Oh She Glows’ ‘Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta’

IMAG1208-1

It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to submissions for this semester of uni, and there are still a couple more to go. With the mounting stress, decreasing sleep and looming cold and flu season, I figured it was about time to look after my health a bit better. Starting with a hot cup of rose hip tea followed by a hearty meal.

With ‘health’ on my mind, I recalled a blog I once saw called Oh She Glows. Pretty healthy and inspiring things happening over there. It didn’t take long to find a recipe that appealed to my cravings: Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta. Yes, pasta. But it’s not your standard nutrient-lacking pasta sauce. While you’ve got the standard tomato, garlic (great for warding off those colds) and fresh basil combination, there’s also nutritional yeast, spinach and walnuts! It’s got to be the healthiest pasta recipe I’ve ever seen.

It’s easy enough to make, although with all those amazing ingredients it does end up on the expensive side. I’m also not sure how Angela manages to keep her version so red. Once I added the nutritional yeast to mine, the best I could manage was a vibrant orange. However, it is tasty, comforting and guilt-free. At least, more guilt-free than mi goreng or frozen dumplings, which are currently my unhealthy stand-bys for when I don’t feel like cooking. Next time I might whip out the food processor to really speed things up.

Hazelnut & Raspberry Muffins

IMAG1169-1

My friend Denise posted a photo on Instagram this afternoon of a fresh batch of green tea and mixed berry muffins. Naturally, I saw them and began to drool. She tagged the photo with ‘#procrastibaking’ and upon reading this, I dropped my essay research all over the floor and ran to the kitchen.

Procrastibaking is a real thing (I know, I was shocked too. And then I embraced it. Completely). It’s basically avoiding study by baking instead. Slightly more productive than trying to watch every Youtube clip ever uploaded.

My brief Google search turned up a recipe from Vegan Foodgasm, a vegan food blog that sadly hasn’t been active since 2010. But the person who ran it had exactly what I was looking for: a basic recipe that I could manipulate depending on what I felt like. I had some left over hazelnut meal that I was keen to use, so I substituted some of the flour for that. I also baked my muffins at 180°C (because 200°C scares me) for 25 minutes. The ingredients I ended up using were:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Soy Milky
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup frozen fruit raspberries

Made 10 medium muffins. Nom nom nom. Now back to studying.

Hommus

IMAG0982

Hommus, houmous, hummus, hummous, hommos, humos or hoummos. However you spell it, it has chickpeas and it tastes good. This Middle Eastern dip is a classic addition to any spread, but also extremely easy to dress up: throw in caramelised onions, sun-dried tomatoes or harissa for something a little different.

Hommus uses an ingredient called tahini, which is essentially ground up sesame seeds. To most people, it’s not exactly appealing by itself, but it does improve hommus. You might find you have a choice between buying hulled and unhulled. I’ve always bought the hulled type – the unhulled is darker and apparently has a stronger flavour – but there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between them. The brand I buy is Mayvers, which I get from the Health Food section in Coles supermarkets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Method:

  • Chuck everything except the oil into a food processor. I like to juice the lemons buy hand, using one to squeeze and the other to catch any pips. If you’re not sure how much lemon you like, only add half to begin with.
  • Turn on the food processor and slowly add olive oil until the dip reaches a consistency you’re happy with. Taste a bit and add more lemon if desired. You can also add some salt and garlic to season the dip, but I never find it needs it.
  • And there you have it: hommus! Serve with parsley to garnish/eat and sprinkle with sweet paprika.

It works out costing roughly $2.20 for about 2 cups (or 400g) worth of hommus, which is the same cost as the Coles homebrand version… except you end up with twice as much and it tastes far superior.

Vegenista’s ‘Orecchiette with Cabbage, Peas & Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce’

IMAG1006

Dinner tonight was courtesy of Vegenista‘s ‘pasta salad’ recipe, which you can find online here. I had to make a few substitutes due to availability (shell pasta for orecchiette, spring onions for scallions, soaked nuts for not-soaked nuts) but overall I was very pleased with the result. Basically, I’ll make it again. Tomorrow night.

I made roughly a quarter–half of the recipe, which was plenty enough to feed three people. One thing I’ll do differently tomorrow is serve it with some sort of leafy green side salad as it’s quite a heavy meal, despite all that healthy cabbage. I might even go searching for some tempeh bacon if I’m feeling inspired. Yum.

Guacamole

Out of everything I’ve ever made or cooked—vegan or not—Guacamole is hands down the greatest crowd pleaser there is. Dinner party, house warming, birthday: it doesn’t matter what sort of gathering, people are going to love you. You literally can’t go wrong (except if the person doesn’t like avocado… which is too bad for them) and what’s more, it’s über easy to make. That also means that it’s über easy to remember too, so it’s no trouble to whip up at a moment’s notice when you don’t have your hands on a recipe.

One of my pet peeves about commercial guacamole is that companies often add cheese. This completely baffles me; it’s not like guacamole is bland without cheese, and who needs the extra calories and animal suffering anyway?

I’ve come across loads of recipes in cookbooks and online, but the best one I’ve ever learnt is from my cousin’s Chilean wife—no pen or paper involved.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 small onion

Method:

  • Cut the avocados in half and remove the stones. Scoop out the flesh, with a fork, into a medium bowl.
  • Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the avocados. I use my fingers to strain out any pips (you know how I feel about dishes). I’d use the whole lemon, but you just have to make a judgement call on how lemony you want your guacamole and how juicy the lemon is to start with.
  • Using the fork, mash up the avocado and then whip until there are almost no chunks.
  • Dice the fresh tomato and onion and add to the mixture. Sometimes if I’ve bought spring onions to use for another dish, I save them from going bad in the fridge and add three, instead of a brown onion. Stir in the onion and tomato.
  • Voila! That’s it. Seriously. The mixture will make a loaded small bowl (plus some extra to snack on during the process).

Enjoy!

Vegan YumYum by Lauren Ulm

Cover of Vegan YumYum

As veganism gradually spreads its roots, naturally the number of recipe books published on the subject is going to increase. I’ve been vegan for nearly two years now and have made myself quite a collection. The first thing you’ll notice about most vegan cook books is their distinct lack of photography. Initially I began by adapting my meals from vegetarian collections as there is nothing less inspiring than a recipe without a snap shot to accompany it. Gradually I shifted to vegan recipe books as the occasional image popped out at me as I sat on the floor in Dymocks, scanning the bottom shelf in ‘Cooking’. When I stumbled across Vegan YumYum by Lauren Ulm, I didn’t need to think twice about buying it.

As with any type of cuisine, there are good recipes and oh so very bad ones. I’ve made the majority of recipes in this book, and while some require tweaking to suit my tastes, I haven’t come across one that I wouldn’t make again.

Lauren Ulm is the blogger behind the Vegan YumYum website, where the book got its start. She transfers her friendly, informal blog writing style to the page which means you don’t feel like you’re sitting an exam, trying to pull together some culinary masterpiece. She sets up each recipe with ingredient lists, broken into the various components of the meal, and provides step by step photographs for any tricky manoeuvres. What’s more, the woman can take a photo. She has an understanding of light, composition and presentation, so not only is the book jam packed with colour photos, they’re really nice photos. Grab a sneak peak inside the book here at Amazon to see for yourself, or take a gander at the photos featured below.

The book is ‘American’, so some of the ingredients aren’t always that easy to find here in Melbourne. It took me ages to track down Nutritional Yeast, but now, thanks to The Radical Grocery, it’ll last me and very, very, very long time. I’ve also not had much success in locating seitan or kale, although, I believe I might have seen a bunch of kale at the Queen Vic Market. Regardless, it’s easy to subsitute spinach. I haven’t made any of the seitan recipes yet, but I imagine it would be relatively easy to switch it with firm tofu. Having the book based on the experiences of living in another country is not all cons. Before Vegan YumYum I had never heard of Snickerdoodles, which are a type of sugar cookie. If you pull them out of the oven just before the timer hits 10 minutes, you’ll find yourself with most heavenly, gooey, cinnamon coated treat. They’re also a very allergy/diet friendly dessert that’s not only vegan (egg-free, lactose-free), but soy-free and easily made gluten-free. And what’s more, her Snickerdoodles started off as a blog post so you can grab the recipe online and starting making them right now, as a sort of trailer for the book.

Snickerdoodles

Another sweet tooth related find is the Clotted Cream recipe that accomapanies her Lemon Maple Scones. It’s a great cream imitation and has been given the thumbs up from non-vegan friends. It’s made from margarine, icing suger and Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, which you should be able to find mixed in with the real cream cheese at most Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. It has an amazing shelf life so don’t let your local get away with not stocking it! I’ve tried making cheese cakes with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese but it loses its form once you begin mixing. It does however work well for Ulm’s clotted cream recipe as the margarine helps it keep a spread like thickness.

Lemon Maple Scones with Vegan Clotted Cream

Vegan YumYum isn’t all sweets as you might be beginning to assume (although it does them well). It is an invaluable resource for hearty vegan meals. One of the brilliant things about Ulm’s book is she seems very conscious about sources of proteins. Almost all her recipes contain either tofu, legumes, seitan or nuts and because they’ve been created by an everyday vegan, they’re often very easy to throw together (even more so for me as I tend to mix by hand and only roughly chop/grind). One of my favourite recipes is her Aloo Matar, a very mild flavoursome curry dish that copes well with a handful of chickpeas for extra nutrition. My week to week dinner plans have come to consist mainly of Ulm’s creative and varied dishes, and the best thing is that I know there’s still more to test out.

Aloo Matar

I bought my copy from Dymocks on Collins Street but you can also buy it here on The Book Depository for under AU$20 with free shipping worldwide.

Verdict? ★★★★★