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!

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.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Vegan Horseradish Aioli

IMG_2220     With a couple little tweaks, I veganized this quick and easy recipe from another site.  Now it’s just as delicious, but also cholesterol-free and cruelty-free.  You can have these in the oven in 5 minutes!


Serves 2 to 4 as appetizers.

1 Tablespoon ground horseradish
2 Tablespoons Reduced Fat Vegenaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 drops Worcestershire sauce

9 to 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients for Horseradish Aioli and mix well.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Toss frozen artichoke hearts with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, flipping once or twice during baking, until crispy on the edges.  Remove from oven and serve with the aioli.

Notes:  Kelchner’s Horse-Radish (the plain one is vegan), can sometimes be found in the seafood department of the grocery store, in a 6.5 oz. jar.  I prefer Wizard brand Worcestershire sauce.
IMG_2218  These were the only frozen artichoke hearts I could find, but the original recipe calls for a 12-ounce bag.

Blackbird Pizzeria – vegan Philly

IMG_0102    Blackbird Pizzeria is a GREAT vegan restaurant located at 507 South 6th Street in Philadelphia.   The food is so good that when I go back to Philly, it’ll be first on my list of places to eat.    After reading Yelp reviews, we ordered the Cubano sandwich, and also the Philly Cheesesteak for Lars.  And, especially for me, we ordered the Pizza Patate, which was DIVINE.  The Cubano came first and since we had a cooler in the car, we split one half of it, and it was surprisingly good–I didn’t want to stop eating it.  Mr. Seitan (Lars) enjoyed the Philly Cheesesteak while I waited for the Pizza Patate, which was my favorite thing we ate in Philly that whole weekend, including a superb dinner out at Vedge, not kidding.

Blackbird’s menu is not too large, but perfect, in my opinion, with five good-looking salads, sides like vegan hot wings and sautéed kale, and tons of toppings including avocado, tofu ricotta, seitan bacon, artichokes, garlic, caramelized onions, pineapple, etc., etc.  All items are not only vegan, but kosher too (not that I care if anything is kosher).  The neighborhood is nice and friendly, across from a children’s playground.  Blackbird’s pizza dough recipe is in the Happy Cow Cookbook, and I plan to try it because their crust was killer.  They even have homemade cookies, “warmed to order,” such as the Kitchen Sink cookie (chocolate chips, potato chips, pretzels, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, oats) or the Early Bird cookie (oatmeal cookie, assorted breakfast cereal, melted marshmallows) (see photos below) (we got one of each to go).  In short, Blackbird Pizza makes me want to move to Philadelphia.
IMG_0100  A nice, friendly neighborhood.
IMG_0105  the blackboard at Blackbird
IMG_0110  Cubano sandwich.
IMG_0112 Pizza Patate to die for.
IMG_0126  Early Bird cookie
IMG_0127  Kitchen Sink cookie.

IMG_0106   Yesssssss

IMG_0198_1  Hell yeah I bought a t-shirt.

Chickpea Zucchini Fries with Sumac and Lemon

IMG_1104    Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, this is my riff on Mario Batali’s Chickpea Fries.  We found his version too bland, so these have been spiced up a bit, and this recipe below is halved.  I didn’t bother wringing out the zucchini, just left it to drain longer instead.  Packed with fiber and protein, these golden fries are addictive when served with wedges of fresh lemon and sea salt.


Serves 4

1 large zucchini, partially peeled and grated  (approx. 3 cups of grated zucchini)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups water
1.5 Cups chickpea flour  (also called garbanzo flour)
1.5 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon Shallot-Pepper  or any other spice(s)
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour for dredging (optional)
1/2 Cup peanut oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
sea salt or other finishing salt

Place grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir to mix well.  Transfer grated zucchini to a colander set over a bowl, and set aside to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Occasionally, gently stir and press it with the back of a spoon.

Grease a baking dish and line the bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper.  I used waxed paper and a Pyrex dish of approx. 11×7 inches.  Set this prepared baking dish in the refrigerator while you work.

In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk the sumac and shallot-pepper (or other seasonings) into the chickpea flour.  In a medium saucepan, simmer the water over medium heat.  Pour in the seasoned chickpea flour and stir constantly for one minute, making sure heat is not too high.  Add zucchini, stir well and remove from heat.  Pour zucchini mixture into prepared baking dish, and gently press and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.  Chill for at least one hour, or overnight.

Onto a large floured cutting board, turn out the set chickpea mixture.  Peel off and discard the waxed paper.  Cut into fries approx. 3″ x 1/2″.   In a heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil.  Dredge fries lightly in all-purpose flour (this step is optional but it’s the only way I’ve ever done it).  Working in batches, cook the chickpea fries until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  You’re going for golden brown here, not too dark.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with plenty of lemon wedges,  and sea salt for sprinkling.

Notes:  You can find ground sumac in any Middle-Eastern grocery.  These are worth getting out your best salt for.  Feel free to change up the spices.  I’ll try using black pepper and rosemary next time, to go with the lemon and sea salt.  These are called panisses in France, and panelle in Italy.  Here’s a video of Mario Batali making these.  More photos below.

IMG_1098 Zucchini draining into a bowl.
IMG_1100  Water drained from the zucchini.

Vegan Pumpkin Gnocchi with Chanterelles and Sage

Rolling gnocchi off an antique butter paddle.  The whimper in the background is my dog Ipo letting me know it’s time for her mid-morning snack, not kidding.

I veganized this recipe from an old Martha Stewart show.  You can watch the video here.  The famous chef says this recipe is hundreds of years old.  I had never made gnocchi before and this combination sounded so good.  And, it is.  There’s a line in one of the Isabel Dalhousie novels where she says something like, “I think chanterelles just elevate a dish, don’t you?”  They sure do, and their golden color and flavor are so simpatico with the pumpkin and this time of year.  It wasn’t hard to veganize this.  I lightened it up by substituting cheesy (and vitamin packed) Nutritional Yeast for the parmigiana, and then used rich soy creamer and vegetable stock.  I also couldn’t see using two Tablespoons of salt.   One thing I ran into was that I needed a lot of bench flour, like more than an extra cup of it.  The dough was so sticky.  Watching the video helped, and I noticed that the chef used a lot of bench flour too.  I had never cooked with sage leaves in this way before, and was surprised at how wonderful and mild the flavor was.  With the golden chanterelles and the squash flavors, it was like a little Fall symphony!  p.s.  My gnocchi look a bit clumsy, but they taste great.  There are also some good videos on youtube where they show the old method of rolling the gnocchi off a fork to get the sauce-catching ridges in them.  Like this one.  These gnocchi freeze very well too.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms

Serves 4

1 small sugar pumpkin (1.5 to 2 lbs.), stem removed, halved lengthwise and seeded  (or use my easier baked pumpkin method) (I bake two un-cut pumpkins since I’ve got my oven going)
2 Cups “00”  (zero zero) flour, plus more for work surface (or all-purpose flour, which is what I used)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt in the flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt in the water
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for serving
1/2 Cup Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance Buttery Stick)
2 shallots, finely chopped
20 medium chanterelle mushrooms, well rinsed, and sliced or trimmed
6 fresh sage leaves
1 Cup vegetable stock (I like Better Than Bouillon stock base, some are vegan)
1 Cup soy creamer  (I used Silk brand)
1 teaspoon dry sherry (totally optional)

Use my easier baked pumpkin method, or do the following:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place pumpkin halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and fill each with one Tablespoon of water.
Cover with foil.
Transfer to oven and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.  Let cool.
Scrape pumpkin flesh from skin, and discard skin.
I like to puree my pumpkin flesh now.
Reserve 1/4 Cup of pumpkin puree (for the sauce).

Mound flour in center of a large work surface; add 2 teaspoons salt and the nutmeg. Using a fork, mix until well combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Add up to 2 cups pumpkin and the Nutritional Yeast to the well.
Slowly incorporate flour, beginning with inner rim of well.
Note;  I used another whole cup of bench flour to get rid of extreme stickiness.
When flour is incorporated, gather dough together to form a rounded mass; knead mixture until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.
Divide dough into 6 equal pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a cylinder about 1 inch in diameter; cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces.  My knife kept sticking to the dough, so I switched to a plastic pastry scraper and it worked great for cutting the gnocchi.
Transfer gnocchi to a baking sheet and cover with a clean, wet/damp towel.
Repeat process until all the dough has been used.

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.
Add last teaspoon of salt to water, and return to a boil.
Add gnocchi and cook until they rise to the top, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat and add butter and shallots.
Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until shallots are golden.
Add stock, mushrooms and sage; cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup pumpkin, vegan creamer, and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.
If you want to, you can add an extra Tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast here.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet and toss to combine.
Serve immediately with freshly grated nutmeg.
Everyone can season with salt and pepper at table.

Notes:  You can make the pumpkin a day ahead, as I did.   Note that once you begin to add the mushrooms, sage, etc., the sauce should be done in a couple of minutes.  If you overcook it at that point, it sort of turns into a loose pumpkin puree, instead of a creamy sauce.  I was surprised at how pleasant and mild the sage leaves were.  The second time I made it, I put the mushrooms in a couple of minutes earlier, and added 1 teaspoon of dry sherry, and we really liked it.  Be sure to rinse the chanterelles really well as they can have teensy bits of grit in them.  You could use cheaper mushrooms, but now that we’ve tasted the chanterelles in this dish, I wouldn’t even make it without them.  Their golden meaty flavor is just perfect here.  These gnocchi freeze very well.

Polenta with Butternut Squash

This is a polenta you can make ahead and keep warm for a few hours before the meal is served!  I adapted this from a recipe on,   veganized it, added a few things, changed a quantity or two.  It’s delicious, and it’s something different from the tasteless squares of polenta I’ve had at upscale restaurants.  Please note that this polenta does NOT harden, due to the addition of squash, which is part of its brilliance.  It’s almost a creamy pudding that you ladle onto your plate, or serve in a little bowl as a side dish.  We like it on top of homemade red sauce with spaghetti and vegan meatballs, etc.  I made it once with almond milk and it was too sweet,  so stick with no-sugar-added plant milks.  There has been much talk in recent years about the fact that polenta is not cooked long enough, and the supposedly-big difference between instant polenta and slow-cooked.  In the book “Heat” author Bill Buford explains a way to cook the polenta for three hours without constant stirring.  I have the book on hold at the library, but haven’t received it yet.   No worries, this polenta cooks way quicker than that!  The photo here does not really do this dish justice;  it’s a rich golden color and very pretty on any plate where you would normally have polenta.   My friend Jan, who is a phenomenal cook, gave this a thumbs up.
Vegan Polenta with Butternut Squash

Makes 6-8 side-dish servings

3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium onion)
4 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter, divided in half
1 (10-12 -oz.) package frozen butternut squash purée (sometimes called winter squash; 1.5 cups), thawed (or you can use freshly baked butternut squash, of course)  (in a pinch, you could also use a 15 oz. can of organic butternut squash, but I prefer frozen, if not fresh)
1 tsp brown sugar (no more)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (no more)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups soy milk or hemp milk or oat milk (not almond) (use a plant milk with no sugar added if possible) (I use plain, unsweetened soy milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup real corn grits (polenta), such as Bob’s Red Mill brand (not instant)

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until very soft, about 8 minutes.
Stir in squash and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.
Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon.
In a 4 quart heavy pot, bring water, milk, salt, and pepper to a boil.
Add polenta in a thin stream, whisking.
Cook polenta at a simmer, stirring often with a long-handled whisk and turning down heat as needed to prevent spattering, 20 minutes.
Add squash mixture and cook 10 to 15 minutes more.
Remove from heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons vegan butter.
Serve immediately, or cover and keep in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven for up to two hours.

Notes: The polenta will still be soft and creamy the next day, due to the addition of the squash. If this is your first experience with polenta, usually you must serve it immediately or it will harden into a cake.  Warning, I made it with almond milk one time, and it was too sweet.

Pan co’ Santi – Quicker No Knead Walnut Bread

This is another recipe from My Bread by Jim Lahey, wherein a lot of the recipes are “accidentally vegan.”  According to his book, this is a classic Italian holiday bread, which he ate first on All Saints’ Day in Tuscany.  OK, so simple enough, right?  But I took a gamble, because I saw this video with Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman, where they endeavor to make this cult no-knead  technique quicker, as in approximately 5 hours of rising instead of 20.  And what changes do we make to achieve this?  Only by adding very warm (almost hot) water, instead of cool water, and then also adding a measly 1/4 teaspoon of red wine vinegar–that’s it!  This video was not quite didactic enough for me, but I did manage to catch Bittman’s comment that the 2nd rise would be half an hour.  I let my first rise go at least 4 and a half hours, and then the second rise go one hour.  So I even exceeded their timing, and the bread came out very, very good.  You can smell the cinnamon but you have to think about it to taste it, it’s so faint.  Perfect. The photo below is of the entire loaf.  There is a lot of wheat bran on the shown finished loaf, but you simply brush that excess off, no worries.  I had a slice toasted with a bit of Earth Balance vegan butter;  heaven.  I can imagine this making killer French toast, or amazing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, too.  You can see lots of postings for this bread online, including this one.

Jim Lahey’s Stecca or Italian Baguettes

Here’s another creation from the cookbook “My Bread” by Jim Lahey.  I brought these “stecca” to a supper on the night before New Year’s Eve, and we all really enjoyed them, slitting them open and stuffing things inside them like little sandwiches.  And needless to say, they’re gorgeous.  If anyone brought these to my house, I’d have to sit down and put my head between my knees, seriously.  You can see postings for this recipe on other sites, including this one.  Be aware that I have not proofed this linked site to make sure it exactly matches the cookbook, but I’m guessing it might, because it looks more official than the others, like maybe they’re reprinting with permission or something.  After I made these, I made two notations in my copy of the cookbook.  One was to place the dough directly onto a cutting surface for the 2nd rise.  This way, you can simply remove the flour sack towel or tea towel and cut the dough without lifting it.  I do believe this would yield a slightly higher rise, making these little Italian baguettes easier to slice and stuff.  Also, I would pinch the dough up around the garlic cloves and olives, so they would be sitting more inside the dough rather than on top.  The book shows them sitting further down into the dough almost like they’re peeking out of a window at you, if that makes any sense.  So, with those two changes, I would definitely make these again.  Second photo below.  p.s.  I think I would use a couple less tomatoes also, for the sake of having them sit further down into the dough too.


Amanda’s Vegan Biscotti

I make biscotti every year during the holidays, and people always want the recipe.  Back around 1995, I was given some homemade biscotti and it was a revelation.  I had always shunned biscotti because the only kind I had ever tried was from coffee shops; hard and sawdusty and sometimes possibly even stale.  My friend could not reveal the recipe because she planned to market the biscotti.  So I cobbled together some recipes from cookbooks and made several batches of my own, and in the end, I couldn’t really tell the difference between hers and mine.  This is my first vegan holiday season and so I pulled out my old recipe and set about veganizing it.  I had to change cooking times and amounts, and during the baking process, the dough didn’t feel or look quite the same as my old familiar.  But, Lo and behold, we have our own little Christmas miracle; a good vegan biscotti.  Rustic and golden and simultaneously crumbly, crunchy and tender.  Lars was out at a meeting of the Hysterical Society, so I was alone and felt free to scream “YES” in my little kitchen (although I think I scared my dog Ipo).  I should also tell you that I first tried looking around online for vegan biscotti recipes, but they all seemed a bit mediocre.  I drifted off to sleep that night, dreaming up other flavor profiles, such as:
-white chocolate, coconut and toasted almonds
-white chocolate, apricots and slivered almonds
-white chocolate, cranberries and pistachios
-white chocolate, dried pineapple and macadamia nuts
-chocolate chocolate chips and hazelnuts
-chocolate chocolate chips and dried cherries
-chocolate chocolate chips, almonds and coconut
etc., etc.

One final note is that I had to order my dairy-free white chocolate chips online, from Pangea.  The dairy-free chocolate chocolate chips, however, are readily available at most health food stores.  The vanilla beans can be found in the bulk section of your health food store, for much less than the jarred beans.  Here below is my new recipe, the first time out, and with a few minor adjustments for the next time.  For example, I forgot that they harden a bit as they sit, and so I reduced the cooking time slightly here below.  Also, I felt my old recipe was a little too heavy on the chocolate, so I reduced it to 1/3 Cup below.
Amanda’s Vegan Biscotti

2 ¼ cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Ener-G Egg Replacer to the equivalent of 3 eggs (I use a latte frother)
2 T vegetable oil (I used macadamia nut oil but canola is fine)
1 tsp good vanilla extract
Seeds from one vanilla bean (slit the long way and seeds scraped out with a spoon (not a knife)
1/2 C macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped (I like Kuni-Maru Farms mac nuts from Captain Cook, Hawaii)
1/3 C vegan white chocolate chips
1/4 C candied ginger, diced very fine (if using something milder than candied ginger, use one half cup of other dried fruits, such as apricots)

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
Chop nuts. Dice ginger.  Add these into a small bowl with the chocolate chips and stir a few times to get them evenly mixed up.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and then whisk these dry ingredients.
Put Ener-G in a glass and mix well with a fork, or froth with a latte frother. You could also use one single beater of a hand-held electric beater, in the glass.  For three “eggs” worth, you need 6 Tablespoons of water and 1 Tablespoon plus 1.5 teaspoons of Ener-G powder.
In a small dish, add oil and liquid vanilla.  Slit vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into oil/vanilla mixture and stir with a fork.
Add oil/vanilla mixture to dough.
Add Ener-G mixture to dough.
Stir in nuts, white chocolate and ginger.
Dough will not be wet or sticky.  With your hands, form dough into a cylinder and then cut it in half the long way.  Shape dough right on the counter into 2 flat bottomed cylinders measuring approximately 9 inches long, 3 inches wide and 1 inch high.
Place dough on greased cookie sheet, or parchment paper or Silpat.

Bake for 25 minutes or until very lightly golden on top.
Remove from oven and cool slightly, maybe five minutes.
Remove cylinders carefully from cookie sheet and place on a larger cutting board.
Cut diagonally into ¾ inch slices.
Place slices, cut-side-down, on the parchment paper/cookie sheet. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until sides are golden.  Don’t overcook because they will harden as they cool.
I usually remove the 4 or 5 smallest biscotti ends early as they tend to get a bit too hard with the full cooking time.
Cool completely on wire rack, transfer to an airtight container.

If you want to substitute dried apricots, pour boiling water over them and wait five minutes, then dice.  See additional flavor profiles above.  Please also note that I have a non-convection electric oven that is pretty accurate temperature-wise.  If you have a gas oven that tends to run hotter than electric, you’ll need to adjust temperature or cooking times.  Please see below for photos that will show doneness and texture.

Makes approximately 20-24

This photo shows the biscotti logs after the first baking.  You can see they are starting to just turn golden.  See next photo below to see the cut edges and varying degrees of doneness at that point, before 2nd baking.

Vegan Italian Sausages

One of the first things you do when you go vegan is expand your spice rack, and this seitan dish will use a lot of your arsenal.  I adapted this recipe from a video on Everyday Dish TV (this was before they started charging for subscriptions).  If you flatten it into cutlets instead of sausage shapes, you can also make Everyday Dish TV’s Spicy Italian Cutlet Parmesan.  Also, it makes 8 sausages or cutlets, so you can freeze some.  You could also make meatball-type subs with the leftover tomato sauce and sausages, and dress them up with whatever else you like.  Or you could make the “sausage and peppers” subs I mentioned in an earlier post.  My friend Piliki suggested slicing it thin and putting it on pizza, which I hadn’t even thought of.  I urge you not to omit the fennel seeds, because they give that hint of authenticity.  Again, you can always hit the bulk section at your health food store for a tablespoon of anything not in the pantry; it really saves money on things you think you won’t use again soon.  You can play with the spices, or you could even add some finely-chopped sundried tomatoes.
Vegan Italian Sausages

Makes 8 links


2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2 tbsp granulated onion (or onion powder)
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tsp white pepper
3 tsp ground paprika
¼ tsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground mustard seed
½ tsp Bells Seasoning
½ tsp McCormick Grill Mates “Montreal Steak” flavor

2 1/4 cups cool water
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke


In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients.
Whisk together the water, garlic, olive oil and soy sauce and using a fork, gently stir into the dry ingredients.
Stir just until ingredients are mixed. If dough mixture is too dry, you can add another tablespoon of water or as needed (I did not need any extra water).

Scoop 1/2 cup dough mixture at a time and shape into logs (or shape some into flattish patties for Parmesan cutlets)

Place logs on piece of aluminum foil and roll up, twisting ends.
For patties, wrap in foil envelopes.
Steam sausages covered for 30 minutes.

Once sausages have cooled, remove from foil and refrigerate until ready to eat. After cooling, the sausages may feel a bit dry on the outside. Don’t worry, as they will soften and firm up considerably after chilling.  Make sure to pan fry them with minimal oil before using, to give them a sear and a better texture.  See photo below.

Adapted from Julie Hasson’s Spicy Italian Vegetarian Sausages, on Everyday Dish TV.

Sausage and Peppers Sandwich

This is what I call “fair food,” meaning it’s something you buy at a County Fair, like cotton candy.  I don’t know about other parts of the U.S., but in the Northeast, we always looked forward to “sausage and peppers” every time went to the Fair.  I like to hollow out the buns so that there is less bread to the bite.  I used the vegan bratwurst I made recently, but any store-bought vegan sausage will do.  The trick with frying seitan sausages is to get them browned and then finish them in the pan with a Tablespoon of water and covered, to soften them up.  I just fried up one sliced green pepper and half a sliced onion, in one teaspoon of oil, in a non-stick skillet.   A crank of sea salt in the pan helps sweat everything out and give it a bit of savory.  Brush a little Vegenaise on the hollowed-out bun, and load it up.  Sprinkle Malt Vinegar generously over the sausage and peppers and onions, and it tastes delicious!


From the World English Dictionary:  bruschetta:  pronounced brus-ketta.  An Italian open sandwich of toasted bread topped with olive oil and tomatoes, olives, etc.  Anyone who really knows me, knows I am a little fanatical when it comes to heirloom tomatoes.  One year I grew eleven varieties.  So, what do you do when you’ve got the season’s last tomatoes in your hot little hands?  You might make a killer bruschetta, as I did.  The movie Julie and Julia has been playing on TV lately, and so we watched it again.  The Julia movie is so visually attractive (aside from all the cut-up dead animals), thanks to Nora Ephron.  Reading the book “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron was one of my first culinary fiction experiences.  Then, when the novel “Water For Chocolate” came out, I was hooked, and now have a good collection of culinary fiction collected over the last 20 years or more.  Back to the Julia movie; the only non-violent cooking scene is when Amy Adams is making bruschetta, and boy does she go all the way with it.  Yes, she fries the bread!  I just never in a million years would have thought of frying the bread.  But since we’re not using any animal products, and these are the last tomatoes from the garden, I thought, “Okay, we can do this.”  So, I got out my vintage cast-iron skillet, put a dollop of good olive oil in the pan and pressed a mini baguette (sliced in half the long way) around in the pan on medium heat, flipping it a couple of times.  I kept the topping uber simple; just chopped up my own heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee Purple and Brandywine cultivars), minced just a small bit of onion (one or two tablespoons), and put in a couple of good cranks of coarse sea salt, and mixed it all up.  You want to let your tomato mixture sit and marinate while you do your bread.  I didn’t put any oil in the tomatoes because there was already oil on the bread from the pan frying.  And . . . the bruschetta was AMAZING.  The fried bread gives it an unctuous, golden, crispy crust, that, in contrast to the velvety, savory softness of the luscious tomatoes, is a kind of nirvana.  Lars commented on it, and said, “Good.” with his mouth full.  And I asked, “Is this like the best bruschetta you’ve ever had?”  It was.

Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is all over the internet.  It’s adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.  I first made this in February, and what it taught me is that it’s super easy to make a really nice sauce without buying inferior-tasting bottled stuff that has additives. You can dress this any way you like, but it’s great as it is.

I use organic tomatoes (you can find them in most regular grocery stores now).  Quite a few bloggers have raved over this recipe, so I emailed it to my amazing friend Laurel on Kauai, and she replied that it was fantastic.  Enough of a recommendation for me!  So, with a 28 oz. can of tomatoes, one onion, and some pasta, you can make a lovely lunch or supper.  I served this to our friends Jim and Jan, and Jan commented that the tomato sauce tasted so fresh.  That’s what it tastes like, in a nutshell; it doesn’t taste like it comes from a can, and it’s got the subtle, delicate umami of the unmasked tomatoes.  The simplest version of the original recipe that I could find is here on epicurious.  All I did was switch out the butter for Earth Balance, and it still did have that buttery taste.  I reduced the fat in half as i just couldn’t see five whopping Tablespoons of butter in only one can of tomatoes.  Also, I have a problem with throwing away an onion, just couldn’t do it.  In fact throwing away an onion seems to be slightly bizarre behavior, and possibly a mortal sin.  So, I diced the onion and kept every bit of it in the sauce.  And yes, it is delicious, and simple, and quick to make.  I like to add some Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs into the pot with the sauce, for some extra protein.  Afterthought;  OK, OK, I guess for picky little ones, you could just cut the onion in half and then remove it at the end, as the original recipe calls for, but don’t tell me about it.
Vegan Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions 

Serves:  4 as a main course, at least.

-28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano tomatoes are suggested but I don’t worry about this as long as they’re organic)
-2 tablespoons Earth Balance
-1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved (I chop mine fine)
-Salt to taste

Put tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit well in a 3-quart) over medium heat.
Bring sauce to simmer, then lower heat to low, to keep the sauce at a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes.
Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with pasta of your choice, with or without grated vegan parmesan cheese to pass, but, it’s better plain.  For pasta, I like penne, or vermicelli, or capellini. 

I’ve also made this with crushed tomatoes (which saved the crushing of the tomatoes in the pot), and another time with a can of tomato puree, because it was all I had.  Both of these also worked well, despite having slightly less texture.   Note:  The leftovers are great for meatball subs!

Pesto Sauce

My good friend Jan told me she plants her basil seeds at the end of June, so that the basil is ready for harvest when the tomatoes are ripe.  If you have a little patch of soil, you’d be amazed at how easy basil is to grow.  You simply scratch the seeds into the soil, and voila, come August and September, you’ll have an embarrassment of basil.  I first tried pesto only six years ago, at a little Italian place in South Kensington called Dino’s.  The food was okay at Dino’s but the pesto was a revelation to me.  So when I came home from Europe, I decided to try making pesto, did some reading and came up with a basic recipe.  It was so good that I have never bought pesto in a jar.  Now that I’m vegan, I wondered how my pesto would be this summer without the parmigiano.  I’m relieved to say, it’s wonderful!  The toasted pine nuts already have a cheesy taste to them, and then adding a bit of nutritional yeast did the trick.   Nowadays, there are lots of pesto recipes that skip the blanching.  I do it because it sets the color and because, when you’re picking basil from the garden, there will be a few tiny bugs or caterpillars in it.  One last note is that I see online recommendations to add a bit of parsley in with the basil leaves, because supposedly the chlorophyll in the parsley helps the basil from turning black.  I just haven’t found this to be a problem since I blanch the leaves, but hey, a little parsley never hurt anyone.  I made a bit too much pasta here, so your finished dish might be a bit more green in color than this, hopefully.  Either way, it’s all good.
Vegan Pesto Sauce

1/2 C pine nuts toasted
1/4 C Nutritional Yeast (not brewers yeast)
2-3 C packed fresh basil leaves
¼ t salt
2 garlic cloves
2 T olive oil,  plus 1T olive oil

-Toast pine nuts under broiler, and set aside to cool
– Fill a metal sauce pan half full with water and set on medium heat
-Pick basil leaves (cut about 5 branches from the mother plant)
-Sort through basil leaves, discarding any that don’t look good
(use as many small leaves as you can)
-Enjoy the spicy cinnamon scent of fresh basil as you pluck the leaves
– Fill a small mixing bowl half full with ice water
-When water is simmering, blanch basil leaves for about 10 seconds
-Use a spider ladle or slotted spoon to lift leaves,
and scrape leaves into ice water

-Into food processor, add toasted nuts and salt and crushed garlic.
-Process about a minute.
-Gently squeeze basil leaves to remove most of water (not all).
-Add squeezed basil leaves to garlic/nut mixture, process another minute.
-Add 2 T of the olive oil and continue processing until smooth, another 2 min.
-Scrape pesto into a cereal bowl.
-Stir the nutritional yeast into the bowl, adding the last 1T of olive oil now.
-Mix well.

It’s fine to let this chill for a couple of hours or until next day, or divide and/or freeze now.

If serving now:
Boil pasta and drain, reserving a ladle or two of the hot pasta water.
Add a ladle of hot pasta water to the pesto and stir well to blend.
Gently toss hot pesto with hot pasta until well mixed.

NOTE: You can substitute raw walnuts in equal measure for the pine nuts.

Pesto keeps, its surface covered with plastic wrap, chilled, for a few days. 

Serves:  Makes two one-third-cup measures of pesto, enough for four big plates of pesto pasta, or more smaller side dishes.  Since I’m usually cooking for two, I freeze half of the pesto for a winter’s day.  I like to use fine spaghetti, vermicelli or capellini, or even angel hair.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a classic dish named for um . . . , ok we won’t go there.  Anyhoo, it’s so good with ripe garden tomatoes and a grind of sea salt on top.  A great thing to make when there’s not a lot in the pantry.  If you want to make it for less than four people, simply cut down on the capellini or vermicelli, as I do.  I prefer something thinner than spaghetti.  Also, any leftover cooked greens can be thrown in here too, but they’re not necessary.  Green olives can be substituted in a pinch, no sweat.


Serves 4 to 6

1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
2 ounces or more Kalamata black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped capers
2 large well-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 pound spaghetti  (or vermicelli or capellini)  (less if only for two people)
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:  place the olive oil in a frying pan and add the minced garlic.  When garlic is golden (don’t burn it), add olives, capers and tomatoes.  Stir well and heat through for about 6 minutes.

Cook the pasta al dente and drain it.  Put pasta in bowl and add half the sauce.  Toss well.  Add remaining sauce and sprinkle on the parsley with some salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.