Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecan Salad

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecan Salad

This is such a simple but delicious salad, it's perfect as a main dish salad but a smaller portion would make a fantastic starter if you have guests over.  Recipe is based on one I saw in the Irish Food and Wine magazine and I couldn't resist making it as I love roasted squash and pecans. It's lightly spiced with warming cumin seed and ground ginger and slightly sweetened with some maple syrup. I made this after a long day shopping in Cork and it was one of those meals you just relaxed and savoured with a good glass of white wine and some lightly toasted slices of ciabatta. Perfect.... :-)

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecan Salad

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecan Salad: serves 2 as a main

1 small butternut squash, about 300 - 350g before prepping
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cumin seed
12 whole pecans
75g rocket
juice of 1/4 of a lemon
black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C. Slice the squash in half, slice off the top then scoop out the seeds. Slice each half into equal size wedges, I got 6 slices out of each half. In a bowl mix together 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, cumin seeds, ginger and a couple grinds of black pepper. Toss the squash in this then scrape it all into a roasting tin and roast for 25 - 30 minutes or until tender. The original recipe also said to cook until lightly charred and the skins in their photo looked quite black. As you can see mine never got near to that but the flesh was perfectly cooked at that point so I took them out then.  Add the pecans with 5 minutes remaining to heat them up.

Remove the squash and pecans to a large bowl. Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice and 1 Tbsp cold water. Pour roasting juices into a bowl then slowly whisk in the other 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Toss the rocket in this dressing with your hands until all leaves are coated then place on a plate. Top with the warm squash and pecans and serve immediately.

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecan Salad

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Old-Fashioned Buckwheat Griddle Cakes with Brown Sugar Syrup

Old Fashioned Buckwheat Griddle Cakes with Brown Sugar Syrup

So, although I didn't have to make my own birthday cake this year I did make my own birthday breakfast, but, only because I really wanted to try these. Those of you who buy your buckwheat flour here in Ireland or the UK from Dove's Farm may recognize this recipe as it's on the bag :-) After making the buckwheat crêpes and realizing I love buckwheat these were next on the list. I also had some brown sugar syrup left over from the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola and thought, hmmm?

These are different from a standard pancake recipe in that they are yeast risen as opposed to using baking powder or soda. This means they need a little forward planning as the batter needs to sit for an hour but, they are worth it. We really loved these but I gotta say what we loved the most was the brown sugar syrup with them! As a true Canadian I like nothing more but copious amounts of real maple syrup on my regular pancakes but it just did not go as well with these as the brown sugar syrup did. Something about the slightly nutty taste of the buckwheat with that pure brown sugar flavour was really lovely together.

Altogether it was a beautiful birthday breakkie and as I now have to make this brown sugar syrup ALL the time as my son won't eat any other cereal but my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie granola, I will certainly be whipping these up again ;-)

Old-Fashioned Buckwheat Griddle Cakes with Brown Sugar Syrup:

200g buckwheat flour
75g golden caster sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp quick yeast
300ml warm water
1 Tbsp treacle or molasses
50g melted vegan butter

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Measure out the warm water and dissolve the treacle or molasses into it. Stir in to the dry ingredients and leave for 1 hour. It didn't say to leave in a warm place or to cover it but I did, not sure it made any difference though. After an hour stir in the melted butter.

Batter before sitting for 1 hour:

Batter after sitting for 1 hour:

Heat a frying pan and grease with some vegetable oil. Spoon the batter onto the hot pan, I used a 1/4 cup measure for these. I did find this batter quite thin, certainly thinner than my usual basic pancake recipe - just something to keep in mind. When they are golden underneath and bubbling on the surface, carefully flip over and cook the other side. Keep them warm in a low temperature oven until all are cooked.

Brown Sugar Syrup:

500g light muscovado sugar
250ml water

These quantities make quite a lot of syrup, as long as you use half the quantity water to the sugar it will work. I like to make quite a bit as I use it for making the granola as well as for these pancakes. It keeps really well in the fridge, just decant into a nice bottle, easy for pouring.

Simply add the sugar and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer for 3 - 4 minutes, don't walk away and keep stirring as it can really foam up and over the pan! Remove to another glass container to cool and thicken. It won't seem "syrupy" right away but will thicken up like a syrup as it cools. You could make this while the batter is resting as it would certainly be ready after the hour.

If using from the fridge, you'll want to warm it up, a really handy way to do this is just place the whole bottle in some warm water until heated. Otherwise you can decant some into a smaller jug and microwave briefly.

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Friday, 23 September 2011

Healthier Banana Bread

Healthy Vegan Banana Bread

Ah, banana bread, I made banana bread a lot when we were vegetarian and I had it a lot growing up omni too. My mom made it quite often and it was always one of my favourites. After all, is there anything better than the smell of banana bread baking?? Since turning vegan however I haven't found the perfect recipe. I tried veganizing my moms and trying others and I find they all taste great but the texture is too dense and not 'banana bread' like. I once again had a glut of really ripe bananas to use and thought I would try something different altogether, a healthier banana bread. After all, nothing else has been working and why not? One thing that always annoyed me about banana bread is how high in calories one simple slice was.

So, I devised this one - it is sweetened only with the minimum amount of maple syrup, barring the optional sprinkle of demerara sugar on top, and the fat has been drastically cut back by only using 2 Tbsp of the much healthier organic coconut oil. I also increased the bananas for sweetness and texture and swapped some of the white flour with wholemeal, in keeping with the healthier tag of course ;-)

I gotta admit I did not have high hopes for this, as anyone who reads this blogs knows - I love my sugar. In fact I un-apologetically love my sugar. And anyone who follows me on twitter will know I was ready to eat this with a bottle of maple syrup at my side. Well, as you can guess as it's being blogged it was bloody fantastic! Out of all the vegan banana breads I have made this one was hands down my favourite, and with about half the calories! Unlike the usual moist bricks I get this one had a really nice texture which I hope comes out in the photos here and it tasted great, just sweet enough although I would consider the demerara sugar topping there essential ;-)

So, there you go, a great tasting fantastic textured banana bread that just happens to be better for you to boot! Win-win!!

Oh yeah, it's also another huge hit with my son who was having a slice at breakfast and a slice after school!


**Edit - just made this again (as it's my new favourite banana bread recipe) but was out of a few ingredients. So, FYI -It also works really well with melted vegan butter in place of the coconut oil and the brown sugar syrup from my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola recipe in place of the maple syrup (I used 80ml instead of 60ml) I was also a little short of the 400g of bananas but it turned out just as good with the same great texture :-) **

Healthy Vegan Banana Bread

Healthier Banana Bread:

140g plain flour
140g wholemeal flour
60ml maple syrup (1/4 cup or 4 Tbsp)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
75ml rice milk
400g really ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp organic coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla
optional - 1 Tbsp demerara sugar 

Preheat the oven to 180C and line the bottom of a loaf tin with baking paper, spray the sides with cooking spray. In a large bowl mix together the flours, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl whisk together the mashed banana, maple syrup, coconut oil, rice milk and vanilla. Add this to the flour mixture, mixing and folding with a rubber spatula until just mixed, do not over mix.

Scrape into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle the demerara sugar over top, if using. Pop in the oven and bake for 45min - 1 hour until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack to fully cool.

Great warm with a spreading of vegan butter:
Vegan Banana Bread

Nutritional Information: per 100g
Calories: 252
Fat: 4.5g
Sat Fat: 3.3g
Fibre: 4.3g
Protein: 5g
Carbs: 50g
Sugar: 15.3g
Calcium: 124g 

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Cumin Seed not-so Flatbreads

Cumin Seed Flatbreads

No, not naan - not-so-flatbreads ;-) I had some of this spicy carrot and bean soup in the freezer and felt like it one recent rainy and windy day. Soup for me, and most people to be fair, must have bread with it but I always feel regular bread just doesn't really go with curry based soups. I always want something more naan like for some reason. So I thought I would whip these up. I very loosely based the recipe on Nigella's 'Nigella Seed Flatbreads' out of How to be a Domestic Goddess, veganizing and replacing some things with stuff I had on hand. I opted for cumin seed instead of nigella seeds mostly as that's what I had in the cupboard but it works amazingly well. (Edit - I have since made these with nigella seeds, also known as black onion seeds and they were just as good, either work.) As for the not-so-flat part, they were supposed to be flatbreads but rose so well in the oven some could only be described as buns! I wouldn't change that next time either though as the texture was fantastic.

The breads themselves are beautiful, really light and fluffy softly spiced with cumin and went so well with the soup. The next evening I made a simple chick pea and veg curry and we had one on the side of that - very nice. I will always whip these up before a curry night, or indeed any time I make a curry spiced soup as they are really quite easy.
Cumin Seed Flatbreads
Perfect with a bowl of spiced carrot soup!

Cumin Seed not-so-Flatbreads 

Yields 12 Flatbreads

500g white bread flour
1 sachet easy blend or quick yeast (7g)
2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds (or black onion seeds, both work well)

Mix the flour, salt, yeast and cumin seeds in a large bowl. Measure the coconut milk and vegetable oil in a pyrex measuring cup and fill up to 350ml with quite warm water. Give it a stir then pour over the flour and mix well. Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it's smooth and elastic, add more flour to prevent sticking as need be. Shape into a ball and place into a greased bowl and grease the surface. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down, give it a couple kneads and cut into 12 even size pieces. Gently knead each piece into a ball then give it a quick back and forth roll with a rolling pin to flatten out. Repeat with all the pieces placing them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Funny how uncooked bread looks like a black and white photo...

Preheat the oven to 220C and loosely cover the sheet of breads with cling film and place in a warm place for 20 minutes. Now remove the cling film and bake for 8 - 10 minutes until golden and risen again. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool, although they are best warm from the oven :-)
Cumin Seed Flatbreads
There, that's better!

The soup I served these with is a spicy citrus carrot and bean soup. Recipe comes from BBC Good Food, available here. It was really good but reminded me too much of my absolute favourite carrot curry soup which given the choice I would always opt for that one. Still, I can highly recommend it, had really nice taste and the addition of beans added a nice texture.
Cumin Seed Flatbreads

Nutritional Information: based on 1 flatbread

Calories: 179
Fat: 4.2g
Sat Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 5.5g
Carbs: 28.5g
Sugar: 0.6g
Fibre: 2.1g
Sodium: 421mg

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola

Love my old-fashioned French milk bottle filled with rice milk - "the good milk" indeed!

Why yes, I did grow up on Cookie Crisp cereal, why do you ask? You may have recalled in my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie post below that I said I loved them so much I was having them for breakfast. I started to think it would be nice to have this without all the guilt and thought of a granola with all the flavours of an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie, after all, both are oatmeal based.

I have never made my own granola so had a search online and was happy to see how easy it is. However almost all the recipes called for using maple syrup, honey, agave, golden syrup to coat the oats in. While I would normally be more than happy to use maple syrup it just wasn't keeping with the cookie flavour I really wanted here.

Whenever I think of the main flavours in an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie I think primarily brown sugar, butter, vanilla and chocolate. So I thought I would make a brown sugar syrup to help replicate that, using just light muscovado sugar and water. It turned out beautifully and I set about making the granola with that instead. To that I added some melted vegan butter, vanilla and a bit of cinnamon, just like in my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

The end result was fantastic! This really does have the aura of an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie BUT without being overly sweet. By aura I mean it doesn't taste like you are eating a bowl of chopped up cookies - NOT what I was after, but rather, tastes just like granola with all the hints of an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. The best praise came from my son who had 2 bowls and said it "was the best cereal I have ever eaten and probably ever will". Aw shucks!

Oh, and ultimately I wanted to make this with chocolate chips, but if you read my cookie post below the chips I used to buy are no longer vegan so had to resort to chopping some dark vegan chocolate instead. It's still chocolate, it's still good ;-)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola: makes about 600g

300g oats
Brown sugar syrup - recipe below
2 Tbsp vegan butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
100g dark chocolate chips or a chopped bar

Brown Sugar Syrup:
200g light muscovado sugar
100ml water

To make the syrup, simply add the sugar and water to a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring all the while. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring very often, watch it as it can bubble up pretty quickly, just reduce the heat more and keep stirring if it does. Remove from the heat and add the margarine, stir until it melts then add the vanilla, stir well. (You can double or triple this syrup recipe if you would like extra, if you are making more then measure out 200ml of the syrup for this recipe. The rest can be kept in a glass bottle in the fridge - it's lovely of pancakes and the like.)

Preheat the oven to 150C and line a large baking sheet with baking paper. In a large bowl add the oats and cinnamon and mix well. Pour over the syrup and stir really well until everything is coated and it's evenly blended.

Tip this onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, remove give it a mix around, spread it out again and pop it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Give it another mix, if it's golden and feeling crisp then it's done, remove and leave to fully cool.

When cool, tip it all into a large bowl and add the chocolate, give it a toss and that's it, it's ready for the morning. Keep in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

Nutritional Information: based on a 50g or 1/3 cup serving
Calories: 225
Fat: 6g
Sat Fat: 2.4g
Protein: 5 g
Carbs: 38.4g
Sugar: 20g
Fibre: 3.5g

Friday, 16 September 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I do love a basic oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and this is a real good one! As you can see, in keeping with my tastes these are jam packed with as many chocolate chips as was possible to get in ;-) I tried an oatmeal cookie prior to this one but they were way too crisp, these are just lightly crisp on the outside but still nice and chewy too. I love them so much I was having them for breakfast :-) You can easily swap the chocolate chips here for raisins too for a really nice oatmeal raisin cookie, just use less than the chocolate chips, 100g maybe, just eyeball it. :-)

Just a note on the vegan margarine here. I use Vitalite (UK/Ireland) and it's a really soft margarine. If the vegan marg you use is firmer you may have to add a bit more water. I used to use Pure Sunflower and I know if I was using that I would need to add a bit more water. Just add enough so you have a firm drop cookie dough :-)

Also, regarding the chocolate chips, I had some old packages of Dr. Oetker plain chocolate chips which always appeared to be vegan. When I went to go buy some more I noticed the ingredients now had whey powder listed but with a little number 2 by it, almost like it was just a cross contamination issue. I called the company and they weren't sure but said they would ask the head guy (Dr. Oetker himself???) and get him to call back. He said that they recently changed suppliers but would be changing suppliers again at the end of the year and will try to ensure they are dairy free. You go Doctor!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: makes about 19

100g vegan margarine
120g caster sugar
50g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
115g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
90g oats
140g plain/dark/semi-sweet chocolate chips (again, this is the absolute maximum you'll get in there!)
1 tsp or more water

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. In a bowl whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl cream together the margarine, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. Stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture until it comes together. Add 1 tsp or more water if necessary, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoon onto the pan keeping them about an inch apart and bake for 12 - 15 minutes until the just start to go golden around the edges. Leave on the pan for 5 minutes then when they are firm enough to move, transfer to a rack to fully cool. Enjoy!

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nutritional Information: 1 cookie (out of 19)
Calories: 136
Protein: 1.9g
Carbs: 21.6g
Sugar: 12.8g
Fibre: 1.2g
Fat: 5.3g
Sat Fat: 1.9g
Sodium: 97mg

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Vegan Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Bundt Cake
With chocolate glaze, I mean, why not??

Vegan Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Bundt Cake

So I might just have a little addiction to cake. On the day my lovely birthday cake finished I made this, like I can't cope without cake or something! Basically I had some tofutti sour cream that I needed to use, to be honest I don't know how that happened as that stuff usually goes pretty quick in this house with nachos, burritos, tacos etc.. being much loved, but there you go.

Regardless, I thought of trying a sour cream cake and came up with this, I'm glad I did as it turned out beautiful, first try and all! The cake has a wonderful moist yet nicely crumbed texture, not too heavy at all and the flavour is perfect. I wasn't planning on adding anything on top as I was envisioning a simple snack cake but felt it just needed something. So I was toying with the idea of a ganache, chocolate glaze, sifted icing sugar or chocolate drizzle and settled on a chocolate glaze. It's the same one as I use on my doughnuts and worked well with this. I felt ganache would be a bit rich and not really suit the cake as I just wanted something thin and light, this works really well but of course you can do any of those options, or simply leave it plain, any way it'll be very good! If you do want a ganache, I highly recommend my recipe here, it's one of the best ganache's I've ever had.

Just a note on the sour cream, I don't know if others have found this but I find sometimes tofutti sour cream is really wet, other times, really thick. This time it was really thick and after whisking it to soften it I did have to add about 1 Tbsp water to the end batter. If it was thinner, I probably wouldn't have needed to. It is a very thick batter but if it's looking excessively dry, as in you can still see flour, just add a bit of water - a tsp at a time should do. It's still a 'spooning in' batter and not a pouring batter. :-)

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Bundt Cake: serves 16

280g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g vegan butter
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
225 pack tofutti sour cream, whisked 
100g plain chocolate chips
2 'eggs':
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp vegetable oil
100ml water

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour a bundt pan. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside. In a small bowl make up your 'eggs': add the cornstarch, baking powder and xanthan gum and give it a whisk. Mix together the vegetable oil and water and pour this over slowly, whisking all the while. When it is all added give it a really good whisk until slightly thick and gloopy. Set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer add the butter, sugar, vanilla and the 'eggs'. Turn mixer on and slowly go up to high speed. Stop and scrape down sides to get all the butter incorporated. Keep it running for a couple minutes until light in colour and everything is mixed well. When you stop the machine and lift the paddle attachment the batter should run down in a ribbon.

Now add some of the flour mixture to this and mix well, then some of the sour cream. Keep adding flour then sour cream mixing well after each addition. When all has been added spoon the batter into the prepared pan and level off with the back of a spoon. The batter will be very thick. Pop it in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. It should feel firm but bouncy to the touch as well. Do check if after 30 minutes however as all ovens are different.

Cake once inverted.

Leave it in the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then invert onto the wire rack, removing the pan. Mine came out real easy, it's a springform pan so I first removed the outside part then ran a knife around the middle cone. I then placed the wire rack upside down over the top and flipped the whole thing over and the cake just came away from the pan in one go. Maybe I was lucky though! Now just leave it to fully cool on the wire rack.

Chocolate Glaze:

1 1/2 Tbsp vegan butter
75g icing sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp hot water
75g dark chocolate, chopped

Simply place everything in a bowl and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts and everything is blended well. Remove from the heat and give it a good whisk. Leave it until it thickens up slightly. You still want this runny enough to pour over but thick enough that it actually coats, to be fair I was probably I little impatient with mine there and it could have done with thickening up a bit more. As it's sitting and thickening up whisk it now and again to stop the surface crisping up. When ready simply spoon over the cake letting it run down the sides. Let it sit some more to let the glaze set, about an hour then it's ready to serve, so get the coffee on! :-)

Vegan Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Nutritional Information: based on 1/16th of cake
Calories: 259
Fat: 9.9g
Sat Fat: 3.7g
Protein: 2.8g
Carbs: 40.8g
Sugar: 22g
Fibre: 1.1g
Sodium: 263mg

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Monday, 12 September 2011

Breakfast Sausage and Hash-brown Burger

Vegan Sausage and Hash Brown Burger
"Butter" grilled bun, Fry's burger patty top with slow fried onions, a hash-brown and ketchup.

Ok, just an uncharacteristic non-recipe 'simple idea' post for you today. Mostly to prove I don't make semi-complicated meals all the time and enjoy some almost ready made food as much as the next person :-) This was, of course, delicious and I dare say would make a great hangover breakfast. Actually, I can confirm that.

For the patty there I used a Fry's burger patty which works perfectly here. I absolutely love them but I don't think they taste like burger patties. To me they taste like a perfect sausage patty and therefore work really well here. This was just whipped up one morning but if I really wanted to go for it I would make the English Muffins from Vegan Brunch and "butter" grill one of those for the ultimate Vegan Sausage McMuffin, screw the egg!

Breakfast Sausage and Hash-brown Burger:

1 x Burger Bun
1 x Fry's Burger Patty
1 x Large Hash-brown, cooked
Vegetable Oil, I used 1 tsp
Vegan Butter

Simply spread 'butter' on both sides of a bun or English Muffin and  place on a grill pan toasting until nice and grilled. Press down on it while cooking to help get the lines, doens't matter if it gets squished as it's a pretty high burger in the end anyway!

In a fry pan fry the onion nice and slow in the oil until very soft, golden and a bit crispy on some edges, remove. Now in the same pan fry the burger patty for 8 - 10 minutes until golden on both sides, add more oil if need be. Add the onion to the pan at the end to re-heat slightly.

Now simply top the bun with the patty, onion, cooked hash-brown and lots of ketchup. Enjoy!

Vegan Sausage and Hash-Brown Burger

Nutritional Information: approx, depending on bun used, how much ketchup etc..
Calories: 385
Fat: 13.5
Sat Fat: 2.7g
Fibre: 2.1g
Protein: 18.4g
Carbs: 50.5g
Sugar: 11.5g
Sodium: 1027mg

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Jumbo Pasta Shells stuffed with Basil Almond Feta with a Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce

Vegan Almond Cheese Stuffed Shells with a Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce
The whole dish, prior to baking.

Ok, I would like to promise that this will be my last post with the almond feta for awhile, but I can't guarantee that! It's just so good, and so versatile :-) This dish is particularly fantastic - jumbo pasta shells stuffed with the almond feta mixed with lots of fresh basil and all topped with my new favourite tomato cream sauce (blog post below). Seriously delicious and really special, I can see us having this one for many special occasions....or any weeknight really as it's not hard!

I realize my quantities may look skimpy but this was very satisfying with just the right amount of filling and sauce. I went with 4 shells per person but this recipe could easily serve just 2 with 6 shells each; just keep in mind that almond cheese stuffed inside pasta with a cream sauce does have the calories you would expect!

Another great thing about this dish - I discovered the almond feta can be made on the same day you are making this so it won't take you 2 - 3 days to make :-) I whipped up the feta in the morning, let it drain in the fridge until it was time to make it then half cooked the feta for 20 minutes. I then stirred in some chopped basil, filled the par cooked shells, poured the sauce under and over then baked it off for another 20 minutes. This meant the feta didn't get overcooked as it still got it's full 40 minutes :-)

Jumbo Pasta Shells stuffed with Basil Feta with a Tomato Basil Cream Sauce:

12 large pasta shells
1 x recipe almond feta
1 x recipe Tomato Cream Sauce
fresh basil

(If you have any leftover filling or sauce, don't worry, it'll get used elsewhere!)

In the morning make the almond feta up to the stage where it is draining in the cheesecloth in the fridge. I also like to make the sauce in the morning and have it ready and waiting in the fridge. About an hour before you want to eat remove the feta from the cheesecloth and place in a lightly greased oven proof dish. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes. It usually takes 40 but remove it now and stir in lots of chopped fresh basil, it will be quite soft.

Now the shells, it will depend on what the package instructions say but I parboiled mine for 15 minutes then ran them under cold water and drained well. Stuff the shells with a bit of the basil feta but don't fill them up or worry about fully fulling them up. The basil feta is strong in flavour (as well as calories) and you don't need a lot here. Also, I filled a piping bag with the cheese and piped it into the shells but don't recommend doing that. It was fiddly and would have been much easier to spoon it in. When the amount of shells you want are stuffed heat up the tomato cream sauce and stir in some chopped fresh basil into the sauce.

Now place some of the sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and lay the stuffed shells on top.

Vegan Almond Cheese Stuffed Shells

Spoon over some more of the sauce, don't worry it it doesn't cover all the shells, like the basil feta this sauce is full of flavour and I found the amount you see here to be just right:

Now, fully cover the whole dish with foil and pop back into the 200C oven for 20 minutes. My shells after this stage where just al dente but could have maybe done with a little more so give them a little test and see if they need a little longer in the oven.

Scoop out the shells onto a plate and this is entirely optional - grate with a little cheddar cheezly and serve. Would be great with a glass of red wine and garlic bread.

The finished dish with my *smaller* portion plated up, shame it's not a great picture as this was amazing!!

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce

Vegan Creamy Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce
Served with Spaghetti and my Garlic Bread.

Well, we had quite a bit of leftover Tomato Cream Sauce from the Buckwheat Crêpes recipe and I just had to try it with pasta as it was so good on it's own. Wow. This is a seriously good pasta sauce and will be a staple in our house for sure, even the kid loved it, yay! I'm going to re-post the recipe here as I've increased the quantities for a pasta sauce. The photo there is with parsley but I prefer basil for a pasta sauce and parsley for a crêpe sauce, although both work well. I also took some step by step photos for you here, although it's a dead easy sauce ;-) I've showed this sauce on it's own here so you can see it clearly but any kind of vegetables added would be great.

Sauce is loosely based on/inspired by The Pioneer Woman's "Penne a la Betsy" :-)

Recipe Notes:

♥ I love the coconut milk in this but I have also made this with soy cream, it's just as good.
♥ Don't drink? Simply swap the wine with equal amounts of water. Again, it's still good.
Passata is just sieved crushed tomatoes, I understand this product is harder to find in the US. To help you substitute the ingredients are: tomatoes (99.7%) salt and citric acid and the product is completely smooth. Plain canned tomato sauce can most likely be used in it's place. Make sure the ingredients are as above with no oil, basil,vegetables etc.. and it is very smooth with no seeds, skin or chunks. 
♥ Please don't confuse passata with tomato paste either, I've seen some sites online saying they are the same - they are not....375g of tomato paste would make for an *interesting* sauce, lol.

2013 photo with my new favourite pasta shape - De Cecco Fusilli Lunghi Bucati -5 

Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce
makes 1/2 litre, good for about 6 servings.

• 1 1/2 Tbsp vegan butter
• 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
• 60g chopped shallots
• 4 -6 cloves garlic, I used 4 large ones, use 6 if they are small, chopped fine
• 150ml white wine
• 375g passata (about 375ml) 
• 200ml full fat coconut milk 
• 1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
• 6 -8 grinds black pepper
• about a 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (to be honest, I didn't measure here, I just eyeballed it)

First, heat up the butter and olive oil until the butter melts. Add the shallots and garlic and fry until the shallots are soft and transparent, a few minutes should do.

Pour in the wine and bring to a strong simmer, cook until the wine reduces by about a third. Now add the passata, salt and pepper. Stir well, bring to a boil then reduce to low heat, put the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure to stir it now and again. It should cook down considerably and be fairly thick.

Pour in the coconut milk, stir and remove from the heat.

Pour it all into a blender and blend until super smooth, it should thicken up and change colour to a glorious orange:

Now simply pour it back into the pot, stir in the basil and or parsley and bring it back up to heat. Check seasoning and it's ready to use!

Fantastic with penne too, or of course, any pasta :-)

Nutritional Information: just the sauce - per 1 serving out of 6
Calories: 151
Protein: 1.3g
Fat: 5.9g
Sat Fat: 1g
Fibre: 0.6g
Carbs: 7g
Sugar: 3.5g
Sodium: 358mg

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