Vegan Baked Spaghetti Squash Colossus

Baked Spaghetti Squash Collossus 08222014We have quite the garden this summer. Being badly neglected seems to be a boon for the spaghetti squash. They seem to love the inattention, and have taken off. As they are home-grown, organically tended and planted, and not store bought GMO-lians, they are smaller than the major melon-shapes one finds in a grocery store. As such, they only feed two hungry mouths (three if you wanted to get technical), and are great for last-minute dinner planning.

No wishing to load up on the sodium, I planned to avoid one of my mainstays of last-minute stuffed squashes: soy sauce. I used the very flavourful and less salty Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead, and added a splash of Chilean Merlot that was left over from a guest dinner. This dish was a last-minute, stressful week’s end answer to my growling belly. It includes some cheats that are not on the healthier end of the spectrum. Something’s gotta give, eh?

It all came together in a mountain of mouth-tingling goodness. I cannot wait to make more!

Ingredients:

1 smallish spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, lightly oiled on the cut side with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1 t extra virgin olive oil for the veggies

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

½ large red onion, sliced into thing half medallions

½ large red bell pepper, thinly sliced

6 large button or crimini mushrooms, sliced medium-thick

5 slices of vegan bologna, sliced into strips and separated

1T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

¼ cup Chilean Merlot (or any equivalent)

½ t smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat. Place the squash cut side down and bake for 45-50 minutes. This recipe works whether or not the spaghetti effect is perfectly realized, or it just bakes like a mushy squash. Mine turned out mushy and slightly strand-like for this incarnation. When they are ready (test with your fork), crack some black pepper onto the flesh, and don’t worry about pulling it apart from the rind. This will be done as you eat the dish later.

Meanwhile, prepare the veggies.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet on medium.

Place all of the veggies into the pan and cook until beginning to soften.

Add the bologna.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, and pour in the Bragg’s and wine, stirring as it reduces and thickens a bit. Add the smoked paprika and a few shakes of pepper.

Pour an even amount onto the peppered squash halves.

Optional: shake nutritional yeast flakes on top

Baked Spaghetti Squash Collossus 08222014 afterMm!!!

Vegan Cheezy No Cashew Kale Chips

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Avoid spending huge amounts of money (though worth it for a healthy and iron-packed alternative to other snacks out there) with this homemade version. For roughly the cost of one typical bag of vegan kale chips, I made 5. I have grown to love kale this way, and even throw these on salads. Take a bag to the movies for a much healthier, but out-of-this world yummy crunchy muncher!

Cheezy No Cashew Kale Chips

1 bunch of organic curly kale, washed, torn from stem into bite-sized pieces, spun in a salad spinner
1.5-2 T expeller pressed olive oil
1/2 t of Himalayan salt or sea salt
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 t smoked paprika
1/8 t mustard powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper

2 cookie sheets
Silicone baking liners or parchment paper
Very large ziplock bag or bowl with a lid for shaking

You can customize this in many ways. The first 4 ingredients are a must as they are the basic Cheezy kale chip holy grail. Also, I highly recommend silicone baking liners as you won’t really have to flip the kale.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Prepare your cookie sheets and liners.
Place all ingredients into your “shaker” of choice, and shake for a good minute.
Place half the batch on each cookie sheet, spreading evenly out over the lining.

Bake for 20 minutes on centre rack.
Check to ensure none have burned (if they have, your pieces may be too small, the cookie sheets too close to the element, or you may have a hotter than usual oven).
Rotate pans and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove any finished chips. If you have pieces that are still moist or bendy, place them back in the oven for an additional 7-10 minutes.

Turn out into a bowl or plate lined with a paper towel to cool.

Store for up to a week (they won’t last that long) in an airtight bag or container, with a fresh, folded paper towel or napkin.

Serves 4

Sriracha version:

First 4 ingredients above except use 1.5 T of the oil (as Sriracha has oil also)
1 t Sriracha
1 T orange juice

Same process! Amazing flavour!

These are addictive!

Experiment to your heart’s desire.

*Pictured at the top, Sriracha version. Below is the original version. Both were equally off-the-charts yummy.

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Aw zukey zukey now … Zucchini and Butter Bean Special

Last summer, we had what my wife calls “Zucchini Growers Lament” as we watched our beds of zucchini shower us with a bounty fit for a village.

She took boxes of it into the city, and we still froze roughly 50 pounds of it sliced, shredded, and more.

This year, I zoomed past the zucchini seeds, ready for patipans, delicata, cucuzze, and spaghetti squashes. We will be eating our frozen zukes until next year’s planting (of zukes, as we LOVE them).

Here is tonight’s throw-together for your dining pleasure. It goes well with our homemade limoncello. You can skip the booze if you like.

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Zucchini and Butter Bean Special

1-2 large zucchini, sliced thick

4 medium cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped

2 cups of green beans, frozen or fresh, cut

3 T water

¼ t ground pepper

½ t sea salt

1 t turmeric

1 t dried basil

1 t lemon juice

¼ cup white wine (anything that you’d drink)

1 t fresh or freeze-dried dill

1 can of butter beans (or 1 2/3 cup cooked if from dry)

Optional: 1 more t lemon juice

 

Serves 4

 

Directions:

In a nonstick skillet, on medium heat, heat the water, onions, and garlic until beginning to boil. Saute until onions become translucent, adding water if the mixture becomes dry (you want to avoid sticking or browning).

Add zucchini and salt, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes, checking to make sure nothing sticks, and there is still enough water in the pan.

Add pepper, turmeric, basil, and lemon juice. Stir well, and continue to cook covered for another 5 minutes, checking water levels. If your zucchini are frozen fresh like ours, there will be lots of water. It’s no problem, and makes for a nice broth for steaming.

Add the green beans, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add the wine. Let reduce until the liquid is around ½ cup.

Add the butter beans and gently stir, reducing the heat to low-medium, uncovered, letting step for another 5 minutes to heat through.

Optional: add another t of lemon juice, gently stirring.

Add the dill and serve over rice, pasta, polenta, or on its own (which is what we did, with a nice steamed cauliflower on the side).

 

The limoncello was a wonderful addition, though I only handled 3 sips!

Mangia!

Freaky Freekeh Salad

I discovered this grain last year, when shopping at a natural foods store. My wife loves all things green and wheat. She took a shine to the name of this grain, leading me to place a box of it in her stocking at Christmas. We ate it as a warm dish in January, and noticed that it seemed to lend itself to cold salads in place of starchier, more processed couscous.  And so this dish was born.

As always, you can feel free to experiment with everything. I’m sure there are tons of similar recipes online. This is my new favourite grain. We have tons of lemon balm growing all over (and into) some of our flower beds. It’s a very healing addition to the diet.  We also have an amazing patch of chives and green onions in our beet bed out in the vegetable garden. Fresh and local and organic, yes! Chives are so easy to grow in a very small space. I encourage you to plant some yummy things for your own cooking.

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Freaky Freekeh Salad

145 g Freekeh (green wheat, sold by Casbah or in bulk bins in many international and co-operative groceries)

½ red bell pepper, chopped fine

2 small carrots, chopped fine

4 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2 T raw sunflower seeds

½ cup marinated artichoke slices

¼ cup sliced green olives

10-12 Lemon balm leaves, julienned (or fresh mint or parsley)

2 green onions, sliced

1 bunch chives, sliced

The dressing:

½ cup extra virgin cold pressed olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

1 T agave

1 T lemon juice

½ t ground mixed peppercorns

 

2 pinches Himalayan salt

Prepare the freekeh by boiling it with 1.5 cups of water, placing the berries and water together in a medium saucepan until just boiling. Turn the heat down to low, and place a tight lid on the pot. Let the freekeh simmer for 30 minutes, or until the water is well absorbed, and the grain is splitting. Set aside to cool (remove from heat so as not to burn the grain).

While the freekeh is cooking, prepare the salad ingredients, placing everything from the peppers through the green olives into a large bowl.

Once the freekeh is nearly room temperature, mix it into the large salad bowl, and add the lemon balm leaves, green onions, and chives. *I use herb scissors for my chives, as they cut very small slices uniformly and quickly. I use kitchen scissors to cut my green onions for the same reasons. You can cut it right over the bowl.

Prepare the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients to emulsify, and toss into the salad, tasting for desired flavor. Once you’ve given everything a good toss to incorporate, add the Himalayan salt.

Chill for at least 2-4 hours prior to serving.

Makes 6 servings. Stores well for up to 1 week, but is best the first 2-3 days after preparation.

Yum!

Vegan Refried Stirfried Scramble

This isn’t the prettiest dish on the platter, but it tasted like creamy, spicy heaven — so much so that I had to memorialize it here despite its pink and pasty appearance.

refriedstirfried may 24 2014

There it is, in all of its gloppy goodness. Here is the how and what:

Vegan Refried Stirfried Scramble

½ red onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 t extra virgin coconut oil

1 crown of broccoli, florets only, minimal stems

2 small yellow bell peppers, chopped

2 large crimini mushrooms, sliced

½ t turmeric

Pinch or more of cayenne pepper

1 cup organic refried pinto beans (no additives or salt)

2 T lime juice, divided

Several shakes of Cholula hot sauce

(you can easily substitute the veggies and seasonings, but this mix made us both foodgasmic)

In a non-stick skillet, heat the coconut oil on medium.

Add the onion and garlic, and saute until translucent.

Add in the rest of the veggies, turmeric, cayenne, and cover, watching for the broccoli to darken in colour.

Reduce via adding in 1 T of the lime juice.

Once the liquid is nearly gone, add in the beans, stirring well to heat through.

Remove from heat, stirring in the remaining T of lime juice, and Cholulua to taste.

Serves 2

Yum!!

Vegan Welsh Rarebit, eh, what’s up, Doc?

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The minute I made my last casserole, I began to think of ways to use the Cheezy Sauce. I adore Welsh Rarebit. I’m a cheese on toast kind of person, having enjoyed even Texas toast with Colby Longhorn Cheddar more times than I care to recall, for quick and gooey breakfasts before school.

I also love Chile con Queso. Every Friday night, my mother and I would hit up a Mexican restaurant for puffed tortillas slathered in the yummy, spicy, delicate cheese sauce.

I had the nickname of “little rat” growing up, as I was often discovered by my mother while snacking on one form of cheese or another.  I’m Italian. What can I say?

This dish, however, is purely Great Britain. Right down to the name, which is a play on the word, “rabbit”, it’s a fun, saucy, savoury little number.

I used a great Olive bread I found in a market here in the Valley, but the idea is a nice, thin toast, very crisp prior to starting the “saucing”.

The sauce comes from my alteration to a recent recipe found in a vegan cookbook and is as follows:

The Cheezy sauce:

1 T extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1/2 c whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3 c water at room temperature
1 t each of mustard powder, onion powder, smoked paprika
1/2 t sea salt
1 T fresh lemon juice

Make a roux in a large sauce pan with the oil, flour, and nutritional yeast by whisking over medium-low heat until blended.
Add the water and whisk until there are no lumps or caking in the bottom of the pan.
Raise heat to medium-high and continue whisking often until the mixture comes to a boil.
Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the sauce begins to thicken (it will quickly form a skin on top when not stirred).
Remove from heat.
Whisk in the remaining ingredients and set aside, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

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Prior to toasting and slathering.

Eat up, and get creative! Some folks even add grilled onions, mushrooms, olives, and tomatoes.

Yum.

Cheezy Zucchini and Mixed Garden Greens Casserole

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Living in the south as a kid, I recall many Sunday casseroles that were made while we played outside to stay cool in the pool or running through the water hose. Greens are a staple of southern cooking. Lots of pork grease and butter are staples as well. This is a very vegan and healthier (to a degree) way of recreating that flavour bomb.

I’ve included my go-to Cheezy sauce below. (Inspired by recent cookbook finds). 

*You can really use any combination of summer squashes. The same goes for the greens.

The Cheezy sauce (make ahead for less multitasking):

1 T extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1/2 c whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3 c water at room temperature
1 t each of mustard powder, onion powder, smoked paprika
1/2 t sea salt
1 T fresh lemon juice

Make a roux in a large sauce pan with the oil, flour, and nutritional yeast by whisking over medium-low heat until blended.
Add the water and whisk until there are no lumps or caking in the bottom of the pan.
Raise heat to medium-high and continue whisking often until the mixture comes to a boil.
Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the sauce begins to thicken (it will quickly form a skin on top when not stirred).
Remove from heat.
Whisk in the remaining ingredients and set aside, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

This sauce goes well with EVERYTHING. (Vegan Welsh rarebit coming up!)

Now for the casserole. Remember, any combination of summer squash and greens will work. I am using what we had in the freezer from last summer’s garden.

3 large zucchini, halved lengthwise, and sliced into 1-inch thick half-moons
2 bunches of chard, well cleaned, stems removed and chopped, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch beet greens, well cleaned, stems removed and discarded
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow sweet onion, sliced into thick half-moons
1 T extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1 T chili powder or Tony Chachere’s (don’t add extra salt if using Tony’s)
1/2 t sea salt (optional)
1 T dried Rosemary or thyme, or a mixture
1/4 c white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5 Boca breakfast sausages, sliced into thick chunks (better to use home-made seitan when not in a hurry as I was)

Topping:
1 c Cheezy sauce
1/2 c bread crumbs (or almond meal combined with 1/2 t garlic powder, 1 t lemon juice, and 1 T extra virgin cold pressed olive oil)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously coat a square casserole dish with vegan butter or oil.
Heat the olive oil on medium, adding the onions, garlic, chard stems, and zucchini once the oil is warm. Sautèe until the water releases from the squash.
Add spices, herbs, and/or sea salt.
Turn heat up to medium-high, and add the wine. Reduce for 2 minutes. Turn heat down to medium.
Add greens and sausages. Continue to sautèe until the sauce reduces and becomes dark, approximately 5 minutes. Your greens should be tender. If using collard greens, this process will take much longer, and you may wish to parboil them ahead of time.
Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. (You could use this time to make the Cheezy sauce if need be.)

Transfer mixture to casserole, top evenly with the Cheezy sauce, then top evenly with the breadcrumbs.

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes on middle rack, checking to ensure the topping isn’t browning too fast. Once the Cheezy sauce is bubbling, and the topping is browned, remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Best if served hot.

I hope you enjoyed this one! My wife had just given blood, and this iron/protein-packed punch went down nicely!