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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    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.

    Late summer veggie orzo salad

    I have always loved the challenge format cooking shows, where competitors get a basket of miscellaneous stuff and have to quickly make something fantastic.

    Our house is sometimes like this when we are nearing the end of the week and due for a grocery shop. I love the challenge of figuring out how to pull something together and the thrill of when it’s actually good.

    This pasta salad could be made with a variety of things, substituting what you have on hand (different veggies, shape pasta, lemon for lime). I will say that adding a green of any kind is a nice change of pace and certainly adds some nutrients.

    It also helps to have adventurous eaters (or just really hungry ones) to try out the experiments! 😉

    Late summer veggies orzo salad

    • 12 oz orzo
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 1/3c olive oil
    • Zucchini, sliced lengthwise in quarters
    • Yellow squash, sliced lengthwise in quarters
    • 2 ears corn
    • 2 large handfuls mixed greens, arugula or spinach

    Cook orzo and rinse. Mix together dressing of lime juice, olive oil, dijon and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Toss orzo to coat. Add in greens. It helps if the pasta is slightly warm to just wilt them. Grill zucchini, squash and corn for 10 minutes. Chop squash and slice kernels off of the cob (let it cool first!) Add to salad and toss to combine.

    A goat cheese or vegan goat cheese/chevre is a nice touch of tangy too.

    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.

    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.

    Indonesian noodles (farm share recipes)


    These few weeks of summer are my favorite time of year here in Minnesota. Sunny, warm, time on the lake and fresh vegs! We are members in a CSA farm share and I love the weekly offerings, it has taught me a lot about what is truly “local” and the challenges of modern, sustainable farming.

    When I saw the unique shape of the cabbage, I knew I needed to make something to showcase it. You’d never find something this “odd” on a grocery store shelf!

    Indonesian noodles

    • 1lb fettucini 
    • 1lb protein (sliced sirloin is my boys’ preference, but shrimp and tofu work great)
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 2 cloves chopped garlic
    • 3 carrots shredded, or use matchsticks precut about 1/2c
    • 1 green cabbage, shredded (or sub in coleslaw mix for cabbage/carrots)
    • 3 green onions, chopped
    • 1/3c soy sauce
    • 4 tbsp veg oil, divided
    • 4 stalks celery, chopped

    While noodles cook, saute protein in 2 tbsp oil. Remove to bowl. Heat  remaining oil and add onion, celery and carrots, cook 3-5 min until just browning. Add garlic and cabbage, cook another 3-5 min. (If you use the coleslaw mix, just give the onions and celery a headstart before adding it). Add noodles and protein to veg mixture, toss in soy sauce and top with green onions. 

    Food ritual: Spaghetti & Meatballs

      
    I was reading about the importance of rituals in our lives. The comfort that comes from familiar, from routines. Our family has many, but the one that brings me the most joy is Spaghetti & Meatballs. 

    It’s not the result of Italian heritage (we’re a mix of stuff, mostly Scandinavian), but is the result of a twofold ritual–carb loading pre-swim meets and birthdays. 

    Last week was a birthday for Alec, who’s now 17! I didn’t even need to ask him what he wanted for dinner. As I made it, I took more care than usual to pay attention to measurements so I could post the recipe with some accuracy. Normally I just wing it because it’s like being on autopilot. Happy, comforting. The eating part is great, but the prep ritual is soul restoration for me! Enjoy!

    Meatballs

    • 1lb ground beef 
    • 1 lb ground pork
    • 2 slices white bread, crumbled
    • 3 tbsp milk
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1/4c parsley chopped
    • 2 tsp thyme
    • 2 tsp kosher salt
    • 2 sp Ground pepper
    • 1/2c grated parmesan cheese
    • 2 eggs, beaten

    Soak bread in milk–it should be moist but not drenched. Saute onion and garlic over low heat in butter until just starting to caramelize, about 10 min. Add herbs and seasonings to onion mixture and remove from heat. This helps the tasty stuff distribute evenly when you mix it into the meat. Squeeze excess milk from bread. Add it to beef and pork, mix along with onion mixture and cheese until just blended, mix in egg to bind. Roll into generous balls. Place on broiler pan lined with tinfoil, bake at 500 degrees for 5 min. Keep meatballs in oven, but lower temp to 350 and cook another 20 min. 

    Sauce

    • 2 28oz cans whole Italian plum tomatoes
    • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 8 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp dried basil
    • 2 lbs spaghetti

    Boil water for pasta. Heat olive oil, add garlic, saute 30 sec, add crushed red pepper and salt, then tomatoes. Add basil. Simmer 10 min while pasta cooks. Blend to desired smoothness either with hand blender or in food processor (the boys tolerate “chunks” now that they’re older). You can also simmer meatballs in sauce for extra richness. This tomato sauce is more tart than sweet like most jarred sauces and along with thyme in the meatballs makes it distinctively ours. Of course these portions mean leftovers, which seem to disappear without anyone fessing up to secret eating.