Rosemary roasted red pepper pasta (vegan)

Thanksgiving is one of those days when people have their expectations–of the food and the rituals like football, drawing names for Xmas gifts, the favorite nap spot, etc.

It’s best not to mess with tradition. But maybe add a new one?

I thought about what we might make for vegan options to bring to my in-laws, who would be preparing the usual turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and cranberries. It would be mostly for Av and me, but I didn’t want it to feel like we were being rude by eating an entirely different meal.

Hmmmm. Mac and cheese seemed like a good option. Many families have that as part of Thanksgiving but we never have. I liked not having a comparison to hold against it.

If I have learned anything about cooking vegan it’s better to play to the strengths of the ingredients rather than making a “fake” version of the original. Cheese (“feeze”) is definitely one of our least favorite vegan options. The texture isn’t quite right.

So I looked up some recipes and found a roasted red pepper pasta made with cashews. I made a few adjustments based on the butternut squash lasagna I make, including steeping rosemary in the almond milk, and toasting it in with the cashews to bring out some of the oils.

I ended up adding lemon juice and some crushed red pepper flakes to brighten up the sauce. This was the first time I had used nutritional yeast powder and I like the depth it added. I baked this, but it could also be eaten immediately.

Alec ended up eating a large bowl later Thanksgiving night…with Sriracha. He’s grateful for the break from college dorm food. 😊

Rosemary roasted red pepper pasta

  • 2 lbs elbow macaroni
  • 3c unsweetened almond milk
  • 12oz whole raw cashews
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 12 oz roasted red peppers (about 3 large if you roast them yourself)
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp Crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Panko breadcrumbs

Bring the almond milk to a simmer and add one rosemary sprig. Turn off heat and let steep for an hour. Remove as much of the rosemary as possible (it’s ok if a few leaves remain).

Toast cashews in sauté pan with remaining rosemary sprig. Crush rosemary to bring out oils. Let sit while preparing pasta and sauce.

Cook pasta, drain and drizzle with olive oil. Sauté onion in oil until soft, add garlic and cook another 2 min. Add roasted red peppers, continue cooking briefly until heated through. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and nutritional yeast.

To bring sauce together, purée cashews in food processor (remove rosemary). Add red pepper mixture and process until smooth. Slowly add almond milk.

Pour sauce over noodles. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with panko breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

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A year of opportunity

Just before the holidays we made some food changes in our house. We’d stumbled across a Netflix documentary “What the Health” and for the first time in 20+ years of marriage, Matt wanted a significant change too. I guess perhaps it was an early resolution.

We’re eating a plant-based diet. This is a big deal for him because he loves meat and milk. So we needed to quickly find some new options that he would enjoy. (Technically we’re not fully vegan, but vegetarian and dairy-free** with some exceptions. The boys are still eating some meat but we’ve completely cutout things like lunch meat).

It’s actually been fun to reimagine our food and explore new things. We’ve discovered we both love Indian food (although I have yet to try cooking anything and just prefer buying ready-made or takeout).

We know which veggie burgers we like, and the meatless meatballs are actually better (it’s a texture thing). He loves the chorizo “sausages”. The tofu lunchmeat options were the only failure, but substituting hummus and veggies or good old PB&J is just fine. Lots of avocados too! I got an avocado saver kitchen gadget for Christmas that makes me smile.

This week we’re testing out dairy alternatives. We’d already been using almond or coconut milk in smoothies and now it’s completely replaced dairy. The vegan mozzarella and cheddar are decent and perfectly fine as an accent. I like the tofu sour cream too.

But mostly we’re just not using cheese anymore. Honestly dairy was easy for me to give up and has made the biggest impact on how I feel. He’s noticing that a cup of tea is a better night time routine than a glass of milk and an easy way to cut calories. I have been trying a new tea each week to encourage (orange blossom from Teavana is a favorite).

Which got me to thinking about “diets” and New Years resolutions and why the stats say most people don’t stick with it past January. If I focus on all of the things I am giving up, it’s a whole lot harder and it frankly feels like punishing myself. The word diet itself just sounds negative.

Instead, focusing on the upsides–like using my insatiable curiosity to try new things and experiment as a tool to help us, and rewarding us with lots of things we love like splurging on fresh juices (strawberry lemonade!) and fruits, which I realize are being shipped in from somewhere much warmer, is a compromise I’m willing to make. The “goal” is about feeling healthier and having more energy, not trying to “stick with” sacrifices. That’s surely an eventual failure.

Speaking of compromise… going completely vegan is not in the cards for us. Making some modifications–like eggs and butter, and all of the things that they get used in–is one example. Sushi is another one that I just can’t give up, but have as a treat periodically.

As is splurging for special events. We had pastry treats for Christmas Eve breakfast and dessert from Rose Street Patisserie, and roasted whole rainbow trout with a garlic-mustard breadcrumb mix, which was fantastic! I appreciated every bite.

Everything in balance. I’m looking forward to more exploring in 2018 including maybe taking an Indian cooking class…Happy New Year!

Crazy for carrot souffle

It’s November now, which means the holidays will quickly be here. As I say most years, “This is the year I’m going to be more organized and get everything done early.” Yeah. I really mean that.

But truly what that takes on the food side of things is trying out a few recipes well in advance. This is one that is a standing request at our friends-of-the-family holiday celebration because it appeals to young and old. It travels extremely well too, so it can be served at room temperature or reheated (microwave if necessary). **Recipe credit to Cooking Light magazine**

Carrot souffle

  • 2 lbs carrots
  • 2/3c sugar
  • 1/4c low fat sour cream
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2tbsp butter, melted
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

Boil carrots until soft, about 15 min. Drain. Place carrots in food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Pour into a baking dish coated in cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

The best way to tell if it’s done is to jiggle the pan — the middle should stay firm. NOTE: While this puffs up some, it is not a true “souffle” in its lightness or presentation. But still good, and still healthy!

Shown here with parmesan chicken and garlic butter noodles.

Photo Oct 20, 6 34 29 PM