A sunny day in late November is a real treat. It sends strong reminders of the summer that’s gone, and that, as well as too much root vegetables on the plate over the Thanksgiving holiday, made me reach out for summer squash.
Summer squash is not something I routinely make. I prefer zucchini and Italian squash, but this time around it was the summer squash that looked the freshest so that’s what I got. I used my spiralizer to make some summer squash noodles – if you don’t know what spiralizer is, it’s a kitchen gadget that you’d think you can totally live without but in reality you really can’t.
Joking aside, spiralizer is a gadget that makes long, amazing noodles from all sorts of vegetables and fruit. Initially, I thought I can get by with a mandoline slicer – and that worked fine couple of times. But, after buying spiral cut zucchini from the store few times – and paying through the roof for it – I finally broke down and bought an actual spiralizer. The gadget paid off for itself already, and I’ve enjoyed spiralizing zucchini, summer squash, sweet potatoes, apples and beets.
I paired summer squash with a simple oil-free pumpkin seed pesto, which has four ingredients only: raw pumpkin seeds, roasted garlic, fresh parsley and nutritional yeast. The pesto comes together in a food processor in less than two minutes and it’s ready to use immediately. Plus, the pesto uses pumpkin seeds so in a way builds on all the pumpkin craziness of the season, which I kicked off with my Pumpkin Truffles.
You can make this dish completely oil free, but I did use some cooking spray to oil the baking dish. It helps brown the pesto and the squash, and it does help with cleaning up. This baked summer squash “pasta” goes well with a side of chopped roasted red peppers, some shredded vegan cheese, ripe avocado slices, or a squeeze of lemon. It’s easily customizable, but it’s also a meal on its own.
Note: this same recipe would work with spiralized zucchini or spiralized Italian squash!!!
Baked Summer Squash Noodles with Pumpkin Seed Pesto
What you’ll need:
5 pieces of summer squash, spiralized
2 cups pumpkin seeds, raw
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, roasted
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
Spray the bottom and sides of a large and deep baking dish with cooking spray.
Place your spiralized summer squash in a large mixing bowl.
In a food processor combine pumpkin seeds, roasted garlic, fresh parsley and nutritional yeast. Pulse until a fine pesto forms.
Pour the pumpkin seed pesto over the summer squash noodles and toss to combine.
Pour everything into the baking dish and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake covered for another 15 minutes or so. Serve hot, or cold as a salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar!!!
Meatloaf – that one dish that is universally despised yet it persists against all odds. During my meat eating days, I may have made meatloaf once or twice and it did not make a great impression. This Lentil-loaf is different. It’s full of flavor and lightness, while at the same time a little goes a long way.
The key ingredient are the lentils. They are one of those ingredients that can replace minced or ground meat in almost anything. I used them in Shepherd’s Pie, and in Lasagna, as well burgers, meatballs and in that staple of vegan cooking, Lentil Soup. Lentils are cheap, available, nutritious, and lend themselves to many spice and flavor combinations.
In this meatloaf, lentils are the meat, but meat is not all it takes to make a loaf. So, to bind everything together I use a can of pumpkin. The pumpkin holds things together almost as good as an egg would. If your loaf turns out a bit softer than you like, add some oats or some bread crumbs to it. I also recommend letting the loaf sit for 15 minutes or so after coming out of the oven to firm up before serving.
Finally, what really makes a huge difference is what you do to onions and celery before you mix them all into a loaf. I recommend that you place the diced onions and celery, with a dash of cooking spray or oil, into a microwave for five minutes or so. You want the aromatics to soften and brown as they will not have a real chance to do so while the loaf is baking. This will add a nice sweet and savory tone to the loaf and help lentils and the pumpkin, as neither one has a strong flavor. To help them out even further, you will need to add some more umami-type of components, like the Worcestershire and the tamari sauce.
You can serve this meatloaf with any sides you like. Here, I paired it with mashed carrots and potatoes. Adding some carrots to the plain, white potato mash makes it more colorful, playful and in some ways healthier. Plus, it offers a break from the routine! You can make the mash withou adding any salt or butter (oil), it would taste just fine, especially when served with this lentil and pumpkin loaf which has plenty of flavor itself.
Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Carrot-Potato Mash
What you’ll need:
For the Meatloaf:
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 stalks celery, diced
16 oz (454 g) brown lentils, cooked
1 15 oz (425g) can pumpkin
1/3 cup tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup ketchup
For Carrot-Potato Mash:
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 potatoes, white, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon butter, vegan
1/4 teaspoon salt
What you’ll do:
Bring 4 cups of water to boil and add the lentils that have been washed and sorted. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are fully cooked. Drain the excess liquid and transfer the lentils into a large mixing bowl. Let them cool while you assemble the other ingredients.
Peel, wash and chop the carrots and potatoes into smallish cubes of about similar size. Place in a large pot or a pressure cooker, cover with water, bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes if using a conventional method or 10 minutes in the pressure cooker. Drain from excess liquid, add the salt and butter and mash it with the potato masher. Place into a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm until the meatloaf is ready. If you like you can even place the mashed carrots and potatoes into an oven safe dish and let the top get crunchy.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
While lentils are cooling and carrots and potatoes boiling, dice onions and celery. Place into a microwave safe bowl, spray with cooking spray or with 1/4 teaspoon oil and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes, until soften and slightly browned. Add to the lentils when ready.
Add the rest of the meatloaf ingredients (except ketchup), and using a stick blender form a well blended mixture. You can also use a food processor. In both cases, do leave some lentils whole to add to the texture of the final meatloaf.
Line a large baking sheet, or a loaf pan if you prefer your meatloaf more loaf-y, with a foil, spray with come cooking spray to prevent loaf from sticking, form the loaf with your hands if you are using the baking sheet, and place into the oven (if you are using regular size loaf pans you will have enough of a mixture for two loafs).
Bake for 20 minutes, take the meatloaf out and spread the ketchup across the surface, and bake for another 10 minutes. Take the loaf out and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve the meatloaf with the mashed vegetables and enjoy!
Savory tarts are a great source of comfort during long, and cold, winter months, so fall seems like a perfect time to stock pile great savory tart recipes. One of the favorite topping combinations for this type of tart is onions and bacon. There can be little mystery about why this is so. Caramelized onions are sweet and juicy, and browned bacon is crispy and salty. Putting those two together makes for a sweet, salty, juicy yet crispy topping. Add to that a thin tart crust – and you get the picture!
In this recipe I wanted to recreate a bit of that onion-bacon dichotomy, by combining thinly sliced onions caramelized to perfection with marinated, thinly sliced, tempeh that has been browned until crispy on the outside. The trick with onions is to slice them into thin strips and then let them caramelize for a long time over medium heat. If you are counting calories and trying to stay as oil-free as possible, you can use just a bit of cooking spray to get your onions going – I did it, and it works just fine! But if you regularly use oil, starting with a tablespoon of olive oil will work well here. I recommend using a well-seasoned cast iron skillet here – not only will it help caramelize the onions and brown the tempeh bacon, it will also go straight from the cooktop to the oven, making this a one pot dish.
To prep the tempeh, first boil it for couple of minutes, pat dry it, cut into thin strips, and let it marinate for couple of hours. I used the same basic marinade that The Buddhist Chef used for his Tofu Bacon. It’s made of oil, maple syrup (I did skip maple syrup in this case since caramelized onions are plenty sweet), soy sauce, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast. I prepped the tempeh ahead of the onions, so when the onions were done I could remove them from the skillet and cook the “bacon” immediately afterwards.
My version of the tart is crustless, so there is no fancy pastry making required. What holds the tart together is the mix of almond milk and corn starch that comes in last, as the veggies are finishing cooking. And speaking of veggies, one other ingredient here is jackfruit. I use canned jackfruit and for this tart you will want to rinse it out well, drain it, then shred with your fingers, and remove any tough core bits. I can’t comment on using raw jackfruit since I’ve never done it, but I am guessing that it would be better since canned food does come with a bit of that canned taste/flavor.
The tart will spend some time in the oven, and to finish it off I recommend turning on the broiler at the end for five minutes or so to crisp up and brown the top. Let the tart cool for about ten to fifteen minutes before serving, and enjoy as is, or with some yogurt – I used a drizzle of cashew yogurt and a sprinkle of thyme. The tart is rich, fragrant and fantastic!
Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart
What you’ll need:
2 large onions
8 oz (225 g) tempeh
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or more, depending on your taste)
2 20 oz (570 g) can young green jackfruit in brine
3/4 cup almond milk (plain, unsweetened)
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon dry thyme
What you’ll do:
Bring 2 cups of water to gentle boil in a pan that’s large enough to hold the entire piece of tempeh flat without cutting. Lower the tempeh into the boiling water and let it boil for couple of minutes.
While the tempeh is boiling mix together the marinade by combining oil, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast.
Take the tempeh out and pat dry. Let it cool for a moment, until it feels ok to handle. My heat tolerance is pretty high so I usually wait only a few minutes, but depending on your comfort zone when it comes to handling hot things you may want to wait longer before slicing the tempeh into relatively thin slices. Lower the slices down into the marinade and let it stand for an hour or two.
While tempeh is marinating, prepare the jackfruit. Rinse the canned jackfruit well and let the excess water drain. Using a fork or fingers, pull the jackfruit into shreds. Discard the hard core, if present. Set aside.
Slice the onions thinly into fine strips.
Turn the oven to 400 F (200 C).
Heat a heavy skillet, like a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray (or add a tablespoon of olive oil if using), and add the onions. After about 5 minutes at medium high heat, reduce the heat to medium to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes, until onions are soft and golden brown. Transfer the onions into a separate dish.
Increase the heat to high and add tempeh “bacon” strips. Let the side brown then turn over and brown on the other side.
Add back the onions, and jackfruit, mix the “bacon”, onions and jackfruit well, and continue to brown.
In a small mixing bowl combine almond milk and corn starch. Whisk them together so that there are no clumps. Pour over the rest of the ingredients and let it start to bubble.
Sprinkle the thyme and nutmeg, mix again and place the skillet into the oven for 20 minutes.
To brown the top, turn the broiler on and broil for 5 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy.
Take the tart out of the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a side of salad, or drizzle some yogurt over the top for a delicious meal.
Well, the year came and went. 2017 saw two major changes in my life: I decided to become vegan, and I changed my job after a decade. Both of these changes have helped me rebalance, and regain control of my wellness. The change I made to my diet had profound effects on my energy levels, and gave an incredible boost to my culinary creativity. I’ve have not felt so inspired and motivated to try new things for a long, long time.
On top of wanting to eat and make different food, I also decided to share everything. That’s how this blog was born! It’s been a great adventure because blogging, sharing, and being engaged in social media in many plant-based and vegan groups has been eye-opening. There’s so much creativity, encouragement, and positive energy out there!
I appreciate that many of you may be struggling because a life-style change is never an easy thing, and I also gather from comments and posts that many are surrounded by family, friends or work environment that does not support or even approve of the plant-based and vegan eating and living. The best advice I can give you is to take it one step at a time, and keep reminding yourself of why you decided to make this huge change to begin with. And: keep creating delicious dishes and keep serving them to all you love and care in your lives to spread the well-being and comfort that well-prepared and nutritious food brings.
So, as is customary to do as a year is winding down I took a look at Eat the Vegan Rainbow to see what people enjoyed reading the most. Not surprisingly, the most read post of 2017 is “5 Must-try Recipes for Beginner Vegans” which I put together after being a vegan for about 6 months, to highlight some of the recipes that I found incredibly helpful. And I am glad to see that many of you have found it to be useful as well!
When it comes to my original recipes, there is definitely a clear pattern to the top five. All top five recipes are substitutes to animal-based recipes, and provide a healthier alternative to the types of foods most of us have been exposed to for most of our lives. So, without further ado I give you the Top 5 Eat the Vegan Rainbow Posts of 2017:
Hottest Summer Trend: Carrot Dogs – these “hotdogs” made from marinated carrots that have been grilled are the most amazing thing that I had so far, and it did not surprise me to see that others have loved them too! Since that summer treat, I’ve use similar ingredients to make an incredible Cream of Carrot Soup, which is also a winner in my book and if you have not tried it yet do give it a go!
Homemade Ground Beef Substitute – this was an essential recipe for me to develop since the store-bought ground beef substitutes were just not making me happy. They were either too expensive to really work for me, or had weird ingredients, or spices I did not enjoy, or left a strange aftertaste. So, I developed my own mix that works, and I’ve been using it in tacos, nachos, stuffed peppers, and similar dishes that use ground beef as a filler. It is spot on!!!
Chicken-less Tikka Masala – for those of you who love Indian food, this one is the winner! The blend of spices and nut-based yogurt, with gentle tomato sauce and soya chunks as chicken replacement work incredibly well. You will get all the texture and flavors of the original dish!!! And if you not familiar with Indian cuisine, you should make it one of your New Year’s Resolutions to give it a try. First of all, many of Indian dishes are already vegetarian since India has a huge culture of not eating meat, and many of the traditional dishes are easily veganized. Just take a look at the Vegan Saag Paneer, and Sabudana Khichdi.
Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes – these “crab” cakes are simply amazing! They deserve quite a few superlatives, because they are super easy to make, super cheap, and super impressive. They will be able to convince even the hard core crab cake lovers that you can have a great crab cake without the crab. You can actually have an excellent New England Clam-free “Clam” Chowder as well, and while we are talking about seafood replacements, you can also have a great Faux-lobster roll, although some have been saying that it just not the same! For me all these recipes are really good, and so close to the original thing that I can not longer tell the difference, and that’s good enough for me.
A Very Beefy Veggie Burger – as it turns out, and perhaps not surprisingly, we all love to grill outdoors during the summer days, and we all enjoy a great burger. The veggie burgers that are out there fall a bit short of delivering that meaty bite and flavor, and the high-tech Beyond Burgers are fantastic but really pricey. So, I’ve been playing around and making all sorts of burgers, like the Avocado Burgers, Black-Eyed Peas Burgers, and Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers, which were all worth getting excited about. They have different degrees of beefy flavor and texture, and they hold up to grilling to a different extent, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
I can’t leave without asking you to share some of your favorite recipes. What were your clear winner in 2017? Something similar to what I highlighted above, or something completely different? Let’s share each other’s food and thoughts about eating and well-being, and keep helping each other navigate the world of plant-based foods and flavors. I wish you a Happy and a Healthy New Year!!!
Don’t worry if you have never heard about Bubble and Squeak – that just means you are not English, you don’t have any friends or family members that are English, and you have never lived in England, all of which is OK. But, if you know what Bubble and Squeak is, you are probably already smiling to yourself and licking your lips in anticipation.
Now, if I was naming this dish I would call it Leftover Mash, because that’s what it is. It is used in England to revive any leftover from a roast dinner or another large, formal meal that includes potatoes, meat and veggies. The leftovers are chopped up and fried together and apparently if you are using cabbage you will hear bubbling and squeaking.
For me, it was not a large amount of leftover that made me do it, it was my attempt to give way to give Brussels sprouts another chance. I grew up eating huge amounts of cabbage – it’s one of those cultural things mixed with practical where cabbage, and especially fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) can carry you through a rough and long winter at a time when fruits and veggies were a seasonal thing (those days are gone now, by the way, with year round availability of almost everything!). And I love cabbage, and many of it’s cousins, like cauliflower (which I used here, here), broccoli, kale (like in this soup), radishes, and many, many more. the cruciferous vegetables, as they are collectively known, are numerous and diverse, and include many things I like to eat… and there is the Brussels sprouts.
I tried Brussels sprouts several times before, mostly roasted and once boiled (never again on that one!), and was left unimpressed. But, when Bubble and Squeak was mentioned it sounded like I should give the Brussels another chance. And it worked! At the end, I am not at all sure that what I made qualifies as a traditional Bubble and Squeak, however it is a good dish for anyone looking to jazz up their potatoes, or use leftover cabbage or Brussels sprouts. I think it would probably work with leftover collard greens and spinach as well, and will probably work with leftover sweet potatoes or mashed squash.
Having said all that I did have to add one secret ingredient to make this work. My secret is bacon, or to be more precise Rice Paper Bacon. The recipe for this bacon is very similar to the one for Tofu Bacon, which I loved, so I jumped on the opportunity to give this new thing a try. The rice paper bacon worked well, it delivered on the bacon aroma, and it was very crispy, so perfect for sandwiches or similar. It also worked well with the Bubble and Squeak to add the aroma and a boost the flavor. At the end, I think tofu bacon would have worked better for this dish, but rice bacon gets big thumbs up for being a very good meat-free, homemade bacon alternative.
So with some boiled potatoes, boiled Brussels sprouts, diced onions, and rice paper bacon in hand, you will be ready for the Bubble and Squeak. All you need to do is fry it all together, or if you are a bit more health conscious sauté with only a tiny bit of oil to help everything come together. Although I have not done so myself this time around – I was in a bit of a time pinch – you can finish the dish in the oven. In retrospect, letting Bubble and Squeak sit under a broiler for less than five minutes would have given it a nice look and an interesting crunch. For those of you who are traditionalists, you are supposed to flip the whole thing half way through and brown both sides that way. I’d say, with just a bit of broiling you can skip the flipping. The whole thing is supposed to be able to slide out of the pan, but even if it doesn’t it’s still an interesting dish!
Bubble and Squeak
What you’ll need:
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced
4 potatoes, boiled and mashed, or 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes
2 lbs (900 g) or 1 stalk Brussels sprouts, boiled and chopped, 2-3 cups leftover roasted or boiled Brussels sprouts, chopped
1 cup crumbled rice paper bacon or finely chopped tofu bacon, store-bought or home-made
2 tablespoons oil, vegetable or canola
What you’ll do:
In a heavy pan – oven proof if you plan to finish the dish under a broiler – heat the oil over the medium high heat. Add the onions and let them sauté until fully caramelized. This will take about 10 minutes. Note: if you are using store-bought “bacon”, chop it finely and add it now, so that it had time to render any fat, as well as brown. If you are using rice paper bacon you will add it towards the end of the cooking process.
Add the mashed potatoes. If you are using the leftovers, you don’t need to worry about making mashed potato from scratch. But if you are making this dish de novo then peel, wash, chop into cubes and boil the potatoes for 30 minutes or so, than mash until rustic – no perfect smoothness required here.
Add the finely chopped Brussels sprouts. Same as with the mashed potatoes, if you are using the leftovers just chop and drop, if you are starting from raw boil the sprouts for 15 minutes or so, drain and squeeze the access water out, then chop finely and add to the pan.
Mix well until everything is well-incorporated.
Decrease the heat to medium and let your bottom get crunchy, if not even slightly burned. Add the bacon bits, mix in gently without disturbing your crunchy bottom (no jokes, please!), then flip the Bubble and Squeak so that the top can brown, or stick the whole thing under a broiler without flipping. You can also skip the flipping/broiling and enjoy as is!
Who ever invented a spiralizer deserves one of those Breakthrough Technology prizes – future generations of parents will not know the painful process of getting kids to eat zucchini or summer squash, or even beets because with this magical machine all kids will be diving into is spaghetti, and who doesn’t love that!!!
What I like about zucchini noodles is that they cook really fast, they have a lovely texture, and a bit of chew to them – very similar to a broader noodle pasta variety, like fettuccine. The recipe here combines only a handful of ingredients and, once you have your zucchini noodles ready, it only takes 15 minutes from start to finish. So, it is ideal for a quick lunch, or a healthy dinner after a very, very busy day. It looks very glamorous, it tastes crisp and delicious, and you will get all your recommended daily servings of vegetables in one plate – but, hey, who’s counting those, right?
The easiest way to get zucchini noodles, or many other kinds of noodles, is to buy them from a grocery stores. Almost all I go to carry those, so grab them and try them. If you like them, stop grabbing them from the store and buy yourself a spiralizer. The gadget is going to pay iteself off after 5-10 times of use, depending on how much you spend, because buying zucchini and doing the spiralizing yourself is much, much cheaper – I did the math and came up with the number 5. It will cost you five times more to buy pre-spiralized veggies than to do it yourself… Plus, once you have a spiralizer you can do all sorts of fun stuff with it, like these Spiralized Oven Fries.
Hope you give this recipe a try!
Zucchini Noodles with Cherry Tomatoes and Corn
What you’ll need:
4 pieces of zucchini, medium sized, spiralized
1 onion, finely diced
10 oz (275 g) cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1 1/2 cup frozen corn
Fresh parsley, nutritional yeast, fresh or dry oregano, fresh or dry basil – these are all possible toppings for you to consider.
What you’ll do:
Spray the bottom of a large and deep frying pan, or even a wok, with cooking spray and put over the medium high heat.
Add the diced onions and brown for 3-4 minutes, until soft, slightly browned and translucent.
Add the tomatoes and let them sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Once the tomatoes are soft, add the corn and let it thaw as it cooks. No need to thaw it ahead of time. It will take about 5 minutes for corn to be ready for the next step.
Add the zucchini noodles, mix everything gently together, and sauté for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a dash of fresh basil or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top!
Roasting is one of my favorite ways of making food. Preparing vegetables and fruits at high temperature brings out the natural sugars and flavors they have and releases all sorts of aromas that make your entire home feel more inviting and cozy.
This Harvest Roast was my centerpiece for the Thanksgiving feast and it could not be simpler to make! Basically all you need to do is get the oven nice and hot, cut up some yummy vegetables, toss everything with a bit of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil, and roast it away. Actually, I recommend adding a cup of water to the bottom of your roasting pan and keeping the veggies covered with foil for the first twenty minutes, then removing the cover for the last fifteen minutes.
The vegetable selection is entirely up to you. Because this is my Thanksgiving roast, the vegetables I used are earthy and hearty, mostly root vegetables that in many ways symbolize the season. I combined sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, corn on the cob, and some apples to create a real comfort food medley.
Simple Harvest Roast
What you’ll need:
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 purple head turnips, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
10-15 baby carrots (or 3 large carrots, peeled and roughly sliced)
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tart apples, roughly chopped
3 ears of corn, cut into 4-5 pieces each
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
Pre-heat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
Add all the vegetables and fruit to a large roasting pan and mix with oil, salt and pepper if using. You can roast without oil, salt and pepper as well.
Add water to the very bottom of the pan. Best is to pour in the four corners and then move the pan around to spread.
Arrange sage leaves and thyme sprigs on top.
Cover the pan with foil and roast covered for 20-25 minutes.
Remove the foil and roast for another 20-25 minutes.
Take the roast out, let it rest for 10 minutes and serve!
If you think you can’t live without the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the roasted turkey, mashed potatoes full of butter, the stuffing made with rich sausage, gravy made from turkey fat, sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, corn bread with cheese, pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, and so on and so forth, let me reassure you – you can give this all up, and replace it with an amazing and creative plant-based feast that celebrates the season and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest, our friends and families, and our beautiful and extraordinary planet.
I put together this menu as a testament that food can be colorful, flavorful, aromatic, and delicious without major time and money investment. This entire menu will cost you far less than the regular Thanksgiving feast, and instead of leaving you tired and sluggish, it will leave you filling energized and elevated… and ready for whatever Black Friday may bring!
Joking aside, this menu is meant for entertaining and for making a huge impression. As any well-structure feast, my Thanksgiving offerings begin with appetizers. And since the meal is supposed to go on for an hour or more, and includes two dessert options, I am going light with the appetizer spread. My tray includes couple of different types of olives, Roasted Beets Hummus, Baked Almond Feta Cheese, and pita chips. You can make the pita chips by slicing some pita bread into wedges, spraying them with some oil or cooking spray and letting them toast for couple of minutes until golden-brown. Or you can get them at a supermarket, like I did on this occasion.
Baked Almond Feta, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Do remind your guests to take it easy with the appetizers, because what’s coming next is the most amazing soup ever, the Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup that owes it’s creaminess entirely to puréed cauliflower. The soup is white with slight gold overtones, which in my view frames the season perfectly. Plus corn and peas give this soup some substance and fresh thyme sets the stage for herbs to come.
Main course is a real harvest celebration, with fireworks of flavors and all the trimmings working together to feed the bodies and the souls. The main dish is a lovely Harvest Roast with cubed sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, apples and squash, lightly oiled and flavored with herbs of the season. Complementing the Harvest Roast is the Chesnut and Mushroom Stuffing (recipe below). Add to that a protein rich Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries and Pistachios and you have your self an amazing feast!
Last but not the least, the meal ends with a glass of Fizzy Cranberry Mocktail, and two desserts that pay homage to the traditionally served pies, pumpkin and apple. The desserts I feature are Pumpkin Truffles, inspired by the traditional pumpkin pie recipe and spices that go into it, and Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup, which combines the best of pecan and apple pies into one ultra scrumptious dessert.
Pecan Apple Baklava, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Have a thankful, wonderful, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving feast!!!
Chestnut and Mushroom Stuffing
What you’ll need:
1 yellow onion, finely diced
6 stalks celery, finely diced
2 Granny Smith (or another variety of tart) apples, diced
10 oz. (285 g) mushrooms, finely chopped (white, oyster, shiitake, baby bella – any combination of these will work)
10 oz. (285 g) chestnuts, boiled and chopped
4-6 slices of hearty sourdough bread (depending on the size of the slices)
Fresh sage, 4 leaves, chopped
Fresh thyme, 8 springs, pulled
Fresh rosemary, 2 springs, whole
What you’ll do:
One day prior to making the stuffing cut the bread into medium sized cubes, and leave them uncovered to dry. If you forget to do this a day ahead, don’t worry – you can cube the bread and put it in the oven to roast/toast. 10 minutes at 350 F (175 C) should be enough.
Next day, place a large skillet over the medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, celery and apple. Mix well and let it sauté with occasional stirring for 15 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and two whole springs of rosemary (no need to chop, you’ll pull them out at the end), and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes.
Add the chopped chestnuts, mix well to incorporate, and cook for another 10 minutes.
Add chopped sage and thyme, mix in the bread cubes, and once everything is incorporated well transfer the stuffing to a large baking dish.
Cover the stuffing with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 F (175 C), then remove the foil, bring the temperature to 400 F (190 C) and bake for another 10 minutes.
Let the stuffing cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. The leftover stuffing, if you have any, can be an easy lunch on its own!!!
Several months ago I shared the recipe for a Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala that used jackfruit instead of the chicken and came together in a slow cooker. I still think that that’s a great, flavorful and aromatic dish and if you are looking for new ways of making and enjoying jackfruit it is definitely something you should try. Having said that, someone did ask about what the source of protein was in a dish like that, and although jackfruit, as well as all the other fruits and vegetables on the planet, has some protein it is not a protein-rich food.
So, I went looking for ways to increase the protein content in the plant-based Tikka Masala and found soya chunks. Soya chunks are not something that’s easy to find in US grocery stores. I was able to find them in Serbia easily enough and I have now also found them on Amazon and in my local Indian grocery store. If you have an Indian grocery store relatively nearby, it’s absolutely worth the trip. I find that the prices in the Indian grocery store I go to are on average three to four times cheaper than online, and things like rice, soy and chickpea flour, and spices are a fraction of the price when compared to my regular grocery store or health food store. Most Indian stores have a freshly made food section as well, so although not many items on the traditional Indian menu are vegan, I’m sure you will find a couple worth trying out.
Back to soya chunks now. Soya chunks are made from fat-free soy meal, a by-product of soybean oil extraction. The meal is molded into different shapes and textures (soya chunks of different shape and size) and dried out to create a shelf-stable, long lasting products. I use several different size of soya chunks, depending on what I am making. For example, the size of soya chunks I chose for a dish like chicken-less tikka masala matches the size of chicken chunks, which are usually about 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes. An essential step for almost all soya chunk dishes involves boiling soya chunks in water for five minutes or so to rehydrate them. If you are using very fine soya chunks, like TVP (textured vegetable protein), boiling is usually not required but some soaking will be needed. The only TVP application where I advise against soaking is when making burgers, and you can find out why and how come in my recipe.
For this Chicken-less Tikka Masala to work, you will have to marinade soya chunks in a spice-and-yogurt sauce. Basically, you are following all the same steps as you would if you were making the chicken version of this dish, and by the time you are finished all the marinating and simmering nobody will be able to tell that what they are eating is not the real thing. I recommend marinating soya chunks overnight, but if you are in the hurry starting the marinate in the morning and finishing the dish later the same day will work.
The Chicken-less Tikka Masala is best served with some Basamati Rice, and topped with fresh cilantro. For a full restaurant experience you can add some Naan bread and Cucumber Raita, which you can make easily with some finely sliced cucumber, some yogurt, and a squeeze of lemon juice!
Chicken-less Tikka Masala
What you’ll need:
7 oz (200 g) medium soya chunks
2 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 tablespoon cardamom powder
1 cup cashew yogurt
1 large onion, diced
6 oz (170 g) tomato paste
1 14.5 oz (411 g) can petite diced tomatoes
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (divided)
What you’ll do:
In a large pot cover soya chunks with water, bring to boil, and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Transfer soya chunks into a large strainer, rinse with cold water and gently press any access water out. You want your soya chunks to be soft and moist but not dripping with water.
Place one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan and heat until the oil is hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices (coriander, paprika, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, and cardamom). Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Place the toasted spices into a large mixing bowl and let cool for few minutes.
Once spices have cooled just a bit, add the yogurt and mix well. Next, add the soya chunks, make sure they are well covered with the marinade, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. If you are in a rush you can cut down the marinating time to couple of hours – in that case leave everything on the kitchen counter.
In a large and heavy pot, like a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over the medium high heat. When oil is heated, add the diced onion and let it brown for 5 to 7 minutes.
Once the onion is browned, add the tomato paste, mix well and let the tomato paste brown slightly. This will take 3 to 4 minutes.
Next, add the marinated soy chunks together with all the yogurt marinade. Mix well, and let the soy chunks brown just slightly. You will need to give it an occasional stir, but the idea is to let the soy chunks get a chance to caramelize on the edges just slightly. This will take about 10 minutes.
Add diced tomatoes, mix well, decrease the heat to medium low, and let the Chicken-less Tikka Masala simmer for 15 minutes or so. This simmering will allow all the flavors to come together more completely, and the sauce to thicken slightly. If you discover that your sauce is not as thick as you like it, keep simmering until you reach the consistency you like.
Let’s cut to the chase and be honest here – although we can pretend otherwise, we are all as obsessed with lasagnas as Garfield is! The layers of soft noodles, amazing sauce, fresh herbs, and most commonly lots and lots of ground meat and soft cheese. All this means that lasagnas are not the healthiest thing on the menu. Having said that, there is no reason to ban lasagnas from your plate; you just need to learn how to keep it healthy and plant-based, and I think I can help you to troubleshoot both of those problems.
Keeping lasagnas meat-free seems to be the problem many have tackled, usually by overloading lasagna with cheese, cheese and eggs, or cheese and a selection of vegetables, like mushrooms, and increasing the amount of tomato sauce and making it chunkier. But, really the most prominent ingredient in majority of meatless lasagna recipes is the cheese. When I was developing this lasagna recipe I did not want to give up on idea of “meat”, so what I came up with is a hearty, meaty, and flavorful walnut and brown lentil “meat” ragù base. My thinking was inspired by my previous, wildly successful Meatless Shepherd’s Pie, which I served for Easter this year as a substitute for a more traditional, lamb-based dish. In that recipe, lentils, mixed with ground mushrooms and cooked with rosemary and thyme, made for an amazing feast.
Here, I wanted to recreate the traditional meat ragù and went for a combination of chopped walnuts and dark lentils. The trick is too cook the lentils separately and add them to the rest of the ragù when they are fully cooked. Also, chop your walnuts into pieces that are about the size of what ground meat pieces may look like. I chopped the walnuts by hand, just by going over walnut pieces with a knife few times, back and forth. You can buy whole walnuts, or walnut halves in store and start from there, but for this a bag of walnut pieces will make your life easier and make the dish cheaper. Walnuts work really well in this lasagna, because they add some of their natural crunchy texture, protein, and a bit of fattiness to the otherwise very lean recipe. Worried about this extra fat? Walnuts are known for having a lot of unsaturated fat, which is the good kind, so don’t skip it! The meatiness of the ragù is further enhanced by a good amount of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and letting the ragù simmer for a while.
The preparation of any lasagna happens in several stages and this one is no different. In order to make the process more efficient I recommend that you start roasting the zucchini at the same time you start making the ragù, and then start boiling the lasagna noodles when zucchini is just about done. In that way you don’t even need to turn the oven off, you can just lower the temperature from roasting to baking and be ready for lasagna to go in immediately. Please note that I don’t use zucchini as a complete lasagna noodle replacement. I suppose you could, but then you’ll end up in a more of a Zucchini Mousaka territory than lasagna paradise. If you are concerned about gluten, there are now many gluten-free lasagna noodle options for you to choose from and most of them work perfectly.
The final touch on this lasagna is the Béchamel sauce (besciamella), which is a white sauce traditionally made with milk, butter and flour. In this case, the quick white sauce I put together requires only a blender, some soft, silken tofu, a squeeze of a lemon, and a bit of nutritional yeast. It is very much the blend-and-pour type of sauce, so you can do it a in a blink of an eye. The sauce adds a nice, slightly cheesy flavor to this very rich lasagna, and makes for a nice, almost golden glaze.
Zucchini Lasagna with Walnut and Brown Lentil Ragù
What you’ll need (for 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish):
8-10 lasagna noodles, gluten-free if preferred
1 lbs (450 g) brown lentils
3 zucchinis, cut lengthwise into long strips
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup raw walnut pieces, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 can (28 oz, 800 g) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 lbs (450 g) silken tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Cooking oil spray
What you’ll do:
Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
Prepare the lentils according to the instructions on the bag. Basically, bring 4 cups of water to boil and add the lentils that have been washed and picked over to remove any impurities that may have made their way to the lentils. Bring the lentils back to boil than lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook for 20 minutes or so, until lentils are completely cooked. Drain the lentils from excess water and set aside to cool.
While the oven is preheating, and lentils are cooking, prep your veggies. Peel, wash, and dice the onions and carrots, and wash and dice the celery. Wash the zucchini well, remove the ends, then cut into long, thin strips. You can use a mandolin slicer for this, but cutting by hand also works. The zucchini slices should be as close to the thickness of the lasagna noodles as possible, but you don’t need to go crazy here – just keep in mind that a bit thinner is better.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the zucchini slices on and spray with cooking spray. You may need to use two baking sheets, since you may discover that you can’t manage to have all your zucchini slices arranged in a single layer. Don’t pile the zucchini on top of each other and do roast in batches if needed. Place the zucchini “lasagna noodles” into the oven to roast. The roasting will take anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes and will depend on the thickness of your zucchini. Keep an eye on the oven and if you are roasting two pans of the zucchini at the same time do rotate the pans mid way through the roasting. You will know that the zucchini is done when the edges are slightly brown and the middle is golden. Once you take the zucchini out, decrease the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C).
While the zucchini is roasting, start your the ragù. Spray the bottom of a Dutch oven, or another type of heavy pan, with cooking spray and heat up over the medium to medium high heat. Add carrots, onions and celery and let them brown for 10 minutes. Add chopped walnuts and let them pan roast for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and basil, and let the flavors develop for a minute. Next comes tomato paste – add it to the pan, mix well and let brown just slightly. This takes about 2 minutes or so. Add the cooked lentils and the crushed tomatoes, and mix well. Let the ragù simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the fresh parsley and mix well to combine.
Once the ragù is simmering, it’s time to start cooking your lasagna noodles. Most varieties ask for a large pot of boiling water and about 10 minutes of boiling time. The noodles don’t need to be cooked all the way through as they will continue to cook in the oven but they do need to soften quite a bit, so 8 to 10 minutes should be enough to achieve that. Drain the noodles and use immediately.
Combine tofu, lemon juice and nutritional yeast in a blender and blend until smooth. Set the besciamella to the side.
Spray the bottom and sides of your 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) pan with some cooking spray. Cover the bottom liberally with the ragù (use about a half of the amount you made), layer the first set of noodles (for me that came to about 5 noodles per layer), then layer the zucchini in a single layer, pour the rest of the ragù, and top with the remaining noodles. Pour the besciamella over and cover with foil.
Place the covered lasagna into the 350 F (175 C) oven and let bake for 30 minutes covered and then about 10 minutes uncovered. Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before serving. I like to add some freshly ground black pepper or a mix of black pepper and red pepper flakes to my lasagna just before enjoying, but you can also sprinkle some fresh parsley, or fresh basil. Have fun!
One of the most amazing discoveries I made when I transitioned into plant-based, vegan, eating and cooking was the jackfruit. I had never heard of jackfruit before but once I read, and then made few recipes I was completely sold on it! The jackfruit recipes I made so far varied from very simple, like tacos, to a couple that replaced seafood and shellfish with jackfruit, like the New England Clam-free “Clam” Chowder and Crab-less “Crab” Cakes, to some that take a bit of time to come together, like the Jackfruit Tikka Masala.
If you are not familiar with jackfruit, it is a beast of a fruit. It is actually the largest fruit produced by a tree, since one jackfruit can weigh as much as 80 pounds (35 kg). Not to worry, most home cooks will not have to carve this beast themselves, because the jackfruit comes chopped up in a can. I recently saw a real fresh jackfruit and was tempted to buy it, but it is just too expensive plus I am not even sure I would be able to handle all the prep work. When it comes to jackfruit in a can, for savory dishes you need to pick young, green jackfruit in water or brine. I drain and rinse the jackfruit well to remove excess salt, and use my fingers to pull it apart and remove any seeds that may be in there and the bits of the hard core. At the end of all that I have a pile of jackfruit shreds that are ready to go.
For this barbacoa I start with a pile of onions and grated carrots to give the dish a lot of sweetness, and by caramelizing the onions and carrots I add smoked flavors as well. There are no tricks here, other than taking it slowly and adding layers off flavor one by one. I start by letting the onions caramelize over the medium heat. Then I add carrots and let them cook through, before adding garlic and a nice mix of spices (dried oregano, cumin, allspice, and paprika) leading the way.
My secret ingredient for this barbacoa is roasted red pepper purée, which is super simple to make. All you need is couple of roasted red peppers, homemade or store bought, a can of fire roasted green chili peppers, and a food processor or a blender. You need to give your peppers a buzz for ten to fifteen seconds, and they will be ready to pour over the barbacoa. Finally, I add the shredded jackfruit and let everything simmer for a while, with couple of additions of water to deglaze the bottom of the pan and get all those flavorful brown bits incorporated into the barbacoa.
You can serve this barbacoa any way you like, but it works really well in tacos. If you are into making your tacos exciting, you can try pairing the jackfruit barbacoa with Macademia Nut Queso Fresco and some fresh cilantro. Yummy!
What you’ll need:
3 large white onions
6 large carrots
3 20 oz. (570 g) cans of young (green) jackfruit in brine
4 cloves garlic
1 7 oz (200 g) can fire roasted green chili peppers
Peel and slice the onions lengthwise into thin strips.
Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and place over the medium to medium high heat. Add the onions and let them caramelize for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Peel and grate the carrots using a grater or a food processor. You want the carrots to be about the same width as the onions. Add them to the caramelized onions and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
Peel the garlic and mince by hand or use a garlic press. Make a bit of room in your Dutch oven by pushing the onion and carrot mix to one side. Add the garlic and let it brown for a minute or two.
Push the garlic to the side and add the rest of the spices. Let the spices brown for a minute, until the aromas start to develop. Mix everything together and simmer for couple of minutes.
Put roasted green chili peppers and roasted red peppers in a blender or a food processor. Blend until a smooth purée forms.
Add to the rest of your barbacoa and mix together. Let simmer for couple of minutes.
Add jackfruit to the post, mix everything together and increase the heat to medium high to high. Stir occasionally, but do let your bottom brown a bit before stirring. This will help your jackfruit and the rest of your barbacoa get browned, and look almost as if they came from a grill or a roasting pan. You are going for a bit of burned ends look and feel here, but keep an eye on things and from time to time add a bit of water to deglazed the bottom. This step takes about 15 minutes.
Lower the heat to medium low, put the lid on and let barbacoa cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot in a taco, burrito, with rice or beans. Top with sour cream or queso fresco.
Slow cooker (crock pot) is one of my favorite small kitchen appliances and definitely the best way to make dishes that come together only after long, long simmering. Putting everything into a slow cooker is so much easier than baby sitting a simmering stew bubbling away on the stove top! But: slow cooker is slow and if you’d like to have food ready for the dinner (supper) time, you need to remember to fill it up and turn it on 3 to 6 hours in advance. Once all is set and you press the start button, you are free to do whatever and enjoy the day knowing that your delicious dinner is simmering away.
I use my slow cooker often and I find that it works really well for things like stews, or dishes like Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala. Here is another example of a delicious curry that combines tofu, chickpeas and mango with some crushed tomatoes and coconut cream into a fragrant and very creamy curry.
Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu in the Slow Cooker, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu
What you’ll need:
2 16 oz (454 g) tofu blocks, extra firm
28 oz (800g) can crushed tomatoes
2 15.5 oz (439g) cans chickpeas
1 cup mango chunks, frozen
15 oz (425g) can coconut cream
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
What you’ll do:
Drain or press tofu for 30 minutes. I usually just leave the block of tofu in a strainer and flip the block over once. That’s usually enough for dishes that don’t need the tofu to be super dense and chewy.
Cut the tofu into single bite chunks. From a 16 oz block I usually get 16 pieces so you can use that as a rough guideline.
Line the inside of your slow cooker crock pot with a liner. You can skip this step of course – I just recommend it as it makes clean up an absolute breeze. Add the tofu, chickpeas that have been drained, and frozen mango chunks. You can use fresh as well but frozen mango chunks are just something I have on hand for my smoothies so it’s a bit of a staple in my kitchen.
Add the spices and mix well.
Dice the onion and slice the garlic. Place in a microwave safe dish, spray with cooking spray and microwave for 5 minutes. This will start the caramelization process of your aromatics and help them develop flavors.
Pour the onions and garlic over the mango chunks.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and mix again.
Add coconut cream and mix to incorporate.
Put the lid on and turn your slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours.
When playing, serve over rice, quinoa or couscous and top with fresh cilantro.