Vegan Master Marinara


Ahhhhh, another glorious Indian Summer day in West Michigan! Or is it Native American Summer now? I can’t keep up. Either way, it’s a beautiful rainy fall day, and it brings to mind a beautiful people.

I have had so many thinks about which recipe to post next!  So far, the hardest thing about being a recipe blogger is just getting everything in order. Not only am I easily…

…Wait, it seems weird to say “ A beautiful people”… Is it singular or plural?  It is grammatically acceptable, no matter how stilted, because technically, “people” refers to a group or nationality, and is therefore singular …

… distracted, but my brain is so full of ideas and recipes  (not to mention grammatical ponderings) that I have to force myself to take a step back, breathe, and just concentrate on one thing/think at a time. I’ll refrain from using that old colloquialism about eating an elephant one bite at a time, because vegan. And also because eww. Elephants are herbivores too, you know, and get a load of their “canines”!  Plus, any female anything who endures a whole year of pregnancy deserves the utmost respect, in my book.  

I was making dinner last night when it hit me. Not dinner, an idea.  Brian wanted spaghetti, so I checked the pantry for ingredients. I had 2 big cans (thank you, doctor!) of tomatoes, so I decided to make a double batch of sauce. I also had two beautiful red bell peppers, so on second think, I decided to split the double batch and make one half roasted red pepper/tomato sauce. You won’t believe how easy it is to do this!

Sauces have always been one of my specialties. They’re way easier to veganize than I thought they would be, with the exception of cheese sauces.  Those can be done right, but it takes a certain flair. This sauce is so simple to make and so versatile!  I will follow up this post with a couple recipes that feature this marinara. It will probably become a staple in your rotation; it freezes really well and is great to have on hand when you’re short on time.

Like the stick-shaking scenario in my Pumpkin Apple Spice Muffins blog, I wondered about the origin of the word “marinara”.  I knew it had something to do with the sea, but further research left me wanting.  I do know it’s from the same root word as mariner (sailor) and marinate (steep or pickle in liquid). So let’s just say a drunken Italian sailor invented it sometime in the late 1600s and get down to business.  Just as I’m sure he did. Mama mía!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • ½ cup red wine (or 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup vegetable stock

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on med-high heat. Add onions and cook for one minute. Turn the heat down to med-low.  Add the basil, salt, pepper, sugar, oregano and crushed red pepper and stir together, coating the onions, about another 3 minutes. This will not be pretty, but it will smell heavenly! I like to cook my spices along with the onions and garlic so a little of their bitterness cooks out (Yes you, oregano. You know how you get).  Hit it with the minced  garlic and let cook for one more minute.
  2. Add the tomatoes (undrained), tomato paste, wine or vinegar, and stock. Stir all ingredients well.
  3. Turn flame down to the lowest flicker.  Cover your pan with a tight-fitting lid and then walk away like you just don’t care. Like that mariner probably did.
  4. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Let it simmer at least 30 minutes (an hour is better, if you’ve got it, but 30 will do).

If you like your sauce slightly chunky, you’re done!  If you prefer it smooth, use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to puree until smooth and creamy. I cannot recommend an immersion blender enough.  Such a time-saver.

That’s it!! There’s your master sauce.  If you only want tomato sauce, this will be enough for two meals (about 3 ½ cups). If you want to make both, here’s what you do:

Pour half the sauce in a bowl. That marinara is on leave and can go chill while we make the red pepper sauce. The only additional ingredient you’ll need is two red bell peppers.

Before beginning the master recipe, heat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly oil it. Turn each pepper on its side and place on baking sheet and into the oven. Let them roast for 20 minutes, flip over and let roast 20 more. If the skin is charred and the peppers look like they’ve collapsed in on themselves, you’ve done it right!

Now put them in a bowl, cover them with plastic wrap and let them hang out whilst the tomato sauce is simmering.

Once cool, peel off the plastic wrap and remove charred skin, seeds and stems.  They should look a little something like this:

Now add the peppers and their juices (the preciousssss) to the remaining tomato sauce. Blend until smooth.

That’s it!! You now have two delicious homemade sauces to go with pasta, ratatouille, OR……….

How about soup two ways?

That’s right. All you have to do is add 1 tablespoon of vegan butter and half a cup of nondairy milk to either sauce (or both) and voila!  You’ve got a couple of hearty soups!  This time around, I turned the roasted red pepper sauce into a soup, and used the marinara to go with my lasagna roll-ups. Yum!  I will be blogging those next, including how to make the best vegan ricotta.

Until then, me swabbies, anchors aweigh!

Aaaaaaand… now I’m craving pasta and Gene Kelly movies.

Buon appetito!

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Vegan Pumpkin Apple Spice Muffins

After lots of thinks, I decided my first recipe should be simple, versatile, and yummy (obvs).  These muffins are perfect for a quick breakfast, portable snack, or alongside any of the soups/stews I will be posting in the very near future.

No one would ever (nor does ever) guess these are vegan muffins!! They are light and airy, and at the same time, the apples give them a heartiness that is so satisfying. Here in Michigan, apples are a big deal.  We are the nation’s third largest producer, with more varieties than you can shake a stick at, whatever that means. I should look that up.

Okay, I just looked it up. There were stories of the saying’s origin taking place in various English pubs, tales of Native Americans in battle, and even a yarn about a shepherd and his flock. It’s all conjecture, really. My money’s on the pub story. Picturing Brits drunkenly shaking sticks for unknown reasons is the most fun scenario, by far. 

So in actuality, at last count, Michigan has roughly 18 different varieties of apples. I use them in savory dishes as well as for desserts, and I almost always lean toward the more tart. In this recipe, I usually use Fuji.  I know it’s a Japanese apple (and city, and camera), but we actually grow it here now and it’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet, not to mention its harmony with all those spices… Fall personified. Except muffins aren’t people, so … Fall muffinified.

All right. I just ate one.  My description was just too much.

These muffins come together so quickly, and are sure be a new favorite! I promise, you’ll be making more batches of these than any Cockney Carouser could shake a stick at. 

Note: When I say flour, I am referring to all-purpose. When I say sugar, I am referring to granulated. If you would like to substitute in gluten-free, whole wheat, etc., or cane sugar in place of granulated (which I often do), that’s great!  Different flours do produce  different textures, so just a heads-up on that.

Also, how cute is that elephant mug?  Scored that at a local thrift shop for $2.99!

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 large, tart apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine first eight ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix well. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla, milk and oil. Fold in apples.
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and fill each about 2/3 full.
  3. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
  4. Makes one dozen muffins
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Vegan Curried Root Vegetable Bisque with Cinnamon-Ginger Pepitas

Fall in Michigan is truly a natural wonder.  It’s almost a clichè, with its trees clothed in their royal robes of red, orange and gold, shedding a flamboyantly autumnal path for you to swoosh (and later crunch) through…

Cider mills are milling, pumpkin patches are patching, and I am souping.

Maybe it’s the brisker climate that does it to me, but every fall, without fail, I go into soup mode.  I make soup year-round, but there’s just something about autumn that compels me to make it more often.  It’s a very harvest-y food.  It’s also a universal food.  Think about it… Every culture in the world eats soup.  It’s inexpensive and comforting and filling. It’s a great way to make the most of your leftovers. It’s also so forgiving (Thank you, soup, for absolving me of my cooking sins… I genuflect at your tureen…)!  What I mean is,  you can put your own twists on a basic or classic recipe to customize it to your liking.  My jeans should be so forgiving.

This is one of those recipes that allows you to mix and match your favorite root vegetables.  I’ve never made it the same way twice!  For instance, I don’t do beets.  I just don’t get the whole beet thing.  So instead, I used carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga and squash.  Feel free to interchange your root veggies; just be sure everything is cut uniformly so it all roasts up evenly.

And if you do like beets and want to use them, we can still be friends. Just know that their juices will for sure turn your soup a hue somewhere between salmon (color, not fish, because vegan) and dubonnet.  Which is actually quite beautiful!  I wish I liked beets. I wish I didn’t think they taste like dirt and sticks and other stuff you’re not supposed to eat. I guess that makes me a beetist. Brian loves them, and I feel kind of guilty sometimes for not buying and preparing them for him just because I don’t like them. Then again, he can buy his own ding dang beets and make them his own ding dang self!  Don’t get me wrong… Brian wears the pants in the family.  I just tell him which ones to wear.  

Get ready for your kitchen to fill with the savory aromas of autumn, and ladle yourself up a big ol’ bowl of this rich, creamy deliciousness!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. assorted root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 butternut or acorn squash, about 2 lbs., roasted
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼  teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (alternately, you can roast 2 peeled, cored and cut up apples along with your vegetables)
  • 2-3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425. Place vegetables on a lightly oiled, foil-lined baking sheet and pour oil over. Season with a little salt and pepper, then gently mix it all together with your (obviously clean) hands so that all the vegetables are coated.

  1. If using butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise; for acorn, cut right across the middle. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. If using for pepitas, place in a bowl and fill with enough water to cover the seeds, add a dash of salt and let soak and place in a bowl; otherwise, discard.  Rub each squash half with a little oil and place open side down on another foil-lined baking sheet. Place both pans in the preheated oven.
  2. Cook for 30 minutes, turning the vegetables once halfway through. Continue to cook until tender and nicely browned, turning every 10 minutes. The squash may take a bit longer, depending on its size.
  3. While vegetables are roasting, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven on medium. Add onion, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, curry and pepper flakes, if using. Season with a dash of salt and a crack of black pepper. Cook until onion is soft and spices are fragrant, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add vegetable broth, milk and 3 cups of water. When vegetables are roasted and have cooled a bit, Add to the broth mixture. The squash should slip easily out of its skin (sassy squash) and can be chopped roughly and added to the pan. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and let cook about 20 minutes.
  5. Working in batches (or using an immersion blender, which I highly recommend), puree in a blender until smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, add water a bit a time until it reaches the consistency you like.

For the pepitas:  Dry completely. In a small bowl, toss together ½ tsp. each olive oil and maple syrup, 1/8 tsp. each cinnamon and ginger, and a dash of salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 325 for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand until cool.

Freeze soup in airtight containers, leaving 1″ of space, for up to 3 months.

Serves 6-8

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