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Accidental vegan pasta — guest post

Helen’s notes: November is World Vegan Month, and I asked a bunch of my non-vegan friends and family if they would write a post for Vegtastic! to try a vegan recipe or to reflect on a time they ate something vegan. A number of them said yes. Here’s the incomparable James Taylor’s take on vegan cooking. I have not edited or altered it in any way. Yes, I think that is real cheese, but please read this in the spirit that it is intended…

By James Taylor.

I’ve never intended to make anything vegan, I’d like to make that quite clear. I enjoy butter and panchetta on my pasta probably more than any morbidly obese Italian you or I know – but this past weekend something strange happened. I made home made pasta, which is virtually impossible to f-up, and I f-ed up. I forgot to put egg in.

This wasn't supposed to be vegan, but it actually turned out edible. Slightly disappointing, but with enough love and oil (not to be confused with "love oil") it turned out.

My problem started with the website, Allrecipes.com. This is a local company and a great cooking resource. And really the ads are very understated for a non-subscription service; but there were too many examples and I reached for the lowest hanging fruit.

I chose the flour, water, and salt one. For some reason, it felt right at that time, even though I knew you usually put egg in. So, I inadvertently made vegan pasta, which tasted eerily like cho fun noodles. I love beef chow fun, but now it seems as if that might be vegan too? I had vegan ham once at a Vietnamese restaurant… I digress.

I thought I might do a little investigation because while the dinner was still pretty great, and completely vegan, it didn’t leave me feeling the same way it usually does. Blissfully as if it’d had an egg.

So here’s what I did. I went back and found the recipe.

See if you can crack the code. I’m an idiot, but I enjoyed my accidental foray into veganism and I may even try to purposefully do that again really soon. Just not homemade pasta.

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James Taylor has more blogs than he knows what to do with, please, please help him. If you have any interest in any of these things, he’s really desperate for content and knows that you’re really gud at righting!

www.worldsbestdaddy.org (open to Mommy’s, children, pets, anyone now!).

www.kung-foolery.com (this is getting a bit rambly, help!)

www.thatjamestaylor.com (launching soon, or never, a repository for people to tell their story of, “what do strangers always ask you?”)

Semi-homemade vegan mac and cheese

If Sandra Lee were vegan, this is what she would make for dinner: a casserole of Leahey Gardens’ mac & cheese, Daiya and broccoli.

It’s super easy and seriously tasty.

This is totally inspired by a post-Vida Vegan Con conversation with Brittany — she would probably say to add nooch, and I’d probably say that’s not a bad idea at all.

Semi-homemade vegan mac and cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Leahey Gardens’ mac and cheese + whatever other ingredients the package tells you that you need
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped and steamed or microwaved
  • 1/2 cup Daiya (your choice which flavor), or more to taste
  • nooch to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs

Instructions:

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. In the same pot, combine cheese powder, whatever water/soy milk the directions tell you, and additional nooch to your taste (if using) until combined. Stir in pasta, cooked broccoli and Daiya.
  3. Pour into a greased 9″ x 9″ pan and cover with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-10 minutes or until crumbs are browned and sauce is bubbly.

Purple and gold gnocchi

Bow Down to Washington,
Bow Down to Washington.
Mighty are the men who wear the Purple and the Gold,
Joyfully we welcome them within the Victor’s fold.
We will carve our name in the Hall of Fame,
To preserve the memory of our Devotion.

College football season is upon us. My one coworker has promised to wear his Oregon ducks T-shirt every Friday, while my dad is excited that the inclusion of Colorado in the Pac 12 opens up new opportunities for sibling rivalry.

For undergrad, I attended a division III school voted by its own alumni as the 6th worst football program in the nation.

Therefore, I’ve adopted Washington as my NCAA preference. I got my master’s there, David has his BA from there, and four of my aunts and uncles and one cousin also hold at least one UW degree.

I could personally care less about football, though I like it when my team wins — it’s a fantastic way to arbitrarily feel good about one’s life decisions.

Nothing says “Husky pride*” more than a dish made from Washington-grown produce, especially when said produce happens to match school colors: purple majestic potatoes and butternut squash turned into gnocchi.

Gnocchi are a little tricky. You want to make sure that you have exactly the right measurements and tools or yours will turn out soft and uneven — sort of like mine did. Lumpy mashed potatoes are usually the best (how else can you tell that they’re homemade?), but mashed potatoes for gnocchi need to be perfectly smooth — most recipes call for a ricer or vegetable mill for this.

I used Food.com’s vegan potato gnocchi (with just salt and garlic powder for flavor) and sort of winged the butternut squash version: 2 lbs squash, steamed and mashed, mixed with 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg. It was a little soft and sticky still, so next time I’ll follow a real recipe or add more flour.

Regardless, my gnocchi were still very tasty sauteed in chopped shallots, sage and Earth Balance.

Go huskies!

*This color combination will also work for LSU, the Minnesota Vikings, the L.A. Lakers, or any other purple and gold team. Or a unicorn-themed birthday party or something.

Tomato-squash pasta + zucchini gazpacho

Late summer is quite possibly the best time of year for vegetables. All the veggies people buy year round (but shouldn’t) are actually in season: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, bell peppers, and so on.

Farmers markets are my preferred place to pick up fresh, in-season produce. And if you think they’re too expensive, think again: a study from Seattle U shows that the farmers market in my neighborhood is cheaper than neighboring supermarket chains. Buying “seconds”– blemished or bruised (yet still tasty) produce– brings the cost down even further.

These recipes take full advantage of late summer’s bounty. One is from my head; the other from Edible Seattle– thanks to my coworker Neil for sharing.

Tomato and summer squash pasta
makes 2 servings or one large serving

  • 1 heirloom tomato
  • 1 cup grated summer squash
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Eden kamut-quinoa twists
  1. Blanch tomato in boiling water for 1 minute, then transfer to cold water (do not drain pot). Peel and chop.
  2. Add pasta to boiling water and cook 7 minutes or according to package directions.
  3. Heat oil in pan. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until brown. Add zucchini and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add chopped tomato, salt and pepper, and basil. Stir until juice evaporates a bit. Toss with hot pasta.

Creamy Herbed Zucchini Gazpacho (from Edible Seattle)
serves 4-5 (or 2 if you reduce the oil!)

  • 1 1/2 pounds small zucchini, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 2/3 cup onion
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving (I reduced this by about 75%)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
  1. Puree everything except for the water in a food processor (or Vita Mix).
  2. Add water to your desired consistency, season with salt and pepper if needed, pour into bowls, and drizzle with olive oil.
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