, Garden produce, recipe

The Mindful Foodie

How often do we look at a plate of food and think about where it comes from?  How often do we think about a food’s origin when grocery shopping?  In this busy world, it’s easy to grab and go.  Often the thought is to buy foods that are quick and easy to prepare.  The book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver changed my whole outlook on food.

I’m a huge Barbara Kingsolver fan to begin with.  I absolutely LOVED the Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer.  This book still carries Kingsolver’s voice, and so even though it’s a work of nonfiction on subject matters that are sometimes scary (in the case of big chemical companies like Monsanto), this book is a comfortable read.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the true story of Kingsolver’s family living a year eating locally.  Each family member was allowed one “non-local” food, such as coffee or chocolate, but aside from that, they grew or purchased all of their food within 100 miles of their farm.  It can be done.  Of course, eating locally is easier in some areas of the country than others. 

The book is told by Kingsolver, her husband and her oldest daughter.  The husband tells the heavy content–Monsanto, Kingsolver tells of the day-to-day progression of eating locally, and the daughter shares seasonal recipes.  When you eat locally, you tend to eat what’s growing at the time.  No year-round asparagus, for instance. 

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have become much more mindful of my grocery purchases, and grow a lot more in my garden to store for the winter.  I even bought citrus trees to have “local citrus”– something unheard of in Western Colorado!  I have NOT given up coffee.  : )   

Right now, I can’t see myself being a complete locovore, but I am when I can.  I shop the farmer’s markets in the summer, I try to get my eggs directly from a farmer.  I try to “tread lightly” in my food choices.  I can and store as much garden produce as I can.

To help foods last through the winter, the Kingsolvers canned and froze foods from their garden.  The pasta sauce recipe in the book is fabulous–my BFF Becky and I use it each fall as the tomatoes ripen in our gardens.

Following their recipe exactly makes a sauce that will keep all winter….until you run out.  We always run out before there are enough tomatoes to make more sauce!  It’s best to make it in large batches, to have all the work at one time, but the tomatoes sort of dictate how large a batch you do.  It’s important to stick to the recipe if you’re canning it to maintain a safe pH.

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30 pounds of tomatoes)

4 large onions, peeled and chopped

1 cup dried basil

1/2 cup honey

4 TBSP dried oregano

3 TBSP salt

2 TBSP dried lemon peel

2 TBSP thyme

2 TBSP garlic powder (or more to taste)

2 TBSP dried parsley

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Soften onions in a heavy 3-gallon kettle–add a small amount of water if necessary but NO OIL if you are canning!  Add pureed tomatoes and everything else.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking.  Stir frequently, especially near the end, to avoid burning. 

If you are canning, sterilize your jars, and start the water to boil in your canner. 

To maintain proper pH, you MUST add 2 TBSP of lemon juice OR 1/2 tsp citric acid (Fruit Fresh) to each quart.  Half that much for pints.  Ladle hot sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Cap jars and process quarts for 35 minutes.  25 minutes for pints.  Remove, let cool, check the seals, and store for the winter! 

This is a yummy sauce that can be used for spagetti, pizza sauce, over meatloaf….anywhere you’d use a store-bought sauce!  You can add all sorts of fresh peppers, mushrooms, and meats when you cook with it–you just can’t can it with those things in it.  While you’re waiting for garden season, get yourself a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!

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