Greek Leek Pasta with Vegan Feta Cheese

We aren’t Vegan, but we do eat a lot of vegan and vegetarian foods. We grow a garden, so throughout the summer we’re in veggie overload, and for health reasons I can’t take medicine for, I try to stay away from a lot of meat (particularly red) and dairy. This naturally lends itself to Vegan eating. However, I’m not picky about it. If meat is available, and I really want it, I’ll eat it. Andy likes when I put fennel in things when I don’t cook with meat because, “fennel makes everything taste like sausage.”

Thankfully my parents exposed us all to gardens and varieties of foods & spices, including a lot of vegan/vegetarian foods and substitutions growing up. I can’t remember a single year of my life we didn’t have some sort of garden, tofu in the fridge or nutritional yeast in the pantry. I was aware at a young age where vegetables came from, though I wish as a teenager I had been more active in it. I’ll never forget our neighbors throwing a party and Dad spraying turkey shit all over the garden the day before – having no idea about the outdoor party. It still cracks me up. All that said, growing up this way makes transitioning to primarily vegetarian/vegan easy for me.

Tonight I decided to try a vegan feta cheese. The recipe looked promising, but I was hesitant to believe it would taste like Feta. When I read a recipe I can sort of taste it, and I wasn’t buying the authentic feta taste the reviews gave.

Truth time. I compared this to regular nice Feta – it tastes nothing like it {to me} but it was really good.  A direct comparison of taste to texture had nothing on feta but to be completely honest – I almost preferred it. Also, this “vegan feta” would be fantastic heated up like scrambled tofu and spread over a piece of toasted bread for a decadent breakfast. I’m already dreaming of it. The verdict is that if you like tofu, you’ll probably like this. If you’ve never had tofu and/or expect this to taste like Feta you’ll be disappointed. I can compare this to wanting real maple syrup and buying some store brand “pancake syrup”. Listen, it’s not bad but if you wanted real maple syrup – you’ll be pretty disappointed. If you’re looking for a sugary sometimes tasty pancake topping in syrup form – you won’t be upset.

Pros:

  • Good texture (if you’re used to extra firm tofu)
  • Good taste
  • Delicious chilled or warmed up
  • Not salty like regular Feta

Cons:

  • Not as firm as regular Feta
  • Not as sharp, more “flowery” than Feta due to the herbs
  • The taste is simply not Feta, so if you want a replica – this isn’t it, but it might be as close as you can get.

If you want to give it a go, head on over to the Happy Herbivore and get her recipe. I made it verbatim and used fresh lemons for the lemon juice.

Greek Leek Pasta (adapted from Farmer Johns Cookbook, The Real Dirt on Vegetables)

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces spinach pasta – I used penne
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced very thin
  • 2 teaspoons fennel
  • 6 cloves garlic minced up
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes with skin removed OR 28 ounce can of crushed tomato with some water drained out
  • 1/2 cup rough chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 tbsp oregano – I used dried
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp redwine vinegar
  • Vegan or regular Feta to top with
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook & drain pasta
  2. In a large skillet add oil, leeks, fennel and garlic. Saute until the leeks are tender 15-20 minutes. Stir every few minutes so they don’t stick and the garlic doesn’t burn. That color gets me every. single. time. These are from our garden; I love Fall crops.
  3. Stir tomatoes, oregano, olives, salt and red wine vinegar together in with the leek mixture. Let the water cook off the tomatoes until reduced. The book said significantly and about 20 minutes. My hunger got me after about 15.
  4. Toss pasta and tomato mixture together.
  5. Add feta mixture of your choice on top.

It’s really that simple and is quite tasty.

Over all, I like the vegan feta as just another topper of sorts – but I call it feta very loosely. I’m looking forward to warming it up like scrambed tofu and spreading it on toast for breakfast. It’s going to be delightful.

Enjoy!

-Heather

Roasted Root Vegetable Dill Stew & Fluffy Biscuits

Our winter CSA (community supported agriculture) pickup was on Thursday. We decided to join a Winter CSA to supplement our diets with organic locally grown vegetables. I knew Andy would initially be hesitant to join the CSA if it would be a lot of money for very little food, or one that supplemented their veggies with out of state food. It was important to me too to find a CSA that was grown within 25 miles of our home, and had convenient pick up. I knew it would be the basic root veggies for the winter, and I was hoping to get challenged with some I had never had before. Normally we grow parsnips and just leave them to winter and pick them as needed, but this year we didn’t. We also don’t have any root cellar which rules out our own crop.

I ended up finding the perfect Winter CSA grown within the 25 miles, and the pickup is right near my office. We can also buy organic eggs and meat separately, which I love. It’s 6 months long and pick up is every 2 weeks. As well, all veggies are locally grown with no non-local supplementation. It goes through May, which will help supplement us until our garden is ready, especially if the next planting season is anything like this year. Also, I can be assured it’s all from right here. I don’t mind buying them at the grocery store, but if I’m paying extra for a CSA, I want it local.

We’re hoping to someday get a cold frame built to put over at least 1/4 to 1/2 of our garden to have our own crops during the winter, but for now the CSA is a great choice for us. We get about a regular grocery bag of food every 2 weeks. While it’s most definitely not all of our veggies, it certainly helps. I also love supporting local farmers so this makes me feel good too.

Tonight after a long day of painting, cleaning & general malaise I decided we needed a hearty stew for dinner. One of the veggies we got was celeriac which I had never had. It turns out I love it.

Ingredients

No need to adhere to the veggies below, just use any root veggies you have on hand and dice them up into bite size pieces.

  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 3 medium Regular Potato’s
  • 8 medium Turnips
  • 2 bulbs Celeriac (celery root)
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 3-4 small/medium carrots
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • Chicken Stock (enough to cover vegetables) [To make vegan substitute vegetable broth]
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk (optional) [To make vegan substitute nut milk of choice, almond would work nice]
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch to thicken (optional)
  • Olive Oil/Vegetable Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1.5-2 tbsp Dill
  • Pinch Celery seed

Directions

1.) Heat oven to 400 and start pot of water. I suggest using one pot that will be large enough to make the soup in, or else you’ll need two pots.

2.) Dice all veggies. Set onion & garlic and celeriac aside.

This is celeriac. Cut the top off. Cut the bottom off, and skin. It’s just that easy! Don’t be intimidated.

3.) Add celeriac root to boiling water for 15 minutes. Being honest, I’m not sure why you couldn’t roast it. I read different preparation ways and most places said boil it. Since I’ve never used it I followed the majority. I say try and roast it if you want, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.

4.) Spread remaining veggies (except onion & garlic) on a cookie sheets or two and drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in oven for 10 minutes. I recommend putting all butternut squash on one end of a cookie sheet, since you’ll want to keep this aside to add in at the end.

5.) Drain celeriac root and set aside in a bowl or on the cookie sheet with the butternut squash to add in at the end.

6.) Add a large pad of butter to the pan. Once melted put in the garlic and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add in all of the roasted veggies except celeriac and butternut squash. Turn the heat down to medium and let go for about 5 minutes, gently stirring once or twice.

7.) Add chicken stock to cover the veggies, dill, celery seed, salt and pepper and put on low and simmer until the potatoes & sweet potatoes are fork tender. If you want to thicken, take about 2 tablespoons of hot broth out and add cornstarch to it. Whisk until entirely dissolved and add back to the soup. Do not add cornstarch into the entire batch of soup, it will clump and stirring will break your veggies apart.

There’s a reason this is called a Dill stew.

8.) Turn off the heat to the soup. If adding milk, slowly pour and gently stir, or temper into a smaller bowl of hot broth and pour back in.

9.) Biscuits. Get this can. Half the directions of the back for about 9 mug sized biscuits. Add a little more baking soda for fluffier biscuits. Secrets out – this is how my grandpa made his best biscuits, my mom made hers, and I make mine. I have a couple different ways I make them, but these are my favorite.

10.) Eat. Fill that bowl up, butter that biscuit up and mow down.

Happy Cold Winter Days & Hot Stew,

Heather

 

Garden Eggrolls + Honey Chili Cider Dipping Sauce

My husbands family is made up of amazing cooks & bakers. No one is a professional chef, but any one of them easily could be. My mother-in-law could take a clove of garlic, a potato and some flour and come out with a delicious pot roast. My father-in-law has an extra chromosome allowing him to always grill a piece of meat over a wood fire perfectly. Needless to say, my husband inherited those genes. I grew up in a house where good food was a regular thing, but I didn’t really start cooking until college. I knew the basics, but I vowed I was going to learn to cook good food, and it was going to be delicious – no holds. My father is great at cooking more complex things, and my mom has a knack for comfort food. Thankfully I got a little of both sets of skills, though they took some time to flesh out. You never would have known I had the genes for it in high school when I opened a bag of salad – and it went all over the floor (first mistake – buying bagged salad).

So, with all that background aside, whenever we have time, Andy and I cook together. With the house renovations and other projects it’s become a rare thing, but when we can we absolutely do. It’s one of my favorite things.

Last week, after picking up a new fridge & dishwasher from my mom, Andy and I went out for some Thai food. Andy was immediately smitten with the egg rolls. That said, he’s smitten with egg rolls in general. This time though he mentioned we should try making them at home. We dissected one at the table (because we’re those people), and Andy took notes of the undertones of the chili sauce. In the words of Andy, “you don’t need a recipe, all you need is an idea.”

Our idea was inspired by what we had left in the garden; you can use anything you want to fill these. How we made them is below. There are no exact measurements for this recipe, so I’m taking a guess. As Andy said, “…it’s all optional. You can make it different every time.”

Garden Egg Rolls

Ingredients

  • Egg roll wrappers, found in most grocery stores in the refrigerated produce section (at least at our Shaws and Hannaford)
  • 1/2 head green cabbage
  • 3-4 kale leafs
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup diced green onion
  • teaspoon or two ginger powder
  • teaspoon or two garlic Powder
  • a bunch of basil
  • 1/2 to 1 cup diced white button mushrooms
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions

1.) Slice and dice everything up small and cook together in peanut oil. Add in the basil, ginger and garlic and let it all cook down.

2.) In a separate pan cook your ground pork and keep cutting it up with your spatula so it doesn’t clump. Or, cook it like I did in a large thin patty and then chop up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze a lime into the pork. I sprinkled a little ground ginger on top too, why not?

3.) Combine the veggies and pork and set aside.

4.) Make sure your counter is dry and layout an egg roll sheet. Put a tablespoon or two of filling in the center on the diagonal. Fold the sides in first, then the bottom and then roll. Seal with just a little water. I just dipped my finger into a ramekin of water and pressed on the fold.

While you’re rolling start heating up your peanut oil, and gently place the rolls in the hot oil. Only do 2-3 at a time. You don’t want to crowd them, or let your oil boil over or you will have an oil fire. On second thought, keep your fire extinguisher close by anytime you fry. On third thought, never leave anything you are frying. Even for a second. Ever.

If you don’t seal them properly, like our first one, it will look like this. Delicious none the less, but it started to open. Andy was able to keep it sealed slightly with a spoon so the filling didn’t come out.

If you seal them right, they will look like this.

Now for the tasty sauce.

Honey Chili Cider Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Everything below but make sure to also add in about 1/3 to 1/4 of a medium Hungarian wax pepper and a shake or 2 of cracked red pepper. As a note Hungarian wax peppers are less hot than a jalapeno but hotter than a banana pepper. Cracked red pepper is a different kind of heat, and it hits in a different way. We tried a second batch without either, but it just wasn’t the same. This sauce needs the heat, and it’s delicious.


Directions

This is a sweet sauce, that slowly transforms to have just enough heat to make the flavor profile unbelievably delicious. I asked Andy how he made it, so in his words, “You start off with a lot of sweet, add just enough liquid to make it thinned out and then it punches you with heat”.  If you don’t like any amount of heat, and want to leave it out then that makes me sad. But really, I would lessen the honey and add a little more vinegar. It will cut the sweet and give a bite. It won’t taste the same as with the heat, but it would still be okay. If you don’t have a wax pepper, sub any other hot pepper and see what happens.  We used a Hungarian wax because we have a plethora of them from the garden.

To translate:

1.) Start with about 3-4 tablespoons of honey

2.) Add a tablespoon or so of apple cider, and a teaspoon of cider vinegar to thin it out.

3.) A small splash of peanut oil next

4.) Whisk together and assess the thinness. It should easily drip off leaving just a thin coat on the spoon, i.e. not honey like at all. At this point the mixture is very sweet with just a little bite from the vinegar.

5.) Add a few shakes of cracked red pepper, just a tiny pinch of garlic powder and a pinch of salt.

6.) Here comes the deliciousness – dice up about 1/4 teaspoon or the Hungarian wax pepper and add it to the sauce. Stir in and taste. Preferably on a hot delicious egg roll.

If you want, add in a little basil at the end, it gives it another great level of flavor.

Oh. So. Delicious.

Happy Homemade Egg Rolls,

Heather

Kale Pesto, Beet-greens, Mushroom & Feta Omelet

This post won’t be too long, as we have a wedding to attend today for one of my best friends, but I had to share this before we got on the road.

As I rolled out of bed this morning, while Mr. A kept working on our addition, my stomach was grumbling hard. I quickly snapped some photos of progress (post to come soon) and then got into the kitchen before 8am to get a few things done before this afternoon. I was going to make pancakes for breakfast until I noticed we desperately needed to use up produce.

Last week I bought some beets with the greens still attached so I could sautee the greens and slice the beets to attempt salt and vinegar beet chips. I’ll be posting about that tomorrow when I bake them (they marinate for 24 hours in vinegar) but here’s a sneak peak.

Once I was done slicing the beets I had all the greens left over which were already starting to wilt a little. I knew they needed to be used asap. A little detective work also showed some kale pesto, mushrooms and eggs which were dying to be used into a yummy omelet for the hubs and I.

Ingredients

  • tomato basil feta
  • kale pesto (recipe here)
  • mushrooms
  • eggs
  • butter
  • garlic powder

Directions

I planned on making a large omelet for Mr. A and I to share this morning, so I sauteed an entire container of mushrooms and about two bunches of beet-greens in a pad of butter. By pad of butter I mean about a 1/2 inch of butter. It’s that kind of morning.

Once sauteed down pretty well, dust with garlic powder to taste and add in kale pesto. Feel free to skip the garlic powder if you aren’t a huge fan or you already made your kale pesto so garlicky it could kill a vampire – like we do. Set aside.

In a large pan heat some butter or olive oil. Whisk eggs in a bowl (about 4 for 2 people who are hungry). Once heated well, add the eggs and thoroughly coat the pan with them. I prefer a thin omelet, so I use my huge pan and get it nice and thin (but thick enough to hold the ingredients, think double to triple crepe thickness).

Once eggs are cooked through a little, add the mushrooms/greens mixture. Sprinkle feta on top. Be careful not to add too much feta, the kale pesto has feta in it so it’s already salty.

Flip into omelet form, cook on each side for just a minute longer to warm the feta through and then, as is tradition around here, mow down.


This was so good, but I put just a tad too much feta in ours. Oh who am I kidding. I love feta. It was just enough.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend! Off I go to get dolled up and put on a nice pair of heels, with beet stained hands.

Classy.

Happy Breakfast Noshing,

Heather

Mushroom Macaroni & Nutritional Yeast {It’s Delicious}

I’m not a vegan, or even a vegetarian but I have a soft spot in my heart stomach for a warm batch of Macaroni and Nutritional Yeast. I like it better than Mac and Cheese, sort of. I only compare it because most recipes do. If you made me choose one to eat though, I’d go with this stuff. Ok, so they do look alike.

{Best Simon Cowell impersonation} If I’m being honest, and I am, they taste nothing alike.

Wow, I’m really bad at British accents.

The point is, I don’t really consider these similar taste wise. Yes, they are both pasta covered in an ooey gooey sauce. That’s about it, in my humble opinion. If you’ve never had nutritional yeast I think it’s one of those things you either love or hate. I grew up on nutritional yeast. I love it. I sprinkle it on burritos, I make gooey sauce out of it, I sprinkle it on eggs with salsa. I’m a super fan. Not quite boy band fan level, but almost.

If you have no idea what Nutritional Yeast is,  it’s a yeast flake which is a complete protein and full of vitamins, especially B vitamins.

“Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast…it is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten. Some brands of nutritional yeast, though not all, are fortified with vitamin B12. The vitamin B12 is produced separately (by bacteria) and then added to the yeast…Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes”Wikipedia

Does that help?

Mushroom Macaroni & Nutritional Yeast

Given the garden I really needed to add some veggies in, so I’ve gone off course from my regular recipe to add in some garden garlic and a whole lotta mushrooms {which were store bought}. I love me some mushrooms. Everyone who likes this enjoys it differently. My suggestion is to start basics and then taste as you go. This is why I haven’t given exact measurements.

Ingredients:

  • cavatappi pasta
  • 16 ounces mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • Butter or vegetable oil to sautee garlic and mushrooms in
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • liquid of choice (recommend milk or water)
  • 1.5 cups nutritional yeast
  • Soy Sauce to taste (about 2 tablespoons)
  • worcestershire to taste (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon tumeric
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1.)  Start your water boiling and cook pasta according to the box
2.) Mince garlic and mushrooms
3.) Put butter or oil in a separate larger pot
4.) Saute garlic for a few minutes, add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms soften to your preferred consistency. Do not drain liquid.
5.) Add 1/2 cup of flour to the mushroom and stir until mixed. It will be similar to a roux, but not exactly due to the mushrooms and garlic.

6.)  Once smooth, add liquid and stir until smooth again. Start with about a 1/2 cup of liquid and keep adding until you reach a nice consistency. Remember you’ll be adding in nutritional yeast, so it’s ok to be slightly more liquid than thick. Stir in nutritional yeast, 1/2 cup at a time. Add more liquid if necessary to keep it smooth and moving. The nutritional yeast should be fully dissolved.
7. )  Add in turmeric, soy sauce, worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste.
8. )  Drain your pasta (if you haven’t already) and add into the sauce. Gently turn to coat the pasta.

Eat. Eat. Eat. Om. Nom. Nom.

Happy trying something new, something yummy and something gooey,

-Heather