Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole

IMG_3000     I adapted this Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole from a recipe on VegWeb.    Under the spaghetti sauce, there’s a layer of cream cheese with green onions and chives, and I added a layer of meatballs in the middle.  This is easy and pretty quick to throw together, and surprisingly delicious.  It makes plenty, so there will be leftovers, or you could serve it for a dinner party, with salad, garlic bread, and maybe a sorbet for dessert.


Serves 6

8 oz. thin spaghetti or capellini pasta
1/2 Cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 Cup vegan sour cream
1/3 Cup chopped scallions (green onions), white and green parts
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
12 oz. vegan meatballs  (about 16-20 is good)
24 oz. pasta sauce  (from a jar is fine)
1 Tablespoon vegan parmesan, such as Go Veggie brand

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt to a pot of water, break spaghetti in half and start cooking pasta per package directions.

With a fork, mix vegan cream cheese, sour cream, scallions and chives in a bowl.
When pasta is cooked to al dente, scoop out 1/3 Cup of pasta water and set it aside.  Remove from heat and strain pasta.  Into the empty, still-warm pot, put the butter, nutritional yeast and the 1/3 Cup reserved pasta water.  Add strained pasta back to the pot and with a wooden spoon, mix until pasta is thoroughly coated.

Add half the pasta to the casserole dish and level it somewhat.  Place the vegan meatballs on top of this bottom layer of pasta.  Add the rest of the pasta on top of the meatballs.   Add dollops of the cream-cheese mixture to the top and spread gently with the back of a spoon.  Pour the pasta sauce over all.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of vegan parmesan cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes–you should see the edges bubbling.  I bake the first 15 minutes with the lid on, but am not sure if this is necessary.

Notes:  I use an old Corning Ware 3-Liter casserole dish that is about 8″ square by 4″ tall.  This tastes even better the next day, so it’s a good one to make ahead.  I set out the sour cream and cream cheese for 10 minutes so they soften up a bit.  The variations are endless:  you could lean into a more whole-foods, gluten-free version with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.  Or instead of meatballs, mix chopped walnuts into the tomato sauce, to mimic ground beef and add protein and omegas.  During that summer glut of garden tomatoes, fold some in.  Or mix some chopped spinach into the cream-cheese and scallion mixture, etc.  Buon appetito!

Vegan Caramelized Carrot Risotto

IMG_2868     After seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars where they eat the Dragon Carrot Risotto, I knew I had to make it.  So last Fall, I ordered organic seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, and began planning a few dishes to make.   I found this recipe online and veganized it.  Swapping out the animal products still produced a classic, restaurant-style risotto, with a real flavor of parmesan.  Caramelizing the carrots is genius, and this is good enough for company, for a birthday, or even for Thanksgiving.  In the end, I did use a mélange of carrot cultivars to make this dish, because that day, along with the Dragon carrots, I also pulled Cosmic Purple carrots and Atomic Red carrots from the ground.   This dish makes a lot and reheats well.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided  (not canola oil)
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, divided
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely and evenly as possible (about 3 Cups)
(I used a food processor for the carrots)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
1/3 Cup minced onion
1.5 Cups Arborio rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
1/4 Cup vegan parmesan, I like Go Veggie Vegan Grated Parmesan
1 Tablespoon finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish
1 teaspoon roughly-chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon vegan butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add carrots and stir until well coated.  Ad 1/2 Cup water, salt and sugar, cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender.  Uncover and cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown.  Reserve half of these cooked carrots.  In a blender, puree the other half with 3/4 Cup hot water.

Bring broth to a simmer and keep hot, covered, over low heat.

In same (unwashed) pot used for carrots, heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, 1 minute.  Add wine and cook, stirring until wine evaporates.  Add carrot puree and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

Add 1/2 Cup hot broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Repeat process, adding 1/2 Cup broth at a time and stirring often until each addition of broth is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes).  At least 1 Cup of broth will remain.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the caramelized carrots.  Fold in the remaining carrots, cream cheese, parmesan, 1 Tablespoon parsley, and the thyme.  Add up to 1 Cup broth (1/4 Cup at a time) to loosen the risotto.  Season with pepper.

Garnish each bowl of risotto with the remaining parsley and reserved carrots.  Serve immediately.

Notes:  Better Than Bouillon also makes a very good Seasoned Vegetable Base that would work fine.  When reheating, add some leftover broth or water to loosen it up again.

cropped-IMG_2825.jpg  Organic carrots from my garden.

One Pot Pasta

IMG_2843     One Pot Pasta is a thing–it’s all over the internet, so I tried it.  It’s good, but be aware that since you’re NOT draining the pasta, there is a slight starchy quality to the sauce.  It was quite good though, and it makes a quick meal with no colander to wash.  Also, there’s no walking to the sink with a heavy pot of boiling water (to drain the pasta).  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, except I prefer thinner pasta, so I used spaghetti instead of linguine.


Serves 4

12 ounces spaghetti
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, or chopped fresh tomatoes, if in season
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4.5 Cups water
vegan parmesan for sprinkling, such as Go Veggie Grated Parmesan Topping

In a large skillet with straight sides, or a small stock pot (which is what I use for everything), combine uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, salt, pepper and water.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Keep at a low boil, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente, and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Divide among bowls and garnish with basil.

Serve with any toppings you like, such as vegan parmesan, sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, cannellini beans, sautéed vegan sausage, blanched broccolini, etc.

Notes:  Can also be made with linguine.  Do not try this with capellini or angel hair, because finer pasta sort of breaks down into a starchy mess (speaking from experience).  I made this twice so I could be sure of the technique.  If there are no fresh tomatoes in season, I suppose one could try using well-drained canned tomatoes, and a few Tablespoons less water.
IMG_2849  I used red and yellow Amish tomatoes.
IMG_2848  Toppings.
IMG_2846  Still cooking.

Vegan Southern Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits

IMG_2784    These vegan Southern Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits are especially good.   If we follow a few simple guidelines, Southern biscuits are easy to make.  With the addition of mashed sweet potato whisked into the vegan buttermilk, these achieve a bit of nutrition, and a lovely golden color.  The sweet potato flavor is not pronounced, so don’t look for it.  These would make good vegan ham biscuits.  Other vegan biscuits on this site include Yogurt Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits by Nava Atlas, and plain Buttermilk Biscuits.


Makes about 6-12 biscuits depending on cutter size

2 Cups self-rising flour  (I used Gold Medal)
1/4 Cup Spectrum All-Vegetable Organic Shortening
2/3 Cup cooked finely-mashed sweet potato, chilled
3/4 Cup full-fat plain soy milk  (I used WestSoy)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, melted
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder  (no more)

Put rolling pin and pastry cutter in freezer.  Cut shortening into chunks and chill in  freezer.  In a mug, stir vinegar into plant milk and chill in fridge (this is your buttermilk).  Measure flour into bowl and chill in fridge.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a very small dish, stir garlic powder into melted vegan butter.

With pastry cutter, cut shortening into flour until lumps are pea sized or smaller.  Whisk mashed sweet potato into buttermilk until well blended.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour and stir with a wooden spoon just until dough comes together.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and gently fold dough over onto itself 4 or 5 times, adding more flour by the Tablespoon if the dough is sticky.  Folding the dough creates the layers.  Gently roll dough out until it’s 1/2 inch tall, no less.  Cut out biscuits close together with a biscuit cutter, using a straight up-and-down motion–do not twist cutter.  Lay each biscuit immediately upon the baking sheet.  Brush all biscuits with the melted butter.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown (not brown).  Remove from oven and immediately brush biscuits with butter again.

Notes:  If freezing biscuits, freeze the cut-out biscuits unbaked.  Then bake from frozen as normal.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can use an empty 15-oz. can.  If you don’t want to use parchment paper, make sure to use a greased shiny silver baking sheet, because dark baking sheets can over-brown the biscuit bottoms.   Here’s a good  video.

Jamaican Rice and Peas in A Rice Cooker

IMG_2742    In the Turks & Caicos last winter, we drove to a resort at the end of a long, unpaved, chalky road.  When we arrived, there were no other customers and no restaurant menu like we had seen online.  We were seated in an empty outdoor bar, and we asked them to bring us something vegan.  There was one local guy cooking in the kitchen and he was really just cooking a simple meal for the staff of Belongers, but we were welcome to have some.  The revelation of that meal was the Rice and Peas.  Wanting to try it in the rice cooker, I watched several youtube videos, and it turned out well.  In Jamaica, Pigeon Peas are called Gungo peas (pronounced goongo), but you can find them in the Latin section of many grocery stores, and it will say Gandules Verdes on the label (see below).  Pigeon Peas contain high levels of protein, and the important amino acids.  There’s much debate between countries and cooks as to whether one should use long-grain or medium-grain, or Jasmine rice.  One lady on youtube even uses parboiled rice, and some cooks use the entire can of beans, liquid and all (a practice I’ve adopted).  Some use creamed coconut and some use coconut milk.  Some mix in a bit of chopped Scotch Bonnet pepper, and some simply lay the uncut fiery pepper on top of the rice while it’s cooking, and many don’t use any spicy peppers at all.  The main elements are here below.  Peas also often refers to kidney beans, so if you cannot find the pigeon peas, you could substitute them, but I do love the flavor of the Gungo peas.  Please read the full recipe, including the notes at the bottom, before you begin.  When I say “cups” in the recipe, I’m referring to the measuring cup that came with your rice cooker (see notes).  Once you make this, you’ll see how easy it is.    p.s. See my little Thyme patch below, and think about planting some, as it’s a perennial in many climates.


Serves about 6

2 rice-cooker measuring cups of medium-grain white rice, or Jasmine rice, rinsed of starch  (I’ve also used un-rinsed white Jasmine rice)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 scallions/green onions, sliced using the white and pale-green parts only
1 can pigeon peas, drained, but save the can liquid
3 sprigs fresh thyme  (strip leaves and discard stems)
15 oz. can lite coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks

Add rice to rice cooker.  Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and let it sizzle for a minute or two, taking care it doesn’t burn.  Add scallions, pigeon peas and thyme leaves, and sauté stirring for another 2 or 3 minutes.

To the rice in the cooker, add bean liquid, and enough lite coconut milk to bring your contents up to the appropriate mark on the rice cooker.  For example, I used 2 rice-cooker measuring cups of rice and added just enough liquid to bring the contents up to the #2 on the inside mark of the rice pot under the White Rice/Mixed Rice column (see photo)Now add skillet contents, salt, pepper and vegan butter, and stir contents.  Set rice cooker on the White Rice or Mixed Rice setting.  You may have a “Mixed Rice” option and that may be what you want (not sure, as every rice cooker is different).  In my old Zojirushi, I do use the Mixed Rice fill level mark.  When the rice is done cooking, open lid briefly just to stir contents with a rice paddle, and then close lid again.

Notes:  I’ve also used long-grain organic brown rice.  Every rice cooker comes with its own measuring cup, and they often do not equal a standard 8 oz. Cup measure.  For example, the cup in my 15-year-old Zojirushi NS-ZAC10 holds less than 8 ounces–it holds 3/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of water, or only 14 Tablespoons of water (a standard Cup is 16 Tablespoons), and this is measuring level to the very top of the cup.  If I’m using brown rice in my old Zojirushi, even though I’m filling the liquid to the Mixed Rice level mark, I am then choosing “brown rice” on the electronic settings.  It’s important to add the skillet contents after adding your liquids, because the skillet contents will displace a lot of the liquid, and enough liquid is needed to properly cook rice, especially if you are using brown rice.
IMG_2727  I really like the flavor of these Goya pigeon peas.
IMG_2735   2 “cups” dry rice and enough liquid to reach “2” on the inside of the rice cooker pot, of my Zojirushi NS-ZAC10.  Note the “Mixed Rice” option under the white-rice heading.
IMG_2745  Fuzzy Logic.
IMG_2737  Here’s part of my thyme patch, peeking out from under Fall leaves and mums.  It often comes in handy, even late in the year here in Maryland.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey

IMG_1221  I meant to try this Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey last year, but never got to it.  This comes with gravy and stuffing, which I promptly discarded (see postscript at bottom).  I served this with homemade sides:  classic stuffing dressing with apples and pecans, baked stuffed potatoes, cranberry sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry, and Golden Gravy with chanterelle mushrooms.  We also had some delicious Treeline Scallion French-Style Soft Cheese as an appetizer, with some sparkling cider, and a salad.  For dessert, we had a choice of Pumpkin Pie with Streusel or Pear Crisp.  I basted the non-GMO vegan turkey with a glaze of vegan butter, a teensy bit of maple syrup and sea salt.  My review is that I was very happy with this soy turkey.  The “skin” on the outside does mimic turkey skin, and it could not be easier to make.  I rinsed it, patted it dry, baked it on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet for 45 minutes, with a basting after 15 minutes and again after 30 minutes.  The basting also helped the appearance.  I do recommend stuffing the turkey as it keeps the whole thing moist, but you will need to bake additional stuffing/dressing on the side, because you cannot fit much inside this bird.  I would guess it serves about 10 people and is a great solution for those transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Lars is vegetarian and really liked it.  It slices beautifully, and makes the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had, great for leftovers.  If you eat a bit by itself, there is a faint hint of soy flavor, but with the other sides, you don’t notice it, and in a sandwich, it’s non-existent.  I would definitely buy this again.  This turkey can be bought from Vegan Essentials online, and also from the Healthy Eating Catalog.  Sometimes they run out, so get your order in when you can.  Additional photos below.    Postscript:  Nov. 2014.  Lars requested this turkey again, so I made it and am just as happy.  However, I decided to try the stuffing and the gravy this time, for you all.  I simply sautéed chopped acidulated Fuji apple, and onions, and then used half the dry stuffing and followed all other directions, and it was decent.  About the gravy, it was TERRIBLE–don’t do it, make your own!
IMG_1230  Slices like a dream, and makes killer turkey sandwiches for leftovers.
IMG_1215  We really liked this cheese on crackers.  I wouldn’t hesitate to make little canapés with it either.

Vegan Yogurt Biscuits

IMG_0721    Vegan Mofo 2013.  These quick Vegan Yogurt Biscuits work out to about one gram of fat apiece, which means we can crack them open and slather them with some vegan butter!  They’re really Southern style, if you follow the simple technique below.


Makes at least 6.

1.5 Cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 oz. container So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt, Plain flavor only
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the one Tablespoon of vegan butter, stir the pinch of salt into it, and set it aside.
Whisk the 1.5 Cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl.
Add the yogurt to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
Sprinkle counter with extra flour, and turn dough out onto the floured countertop.
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough and fold it in half 3 or 4 times, adding a bit more bench flour as you need it, but be sparing.
Pat dough until it’s no more than a half-inch-tall round.
Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out biscuits without twisting the cutter.
You can use a thin drinking glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter, no worries.
Place biscuits 2 inches apart on baking sheet, and brush them with the salty butter, do not skip this step!
Bake 10-14 minutes, until golden.
Serve hot.

Notes:  These are best served hot and fresh.  For me, nothing compares to Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread.  My friend Jan hails from North Carolina, and years ago (before I went vegan) she taught me to brush Southern biscuits with a buttery, slightly-salt glaze, it makes all the difference.

Seitan Bacon

IMG_0623    This Vegan Bacon Seitan is adapted from a combination of two recipes–this one from Vegan Nosh,  and this one from Veggie in Milwaukee.    You make two simple doughs that are easy to work with, stack them atop each other, bake and slice.   We had BLTs on sourdough bread with Old Virginia heirloom tomatoes, and we agreed this tastes more authentic than the store-bought vegan bacons we’ve tried.  It’s been years since I had a piece of bacon, but I remember it well.  I tweaked the original recipes–added some smoked paprika, changed amounts, added some oil (it is bacon, after all), etc.  This is meaty, smoky and chewy, and the best part is, nobody got hurt.


Red Dough
1 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 Cup soy flour  (or garbanzo flour)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 teaspoons regular paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 Cup warm water
3 Tablespoons Tamari
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 Tablespoons peanut oil

White Dough
1/2 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tablespoons garbanzo flour  (or soy flour)
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon peanut oil

Red Dough:  In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
Separately combine all the wet ingredients and stir or whisk until well blended.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Shape red dough into a fat log and cut into three equal pieces.

White Dough:  In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
To the dry ingredients, add in the water and oil, and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Divide the white dough into two equal pieces.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and put one piece of red dough on it.
Cover the red dough with another piece of plastic wrap.
Gently roll out dough until it’s about 1/4-inch tall.  I suggest making it approx. 6″ x 7″.
Spray a piece of tin foil with cooking spray and transfer the flattened dough onto it.  I did this by picking up the piece of plastic and flipping it onto the foil.
Repeat the rolling process, alternating the white and red doughs, and stacking them onto the first piece that you laid onto the foil.  Don’t try to make them perfect.
Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the stacked doughs.
Rest a medium-heavy book on top of the plastic for about 20 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap, and wrap the whole slab of bacon in tin foil.
On a baking sheet, bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Your seitan will be a bit undercooked, but this is good because it will be easier to slice, and it will pan-fry better.
Cool and slice.

When you’re ready to use the bacon:  pan fry in a non-stick skillet with a bit of vegan butter and a few sprinkles of seasoning salt.  I used McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning for some extra bacony kick.

Notes:  It’s my understanding that you can switch up the soy and garbanzo flours.  The red dough won’t look red until you add the liquid.  Once baked, you can freeze this bacon, and it’s good crumbled on casseroles, on mac and cheeze, in tofu breakfast sandwiches, etc.
IMG_0617  After pressing, before baking.

Vegan Con Queso Dip


This is an old recipe from the 1970’s that I’ve veganized.  It’s sort of like the vegan Rotel Dip but has more vegetables and spices in it, and it’s really good.  Served with Doritos, Tostitos or Frito’s, it’s perfect for nacho night or watching football at home.  If you don’t want to use the beer in it, I suppose you could use soda water, but I haven’t tried that yet.  If you really want to do it up right, you could also serve the Excellent Bean Dip from this site.
Vegan Con Queso Dip

Serves 6 to 8,  I’m guessing.

2 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, drained (any kind, even fire roasted)
4 oz. can diced green chili peppers (we like mild or medium heat)
1 clove garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
8 oz. bag of Daiya cheese
up to 1/2 Cup of beer

Saute onion in oil on medium heat.
Add tomatoes, chili peppers and seasonings.
Simmer on low until blended and some of the liquid is gone.
Put in double boiler and add cheese.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cheese melts.
Add splashes of beer as you stir, maybe a Tablespoon or two at a time, to smooth out the mixture and keep it “open.”
Serve with nacho chips or Fritos.

Notes:  You could probably substitute soda water instead of beer.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

Vegan Swedish Meatballs (Kottbullar) from The Vegan Table cookbook

This recipe for vegan Swedish Meatballs (kottbullar) from The Vegan Table cookbook was a success for us.  Before I went vegan, I used to like the Swedish Meatballs plate at IKEA but it was not vegan, of course.  I did tweak this recipe a bit, but it’s a winner, especially when paired with classic accompaniments such as gravy and potatoes.  I did not have any lingonberry jam, but cranberry sauce made a good substitute.  I did read some complaints about the sauce in this recipe, so I made a gravy of my own.  Either of the easy gravies on this site would be good here.  I made mashed potato puffs with dill, but any potatoes would do.  If you have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, this is the time to use it, because the vegan sausage is very dense and hard to mix.  Colleen Patrick Goudreau suggests using your hands to mix, so I’m guessing that works ok too, but perhaps you’ll get it more evenly incorporated with the flat beater on the KitchenAid stand mixer.  I added just a few things to make the meatballs richer:  1/4 teaspoon of dried dill, a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh flatleaf parsley, a Tablespoon of olive oil to the mixture (Gimme Lean is fat free), and 2 teaspoons of vegan Worcestershire sauce (such as Wizard brand, which is so delicious).  Make sure to dice the onion fine, because the meatballs are small.  I pan fried these in a cast-iron skillet which gave them a nice, authentic crust.  The main comment I have is that I will use the plain Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style with this dish next time, and not the Gimme Lean Ground Sausage Style.  You see, the “Sausage” has a distinct maple’y flavor, like that of breakfast sausage, that is not quite right in the Swedish meatballs.  Whereas, the Ground “Beef” is a plain flavor that should not mask and confuse the lovely seasonings in Colleen’s recipe.  I’m guessing the result would be more pure and simple, and classic in flavor.  I wasn’t too careful on measuring, I just used a cereal spoon to scoop up the meatballs and so I got 46 small meatballs, not the 60 “tiny” meatballs Colleen specifies.  This took an hour or so but now I have enough to freeze for the two of us, for 3 or 4 more meals.  Fry them before freezing because prior to frying, the raw meatballs are a bit gooey.  Lars is of Scandinavian descent and he really liked these, and I did too.  So, the next time you’re at IKEA, pick up some Lingonberry jam and make these vegan Swedish Meatballs!

Vegan Pot Pie

In my misspent youth, I ate my share of frozen chicken pot pies–those scalding, gluey things that one eats because of hunger for some hot comfort food.  These vegan potpies are a big step up from that.  Adapted from this recipe on VegWeb, I was surprised at how quickly this filling came together.  We enjoyed it, and it makes enough filling to freeze some for a rainy day. I used my own pate brisee pie crust, but you could also use puff pastry for the top, just check the label on the box because some are not vegan.  You can add in faux meats, such as Butler Soy Curls or Beyond Chicken for those who want it, but I would cut them into smaller pieces.  To save time, make your pie crust in the morning or the day before, or pull a prepared one from the freezer the night before.  The pate brisee can be made in 15 minutes and then popped in the freezer, in two single crusts for times like this.  If you roll one single crust out to 1/8 inch thickness, it should make enough crust to cover three individual pot pies.


Serves: about six pot pies (each single pie crust will cover 3 individual pot pies)

3 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 large onion diced fine
1 medium carrot diced fine
2 celery stalks sliced fine the short way
A handful of white mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 russet potato, diced fine (like ¼ inch dice)
½ Cup flour
2.5 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast flakes (not brewer’s yeast)
1 cup soy creamer (such as Silk brand)
¾ cup peas
One mini can of corn (approx. 8 ounces)
1/4 cup sherry
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper or black pepper
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire Sauce
faux meat (optional)
One single pate brisee pie crust, or one 17 oz. box of vegan puff pastry (many are accidentally vegan)

Make pate brisee dough and let it rest for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge (or pull from freezer the night before).  Put your rolling pin(s) in the freezer.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large pot, melt vegan butter (Earth Balance).    Add onions, carrots, celery, potato and mushrooms, and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Measure out flour and nutritional yeast into a cereal bowl, and add ½ cup of the vegetable stock to it and stir to make a smooth slurry.   To the pot, add the rest of the stock, vegan creamer and sherry or juice, and simmer for 10 more minutes.
To the pot, add Add parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and Worcestershire.
Add flour slurry and cook and stir for a few minutes until mixture thickens.
If adding vegan meat, do it now.    Stir in corn and peas, and gently stir.
Turn off the stove burner.

If using puff pastry, see notes at bottom.
Roll out the dough as per directions. Roll out and cut dough slightly larger than the shape of your pan(s).  For example, if  using round ramekins, cut the circles at least ½ inch larger than the top of your ramekin.  I flipped my ramekins upside down onto the rolled-out dough, and cut loosely around them with a butter knife, and then used a spatula to lift the circles.    Fill ramekins to 3/4 inch from top, or put filling in a casserole dish. (The original recipe calls for a 9×13 inch pan).   Place, fold and crimp the dough/crust edges.   Vent the crust with a decorative design or some simple slits of a knife.   PLACE CASSEROLE OR RAMEKINS ON A BAKING SHEET, AS THEY WILL DRIP.   Bake 30-35 minutes, until crust begins to get golden with some slightly-brown edges here and there.

Note: If using puff pastry, place the puff pastry on top of the filling, brush some melted butter over it, and cut a few slits to vent.  If the puff pastry is browning too fast, cover it with some foil until cooking time is done.

Vegan Tapioca Pudding

This tastes every bit as rich as tapioca made with eggs and cows milk, and yet it has neither.  So good, and so easy.  Yes, you DO have to stir it for about 15 minutes, because here, we’re not using “quick tapioca” or “granulated tapioca.”  I made some quick tapioca for my Dad recently (a Jacques Pepin recipe) and I did not care for it at all.  Then I looked around online and noticed that many Thai and Vietnamese recipes call for “small pearl” tapioca, so I bought some at the supermarket.  I didn’t have high hopes for this one either, but to my delight, it came out perfectly delicious.   It has that Vietnamese-style warm, slightly-soupy texture when it was warm, but later it chilled and thickened into traditional tapioca texture, but was still more tender, more delectable, and more flavorful than the granulated/quick tapioca.  Now we have a good base to play off of in future, but for the record, it’s wonderful as is. The burning question about tapioca (for me) was to soak or not to soak the tapioca pearls first.  I looked at a LOT of tapioca recipes online and in cookbooks, regarding this question. Even the Bascom’s box said to soak the pearls overnight.  After reading a lengthy article and some non-soaking recipes, I decided to skip the soaking, and am glad to say it worked just right.  One article even said not to soak overnight because the pearls get mushy, but to only soak for 30 minutes.  You can decide.  Another article cautioned to only use a heavy-bottomed pot.  Between this recipe and the Persian Rice recipe, I’m glad I own a smaller stock pot with a heavy bottom.  Maybe you will have good luck with a regular pot, but after one failure, I wasn’t taking any more chances.  Postscript:  My girlfriend Piliki soaked the pearls for two hours and said it made a big difference to her, made it better.
Vegan Tapioca Pudding

Serves 4-6

1 heavy-bottomed pot (I used a small stock pot)
3 Cups soy milk (I like WestSoy Organic Unsweetened)
1/2 Cup small pearl tapioca (I used Bascom’s brand)
1/2 Cup sugar (I used organic)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Earth Balance vegan butter

Take one tablespoon of your measured sugar and mix it in a small dish with the cinnamon and salt.  This will help prevent the cinnamon from clumping, as mine did.  Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, simmer soy milk, remaining sugar and tapioca over medium-low heat, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes until tapioca is  translucent.  Bringing the heat up slowly like this allows the un-soaked tapioca to absorb the liquid and swell.
Turn heat up to medium, add in the cinnamon/salt mixture and now when it is at a low, constant boil, stir constantly for 10 more minutes or so.  Mixture will thicken and tapioca pearls will continue to swell and become more translucentYou will all of a sudden see the translucent pearls become more visible as you stir.
Once mixture is thickened and tapioca pearls are completely translucent, remove from heat and add in the butter and vanilla, and stir to blend well.
This is fabulous served the Vietnamese way; warm with sliced bananas in it.  Or you can chill it and let it thicken all the way in the fridge–it’s good that way too!  If you’re leaving bananas in your pudding too, make sure they are covered completely so they don’t turn brown in the fridge (I read this but have not tried it).

This is the only way I’ve made it so far, but I do believe one could play around with this a lot.  Although I already used less sugar than many online recipes, I will try to reduce the sugar a little in future or substitute in some healthier sweetener.  Substitute some  other nut milk if you like, or add different flavored extracts or syrups to it, instead of the vanilla.  You could even go Middle Eastern with the flavors by adding some kewra and/or a tiny bit of rosewater.  Or make it more butterscotchy by browning a bit of vegan butter and using brown sugar instead of white, and a little butterscotch extract.  Or add some sweetened coconut flakes, substitute one cup of coconut milk and add some coconut extract.  Or substitute a bit of maple syrup and use maple extract.  Buttered rum, chocolate chips . . . let me know what you try!

Vegan Shepherds Pie

This delicious Vegan Shepherds Pie is traditional comfort food.  I went to my old Joy of Cooking and it said to add the Worcestershire and also “1 cup of leftover gravy.”  I feel the gravy, while it does enhance the dish, is not critical, so no worries.  I’d say by the time you make the casserole and wash the dishes,  you’ll have at least an hour in the kitchen.  I’ve made this with Boca Crumbles, Beyond Beef Crumbles and Yves Meatless Ground, and all of them worked well.  I also make this in individual casseroles for special occasions, as shown above.


Serves: about 6

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 Cup vegan mayonnaise  (I like Reduced Fat Vegenaise with the yellow lid)
1/3 Cup soy milk  (I like WestSoy Organic Unsweetened)
3 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese   (substitute vegan sour cream if necessary).
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter (I like the organic one)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 carrot diced fine
2 stalks celery diced fine
6 mushrooms chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire (I like Wizard’s brand)
2 cloves garlic pressed or chopped
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. bag of Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble, or  Boca Meatless Ground Crumbles, or Yves Meatless Ground, etc.
Optional: 1 Cup of leftover gravy is nice to add in, but only if you have it hanging around in the fridge or freezer.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fill large pot with cold water and 1 tablespoon of salt.   Place peeled and diced potatoes into the pot of cold salt water. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain.   Place drained potatoes back in empty pot and add mayonnaise, soy milk, cream cheese and sea salt. Mash or whip until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Heat vegan butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add in the onion, carrot, celery, and (optional) mushrooms. Heat until softened, about 15 minutes.   Turn heat down one click.  To vegetables, add tomato paste, Worcestershire, garlic, pepper and salt.  If you have it, add the optional gravy here.   Cook at least 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.   Add in the meatless ground, and stir to mix well.   Cook three more minutes and add a bit of water or broth if the mixture looks at all dry (1/4 Cup or so, if needed).

Spray a 3-litre casserole dish with cooking oil.  Pour Boca/vegetable mixture into the casserole dish and spread mashed potatoes on top.  Spray top of potatoes with cooking oil and then dust with paprika.   Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until edges are bubbling.  Serve hot.

Vegan Twice Baked Stuffed Potatoes

IMG_3042     These vegan Twice-Baked Stuffed Potatoes are one of those classic things you can prepare the day before and even take somewhere (as long as you can use the oven at your destination).  I developed this potato one Thanksgiving when 30 people were coming for supper, and I knew the last-minute scramble before serving would be a nightmare if I had to mash potatoes too.  This is not the gloppy, cheddar-cheese-filled concoction of the 1990’s, but (while still rich) a lighter, creamier addition to the plate.  It’s forgiving, in that the final baking can be done in the oven alongside anything else, on almost any temperature, for varied lengths of time.  I like to use only onion, and some vegan sour cream to make the texture silky.  A perfect dusting of paprika is achieved when you put a bit in a very fine sieve and hold it high above the potatoes and tap gently with one finger.  Here, I did pipe the potatoes through a pastry bag, but these look strikingly rustic when you simply fork the whipped potatoes into their little jackets any which way.  You can also rake the fork over the top of the potatoes (like plowing a field) to make little ridges that will crisp, and little swales that will hold that pooling pat of Earth Balance vegan butter.  I leave the salt out of the recipe, because you can taste it better if you put a finishing sprinkle of sea salt at table.


Makes 8 generous servings, and they freeze well too.

4 white baking potatoes,  such as Russets or Idaho
One white onion  (or yellow, or shallots)
4 Tablespoons vegan sour cream

Wash potatoes well.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place potatoes directly on lower-middle oven rack, and bake 30 minutes.
Dice the onion fine, and place into a large mixing bowl.
When 30 minutes is up, pierce each potato (deeply) twice with a dinner fork, along one long sideIt’s important where you poke it, because when you slice the baked potatoes open to hollow out the jackets, you’ll run your knife along the horizontal fork perforations on the one long side.

Put pierced potatoes back into hot oven and bake 30 minutes more, and then remove all from the oven.    Let potatoes cool only slightly, maybe 15 minutes.
Measure out the vegan sour cream into the onions bowl (this will allow the sour cream to soften slightly while you do the rest).
Using a potholder or clean dish cloth to protect your hand, slice potatoes open the long way, along the fork holes.   Taking care to reserve the empty potato skins intact, scoop out the potato innards into the onions bowl.

Mix all with an electric mixer a minute or two, until a thick-but-creamy mixture is attained.    Determine here if you wish to add another tablespoon or two of the vegan sour cream, and complete mixing.    Pipe or stuff the whipped potatoes into the empty potato jackets.    Dust with paprika from on high, through a fine mesh sieve.
Cover and refrigerate until it’s time to do the second baking.
Put any extra, stuffed potato boats in the freezer (they freeze well).
When you’re ready to do the final baking, place stuffed potatoes in the oven on a baking dish, and heat to whatever temperature you are using for your main dish.  You’ll know when they’re done by their golden  appearance.  A guideline would be 35 minutes on 350, or 30 minutes at 400, etc.  No worries, just as long as they’re good and hot.
Don’t forget to serve with a pat of Earth Balance Organic Whipped Butter, and a sprinkling of fine sea salt.

Vegan Meatloaf – Hilo Style

IMG_3045     I adapted this delicious vegan meatloaf from my Auntie Pat’s Hawaiian-style recipe.  I also added in my Mom’s favorite–a surprise layer of green olives in the center.  A nice feature of this recipe is that the tomato soup makes a built-in gravy.  I serve it with my own simple, twice-baked stuffed potatoes.  A salad is nice too, but there are already plenty of carrots and onions hidden inside this decadent meatloaf.  This dish is perfect for picky eaters who want real comfort food.

Vegan Meatloaf – Hilo Style

Serves 6 to 8

1 pkg. Gimme Lean, Ground Beef Style
Ener-G egg replacer to equal one egg
2 heaping Tablespoon Vegenaise mayonnaise
1 rounded Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
3 Tablespoons catsup (ketchup)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely-grated carrots (about three carrots)  (I use a food processor)
2 slices sandwich bread, soaked quickly in water and lightly squeezed, then torn apart.  (or, instead of bread, use 1/4 Cup rolled oats plus 2 Tablespoons golden flax meal)
2 Tablespoons Lipton Onion Soup mix, dry  (plus a little more to sprinkle on top)

1 can tomato soup  (I used Health Valley brand, low-sodium)
Optional: 5-10 green olives, thinly sliced
Optional: 5 or 10 sliced fresh mushrooms, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.   Set aside tomato soup, olives and mushrooms.   With an electric mixer, mix well the rest of the ingredients.
Pour ½ of the can of tomato soup on bottom of loaf pan.
Put half of the loaf mixture in pans and press with back of spoon.
Optional: scatter sliced olives and/or mushrooms on top of this bottom layer of loaf.
Put the 2nd half of the loaf mixture in the pan.   Pour rest of soup on top.
Optional:  Scatter a few sliced fresh mushrooms on top (I do).
Scatter some remaining dried onion bits from soup mix packet on top, trying not to put  the powdered salty part of the mix on.  Cover tightly with tin foil to avoid leakage.  Place loaf pan on baking sheet and bake 1 hour or more, until bubbling at edges.  It might take one hour and 15 minutes, especially if chilled.

  Bottom layer topped with olives.

Notes:  If you don’t have the Lipton Onion Soup Mix, add some dried minced onions and a sprinkle of salt on top instead.  Another thing you can do, if you’re cooking for two, or you want to freeze some or give some away, is use four of those mini quick-bread foil pans that you buy at the grocery store.  Usually, you can buy them in a pack of five (each pan is approx. 5.63″ length by 3.19″ width by 1.95″ depth).

Macaroni and Cheese

For some, a good vegan mac and cheese is like the Holy Grail.  Maybe it’s because cheese is the hardest thing for many people to give up.  Not surprising, since cheese has opiates in it that are designed to bring the baby calf back to the mama cow.  Yes, the milk in cheese is for baby cows, not humans.  Nowadays, some recovering opiate addicts are even advised not to eat cheese and other dairy.  When VegNews magazine claimed they had the best mac ‘n’ cheese on the planet, I cut out the recipe.  However, i also had a  recipe from the little cookbook Skinny Bitch in The Kitch, called “Macaroni and Four Cheeses.”  So, I wavered between the two recipes, wondering which one to try.  The recommendation on the Skinny B. recipe was very strong, but I won’t quote it here.  And looking at the ingredients, I could tell it was kind of a brilliant recipe, because they use frozen butternut squash puree to help give that neon orange glow we all used to know and love (admit it).  Now, i don’t have four different vegan cheeses in my cupboard, and this recipe made way too much, so I made just a few minor changes, and DANG it’s good.  And the best part is that it was even better the next day!  I think we’ve all reheated the gloppy, congealed mess that is leftover Macaroni and Cheese.  Looking at it is a metaphor for what it does to your arteries, not to mention all the animals that suffer horribly so we can have a bit of gunk. If you haven’t read the best seller Skinny Bitch, then you need to, because  IT  WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!  Don’t let the title put you off, it’s deceptive.  This is actually a deep and serious book cloaked in a somewhat-offensive kitschy title.  There’s also a male version of this powerful little book.  I halved the recipe (but not the topping) and changed some other amounts too.


Serves 6-8 (depending upon if you’re serving women and girls, or men and boys)

1 T fine sea salt, plus 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 pound whole wheat or brown rice elbow macaroni
1 10 oz. pkg. organic frozen butternut squash puree, such as Cascadian Farms
1 C soy or rice milk  (I use the 8 oz. boxes for cooking)
3 oz. Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (approx. 3/4 Cup)
2 oz. (about 1/4 C) vegan cream cheese
3/4 tsp powdered mustard
1/16th tsp cayenne powder

1/4 C whole wheat bread crumbs  (equal to one slice Ezekiel bread)
2 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese, such as Go Veggie brand (optional)  (could substitute Nutritional Yeast here)
1 Tbsp oil, such as safflower or canola

Pulse and grind 2 slices of healthy bread to fine crumbs.    Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease or spray a casserole dish (1.5 to 2 qt. size).    Add 1 T salt to a pot of water and cook pasta according to directions,  drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat, combine frozen squash puree and milk, stirring until squash is defrosted.    Bring squash and milk mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.    Remove squash mixture from heat, whisk in vegan cheeses, spices and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, until smooth.

Return drained pasta to its pot,  and stir cheese sauce into macaroni.    Transfer macaroni/cheese mixture into buttered casserole dish.    In a cereal bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan and 1 Tbsp oil.    Sprinkle bread crumb topping over top of macaroni and cheese.    Place casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.    Then broil for 2-3 minutes until top is nicely browned.  Don’t walk away here, don’t burn it.

Eat and have flashbacks from your childhood, only better.  I like to chop up some garden tomatoes and sprinkle them with a teensy bit of fine sea salt.  Top with hot mac and cheese.  The next day, you can reheat the casserole dish in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.