Week 34: Hold the Pasta

Not pasta…this was the main consideration in deciding this past week’s meals.  If you knew me you would be surprised to hear this as I love my pasta.  However, when I was traveling on business last week working lunches and dinners with colleagues meant pasta…penne with assorted steamed vegetables in a tomato based sauce, rigatoni and broccolini in a garlic sauce, vegan lasagna…you see how my week went.  I will admit the hotel did a good job of making a vegan lasagna with eggplant, zucchini and squash ribbons mixed in with noodles.  It seems omnivores are at a loss what to cook for vegetarians and the go-to is pasta with some kind of vegetable added.  You can see why not pasta was top priority in meal planning Week 34.
I was inspired by all the fresh, locally grown corn Wegman’s has had of late and skimmed my cookbooks for some recipes.  Forks Over Knives Corn Chowder seemed the perfect lunch choice as it called for a bounty of in-season ingredients including the corn, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers and basil.  Unlike the typical corn chowder, which is cream based, this is a broth based soup.  I was never a big fan of cream based soups when I was an omnivore so I cannot really compare this soup to the “real thing”. I can say that this was a delicious and fillng lunch that I will likely make again, and soon – while the ingredients are in such abundance.   I felt like spicing it up a bit so I added crushed red pepper in the beginning when sauteing the diced onions and peppers; I also added a dash of cumin.  The result was a lovely, light and fresh lunch with subtle spice and nice crisp corn.
Continuing on my corn theme, I made Mexican-Style Bean and Rice Casserole for dinner (also from Forks Over Knives).  This recipe called for a No-Cheese Sauce to make the casserole creamy in texture.  For most plant-based or vegan friends I’ve met cheese is the hardest thing to give up.  For me it was the easiest.  The only cheese I ever liked was the riccotta in canolies.  Given this, I’ve avoided most cheese substitutes since becoming plant based as I’ve been somewhat skeptical if I would like it.  This recipe takes fresh corn, zucchini, red peppers and onions mixed with brown rice and baked into a casserole and enticed me to give the cheese sauce a try.
The No-Cheese Sauce is made by blending red bell pepper, onion, nutritional yeast and cashews til creamy in texture. Nutritional yeast is not the yeast you bake bread with; it is a deactivated yeast commonly used as an ingredient in vegan food to add flavor.  Many describe the flavor as nutty or cheesy.  I’ve used nutritional yeast in other recipes and found it to be nutty in flavor and rather enjoyed.  This past experience made me less skeptical of the cheese sauce.
IMG_4674The Verdict….while I found this casserole to be quite good, it was also a very filling, heavy meal – too much so for my liking.  There was an option to turn the casserole into enchiladas using the casserole as filling and adding an enchilada sauce.  This was also quite good and a nice change from the casserole by itself but I preferred the Happy Herbivore enchiladas I have previously made as they were much lighter.  The Happy Herbivore enchiladas had a vegetable filling without any rice.  Forks Over Knives does have a similar veggieful enchilada recipe that I will probably try next time I feel like Mexican.   


New Recipes Made This Week: 4 [Corn Chowder, Casserole, Enchilada Sauce, No-Cheese Sauce]

New Recipe Tally 2013: 95


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