Creamy Wild Mushroom Penne

I have always been a fan of creamy pasta sauces although the traditional ones made with butter and cream will speed up your tour to the grave.  My vegan version is rich and creamy, loaded with mushrooms and earthy flavor, yet heart friendly.  This recipe starts with the basic concepts of a white sauce;  milk, flour and fat.  Because I am using mushrooms and onions in my sauce, I’m going to thicken it with a slurry at the end of the cooking process rather than a roux at the beginning.

Serves:  6
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:   20 minutes

1 medium onion
8 cloves garlic or more, minced
2 ½ cups wild mushrooms
6 portabella mushroom caps (if you want a steak-like topper to your pasta )
1 tsp dried thyme
3 cups unsweetened rice milk
1/2 cup rice flour
3/4 cup white wine
1.5 cups frozen sweet peas
400 grams quinoa pasta (penne or rigatoni) or other non-wheat pasta

I started by marinating my portabella mushroom caps in some white wine, a little olive oil, a pinch of thyme and salt and pepper.

Finely chop the onion and sauté until translucent in a sauté pan.  Add the minced garlic.

DO NOT BROWN or you will have black bits floating in your sauce!

Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms have almost lost their moisture.

Add the thyme and deglaze the pan with the white wine (adding wine to the pan to incorporate the cooking juices from the onions and mushrooms is known as deglazing!).  Remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes.

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package.  I would normally use quinoa pasta specifically because this sauce is not particularly high in protein and I want to give the dish a protein boost.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any this time, so I used spelt pasta (each serving of the final dish will have about 12 grams of protein with the spelt).  Do not overcook.  When finished, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Julienne a red pepper into strips and saute momentarily.  Add to the mushroom mixture.

In a 2 cup measure, begin to mix the rice flour with a little rice milk.  Pour in a little at a time so that you don’t get any lumps, however the beauty of rice flour is that it’s very soluble.  It won’t clump like other flours.  When you have a consistent paste, fill the 2 cup measure to the top.  This makes up 2 cups of the three cups of rice milk needed.

Add the non-dairy milk and bring the liquid to a slight boil, being careful not to scorch the milk (ie – don’t make sure that it doesn’t boil for several minutes).  Turn the heat down to minimum as soon as it starts to boil, and add the remaining 1 cup of milk.

Stirring constantly, let the sauce cook for another 10-15 minutes or until you can no longer taste flour (you want to cook the flour off).   Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, add the frozen peas and set aside for a few minutes.

Make sure when you add your peas to the sauce, there are not any clumps of frozen peas.  Break them apart before-hand so that they will heat through.  You want your peas to remain crisp and green.   Adding them any sooner than this will overcook them.

Saute the portabella mushrooms.

Mix your pasta together with the sauce  and plate in pasta bowls, topping the pasta with your sautéed portabella mushrooms.

Enjoy with a large glass of pinot noir…


Thai Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Fall has arrived and I love fall cooking.  I recently had the chance to make it over to my parents garden in Victoria and pick up some fresh organic vegetables straight from the dirt- including two little perfect pumpkins.  Right down to the point when the pumpkin was in the pot Jason was asking if I was putting it into pie shells, but I had a different agenda for these…

Servings:  6
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Bake Time:  30 minutes
Cook Time:  30 minutes

2 small pumpkin squash (about 8 cups cubed pumpkin)
olive oil for roasting
1 tbsp (or more) red Thai curry paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger
2 cups coconut milk
freshly squeezed lime, to taste
very finely shredded zest of 1 small fresh lime
sea salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Start by cleaning the pumpkins.

I removed the stem (as if I was about to carve them) and then cut them in half and again in quarters and eighths, cleaning the seeds and pulp as I went.

Rub each piece of pumpkin in olive oil and place in baking trays.  Roast at 350 F for 30 minutes.

As the pumpkin is roasting, zest the ginger, and the lime.  Juice the remainder of the lime for seasoning the soup later.

Remove the roasted pumpkin from the oven, cut off the skin and cube into 1″ x 1″ cubes.

Place the pumpkin in a large pot and cover with vegetable stock.  Add the ginger and bring to a simmer over high heat until the pumpkin starts to break down a little further.  You can add the curry paste at this point as well.  I forgot and added mine later but I would recommend adding it before blending.

Transfer the pumpkin and broth to the blender.  You will have to do this in two batches as it’s a lot of pumpkin.  Be careful!  Blend on high until the pumpkin is smooth.

Transfer back to the pot and add the coconut milk (you can save a bit of the cream off the coconut milk for garnish if you like), lime zest, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir until well combined and the soup has been brought back up to temperature.

Serve in bowls topped with coconut cream and some lime zest for garnish.

* note that this soup is not high in protein.  I recommend serving it as a side to a sandwich or burger.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Ok, so everyone knows that peanut butter is bad for you; well, not the butter per say but the peanut part – it’s one of the worse things you can eat according to most naturopaths.  I swapped it out for almond butter  years ago, but there is something about a peanut butter cookie that makes me drool, and so for the odd little indulgence, I’m going to turn a blind eye.

I’ve adapted this from “The Joy of Vegan Baking” by Colleeen Patrick-Goudreau.  I avoid refined sugars at all costs, and I’ve swapped out the sugar in this recipe for agave nectar (and reduced it quite a bit).  Her rule is never to swap a granulated sugar for a liquid, but I seem to do it without any problem (Jason just had three before breakfast).  I little bit of heaven without anything refined.

Yield:  2 dozen cookies
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Baking time:  10-12 minutes

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp egg replacer (+ 3 tbsp water)
1/2 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp non-dairy milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or use non-stick cookie sheets.

In a small bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together

In a mixing bowl (or you can do this by hand with a spatula), cream together all the wet ingredients.

Turn the mixing speed down to the lowest and start to add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture a few spoonfulls at a time.

When well combined, drop the cookies on to the cookie sheet about 2″ apart.

Flatten slightly in a criss-cross pattern with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.  Do not overbake or your cookies will be crunchy!

Remove from the oven and cook on cooling racks.

No Pig Breakfast Links


Lately, it seems that it’s been all about “the sausage”. A while back, my friend Dalyn posted recipes for vegan Italian sausages and vegan spicy chorizo sausages on her blog ( And more recently, on the Food Network, I caught a show called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that was featuring hot dogs from a dive in Hawaii.  Ever since, I haven’t been able to get Dalyn’s post, the Food Network’s episode, or sausages out of my mind!

Unfortunately, while Dalyn’s recipes called for vital wheat gluten, the Hawaiian dive’s recipe called for meat! Consequently, they all needed some serious revamping to meet my wheat, soy and meat free criteria! I took on the challenge, did a little bit of research, and came up with a pretty good alternative!

My first challenge was to learn about vital wheat gluten, one of the key ingredients in Dalyn’s recipes. I discovered that it is the natural protein found in wheat that binds and produces the elasticity and texture of bread products. Once I made this discovery, I created a substitute binding agent by combining beans, rice flour and brown rice. While that concoction may not sound incredibly appetizing, to me it certainly sounds much more appealing than the ingredients found in some regular Italian, chorizo and/or breakfast sausages (mechanically separated meat, anyone!?!)!

Once I had my binding agent in place, I started thinking seriously about other key ingredients – namely, the spices. It really is the spices that differentiate one sausage from another and I’m pretty sure that once you taste the combo that I derived for this recipe, you’ll forget about all of those quirky ingredients I used as the base for these juicy sausages!

We are heading to Victoria to visit my parents this weekend and I know that my mom will be whipping up at least one hearty bacon, sausage and egg breakfast. I’ll definitely be bringing over a couple of my breakfast sausages … in fact maybe a few extras to slip onto my dad’s plate … 10 bucks says he won’t even notice! I’m telling you, these sausages are quick to prepare, freeze well, and taste great! Served with a little HP Sauce and some homemade hash browns, you’ll have a vegan breakfast that stands up to the real thing. Right, Dad?!?

Makes:  17 sausages
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time:  6-8 minutes

15 oz can black eyed peas
1 small onion
5 cloves or more garlic
1 cup cooked brown rice
4 tbsp rice flour
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp basil or one sprig of fresh basil (not shown here)
1 – 2 dashes red crushed chili flakes
1 tsp ground rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
grapeseed oil for frying

Saute the onion and garlic in a pan.

In a food processor (or you can do this by hand with a potato masher) combine the black eyed peas, rice flour, brown rice, basil (if fresh), and sauteed onions and garlic.

You want to pulse gently until the mix is just combined.  The thing that makes the sausages most like real breakfast links is to keep some texture in the mix.  If you over-process, the sausages won’t be successful.   (if you are worried, do this by hand and you can’t really go wrong).

When roughly processed, turn out the mix into a bowl and add all the seasonings, mixing gently with a spatula.  Make sure you taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Use 1/8 cup per sausage and roll into sausage-like logs.

Heat the oil in a fry pan.  The oil must be hot when you put the sausages in the pan.  Turn the heat down to medium and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side (the sausages will turn golden brown).

I don’t usually cook all 17 sausages at once unless I’m serving a large group.  You can form the sausages into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and seal in a ziplock bag to freeze until a later date.  Alternately the sausages will keep in the fridge uncooked for about 2 days.

Serve with country hash browns, fried tomato and HP sauce.



Pea and Quinoa Chowder

I found this recipe a while back on the “my food my health” website, only it was made with corn, which has next to no nutritional value.  So, I decided to swap out the corn for some protein packed sweet peas and garnish with olives instead of adding them directly to the soup as per the original recipe (feel free to do that, but I found the olive flavours infused the soup too much in leftovers).  Jason hasn’t stopped talking about this soup since.  As a lot of my recipes, this is quick and simple, yet packs good nutrition with balanced flavours.  If you love a hearty pea soup…this is for you.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Servings:  6

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
1 large finely chopped leek (white and light green parts)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lb red skinned potatoes scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1/2″ diced pieces
6 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
4 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
1 1/4 tsp salt (+ more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2-4 green stuffed olives (with garlic or pimento)

In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks and oregano.  Sweat the leeks, stirring occasionally, until the leeks begin to soften, about 4 minutes.  Be careful not to brown the leeks as I did here!

Add 5 cups of vegetable stock and the potatoes.  Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat and add the quinoa. Turn down the heat to medium and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

If you prefer to have a bit more of a creamy texture to your chowder, in a food processor or blender, you can process 2 cups of the peas with 1 cup of stock and add it to your soup with the whole peas.  Otherwise, after the quinoa has cooked for 10 minutes, all the peas can be added directly to the pot and the extra cup of stock (as I have done here).

Add the salt and lots of fresh ground pepper (make sure to taste so that you add enough or as little to your liking).

Continue cooking until the quinoa is done (the grains should be translucent and have no opaque white dot in the center), about 2 to 3 minutes more.  Stir in the cilantro, and scallion.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.  Add enough lime juice to sharpen the flavours.  Garnish with a stuffed olive.

Eggplant Parmesan

Even though I have never been a fan of eggplant, for reason’s unbeknownst to me, I’ve been dying to create an eggplant parmesan recipe (in an animal free form of course).

We have been staying in Victoria this Thanksgiving weekend watching one of the Megans compete in the Royal Victoria Marathon and visiting family.  Tonight I offered to make dinner, and better yet, I got to do it in this kitchen!

What better time to try out a completely “from my head” recipe; for a skeptical, carnivorous audience.  Seconds were had and leftovers are scant.  I think I pulled it off…

Servings:  6
Prep Time:  40 minutes
Cook Time:  45 minutes

Tomato Sauce:

1 large can whole tomatoes
6 cloves (or more) garlic
4-5 shallots
1 sprig fresh basil
1 tbsp agave nectar (not shown here – I had to use honey as this kitchen was ill equipped!)
salt and pepper to taste

Breaded Eggplant:

4 small, firm eggplants (the more firm, the less seeds)
1-1 1/2 cups brown rice or panko style breadcrumbs  * see note
olive oil for frying
1 cup Daiya mozzarella cheese

Cannellini Bean Filling:

1 398 ml can cannellini beans
salt and pepper to taste

* you can choose to fry the eggplant without any breading at all.  In this case, bring olive oil to temperature in a fry pan as if it were breaded and fry about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Because we were having this in Victoria and I knew there would be no food processor at my fingertips, I processed my cannellini beans in advance.  You can however use a fork or potato masher to blend the beans if you do not have a food processor at your disposal.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Finely chop the shallots and garlic.

Saute the shallots over high heat until transparent.

Add the garlic, turn down the heat to medium and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Add the whole tomatoes and mash with a wooden spoon until smooth (I prefer not to use a hand blender or blender in this case as it is nice to have some sort of texture to the sauce).   Cook over low heat about 40 minutes.  In the meantime, prepare the eggplant.

Slice the eggplant into slices about 3/8″ thick.

Salt each slice and put in a colander to drain (the bitterness and excess water will come out of the eggplant over a period of about 30 minutes).

Do this with all the eggplant and set aside for 30 minutes.

When you are ready to bread the eggplant, chop the fresh basil and add to the tomato sauce.

Rinse the salt from the slices and let drain just a few minutes.  Spread the breadcrumbs or panko on a plate and lightly dredge each eggplant slice in the breading until coated (the coating will stick to the wet eggplant).

Put the breaded slices immediately into a a hot oiled pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Spread the tomato sauce in the bottom of large baking dish (9″ X 13″).  Dollop the bean mixture evenly on top of the tomato sauce.

Place the fried, breaded eggplant on top of the bean mixture (it should be about two layers if you use all the eggplant).

Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and cover the dish with tin foil.

Bake in a 375 degree fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let settle for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with salad and garlic bread on a ridiculously large table such as this:

Eggplant never tasted so good!

Chocolate Banana Milkshake

Nobody can tell me that by eating vegan I am missing anything, because in most cases there an equally good substitute for most treats.  In the case of milkshakes…this is it!

I have to give credit to Brendan Brazier and his Thrive Diet recipe book on this, however I have made a number of recipes from his book that I have ended up altering quite a bit in measurements.  This is one of them (I find he likes a really runny smoothie – and I don’t).

serves:  1 milkshake (and I call it a milkshake because it’s super thick and creamy)
prep time:  5 minutes
blend time:  1 minute or less (depending on your blender)

4 ice cubes
1 banana *see note
2 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp ground flax
1 tbsp ground hemp powder (100% pure hemp powder ** see note)
1 tbsp raw cocao nibs
2 medjool dates (pitted)
about 1-1/2 cups cold water

* if you know you are making this in advance, peel and cut your banana into ice cube sized chunks and freeze them in a Ziplock bag or freezer safe container for about 6 hours or overnight.  This will make the milkshake thicker and colder.

** by hemp powder I meant the kind that is 100% pure ground hemp.  I’m not talking about the products out there like Vega that have sweeteners and flavours added.  Those types of powders are meant to be mixed with milk or juice and consumed on their own.

Place the ingredients into the blender container.  If you have anything less than a Vitamix for a blender, make sure you place the hard items into the blender first (frozen banana and ice cubes) as they will be harder to process.  If you have a Vitamix, it really doesn’t matter what order you put them in as they will be blended smooth no matter what! (no, I don’t work for Vitamix).

Pour just enough cold water to cover the ingredients, but not quite (see picture).  This will give you an nice thick and creamy smoothie or milkshake.  If you wish it more runny, add more water.

Blend until smooth.  It takes about 10 – 20 seconds in a Vitamix.  A reguluar blender may take up to a minute.

Pour into a glass and enjoy!  I have a travel milkshake mug so I can take my milkshake with me on the go!