pasta

VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE


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VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE

Like most kids mine adore pasta. Whenever I cook some for dinner I get pretty much no complaints and empty plates. It may not be very popular in today’s age of carb hating world but I have not issue with pasta as long as there are loads of veggies and some protein (nuts in this case) on the same plate too. This comforting bake can be assembled ahead and baked just before dinner. Ideal for a Monday evening when still reminiscing of the weekend.

For the topping I made a cashew sauce with some vegan cheese on top, totally delicious. I don’t use vegan cheese very often, it is not the most natural ingredient but once in a while there is a place for it. The topping can be made without the vegan cheese; just add 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes to the sauce and perhaps even make double the amount of the cashew sauce.

The tomato sauce can be also made purely with roasted tomatoes, in that case just use double the amount of tomatoes you are going to roast and omit the tinned ones. To further bulk up the dish add some roasted vegetables; peppers, courgettes, aubergines are my favourite. White beans or chickpeas would fit in here quite well too. If I wasn’t cooking for my daughter I would add some red chilli flakes to the bake too. But there is always hot sauce for those who need it :)


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VEGAN ROASTED TOMATO PASTA BAKE
Serves 4-5

10 medium tomatoes
12 cherry tomatoes
60 ml (1/4cup) water or 2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tin tomatoes
400g pasta (macaroni) - regular or gluten free
Cheese topping:
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min or longer)
1/2 water
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
vegan cheese grated (if not using vegan cheese add 2 tbs nutritional flakes into the cashew sauce mix)

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  • Cut the larger tomatoes in half, leave the cherry tomatoes whole. Place into a roasting tin, the larger ones cut size up.
  • Roast in 200C for about half hour or till the edges start to caramelise. Blend in a blender till smooth.
  • In a sauce pan heat 60ml (1/4cup) water or 2 tsp of olive oil, add the onions and garlic and saute till softened.
  • Add the tomato puree, saute for 1 minute. Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer for 10 min. Next add the blended roasted tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste
  • In the meantime cook the pasta.
  • In a blender blend the cashews, water, mustard and lemon juice till smooth.
  • Mix to pasta with sauce, pour into a baking dish. Spread the cashew sauce over and sprinkle with the vegan cheese.


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SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE

SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE

Lasagne the ultimate comfort food, it’s right up there with mashed potatoes. The classic dish is loaded with cheese and white sauce made of butter and milk. Yep not so good for you, the planet and the animals…

This lasagne was made on my daughter’s request. She wanted something with the spinach “cheese” layer. It’s her favourite way to eat spinach (other than raw in a salad). When my girl says make me something with a vegetable I do jump (it doesn’t happen often).

I used dry lasagne sheets (egg free), no need to cook them. The only cooking required is making the sauce (or you can always buy a couple jars of a good tomato sauce I like Seeds of Change range) and wilting the spinach. Rest is done by whizzing things up and baking it in the oven. Great “make ahead” dish and will feed 8. It does satisfy a doubting omnivore too. My mom-in-law was a happy diner indeed.

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SPINACH TOFU “RICOTTA” LASAGNE
Serves 8

ingredients
tomato sauce
1Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 tins of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 -1tsp sugar (optional; depends on the flavour of the tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste

spinach tofu ricotta
300g baby spinach
1 package Cauldron Tofu (396g, just under 1lb)
2 tsp yellow miso
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
juice of half a small lemon
2 tbs nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

silken tofu cheese sauce
1 package silken tofu
1/2 (70g) cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min)
1 tsp yellow miso
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 garlic powder
2 Tbs nutrition yeast
1/2 juice of half a small lemon
1/4 -1/2 (60-120ml) of water
salt and pepper to taste

12 lasagne sheets
large deep baking dish

method
  • 1. First make the sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in 1 tbs of olive oil till softened. Add the oregano, tomatoes and water. Add sugar, salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for half an hour.
  • To make the spinach layer wilt the washed spinach in a sauté pan and drain throughly.
  • In a food processor combine the spinach tofu ricotta ingredients and pulse till combine but not completely smooth. Set aside.
  • Put all the “cheese” sauce ingredients with 1/4cup (60ml) of the water in a blender (high speed works best) or a food processor. Process till you get a very thick sauce (Greek yoghurt consistency) add more water if needed.
  • To assemble lasagne spread few tablespoon over the bottom. Layer 3 sheets of lasagne, 1/3 of spinach mixture, 1/3 of sauce, lasagne and repeat. You last layer should be lasagne sheets. Pour your silken tofu sauce over the top.
  • Bake at 180C for 40minutes of until the top is golden brown and lasagne tender (test with a knife)
  • Let sit for about 10minutes before serving.

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ROASTED TOMATO MAC AND “CHEEZE”

ROASTED TOMATO MAC AND “CHEEZE”

Last night I watched a 3 part BBC documentary titled Cherry Healey:Old Before My Time.
Cherry Healy explored the effects of alcohol, drugs and obesity on young people’s health. What surprised me the most was the totally carefree attitude of the “20 something” generation towards potentially life threatening consequences of “having a good time”. When confronting the ravers (high on ketamines and other drugs) or the way over the alcohol limit party goers Cherry got the same answer : I will worry about it later, now we are having fun.

Can we afford this kind of attitude? Seeing the pain of the parents who lost their children to drugs (not a regular user) or alcohol was heartbreaking. So was seeing a woman in her 30’s looking 9months pregnant due to the fluid accumulation caused by liver failure. Or a young man who had to have his bladder rebuilt (due to drug use) and is now left with the unsightly task of draining mucus from it every couple of weeks. The pain of the young mother who couldn’t look after her children due to her alcohol addiction. Another young mother on more medications than a pensioner having to have her stomach reduced to an egg size in a potentially dangerous surgery. This was a last attempt to reverse her obesity and hopefully need for all the medication but mainly give her children their mother back.

This documentary series should be shown in schools, before kids embark on these health and life damaging habits. I want my kids to see it, partly to scare them but mainly to educate them. Educations is the most powerful weapon we have. The good news that largely we have our health in our own hands. It is time we realise it. Young bodies are resilient but certainly not invincible.

If you haven’t seen it worth watching on BBC catch up.

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ROASTED TOMATO MAC AND “CHEEZE”
This is yet another version of the family favourite mac and cheeze, usually I make it with butternut squash blended into the sauce, but I had none. Therefore I came up with this version. Kids were rather happy, eating seconds ( and thirds).

Serves 4

ingredients
4 medium tomatoes
400g (just under a pound) macaroni or other tube shaped pasta
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup non dairy milk
1 cup water
1/2 tsp dried garlic
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp corn flour (corn starch)
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of peas (frozen are fine)
3 spring onions, finely chopped
basil to garnish (optional)


thick and creamy
roast-tom-mac&cheeeze-3

method
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with a aluminium foil or other non-stick paper. Cut the tomatoes in half and roast in the oven for 30min.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  3. Next place the rest of the ingredients (apart from peas and spring onions) together with the roasted tomatoes (you can remove the skins) and any tomato juices left in the bottom of the roasting pan into a blender. Blend till smooth. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Place the pasta, sauce, peas and spring onions into a large pan. Heat till the sauce starts to bubble and thickens.
  5. Serve immediately with some fresh green salad and some steamed veggies.

Before being heated and thickened
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SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNE

The weather is slowly starting to turn, we even had to put the heating on in the mornings, it has been rather cold in the morning. Walking the dog today I had to brace myself against a very icy wind. No, I am not complaining, I am looking forward to cooking comfort foods. Vegan mac and cheese, bean goulash, curries and chillies, soups and of course lasagne.


swiss-chard-lasagna

My Swiss chard lasagne serves 6 people generously and has a fraction of the traditional lasagne calories and fat. There is no traditional white sauce (butter, flour, milk), no cheese, no meaty sauce. You may ask whats left? Delicious tomato sauce, ”meaty” mushrooms, ricotta like Swiss chard and tofu layer. And to top it off my “cheese” cashew and tofu sauce with a sprinkling of pine nuts. You can make this dish totally oil free or if you wish you can use 1-2 Tbs of oil. I am giving the option in the recipe. I used 1 tbs to saute the mushrooms but my tomato sauce was made without any oil.

I have also used whole wheat lasagne noodles. I didn’t cook them first but decided to let the lasagne stand for about a hour before baking it. The key to soft noodles is to make sure the tomato sauce is not too thick, I have also used the mushroom liquid that leeched out during cooking, I spooned some over each mushroom layer. Apart from moistening the noodles it adds extra mushroom flavour to the dish.

This is a perfect recipe to get the kids involved in. My daughter enjoyed making the Swiss chard layer and layering the actual lasagne. I will admit the end result didn’t look as neat as I would have liked but there are times I have to let go of being a control freak in my kitchen. Rough edges or not it tasted great.


SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA
Serves 6

ingredients
500g (1lb3oz) chestnut (brown) mushrooms, sliced
1tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
12 whole meal dried lasagne sheets
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 Tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
tomato sauce
1 tbs rapeseed oil (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1tsp oregano
125ml (1/2 cup) water

Swiss chard tofu layer
400-440g (1lb) Swiss chard
300 (10oz) g firm tofu
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp garlic
1 Tbs nutrition yeast
salt to taste

“cheese” sauce
100g (3 1/2 oz) tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashews
125ml (1/2cup) water
1 tsp each dried garlic and onion powder
salt to taste



swiss-chard-layerchardlasagna

method

  1. First make your tomato sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat about 60ml (1/4) cup of water or 1 Tbs rapeseed oil. Cook the onion and garlic till softened. Next add the tomato puree, cook for a minute.
  2. Next add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20-30minutes.
  3. Make the Swiss chard layer. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly, than roughly chop it. Put all the chard into a large pot with a lid and cook till wilted. This should take just a few minutes. You don’t need to add any extra water as there should be enough residual water from washing the chard.
  4. When the Swiss chard has wilted, tip it into a large colander. Using the back of a large spoon squeeze out as much of the liquid from the chard as you can.
  5. Put the chard and all the rest of the ingredients for the Swiss chard layer into a food processor. Process till well combined and has a texture of ricotta cheese. Set aside.
  6. Next cook the mushrooms. Heat 60ml(1/4 cup) water or 1 Tbs rapeseed oil in a large frying pan. Cook the mushrooms till softened, about 5-8minutes.
  7. To make the "cheese"sauce put all the “cheese” sauces into a blender and process till smooth. Set aside.
  8. Now assemble the lasagne.Use a baking dish that is large enough to fit 3 lasagne noodles side by side (I have to snip off the corners of the lasagne noodles to fit them in snuggly). Start with 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Lay 3 lasagne noodles on top of the sauce. Next spread 1/3 of the Swiss chard mixture, 1/3 of mushrooms and another 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Continue with the noodles and rest of the layer until everything is used up. The last layer should be lasagne noodles.
  9. Top the lasagne with the “cheese” sauce and sprinkle pine nuts on the top.
  10. Bake in 180C oven for 40min. Let sit for about 10min before serving this will make it easier to serve the lasagne.

Ready for the oven
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DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

DON’T BUTTER ME UP! / HEARTY PASTA

Last week you couldn’t escape articles claiming that butter is better for your heart than margarine. “Eat butter, avoid margarine” was one of the titles staring at me from my computer screen.

What do I think? I will not dispute that butter can be handled better by our bodies than margarines that contain trans fats(the ultimate bad boy among fats). The study, that the articles are based on, was done using safflower oil or margarine which was substituted for butter in the intervention group of men who have previously suffered heart attacks. The other group kept on carrying cheerfully with butter. The non butter group were asked to reduce their saturated fats to less than 10% of energy intake, and increase their polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) to about 15%. If my maths skills are right we are talking about 25% of energy from fat. I am sure some other fatty acids would make their way into their diet too, monounsaturated and hopefully some omega 3, taking their total fat intake even higher.

This takes me to what I learnt from my fat/fatty acid lecture last weekend. We all know that are recommended daily fat intake is 30% of our energy intake. Are these numbers really health promoting? In the 70s experts have analysed the fat intake of Japanese and Chinese people, who had
very low incidence of heart disease. The average intake came to some 14% of calories from fat (no butter or safflower margarine either). Now this number would have been too much to ask from the Western population that was eating over 40% of calories from fat. Therefore 30% was seen as an achievable goal.

Do you see where I am going? The men in the study above were still eating too much dietary fat. The fat in the intervention group was largely omega 6 fat. It is widely accepted that the imbalance (omega 6 too high) between omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids leads to inflammation that further leads to many chronic diseases. Drs Ornish, Esselstyn and Fuhrman all have incredible results in treating heart disease, they are routinely slowing the progression and even reversing heart disease. And believe me it is not through diets high in butter. On Dr Esselstyn diet, no oils are used ( no fats, not even nuts and avocados), Dr Furhman, says no to oil too, he will let you have 1 Tbs of oil provided your diet is otherwise up to his very strict standards and you are in good health. No oil therefore if you do have any heart problems. Dr Ornish, in his Medicare approved plan, looks at improving the ratios of the omega 6/3 fats, his recommendation is to use flax or canola (rapeseed) oil and fish capsules (fish few times a week ok if you are preventing heart disease, for heart patients he sticks to supplements). He doesn’t recommend using olive oil as it doesn’t contain the heart healthy omega 3 fats. Even though some oil is allowed he quickly points out the calorie implications of olive oil, that so many claim is the good for your heart fat. Yes, 1 tbs has 14g of fat comparable with a scoop of premium ice-cream that has 16g of fat, so if you are trying to loose a bit of weight (and many heart patients do) using oil may not be the smart way to go about weight loss.

Therefore before you go and run to that tub of butter, look at the diets that have real results in preventing, slowing the progression and reversing heart disease. What do I do? First I get my good fats from seeds (esp flax and chia) , nuts and avocados, not from processed oil. Mostly I cook without oil, if I do use it I make sure there is no more than 2 Tbs in the whole meal for 4-6 people, but mostly only1/2-1Tbs will be used. Soups, stews, pasta sauces and dips all taste great without oil. Curries and roasted vegetables do taste better with a little bit of oil, but here I measure not pour. And believe me If I ever have any indication of a heart problem, even the curry will become oil free :)

more info on this study:
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/February/Pages/omega-6-fat-diet-heart-disease-death-risk.aspx

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HEARTY PASTA
This is a very hearty robust dish. I either use wholemeal or half white paste (kids think that is a real treat)

Serves 6

ingredients

125ml (1/2 cup) green or brown lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 portobello mushrooms, cut into small about 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Marsala wine (or other fortified wine)
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 tsp each dried thyme and oregano (or 1 Tbs each fresh)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 Tbs mushroom ketchup or veggie Worcestershire sauce
500g pasta (whole meal or half white)


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method
  1. Cook the lentils in about 750ml (3 cups) of water for 20 minutes until soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, in a large saute pan heat about 80ml (1/3 cup) of water and add the onion, celery and garlic. Saute till softened.
  3. Add the mushrooms and the Marsala. Cook until most of the wine is cooked away.
  4. Next add the tomato puree, cook for about 1 min.
  5. Next add the herbs, tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock and the mushroom ketchup.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 min.
  7. Add the lentils and simmer for further 10 -15 min.
  8. In the meantime cook your past till al dente.
  9. Add the pasta into your sauce and serve.

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BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE

The Huffington Post recently asked readers to vote for the best health book out of 50 chosen titles. I was jumping with joy when I found The China Study by T.Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell occupying the number one spot.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/09/best-health-books-huff-po_n_1862250.html

http://www.thechinastudy.com/


Reading The China Study was indeed a turning point for me. Go back 2 years: I am watching a Man V Food episode with my kids. (They both find it rather entertaining with my daughter shouting GO ADAM GO whenever Adam Richman is battling just another heap of meat, cheese, grease and white flour. ) My son casually says that he would like to eat meat. Shock horror!!! My kids have been vegetarians from birth. To be honest I always expected this question to pop up but I hoped it would not. Especially since I always maintain that should my kids decide to eat meat I would allowed them to do it. Not without a bit of education first.

That evening I stormed the internet and searched for “the healthiest diet”. I am not sure what I was expecting to find. As if by magic the first thing that popped up was The China Study. Not long after reading the article two copies of the book were in my Amazon basket (my friend’s birthday was coming up). I read it immediately and never looked back. Indeed my vegetarianism was confirmed and more. The dairy had to go too.

Professor Campbell is, along with other plant based diet promoters, often accused of “vegan agenda” by his critics. The diet he promotes is however a result of decades of sound research. His (and other researches') findings lead him to the conclusion that diet without animal proteins is the best way to prevent chronic disease.

My son is old enough to understand charts from this book and together with few You Tube videos this was convincing enough for him to vow never to eat meat and reduce dairy (not 100% but he is doing great). My daughter still likes cooking shows but anytime she sees meat being cooked she utters “poor chicken, cow, fish....” They may still change their minds one day but we are safe for now.

My recipe stems from one that used to be my kids favourite, baked mac and cheese. I have posted a recipe “mac and whizz” before , these two recipes are similar, with mac and whizz being the speedier version. Baked mac and (no) cheese has tofu added to the sauce which makes it more suitable for baking. It souffles and browns nicely. I also added some crunchy topping to make it extra special.

BAKED MAC AND (NO) CHEESE
This recipe serves a crowd, so please feel free to halve everything (but the butternut squash). I am always happy to serve it twice, just with different veggies on the side. Makes a great potluck dish too.

bakedmacandcheese

Serves 8

ingredients
500g (1lb 6oz) whole wheat macaroni
sauce
1 cup of cashew nuts
3 water
250 g tofu (preferably silken)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and steamed till soft (or roasted)
2 tsp onion powder
3/4tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white or yellow miso
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast
squeeze of lemon to taste
crumb topping
60ml (1/4cup) pine nuts
2 tbs nutritional yeast
3 Tbs bread crumbs

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method
  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions.
  2. In a food processor combine all the sauce ingredients and process till you get a smooth thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Mix the pasta and sauce and pour into a large baking dish.
  4. Next place the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumb texture.
  5. Mix with the nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30-40min or until the top is golden brown.

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QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Hearing the word “malnourished” most of us would imagine the poor starving children in Africa and would never even think that this could be a problem much nearer us. Today the UK edition of Huffington Post ran a story claiming that more than a quarter of patients are malnourished when admitted to hospital. We are not talking about old people, this is across all ages. The article claims some 26% of 20-29 year olds are affected. I had to snigger at the accompanying picture of a smiling young lad in a hospital bed eating a large hamburger and chips (if that is hospital food than there really is no hope).

This is not a surprising fact, especially not when you are familiar with the work of doctors such as Joel Fuhrman or Mark Hyman. They will confirm that even obese people can be malnourished due to their poor diet that lacks nutrition. They are overfed but undernourished. Just take a look at the rubbish some people are putting into their supermarket trolleys. Restaurants are not better, another story that graced the papers today introduced UK Pizza Hut’s new limited edition pizza. Forget cheese stuffed into your pizza crust, you can find a hot dog there now! If there was an award for “how much c..p you can put into a customer in one sitting” Pizza Hut would certainly get the top prize.

My pasta recipe sure takes less time than ordering and waiting for the hot dog monstrosity to be delivered and will not leave you malnourished either.

ragupasta

QUICK RAGOUT PASTA

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4-5 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2-1inch dice
1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian herb mix)
2 bay leaves
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
125ml (1/2cup) fortified wine (such as Marsala or sherry, but a good red will do too)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of canellini beans, drained
275ml (1 and 1/2cup) strong vegetable stock (I made mine with Vecon)
350g (12oz) wholemeal rigattoni or penne pasta
fresh oregano to garnish

method
  1. In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and peppers and saute for about 5 minutes or till softened.
  2. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  3. Next add the oregano, bay leaves and tomato puree. Let cook for about one minute.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the fortified wine, bring it to a boil to cook out the alcohol.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock. Cook for about 20min until the sauce is rich and thickens. Season.
  6. While your sauce is simmering cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  7. Add the past to your sauce, stir through.
  8. Serve garnished with fresh oregano or basil and a big green salad on the side.
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MAC AND WHIZZ

MAC AND WHIZZ

Classic macaroni and cheese used to be one of my family’s favourite dishes, we would have it at least every other week. I would make the cheese sauce out of butter, white flour, dairy milk and at least half a pound of cheese, mix in the white pasta and there you have it. This classic mac and cheese can have around 18 - 25g of fat per 1 cup. That is bad enough but I have yet to meet a person who would eat just that one cup of mac and cheese.

Times change, and even though I am on a mission to avoid pretty much everything in the classic recipe, my love for mac and cheese remains. Finding a suitable alternative became my goal. First I tried few vegan mac and cheese recipes that I found on the web. Later I tweaked and experimented until I came up with my version. There are few reasons why I love this dish. I can still get that mac and cheese fix minus that heavy dairy induced feeling afterwards. I have sneaked in somewhere around a pound of butternut squash, a vegetable very much hated by both of my children (victory dance!!!). They always scoff the lot even though they now know what lurks inside. My son still says he prefers the dairy heavy version but that did not stop him to make his way to the pot for seconds... Slow but steady steps and he may even change his mind one day.

There is a reason why I am calling this Mac and Whizz, all you need is a good blender to whizz up the sauce. Pretty quick and easy. You could also use a food processor.

macandwhizz

MAC AND WHIZZ
This recipe makes loads, but reheats well. To reheat just add a touch of water and bring to a gentle simmer, stir often till heated through..

Serves 6

ingredients
1 lb butternut squash (about half of a larger one, peeled weight), cut into 2 inch cubes
500g (1lb 2oz) whole wheat macaroni
1 cup of cashews soaked
2 cups of water
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp paprika
1 tsp dried onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs miso (the lighter colour the better)
60ml (1/4 cup) Nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

method
  1. First steam the squash till soft, this will take about 10-15 min depending on the size of your pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, place all the remaining ingredients and the cooked butternut squash into your blender. Process till smooth. Depending on your blender this will take a few minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, return into the cooking pot or a large sauce pan together with the sauce. Bring to a simmer for couple of minutes, the sauce will thicken nicely.
  5. Serve with some steamed veggies and a big green salad.
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WINTERY VEGETABLE, BEAN AND PASTA SOUP


Yesterday we had our first and probably last snowfall of the season. Kids got excited, dogs were running mad in the rather thin snow cover. I was thinking soup, hot, comforting, chunky bowl of soup.

My kids like tomato soup; smooth, sweet, uncomplicated. I knew I was taking a risk by putting a bowl of chunky vegetable soup in front of them. Adding pasta to it was meant to soften the blow.

To my surprise they ate it, cabbage, peppers and all. Ok I did promise them they can choose a treat from the oriental supermarket if they chomp their way through a bowlful. Whatever works I say.

As most of my soups, this one also has no added oil. I am not against using a olive oil altogether but I have cut down its usage to bare minimum. When I cook an oil free recipe I use the water-saute method. Just heat a small amount of water (about 60ml or 1/4 cup) and cook the veggies in it. It takes a bit longer than oil sauteing, you may have to add additional water, but the veggies soften beautifully. You can also use vegetable stock or wine to saute your vegetables.

wintersoup


WINTERY VEGETABLE, BEAN AND PASTA SOUP

Try to cut your onion, carrots, celery and pepper into same size pieces, about 1cm.

This is an Italian inspired soup, minus the olive oil and Parmesan. Instead of Parmesan I use the Nutritional Yeast Flakes, they taste great and are great source of B vitamins.

Serves 4 as a main meal

ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, de-stringed and chopped
1 carrot, chipped
1 small red pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaped Tbs tomato puree
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin borlotti beans (drained)
1.24l (5cups) vegetable stock (I used 2 veggie stock cubes)
1/4 medium green or white cabbage (2cups), shredded
100g (3/4 c) small pasta
chopped parsley or basil for garnish
Nutritional yeast flakes for garnish (optional)

method
  1. In a large stock pot heat 60ml (1/4) cup of water and add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and pepper, saute until softened, about 10min. Stir occasionally, to prevent sticking, add more water if needed.
  2. Add the tomato puree, stir around for about 1 min.
  3. Add the oregano, tinned tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook gently for 30 min.
  5. After 30min, add the cabbage and pasta. Cook for about 10 min or until the pasta is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom.
  6. Garnish with herbs, nutritional flakes if using and serve with crusty bread (wholemeal of course)
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ORZO COOKED IN TOMATO PASSATA


It is orzo, pasta that looks like rice. In my family we love it. This time cook “eintopf” style. A meal cooked it one pot saves time and washing up, perfect recipe for a weeknight dinner. There is something utterly comforting about orzo cooked directly in tomato sauce. And anything both kids can eat a whole bowl (or two) of must be a good thing. Just remember to stir it every couple of minutes to prevent any sticking to the bottom of a pan. If you don’t wish to decorate your kitchen with tomato sauce make sure to use a lid, the sauce has a tendency to spit quite violently.
orzo


ORZO COOKED IN TOMATO PASSATA
Whole wheat orzo is a bit trickier to find, I tend to get mine from one of my favorite health food shops. Well worth it. If cooked like any other pasta, in boiling water it only takes about 6 minutes, cooking it in directly in a tomato sauce will take longer.
Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 small red pepper, cut into 1cm cubes
680g bottle of passata
600ml of water
300g orzo (preferably whole wheat)
parsley, basil or oregano for garnish

method
  1. In a large wide lidded pan saute the onion till translucent, add the garlic and red pepper. Saute for about 5 min, till the pepper softens.
  2. Add the passata and water, bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the orzo to the sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn the heat down and cook for about 12 min or till the orzo is soft.
  5. Season and serve topped with herb of your choice.
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