Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta (Vegan & GF)

I’ve been craving mac and cheese for about 2 years now. Sad, I know. But I’ve decided that the effects cheese and milk have on my system aren’t worth the temporary satisfaction of a hot, steamy, comforting, cheesy, melty, delicious bowl of mac and cheese. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyways. However, I recently discovered the plethora of GF pasta options available in grocery stores like Whole Foods and ALDI, and  knew that I could find a way to fill the mac and cheese void in my life. Butternut squash is (obviously) the answer. I know there are still some of you out there who don’t want to be members of my butternut squash fan club *ahem, Matt* but let me tell you, this recipe is a game changer.

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Let’s talk about some of the seemingly unnecessary/obscure ingredients I use in my recipes, because I promise that once you stock up on them, you’ll use them all the time…

  1. Nutritional yeast- This is a staple for your dairy-free pantry that mimics the flavor of Parmesan cheese in any dish, and is full of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
  2. Smoked paprika- I never knew or cared about the difference between regular paprika and smoked paprika until our trip to Southern Spain last year. Smoked paprika is used in lots of traditional vegetable dishes like chickpea stew, and as soon as I got home I bought a jar. A little goes a long way to create a smoky heat that brings out the flavor of just about any vegetable. Buy some!
  3. Roasted garlic- I know this seems like an extra step, but the flavor of roasted garlic is mild with this wonderfully creamy texture that makes a big difference in your finished product. I roast a couple heads at a time and keep them refrigerated in a jar so I can squeeze a couple cloves into whatever I’m cooking. I have instructions below.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Makes about 4 servings

1/4 C raw cashews

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1 package cubed butternut squash (about 3C)

3 cloves garlic

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

2 T nutritional yeast (optional)

1 t onion powder

1/2 t smoked paprika

1/4 t chili powder

1/4 – 1/3 C vegetable broth or water

1 package GF pasta

Optional roasted vegetables for serving (Brussels sprouts or kale)

Sriracha (optional)

Method:

Soak cashews in 1 C of boiling water for at least 30 minutes, until they soften and absorb a good amount of the water.

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast in oven for about 30 minutes until tender. Remove from oven and set aside. (If you are making roasted vegetables to go with your pasta, make those now, too.)

Roasted garlic- Slice the very top off of a whole head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes until fragrant.

Prepare GF pasta according to package instructions. Do NOT over cook!

In a blender, combine roasted butternut squash, drained cashews, about 3 cloves of roasted garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and seasonings and pulse until combined. Add broth or water a little at a time and continue to pulse until you reach desired consistency (I left mine pretty thick).

Combine cooked pasta with sauce and top with roasted vegetables of choice and sriracha, hot sauce of choice, or crushed red pepper. Enjoy!

 

 

Vegan Sun Dried Tomato Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

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Ever since I finally caved and bought a sturdy dutch oven last month, I have found myself looking for any and every excuse to make one pot meals. Matt’s parents had us over for lunch on Sunday and I decided to experiment with a vegan risotto. The finished product was vibrant and comforting, but still healthy with the addition of colorful roasted vegetables on top. I brought this risotto along with us to my in-laws, and this is what I learned:

  1. If you put a bowl of fresh Parmesan alongside the dish, no one cares that it’s vegan.
  2. Rainy Sunday afternoon + comforting risotto for lunch + wine = me falling asleep on the car ride home.

The sun dried tomatoes lend a really nice texture and acidity to the dish, which balances out the creaminess of the risotto. If you aren’t vegetarian, you can use any kind of broth you happen to have on hand. The best part is that you can top risotto with anything! I used fresh parsley, pine nuts, and store-bought pesto. This would be great with Italian sausage as well (definitely not vegan, I know.)

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I think some people are intimidated by the thought of making risotto at home, but it is truly hard to mess up. Risotto can be time-consuming because it requires standing over the stove as you stir the broth in a little at a time, but as long as you have hot broth ready to add in along the cooking process, it shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes. You can also view this time you’re spending stirring the risotto as quiet time in the kitchen, drinking wine. That’s what I choose to do 🙂

Risotto is my go-to dish for Pot Lucks because it’s a crowd pleaser, and you can use just about anything in terms of vegetables and seasonings. I love bringing this extremely heavy Dutch oven with me with the hot risotto inside because I make Matt carry it and I can just throw it in the oven at a low temp to warm back up when we get where we’re going! Easy as that.

Vegan Sun Dried Tomato Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

Makes 4-6 main course servings or 6-8 side dish servings

2 1/2 T good olive oil

Salt & pepper

2 small zucchini, quartered and diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

2 shallots, finely diced

1 C Arborio rice

4 C broth of choice

1/3 C dry white wine

1/2 C sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 t dried basil

1/4 C nutritional yeast (optional) or 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese if not vegan

Toppings such as fresh parsley, pine nuts, pesto, etc.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and red onion with 1 1/2 T olive oil, salt and pepper on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

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Heat Dutch oven or medium pot and add remaining tablespoon of oil. In a separate pot, heat broth on low/medium heat.

Saute shallots in Dutch oven for about 4 minutes, until they turn translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 2 more minutes. Add wine and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.

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Add broth, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently and cooking until rice absorbs liquid fully before adding next ladle of broth. When the broth is about halfway gone, add sun dried tomatoes and dried basil and continue adding broth one ladle at a time and stirring until fully absorbed. When all broth is used and liquid fully absorbed into rice, turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese. Serve with roasted vegetables and toppings of choice and enjoy!

Winter Minestrone Soup (GF)

The other night, my mom took me to see Ina Garten live at the Chicago Theater, and let me just say that I didn’t think it was possible to love her more than I did, but I do. It’s possible. She’s the best. She spoke about her almost 50 years of married life with her husband Jeffrey, and about all the experiences throughout her life that led her to where she is now, creating recipes on her farm in the Hamptons every day. Like what is that and how do I get to that point in life?

She acknowledged the existence of the “store bought is fine” meme, which I found very satisfying, and poked fun at herself for the number of times she says “how easy is that?” She spent a lot of time explaining her method for creating and testing recipes. I never realized how much thought and testing she puts into every single recipe, and it really struck a chord with me because she cares so much about how the finished product turns out for home cooks.

I love all her recipes, but this soup is on my list of favorites. I made a few small tweaks, and although she might not appreciate me dissecting her perfectly-crafted recipe to make it gluten and dairy-free, I hope you will! Because now we can alllll cozy up with a bowl of her amazing Winter Minestrone soup this season.

This recipe looks a little daunting at first because of the long list of ingredients, but you will probably already have most of them on hand like I did. One thing to note is that Ina stresses the use of chicken stock, not broth, in this recipe and it does make a noticeable difference. She of course makes her own stock, but let’s not get carried away… “Store bought is just fine.”

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Ina’s Winter Minestrone Soup (made GF and dairy-free)

Makes 6-8 servings

Good olive oil

4 ounces bacon, ½-inch-diced

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2½ cups butternut squash, peeled and diced

4 cloves minced garlic

1 t dried thyme

2- 14.5 oz cans roasted diced tomatoes

1 carton chicken stock (4 C)

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (or Northern beans), drained and rinsed

2 C cooked GF pasta (I used Whole Foods brand chickpea shells)

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons store-bought pesto (make sure it’s dairy-free)

1/4 C nutritional yeast

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Method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add  bacon and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, the bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine, pesto, and nutritional yeast. Enjoy!

Tip** if you plan on having leftovers, leave all pasta on side and add to soup as you serve. If you leave it in the soup for multiple days, it’ll absorb too much liquid from the soup and turn to mush.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

I will start by saying that this recipe is magical because it’s the ONLY way my husband will consider eating brussels sprouts. Yes, he is a grown man. When we met, Matt convinced me that he wasn’t a picky eater, but as the years went on, it became  clear to me that this was just a courting strategy. The man has a list of things he really dislikes, and most of the time I’m nice enough to avoid them in my recipes. Brussels sprouts are probably #1 on that list. However, there is a pizza place down the street from us that makes Detroit style pizza, and they have one non-pizza item on their menu; brussels sprouts salad. I’m pretty sure Matt didn’t know exactly what he was eating the first time we shared it as an appetizer, but now that he associates brussels sprouts salad with pizza, it’s fair game.

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I used my food processor to shred fresh brussels sprouts as the base for the salad, and then just added whatever I had sitting in the fridge. Fresh cranberries, parsley, radishes, and a simple balsamic dressing made for a vibrant and fresh salad that I will now be making all the time! The one thing I wish I remembered to add would be slivered almonds for a nice crunch, so I’ll be sure to include those next time. Pecans or pine nuts would also be great in this.

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This salad will be a great side dish for holiday parties, but is simple enough for any weeknight meal! You can add your protein of choice on top- grilled chicken or crumbled bacon would be delicious- and swap out the vegetables and fruit based on  what you have available. It’s very versatile and colorful. In fact, with all that red and green in there, I couldn’t help but notice it looked a lot like Christmas…TOO SOON, I KNOW.

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Brussels Sprouts Salad

Makes 4-6 servings

For the Salad:

6 C washed fresh brussels sprouts, shredded

1 C sliced radishes

1 1/2 C fresh cranberries (chopped apples would also work)

1/3 C finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1/3 C slivered almonds

For the Dressing:

1/3 C balsamic vinegar

2 T dijon mustard

2 T honey

1/3 C good quality olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:

Assemble salad by layering shredded brussels sprouts with sliced radishes, cranberries, parsley, and almonds.

Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with salad. Enjoy!

Tip** If you won’t be finishing the salad in one sitting, keep dressing on the side or leftovers will be soggy.