Vegan Penne with Green and White Cream-less Sauce

We've got another cold front hitting us here on the left coast, and it's left me craving something carb-y, creamy and warm for dinner. In the repertoire of vegan cuisine, there aren't many options to foot this bill, but I have a secret in my recipe arsenal. It's a hefty cream sauce that whips up in less time than it takes to boil pasta water, and I'm letting the secret out of the bag right now.

Check out how thick this sauce is (before adding spinach and pasta)!

Penne with Green and White Cream-less Sauce
Yield: 2 dinner servings

1/2 lb penne, cooked
2 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter sticks
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup plain unsweetened almond or other non-dairy milk
1 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
5-6 crimini mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
5 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley

In a small saucepan, melt margarine. Sprinkle in flour and stir with a whisk to combine. Cook over low heat until the mixture begins to pick up some color. Add all of the milk, salt, pepper, garlic and mushrooms. Stir to combine and increase heat to medium. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are cooked. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and continue to cook several more minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in spinach and parsley until thoroughly combined. Adjust salt to taste.

Toss sauce with cooked pasta and serve immediately. Top with a bit more fresh parsley and serve with a fresh green salad tossed with a spicy vinaigrette.


Drinking Like a Vegan

New Year's Eve is a'coming and FAST! It's a professional drinkers' holiday, right up there with Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day, for sure. If you're vegan or might be hosting a cocktail party with vegan attendees, you'll need to learn to drink like a vegan.

Non-vegan ingredients and by-products are frequently used in the production and refinement of various types of alcohol, including beer and liquor. These ingredients range from fish bladders (used in refining), insects used as coloring agents and pepsin, a foaming agent which is derived from pork. If you're interested in a full list of animal by-products used in beer and liquor production, just perform a quick little web search on your own because I'm not hear to gross everyone out!

I don't mean to make it sound as though all alcoholic beverages are tainted, because that's far from the truth. There are plenty of spirits out there for us vegans to imbibe, and they're not as difficult to discern as one might think. Although beverage companies are still not required to label their products with this type of information, lots of folks have already worked long and hard to gather and publish the details on your behalf. All you need to do is cross-reference your favorite drinks against one of these lists to determine its veg-drinkability.

Barnivore provides the most comprehensive list of specific brand names and their vegan-friendliness, but it's not the only one. Sharon Picone offers her list and Vegan Vanguard maintains a staggering list of beers and assesses their level of veg-friendliness.

if you're wondering about a product that isn't on one of these lists, let me know and I'll help you investigate!

Now that you've ID'd your vegan-friendly liquors, why not make some extra special infused vodka for your New Year's Eve party?


Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

Sick of baking cookies and cupcakes to contribute to potluck parties? Forget the oven! You can make tasty, attractive dessert treats using just your microwave and your freezer.

Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

1 pkg pretzel rods (Newman's Own Organics)
1-12oz pkg vegan dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup each of the toppings of your choice

For this batch, I used sliced almonds, instant coffee, rainbow sprinkles and crushed peppermint candies as toppings. Shredded coconut would be another great option, but we were out.

Prep your work station: Cover a large baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Place toppings on plates or in wide, shallow bowls. Sort your pretzel rods to make sure there are no broken ones in your way!

Place chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl and melt (1-2 minutes on 10% power should do it). After 1 minute, stir with a silicone spatula. If it looks like half the chips are melted, keep stirring until the rest of them are melted and smooth.

Dip the pretzel rods: Tilt your bowl of melted chocolate a bit and dip the pretzel rod at least 2 inches into the chocolate. Lift it out of the chocolate and give it a little shake to remove as much excess chocolate as possible. I use the side of the bowl to scrape off some of the chocolate as well.

Still holding the un-chocolated end of the pretzel rod, roll the chocolate part in the topping of your choice. I typically just go with one topping per pretzel rod, but feel free to mix it up and get creative!

Place the pretzel rod on your wax papered baking sheet. Repeat the process until you run out of pretzel rods or melted chocolate. This project might take a little while and if your chocolate seems to set up on you, just pop it back into the microwave for 30 seconds on 10% power and stir again.

When you're done, place the baking sheet in the freezer. It only takes about 15 minutes for these babies to set back up, and then they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or packaged in seasonal cello bags and shared with all your hungry friends!


Happy Holidays!


Vegan Hot and Sour Soup

When we get sick, especially with a stuffy head cold, we crave hot soup to soothe us. There's something magical about soup and its healing properties. It's true that it's mostly about the steam and simply getting hydrated, but when a particularly gnarly sinus cold gets you down, it's nice to curl up with a steamy bowl of soup that also acts as a decongestant. Enter: hot-and-sour soup!

Lee has been feeling the early symptoms of one of these colds for a few days now. He mentioned a craving for hot-and-sour soup but also noted that he had trouble finding a Chinese restaurant to get it from near his office. Because hot-and-sour soup is typically made with pork, I'd never had it before and quite frankly didn't even know what the other ingredients were. Nevertheless, I decided right then to whip up a batch of vegan hot-and-sour soup in an effort to ease the troubles of my sniffly partner. After a bit of research, I was able to veganize some traditional recipes and develop one that does the job!

Vegan Hot-and-Sour Soup

1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced thinly
2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
6-8oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb extra firm tofu, cut into 2 inch x 1/2 inch pieces
6oz bamboo shoots (drained, if canned)
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
2 Tbsp cup soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp minced or crushed garlic (fresh)
1-2 Tbsp red chili paste (or a wicked hot sauce like Sriracha)
pinch crushed red chili flakes
1 green onion, chopped finely

Heat oil in a medium stock pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery. Stir to coat with oil and cook until just beginning to get tender.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except the green onion) and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until veggies are cooked to your liking. Taste and add more hot stuff if you prefer. Garnish with green onion and dig in!


Vegan Eggplant & Quinoa Caviar

You all know how much I adore eggplant, so when I brought home half a dozen deep purple beauties last week, I was sure they'd all be gone by now. Boy, did I overestimate myself! So, in this morning's pantry assessment, I realized that I still had 4 large eggplants on hand and eggplants, like most good things, just don't last forever.

On Christmas Day this year, we have a lot of stops to make and they're all potlucks! I could have prepared several different dishes -- one for each gathering -- but since the only common denominator of the events if the two of us, and WE love eggplant, I decided to cheat instead. I'm just making one dish, in copious quantities, and bringing some of it to each party. Watch me!

Eggplant is really versatile, so there are lots of dishes I considered before making my decision. I could have cut it into long, thin slices and grilled it, and then wrapped it around steamed asparagus. I could have defrosted some puff pastry and made some delicious little eggplant-filled puffs. I also thought about cutting the eggplant into small rounds, roasting it, and building faux eggplant almesan (vegan parmesan-like stuff made from almonds) stacks on crostini.

All really good ideas, but there's also kind of a lot of elbow grease involved. Ultimately, I decided that I didn't want to make something that was individually portioned because I never know how many eaters are going to want to dig in! So, all things considered, I settled on eggplant caviar, also known as "poor man's caviar" which doesn't have anything to do with fish or fish eggs at all. It's called caviar because the eggplant seeds give it somewhat of a caviar-like look. I thought I'd up the ante on this imitation by adding cooked quinoa which, in my estimation, looks far more like fish eggs than any eggplant ever would on its own.

I made this recipe using 4 eggplants and that's a LOT of vegan caviar. For your convenience and so as not to scare you away from this recipe, I've halved the recipe so the yield is a very manageable 2-3 cups (depending on the size of your eggplant).

Roasted Eggplant & Quinoa Caviar
Yield: 2-3 cups or about 6-8 servings

2 eggplants
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in slivers
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Italian parsley
2 Tbsp chopped green olives
1 cup cooked quinoa

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Make 2 parallel slits about 1-inch long in the center of each slice. Drizzle 1 Tbsp oil in bottom of large baking sheet with sides. Place eggplant slices snugly in pan. Insert a garlic sliver into each slit. Drizzle remaining oil over all the slices and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes and then use a spatula to turn slices over. Roast an additional 10 minutes until quite tender.

Pile hot roasted eggplant in a deep bowl to steam. I like to cover them loosely with a kitchen towel to keep the heat in. Stir vinegar into empty baking pan while still warm and scrape up any brown bits and add to the bowl with the eggplant. Coarsely chop parsley and olives together. Add eggplant to your cutting board, reserving any juices in bowl. Chop very fine, return to bowl, and stir to blend.

Allow to stand for at least 1 hour before serving to let flavors blend. Taste and add vinegar, pepper, or salt as desired.

Now, you've made this fabulous dip-spread-type-substance and you're thinking, "Do I eat this with a spoon, or what?" Well, yes. You can eat it with a spoon. Your friends might laugh, though. Pita or tortilla chips is a perfect pairing but if you're cutting those carbs, it's also great with cut celery, carrots or leaves of baby spinach or basil.

And the best part (aside from the flavor)? You can make eggplant caviar up to 1 day ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator. Simply bring to room temperature before serving!


Meatless Monday #6: Solstice Edition!

The winter solstice has finally arrived and we're looking forward to seeing more daylight around here in the Pacific Northwest! For us, longer days mean more opportunities to play in the snow (or in our case, in the rain!) and

Lee, my dear omnivore who took the Meatless Monday pledge six weeks ago, is dining on leftovers today for lunch. We did a lot of cooking over the weekend, so Mondays are a great opportunity to clear out the fridge before we start cooking again for the week. We didn't plan it, but today's lunch turned out to be a celebration of the dark days of early winter and a great comforting meal to welcome the lengthening days!

Today's Lunch Menu includes:

  • Roasted Delicata squash accompanied by roasted golden beets (You can learn more about how to roast squashes of all varieties here)

  • Baked red potato

  • Mushroom-Barley Soup (See the recipe we posted here)


Vegan Benedict Redux

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Tofu Benny from Vegan Brunch. My dear omnivore and I just couldn't get enough of that amazing vegan Hollandaise sauce and over the weekend, an inspired vision came to us. In my mind's eye, I could see (and practically taste) a whole litany of uses for the sauce, but this one jumped out at me: a grilled cheese sandwich, taken on a road trip to California (a la tomato and avocado) and topped with Hollandaise sauce. Luckily, we had everything on hand to make it happen. Best of all, I got to use my George Foreman Jumbo Grill for the job!

California Grilled Cheese Benedict
Yield: 1 serving

2 pieces whole wheat or sprouted bread of your choice
1 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter sticks
4 thin slices soy or almond mozzarella
2-3 slices of tomato
liquid smoke
half an avocado, sliced
1/4 cup prepared vegan Hollandaise sauce (from Vegan Brunch)

Spread Earth Balance on one side of each piece of bread. Lay one piece, spread side down, on a hot grill or skillet. Pile on all the cheese, followed by the second piece of bread, spread side up. Grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is all melty.

While the sandwich is grilling, slice tomato and avocado. Use your finger to dab a little bit of liquid smoke on the tomato slices. I promise, you won't want to skip this step!

Remove from grill and allow to cool for about 2 minutes before cutting. I like to give mine two diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles, and doing this would also allow you to serve this as an appetizer or side dish if you so desired. Top with tomato and avocado, and then drizzle the Hollandaise sauce over the top. Eat with a fork, if you're demure, or with your fingers, if you're into getting messy.


Eggplant-Beet Fried Rice

This is a hearty, somewhat sweet dish that makes short work of leftovers and doesn't take much time to prepare. My favorite part of this dish? The whole point is to let it burn a little bit, so it fits in well with my tendency to forget that I'm cooking at all!

Eggplant-Beet Fried Rice
Yield: 2 main dish servings or 3-4 side dish servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
6-8 oz extra firm tofu, drained and chopped roughly into 1-1/2 inch cubes
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped roughly into 1-1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 lb golden beets, cut in bite size pieces
juice of 1 orange
5-6 fresh sage leaves, chopped finely
1 cup cooked rice (leftover from another dish, any type of rice will do)

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add tofu, eggplant, balsamic vinegar and salt. Stir to coat with oil and leave alone, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes. Once the bottoms have browned, use a wooden spatula to stir everything around, and then leave alone again, uncovered, for another 3-4 minutes. By now, the tofu should have picked up some nice brownish colors and the eggplant should be about halfway cooked.

Add beets and orange juice and stir thoroughly. Cover and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. Stir in sage leaves and rice, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Done!

* If you can't find golden beets, parsnips and/or turnips would make a good substitution
* Consider adding 1 cup frozen peas for a little extra color zing
* I like to eat this with a fork, but this recipe would also make a nice filling for a lettuce or tortilla wrap, or even stuffed into a bell pepper!


How to Cook Your Life

This evening, I had the pleasure of catching "How to Cook Your Life" on the Sundance Channel. It's a documentary made in 2007 about a zen priest/cookbook author who uses zen buddhism and cooking to relate to everyday life. This story appealed to me primarily because I believe there is something very zen about handling and preparing food. I've also studied buddhism on an academic and personal level, so my interest is always piqued when food and zen are combined.

Edward Espe Brown became the head cook at the Tassajara Mountain Centre in California when he was in his early 20s, and has been practicing the art of zen buddhism and cooking for more than 40 years since then. His cookbook, The Tassajara Bread Book, was originally published in 1970 and quickly became "the" book on bread baking.

The documentary is more about everyday life than it is about bread, although bread is certainly a part of the film. Filmmaker Doris Dörrie weaves interviews and footage of Brown to explain the guiding principles of zen buddhism as they apply to the preparation of food as well as life itself.

The film, divided in sixteen chapters, deals with the gamut of human emotional and circumstances, from 'anger' to 'sincerity.' In each, Brown recalls his early relationship with food, beginning when he first realized at age 10 that there was a difference between store-bought white bread and the homemade stuff. This documentary is great "food" for thought for any of you who might be interested in new ways of thinking about food.

You can watch a preview on the film's website or catch it on the Sundance Channel on Wednesday, December 16 or Sunday, December 20 (check your local listings or the Sundance Channel website for airtimes).


Quick Food Safety Alert

I'm concerned about food safety and our general food systems, so I subscribe to the RSS feed for FDA recalls so I can monitor food products that might be in my cupboards or that I might be feeding to my household critters. Most recalls go undetected by the general media and consumers, so I like to pass along the news when I read about something that may have an impact on my fellow vegan shoppers!

A recent recall of Simple Foods, Inc, products grabbed my attention. The issue at hand is that otherwise vegan items are found to contain milk, although they were not labeled as such. If you do have any of the impacted items in your possession, you can return them to the place of purchase for refund or contact Simple Foods directly via their website. However, if the package is unopened, I suggest you consider including them in your holiday gifts to non-vegan friends or even donating them to a neighborhood food bank.

Please note: This is NOT to be confused with Simple Food, Inc, another great source of vegan goodies!


Perfect Vegan Pizza Crust

Some weeks ago, Fridays officially became Pizza Night in our house. We got the idea from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is a must-read for any food and farm lover, or anyone with a hankering for simpler times that turn out not to be so simple after all.

Kingsolver's family moved to a farm and committed for a year to consume only home-grown and local foods. The book is packed with anecdotes about too many zucchinis, wild-harvesting morels and even coming to terms with slaughtering their own poultry. While I wasn't terribly interested in the poultry stories, what did interest me was their general approach to food. The family's passion for food shines through clearly in the book and it's a passion I not only adore but share.

Their weekly family menu was based on seasonal items, or on what they had put up in jars or dried or otherwise preserved from a previous season. However, to negotiate the busy-ness of daily routines, Friday was always pizza night. Kingsolver explains in the book that they made this decision so they would never have to think about what to make on Fridays. I liked the idea of that, and something about my Sicilian roots tells me implicitly that there is no such thing as too much homemade pizza, so I started making them. One week became two, then three, and then we decided: Friday night pizza dinners really work for us!

Many people think pizza dough is really difficult. I would say that finding a good recipe is the most difficult part -- or, at least, it was until now. I've tweaked and tested and reworked and finally arrived at THE quintessential absolutely perfect (and vegan!) pizza dough recipe that, like magic, comes out wonderfully golden brown and delicious every time. Finally, you too can have the perfect homemade pizza!

Perfect Vegan Pizza Crust

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup very warm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
additional 1 cup very warm water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (canola or olive)
2 Tbsp dried Italian herbs (totally optional)

In a large mixing bowl, sift your flour and make a well. Add first 1/2 cup warm water, yeast, sugar and salt. Don't skimp on the salt! With a wooden spoon, stir the well to dissolve yeast and don't fret if a little flour gets mixed in. It should look something like this:

Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes so the yeast can gobble up the sugar and become foamy. When it starts to resemble a heady beer, add the final cup of very warm water, oil and herbs (if using) and then mix everything with your wooden spoon until a very loose dough forms. It'll look kind of like play-dough:

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead. During this step, I typically end up incorporating an additional 1/4 cup or so of flour. If you started with nice fresh yeast and good organic flour, you won't need to knead forever. I usually spend between 3 and 5 minutes working the dough before placing it back in the mixing bowl and covering with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a not-too-cool location until its volume has doubled (about an hour). If you're making dough in the morning for your evening meal, it's perfectly okay to leave it resting for hours and hours. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just bonkers.

Return the dough to your work surface. Punch it down and knead again, about the same amount of time as the first round. Place back in the mixing bowl and let rest another hour. Or more. Again, it's totally fine to let it sit for hours at this stage without running into problems.

When you're ready to get dinner on the table, prep your toppings and set aside. Punch down and push out the dough and either roll it out or do what I do and imitate those fancy Italian pizza tossers! Well, okay, so I'm not really braving enough to toss it just yet. But, the best way to work pizza dough IS with your hands. By holding your fists up in front of you like some kind of Punch & Judy doll, you can slowly work the dough around and around, stretching at the edges and occasionally hanging the dough from one hand and letting its weight do the work. To illustrate what the heck I'm talking about, check out this great video on pizza dough.

Now, here's the secret. You can assemble your pizza on a pizza peel and then slide it onto a baking stone, but I like to cheat. I cover a baking sheet in foil and spray it with a little olive oil and stretch the dough out to fit the baking sheet. Pile on the sauce and toppings, and bake at 450°F for about 12 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack or butcher block cutting board for a few minutes before cutting. I prefer a large curved blade knife over a round pizza cutter, because I think the heavier blade allows for more accuracy and easier slicing.

As you can see, this method yields a thick, doughy pizza crust. That's exactly how we like it, but perhaps you prefer a thinner crust. No problem! Using the same recipe, punch down and divide your dough in two equal pieces. Wrap one half tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for later use. Using the remaining half, stretch out the dough until it covers the baking sheet. Add your toppings and bake using the same instructions to achieve that thin, crispy crust that so many of you seek.

Now, I have one more super secret (ok, not really) tip for those of you who share your household with a non-vegan. Making separate pizzas is a no brainer with this recipe. After the second rise, punch down the dough and divide it in half. Stretch out the pieces separately, but place them together on the same baking sheet. This is how we handle pizza night in our vegan-omnivore relationship and it works beautifully. As long as you pinch up the edges of each pizza, you'll have no problems with the toppings intermingling and your vegan goods will be safe and sound.

Perfect vegan pizza dough! Who would have thought it would be so easy?? Once you've tried it, I'm sure you'll be dying to make Fridays pizza night in your house as well.


Peruvian Purple Potatoes

Purple potatoes. Purple! I know, what's next?!

These Peruvian babies were grown just 20 miles down the road on an organic farm. But these colored spuds are ancient, man. Like, WAY back. It's said that these purple potatoes can be traced back to Andean ancestries. So, why did it take so long for them to show up in American farms and on our plates?

People are funny about the color of their food. If something doesn't meet their visual expectations, it can have a psychological impact on the flavor. The folks over at The Kitchn even created a color chart to illustrate the impact each color might have on one's dining experience. Others, like Debra Zellner, professor of psychology at Shippenburg University of Pennsylvania, say that food of the "wrong" color is often disliked because it doesn't meet the psychological expectations of the eater.

Since most of us grew up with plain ol' white potatoes and the year-end season's orangey sweet potatoes, it's easy to see why a purple potato might cause a little ruckus at dinnertime in an American household. But, thanks to pink butter from Parkay and green ketchup from Heinz, today's kids might be a little more willing to try a vegetable of a different color. (Although, it should be noted that neither of those products is still in production.)

Some fancy schmancy restaurants like Opaque in California are toying with this notion by blind-folding their patrons and serving them in a pitch-black room. Servers wear night-vision gear and diners aren't even clued in to the menu. The sense of sight is completely removed from the equation.

That's one way to experiment with visual expectations. Another, I say, is to get ahold of some organic purple potatoes (or rainbow carrots) and chow down! Don't be afraid to try something new, even if it looks a little strange.


Meatless Monday #4: Mushroom-Barley Soup... in a crock pot!

Life got away from us last week, with extra hours at work and some household chores that just wouldn't let up. The weather has turned bitter cold here in Western Washington, and we haven't seen temps in the 40s for several days now. The winds have also picked up considerably, and they whip through our neighborhood especially fast because we are at the top of a hill very close to Puget Sound.

What this means for our dinner plates is soup, soup, soup! We love all things hot, savory, earthy and comforting during a cold snap like this, so the weekend was full of them. Perhaps our greatest weekend achievement was also the simplest (which is precisely why it is so great!) and the recipe made enough to provide leftovers for Lee's lunch on his 4th Meatless Monday!

Last week, I picked up a copy of The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker by Michelle A. Rivera. at the library. It's a cookbook full of main dishes, soups and desserts that are all 100% vegan, super simple to prepare and make, and delicious. In it, we found one slam-dunk recipe that will definitely be repeated on a weekly basis throughout this winter: Mushroom-Barley Soup.

This great winter soup features pearl barley, which is a good vegan source of iron and fiber. It also helps to create thickness and texture to the broth that just can't be achieved any other way. Once cooked, the barley is soft and just slightly chewy. I've always thought barley was the perfect grain to pair with mushrooms since they compliment each other so nicely without competing.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that Lee and I both LOVE mushrooms. We could eat them every day in every dish and never tire of them. If you feel even remotely as strongly about mushrooms as we do, you'll love this soup!

Mushroom-Barley Soup
Adapted from The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker
Yield: About 4 servings

2 cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1-1/2 pounds fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup pearled barley, uncooked
1 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp grilled chicken seasoning (I used Trader Joe's 21 Season Salute)
1 tsp dark mushroom soy sauce per serving, to finish

Combine all ingredients except the soy sauce in a crock pot (slow cooker). Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Ladle into a bowl and spoon soy sauce on top. Serve with a nice crusty baguette to mop up every last drop!


Meatless Monday: Kale-Butternut Squash Soup & Flatbread BBQ Tofu Pizza

Welcome to Week 3 of my dear omnivore Lee's pledge to go meatless on Mondays! Yes, yes, I realize that today is Tuesday, but if your Mondays are anything like mine, you'll understand that it's difficult to get things done on Mondays! So, I'm here on Tuesday to share with you the meatless dishes that Lee ate on Monday.

Lunch Menu

Lunch, as it often is, was leftovers from Sunday's dinner. I made kale-butternut squash soup in our slow cooker using no particular recipe. Soups and stews are perfect lazy day meals in that way. You can't go wrong starting with a little olive oil, some onions and garlic, carrots and celery. Add a few main veggies of your choice -- in this case, one chopped butternut squash and about half a pound of chopped kale and chard -- and add liquid. For this soup, I used mostly water but added a few cups of vegetable broth and about 1/2 cup soy sauce as well. Season to taste, cook til done, and eat for a week!

[caption id="attachment_271" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kale-Butternut Squash Soup"][/caption]

Dinner Menu

We whipped up this simple pizza for Lee using store-bought flatbread, barbecue sauce, mushrooms, tofu, cheese and little else. Flatbread pizza is a great go-to for a light dinner or even a party appetizer when you don't have a lot of time or ingredients in the fridge. Any style of flatbread, even naan, will work using this method.

[caption id="attachment_270" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Flatbread BBQ Tofu Pizza"][/caption]

Flatbread Pizza

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Spray or brush top of flatbread lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp granulated garlic.
3. Place directly on center-positioned oven rack and bake for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Thicker flatbreads, some naan, and foccocia bread may take up to 7 minutes.
4. Prep your toppings while the bread is toasting. For this pizza, I sliced several crimini mushrooms, coated diced firm tofu in BBQ sauce, and shredded some cheese (goat cheddar in his case, soy mozzarella in mine).
5. Remove toasted bread from oven and place on a cookie sheet. Brush with BBQ sauce (about 1-2Tbsp per pizza, just enough for a thin coating) and pile on the toppings.
6. Return to the oven for 3-4 minutes. It's done when the cheese is melty and the crust is brown-not-burned. It's done when you say it's done! Allow to cool a few minutes before slicing and devour!

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