Archive for the 'Quick Dinners' Category

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…

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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!

Punjabi Quesadillas

We had the pleasure of having the two Megans over for dinner last night and I thought it would be a good time to try out these quesadillas that I discovered on the Food Network last week. I saw an episode of The Spice Goddess which featured Punjabi Quesadillas. Her version used chicken and yogurt but I’m going to change that up a bit and make mine with black beans and brown rice tortillas. I think they were a hit and I’m going to have the leftovers for breakfast…

Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: approximately 15-20 minutes

grapeseed oil to brush tortillas and saute (you can also use olive oil)
1 398 ml tin black beans
1/2 large red onion
3 cloves or more minced garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp Spanish paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp garam masala
Daiya mozzarella cheese (about 3/4 cup)
6 brown rice tortillas (1 pkg)
sea salt to taste

Heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil in a pan.

Chop the onion and mince the garlic and saute with the fresh ginger until tender. Add the spices.

When the aromas have been released by the heat, add the black beans.

Add a little cold water to the pan (about 1/3 cup). Cook, stirring until the mixture is well combined. The mixture should be moist. You can add a little bit more water if it’s too dry. Season with sea salt to taste.

Brush one side of the tortillas with grapeseed oil and place oil side down on a cookie sheets. Sprinkle a little cheese (how much cheese you use is really up to you). Spread the black bean mixture on top of the cheese.

Spread right to the edges of the tortilla. Sprinkle a little more cheese.

Top each with another tortilla and lightly brush some olive oil on the top.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes).

Serve with salad. I’ve served these with an avocado salad with citrus dressing.

No Cow Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been sick all week and after a long day of work with my head pounding and my eyes feeling like they’d been in front of a computer for 9 hours….I wanted a little comfort food.
This is really easy to make and was in a bowl, on the couch, in front of the TV within minutes.

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 2
Cooking Time: 15

8 ounces brown rice (or other wheat free pasta) macaroni
3 cups Daiya cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons vegan butter
2 cups unsweetened rice milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika

1 tbsp spelt flour
rice milk to make slurry (about 1/4 cup)

Boil enough water to accommodate your pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the bag.  Drain, rinse and set aside (while the pasta is cooking, I start my sauce so the draining will actually come near to the end of the making of the sauce).

In a separate pot, melt the butter.
Add the black pepper, paprika and nutritional yeast and stir until blended.


Add the rice milk and over medium heat bring the mixture close to boil.
At this point, I add the cheese.

Daiya cheese is brilliant. It is soy free, and tastes and acts just like real cheese from stretch to melt….this stuff is the best!
In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I should make a whole batch of this recipe as I was home alone and I didn’t know it it would reheat well (as many non dairy cheeses don’t). I remember my brother eating the glutinous, starchy, sticky, Kraft dinner leftovers as a kid and I didn’t know if my cold recipe would come back to life….but Daiya is amazing. Reheated the next day this creamy mix came back just as if it had never cooled down.

Stir constantly as the cheese is melting.

This will take a few minutes, so as I am doing this, I also make a spelt flour slurry in a cup to thicken the sauce a bit.  Take your flour and add a bit of rice milk to it, just enough to make a paste.  When that paste is smooth, add a little more rice milk and keep stirring until its smooth again.  Continue this process until you have a slurry mixture of rice milk and flour that is the consistency of runny wallpaper paste.

Add a bit of the melted cheese mixture into the slurry and stir until combined.  Add a bit more.  Continue to add until the cup is full and then add the slurry mixture back into your sauce (this insures that the flour mix does not heat up too quickly).  Stir until combined and remove from heat.  Continue to stir for a few more minutes.   The thing with spelt flour vs. wheat flour is that spelt is not friendly with heat.  Normally to make this sauce with all purpose flour,  I would have made a roux at the beginning of the process, added my milk and thickened the sauce that way, however this would mean that the spelt flour would be over heat too long and it would not do its thickening job.  This is why I do it at the end.

Taste the sauce to make sure the flour taste has cooked off.  Season with salt more pepper if desired (the Daiya cheese has a fairly strong cheesy taste so this isn’t always necessary).

Add your cheese sauce to your noodles and stir until combined.  You want to make sure you cover each noodle with sauce and that the tubes fill up with cheesy goodness!

Dish into bowls and enjoy.

Creamy Green Soup

I discovered a local vegan café on Commercial Drive last fall and tested their “green” soup – which wasn’t so green after sitting on an element all morning. I was annoyed with how much I paid, and even more annoyed when I tasted it! And so my mission to devise the tastiest green soup commenced. It didn’t take long and I think you’ll agree that the creamy, cheesy flavours in this green soup are the perfect balance of satisfaction. Jason asked for this one this week. Ask, and you shall receive, on the conditions there is no talking during Supernatural!

Servings:  6
Prep Time:  5 minutes:
Cook Time:  30 minutes

1 tbsp grapeseed oil for sautéing
600 grams frozen spinach (or 6 cups fresh spinach) *see note
1 large yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
2 cups vegetable stock **see note
1 398 ml can coconut milk
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste

*if you are using fresh spinach, remove the stems and rinse the leaves thoroughly as they can often have sand trapped between them. Add to the recipe as you would frozen spinach.
**of course the best stock to use would be one that you’ve roasted and deglazed yourself, however that is not always an option based on time. I keep stock cubes on hand (make sure you buy the low sodium, no MSG organic brands – you can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away). You can also buy pre-made organic stock in tetra packs at the market. Use what you need and freeze the rest until later.

Chop the garlic and onion.
In a large pot, heat the grapeseed oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent.
Open and drain off any excess water from the frozen spinach. Add to the onion mixture and heat through (about 2 minutes).

Add the vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a mild simmer and remove from the heat.
Transfer the spinach mixture from the pot to a high speed blender. Be very careful when pouring out the hot mixture.
Secure the lid (you don’t want to burn yourself with hot soup splatter) and blend on high until smooth.
Return the blended soup to the pot and cook over medium heat until the soup begins to simmer.
Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper.
I eat this soup as a light dinner with vegan gyoza dumplings on the side (which can be purchased from your local market in the freezer section). This soup would also make a great accompaniment to a veggie burger or fresh falafel. The ideas are limitless!

My Chili

There is nothing like coming home on a cold and wet autumn night and sitting down to a nice bowl of hearty chili.  My version is just that.  Thick and rich, my original recipe…this simple dish will warm you through.  Feel free to add your favourites like green peppers and mushroom, but I think you will find as I have, that less is far more.

Servings: 6
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  40 minutes

1 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
1 large yellow onion chopped
5 cloves garlic (or more if you are like me) minced
1 28 oz/796 ml can diced or crushed tomatoes *see note
1 14 oz/398 ml can black beans
1 14 oz/398 ml can romano, pinto or cannellini beans
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chili flakes (or more if you like the heat)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp molasses

*I use diced or crushed tomatoes, but I have used whole canned tomatoes as well. The tomatoes break down as the chili cooks when stirring constantly.  But the whole tomatoes will give you a slightly “chunkier” chili.

Drain and rinse the beans.

In a Dutch oven (that’s the fancy name for a big pot), heat the oil over high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook another two minutes.

Add the chili powder, cinnamon, and chili flakes.  Cook until the seasonings brown (just a few minutes).

Add the beans, tomatoes and tomato paste and cook over high heat for 15 minutes, stirring every two minutes or so.

When the chili starts to spit, turn the heat down to minimum.  Add the molasses, cover the pot, and let the chili simmer for about 30 minutes.

Dish into a bowl and serve with garlic toast, hot corn bread, or tortilla chips.