Cavatappi with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Broccolini

I’ve been under the weather this past week with an upset stomach. For some reason, I only want to eat junk food when I’m not feeling well. And because I’ve been feeling sick, I haven’t been working out. Yesterday, I was finally starting to feel better, but the effects of being sedentary and eating poorly were catching up to me. I needed something light and healthy, but with enough starch to keep my stomach settled.

This recipe, like many others, was conceived of in the aisles of the grocery store. The eggplant caught my attention first, then the broccolini (mini broccoli). Since both ingredients can be bland on their own, I decided to roast some mini heirloom tomatoes and garlic to boost the flavor. I rounded it off with a large shallot, some fresh basil from my herb garden, and some balsamic vinegar. The result was pretty amazing!

cavatappi with eggplant, roasted tomatoes and broccolini

Cavatappi with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Broccolini

Serves: 4

Prep time: 1 hour

Ingredients

12 oz cavatappi pasta (or other pasta of your choice)

1 small eggplant, cut into 1″ chunks

1 1/2 C broccolini florets

12 oz mini heirloom tomatoes, cut in half

1/3 C fresh basil (about 8 large basil leaves), sliced into chiffonade

1 head garlic

1 large shallot, sliced very thin

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375F. Spread tomatoes in a single layer on baking pan. Spray or toss with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

2) Peel the garlic and remove all of the cloves. Lay out the cloves on a square of tinfoil and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Secure the garlic in the tinfoil and place in a ramekin dish.

3) Roast tomatoes and garlic on the top rack of the oven for 40 minutes.

4) Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add shallot and saute for about 5-6 minutes, or until shallot turns golden brown. Add eggplant, and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add broccolini florets and balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 more minutes, then reduce heat to low.

5) Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water.

6) Add cooked pasta, roasted tomatoes, and roasted garlic to the eggplant mixture. Turn up heat to medium and cook until pasta is heated through, for about 5-6 minutes. Add basil and cook for another minute or so. Serve!

cavatappi with eggplant, roasted tomatoes and broccolini

cavatappi with eggplant, roasted tomatoes and broccolini

Roasted Beets and Asparagus with Farro

roasted beets and asparagus with farro - conveganence

I went to the farmer’s market on Saturday, and I found that the offerings were much more plentiful than they were a few weeks ago. I went overboard, as usual. I bought fresh garlic, swiss chard, 2 bunches of asparagus, a bunch of beets, sugar snap peas, purple potatoes, and a lavender plant.  Now all I have to do is eat it. All of it. Well, except for the lavender. That’s for decoration.

roasted beets and asparagus with farro - conveganence

It’s already Tuesday and so far I’ve only used a bit of asparagus for the crepes I made on Sunday. Therefore, I decided to try to kill three birds with one stone by combining the remaining asparagus with the beets and fresh garlic. Short story long, that’s how this dish came to be. I must admit, I have never been a huge fan of beets, but this recipe has converted me. The sweet, tender flavor of the beets paired nicely with the savory roasted asparagus and shallots. The lemon and chive dressing pulls everything together with a light astringent finish. The addition of the farro makes this dish fit for a main course, but you could also serve the veggies over a bed of greens or on their own.

roasted beets and asparagus with farro

Roasted Beets and Asparagus with Farro (and Lemon Chive Dressing)

Serves 2-3

Prep time: about 1 hour

Ingredients:

For the Salad:

1 bunch beets, peeled with tops and bottoms removed

1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1″ pieces with woody stems broken off

4 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 large shallot, sliced very thin

1.5 C farro (I like Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro)

For the Dressing:

1/2 C fresh lemon juice

3-4 tbsp finely chopped chives

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Prepare a baking sheet by sprinkling it with a layer of salt. Place the beets on the salt and bake for 45 minutes. Then, add the asparagus, garlic, and shallots and bake for another 15 minutes.

2. While the beets are baking, prepare the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a food processor until well blended. Set aside.

3. Cook the farro according to package directions. Set aside.

4. When the vegetables are roasted, remove the beets from the baking pan and cut into 1″ cubes.  Remove the asparagus and shallots from the pan using a slotted spoon or spatula so you can sift out any excess salt.

5. Divide farro among plates. Top with vegetables and drizzle with dressing. Serve warm. (Although I ended up eating it cold, and it was delicious!)

Portobello, Tempeh and White Bean Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Q: What’s the best night of the week?

A: Taco night. Hands down. Always.

The prospect of taco night has excited me since I was a young child. (Evidently my life has never been that exciting.) My mom would pick up an Old El Paso taco kit at the grocery store, which was a staple of any decent 1980s childhood. The kit came with about 5 too many taco shells, taco seasoning, and some kind of red sauce. She’d also pick up a packet of shredded cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, green onions, and a big tomato. When the taco filling was ready, we’d get to assemble our own tacos. I’m not even sure why I’m explaining this process to you, since you’re probably already familiar.

Sadly, taco nights were lost to me for a while when I stopped eating meat and animal products. But once I stepped outside of the culinary comfort zone of the Old El Paso taco kit, I was able to take taco night to a whole new level. No offense to my parents, but vegan taco nights have been the best I’ve ever experienced!

For example, these portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos. They are spicy, meaty (yet meat-free!) and have plenty of fiber and protein. They are gluten-free if made with corn shells. The pineapple salsa is a must for this recipe. The sweetness of the pineapple perfectly balances the heat from the tacos. In my opinion, this is what makes the dish, so don’t leave it out! If you’re not a fan of pineapple, you could probably substitute another fruit…maybe strawberry or mango.

portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos - conveganence blog

Portobello, Tempeh and White Bean Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Salsa Ingredients:

1.5 C fresh pineapple, chopped into 1/4″ cubes

1.5 C seeded and diced tomatoes

1 small white onion, diced

1/2 C cilantro, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, diced (leave seeds in for more heat, otherwise remove them)

juice from 1 lime

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Taco Ingredients

2 portobello mushroom caps, diced (be sure to scrape out the gills first)

8 oz tempeh, cut into dice

1 14-oz can white beans

1 medium yellow onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 8-oz can tomato paste

juice from 1 lime

2 C vegetable or vegan “chicken” broth

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp oregano

salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

olive oil

Other

taco shells

vegan sour cream

sliced avocado

vegan shredded cheese (I recommend Daiya brand)

Instructions:

Combine all salsa ingredients into a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until onions begin to soften. Add portobello and tempeh and cook about 5 more minutes, until the mushrooms begin to give up their juices. Add the white beans and spices, cook for about 3 more minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken. When sauce is close to desired texture, stir in the nutritional yeast and add the lime juice. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Serve on taco shells and top with pineapple salsa and desired toppings. There will be plenty of leftover pineapple salsa, so store any remaining in an airtight container. It should keep in the fridge for a few days.

portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos - conveganence blog

portobello, tempeh and white bean tacos - conveganence blog

Strawberry Rhubarb Salad

This weekend was the official opening of the farmer’s market in my town. It was a little anticlimactic because there weren’t many vendors yet, and most of the vendors didn’t have much in the way of offerings. Fortunately, I managed to score some beautiful ruby red rhubarb.

 

rhubarbconveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb salad

I was too lazy to go grocery shopping or look for recipes that use rhubarb, so I just combined it with some ingredients I happened to have around the house.

This salad is on the sweet side, and it’s perfect for the hot weather we’ve had lately. If you can wait a while before eating it, I recommend serving it chilled. I ate it warm (I’m impatient like that) but that didn’t stop me from wolfing this down.

Strawberry Rhubarb Salad

Serves 4

Preparation time: 25 minutes (plus chill time)

Ingredients:

For the Salad

1 C quinoa, cooked according to package instructions

2 large stalks rhubarb, diced (about 2 C)

2 tbsp vegan cane sugar

1 1/2 C strawberries, sliced

10 oz watercress or other green (spinach would work nicely here too)

optional: almond slivers (I didn’t use any but I thought it would go well with this salad)

For the Dressing

1 C  strawberries, stems removed

3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice from 1 lemon

1/2 tsp agave nectar

1/2 tsp ground ginger (or 1″ grated fresh if you’ve got it)

cracked black pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp)

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 450F. Toss diced rhubarb in a bowl with sugar until rhubarb is evenly coated. Let sit about 10 minutes. Arrange rhubarb in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before combining it with other salad ingredients.

2) Meanwhile, mix all dressing ingredients together in a food processor.

3) Toss watercress, sliced strawberries, rhubarb, and almonds, if using.

4) If you are chilling the salad, chill dressing, quinoa, and watercress mixture in separate containers for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, place quinoa in a salad bowl or on a plate, and top with rhubarb mixture. Drizzle with dressing and cracked pepper. (You could also mix it all together if you want.)

conveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb saladconveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb salad

salad1conveganence blog - strawberry rhubarb salad

 

 

 

 

Savory Sunday Brunch

table

Here in Chicago (and I assume most other urban areas in the Western world?) Sunday brunch is a pretty  big deal. When you’re young, brunch is key for soaking up all the booze (and stories!) from the night before. When you’re old, like me, brunch comes after hot yoga but before a trip to Home Depot. It’s the bright spot of Sunday, a cheerful crescendo before the ennui and dread of the workweek ahead team up to ruin the rest of your day.

Brunch can be challenging when you’re not eating animal products. The only vegan options at most brunch restaurants range from unappetizing to downright nauseating. Typically, vegans can choose from a selection of lumpy oatmeal, dry granola, a cup full of withered and flavorless fruits, tomato slices, and breakfast potatoes.

My husband and I, like most Chicagoans, have a relatively well-established tradition of brunching on Sundays. Eggs benedict (subbing spinach for the Canadian bacon) was my go-to dish. Pretty much every restaurant had it. After giving up eggs, I was a little worried whether I’d ever be able to brunch again. After suffering through a few brunches with a sad fruit cup and unlimited mimosas (it was the only vegan thing on the menu, I swear!) my husband finally agreed to give up his bacon and take me to a few vegetarian/vegan restaurants for brunch.

One of our favorite vegan friendly brunch places in Chicago is Handlebar, and my Simple Savory Scramble is inspired by one of their dishes (the Pepita Scramble). Mine’s a bit more basic than the Pepita Scramble (no pesto, no kale, no need to deep fry the onions), so it’s manageable to whip up on a weekend morning. To balance out the spice and heat from the scramble, I added a bright and colorful fruit cup. Then, I mixed up a refreshing Grapefruit and Blueberry Sparkler to wash it all down.

scramble

Simple Savory Scramble (serves 4)*

*to make this SUPER simple, use frozen, pre-chopped potatoes and bell peppers.You can get them at Trader Joe’s!

Ingredients:

1 package of extra firm organic tofu, drained and cut into 1″ cubes

1-2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2″ dice (or use frozen red potatoes)

2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 small bell peppers, sliced: 1 red, 1 green, and 1 orange (or use frozen sliced bell peppers)

1/2 medium yellow onion sliced thin

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 tsp turmeric

salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

olive oil

Optional: fried onions to put on top

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, and arrange the potatoes on a single layer. Toss with  garlic and rosemary, plus a little more olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through.

2) Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook until tofu turns golden brown and crisp, flipping tofu every few minutes to cook evenly. Sprinkle the turmeric over the tofu and stir until coated (the tofu will turn yellow, like scrambled eggs). Lower heat to medium and add peppers, onion, and jalapeno. Cook for about 7 -10 minutes, until peppers and onions soften. Stir frequently so as not to overcook or burn tofu. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes as desired.

3) Top potatoes with tofu mixture, and top with fried onions if desired. (I left them out this time.) Add a bit of sriracha for more heat if you want.

fruitsalad

The fruit cup is self explanatory. Just take fresh papaya cubes and pineapple cubes and put them in a pretty dish. You could also add mint, berries, or whatever else you have on hand. I like to keep mine in the freezer while preparing the rest of the food, especially on a warm morning like today.

grapefruitspritzer

grapefruitspritzer2

Grapefruit Blueberry Sparkler:

Add some crushed iced to pre-chilled glasses. Add 3 parts freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, and 1 part Izze Blueberry Sparkling Juice. Garnish with a thyme sprig. I made these as mocktails, but you could also add sparkling wine if you want.

What are your favorite brunch dishes?

Israeli Couscous with Spinach and White Beans

I came across Israeli Couscous while perusing the aisles of World Market. It’s different from regular couscous in that the grains are slightly larger, and expand while cooking to resemble small pearls. I had noticed a few recipes on other vegan blogs raving about this ingredient, so I picked up a package. The couscous I bought is mixed with orzo and lentils, but it seemed to be about 95% couscous. Here’s a close-up:

DSC_0132Creating this recipe was super simple. I just threw together some ingredients I had in my kitchen, including a batch of spinach that was dangerously close to its prime, but turned out great when wilted. My husband and I both loved this dish and it took under 30 minutes to prepare (thanks to the mini processor I used to chop some of the ingredients).

The ingredients:

DSC_0129And here’s a photo of the dish in progress:

DSC_0133Ingredients

1 C Israeli Couscous (or you could sub quinoa or another favorite grain)

1 14-oz can white beans (either Cannelini or Great Northern)

2 C spinach, roughly chopped

1/2 medium yellow onion, minced (optional)

1 C sundried tomatoes, chopped

1/2 Kalamata olives, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice from 2 lemons

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

vegetable or vegan chicken broth (optional)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp ground ginger

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

Directions

1) Cook couscous (or other grains) according to the package directions in either broth or water. The broth will give the couscous a heartier, meatier feel, but if you’re watching your salt intake, it might be a good idea to cook it in water.

2) Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with olive oil, and heat on medium-high. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until onion begins to turn translucent.

3) Add the tomatoes, olives, and white beans, and spinach. Cook for about 7 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and spices, cook for another 3 more minutes.

4) Stir cooked couscous into the skillet mixture until thoroughly combined. Add extra lemon juice, salt, and pepper as desired. Serve.

DSC_0139I’m so glad we tried Israeli Couscous, as it has become part of our regular rotation. The other night we had it with artichoke hearts, asparagus, and chickpeas. Not only did it take just 15 minutes to make, but it was so filling and flavorful. Hope you enjoy!

PS: Please forgive my poor food photography skills. I’m still learning. 🙂