Manicotti (vegan)

I was really hesitant about going full vegan on this recipe for manicotti, which is a winter comfort food for us. Let’s face it, it’s hard to substitute something that has as its main ingredient ooey gooey goodness with “feeze”. (All substitutes in our house now begin with F, as in “fake”. Ficken. Feeb. Feeze. We haven’t figured out what to do with Fish, except to say it wrong: Feesh. This is my first try with Feggs too).

But gosh darnit, it’s Sunday and I feel like experimenting while listening to the same 12 Christmas carols on the radio. I mean just look at these ingredients, doesn’t that look like the makings of a fantastic Sunday supper?!

Many thanks to Cathryn’s Kitchen for her recipe inspiration. The main uniqueness of this version is the crepes, which make the entire dish a silky texture, and how I have typically made manicotti. The crepes are a bit tedious to make but open some wine while singing to classic Dean Martin carols and it’ll go fast.

I was more than pleasantly surprised by the creaminess of the “rinotta” filling that had a nice lightness to it.

I added some chopped sautéed vegan Italian sausage to about half and would experiment with other additions next time too. I am trying out recipes for our Italian Christmas Eve dinner and now that I have a good substitute for ricotta, a whole new repertoire opened up!

Feel free of course to use the real deals, but you too might be surprised by the vegan substitutes.

Manicotti (vegan)

Crepes

  • 1c flour
  • 2 “eggs”
  • 2/3c water (in addition to the water for the vegan eggs)

Blend all together and let sit for 30 min.

Filling

In the meantime, mix up the filling.

  • 16 oz medium firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 6 oz “mozzarella” cheese
  • 2 oz grated “parmesan”
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mix ingredients together (and add other fillings as desired, such as vegan sausage).
  • Make the crepes by heating 1 tsp olive oil over low heat. Add 3 tbsp of batter and spread using the back of the ladle. Cook about 1 min and flip to finish another minute or so until the entire crepe takes on a translucent quality.
  • Fill with 3 tbsp of filling and repeat (this made about 18 crepes).
  • I used jar spicy marinara for the sauce, putting just enough to cover the pan before layering crepes on top and covering with remaining sauce. Bake covered for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Finish with chopped fresh basil.
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    Tomato soup (vegan)

    Potpourri. Growing up that’s what mom called leftover night. I hated potpourri night. So now, beloved readers, I give you a potpourri post. A recipe, yes. But some other random food stuff since it’s been awhile.

    Let’s start with something cool. I am trying out a new Twin Cities startup, Local Crate. It’s a food delivery concept involving ingredients from local farms and artisans. It’s not dissimilar to why I originally started blogging–to inspire people to explore what’s grown near them. It’s been an interesting and time-saving experience to have a couple meals pretty much prepped. I made vegan tikka masala this week!!

    It doesn’t quite look like the picture but it tasted good. This is ideal for people who love to cook but hate planning and shopping.

    In other food news, Alec is discovering how good he had it eating at home. “Why don’t they make spaghetti and meatballs?” The thrill of a cafeteria offering perpetual ice cream sundaes has worn off. He says he’s losing weight especially now that swim season has kicked in. He has 5:30am practice 3x a week. We look forward to feeding him at Thanksgiving!

    Avery has really embraced the vegan diet. He’s even doing a biology research project on how plant protein impacts athlete performance. It’s the first time he’s gotten truly curious about molecular structure 😉

    He’s also learning how to make vegan snacks for late night studying (nachos being a favorite). Yea for adaptability and learning!

    Finally, here’s the recipe. This is so simple it shouldn’t really count, but sometimes simple is good for the soul. It snowed this week. Yes people. Snow. I am perpetually cold and it’s only October.

    Tomato soup

    • 4tbsp olive oil
    • 3 carrots, sliced into halfmoons
    • 3 stalks celery, sliced
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic minced
    • Celery leaves, fresh oregano and thymes stalks
    • 4c vegetable stock
    • 28oz can whole tomatoes
    • Salt, pepper, basil

    Simmer onion in oil until soft. Add celery, carrots and garlic and sauté another 3-5 minutes until onions are golden. Add tomatoes and vegetable stock. I added a few end pieces of the celery with leaves attached and some fresh oregano and thyme still attached to the stalk. This gave the flavor a bit more depth. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes. Remove the celery leaves and herb stalks (if you used them). Purée until smooth with hand blender, season to taste with salt pepper and basil (1/2 tsp is an estimate).

    Home cooking vegetarian meatloaf

    It’s week 2 with one less bird in the nest. We’re still getting used to it and I somehow expect Alec to walk through the door at any moment. Alas, he’s already enjoying college life, including the thrill of having so many food choices at any given moment.

    I am saving about $100 a week in groceries and figure Lake Forest is losing money on his meal plan 😉

    Avery is enjoying being an “only” child and not having to share the car with anyone.

    We look forward to seeing him at Thanksgiving and hearing all about he’s learning (History of Global Capitalism, anyone?)

    I figure the thrill of dorm food will have worn off by then and he’ll be grateful for anything cooked by Mom, including this vegetarian meatloaf. Maybe I will FedEx him some. I am sure his roommate would love it.

    Vegetarian meatloaf

    • 14oz vegetarian sausage
    • 10 oz vegetarian meat crumbles
    • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
    • 1/2 yellow onion diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
    • 1/4c fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2c panko breadcrumbs
    • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 3 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • Salt and pepper

    Sauté onion in 1 tsp olive oil until soft, 3-5 min. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook another 3-5 min. Add Worcestershire sauce, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix in meats, eggs, breadcrumbs and combine gently. Put into loaf pan. Combine tomato sauce and brown sugar, cover meat in glaze. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.

    I can’t believe it’s meatless Bolognese (vegan)

    So the thing about change is that it requires flexibility and curiosity. Changing how you eat after 20+ years is kind of a big deal. You really have to think and act differently. As in, be mindful about food rather than fall into autopilot. It’s hard.

    We started the boys early on trying new foods and basically expected them to eat like adults from very early on. If they didn’t like something, fine. But they had to try it. Multiple times.

    So the vegan thing is just taking that to another realm. Mostly it requires ME to change. I have to adjust favorite recipes, find new ones and shop differently. Mostly it’s fun and I am enjoying experimenting.

    We try some things and add them to the buy again list–like cashewyogurt–and others–like tempeh bacon–will need to grow on us. But every week I have tried something new, a new product or a new technique.

    There are an incredible number of fantastic plant-based products out there. Avery is never going back to regular milk from his barista smooth Almondmilk. (And no this isn’t paid product promo).

    This vegan bolognese was a wild success. “Mom, you can make this every week!” And the best part is that it doesn’t take 3 hours of simmering (plant protein doesn’t break down the same way animal protein does).

    There are a couple of secret ingredients in this–wine and cinnamon. Plus it’s important to cook the mirepoix before adding the meat, then garlic and herbs, then tomato paste. (If your sauce sometimes tastes bitter it’s probably from uncooked tomato paste. It only needs a minute or so but removes the sharp bite).

    Oh, and the only reason to make bolognese in July is a state swim meet: Go Aquajets, Power of the team!

    Bolognese sauce (vegan)

    • 1/2 diced onion
    • 1 carrot chopped
    • 1 celery stalk diced
    • 4 garlic cloves chopped
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 package ground meatless crumbles
    • 14oz veggie sausage
    • 6 oz can tomato paste
    • 15oz can tomato sauce
    • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
    • 3 tbsp dried oregano
    • 2 tbsp dried basil
    • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 cup red wine
    • 1 cup veggie broth
    • Salt and pepper

    Sauté veggies in olive oil until soft. Add “meats” and brown. Getting a nice crust adds depth of flavor. Add garlic sauté 1 min. Add tomato paste and herbs, cook 1 min. Add diced tomatoes, sauce, bay leaf, cinnamon, red wine and veggie broth. Season with salt as it simmers about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Serve over pasta.

    Emotional eating

    There’s a time and place for emotional eating. This weekend is one of them. It’s mid-April, and we’ve already taken our winter vacation. I thought it would be downhill after our return. Silly me.

    It has snowed 15″ in the last 48 hours. And it’s not done yet. This is definitely stretching my optimism skills, as hockey season is almost done (go Wild!) and baseball is underway (go Twins!) But Avery will be lucky to be practicing and playing outside by the end of the month, roughly half of the HS baseball season. He’s not happy.

    By Saturday night I was pretty squirrelly after being stuck inside so long. So I did what I do when my emotions run wild, I cooked. I made chocolate chip cookies and opened a bottle of wine. Fully admit this is emotional eating. And not vegan. Real Irish salted butter made these the best cookies I have ever made (keep it in the fridge for splurges and this definitely qualifies).

    When the plows finally came through this morning and Matt had collapsed from shoveling the driveway (spring snow is heavy!), I ventured out to the grocery store to re-stock. And do some more emotional cooking.

    We’re having favorites this week –made egg salad for Matty, bought lunch meat for the boys, spaghetti and “meat”balls, roasting a bunch of vegs and making ramen for me, which starts with an awesome garlic vegetable broth. All comfort foods that definitely have meaning for each of us. Is it so wrong to attach emotions to food and use it to perk up oneself from time to time?!

    The cooking process itself calms me down. I came out of my rage as the broth simmered, realizing how few “snow days” we have left as a family. That we were all safe and snuggled in wearing pajamas for 2 days straight, gathered round the kitchen laughing and making the best out of it (binge watch recommendation = The Looming Tower on Hulu).

    And it’s helping me make my case that our winters (Nov to May) should be spent elsewhere…just 2 more to get through! My suggestion to sell the house and buy a boat to sail the Caribbean is looking a lot less “crackpot”….

    Garlic miso broth

    • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 8 cups water
    • 2 stalks celery (with leaves)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 head garlic, halved
    • 2 scallions
    • 1 bunch fresh herbs, parsley or cilantro
    • Miso individual soup packet (optional)

    Sauté smashed garlic in olive oil over low heat until brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic head, water, celery, scallions, bay leaf, herbs and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and add miso packet, salt and pepper as desired. A great base for ramen or any veg soup.

    Roasted butternut squash rosemary lasagna

    When I crave lasagna, I generally don’t think vegan–getting rid of the meat is the easy part, it’s all that cheese holding the layers together that’s hard to replicate. And I haven’t yet found a really good nondairy cheese that both melts well and holds up in the oven in a dish like lasagna (suggestions welcome!)

    So when my sister served this lasagna at a recent family celebration, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s based on this butternut squash garlic lasagna recipe.

    I fully admit that I did not go all vegan on this, but used real parmesan. I would have liked to try again with nondairy parm before posting this, but probably won’t get a chance before we’re done with winter roasting weather here in Minnesota.

    That’s good news, it means that I am looking forward to roasting corn outside on the grill…soon!

    Roasted butternut squash rosemary lasagna (almost vegan)

    • 12 par-cooked lasagna sheets
    • 1 Butternut squash, cubed (buy the precut cubes if you can, about 6-8 cups)
    • Olive oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 4 cups nondairy milk (I used unsweetened coconut)
    • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
    • 4 tbsp nondairy butter
    • 1 cup nondairy creamer (I used unsweetened almond milk)
    • 4 tbsp flour
    • 4 oz parmesan
    • Salt

    Toss squash cubes in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, depending on how big you cut your cubes and how “roasted” you like your vegs.

    Bring milk to a simmer and steep rosemary for at least an hour. Remove sprig.

    Sauté garlic in “butter” 30 seconds, add flour and stir until the roux is browned, about 3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk mixture and cook until sauce is creamy about 10 minutes. Add squash. I really smashed my cubes into the cream sauce since I wanted a smooth consistency. Depending on how roasted your cubes are this may require a bit of elbow grease 😉 I liked the extra depth of the well roasted squash. Season with salt and pepper.

    Layer lasagna by putting 1/4 of sauce on bottom of pan, top with 3 noodles, sprinkle with cheese and repeat 3 more times with the top layer as noodles. (I used more layers than the original recipe, which made it have a bit more structure.)

    Pour cream over top and remaining parmesan (this too is a change from the original recipe as the “whipping” of almond milk will result in a giant mess but try if you insist 😉).

    Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes until noodles are soft. Cool before cutting.

    Chipotle chili (vegan)

    One of the reasons I started doing the blog is to force myself to write stuff down. And actually measure. Ummm, yah, not so great at either of those things. I’m a little vague on exactly how much of what that I put into this chili. It’s the first time I have made it and just grabbed what I had on hand.

    Wouldn’t you know it, this was fantastic. A nice smoky heat and good heartiness. I should try harder, and take pictures of the steps. Then I wouldn’t have this problem. But that sounds like a lot of work. Almost as much work as actually measuring and then actually writing it down. This is why I am a “cook” and not a baker. Too hard.

    I think I will just call my stuff “recipes”. As in good enough. If you test this and find the amounts in odd proportion, you’re probably right 😉

    Chipotle chili

    • 3 garlic cloves chopped
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2 chipotles plus 1 tbsp adobo sauce, chopped
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 c diced bell peppers (yellow, orange, red)
    • 4c vegetable stock
    • 28oz can diced tomatoes
    • 1/2c quick cook barley
    • 1 can pinto beans
    • Salt

    Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chipotles/adobo and peppers and sauté another 2 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes, bring to simmer and add barley. Simmer on low about 20 minutes and add beans, cook 5 minutes more. Season to taste.