I am a vegan. My husband, my son, and most of my friends are not. This never stops me from having vegan potlucks at my home, or dragging my family down the vegan food path on a regular basis.
When I first became a vegan, it was a challenge because I hadn’t really learned how to be a vegan yet, I had just claimed the label and was unsuccessfully doing a lot of food substitution. I had been a vegetarian for a very long time, but no dairy was a whole new game plan. The key to being a successful vegan is finding a variety of delicious menu choices with ingredients you can secure with some ease.
For one of the first potlucks, my friend Jillian, not a vegan, found a recipe for Chloe Coscarelli’s Avocado Pesto Pasta. Huge hit. This took us on a day trip across the Brooklyn Bridge to meet her at a book signing, and started the Chef Chloe adventure in several kitchens. Chloe’s story pulled me in because she tested, and tested, then tested some more, her recipes on people who ate meat (and others as well of course) “Chloe’s Kitchen” winner of a 2012 Veggie award was the first vegan cookbook that helped me transition my food choice into something everyone was on board with. She has several more books out now, and not one of them has let me down. Her recipes make sense, and are manageable. If you want to test the waters first, her webpage is very generous with recipes. One of my vegan pangs was I missed the comfort of Mac and Cheese. Chloe’s recipe took care of that for me. We sometimes substitute organic grape tomatoes cut in 1/2 for the broccoli.
Chef Chloe’s Vegan Mac n’ Cheese
Serves 4 – 6
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 1/4 cup vegan margarine
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
- 3 cups soymilk (or almond or rice milk)
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Add broccoli for the last 5 minutes of boiling and let cook until broccoli is fork tender. Drain and return to pot.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, make a roux or paste by whisking the margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add nondairy milk, yeast, tomato paste, salt, and garlic powder to the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in lemon juice and agave. Toss the noodles and broccoli with the sauce and serve immediately.
Thanks to the beauty of search words on TV DVR devices, I found Laura Theodore, the Jazzy Vegetarian on my local PBS channel. It only took a couple of shows in for me to realize that vegan recipes weren’t random on the show, but always on the show. Laura and her jazzy tips pulled me in, and soon I was really learning a lot from her. We bonded when she shared that she developed several of the recipes for her husband, because I too had a husband I was striving to feed food I wanted to eat. Another recipe generous vegan cookbook author, Laura also shares a slew of recipes on her webpage. These vegan powerhouses are making it easy for you to get your non-vegan peeps to enjoy vegan meals. My first of her cook books was “JAZZY VEGETARIAN, Lively Vegan Cuisine That’s Easy and Delicious”. The recipe I am sharing below is from that. Her follow-up “Jazzy Vegetarian Classics” earned a slot on the shelf as well.
One day company was coming and I wanted to make something gorgeous and delicious. Got lots of oohs, aahs and cleaned plates with this. (served with a not to be ignored salad)
Fancy Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Black Beans
- 1 lb elbow macaroni 1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 6 bell peppers, any color or a combination of colors
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
- 1 jar (about 25 ounces) marinara sauce, as needed
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1⁄4 cup toasted wheat germ, plus more as needed (I have done without. Still worked!)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
Put the quinoa and broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft but not mushy. Let cool slightly. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
When ready to assemble the stuffed peppers, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice off the top 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inches of each pepper and set aside (these tops will be used to “cap” the peppers later). Seed the peppers.
Stir the optional oil into 1⁄2 cup of the marinara sauce. Spread the mixture in the bottom of a deep casserole large enough to hold all the peppers snugly so they remain upright during baking.
Set aside 1⁄4 cup of the remaining marinara sauce. Mix the quinoa with the beans, mush- rooms, onion, wheat germ, garlic, basil, and half of the remaining marinara sauce. Stir until well combined, adding more marinara sauce, a couple of tablespoonfuls at a time, until the mixture is moist but not soupy. If the mixture does get a little soupy, simply add more wheat germ.
Spoon one-quarter of the mixture into each pepper, mounding it if need be. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the reserved marinara sauce over each pepper,
then top with the pepper tops. (The stuffing will peek out between the pepper tops and bottoms.) Carefully position the peppers in the casserole so they will remain upright while baking.
Cover and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the peppers are slightly tender but not mushy. Serve immediately or let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Put the sauce that has accumulated at the bottom of the casserole in a gravy boat or small bowl to pass at the table.
I recently added Ellen Jaffe Jones “Kitchen Divided” to my collection since it was specifically written for a semi-vegan household. I have read it, but not tested out any of the recipes yet. I will be starting with the No- Beef Bourguignon. This recipe does include a store bought “alternative product”, the subject of an upcoming share.
One of the outstanding benefits of me preparing meals from these cookbooks, is that it made vegan cooking more feasible for my husband. With my work schedule, he prepares dinner at times during the week. He has seen that vegan cooking doesn’t have to be a mysterious thing that you need years of training to conquer. One of these days I will share one of his own crowd pleasing recipes with you.
I look forward to hearing what cookbooks you have found recipes wowed the non vegan crowd!