Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Looking for a great pasta salad recipe? Look no further – this is a pasta salad that even your picky eaters will adore. Just don’t tell them what’s in it, especially if you know that they’ll refuse to eat anything with avocados or chickpeas or cucumbers or olives…

A good choice of pasta will make all the difference to a pasta salad. The best kinds of pastas for salads are short and stout, with lots of nooks and crannies, twists and turns for the dressing to get into. And when it comes to nooks and crannies in the pasta world nothing comes close to radiatori – those little pastas that look like accordions or radiators. You should also cook your pasta al dente  (firm to bite) or it will be too mushy, and you should toss the freshly cooked and drained pasta with some olive oil to prevent it from sticking.

While the pasta is cooking you can chop all the vegetables: baby tomatoes, English cucumber, and Kalamata olives. Slice them and dice them any way you prefer. As you can tell from the picture, I usually just split baby tomatoes in half, slice the olives, and dice the cucumber without peeling it. You can adjust and customize, depending how rustic you like your salad to be.

One note on olives. If you can’t get Kalamata olives, you can replace them with any type of olive you can find. I recommend darker ones because they tend to have a stronger, and a bit more bitter, flavor which works well in a salad like this, but green ones will work too.

The very last thing that you will do once the cooked pasta is mixed with diced vegetables, chopped parsley and cooked (or canned) chickpeas, is to mix some dressing. In this case, the dressing is rich, smooth and green – it’s pretty much avocado blended with lots of lemon juice and some mustard.

Toss everything and you are done. This salad is great fresh, but I do recommend that you chill it for an hour or so before serving. Looking for more great pasta ideas? Check this simpler pasta salad, or a real fall (autumn) treat – Radish Salad with Apples, Carrots and Toasted Walnuts. Enjoy!

Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lbs (454 g) radiattore pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (to prevent pasta from sticking)
  • 1 pint (1 1/2 to 2cups) cherry tomatoes, chopped in half of quarters, depending on size
  • 1 large English cucumber, diced
  • 1-2 cups Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 15.5oz (439g) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and pat dried
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
DRESSING
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

What you’ll do:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water using the instructions on the box and subtracting a minute or so. You want the pasta to be al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta, then place into a large mixing bowl and toss with olive oil.
  2. While pasta is cooking, chop the tomatoes, cucumber and olives. Add to cooked pasta together with the chickpeas and parsley. If you are using canned chickpeas make sure they are drained, rinsed and dried to avoid adding access water/liquid into your salad.
  3. In a blender, combine lemon juice, avocado and mustard. Blend until silky and smooth.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss to combine and coat, and chill for an hour or so before serving. Enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

 

 

Vegan Baked Feta (no fat and no salt added)

Vegan Baked Feta no fat and no salt added
Vegan Baked Feta no fat and no salt added, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

For many transitioning into plant-based diet and/or vegan life style, giving up cheese may be the most difficult thing to do. Although commercially available dairy-free cheese alternatives are getting better, they still tend to be pricier and, let’s be honest, they do take some getting used to. Plus: many of these cheeses are still not necessarily something to overindulge in – they usually come with a high fat and salt content. So, when it comes to dairy-free cheese you still need to proceed with caution.

One of the best ways to know exactly what you are getting is to get into DIY (do-it-yourself). Making your own cheese can sound intimidating. And some recipe do sound quite complicated and time consuming! But, there are quite a few vegan cheese recipes that you can do yourself and be happy with results.

For example, making a gooey nacho cheese or a cheese sauce for Mac’n’Cheese can’t be easier. Also, making homemade fresh mozzarella, although it takes time, is simple enough really. And if you want to impress guests, baked mini cheeses are your friends!

Vegan cheese making, including artisan plant-based cheese making, is now becoming very popular and there are quite a few really good cookbooks out there that you may want to take a look at. Before buying any of them, I encourage you to check out your local library! If you are looking for a good place to start, I think either “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner, or “This Cheese is Nuts!” by Julie Piatt will give you plenty to work with.

The baked feta recipe below was created to make my life easier – it includes only 4 ingredients which I usually have on hand anyways, and uses the oven to do most of the work. Plus, it includes no added fat and no added salt, while being rich in protein, which makes it almost an essential ingredient for a healthy salad or sandwich lunch! The cheese stores well for about one week, so you may want to make a fresh batch every 7 days or so. Enjoy!

Vegan Baked Feta

What you’ll need:

  • 1 block (14 oz, 400 g) extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1/2 lemon, juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C).
  2. While the oven is preheating, place 1 block of tofu – drained but not pressed – into a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until everything is smooth and combined.
  3. Line an 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) baking dish with some parchment paper. If you don’t have this specific size baking dish don’t worry – you can use any oven safe dish that will make your baked cheese block have about 1 in (2.5 cm) thickness.
  4. Pour your tofu cheese mix into the baking dish, even the surface out and put it in the oven for 45 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to check half way through. If your top and bottom are baking at a different rate you may want to flip the cheese, which can be tricky since it will still be went and fragile, or move the rack up or down. The main point is to allow both the top and the bottom to dry out as evenly as possible.
  5. After about 45 minutes, when the cheese looks more or less dried out on the surface, increase the heat to 425 F (220 C) to finish the baking. This step will produce a nicely roasted crust and add just a bit of caramelization. But keep it short, no longer than about 15 minutes!, because you still want your cheese to stay soft inside so it can crumble well!
  6. Take the baked feat out, cool it completely, then store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. I recommend you let it cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours before using for the first time as this will help with the crumbling and/or slicing. Enjoy!

Note on the salt: feel free to add salt to taste if you like, since this no-salt added version will be on a bland tasting side of things. Alternatively, you can simply add a pinch of salt to your salad or sandwich as you are putting them together. I will leave the answer to the question “To salt, or not to salt” to you!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Simple Bean Salad

Simple Bean Salad via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Simple Bean Salad, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Summer time, outdoor eating, picnics – what they all need is great, yet simple salads, especially those that don’t require constant refrigeration and come together in a jiffy!

This is exactly what this bean salad is all about. It uses four different types of canned beans – and you can mix and march any way you like! – as well as a nice combo of spices, including a bit of garam masala. If you are not familiar with garam masala, it is a spice mix commonly found in Indian cuisine, and it usually contains cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and perhaps a bit of nutmeg or mace. All this makes for a very fragrant and please spice mix that you can use to make a plain old bean salad just a bit more adventurous. And don’t worry about having lots of garam masala leftover after you make this salad because it is a spice you can use to boost the flavor of rice, as well as to make Chicken-less Tikka Masala (one of my very favorites), Saag Paneer, or “Chicken” in Nut Sauce and it will be used up before you know it. It is one of the spices I can’t go without!

If you can’t find garam masala, you can use your favorite curry powder instead – it will work and you will have a bean salad with an elevated flavor. One other recommendation I’d like to make is to toast your spices using just a bit of oil and a very hot frying pan. This will help deepen the aroma and add just a bit of smokiness. If you are looking to cut out the oil you can toast your spices in a dry nonstick pan. Either way, you will have to be there and keep the spices moving as they toast. The toasting is fast, no longer than 2 minutes, and the spices can easily burn if you are not careful. So keep a close eye on your spices!

Finally, definitely use both the juice and the zest of the lime. The zest will do it’s zesty magic and add an exotic dimension to your salad. Enjoy!

Simple Bean Salad

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 15.5 oz (440 g) can black beans
  • 1 15.5 oz (440 g) can red kidney beans
  • 1 15.5 oz (440 g) can black eyed peas
  • 1 15.5 oz (440 g) can small white beans
  • 1 4 oz (113g) can fire roasted green chilis
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder or garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (or lime chili if on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

What you’ll do:

  1. Wash the peppers, half them lengthwise, and set the two halves you are not going to use aside (don’t through them out; there are many recipes you can use them for, or simply slice them into sticks and much on them as a snack!). Remove all the seeds and veins, then cut into a small dice. Do the same with the red onion. Place all your diced vegetables into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Rinse and drain all your canned beans, shake the access water off as much as you can, pat dry if needed and add to the mixing bowl together with the entire can of fire roasted green chilis. Note: If you don’t have these fire roasted green chilis where you live, you can use raw chili (spicy) pepper of your choosing. Or you can fire roasted a pepper yourself, let it cool, peel the skin, remove the seeds and chop finely. Regardless of what you decide to do, be careful about the heat and add the amount that tastes right to you. Using the amount listed in this recipe you will end up with a mild bean salad, so dial the heat up or down to taste.
  3. Place a small sauté or frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil, then add the garam masala (or curry powder) and chili powder. Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes then immediately add to the mixing bowl. If you are trying to avoid oil, you can dry toast the spices in a non-stick pan, or skip toasting altogether. Without toasting the flavors will not be as rich, but milder may be better for some.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and you are done! You can serve this salad immediately, but for best results I recommend that you let it sit for 2-4 hours on the kitchen counter. You can also make this salad a day ahead, store in the fridge, then take it out and let come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Vegan Taco Salad with Homemade Beef Crumbles

Vegan Taco Salad with Homemade Beef Crumbles
Vegan Taco Salad with Homemade Beef Crumbles, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Taco Tuesdays – they are the best! Actually, tacos are great any day of the week, and especially handy when hosting a party. The reason why they work so well is that with 5-6 different toppings like shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, beans, perhaps some pickled jalapeños, and some “beef” crumbles the food spread will look like a feast! Plus, everyone can go around and make their own tacos their way. What fun!!!

Plus: you can get almost everything from the store, and have the taco night done in no time. If you do have a bit of extra time on your hands, I do recommend that you make your own “beef” crumbles. It is cheaper, and you will be in control of additives and spices. There are many ways to make your own beef crumbles, and I shared the tofu-based as well as quinoa-based recipes before.

Both of those recipes required some time in the oven. Here, I have an easier option for you that is made entirely on the stove top. The recipe uses tempeh, and chopped walnuts to give it richness and protein. It also calls for quite a few spices, to infuse the crumble with umami flavors and smokiness. All you need to do really is crumble the tempeh, chopped the walnuts relatively finely, and sauté for a bit.

Although great, tacos can also be a bit frustrating. For example, I can never get enough lettuce and tomatoes into my taco shell before things start to fall apart. That’s why I decided to ditch the shell and go with a combination which I call taco salad. It starts with a load of shredded iceberg lettuce, and a good amount of tomatoes, beans and avocado (or guacamole). I added a bit of tortilla chips for some crunch, and a nice helping of the beef crumble. Final touch for this salad, as is for any other one, is a bit of acidity – lime juice works great here, and a bit of oil. The salad is pretty rich so you can skip oil if you like. Finally, if you have some fresh cilantro handy, go for it – it will add nice freshness to your salad.

By the way, this salad is a big meal. You will have plenty on your plate if you follow my measurements below – so you can certainly cut things in half if you are looking for a quick/small lunch!

IMG_8034

 

Vegan Taco Salad with Homemade Beef Crumbles

What you’ll need:

FOR BEEF CRUMBLE
  • 1 10 oz package of tempeh
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or any oil you like; you can also skip if on oil-free diet)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
FOR SERVING (per serving)
  • 8-10 tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup diced plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sour cream
  • 1/4 cup diced avocados
  • 1/4 cup canned black beans
  • 1/2 cup beef crumbles (recipe above)
  • freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Check your tempeh to figure out whether the tempeh can be used as is, or does it need to boiled first – some do! If boiled, let the tempeh cool for couple of minutes. Using a fork, crumble the tempeh by pulling it apart until the size of crumbles resembles what you may usually see in taco filling. Set aside.
  2. Chop the walnuts to about the same size as your tempeh crumbles. My tip for keeping the costs down when making something like this is to by walnut pieces, not halves, since they tend to be cheaper!
  3. Place a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil, and the spices – cumin and chili powder and smoked paprika. Let them toast for 1 minute, then add the walnuts and let them roast for 2-3 minutes, until slightly browned. Mix in the tempeh and let caramelize for few minutes, 3-5 minutes should be sufficient. Add the tomato paste and cocoa powder, mix well and let the flavors develop over medium heat for another 5-10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let cool for 15 minutes or so.
  4. To assemble the salad, start with a large heap of shredded iceberg lettuce (or other type of shreds like kale shreds or romain), top with chopped tomatoes, black beans, taco “meat”, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, lime juice and olive oil (if using). Dig in!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Easy Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Easy Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce
Easy Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

It’s not quite summer yet, but it does not hurt to line up few new recipes to try when the vegetable gardens start to yield the wonderful, delicious produce. Of course, with modern day supermarkets, the produce in my Easy Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce is on hand any time of the year!

The recipe is easy, because you only need a handful of ingredients: eggplant, zucchini, garlic, crushed tomatoes, olive oil, and a bit of salt, dried basil and dried oregano. You also need an ingredient that you may have hard time finding – pomegranate molasses. I found mine in a local Indian grocery store, and started experimenting with it recently. This molasses is thick and sticky, like the more common molasses made as a byproduct of refining sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets, but it is not sweet – actually it is quite tart. That’s why you will not find this molasses in many desserts, but you will in savory dishes.

If you are now thinking to yourself “I’n not buying yet another ingredient that I’ll never use again”, no worries – just use balsamic vinegar, especially the one that’s rich, sweet and dark. That will work just as well to add a bit of acidity and sweetness to the sauce.

Enjoy!

 

Easy Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

What you’ll need:

  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 28 oz (800 g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or use balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon basil, dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Place a sturdy pot (I like my Dutch oven) over a medium high heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Sauté for a minute, to allow garlic to start releasing its aroma.
  2. Add the eggplant and zucchini, mix well and sauté for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are fully cooked.
  3. Mix in the molasses (or balsamic vinegar), and all the herbs (basil and oregano), then pour in the crushed tomatoes. Bring to simmer, cover with a lid, lower the heat down all the way, and let cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Using a stick blender or a regular kind, blend the sauce until rich and dense. Use on your favorite pasta, or spiraled vegetables, like zoodles, which are my personal favorite.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

White Bean and Spinach Soup

White Bean and Spinach Soup
White Bean and Spinach Soup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

From the very first time I tried a bite of this soup I was hooked! The texture is incredibly smooth and creamy, and the taste is amazing – this is real comfort food right there!!!

Plus: this soup is super easy and super affordable – and it is a perfect make-ahead or meal prep option since the flavor is even better the next day, or the day after, or the day after. The soup will hold well for 5-6 days if stored in a container with a tight lid in the fridge.

And if you are looking to throw an Italian-inspired party, this soup served with a tossed salad and fresh bread will do the trick! Vegan and non-vegan friends and family will just love it, especially those among them who seem alarmed by some of the less common vegan ingredients, like nutritional yeast, or unfamiliar add-ons. This soup is plain and simple – white beans (homemade or canned), tomatoes, baby spinach, olive oil, onion, garlic, oh and some pasta – THAT’S IT!

If you are wondering whether you have to use cannellini beans, the answer is no. Any small white bean will do – and you can definitely cook the beans yourself. About half a pound (225-250 g) of dried beans will probably be just about right for this soup. Quite frankly, the convenience of canned beans can’t be beat, ad that’s a fact – with a snap of a lid you are already there. And these days you can find most beans in “no salt added” version, in case you are monitoring your sodium intake. The same is true for crushed and diced tomatoes – in my grocery store you can find both in “no salt added” variety. Whether you prefer to skip salt or not, I should note that a little bit of salt goes a long way towards making this soup have a really exquisite flavor.

The pasta that I recommend for this soup is ditalini, small pasta that looks like very small and short macaroni. This type of pasta is commonly used in traditional Italian bean soup, Pasta e fagioli, which is really pasta and beans. Ditalini works well in bean dishes because it’s size is well matched to the size of the beans, so it harmonizes with the rest of the dish. If you can’t find ditalini, you can use any other short and tubular pasta, or even something like rotelle – the wheel shaped pasta which is kinda fun.

One huge trick for making this soup is to blend half of it and then add more chunkiness to it as it simmers. Blending part of the beans, sautéd onions and garlic, and crushed tomatoes makes for a perfect creamy base. You will think you are eating a soup made with a pile of butter and cream, or a heavy roux, or both – and none of this is true! one thing to be careful about is blending the hot mix – you can get burned so pay attention!!!

 

White Bean and Spinach Soup

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 15.5 oz (440 g) cans cannellini bean, divided
  • 1 28 oz (800 g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz (411 g) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta (or other smaller pasta, like short macaroni
  • 1 lbs (454 g) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Place the oil into a large pot and place it over the medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes, then add 1 1/2 can of cannellini beans and mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes, then turn the heat off. Add the crushed tomatoes and mix well.
  2. (TAKE EXTRA CARE) Pour the mix into a blender – take care as the soup will be very hot. Don’t use the blender unless the instructions state explicitly that it can be used with hot liquids. Make sure to use precaution to prevent burns. Blend the mix until smooth and silky. (You can also use a stick blender if you have one and blend the soup directly in the pot!)
  3. Pour the blended soup back into the pot, and use 1 to 2 cups of water to rinse out the blender. If you used a stick blender, do add 1-2 cups of water. Add diced tomatoes, and the rest of the beans. Bring to boil.
  4. Once the soup is boiling, add the spinach and wilt for 2 minutes or so. Finally, add the pasta (detalini), mix well and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the pasta finish cooking. Serve with fresh salad, a piece of bread, and some vegan parmesan.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

 

Grilled Corn with Cilantro and Lime

Cilantro and Lime Grilled Corn, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Corn is amazing for many reasons. It’s incredibly sweet and delicious, it is easy to make, and it is super cheep during summer months while in season. Outside that window, fresh corn is still really affordable and you can enjoy it year round.

Corn requires minimal preparation, can be ready in no time and it’s naturally gluten-free. Moreover, if you can’t get fresh corn you can always youse frozen corn because it will work almost as good as fresh one.

Let me illustrate some of what I just said with a very simple corn side dish. I developed this recipe as a side for summer cook-outs and burgers (some of my favorite burgers that this corn goes really well with are Chickpea Burgers with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Walnut Meat – YUM!), but it can definitely be made year-round. Although you could steam your corn and then follow the steps below, for best results I recommend grilling. You can grill the corn on your outdoor grill, or using a grill pan – exact method does not matter. What matter are those lovely grill marks and getting some charring on the corn, which really adds a lot of flavor.

Other than getting those lovely grill marks, the rest of this recipe is super quick and easy. All you need to do is toss the chopped corn with couple of flavoring agents, lime juice for a bit of acidity, lime zest for a bit of crispness, some fresh cilantro for a bit of freshness, some fire roasted green chiles for some spiciness, and a bit of oil that helps all these flavors stick to the corn and each other better.

You can serve the corn immediately after tossing it with the rest of the ingredients, but I recommend that you stay patient and wait for 10-15 minutes for all the flavors to come together and infuse the corn. Then you can dig in!

img_5664

Grilled Corn with Cilantro and Lime

What you’ll need:

4 ears of corn, grilled

1 lime, juice and zest

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fire roasted chile peppers (from the can)

¼ fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Salt, to taste (optional)

What you’ll do:

  1. Grill the corn using an outdoor grill. If none is available, you can cook your corn in the microwave oven, then add grill marks using a grill pan, or go directly to the grill pan. Usually, it takes 3-5 minutes per side, and you do need to stay close and keep an eye on the corn so that it doesn’t burn. Let the corn cool just slightly, so that you can handle it, then chop each ear of the grilled corn into 4 pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the rest of ingredients (lime juice and zest, jalapeños, olive oil, and cilantro; you can also add salt to taste – I don’t use much salt, and I don’t think this corn needs any, but you can decide for yourself). Toss the corn with the mix and set aside for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to mix and mingle. Serve with burgers, salads (like this Coleslaw), ribs, beans, or other goodies!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

SaveSave

High Protein Noodle Soup – the Best Thing for Colds Since the Chicken Noodle

img_6046
High Protein Noodle Soup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Winter wonderland is all around us – at least for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere somewhere above 30 to 40 degrees North. Unfortunately, in addition to all the fun stuff that winter brings, there are also the dreaded colds or even worse full on flus that get around. Just around the Christmas time as was waylaid by a serious cold – I call it a cold but it was more of a full body weakness and loss of energy with some minor runny nose and sore throat. I stayed in bed for a day, drank loads of fluids, and all was better in about 48 hours.

One things that really helped me power through is a soup I made, full of protein as well as mushrooms. It perked me right up, and kept me coming for more at a time when my appetite was not all that great. The main reason why I went for some soup at the time like this is thanks to the well-known, and scientifically slightly supported, power of the hot bowl of chicken noodle soup to make the cold go away.

The power of the soup resides to some extent to the fact that it is served hot – the steam helps with decongestion and is commonly recommended to get your nasal passages work again. Plus: soup, and other warm liquids, are easy to swallow and therefore usually gentle for the painful throat. And: when you are under weather, down with a cold, one of the best thing you can do is stay hydrated, something any soup will help you with.

But a soup like your old fashioned chicken noodle soup that you may have been chased around as a kid, have more hidden secrets. They are full of protein, as well as vitamins and minerals that come with those great vegetables hiding in there.

So, in my attempt to recreate the richness of flavors, level of protein, and intense apparent healing powers of the chicken noodle soup I went for, well, pure protein – pea protein powder and peanut butter powder, which is really almost all protein (but do check a label before buying to be sure and stay away from some of the products out there that add sugar!).

I also went for mushroom broth as it is deeper in flavor than a vegetable stock. I used store bought, but you can definitely make some on your own especially if you are looking for ways to use up all those mushroom scraps (this recipe is a great start). And to deepen the flavors further I recommend using soba noodles. These noodles are earthy, nutty and I simply love them!  I use them in stir fries and soups, and always have them on hand in my pantry.

By the time this soup is ready, which is very quick indeed, you will be holding in your hand something that will make you feel better and go “mmmmmmm…”.

img_6048

High Protein Noodle Soup

What you’ll need:

32 FL oz (1 L) mushroom broth (or vegetable stock if mushroom broth unavailable; homemade broth also a great option)
32 FL oz (1L) water
1/4 cup pea protein powder
1/4 cup peanut butter powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets
6.4 oz (180 g) soba noodles
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Freshly squeezed lime juice to taste

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine mushroom broth, water, pea protein powder, peanut butter powder, ginger and curry powder in a large pot. Mix well to combine and remove any lumps that may form. You can also use a blender or a whisk.
  2. Place the pot over the medium high heat and bring to boil.
  3. Once the soup is boiling, add broccoli and the noodles, lower the heat and let simmer for 5-7 minutes. This should be enough time for noodles and broccoli to be cooked al dente – so soft but not mushy.
  4. Turn the heat off, mix in the fresh parsley, and some lime juice for a bit of acidity, and serve. You can always serve with lime wedges, and let people add lime to taste themselves.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Citrus Infused Pan-Seared Eggplant with Black Olives

 

Citrus Infused Pan-Seared Eggplant with Black Olives, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Simple may not always be better, but it is absolutely true that when it comes to vegetable side dishes keeping things simple and letting the vegetables speak for themselves goes a very long way. For example, grilling is one of the best ways to add a lot of flavor without any extra ingredients of complicated prep procedures. And eggplant is probably one of the most grill-friendly vegetables out there!

But, before the eggplant hits the grill (or a pan) it is important to soften it and let some of the bitterness drain out. Very often that means salting the sliced eggplant and letting it sit in between paper towels to absorb the moister that the salted eggplant will release. Doing this removes some of the bitterness that eggplant can sometimes have as well as make the eggplant less like a sponge.

This recipe does have one important trick that really elevates the flavors – rubbing the grilled eggplant slices with a clove or garlic to add that great garlic flavor! This is a trick that you often see used for making garlic bread to infuse garlic aroma into toasted bread – it avoids having to deal with raw garlic pieces, and it is very effective.

Finally, what makes this simple side dish come together is the lemon juice and lemon zest. This small amount of acidity and the freshness that lemon zest contributes really bring the simplicity to a new level. You can serve this elegant vegetable dish warm, as a side, or cold as a salad. Either way, give this a try and see whether you are with me when I say that simple is the way to go!!!

db2b75ef-8095-4ae2-9901-ea9db20ba34e

Citrus Infused Pan-Seared Eggplant with Black Olives

What you’ll need:

2 large Italian eggplants, sliced into rounds

1 clove of garlic, peeled

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 cup black olives, sliced

2-3 teaspoons coarse salt

Cooking spray (or olive oil)

What you’ll do:

  1. Wash the eggplant, and slice into round slices (about 1/4 in (5 mm) in thickness). Place on the two layers of paper or kitchen towel, sprinkle with salt, then cover with another layer of towels, and let stand for 20-30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the extra moisture out of the eggplant, and with it some of natural bitterness that eggplant sometimes has. Remove the paper towels, and pat dry the eggplant slices.
  2. Put a large grill pan over the high heat to make the pan really hot. Reduce the heat to medium, then spray with some cooking spray or brush with some olive oil. Place eggplant slices on and grill on both sides in batches until all the eggplant is grilled. You can also use an outdoor grill or a regular pan. The point is to blacken and cook the eggplant through, which will take 3-5 minutes per side.
  3. Use the garlic clove and rub the eggplant slices, so that they are infused with garlic aroma. Place the garlic rubbed eggplant into a large mixing bowl, add lemon juice, lemon zest, and sliced black olives. Mix well and you are done! If you like to add a bit more flavors to this simple side dish, you can drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle fresh parsley, or add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes if you are open to turning on the heat!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Rich Risotto with Roasted Winter Squash

Rich Risotto with Roasted Winter Squash, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Winter squash – they come in what seems to be an endless number of varieties. If you ever find yourself wondering whether you have a summer or a winter squash, all you have to do is take a look at the seeds. All summer squash are picked before their seeds are fully formed and mature, while the winter squash is left on a vine to ripen until seeds are fully formed. So when you cut winer squash, you will find a bunch of seeds that you can often enjoy in their own right, usually roasted.

The types of squash that I can easily find in New England (USA) are acorn, butternut, buttercup, hubbard, and spaghetti squash, which makes lovely Pad Thai among other things. And, of course, pumpkin, which reigns supreme among others in terms of availability and easy of use given that I go straight for the can. Canned pumpkin purée (note: not the pie filling!), is a nice addition to many recipes, including meatloaf, as well as truffles. Actually, all winter squash are quite versatile and can be made into both savory dishes and main courses, as well as dessert.

winter-squash-3729094_1920
Winter Squash, image via Pixabay

One of my favorite way to prepare winter squash is roasting. Roasted squash is delicious, and does not require much work to get the roasting going. After it cools, you can enjoy roasted squash as is, or cube it, or purée it for use in number of different recipes, including the risotto below.

The inspiration for this risotto came from my search for ultimate comfort food. It struck me that combining soft and creamy rice, like the one you get in a well-cooked risotto, with slightly sweet and earthy winter squash is likely to deliver. And: I was right! What helps this risotto come together is nutritional yeast, which I use quite liberally, and bay leaf and thyme, two herbs that infuse the risotto with flavor. Here, I used vegetable stock, but you could use water, or mushroom stock if you like. The texture will not change, but the flavors will. Also: the recipe below does not include salt, so use as much or as little as you like.

The most important thing you need when cooking the risotto is patience, and adding the cooking liquid gradually and in small increments to allow the rice to absorb all the liquid bit by bit. At the end, I always find that risotto uses more liquid then what I expect, so here I recommend having a quart (about 1 L) of stock ready, but add it in small increments. Another thing that a good risotto needs is lots of stirring, so get ready!

 

Rich Risotto with Roasted Winter Squash

What you’ll need:

1 onion, finely diced

4 stalks celery, diced

2 cups winter squash (or pumpkin) purée (see below)

1 cup medium or short grain rice (for example Arborio)

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

up to 4 cups (1 L) vegetable stock, divided

4 bay leaves

6-8 springs of thyme, laves only

1 tablespoon olive oil

 

What you’ll do:

  1. I recommend using homemade roasted winter squash for this and any other recipes. Which means that your first step would be to clean and roast the squash until soft and fully roasted. This usually takes about 45-60 minutes at 425F (220 C) oven. You only need 2 cups of puréed squash for this risotto, so you will have some leftover for other things, like soups, pies or even hummus. If you are short on time but still want to enjoy this risotto, go for canned pumpkin. One 15 oz (425g) can of plain pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling!) will do the trick here.
  2. Place a large high-sided skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add oil, diced onion and celery and let sauté for 5-8 minutes until done. Add puréed squash, mix well and sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the rice (without rinsing it, so that you retain all the sticky starch that will make the final risotto extra creamy), mix well and let the rice brown just a little bit on its own, for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock, bay leaves and thyme leaves and mix well. Bring the risotto to boil then lower the heat down to simmer. Check every 3-5 minutes, mix again and add more stock in 1/2 cup intervals as needed.
  5. After about 15 minutes, mix in all the nutritional yeast, and continue to simmer. Continue to check every 3-5 minutes and add more stock gradually. Any risotto needs lots of attention, and adding the liquid in small increments. So, be patient! The rice should be fully cooked in about 25-30 minutes (fully cooked here means that the rice will not be completely mushy and give sort of al dente resistance when you bite into it.
  6. Serve your risotto warm and enjoy with a nice glass of wine, some olives, or perhaps some nice Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), which I love. That little bit of nice acidity complements the creaminess of this risotto really well.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Apple and Carrot Soup

Apple and Carrot Soup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Apple and Carrot Soup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Soups seem to be one of those things that have gone out the window together with long sit down dinners. I grew up in a family that had soup as a starter of a large meal, in our case lunch, almost every day. My mom still makes soups couple of times a week, and they are varied and delicious!

I vary my soups depending on the season, and gravitate towards lighter soups during summer, and rich and more decadent soups during winter. For example, about two years ago we had a major snow storm, and while my husband was out shoveling, I made a pot of New England Clam-less Chowder that hit the spot!

More recently, some of the soups that we enjoyed were rich in vegetables and can work really well to replace all those recipes that use tons of butter and cream, like Cream of Carrot Soup, and a perfect Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup. The secret weapon to a rich, creamy and totally vegan soup is an immersion (or stick) blender. This kitchen gadget goes directly into a pot and blends the contents with ease! Of course, you can also use your regular blender but that requires a transfer of a very hot liquid, which may lead to injury – so for things like making creamy soups and sauces a stick blender is the way to go.

For this soup, which combines carrots and apples, it is important to pick firm and tart apples like Granny Smith. Apples add a bit of tartness to the soup as well as a bit of a thickening agent as they are full of pectin, which is a complex carbohydrate that makes jams gel!

One last thing I want to mention before we dive into the recipe is the sodium. My recipe does not include salt because my husband is on a very low sodium/no sodium diet. But this soup, as indeed others as well, taste best with a bit of salt added to it. So, unless you do need to omit sodium from your diet I recommend you add salt to taste, to the pot as the soup simmers. One teaspoon ought to do it for most of us!

This is a great Thanksgiving or winter holiday soup and I hope you get to enjoy it with your family and friends!!!

 

Apple and Carrot Soup

What you’ll need:

1 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

5 large carrots, cut into small chunks

3 apples, tart, cut into small chunks (peeled or not, up to you)

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

4 bay leaves, whole

1 teaspoon celery seed

2 teaspoons rubbed sage

4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 tablespoons pan toasted pumpkin seeds per serving

salt, pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  1. Place a large pot over medium-high heat, then add oil, celery and onion and let the vegetables sauté for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots and apples, and sauté for another 5-8 minutes, until carrots and apples start to soften and brown.
  3. Add the spices and mix well, then pour in the water, increase the heat to high, let the soup come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until apples and carrots are soft and fully cooked.
  4. Once the carrots and apples are fully cooked, turn the heat off, and let the soup cool for 5-10 minutes. Take all the bay leaves out, then using your immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. You can do this in the standard blender as well, but do be careful – the liquid will still be very hot and you can get seriously burned!!!
  5. Serve the soup with some toasted pumpkin seeds. You can toast the seeds in a toaster oven or in the non-stick pan. Place your pan over the high heat and let the surface get really hot. Next pour in the seeds, and let them toast with constant stirring for 1-2 minutes. This will be sufficient to get them lightly toasted. Sprinkle on top of the soup and serve!

Note on the salt: please note that the recipe does not use any salt as my husband is on a reduced-sodium/no-sodium diet. However, I do add salt to my own bowl as I do think it enhances the flavor. If you are in the household that consumes salt, please consider adding 1 teaspoon in the pot while cooking. Enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Zucchini and Summer Squash With Garlic and Basil – CSA Week 9

b00a2607-ad68-4648-b9da-bf7749d55ff5
Zucchini and Summer Squash With Garlic and Basil, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

You know that you have been slacking when the post about CSA Week 9 recipe comes couple of weeks after the finish of the CSA program. How did all those weeks disappear? All I’m going to say is that summer vacation, start of school year, and crazy work schedule happens to the best of us! Wild, I know!!!

In Week 9, Upswing Farm share included some lovely zucchini and basil. So recipe here is a really easy and quick take on what to do when life gives you zucchini, summer squash (this one was from my garden), and lots of fresh basil.

The recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make, used only a handful of ingredients, and is light, fragrant and incredible for the long, hot, lazy days of summer, as well as these fall moments we are now enjoying.

As summer squash, zucchini and fresh basil are now available year round, you can actually serve this “summer sunshine in a bowl” even at the dead of the winter. When choosing your zucchini and squash pick those that have smooth surface with bright color and fresh look. Those will be fresher pieces that you can use without peeling after giving them a good wash.

This recipe requires grating, and the easiest way to do this is to run the zucchini and squash through a grater attachment that most food processors include. Traditional hand-held grater works too! I recommend that you squeeze some of the excess water out of the grated squash and zucchini before using. If you skip this step, the final dish will be quite water-y, although it will still taste good. So, it’s up to you to decide the amount of liquid you’d like your final result to have.

Lastly, when it comes to fresh basil you will not need to do much to prep it. You can use the entire bunch, after you wash it and trim it. The point is to have basil infuse the dish, and you can fish the large pieces of basil out before serving. Of course, basil is delicious in its own right and if you want to enjoy it just go for it!

This side dish is best served warm, with some toast or good hearty bread for dipping and mopping the bowl. Delicious!

Zucchini and Summer Squash with Garlic and Basil

What you’ll need:

2 zucchinis, washed, trimmed, and grated

2 summer squash, washed, trimmed, and grated

6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cups basil leaves, whole

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Wash the zucchini and summer squash, trim the ends, and grate either using a food processor or a manual grater.
  2. Peel and slice garlic thinly. You can adjust amount of garlic to taste but I don recommend going beyond your comfort zone here.
  3. In a large pan bring oil to medium heat, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini and squash, mix well, and sauté for 5-8 minutes until fully cooked.
  5. Add the fresh basil and vinegar, mix well and let rest for 10 minutes or so before serving. Enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018