Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Celebrations require effort

In my family, holiday celebration planning primarily consists of menu creation. Beyond working around everyone’s dietary requirements at any given time, we love to try new things, get creative, and sometimes even experiment. Making things from scratch we wouldn’t normally is a must. For example, a few years ago, for Thanksgiving, we made gnocchi, sweet potato gnocchi, AND ravioli. From scratch. For, like, five of us. It was a bit over the top, sure, but at least those things freeze well.

I don’t make fresh pasta all the time. It’s a project. Not as difficult as some, but more time-consuming than an everyday meal. When I do, I like to experiment a bit with colors and flavors. Once I made the dough with pureed nettles, resulting in intensely green hand-cut noodles (probably akin to papardelle). For today’s prompt, I decided to experiment with using beets to color my pasta, using a simple homemade broth.

Above: Beet broth in progress with porcini mushroom and kombu seaweed. It’s, like, blood red.

I haven’t had the “proper” flour for making pasta in ages–shit’s expensive, and the goddamn pantry moths get into it–so I did a 50/50 split of all-purpose and whole wheat flour with a ratio of 3:1 of flour to broth. I let the food processor do most of the work, just kneading it for a bit at the end to make sure it was reasonably smooth before cranking it through the pasta roller. The texture was solid enough that letting the machine give me fettuccine strips was effortless. (If the dough is too sticky, it can get stuck in the rollers.) The end result was beautifully rich pinky-magenta pasta like I’ve never seen.

Above: Uncooked beet fettuccine, tossed with flour to prevent sticking.

The other tricky thing about fresh pasta is how to sauce it. A heavy marinara or rich cashew cream base would drown out the flavor; basil pesto didn’t seem quite right, visually or taste-wise, for beet pasta. I landed on caramelized onion with sauteed cherry tomatoes for a pop of sweetness and olive oil-y richness, a handful of torn basil for contrast, and toasted pepitas for crunch.

Above: Gotta love the height of tomato season.

The broth did give the pasta a subtle depth of flavor, and the whole thing was just…pretty. Complementary reds on the plate and delicious tastes in the mouth, mmm. Homemade pasta is never regrettable.

Above: It seemed like too much. It wasn’t.
Food Blog Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 10: Almost All Vegan Food Is Unconventional Already

What are our best secret ingredients, after all, but weirdo vegan secrets? Aquafaba? Nutritional yeast? Cashews that are not merely part of a snack nut mix?! Come on. Any one of these things will garner a raised eyebrow from most of your relatives, and that’s not even counting those who make a face at the mere thought of eating tofu.

One of those weirdo vegan ingredients that has gotten me questions in the grocery checkout line is tempeh. “What do you do with it?!” they ask. And I always answer: marinate, pan-fry, bake, or…crumble, simmer, and sauce. The latter feels more “secret ingredient”-y: tempeh marinara is delicious, easy, and one of my go-tos on nights when I don’t know what else to cook.


Step 1: Dice up the tempeh and simmer it in a saute pan with red wine (about halfway up the tempeh pieces), splash of soy sauce, and some seasoning: oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, crushed fennel seeds if you’re feeling adventurous.


Step 2: When most of the wine is absorbed, smash the tempeh with a fork or potato masher, then add a little olive oil to help some of it brown a bit. This is also a good time to add onion, if you like.


Step 3: Add crushed tomatoes or tomato puree (~24 oz. can or jar) and stir, then bring to a simmer while you wait for the pasta to cook. (Oh. You should’ve started some pasta water.) Toss in as many cloves of microplaned garlic as you can tolerate peeling as the sauce heats up. (If you don’t have a microplane or garlic press, just mince the garlic and give it a 30-second saute with the olive oil, before you add the tomatoes.)


Step 4: Season to taste (salt, pepper, nooch) and consider stirring in fresh parsley or basil, if you have it. A handful of baby spinach or arugula also wouldn’t be out of place. Fold in your cooked pasta (you already cooked your pasta, right? And set aside some cooking liquid to revive it/unstick it if your timing wasn’t awesome?).

Step 5: Eat some pasta. Be glad you didn’t buy those weird faux ground beef crumbles instead of tempeh.

The tempeh could also be used, sans tomato sauce, as sausage crumbles in other applications, such as pizza topping. Ohhh, it’s good on vegan pizza.

I also recommend making your favorite version of a vegan parmesan. A lot of recipes call for roasting things, drying things, etc. but I am LAZY and I just put hemp seeds, almonds, and nooch in a spice grinder and let ‘er rip until it’s a nice powder.


For my dinner, I used this sauce to make a baked penne dish with roasted eggplant and tofu-cashew ricotta, adapted from an omni recipe on Chowhound. The sauce is the same process, though I added some sliced onion at the crumble-saute step and about ¼ cup of chopped kalamata olives with the tomato sauce. I also did not layer the baking dish, but you could. Melty vegan cheese, if that’s your thing, would be a nice addition. It’s actually delicious even without baking, just sprinkled with nutty nooch.

Food Blog Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 3: Lazy Meals

If I don’t have leftovers handy, an “easy cook” meal is my usual lunch. Maybe it’s a nuked potato with some sauteed spinach and tahini sauce. Maybe it’s a salad. Maybe it’s just toast and self-loathing (let’s keep it real). But most of the time, it’s going to be pasta. And the pasta should not, ideally, require more than one pan, that is, the vegetables/sauce should not need to be cooked or they can cook with the pasta. I’m not trying to impress anyone here except my stomach. I save the work for when more than one person is going to enjoy it.

The basic formula here is: Any kind of pasta + a generous handful of any kind of baby greens + sauce mixed in a bowl. Sauce could be faux-cheese based (something soft and spreadable, like Miyoko’s Double Cream Garlic Chive, or a homemade herbed cashew cheese), or just add some fresh herbs (if handy) and hemp seeds to the rest – a vinegar (red wine vinegar is great), some nutritional yeast, and black pepper. If it’s too thick, steal a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Bing-bang-boom.

For this post, I documented my lunch of whole wheat elbow macaroni with arugula and cultured cashew cheese (a play on the recipe from Vegan Eats World). It ain’t fancy, but it hit the spot.

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Mom testing the pasta recipe (we won’t have a thin pasta on Thanksgiving, but gotta make sure everything will work)

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 8 … Failure on a theme-level, success on a dinner-level. Pasta, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, black lentils, herb dressing with almond puree and lemon. Just needed to get dinner together with a minimum of heat, and this was all sitting around, just waiting to be used.

Sauce was the following, thrown into a Vitamix: handful of almonds, water to cover, juice of one lemon, two cloves of garlic, one scallion, some fresh dill, a little more fresh parsley, several rough-chopped basil leaves, generous shake of nutritional yeast, squirt of Just Mayo, black pepper. Turned out creamy and green but a bit thin, though not too thin for this application.

P.S. I’d still gladly make a new vegan friend, I just didn’t manage it today. I’m not that outgoing.