This post is sort of another recipe and sort of another plant-based cooking tutorial. Gluten-free pasta is great and all but if you are really interested in packing the nutrients into your meals, I highly suggest that you learn how to cook a spaghetti squash (you can google it but I’ll write a post on this soon) and that you invest in a julienne peeler to make “noodles” out of raw zucchini.
I purchased my julienne peeler from Williams-Sonoma at the Kenwood mall in Cincinnati but you can also find them on their website HERE. When I am in more of a hurry, I use this spiral slicer from Bed Bath & Beyond. Find it HERE. I LOVE the spiral slicer but the difference here is that the julienne peeler will set you back about $10 while the spiral slicer will set you back $30. If you’re not sure you’ll be making a ton of veggie noodles, that may not be a wise investment for you.
To make this dish, you will need:
A julienne peeler or spiral slicer
Seasoning of choice (I used Flavor God’s garlic lover’s seasoning)
Sea salt to taste
4-6 mushrooms (sliced and then halved) (depending on size)
8 cherry tomatoes (or similar) (cut into quarters)
4 oz of pesto sauce (give or take a little)
(Note: you can make your own pesto if you have a food processor but I don’t always have time for that so I picked up Le Grand brand pesto which can be found near the dairy products at the Fresh Market near Kenwood. I’m pretty sure every grocery store has pesto though.)
(If you’re not into the vegan thing, see recommended modifications at the end of this recipe)
- First, use your julienne peeler or spiral slicer to create noodles out of the zucchini. They will be very full of water so I usually use a paper towel to squeeze them and get some of the water out once I am done peeling them into a bowl. Once you have drained some water out, set them aside.
(Note: if you plan to cook/heat the zucchini noodles, having some water will be beneficial but if you ever plan to eat them cold, you will want to essentially ring the noodles out.)
- Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat for a minute at medium heat. Add about a teaspoon (or 1 clove) of garlic and sauté for about a minute. Now add your mushrooms and continue to saute for about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms look done. Set aside.
- Rinse your skillet out with warm water (or wipe it down to get mushroom residue out) and another 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, heat for a minute over medium heat. Now add your zucchini noodles to the pan to heat them up. In order to not turn them to mush, don’t stir them. You want to move them around the pan gently.
- Once the zucchini noodles are mostly heated, add the mushrooms back to the pan and season with your seasonings of choice. If you don’t have Flavor God garlic lover’s seasoning, I would recommend that you go with some garlic powder and parsley and of course, sea salt.
- Toss together and then add pesto sauce. Continue to toss in the skillet until it is all heated and then move the zucchini and mushroom to your serving dishes.
- Return skillet to heat and add tomatoes. You aren’t trying to cook the tomatoes, only to warm them a bit. Toss them around the skillet for no more than a minute then top your “pasta” dish with them and VOILA!!! A 13 minute meal packed with nutrients. (Each serving includes 2 zucchinis, 3 mushrooms, and 4 little tomatoes… take that, suggested daily vegetable servings!)
I always suggest modifications because I am not strictly a vegan eater. When I cook, I usually like to use a vegan base recipe. Sometimes, I will serve it as is and other times, I will add meat or even a little cheese depending on the time of day and how I am feeling.
If you wish to add cheese to this dish, I recommend a shredded mozzarella cheese. (I added cheese half-way through eating this just so I could see how it would taste and it was so good it was basically criminal.)
If you are looking to keep this dish paleo and would like to add some meat, I suggest you either sauté some shrimp in olive oil and garlic and add them at the very end or that you add chicken. If I were to add chicken, I would either cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces and cook it in a skillet or you could even bake garlic and herb chicken breast and serve it on the side. To avoid using a ton of oil when cooking chicken, using chicken broth to either bake or sauté it works wonders.
Some random kitchen science notes:
- Always be aware of what type of oil you are cooking with. Not every oil is intended to be heated to every temperature. Olive oil really shouldn’t be used to cook anything above medium heat as high heat causes it to produce potentially harmful bi-products (some have been linked to cancer). Coconut oil however is great to use when cooking at high-temperatures.
- Sea salt is definitely a step up from table salt when it comes to your health but if you happen to see it, pick up Himalayan sea salt. It is a pinkish color and can usually be found on the spice isle. Instead of explaining all of the things that are wrong with table salt and even some sea salt, I encourage you to check out this LINK if you feel so inclined. (It’s much more informative than me giving you a brief summary as the article hits on all of the major points from a nutrition/health perspective.)
- Although it’s easier to just add everything to a skillet and cook it all at once, I find that you can create a much more dynamic flavor if you cook each ingredient separately, “set aside” and combine them at the end. I use this same method of “making things a bigger pain in the butt than they have to be” for almost every dish I cook (slow cooker and soup cooking not included). If you don’t typically do this, try it out the next time you cook and see if you can tell the difference. It’s more of a layered flavoring effect rather than just giving the dish one overall flavor.
Happy kitchen experimenting!
I didn’t want to put this whole thing in the title of this blog post but we shall call this dish:
Vegan Quinoa Pasta with Brussel Sprouts, Mushrooms, Shallots and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
(Did I mention this takes about 20 minutes?)
Whenever I post a recipe, I don’t imagine that you will follow it to a T but I do hope that you can use it for some inspiration in your kitchen. I came up with this recipe as I went along and it turned into something that I will likely put into my starting rotation of staple dinner options. (You know when you make a large serving and imagine you will only eat part of it and then suddenly your plate is empty? That happened).
Notes: I used quinoa pasta due to a gluten intolerance. I prefer it over other gluten-free pasta options (brown rice pasta, etc.) for both the taste and the nutritional benefits. It should be noted that I always cook quinoa pasta at least one minute past the recommended maximum time and that I have successfully tricked my husband into eating it on multiple occasions. If you cook it even a minute less than it needs, I highly doubt you will like it so if you have never cooked it before, I recommend that you taste a noodle every minute or so past the recommended minimum cook time to gain an understanding of the cooking process. Once it is fully cooked, you should not be able to taste much of a difference between quinoa pasta and the good old starchy pasta most of us have grown to love.
I am not going to specify many exact measurements in this recipe because it’s really all about personal taste preferences and how many you are serving. Feel free to substitute the vegetables I chose for some of your own favorites.
Ingredients for two servings:
Olive Oil (just keep it on hand)
4 oz Sun-dried tomato pesto sauce
1-2 cups of vegetable broth
1 Shallot (finely chopped)
2 Handfuls of halved brussel sprouts
1-2 Handfuls of chopped mushrooms
2 Servings worth of angel hair pasta (your preference of pasta type)
Salt and pepper to your tastes (I prefer Himalayan sea salt for health reasons)
Seasoning of your choice
My choice: I used dried parsley and the Garlic Lover’s seasoning made by Flavor God which can be purchased here: http://www.flavorgod.com/
I really enjoy using Flavor God Seasonings in my kitchen because they are made fresh weekly, gluten-free, paleo, low salt and delicious. Basically a win-win-win. (check out the ingredients in some of the things in your spice cabinet and see if you can find anything in there that you don’t recognize… you probably can… creepy)
If you don’t conveniently have any Flavor God Garlic Lover’s seasoning, I think either fresh garlic or garlic powder with the parsley or some of your other favorite Italian seasonings would be delicious.
Cooking tip: Chop all of your veggies before you get started. Not only does it make for a seamless, stress-free cooking experience but you can pretend like you are a fancy chef with a cooking show if you’re into that sort of thing. (The second part of that tip was entirely useless but it’s the truth.)
Check the time on the package of the pasta you have chosen to use and decide when to start cooking it so that it will be done around the same time as your veggies. Your veggies will take 10 minutes, tops.
Cook your veggies:
-Heat olive oil in a skillet.
-Add chopped shallots and sauté for about a minute.
-Add brussel sprouts, cut side down and sauté for another 2 minutes or so.
-Add chopped mushrooms, continue to sauté for about a minute.
-Season your veggies with garlic, salt and pepper to your taste.
-Add vegetable broth until the brussel sprouts are about 1/3 of the way covered, cover your skillet with a lid and let them steam for about 1-2 minutes.
-Remove brussel sprouts and mushrooms from the liquid and set aside.
Put it all together:
-Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your skillet and heat it up on low to medium heat. (We aren’t cooking at this point, we are just warming and seasoning) (Add olive oil as you see fit if this isn’t enough)
-Add sun-dried tomato pesto sauce to the skillet and heat. (If you are making 2 servings, use about 4 oz)
-Add noodles and vegetables to the skillet and season again with salt, pepper, parsley and Garlic Lover’s seasoning (or your choice of seasonings) and sort of toss the noodles around in the pan to mix with the veggies and pesto.
(I use tongs and a sort of pick up and mix method… you don’t want to use a spoon or anything that is going to compromise the texture of the dish)
A few things…
Because I cook mostly plant-based meals, I tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to sea salt and seasonings. When your diet doesn’t consist of a lot of processed foods, sea salt is not the worst thing in the world (these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA but I read too much about nutrition so there’s that).
I can usually find sun-dried tomato pesto sauce (check the label to make sure it’s gluten-free but it should be) in the produce section of my local Kroger but if you don’t find it there, check the pasta sauce isle. If you don’t like tomatoes, use regular pesto. Also, you’re crazy.
If you like cheese, serve with some mozzarella or fresh parmesan cheese on top because what isn’t better with cheese?! (nothing. the answer is nothing.)
If you are a paleo eater, skip the noodles and increase your veggie quantities. You can either serve the sun-dried tomato pesto veggies as side dish or top a chicken breast or white fish with them. OMGoodness now I’m hungry again.
If you’ve ever glanced at one of my social media accounts, you know that it’s no secret that I have an intense love affair with cooking, baking and feeding pretty much anyone who is willing to taste my science experiments. For whatever reason, I have never been content with preparing a meal from a recipe exactly as it instructs me to because I’m disobedient like that (and I like to make things more interesting while adding my own personal touch).
I stumbled across a recipe for Shepherd’s pie and was immediately intrigued after reading the list of ingredients and realizing that my extremely picky eater of a husband may just like this concoction. I just so happened to marry a guy who would probably be just fine eating chicken and rice day after day after day after day. And that would be great if I didn’t like to play in the kitchen, but I do so I constantly read recipes and look for inspiration to try new things. This particular recipe called for carrots and he isn’t exactly a fan of cooked carrots. Then there was the dry red wine I didn’t have on hand. I didn’t have a round baking dish that was the appropriate size and it needed more garlic. Everything needs more garlic.
I probably broke some rules in the creation of this dish but trust- they needed to be broken and it turned out great. I will do my best to explain my version of Shepherd’s pie and I will suggest that you add this dish to your dinner plans some time in the near future. The way I see it, you can essentially make this with any sort of ground meat despite the fact that it is traditionally prepared with lamb. I went with Bison but ground beef is a pretty popular swap for lamb and would probably be equally delicious.
So what is Shepherd’s pie? It’s basically some meat with some mashed potatoes on top. Not exactly ground breaking culinary flair here but I like to know what I think I am trying to do and I am going to pretend that you, like me, had never seen or eaten Shepherd’s pie before.
If you already make some wicked good mashed potatoes, go on with your bad self and make them how you make them. If not, you can follow my recipe below.
1.5 lb of potatoes (I always use red. If you’ve never tried it, you should)
1 cup of heavy cream (if you want to spare yourself some fat, use milk)
1/4 cup of butter (and maybe a little extra)
2 egg yolks
Meat pie filling:
1.5 lb. ground meat
8 oz diced mushrooms
2 cups diced onions
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. thyme
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.
How to make it happen:
-Preheat your oven to 425.
-Make mashed potatoes.
If you already know how to, you can skip reading this part. If not, you peel them. Cut them. Boil them until they are soft. Drain them. Put them in a bowl. Cut up the butter into the bowl. Smash the potatoes and butter together. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. If you like garlic, add some garlic powder in there while you’re at it. Have your cream or milk on hand and plug your hand mixer in. Slowly add the cream in while your mixer is on medium speed. Keep adding it until the potatoes get to the right texture. Keep in mind that you can always add more cream but you can’t take any away. Runny smashed potatoes will never work for this dish. Once they get to the right texture, taste them. Odds are, they need more salt or pepper or garlic or carby love. Get them to the flavor you like and let them cool off (note- we will be stirring in the two egg yolks once they are cool).
-Make the meat stuff
Brown your meat for about 5 minutes over med/high heat, drain, set aside. (If you’re a garlic freak, you can add a little garlic powder here. It will be mostly cooked but not entirely.)
Saute your vegetables in olive oil over med/high heat using the same pan for 4 minutes or so. Add minced garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking and stirring for an additional minute. Now, stir in the flour. Once your vegetables are a weird goopy texture, add a little broth. Stir around a little more and then add the rest of the broth and the thyme (I also added garlic powder and salt and pepper at this point but that’s up to you). Let the mixture simmer for about 8 minutes or until it reaches a nice gravy like consistency.
Once you have your veggie gravy prepared, add the meat back to the pan and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
You have now successfully prepared you meat stuff. Put it in a 2-3 QT baking dish. The cool kids use a round one but I didn’t have one so I just used a handy dandy 2 QT rectangular pyrex (livin’ on the edge here, ya’ll). Make sure you added the egg yolks to the mashed potatoes. If you’re 1000% sure you did, put the mashed potatoes on top of the meat stuff and spread them around with a fork. You can even use your art skills and make a fun pattern with the fork tongs if your little heart desires.
Finally, put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake it in your 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. When it’s done, it might be a little bubbly, the tops of the potatoes should be a little brown and it should smell delicious. Let it cool before you cut into it.
Even if it looks like mush and even if you didn’t get the texture just right, it will probably taste delicious.
Make sure your gravy consistency is just right while you have it in the pan or it will be too runny as liquid doesn’t exactly evaporate once it’s in the oven. I’ve given you guidelines but you can always add a bit more flour if your gravy isn’t thickening up for some reason. If it gets too thick, you can counter with a bit more broth.
I used mushrooms and onions although the recipe I saw called for a greater variety of vegetables. Some I didn’t have and some Mat didn’t like. You basically want to have about 3.5 cups of vegetables. (I don’t know exactly how many cups of mushrooms 8 oz. came to because I used a food scale to get that measurement. 1.5 cups is a guess). (3-4 cups in total should do the trick). SO… feel free to tweak the veggie bit to your liking. In this household, you can never go wrong with mushrooms and onions.
Just as I suggested that you use milk instead of cream if you are watching your girlish figure, there are a million ways to substitute things in this recipe to fit your nutritional needs. If you’re gluten intolerant, use almond or rice flour. If you don’t do red meat, you could probably make a pretty snazzy dish with ground chicken or ground turkey. If you’re a health nut, try it with sweet potatoes and use almond milk. I could go on for forever on this subject so feel free to ask me if you have any specific dietary concerns and you want to play around with this. The bottom line here is that it was fun and easy to prepare.
This is not a traditional Shepherd’s pie recipe and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to be.
Mat has become rather fond of breakfast burritos. I tweeted about it the other day and was asked for the recipe… It’s not very impressive. I will say that he thinks my breakfast burritos are “bleeping phenomenal” so maybe you should eat one (I’ve never tried them because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t eat animals).
If you’re looking for some fancy burrito secret, I don’t have one. He’s a picky eater and I often cook with pretty simple ingredients so don’t expect to be scouring the isles of Whole Foods to find something you’ve never heard of if you want to try to recreate Mat’s favorite breakfast burrito of this off season.
I shall call it: The Spicy Don’t Eat This If You’re Watching Your Girlish Figure Breakfast Burrito
(I figure this is only appropriate because it’s a mouth full… Get it? Hahaha)
1/4 small yellow onion – chopped
3 slices of pepper jack cheese – cut into thin strips (see photo) (unless you can find it shredded- I couldn’t)
4 slices of bacon- cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Jimmy Dean Spicy sausage- (I use about 1/3 of a package)
Butter or something like it (I use smart balance)
Salt & pepper
1 Tortilla (flour, burrito sized)
Note: there are about a million ways to make this more healthy and/or diet friendly. Think center cut bacon, turkey bacon, reduced fat sausage, egg whites, taco sized tortillas, reduced portions, etc. This is the extra fat version. Eat at your own risk and maybe run the stairs or something if you’re into that sort of thing.
Prep your cheese and onions.
Cut your bacon into small strips, cook in skillet, set aside.
Cook the sausage as you would cook ground beef, set aside with bacon.
Melt about a tablespoon of butter or something like it, add onions to skillet, cook for about 1 minute, add eggs and a little salt & pepper, scramble.
When the eggs are almost fully cooked, add bacon and sausage back to the skillet.
Fold it into the eggs to get a nice mixture going on.
When the eggs are cooked, remove pan from heat, sprinkle cheese on top.
Heat your tortilla! You can do this however your little heart desires but when I’m making a burrito, I get both sides of the tortilla wet, stick it between paper towels and pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds. This keeps your tortilla from drying out and also makes it pliable and burrito friendly. It’s good to be burrito friendly. Trust me, I’m from California.
Go back to your skillet and sort of fold the cheese in so it’s nice and melty. (See photos)
Put your tortilla on a plate, put the stuff in, fold it, eat it, boom.
Some like it hot but if you don’t, I hear using the regular Jimmy Dean sausage & cheddar cheese is pretty delicious also.
p.s. turkey bacon is so rude.