Pasta, Beans and Greens – a lightning-fast, yummy, healthy, vegan dinner

Pasta, Beans, and Greens

My family is finishing two very busy weeks. My eighth grader, Kendra, was in a national Quiz Bowl tournament in Atlanta, and then she played the role of Audrey in the Shakespeare play “As You Like It” — so the last two weeks have had long, daily rehearsals, followed by a weekend of performances. But the final performance was this afternoon, and now Kendra is free! — Well, free except for assorted daily homework, two term papers, an amazing week-long field trip, and graduation — followed immediately by a week of gluten-free summer camp. Whew!!!

So, in celebration of our crazy-busy two weeks, I am posting a recipe for a dinner that takes about fifteen minutes to cook — depending on how fast your stove can boil a pot of water — and is nutritious and delicious: Pasta, Beans and Greens. This is my go-to recipe for anytime I need a healthy dinner to be on the table quickly.

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals — a family favorite cookbook of ours.

My kids range from “somewhat picky” to “world-class picky.” This recipe is unique because it is one of only two dinners that all of my kids will eat. (The other one is Potato Pancakes — yum!)

A variation: Consumer Reports found that there is arsenic in rice, so I am always looking for ways to reduce the amount of rice-based pasta in our diet. My kids won’t eat this variation, but I have found that I can replace the pasta in this recipe with tofu cut into long thin rectangles that are about 1/4 inch wide, 1/4 inch tall, and 3/4 inch long. Prepared this way, it is an even faster and healthier version of this recipe.

Pasta, Beans and Greens - a lightning-fast yummy healthy vegan dinner
 
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This dinner recipe is quick, fast, yummy, gluten-free, and vegan! And, all of my kids will eat it!
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: serves 5
Ingredients
  • 1 pound short chunky pasta, such as elbows, tubes, or fusilli - gluten-free if you like
  • 2 15-ounce cans of cooked beans, such as kidney and pinto beans
  • either 1 bunch of fresh kale or other greens -- or 2-3 cups of frozen, chopped kale, defrosted
  • 1 lemon
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
  • salt and/or gluten-free soy sauce to taste
Instructions
  1. Start boiling water for the pasta. When the water boils, cook the pasta in it.
  2. Get out a big mixing bowl for serving the food in.
  3. While the pasta cooks, if you are using fresh greens, shred the greens into small pieces (a bread-slicing knife works well for this), then add them to the pot where the pasta is cooking for the last couple of minutes of cooking. Or, if you are using frozen greens, defrost them by microwaving them in the big mixing bowl. This takes 5 minutes in my microwave, but microwaves vary so be alert.
  4. Rinse the beans (I like to put them in a strainer and run cold water through), then add them to the big mixing bowl.
  5. Juice the lemon, and add the lemon juice to the bowl.
  6. Add the oil and basil to the bowl.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl.
  8. Stir everything together thoroughly.
  9. Serve, with salt and soy sauce available for each person to stir in to their food. If you are using soy sauce, about 2 teaspoons per serving is a good amount to start with.
  10. Yum! Warm and quick!

 

Stroganoff – creamy, soothing, vegan, and gluten-free

stroganoff

I love this creamy vegan meal of pasta. It is warm, salty and soothing.

This is based on a Seitan Stroganoff recipe from the cookbook Friendly Foods by Ron Pickarski. But I have converted the recipe to be gluten-free and much quicker and easier than the original.

I love Ron Pickarski’s cookbooks –Friendly Foods and Eco-Cuisine. From what I read in his cookbooks, Ron Pickarski was a monk who worked in the kitchen at his monastery, and he had a medical concern that limited him to a vegan diet. I am amazed by the creative solutions he has come up with for making vegan food that is interesting and delicious. For example, he makes a sauce out of yellow peppers. His recipes are sometimes time-consuming, but they are very consistently very yummy food. Some of the recipes in his cookbooks have been entered into the International Cooking Olympics — and sometimes they won! I am intrigued by his creativity and thoughtfulness with food.

ps. Check out the “music” table napkin in the picture — I made it myself! My friend Carol Simmons taught me how to use a sewing machine, and my son Corbin picked out the fabric. :)

Anyway, onward to the recipe!

Stroganoff - creamy, soothing, vegan, and gluten-free
 
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This creamy, salty, pasta dish tastes too rich and yummy to be vegan, but it is!
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces uncooked spiral pasta (or another shape)
  • 2 cups of your favorite "meaty" item, cut into bite-sized pieces (I like Butler Soy Curls - rehydrate 1 cup of them in warm water for this recipe; or if you can eat gluten, seitan works well in this recipe; or you can cut up six Tofu Pups; or use 1 cup of olives cut in half and with the pits removed)
  • 1 onion, diced - optional
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic - optional
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon stone-ground prepared mustard (I like Annie's brand Dijon Mustard)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons of umeboshi paste -- or 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce/tamari (I like San-J organic reduced-sodium gluten-free tamari)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (the brown toasted kind) (I like Eden brand)
  • optional: 1/3 cup green olives, pits removed and sliced into o-shapes (I adore Organic Divina brand olives, or sometimes I'll use Jeff's Natural's olives - black olives that are pre-sliced and a real time-saver)
  • optional: about 2 cups of frozen kale, defrosted (or fresh kale, chopped)
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, if you are using soy curls, break the dry soy curls into pieces that are about 1 inch long or less. Put one cup of dry soy curls into a few cups of hot water, to start rehydrating. If you are using another "meaty item" instead, cut it up into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Heat the canola or olive oil in a big pot. If you are using onions, cook them in this oil until translucent. Add the garlic, if you are using it, and the mushrooms. Cook for 6-10 minutes, until soft.
  4. In a food processor, put only 1/2 cup of the water. Add the cashews. Blend until smooth. Add the dried parsley, mustard, cornstarch or potato starch, umeboshi paste (or honey and salt), and tamari. Blend for several minutes, until the mixture is creamy and super-smooth.
  5. Add the sauce mixture and the sliced olives (if using) to the pot with the mushrooms in it. Use the other 1 cup of water to rinse out the last sauce from the food processor, then add it to the mushroom mixture. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce boils, then turn off the heat.
  6. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, the mix it with all of the other ingredients, including the toasted sesame oil. Stir everything together well. Add more water to the mixture if needed.
  7. Serve!
  8. Yum!!

 

Macaroni and Cheese – healthy, vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free!

vegan macaroni and cheese

cheese sauce after blendingOnce upon a time, I perfected my macaroni and cheese recipe. It was a specialty of mine — fancy macaroni and cheese mixed with a creamy white sauce, using a small amount of fancy cheese to make it healthier and yummy. Then we had to stop eating dairy and gluten, and so, my oldest son, stirring the cheese saucesadly, for a long time that was the end of macaroni and cheese at our house.

After that, I experimented with creamy vegan cheese-like sauces. I came up with some that I liked quite a bit. But nothing was quite right for macaroni and cheese.

thickened vegan cheese sauce on the stoveThen in March I ran across Vegan Richa‘s recipe for vegan Mozarella Sticks, made with homemade cashew mozzarella. The cheese sticks came out tasting really cheesy, even though they are totally vegan. I am convinced that Richa is a genius at creative food chemistry. Her blog is a wonderful mix of creative vegan versions of American food and Indian cuisine.

Richa’s recipe made a great starting point for experimenting with my own vegan macaroni and cheese recipe. The very first time I tried making it, it came out tasting surprisingly similar to my old macaroni and cheese recipe, with the white sauce and fancy cheeses.  I was very pleased!!!!!

So here is my version of vegan macaroni and cheese.

Nut-free option: I have not tried this, but I think you could replace the nuts and 1 cup of the water with a pound of firm tofu.

In the third picture, that’s my oldest son cooking.  :)

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
 
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A creamy cheesy VEGAN macaroni and cheese that cooks very quickly. Yum!
Author:
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: serves 5
Ingredients
Sauce ingredients:
  • 2 cups cashews
  • 2 1/2 cups cold water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Other ingredients:
  • 1 pound pasta -- gluten-free if you eat that way (which I do!)
  • optional: goes well with broccoli as a side dish (see my broccoli recipe)
Instructions
  1. Start cooking the pasta.
  2. Place the cashews and one cup of the water in a high speed blender. Blend until smooth. Let it sit for a couple of minutes (to soften the tiny cashew pieces) while you juice the lemon and add the rest of the sauce ingredients EXCEPT not the rest of the water, to the blender. Blend again until very smooth.
  3. Place the sauce mixture in a large nonstick pan. (Nonstick is essential for this recipe!)
  4. Start heating the sauce and stirring with a wooden spoon.
  5. Use the rest of the water to rinse out the blender, then add it to the sauce.
  6. Heat and stir the sauce until it thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Mix with the cooked macaroni.
  8. Serve with broccoli on the side.

p.s.  You should try Vegan Richa’s mozzarella sticks recipe!

The White Dinner — a quick, gluten-free, vegan meal that my kids love

the white dinner

This recipe is adapted from a recipe called “Farfalle with White Beans and Cabbage” or “Halushki” from the cookbook Vegan on the Cheap. My kids renamed it to “The White Dinner.”  :)

I really love the cookbook Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson. We often eat vegan food at our house. I like this cookbook not because we are trying to eat cheaply, but because it has a huge number of very accessible recipes that are easy to cook and come out tasting great!

By the way, Robin Robertson has a nice blog.

This recipe is a mixture of cabbage, white beans, and pasta. I usually add either greens or broccoli to get additional healthy vegetables into the meal.

The White Dinner -- a quick, gluten-free, vegan meal that my kids love
 
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A buttery vegan mixture of pasta, cabbage, white beans, and optionally some greens. My picky kids love this dinner!
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Eastern European-ish
Serves: 4-5 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of pasta, such as Field Day Organic Brown Rice Pasta -- noodles or spirals or elbows work well in this recipe
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 small head of cabbage, finely shredded (4 to 12 cups) - don't include the solid core
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or 3 cups of cooked cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
  • optional: 2-3 cups of cooked broccoli or 1-2 cups raw greens (such as kale or chard)
  • optional: smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. Chop the cabbage. Put it in a big pot with the oil and salt. If you are using the optional greens, add them. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is starting to brown in places. Then turn down the heat to a lower temperature and let it continue cooking, still stirring from time to time. The longer the cabbage is on the heat, the better this recipe tastes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat water to cook pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Add those and the pepper to the cabbage mixture and stir.
  4. Meanwhile, if you are cooking broccoli, cook it and drain. In case it's useful, here is my quick, easy broccoli recipe.
  5. When the pasta mixture is cooked, stir it into the cabbage mixture, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Serve hot, optionally sprinkled with smoked paprika.