Lentil-Walnut Bolognese (Vegan!)

This is one of my absolute favourite things to eat: rich, hearty, healthy plant-based bolognese made subtly sweet and complex from a long, slow simmer. 🤤 Comfort food at its best! This sauce makes enough to generously smother over 1 lb of pasta.

Lentil walnut bolognese topped with easy homemade vegan parmesan 😋

Lentil walnut bolognese topped with easy homemade vegan parmesan 😋

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tsp olive oil (for sauteing; if oil-free, use a splash of water or broth)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced
  • 1 cup carrot, ground in food processor (see pic below)
  • 2 cups mushrooms (any kind), chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, ground in food processor (see pic below)
  • 1.5 cups or 14 oz can brown or green lentils
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

Process:

  1. Heat large pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion and saute until soft.
  2. Add garlic, carrot, mushrooms, and zucchini and saute just until mushrooms have started to release their moisture and zucchini has started to soften.
  3. Add walnuts, lentils, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and salt. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup water so that your sauce is thick but simmer-able. (You can't go wrong!)
  4. Simmer, covered, for at least ten minutes and ideally for about an hour to help develop the flavours and bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.
ground walnuts

ground walnuts

ground carrots

ground carrots

Some of My Favourite Thanksgiving & Christmas Recipes

We aren't religious or even particularly traditional, but twice a year—on Thanksgiving and Christmas—I love cooking a big, classic harvest feast: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, green beans, cranberry sauce, and a centrepiece dish (over the years this has been homemade or commercial plant-based meats, chickpea tarts, and stuffed squash). Pumpkin pie for dessert is essential.

IMG_5995.JPG

I keep it simple with the veggies—they're just going to get drowned in gravy anyway, let's be honest. The green beans get pan fried or steamed until just soft, maybe tossed with some crispy onions. The Brussels sprouts get sliced in half, tossed with olive oil and salt, and roasted at 425 for 18 to 20 minutes until brown and crisp. The potatoes get cubed, boiled, drained, then mashed with Earth Balance (vegan butter) and unsweetened soymilk until the texture is smooth.

And here, below, are my recipes for gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. These are beloved staples in my family and I can't imagine a harvest table without them.

Our Favourite Creamy Gravy

With chickpea flour used for thickening, this is gravy you can feel good about eating with a spoon. (I won't judge.) I posted this recipe on Instagram during the most recent Canadian Thanksgiving and heard from quite a few people that they'd made it and loved it, so consider this recipe tested and approved.

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tsp olive oil, for sauteeing (if you're oil-free, just use splashes of water)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped (don't worry about getting it too fine—this will be blended)
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp powdered dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 5 cups veggie broth or water
  • 1/2 cup tamari
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt (note: if you use broth with salt added, you may need to skip this)

Process:

  1. Heat a large pan or wide pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and garlic and saute until soft.
  2. Stir in the chickpea flour, thyme, and sage and combine well.
  3. Whisk in the veggie broth (or water), tamari, nutritional yeast, and salt. Whisking constantly, bring it to a simmer for a couple of minutes, then turn off the heat.
  4. Blend until smooth! Since it's a hot liquid, make sure you're letting the steam out of the blender, or you may have a no-good-very-bad explosion on your hands.

Classic Stuffing

This is based on the stuffing from the Joy of Cooking (remember that classic white cookbook in everyone's kitchens?), which I grew up eating. I veganized and healthified it, and changed up the cooking process to make it (I think) easier. This stuffing is edible nostalgia for me.

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tsp olive oil, for sauteeing (if you're oil-free, just use splashes of water)
  • 4 cups onions, diced (about 2 large onions)
  • 6 cups bread crumbs (I just put our fave Silver Hills sprouted whole grain bread in the food processor until it becomes crumbs)
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp melted Earth Balance, olive oil, or just skip it
  • 1 tsp each: dried sage, dried thyme, dried oregano, paprika (if you don't have or like any of these, just skip em)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • veggie broth or water, to taste (used for moistening)

Process:

  1. Heat a pan over medium heat, then saute the onion in the olive oil until soft.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (if stuffing into squash) or baking pan. Stir in small splashes of broth or water until mixture becomes moist and just holds together (don't overdo it or you'll end up with mush).
  3. Either cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes until hot, or stuff into squash and bake as needed.

Tart Cranberry Sauce

Nothing fancy here. Just a basic cranberry sauce with half the usual amount of sugar so it adds a nice, tart pop to our rich feast smothered in creamy gravy... ugh, drooling just thinking about it 😍

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz bag of cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar of choice

Process:

  1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan, combine, and bring to a simmer.
  2. Simmer over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until cranberries are popped and sauce is thickened and smooth, about 20 minutes.

Healthy, Gooey Spinach & Artichoke Dip (Vegan; Only 8 Ingredients!)

Vegan spinach & artichoke, broiled and ready to go to a book club :)

Vegan spinach & artichoke, broiled and ready to go to a book club :)

I stopped eating animal-based cheese because I was disturbed by how animals are treated on modern dairy farms, not because I don't love creamy, gooey, decadent food—I'm still human! Growing up, if there was a spinach and artichoke dip on the menu, I wanted to order it (let's be honest. I still do).

These old-school dips tend to rely on ingredients like melted cheese, cream cheese, and mayonnaise—sure, we vegans can easily replicate spinach dip using plant-based versions of these dairy ingredients, and there are some seriously good ones on the market these days. But while I'm all for a splurge once in a while, I feel better eating and feeding my loved ones healthier versions most of the time. And I swear, this healthy spinach & artichoke dip sacrifices nothing in flavour or texture!

A good spinach & artichoke dip is two things: creamy and gooey. For creaminess in recipes, I pretty much always turn to cashew cream—cashews soaked in a little water and blended up into a cream sauce. Tapioca flour (or starch) miraculously creates gooey, plant-based cheesiness, and is used in many commercial non-dairy cheeses and non-dairy cheese recipes.

Combining these two ingredients/techniques makes the perfect cheesy base for spinach and artichoke hearts, with the addition of just a few more spices and seasonings. I'll definitely be making this again and again for parties and holidays! I hope you love it as much as we do.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cashews added to blender with 1.5 cups hot water and left to soak for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour (or starch)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (if you don't have it, no problem—just use black or cayenne pepper to taste)
  • 3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 2 cups finely chopped spinach (or about 5 oz frozen spinach, thawed)

Process:

  1. Blend cashews, water, nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, onion powder, salt, and pepper until smooth. Pour into medium saucepan.
  2. Heat sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. The sauce will start to thicken and form curdles; keep stirring until it becomes smooth, thick, and glossy. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped artichoke hearts. (Note: At this point, if the dip is too thick for your taste, you can whisk in additional water to thin.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat the spinach in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes until it wilts. Scrape the spinach along with any juices into the other ingredients.
  4. Now you can eat the dip as is, broil it to get a brown crust, or store it for later (just heat at 350 for about 20 minutes or until heated through). Enjoy!
After blending the sauce will be pourable

After blending the sauce will be pourable

After heating and stirring for a few minutes, it will start to form curdles

After heating and stirring for a few minutes, it will start to form curdles

It's done when it's smooth and thick

It's done when it's smooth and thick

Chopped marinated artichoke hearts

Chopped marinated artichoke hearts

Wilted chopped spinach

Wilted chopped spinach

You can eat it right away, I won't judge :)

You can eat it right away, I won't judge :)

Healthy gooey-ness

Healthy gooey-ness

... or broil it in an oven-safe container

... or broil it in an oven-safe container

Welcome to my new recipes section!

Welcome to my new recipes section!

I have mixed feelings about starting this section.

It’s important to me to show people how to cook simple plant-based meals without recipes, because I think becoming confident in preparing healthful, delicious meals with little effort requires liberation from recipes. No need to waste time measuring everything, procure obscure ingredients that will sit in your cupboard or fridge unused because you don’t know how to use them, or spend time poring over recipes and creating elaborate meals that leave you exhausted and calling for take-out the next night. I cringe when I see recipes for a bowl, like two cups of lettuce and half a cup of cabbage—no! Just use the veggies you like or have on hand and in the quantities that you like or have on hand.

At the same time, I recognize that recipes can serve as a source of inspiration, a jumping off point for sharing ideas, processes and ingredients. And replicating a dish does require replicating the quantities and ingredients; measurements are how we record and communicate this information. I have definitely used many recipes over the years, and still reach for cookbooks when making old favourites. But these days, most of the time I’m free styling, and I hope to empower you to do the same!

So I’ll be sharing some recipes, but an invitation: don’t follow them! If you have an extra half cup of beans, toss em in. Missing a spice? Skip it! If you don’t like a particular veggie, use one you prefer instead. If you follow my Instagram stories, you know that I toss in veggies and spices pretty casually with half of my attention on my kids. It’s always fine! 

I hope you enjoy the recipes, and I also hope you adapt, ignore and improve them. Happy cooking!

The only thing I love more than my cookbooks is not using my cookbooks :)

The only thing I love more than my cookbooks is not using my cookbooks :)