Category Archives: Entrée

Classic Falafel – Vegan, and Gluten-Optional!

Eat a good falafel once and you understand why they are so loved. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy and bread-like on the inside. Packed with earthy, fresh, lemony herbaceous flavor, they taste sinful, but are actually all good! If you dip them into cool creamy tzatziki sauce, you have taken them to yet another level. Add bright summer tomatoes and crisp lettuce, then throw it all on flatbread and you have an unbeatable lunch or dinner.

The perk: its all plants. …well, except for the tzatziki sauce, but even that it packed with cucumber (and you could do a vegan version of that too). All those textures and savory flavors scream plant-based diet suitable for anyone, including carnivores.

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falafel
falafel

Here’s how… So Easy!

Soak chickpeas in water and let them sit overnight. You do not have to cook them or anything! Just soak them; it couldn’t be easier.

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Here is your flavor, your texture, all the yumminess you need.

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Drain chickpeas (after they have soaked overnight). Lay them out to somewhat dry. You do not want them to be soaking wet. Finely mince parsley, cilantro, and garlic.

You can use any combination of parsley and cilantro that you like. I like either equal parts, or a little more parsley than cilantro.

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Put all ingredients, except flour, into a food processor. Pulse until the chickpeas are minced. In order to have a nice texture with a bite, do not turn your mixture into mush. Taste and adjust seasonings and salt, if desired.

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Scrape down the sides and pulse once more.

If you feel you need a bit of a binder, you can add chickpea flour or all purpose flour. Pulse a couple more times just to incorporate the flour.

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In a sauce pot, heat cooking oil. I like coconut oil for its digestibility. Peanut oil is also good. Any oil that can withstand high heat will work. Using a portion scoop for uniformity, or just your hands, form little balls.

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Fry them until they are golden brown on all sides, flipping as needed. Remove falafel from oil using a slotted heat-safe spoon and set aside to drain, either on a rack or paper towels.

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Serve falafels over salad, or rice, or in a pita pocket or on flatbread with tzatziki sauce, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber.

falafel
falafel
falafel
falafel

Classic Falafel – Vegan, and Gluten Optional

As-is, this recipe is delicious! But it is also easily customizable. Change up the flavors around anyway you like! Make them more lemony, add heat, whatever floats your falafel boat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup combination of parsley and cilantro, minced (equal parts, 1/2 cup each is very good)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (about one small onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/4 t. coriander
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • optional: cayenne, to taste (if you can take the heat, this is highly recommended)
  • optional binder: chickpea flour or all purpose flour (1 T or more, as desired)
  • cooking oil, enough to fry falafel (I like coconut oil, or a blend of peanut and coconut oils)

Method

Drain chickpeas (they should have soaked overnight). Lay them out to somewhat dry. You do not want them to be soaking wet. Finely mince parsley, cilantro, and garlic. Put all ingredients, except flour, into a food processor. Pulse until the chickpeas are minced. In order to have a nice texture with a bite, do not turn your mixture into mush. Taste and adjust seasonings and salt, if desired.

If you feel you need a bit of a binder, you can add chickpea flour or all purpose flour. Pulse a couple more times just to incorporate the flour.

In a sauce pot, heat cooking oil. I like coconut oil for its digestibility. Peanut oil is also good. Any oil that can withstand high heat will work. Using a portion scoop for uniformity, or just your hands, form little balls. In pot of cooking oil at medium- high heat, fry falafel until they are golden brown on all sides, flipping as needed. Remove falafel from oil using a slotted heat-safe spoon and set aside to drain, either on a rack or paper towels.

Serve falafels over salad, or rice, or in a pita pocket or on flatbread with tzatziki sauce, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber.

Enjoy!

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Traditional Saag Paneer

The complexity and balance of spices that you get from a plate of Indian cuisine is just healing. It can make you all “kumbaya,” full of peace and serenity. Yep. I said the same thing on my Vegan Not Your Amma’s Saag Paneer… but it is still true.

In one of my favorite studies, Traditional Chinese Medicine, when discussing specific foods beneficial for specific conditions, Indian cuisine comes up A LOT. All those anti-inflammatory spices and vegetables, so good for the body and the spirit.

If you make this dish, take your time. Breathe it in. Build your flavors. Enjoy the happiness.

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

This is based on Aarti Sequeria’s Saag Paneer. I like tomato added in, and the method is changed up just a bit for a different texture. Follow the link to get Aarti’s delicious recipe and her garam masala.

We will be jumping right into spice town! Start by combining turmeric, cayenne, salt, and 3 T oil into a bowl to form a loose paste.

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Cut paneer into uniform-sized squares, one inch or less.

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Gently toss paneer cubes with paste until it is well coated. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

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If you are not pureeing your spinach, chop spinach and set aside. Otherwise you can leave it whole.

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Build flavors in your skillet.

In an oiled skillet, saute onions until tender.

saag1

Take the time to caramelize these onions. This is key!

Because there are no Fenugreek leaves in this recipe, we are missing that slightly sweet maple flavor. Caramelizing the onion adds a bit of sweetness. If you really want to sweeten up the dish, you could probably add a bit of maple syrup… I haven’t tried it.

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Add a little water, as needed to allow onions to slowly cook. Let the water cook off.

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Add in chile, if using. Stir.

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Add ginger and garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes; do not allow garlic to burn.

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Add tomato. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are well incorporated.

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Add spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin). Cook for about another 5 minutes. if you want a creamy texture, you can stir in some coconut milk.

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At this point, you can set this mixture aside and sear your paneer. In a hot skillet, brown paneer on all sides. No need to add oil tot he pan; there is enough in the paste.

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When beautifully browned, remove from pan and set aside.

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Add spinach to the skillet with just enough water to barely wilt it. Do not overcook your spinach.

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When it is just wilted and still bright green, using a blender or food processor, puree the spinach. Alternatively, you can omit the puree, if prefered.

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Return spinach to the skillet and add coconut milk or heavy cream, to taste. Add salt, to taste.

My coconut milk was in the fridge. It is very think and delicious… full fat.

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Stir in onion-tomato mixture.

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Add paneer. Serve immediately.

Saag Paneer

A slice of flatbread is sooooooo good with this. 🙂

Saag Paneer

Based on Aarti Sequeria’s Saag Paneer. I like tomato added in, and change up the method just a bit for texture. Follow the link to get Aarti’s recipe and her garam masala.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons nonGMO canola oil or melted coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • about 12 oz paneer, purchased or make your own
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T peeled and minced ginger
  • optional: 1 large green Serrano chile, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, (purchased or homemade, see recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 10 oz)
  • about 1/4 – 1/2 cup coconut milk, or heavy cream

Method

Combine turmeric, cayenne, n. yeast, salt, and 3 T oil in a bowl to form a loose paste. Cut tofu into uniform-sized squares, one inch or less. Gently toss tofu with paste until it is well coated. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. This gives it a few minutes to marinate.

In an oiled skillet, saute onions until tender. Add a little water, as needed to allow onions to slow cook and caramelize. Add in chile, if using. Stir. Add ginger and garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes; do not allow garlic to burn. Add tomato. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are well incorporated. Add spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin). Cook for about another 5 minutes.

At this point, you can set this mixture aside and sear your paneer. In a hot skillet, brown paneer on each side. No need to add oil to the pan; there is enough in the paste. When beautifully browned, remove from pan and set aside.

Add spinach to the skillet with just enough water to barely wilt it. Do not overcook your spinach. When it is just wilted and still bright green, using a blender or food processor, puree the spinach. Alternatively, you can omit the puree, if prefered. Return spinach to the skillet and add coconut milk or heavy cream, to taste. Add salt, to taste. Stir in onion-tomato mixture.

Add paneer. Serve immediately.

Note: In a traditional ssag, fenugreek is used. Fenugreek leaves have a sweet maple flavor. Without fenugreek, we are incorporating some sweetness by caramelizing the onion.

Garam Masala

This Indian spice mix varies from region to region, and even from cook to cook. Some add in other flavors, like rose, or whatever they happen to like. In its essence this should be a blend of warming spices, those that accelerate the metabolism and wake up your taste buds!

You can purchase a prepared blend, or make your own!

Julie Sahni’s Garam Masala

This beautifully balanced traditional blend is from her book: Indian Regional Classics: Fast, Fresh, and Healthy Home Cooking 

Yield: Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3-inch stick cinnamon, broken up
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)

Method

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet, smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

Enjoy!

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Not Your Amma’s Saag Paneer – Vegan Version!

The complexity and balance of spices that you get from a plate of Indian cuisine is just healing. It can make you all “kumbaya,” full of peace and serenity. It is the one cuisine for which a long list of ingredients is fitting. Making spice blends does shorten that list a lot! Much of Indian cuisine is vegetarian… making it easy to create vegan versions of your favorite dishes.

This saag is going to be vegan by chance. I have leftover tofu in the fridge, and spinach, and my son wont let me cream his spinach… so no need for dairy. This recipe deviates from the tradition, but all the flavors and textures are still in there. The tofu “paneer” hits your tongue with a crusty spicy intensity, and as you bite into it, you get a soft curdled cheesy texture. Quite good! Even for non-vegans. If you cut your squares a little smaller than one inch, you get a good ratio of surface crust to the creamy inside.

If you make this dish, take your time. Breathe it in. Build your flavors. Enjoy the happiness.

saag paneer vegan

Not Your Amma’s Saag Paneer

We will be jumping right into spice town! Start by combining turmeric, cayenne, n. yeast, salt, and 1/4 cup oil into a bowl to form a loose paste.

saagpantofu2

Cut tofu into uniform-sized squares, one inch or less.

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Gently toss tofu with paste until it is well coated. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. This gives it a few minutes to marinate.

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A quick word about tofu… because most soy on the U.S. is genetically modified, if you avoid excess pesticide or gmos, it is worth the extra cost to buy organic.

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Chop spinach and set aside to add in last.

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While tofu marinates… build flavors in your skillet.

In an oiled skillet, saute onions until tender.

saag1

Take the time to caramelize these onions. This is key!

Because there are no Fenugreek leaves in this recipe, we are missing that slightly sweet maple flavor. Caramelizing the onion adds a bit of sweetness. If youi really want to sweeten up the dish, you could probably add a bit of maple syrup… I haven’t tried it.

saag2

Add a little water, as needed to allow onions to slowly cook. Let the water cook off.

saag3

Add in chile, if using. Stir.

saag4

Add ginger and garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes; do not allow garlic to burn.

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saag5

Add tomato. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are well incorporated.

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Add spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin). Cook for about another 5 minutes. if you want a creamy texture, you can stir in some coconut milk.

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At this point, you can set this mixture aside and sear your tofu. In a hot skillet, brown tofu on all sides. No need to add oil tot he pan; there is enough in the paste.

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When beautifully browned, remove from pan and set aside.

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Stir in chopped spinach. You can do this in batches. The heat of the vegetables will cook the spinach. Do not overcook the spinach. Add a bit of water or coconut milk if moisture is needed.

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Taste. Mmmm If the flavors are too strong, add more spinach! Adjust seasonings.

You are ready to plate and serve. Either mix in tofu squares, or set them on top.

saag paneer vegan

A slice of flatbread is sooooooo good with this. 🙂

Not Your Amma’s Saag Paneer

A vegan twist on the tradition, keeping all the traditional flavors. This will stuff two people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 t nutritional yeast
  • kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • optional: splash of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (preferably nonGMO) or melted coconut oil, plus oil for cooking
  • 7 oz firm tofu (a tub is usually 14 oz; you can double the recipe if you like)
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • optional: 1 large green Serrano chile, finely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch thumb) ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, (purchased or homemade, see recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 10 oz)
  • optional: if you want creamy spinach, stir in 1/2 cup coconut milk

Method

Combine turmeric, cayenne, n. yeast, salt, and 1/4 cup oil in a bowl to form a loose paste. Cut tofu into uniform-sized squares, one inch or less. Gently toss tofu with paste until it is well coated. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. This gives it a few minutes to marinate.

In an oiled skillet, saute onions until tender. Add a little water, as needed to allow onions to slow cook and caramelize. Add in chile, if using. Stir. Add ginger and garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes; do not allow garlic to burn. Add tomato. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are well incorporated. Add spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin). Cook for about another 5 minutes. if you want a creamy texture, you can stir in some coconut milk.

At this point, you can set this mixture aside and sear your tofu. In a hot skillet, brown tofu on all sides. No need to add oil to the pan; there is enough in the paste. When beautifully browned, remove from pan and set aside.

Returning to your onion-spice-tomato mixture, stir in chopped spinach. You can do this in batches. The heat of the vegetables will cook the spinach. Do not overcook the spinach. Add water, if needed. Or coconut milk. Your saag is done! Stir in tofu or plate saag topped with tofu.

Serve immediately.

Note: In a traditional ssag, fenugreek is used. Fenugreek leaves have a sweet maple flavor. Without fenugreek, we are incorporating some sweetness by caramelizing the onion.

Garam Masala

This Indian spice mix varies from region to region, and even from cook to cook. Some add in other flavors, like rose, or whatever they happen to like. In its essence this should be a blend of warming spices, those that accelerate the metabolism and wake up your taste buds!

You can purchase a prepared blend, or make your own!

Julie Sahni’s Garam Masala

This beautifully balanced traditional blend is from her book: Indian Regional Classics: Fast, Fresh, and Healthy Home Cooking 

Yield: Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3-inch stick cinnamon, broken up
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)

Method

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet, smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

Enjoy!

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Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew – Vegan

Yes, I’m serious. Yoda stew. Because I am surrounded by nerds, I mean SciFi fans.

There is a school of thought that says that Yoda is vegetarian. If anyone is able to confirm or deny this theory, please do! In any event, with all due respect to Chef Chaliborne’s 1983 rendition of what Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew from the Planet Dagobah might look and taste like, the idea of a vegan version sounds plausible…. and recreating this iconic dish is just fun. Not to mention, a great way to convince young Jedi to eat spinach! Yoda loved it! 🙂

Yoda's Rootleaf Stew

According to Wookipedia:

Rootleaf stew was a favorite meal of Jedi Master Yoda during his exile on Dagobah. It was a staple of his diet, supplemented by yarum seeds, mushroom spores, galla seeds, and sohli bark. Yoda prepared rootleaf stew the evening that he met Luke Skywalker.

To set the scene…

The only information that Wookiepedia has on the stew’s ingredients is that they “came from plants found on Dagobah”.  So with no access to Dagobah vegetation or knowledge of their Earth counterparts, we have to use a little guesswork to create Yoda’s Stew. This was done for us by Craig Claiborne in 1983. Chef Claiborne was hired by NPR to create this dish for a 10-part radio drama aired on the station. His recipe – a Paleo version containing animal protein – is posted here.

The spice blend that Chef Claiborne uses is pretty much a garum masala. It is delicious! And it does contain the primary elements of Yoda’s stew, roots (ginger, turmeric), bark (cinnamon), and seeds (cumin, cardamon). These would be very nourishing and strengthening for a young Jedi in training!

Sooooooooo

When I think of available ingredients in the swamps of Dagobah, something like this comes to mind…

root_leaf1

Yoda did use mushroom, and some sort of tuber would fit in nicely.

Chef Claiborne’s recipe calls for A LOT of parsley. I just chopped up about one half of a bunch, then threw in, maybe a cup. Use any amount you like.

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To make this recipe easier, you can gather all the spices together first. This is your coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves… Yoda spice blend.

(This is pretty much a Garum Masala.)

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Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew

In  a little cooking oil, cook the mushrooms first, then set them aside.

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Blooming spices!

A little bit of coconut oil in the pan will bloom your spices beautifully, bringing out all that wonderful flavor and aroma. Ahhhh

If you have sliced your onions, brown those first! Then bloom your spices and throw in your bay leaf and ginger too. My Jedi do not like onion pieces, so I grate my onion and garlic and add it after the spices and ginger. If desired, add heat in the form of peppers.

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spicebloom2

This grated onion and garlic looks like mush, but it is flavor! Full delicious flavor.

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Now we have spices, grated onion and garlic, ginger and bay leaf… add water, just enough to make it soupy, allow flavors to continue to meld, and to cook your taro root. If you prefer, use potatoes.

Add in your diced taro root. Couldn’t you imagine something like this tuber growing in the swamps of Dagobah?

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When the taro root is just about tender and cooked through (raw taro root can be toxic to the liver), add mushrooms back in, and your parsley. Use as much parsley as you like.

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If you like, add lentils. This is about 1/4 cup rinsed and cooked french lentils. French lentils fill out the soup beautifully with a firm meaty texture and earthy flavor.

If you want your stew more soupy, add water. The last item to go in is the spinach. It takes only seconds for it to cook. Usually I use a heartier green in soups and stews, but spinach just seams more appropriately swampy.

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Jedi ready!

Yoda's Rootleaf Stew

Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew

Altered from Chef Claiborne’s recipe from the 1983 NPR Star Wars features, this vegan version would do Yoda proud!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz mushrooms, quartered (baby portobella used here)
  • Cooking oil (I like coconut)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (or grated)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoons ginger root; finely minced
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon hot green or red chilies; finely chopped, seeded
  • Spice blend
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1/8 teaspoon cardamon; ground
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup peeled and diced taro root
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cooked lentils (I like french lentils)
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley (use as much or little as you like)
  • 1/2 – 1 pound fresh spinach; well rinsed, sliced (or kale or collards, if you prefer a green leak that holds up better in a stew)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. In  a little cooking oil, cook the mushrooms first, then set them aside.
  2. In the same oil (add a little more, if needed), brown sliced onions, then add peppers, ginger, and spices to bloom them. Lastly, add minced garlic. If you have grated your onions and garlic, add them in after the spices are bloomed.
  3. Add taro root (or potato, if using) and just enough water to cover and cook them. Cook taro root until it is just about tender, uncovered. Adjust water level as needed.
  4. When the taro root is just about tender and cooked through (raw taro root can be toxic to the liver), add mushrooms back in, and your parsley. Use as much parsley as you like.
  5. Add lentils, if you are using them.
  6. Add spinach at the very end. If you are using a heartier green, add it in about 5-7 minutes before stew is completely cooked.
  7. If you want your stew more soupy, add water. Adjust seasoning, as desired (salt and pepper).

Serve immediately. It is very good over rice!

Enjoy!

For great food ideas for your Star Wars theme event, please check out my new ebook on Amazon.

2DAliens (1)

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Easy Creamy Vegan Pasta Sauce

If you ever really want to annoy a vegan, ask them if they miss bacon, or if they get sick of salads… or just tell them they can’t possibly get enough protein in their diet. (I do not advise actually doing this.)

Granted, it is possible for a vegan diet to be a very unhealthy diet. But this applies to nonvegans equally. Anybody who eats nothing but Oreos is going to lack essential nutrients. That said, the mindful vegans that I know have more variety and nutrition in their diet than the average bear… or the average American anyway.

Case in point…

This simple pasta dish can be thrown together in minutes and is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, B, C, E, K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, omegas, fiber, and B12!

As for it being “rabbit food”… perish the thought! This is a warm creamy bowl of comfort. My son ate this without realizing it had no dairy, and said it was better than my bechamel. I was simultaneously pleased and insulted. It takes some time and love to make a good bechamel and only minutes to throw together this sauce. In my defense, my son likes his bechamel thinner than I do. But I digress…

Whether you are vegan or not, this is a great busy night easy dinner to have in your repertoire.  If you don’t eat grains, try this with cauliflower and other vegetables.

hummuspasta4

Quick and Easy Creamy Vegan Pasta Sauce

In a bowl or right in a sauce pan, combine hummus and almond milk.

hannahhommus

Keep this super nutritious, as well as delicious and time-saving, by using a good clean organic hummus. Or you can make your own. I am using this one today… Classic Organic Hommus by Hannah. Really yummy!

You can make your own almond milk in only seconds by blending raw almonds with water and straining out the pulp. I make my own almond milk as needed; it is SO GOOD and it keeps out unwanted ingredients.

Homemade Almond Milk with no additives. Mmmmm

almondmilk1

Stir in nutritional yeast, and garlic powder. Salt and pepper, to taste. Heat. If the sauce is too think, add more almond milk or water (or a little of your pasta cooking water). If you would like a stronger garlic flavor, or more nutritional yeast for cheesy nuttiness, add more of those in.

At this point, we have already achieved yumminess… you can put this sauce on just about anything.

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Stir in pasta. Your sauce is already gluten-free. You can easily keep this entire dish gluten free by using brown rice pasta.

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Stir in tender-crisp steamed broccoli.

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Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.

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Serve hot or eat cold.

This is comfort in a bowl. So yummy!

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If you want to make a very good thing even better, sprinkle crunchy slivered almonds over the top.

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…red corn chips garnish. Mmmmm

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Easy Creamy Vegan Pasta Sauce with Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup prepared hummus
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 t nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1 cup cooked pasta (for gluten free, I used brown rice pasta)
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • optional: slivered almonds for a crunchy garnish
  • optional: broken corn chips add a crunchy delicious layer of flavor

Method

In a bowl or right in a sauce pan, combine hummus, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder. Salt and pepper, to taste. Heat. If the sauce is too think, add more almond milk or water (or a little of your pasta cooking water). If you would like a stronger garlic flavor, or more nutritional yeast for cheesy nuttiness, add those in.

Stir in pasta and broccoli. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve hot or eat cold.

Enjoy!

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Easy Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Winter Kale Pesto

When these pillows first hit your palate, you taste that rich full sauce. Then the tang of the goat cheese builds and blends with the other flavors. Oh my goodness! For me this is a Remy-flavor-synergy-happiness-moment. If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here for a clip from the greatest movie ever made. 🙂

In my culinary school restaurant, I spent so much time making gnocchi. It was one of those methods that just seemed important to master. And it is one that, if you allow yourself to be “in the moment” as you prepare it, it is an absolute joy to make. In the restaurant, we made a traditional potato gnocchi with ricotta. Yummy! But time-intensive. This goat cheese gnocchi is MUCH quicker to make, and it does not disappoint.

Any gnocchi makes a great make ahead, leaving you with very little to do the night you wish to serve them. This one is perfect for impressing someone you love. They will appreciate the extra effort you took for them, but you do not have to tell them how easy it was. Very few ingredients create amazing flavor!

Are you ready? Her’s how!

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Making you dough

In a mixing bowl, place goat cheese and egg. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. You only need a little because your goat cheese is already delicious. You are just bumping up flavor for the flour you will be adding.

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Crumble your goat cheese to make it easier to beat.

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Thoroughly blend ingredients together. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed to incorporate ingredients.

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Add sifted flour a little at a time and mix together until a sticky dough is formed.

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You will have a little flour left over, up to 1/4 cup. At this point, I like to chill the dough for a few minutes to make it easier to manipulate.

Roll about 1/4 of the dough and place on a floured surface. Leave the remaining dough in the fridge.

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Roll the dough until it is formed into a “snake” shape.

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Cut dough into 1 inch pieces.

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If desired, use a fork or a gnocchi board to create little indentions into each gnocchi pillow. You do not have to do this, but it will give you little grooves to hold any sauce into which you toss you cooked gnocchi.

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Repeat with all remaining dough, collecting them onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. At this point, I like to place the cookie sheet into the freezer for about 20 minute, or until gnocchi chills and sets.

Ah! Little soldiers lined up in a row and ready to serve.

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Then they can go into a plastic bag for use any time you like. I LOVE make-aheads!

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Cooking Your Gnocchi

Cook gnocchi by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi (freshly made or frozen), a few at a time, being careful that they stay separated.

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They will cook on the bottom of the pot for a few minutes.

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When they float to the top, continue cooking for 1-2 minute.

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Remove with a slotted spoon.

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Mmmmmmmmmm

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Toss your little dumplings with pesto or any sauce you like. Bolognese or a pork and tomato Italian gravy is delicious!

I am keeping this one vegetarian. Kale pesto adds its own flavor layers without overwhelming the gnocchi. Because almonds pair BEAUTIFULLY with goat cheese, for this gnocchi, I put almonds in the pesto. The flavors sing together.

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On the side, I am adding tomatoes in a lemon-vinaigrette to cut the richness of the cheesy gnocchi. Yum!

These chocolaty brown tomatoes beckoned me at Whole Foods.

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Just wash and halve or quarter your tomatoes. use a prepared vinaigrette or make your own. I just diced a little shallot, and whisked it together with 3 parts extra virgin olive oil and one part fresh lemon juice. Add a little salt and pepper, to taste. Toss in tomatoes. Done!

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If desired, garnish with shaved Parmesan.

If you want, you can also load those tomatoes up on a nice thick slice of crusty bread. Check out this super simple Bruschetta recipe.

Easy Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Winter Kale Pesto

This recipe yields about 45 beautiful little gnocchi pillows. If desired, you can easily double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (preferable organic), sifted
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • kale pesto, or a prepared pesto (you only need 1/2 recipe of kale pesto)
  • optional: cherry tomatoes with lemon vinaigrette
  • optional: Parmesan cheese shavings for garnish

Method

In a mixing bowl, beat together goat cheese and egg. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed to incorporate ingredients. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. to taste, and blend. This is to season the flour; the goat cheese is already delicious.

Add sifted flour a little at a time and mix together until a sticky dough is formed. You will have a little flour left over, up to 1/4 cup. At this point, I like to chill the dough for a few minutes to make it easier to manipulate.

Roll about 1/4 of the dough and place on a floured surface. Leave the remaining dough in the fridge. Roll the dough until it is formed into a “snake” shape. Cut dough into 1 inch pieces. If desired, use a fork or a gnocchi board to create little indention into each gnocchi pillow. You do not have to do this, but it will give you little grooves to hold any sauce into which you toss you cooked gnocchi.

Repeat with all remaining dough, collecting them onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. At this point, I like to place the cookie sheet into the freezer for about 20 minute, or until gnocchi chills and sets. Then they go into a plastic bag for use any time you like.

Cook gnocchi by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi (freshly made or frozen), a few at a time, being careful that they stay separated. They will cook on the bottom of the pot for a few minutes. When they float to the top, continue cooking for 1-2 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Toss with pesto or sauce. Serve.

You can make Kale Pesto in advance. Refrigerate it and let those flavors develop even more. Get recipe here.

Enjoy!

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Grilled Goat Cheese and Cranberry Sammy

Butter – bread – tangy cheese – sweet cranberries – tangy cheese – bread – butter.

– Need I say more?

I am not really sure if this is lunch or a constructed cheese plate. But YUM! Tangy and sweet notes all blended, melting, and gooey between the buttery crunch of grilled toast… this is pure indulgence. And if you choose your ingredients wisely, you can pack a lot of nutrition in there! A whole cup of fresh cranberries can make a sandwich. Add to that real butter, good goat cheese, and whatever bread fits your diet – whole grain, gluten-free, organic – and just enjoy.

Pair these buttery tangy sweet flavor notes with a hot creamy soup and you have optimal flavor-texture synergy.

Cranberry Sauce

If you have any leftover cranberry sauce, this is a delicious way to use it up. Or, you can make a quick Raw Cranberry Salsa or a sugar-free Cranberry Chutney with honey, orange and spices. If you want to keep it very simple and sweet, all you need are fresh cranberries, and sugar.

Place cranberries into a skillet with a little water. Add more as you go, if needed.

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Cook cranberries until the begin to pop.

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Sprinkle cane sugar over them – as much or little as you like. Or use honey, agave, whatever sweetener you prefer. If you like, you can add a little lemon juice and a pinch of salt to enhance sweetness.

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Taste – without burning your tongue! Let most of the water cook off. You want it saucy, but not too wet. When the sauce tastes good to you, it is done. Put it in a bowl and start assembling your sandwiches.

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Sandwich Time

Place buttered side of one slice of bread into a heated skillet.

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Spread cranberry sauce over the goat cheese.

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Place the second slice of bread over the first with the goat cheese pressed gently into the cranberry sauce.

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Layers = butter – bread – goat cheese – cranberries – goat cheese – bread – butter – Mmmmmm

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When the first side of the sandwich is toasted and golden, flip it over the toast the second side.

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I almost ALWAYS cut my sandwiches on a diagonal. But ultimately, I am not the boss… the food is… this sandwich needed to be cut straight across… I can’t explain it. But I am not going to argue with results.

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Grilled Goat Cheese and Cranberry Sammy

Note: Although this is listed under “gluten-free”, of course it is only as gluten-free as the bread you choose. With all these other flavors, who needs gluten anyway?

Ingredients

  • cranberry sauce, salsa or jam
  • goat cheese
  • bread – any bread you like to grill (gluten free, whole grain, organic, whatever you like)
  • butter (preferably organic and grass fed)

Method

Slice two pieces of bread from your loaf. Spread butter over one side of each slice. Spread goat cheese over the other side of each slice. This can get messy. It is a little less messy if you stick your buttered sides together while you add goat cheese. Or just assemble the entire sandwich on a cutting board. A little butter on the cutting board wont hurt.

Place buttered side of one slice of bread into a heated skillet. Spread cranberry sauce over the goat cheese. Place the second slice of bread over the first with the goat cheese pressed gently into the cranberry sauce.

Layers = butter – bread – goat cheese – cranberries – goat cheese – bread – butter – Mmmmmm

When the first side of the sandwich is toasted and golden, flip it over the toast the second side.

Remove, cut in half, plate and serve.

Highly recommended – serve with a creamy savory soup… maybe a cauliflower coconut milk concoction. The sweet and tangy notes and buttery crunch of the sandwich pairs beautifully with a hot creamy soup.

Enjoy!

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Baby Bells

We are at that crossroad where adorable colorful flavorful baby bell peppers are still plentiful and bright sunshiny butternut squash is coming into season. What better time could there be than now for a fall spiced butternut squash stuffed baby bell pepper? And if you think you might want them later, make extra and freeze them!

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Baby Bells

Cut tops off of baby bell peppers, remove seeds, and steam the bell peppers and tops until they are tender when a fork is inserted. Leave them a bit undercooked. They will cook further in the oven. When tender, set aside.

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Dice butternut squash.

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Toss butternut squash in about 1-2 t olive oil until lightly coated. On a parchment covered sheet tray, bake butternut squash until tender and slightly golden brown. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

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Gather ingredients. Saute and combine them. Yum! Taste as you go and adjust seasoning and flavoring.

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In a mixing bowl (or the same skillet if it all fits), add cooked rice and walnuts. Stir to combine. Gently stir in butternut squash, so as to not mush it up. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

With a spoon, or your hands if that floats your boat, stuff bell peppers.

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Bake stuffed peppers (without tops) uncovered for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the tops to the baking dish with stuffed peppers.

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Baby Bells

This is a vegan dish. For a delicious Paleo version, substitute one lb cooked ground beef for rice and mushrooms. This recipe stuffs about 10-12 baby bell peppers. 

Ingredients

  • cooking oil, olive oil or coconut oil will work well
  • 2 cup butternut squash, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced, about 1/4 cup
  • 8 oz mushrooms (I like portobello), diced small
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • 3/4 t cardamon
  • 1/2 T cinnamon
  • 1 cup cooked rice (I like brown rice)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, preferably soaked overnight
  • optional: dash of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 400°

Cut tops off of baby bell peppers, remove seeds, and steam the bell peppers and tops until they are tender when a fork is inserted. Leave them a bit undercooked. They will cook further in the oven. When tender, set aside.

Toss butternut squash in about 1-2 t olive oil until lightly coated. On a parchment covered sheet tray, bake butternut squash until tender and slightly golden brown. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

While squash is baking, prepare the rest of the filling. In a lightly oiled skillet, saute onions. Add mushrooms. Cook until tender. Add garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring. Add tomato paste, cardamon, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using). Stir to combine and wake up those flavors. If mixture seems dry, add a bit of water. Salt and pepper, to taste.

In a mixing bowl (or the same skillet if it all fits), combine mushroom mixture with cooked rice and walnuts. Stir to combine. Gently stir in butternut squash, so as to not mush it up. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

With a spoon, or your hands if that floats your boat, stuff bell peppers. Bake stuffed peppers (without tops) uncovered for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the tops to the baking dish with stuffed peppers.

Serve immediately, or store. Stuffed peppers store and even freeze very well. A great make-ahead!

Enjoy!

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Spaghetti Squash with Tomato and Basil

Okay, yeah, so spaghetti squash is a fall/winter food. And usually, I cook per the season. BUT I was kind of in the mood for one, and thought a summer version would be lovely.

Tomatoes and basil are beautiful right now! Add a little creamy tangy feta to the dish, and voila! …simple, fun, colorful, tasty, and light.

If you have never worked with spaghetti squash before, you must do so at least once. Even if you hate squash, you should try this anyway. And if you have children in the house, baking a spaghetti squash at least once, may be mandatory. It is just too much fun! Plus, you get free labor from the kids. 🙂

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Slather olive oil over the cut side of each half. 

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Place on a cookie sheet, cut-side down. The steam that develops inside will cook the squash nicely.

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Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer or fork penetrates the squash easily.

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Using a fork, pull the strands of squash away from the peel. Gently fluff.

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If you are letting your kids do this, be sure to let the squash cool off a bit first.

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Add tomato mixture to each half, as much as you like. The size of your spaghetti squash will dictate how much tomato you will use.

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Ugh! I forgot to add my gorgeous creamy feta cheese. But just look at these colors!

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Baked Spaghetti Squash

This squash has a bit of a crunchy texture, which goes well with a vinaigrette and fresh tomato and basil. However, you can opt to saute the squash after baking it, for a bit more tender texture and further flavor development. 

Ingredients

  • one small spaghetti squash
  • one medium tomato
  • a few fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for baking
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • feta cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 350º

Cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Slather olive oil over the cut side of each half. Place on a cookie sheet, cut-side down. The steam that develops inside will cook the squash nicely. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer or fork penetrates the squash easily.

While squash in baking, dice your tomato. Combine olive oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust ratio and seasoning as desired. This is very forgiving. Add tomato and torn basil, and mix.

Using a fork, pull the strands of squash away from the shell. Gently fluff. Add tomato mixture to each half, as much as you like. The size of your spaghetti squash will dictate how much tomato you will use.

Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

For a bit of crunch and savoriness, add meatballs or rice balls. Click here for a recipe for delicious vegan veggie-rice balls.

Enjoy!

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Vegan Veggie-Rice Balls

If you deep fry it, they will come. In my house, this works for veggies every time. This dish is savory, complex, and does not feel vegan. You may want to make a double batch as they disappear quickly!

Basically, this is a compilation of leftovers and staples, deep fried in coconut oil. I like coconut oil for deep-frying because the Omega 6 content in it is trace, keeping our fats balanced. And, it tastes great! However, this is not the place for expensive organic tastes-like-liquid-coconut oil. This is where I use the cheap, mild tasting stuff.

Sundried tomatoes bring so much flavor to this dish. They are a staple in my fridge. They make these rice balls addictive. Throwing in nutritional yeast, if you have it, will add nutty, cheesy flavor, PLUS b12. In fact, this dish is packed with both nutrition and flavor.

Tip: This is more prep work than cooking. You can actually prep the batter in advance, then fry up these delicious beauties a few minutes whenever you are ready to eat them.

Vegan Veggie-Rice Balls

Make flax eggs in advance. They need about an hour in the fridge to set up. They are SO EASY to make. Click here for details.

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Using a food processor or a sharp chef’s knife, grind (or pulverize) walnuts into flour. Stop processing before it turns into nut butter. A coarse grind will work fine. No need to get too precious. Set aside.

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Squeeze excess water from spinach, holding it over a strainer, so you do not lose any. Set aside. Dice and prep all your ingredients.

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Into a skillet, place carrots with just enough water to cover.

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Add celery. Cook on medium high until carrots are tender and water cooks out.

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Add garlic, onion, and nutmeg (I just grate a little), and saute for a minute, just to wake the flavors. The aroma filling your home should be making you very happy right about now.

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Put all ingredients into a bowl, including sundried tomatoes YUM! and nutritional, if you are using it. Nutritional yeast adds a nutty, cheesy taste do is sooooo good, plus vitamin B12.

Salt and pepper, and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired.

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Using a portion scoop, or your hands, scoop and roll into little balls. I like a 1/2 to 3/4 oz scoop. Place uncooked ball/portions onto a cookie sheet.

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Into a small pot, heat coconut oil to medium heat, with just enough oil to cover veggie rice balls about half way. Do not get the your oil too hot. Gentle place a few veggie rice balls into the heated oil, without overcrowding the pot. When they brown, gently turn then over and brown the other side. Place on a rack (on a cookie sheet) to drain.

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Serve these as-is, with a sauce, or on pasta or spaghetti squash… any way you like!

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Vegan Veggie Rice Balls

To make this even easier and quicker, make your batter in advance. Then, when you are ready to eat, you only need to deep fry. This makes for a delicious way to eat protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

Ingredients

  • 2 flax eggs (1 T ground flax seed, plus 3 T water, chilled and set)
  • 1/2 cup walnut flour (from about 3/4 cup whole walnuts)
  • 1 cup cooked (or leftover) rice
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup carrot, diced very small
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced (abut 1 t)
  • 2 green onion stems, finely diced
  • a dash of nutmeg (just grate in a little)
  • 2 T sundried tomatoes (in oil), diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • optional: 1-2 t n. yeast
  • coconut oil, for frying

Method

Make flax eggs in advance. They need about an hour in the fridge to set up. They are SO EASY to make. Click here for details.

Using a food processor or a sharp chef’s knife, grind (or pulverize) walnuts into flour. Stop processing before it turns into nut butter. A coarse grind will work fine. No need to get too precious. Set aside.

Squeeze excess water from spinach, holding it over a strainer, so you do not lose any. Set aside.

Into a skillet, place carrots with just enough water to cover. Add celery. Cook on medium high until carrots are tender and water cooks out. Add garlic, onion, and nutmeg (I just grate a little), and saute for a minute, just to wake the flavors.

Put all ingredients into a bowl, including sundried tomatoes and nutritional yeast, if using. Salt and pepper, and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired.

Using a portion scoop, or your hands, scoop and roll into little balls. I like a 1/2 to 3/4 oz scoop. Place uncooked ball/portions onto a cookie sheet.

Into a small pot, heat coconut oil to medium heat, with just enough oil to cover veggie rice balls about half way. Do not get the your oil too hot. Gentle place a few veggie rice balls into the heated oil, without overcrowding the pot. When they brown, gently turn then over and brown the other side. Place on a rack (on a cookie sheet) to drain.

Serve immediately.

Click here for a recipe for baked spaghetti squash with tomato and basil.

Enjoy!

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