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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stuffed Shells with Carrot "Cheese" Sauce

Because... more pasta!

I'm in a rut.  All of my "original" recipe ideas lately revolve around pasta.  Why?  There are so many other options!  Actually, this recipe came from the need to use up a package of tofu that was purchased a few weeks ago but forgotten about.  So really, I was brain-storming tofu recipes, and happened to decide on a pasta dish.  It is what it is.

So I made a tofu ricotta to stuff into pasta shells.  I thought the tofu was missing something, but The Dave (my official taste-tester) decided that this dish was totally blog-worthy.  I was actually much more impressed with the sauce.  I didn't want to go with a traditional tomato sauce, but wasn't quite sure what to do instead.  What happened was a white bean/carrot cheesy-tasting sauce that was out of this world!  I may play around with this recipe again, in an attempt to make a stellar- yet healthy- mac n cheese dish.

I'm not gonna lie- I dirtied a lot of dishes for this.  But it was awfully tasty and worth the messy kitchen, I promise.  But, as a side-note, I had way too many shells.  The box that the pasta came in is long gone- maybe it was a pound?  Anyway, I didn't need that many, nor did I have room for them all in the baking dish.  So maybe look for a smaller box of pasta?  Or only cook half for this recipe.  Sorry I don't have a better answer for that.  You can figure it out.  I have faith.

1 box large pasta shells
Tofu ricotta:
14 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 lb carrots cooked
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Set aside for a bit.
Cook pasta according to directions on package.  **If you haven't already cooked the carrots, you can steam them over the pasta.  That's what I did. 
In a large mixing bowl, crumble the pressed tofu.  Add the basil, vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to mix well.
In a blender or food processor, toss in beans, carrots, veg broth, nutritional yeast, olive oil, cornstarch, and salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth.
When pasta is done, drain and arrange in baking dish.  Stuff shells with tofu mixture.  Pour sauce over everything, covering every shell.  Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Potato and "Sausage" Stuffed Peppers with Country Gravy

Because it was just so freaking awesome!!!

This post will be brief, but totally worth it.  I'm exhausted, I still have homework to do, and I have a long day ahead of me.  But this little pepper number I threw together over the weekend was just too good to keep to myself!

This is a breakfast/brunch recipe, but I suppose you could eat this any time.  I created it specifically for this month's contest held by Better Recipes, and boy am I glad I did!  The recipe could win one of two ways: judge's choice or reader's choice.  So if any of you have the hankering to hop over to the contest site and vote for this beauty, here's the link.

If you do go check out the recipe on that site, please don't judge me for hiding the fact that I used vegan ingredients when making it.  While their contests are legit and it's a very user-friendly website, Better Recipes is far from being a vegan (or very vegan-friendly) site, and I think that non-vegans are intimidated by vegan recipes (even though mine are super easy!) and therefore tend to avoid them.  So, in order to increase my chances of winning, I don't mention the fact that I used Lightlife sausage, Earth Balance butter, or Silk unsweetened almond milk.  But I did use those things, I promise!!!

So, take-home points of this post: I haven't gone mad and begun eating animal products again; I hope you'll vote for this recipe (every day until the end of the month would be just lovely); from now on, peppers should always be stuffed with sausage and potatoes; and everything should be smothered in this gravy.  Seriously.  I'll probably make a new biscuits and gravy recipe from this in the very near future.  Stay tuned!

 1 lb ground veggie sausage**
2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb diced potatoes
1/4 tsp paprika
6 large bell peppers (go for a variety of colors to make it extra pretty!)

Country gravy:
2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 cups non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper

 Pre-heat oven to 350.
In a large frying pan, brown sausage over medium high heat until cooked through.  Remove sausage from pan and cover to keep warm.
**I used Lightlife sausage, which browns up nicely but has a flavor that is a little "off."  So, in an effort to make it taste more sausage-y, I added about a Tbsp of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning while it was browning.  I would definitely recommend adding these if you use this brand.  It really made the "sausage" zing.
In the same pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute for 5 min.  Add potatoes and stir in paprika.  Cook for 10 min until potatoes are starting to get soft but not mushy.  Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the tops of the peppers to create lids.  Remove the seeds and ribs from the inside of the pepper.  Stuff each pepper with sausage and potato mixture and top with the pepper "lid".  Arrange stuffed peppers in a baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake for 35 min, until peppers are soft.
While the peppers are cooking, make the gravy.  In a medium sauce pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour, paprika, and garlic until well combined.  Slowly whisk in milk, starting with one cup and adding more milk, one Tbsp at a time, until you reach desired consistency.  Allow the gravy to bubble and thicken, stirring constantly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
When peppers are done, top with gravy and serve hot.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pasta with Creamy Cashew Sauce

Because I'm sick of doing homework.

Blog post is late... I've been really busy... blah blah blah.  I'm not gonna lie- school is kicking my butt this semester!  I'm actually taking a break from writing a paper to write this blog right now [just kidding! I haven't started that paper yet].  I'm going to try to make this post so super awesome deliciously cool that you will forgive me for not posting it last week and also not hold it against me that I likely will not have time to write a post next week since I have a major interview weekend/social event/ grad school thing that's way exciting but will eat up the majority of my free time, not to mention that my sister's baby shower is Sunday (!) and I will be driving home for that and I'm super pumped about it even though I still haven't had a chance to make that thing I was going to make and I'm supposed to make sandwiches but I don't know if I'll have time but if I don't make anything then there won't be anything for me to eat so I'll have to come up with something and I'm sure that I will, I'm just trying to plan ahead. 

Yep, I need more social interaction.

Soooo.... Moving on.  Here's another version of my cashew sauce that I found to be pretty fantastic and super easy to make.  I need to stop making pasta so often, but let's get serious- it's quick and easy, you can change it up any way you like, and it's always a crowd pleaser!  (Even if the "crowd" is just the bf and I.)  The cashew sauce here is very similar to this one, I only changed up the seasonings and omitted the olive oil.  But it's still awesome.  A note about the seasonings: I used herbs de Provence, a blend of savory, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and oregano for a little different flavor than what I normally go with.  I really like this combination of spices but if you don't feel like going out and buying the blend, then you could just throw in a dash of each of those things I just listed (provided you have such things on hand), OR you could just throw in any spice you prefer.  Seriously.  This cream sauce is a blank canvas.  Decorate it with your spices any way you please!

OK, so also,I totally forgot to take a picture of the food when it was done.  So after I scarfed down my first bowl, I filled another bowl with pasta and hastily snapped a pic.  It doesn't look great but you get the point.

1 1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked*
1/3 cup white cooking wine
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
3 Tbsp cornstarch
12 oz pasta of choice
2 cups diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cups chopped carrots
1 large red bell pepper, diced

*To soak the cashews:  Place cashews in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with water.  Nuke for about 2 minutes and let sit while you collect the rest of the sauce ingredients.
In a high-speed blender or food processor, toss in the cooking wine, vegetable broth, herbs de Provence, and cornstarch.  Drain the cashews and toss those in as well.  Blend on high speed 5 minutes or more, until the cashews are well pureed.  Let that hang out for a sec.
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the directions on the box.
In a large saute pan or sauce pan (you're going to want the sides to be tall enough so the sauce doesn't splash out), cook the onions and garlic on medium high heat for about 2 min, adding a little water if they start to stick to the pan.  Throw in the carrots and peppers and cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the carrots just start to soften.  Pulse the sauce in the blender once or twice and then pour it into the pan with the veggies.  **The sauce is going to thicken up quickly and is prone to burning to the bottom of the pan, so make sure that you're stirring constantly.**  Turn the heat up just a smidge until the sauce is bubbling and starts to thicken.  While still stirring constantly, turn the heat back down to medium-ish and let the veggies simmer in the sauce for 5-7 minutes.
When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to its rightful pot.  Add the saucy veggies and stir to completely coat the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.