Banza Rotini with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms

Banza Rotini with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms
Banza Rotini with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms |

As a vegan, there’s a comfort in knowing that just the pasta part of my meal already contains 25 grams of clean, plant-based protein. Banza is awesome that way, because their pastas are made from chickpeas, plain and simple. You eat pasta, you eat chickpeas! Whatever I add to this will simply boost my nutrient intake, so it’s a hefty good start!

Here, I used one of my favorite combination: mushrooms and leeks. The slowly cooked leeks become silky savory, and the coconut milk brings you a nice dose of healthy fats along with the creaminess that is so pleasant with mushrooms. I add some warming jerk spices, to complete the flavor profile, in a simple addition, but you could skip that step and still get something fabulous, all in one pot, with less than 10 ingredients!

  • 1 package Banza Rotini, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned well, sliced once lengthwise, and then thinly crosswise
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 7 oz shiitake mushrooms, trimmed, sliced thin
  • 2 teaspoons jerk spice mix (optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted pecan halves (optional)
  • Sea salt and pepper

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, the thyme, generous pinches of sea salt and pepper, and cook slowly, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and tender, about 8-10 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and cook until they are tender, about 5 minutes more. Add the jerk spices and mix well. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Add the cooked pasta, mix well, and take off the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Garnish with fresh parsley and toasted pecans.

Let me know if you try this recipe! Leave a comment, rate it, or tag a photo using #THEVeganBlonde on Instagram. Bon appétit!

This is all that's needed to get this creamy deliciousness! |
This is all that’s needed to get this creamy deliciousness! |

Potato Korma

Potato Korma
Potato Korma |

Kormas have always been one of the first things I would put on my plate when eating with the family. I liked the richness and tanginess brought forth by the always-homemade yogurt. My mother-in-law couldn’t believe it when we cooked her potato korma recipe, but added my coconut yogurt at the end. The result was so remarkable, she declared the vegan one to be the creamiest. Epic success!

  • 1/3 cup grape seed oil
  • 7 whole cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic-ginger paste
  • 3 large Russet potatoes, cooked through*, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup coconut yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro

Heat oil in large straight-edge sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds and sauté until spices are fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the turmeric and sauté, while stirring, 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, sea salt, and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté until the tomatoes are saucy, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked potatoes and chili powder, and mix well to ensure the potatoes are well coated with the sauce. Bring the heat to low, add the yogurt, and garam masala. Mix well, heat through gently, and remove from the heat. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with rice, lime wedges, naan, or chapati, and raita.

*I usually boil my potatoes whole until they are cooked through. You can check with a fork. I then let them cool off before peeling them with my hands. You can then cut them in cubes, ready for your recipe.

Let me know if you try this recipe! Leave a comment, rate it, or tag a photo using #THEVeganBlonde on Instagram. Bon appétit!


Lasagna alla Karina

Lasagna |

This lasagna recipe is easy and… sneaky! Sneaky, because you could easily fool meat eaters into thinking it’s a plain old meat lasagna. I’ve started playing with TVP (textured vegetable protein) recently, and oh the possibilities! My mind is bubbling! But first, lasagna! The trick to cut your time is to make your ricotta the day before or the morning of. Each step is easy and quick, though. I wrote the recipe according to each one, with the assembly as the last step.

For the tofu ricotta (inspired from the Whole Foods recipe)

  • 1/2 package extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 teaspoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white miso
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • Pinch black pepper

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup TVP (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 24-oz jars of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium  heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Deglaze your skillet with the white wine. Let it evaporate and then add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium again and add the TVP. Mix well until the broth is absorbed. Add the marinara sauce, heat through. Add the fresh basil, and done.

For the assembly

  • 1 lb. lasagna sheets, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 round Miyokos Mozzarella (or your favorite mozz)
  • Fresh basil
  • Nutritional yeast

Preheat your oven to 375°. Pour the olive oil at the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Spread it evenly with your hands on the bottom and side surfaces of the dish. Pour 1 cup of the sauce at the bottom and cover with 5 cooked lasagna sheets. Top with 1 cup of sauce. Spread about 1/3 of the ricotta and top with 5 cooked lasagna sheets. Repeat until you are done with the lasagna sheets, and finish with some sauce. Add the mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and broil for an extra 5 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Garnish with some nutritional yeast and fresh basil. Bon appétit!


Easy Homemade Pizza

Easy Homemade Pizza
Easy Homemade Pizza |

Using the Whole Foods All-Natural Pizza Dough, you’ll get to pizza heaven in no time

This should maybe read Easy Home-Assembled Pizza. I can’t take much credit here. This is only the steps I go through when I want to make pizza quickly and effectively. No need to make dough, sauce, or cheese. Everything is store-bought, but the results are so spectacular, one would be crazy not to use these shortcuts! Sometimes, I make my own sauce, or I use some leftover marinara. Be creative, but rest assured that in the end, you have this fabulous pizza you can come back to, when it’s just more convenient.

Bring the dough to room temperature. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Apply a very thin layer of olive oil between the baking sheet and the parchment paper, to avoid the paper from slipping. Rub a little bit of olive oil between your hands and shape the pizza dough as to cover the baking sheet. Wrap the baking sheet in a large non-scented trash bag and close tightly. Transfer to a warm area of your house and let rise for about an hour.**

Preheat the oven to 350°. Take the pizza out of the bag and brush a thin layer of olive oil on top. Top with some pizza sauce. You can now top with the rest of your ingredients. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Because heat varies depending on the oven, start checking after 30 minutes. Take out of the oven, top with more olive oil or some leftover sauce, if desired, and some fresh basil. Bon appétit!

*Alternatively, rinse and drain a can of chickpeas. Toss them with some olive oil, some red pepper flakes, and some sea salt, and distribute them on the crust.

**Whole Foods doesn’t even instruct to bring to room temp or to let rise, so maybe I will try next time to just leave as is. I will report back!

Pizza Heaven
Pizza Heaven

Fennel, Carrot, and Chickpea Fricassée

Fennel, Carrot, and Chickpea Fricassée |

Fricassée is a French dish made by half sautéing, half stewing pieces of meat, and serving them in a thick white sauce. My grandpa used to make it often.  He would make his fricassée in its even simpler form, by sautéing ground beef in loads of butter along with lots of diced onion and celery. He would then deglaze the pan with hot black tea, add some heavy cream, whole peppercorns, fresh parsley, and there you had it! Sometimes he would add cut up potato cubes in there.

Well, as you can imagine, this recipe is much different. First, you HAVE to use the freshest vegetables you can find. Because the vegetables are the stars, there are very few other seasonings. I sauté the veggies until they are soft, but not browned. I then add some liquid, to continue the cooking, but just enough so that it doesn’t turn into a soup. I removed my grandpa’s beloved cream, obviously, but did not substitute. You can serve with a dollop of fresh coconut yogurt, if you’d like.

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 3-4 shallots, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, cut into small cubes
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into small cubes
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large handful spinach, large leaves torn
  • 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: fresh fennel fronds, fresh parsley

In a large straight-edge sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots, garlic, fennel, carrots, bell pepper, celery, thyme sprigs, and generous pinches of sea salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat, stirring often, so the vegetables cook, but do not brown or burn, about 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and mix well. Add some stock, a little bit at a time, so that the vegetables are wet, but the broth isn’t soupy. Add the spinach and toss until just wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings. Bon appétit!

Butterkin Pecan Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter

Butterkin Pecan Ravioli
Butterkin Pecan Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter |

If you want a pasta dish that’s decadent, pretty, and perfect for company, you just found it! This ravioli recipe will make your heart swoon, and your arteries thank you for choosing the vegan version! If you can’t find butterkin squash, that sweet and versatile squash that is a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin, feel free to substitute butternut squash or cooking pumpkin. You will get the exact same wonderful results!

  • 1 butterkin squash, or butternut squash, or cooking pumpkin, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, plus more for toppings
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 9 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 25 sage leaves, left whole
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat all sides of the squash with the olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer to the oven, and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix the semolina flour and the all purpose flour. Add the aquafaba and the water and mix well with your hands, until you obtain a soft and uniform ball of dough. If the dough is too wet, add a little bit of flour. If it is too dry, add a little bit of water, one teaspoon at a time. Place the ball of dough in a plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 40 minutes.

While the dough rests, scoop out 1 1/2 cup of flesh from the roasted squash. Keep the rest for another use, like in a soup, or in a sauce. Transfer the flesh to a food processor. Add the toasted pecans, the nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon of the butter, and the maple syrup. Process until smooth. Set aside.

After resting time, remove the dough from the fridge and from the plastic wrap. On a lightly flour-dusted surface, roll out the dough, using a rolling pin, until smooth and very thin. Using a 2-in cookie cutter, or any other round cup similar in diameter, cut dough into circles. Make a ball with the unused dough, and roll out again until smooth and thin. Cut out more circles, until you use all your dough.

Scoop out a scant teaspoon of squash mixture in the center of half the circles (the “bottoms”). Using your fingers, spread a small amount of water around the inside perimeter of the dough “tops”. Place them on top of the filled dough bottoms and press around the edges to seal properly. You should have approximately 40 raviolis.

To cook the raviolis, place them, without overcrowding them, in a large pot of salted boiling water, for 4-5 minutes. I did mine in two batches.

While the raviolis cook, heat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook until they are crispy and the butter is golden brown, approximately 5 minutes.

Place some raviolis in a plate, spoon some of the sage butter on top, and garnish with toasted pecans. Bon appétit!

Sweet and tasty, butterkin squash is a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash.
Sweet and tasty, butterkin squash is a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash.

Baked Jerk Tofu

Baked Jerk Tofu
Baked Jerk Tofu |

Jerk has always been one of my favorite seasonings. There is something quite unique about it, probably because of the use of allspice berries. I remember the cookouts on the streets of Jamaica. The smell is something I will never forget… The hot grills, the salt air, the spices. Well, as you would expect, back in my kitchen, I still crave Jamaican cuisine. Often.

I have a dry jerk seasoning blend that I usually have on hand. I use it on roasted cashews all the time. I am not sure where I got the recipe as it was written on a piece of paper in one of my notebooks. But it was exactly what I needed here!

  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons dry jerk seasoning (or any other dry jerk seasoning you like)

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a medium bowl, mix the olive oil, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and jerk seasoning. Add the tofu cubes to the bowl, and mix until well coated.

Spread the tofu cubes in one layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and cook 15 minutes. Shake the tofu cubes around and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve with sliced green onions, rice and peas, and cabbage slaw. Bon appétit!