Original Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n’Cheese

Pasta is a well-known vice of mine, and macaroni and cheese was a particular comfort food for me growing up. Because dairy just does not agree with me and no dish is worth the stomach pains, I had to find another way to enjoy this childhood favorite. I’ve come across many of these recipes using butternut squash, but I like to play around until I come up with my idea of perfection. The sauce is creamy, cheezy, and satisfying, (with a “z” to distinguish from ACTUAL cheese), and truly is the ultimate comfort food. We had a bout of extremely cold, windy, wintry weather this weekend, and I made this Friday night in a desperate attempt to warm my bones. It worked! I think you’ll find it quite effective too.

Also, this recipe is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. I add some of this into my hubby’s “real” mac n’ cheese — it allows me to use less butter and milk and therefore cuts the fat significantly. He doesn’t seem to notice 😉

This recipe takes a little preparation, so I recommend making the cashew cheeze ahead of time. (I pretty much always have a batch made — it’s so versatile!) Otherwise it takes less then 30 minutes to prepare. So, without further ado:

Butternut Squash Penne & Cheeze

Serves 3-4 (depending on who you’re feeding — I have a 16-year-old son, so this only feeds the two of us!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • 1 cup cashew cheeze (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the butternut squash one of two ways.

1) Quick prep – fill a casserole dish with about 1 inch of water. Slice the butternut squash and place the halves face down in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap (BPA free) and microwave for 10-15 minutes until pierced easily with a knife.

2) If you’re not pressed for time, preheat oven to 400. Cut squash in half and brush with olive oil. Place face down on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until pierced easily with a knife. (I prefer this method simply because roasting brings out some great flavor from the squash!)

Cook pasta while squash is cooking, as per usual pasta-boiling directions.

Cashew Cheeze:

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (boiled for 10 minutes)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Scoop cooked squash out of the skin and into the food processor. Blend until it looks like this:

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Your cheeze sauce is ready. When pasta is done cooking and has been drained, dump it back into the pot and pour the cheeze sauce over the top. Stir well to combine, season to taste, and serve immediately. Served with steamed broccoli or other favorite green veggie.

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Dig in!!

Peace, love, and veggies,

Jean

 

 

 

Greek style calzones with tofu “feta”: Original recipe

I was really craving calzones last weekend, so I made these for my (non-vegan, non-vegetarian) husband and me. It was a totally improvised recipe but it came out really good!

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The final, delicious product!

Ingredients:

1 ball pre-made pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s brand). Obviously you can make your own crust if desired.
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms, sauteed with garlic
1/2 cup hummus
1/4 cup mixed Greek olives
Tofu “feta” (see below)

To make tofu feta:
Take half of a block of extra firm organic tofu, and squeeze dry (the best way to do this is to layer it between several paper towels, place it on a cutting board, and put a heavy book or frying pan on top for a few minutes). Crumble into a bowl. Add 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp Greek seasoning (or a mix of oregano, garlic, marjoram, and sea salt), and 1 tsp black pepper. Combine well and set aside.

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Preheat oven to 375. Roll out pizza dough into a circle about 10″ wide. Cut dough in half. Spread hummus on each. Fill one side of each calzone with half of the tofu and half of the vegetable mixture, like so:

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Fold the empty half of the dough over the filling and seal the edges with your fingers. Using a wide spatula, carefully transfer the calzones onto a pizza stone. Bake for about 10 minutes, then flip calzone over (this is why they need to be well sealed!) and bake another 5 minutes. Brush tops with olive oil and bake 5 additional minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Enjoy!!

Spinach enchiladas with spicy corn – original recipe

This is one of my favorite recipes to make, and since I made it tonight, I decided I needed to post it already! Mexican food was always a vice of mine, so I’ve had to find ways to eat it often without facing serious weight gain. Quesadillas, enchiladas, and even taco salads can be loaded with fat and calories, thanks to the cheese and/or fried tortillas. The solution: make it myself and veganize it! These are very easy to make, and go well with a variety of sides.

They got a little messy this time around, but I assure you they tasted amazing!

They got a little messy this time around, but I assure you they tasted amazing!

Makes 8 enchiladas

For the enchiladas:

1 small onion, chopped
2 lbs baby spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 corn tortillas
1 can red enchilada sauce
1/2 cup Daiya, any flavor (or other dairy-free cheese)
1/4 cup cashew cheese, optional* (see below)

For the corn:
2 cups frozen or fresh sweet corn
1 tsp vegan butter or olive oil
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Pinch of sea salt

*1 hour before beginning preparation, boil raw cashews in water for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let soak as long as possible until needed. May also soak overnight in the fridge in an airtight container.
To make cashew cheese: Combine soaked and drained cashews in a food processor with 1/4 cup water, 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, and a pinch of sea salt. Process until smooth. Set aside.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Saute onions and garlic with a small amount of olive oil. When translucent, add cumin and chili powder and stir to coat. Slowly add in spinach, cooking until wilted. Drain off any remaining water and keep warm. Spray a large skillet and a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick spray. Lightly fry tortillas on both sides until slightly crispy. Pour enchilada sauce into a bowl and stir in nutmeg. One at a time, dip tortillas in enchilada sauce and place in the baking dish. Place some of the spinach mixture in the center and top with Daiya and cashew cheese. Roll up, and repeat this process until all are done. Spoon any remaining enchilada sauce on top, and sprinkle some more Daiya for good measure. Pop ’em in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, melt vegan butter over medium in a small saucepan. Stir in cumin, then add corn and cayenne and stir to coat. Heat 5 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Serve meal with sliced avocado.
Other great side dishes include pinto or black beans, Mexican-style brown rice, or diced potatoes.

A more attractive attempt, when I made served with pinto beans with tomatoes and Mexican-style brown rice.

A previous, more attractive attempt, served with pinto beans with tomatoes and Mexican-style brown rice.

Roasted Vegetables = Maximum Versatility!

Roasting is probably my favorite way to prepare vegetables. It brings out a whole new level of flavor that you can’t achieve from any other cooking method. There are some vegetables, in fact, that I will ONLY eat roasted (brussels sprouts, for example). Yeah, it makes that much of a difference. In addition to the deliciousness factor, roasting carries two additional benefits: 1) You can roast just about any veggie, so it’s a great way to “clean out the fridge,” and 2) there is so much you can do with the veggies afterward! Plus, it’s pretty easy once you get everything sliced and diced; all you have to do is stir them ever so often.

Last week, I harvested piles of squash, ichiban eggplant (you know, the beautifully deep purple slender ones), and onions. They were sitting there looking so lonely, so I decided to slice them all up and pop them into the oven. I preheated the oven to 350. Meanwhile, I placed all the veggies in a gallon-size Ziploc baggie. At this point I added several whole cloves of garlic, because roasted garlic is AMAZING and takes on this exquisite sweetness. I then added 2 Tbsp of olive oil (this time I used my tuscan herb-infused one) and some sea salt and pepper. I then sealed the baggie and moved it around with my fingers to get the olive oil all over the veggies. After spreading them onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, into the oven they went! It’s best to stir them about every 15-20 minutes. Depending on the vegetables, they may take up to an hour to roast, so plan accordingly! Everything was sliced very thin, so cooking time was only about 40 minutes here. 

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The finished product

I let them cool since I wasn’t using them right away, and put them in a large container for storage. 

 

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The possibilities here are pretty much endless. You can use them to make wraps, like this one I made for lunch the next day:

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Flatout flax wrap with spinach and cashew cheese added. An easy and delicious Saturday lunch!

 

Or, you can make a really easy quinoa bowl:

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Veggies were reheated in a pan with some chickpeas and nutritional yeast while the quinoa cooked.

Other ideas:

  • Serve with your favorite pasta
  • Make PIZZA! 
  • Add cubed tofu and cashews and serve over brown rice
  • Tasty curry
  • Omelets, if you eat eggs
  • Fajitas

There is probably lots more that I’m not thinking of. Now go get in the kitchen, roast up those suckers, and get creative!