Tag Archives: Pasta

Vegan Across Missouri

I’m not naming any names, but a New York Times correspondent who called the Midwest a “vegetarian wasteland” was dead wrong, as exemplified by my recent road trip across the beautiful state of Missouri.  Before leaving Kansas City I had a lovely brunch with my Dad at Succotash.  I ordered the Vegan Kitchen Sink, a hearty hodgepodge of home fries, grilled portabellos, fresh spinach, the titular succotash, lima bean hummus, and fresh tomato slices.  This was the perfect thing before hitting the road: fresh but filling.

I also ordered coffee WITH soy milk!  And a fresh juice.  I chose the Ninja Sunrise: beets, carrots, ginger, and grapefruit.  Yum.

Dad was happy with their omnivorous options, but local vegans flock here.  I can’t wait to go back and try the vegan pancakes.  This former bar has a quirky charm with lots of local art on the walls.

That meal kept me satisfied for some time, but I did decide to stop at the halfway point of my trip for a sandwich and coffee.  Thanks to Google I had found Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe in Columbia, MO.

This is an all-vegetarian cafe with tons of vegan and gluten-free options.

I went with the TLT (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato).  It was nothing fancy but hit the spot.

Although the service could have been friendlier, this was a cute cafe with local art on the walls as well.  My favorite part was this weird cat guy photo montage.

I also got a yummy iced coffee with soy milk at Lakota coffee shop next door.  When I arrived in St. Louis I attended the bachelorette party of a good friend, and I was delighted to find that the hostess (who works in catering) had made special food for me!  There was a cheeseless pizza with lots of yummy veggies, including eggplant, zucchini, and roasted garlic.

She also made vegan brownies for dessert and vegan muffins for breakfast!  I loved what she said when I thanked her, “It wasn’t any extra trouble, especially since non-vegans can eat vegan food too!”  God bless her.

The next night we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant in St. Louis, called The Orient (the groom’s fave).  I ordered Tofu Spring Rolls:

…and also Lemongrass Tofu:

What I loved about this place was that the tofu was nice and crispy.

The same lady who hosted the bachelorette party also catered the wedding and made sure that I had a vegan meal of yummy pasta primavera!

There was a lot leftover too, which I took for the trip home.  It’s not hard at all to eat vegan in Missouri, especially when you have thoughtful friends like I do.


Spaghetti Bolognese

This week I was craving a nice, comforting bowl of pasta.  I turned to an old favorite recipe for vegan bolognese sauce:


The secret weapon here is textured vegetable protein (TVP).  It provides a remarkably meaty texture and soaks up whatever flavored liquids you use to re-constitute it.  The soy sauce here gives it a dark color and meaty depth of flavor.  Best of all, TVP is a CHEAP source of protein.  It doubles in size when re-constituted, and a cup of dry TVP, at just over a dollar, is certainly cheaper than a pound of ground beef (and I seriously doubt that your family would notice the difference).

This time around I added a stalk of celery along with the other veggies; I used one tablespoon of Italian seasoning in place of the herbs listed; and I subbed a can of Trader Joe’s Marinara sauce for the crushed tomatoes + tomato paste.  Mushrooms would be a good addition.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil: $0.05
  • 1 onion: $0.25
  • 1 carrot: $0.08
  • 1 stalk celery: $0.12
  • 2 garlic cloves: $0.10
  • Italian seasoning: $0.15
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes: $0.05
  • 1 cup textured vegetable protein: $1.08
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce: $0.18
  • 1 cup vegetable stock: free (homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast: $0.30
  • 1 (28 ounce) can marinara: $1.79
  • ½ cup fresh parsley: $0.59
  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti: $1.39

=$6.13/6 generous servings


Can you imagine how much you would pay for this big plate of pasta in a restaurant?

Enjoy with a glass of red wine.  It pairs well with a cheap merlot, like 2-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s

Also, here’s an old photo from when I first made this a couple of years ago:

It’s a photographic dish, and it tastes even better than it looks!  Buon appetito!

Nine-A-Day Salad

I don’t normally use a recipe when I make salad, but it’s definitely worthwhile in this case: http://www.food.com/recipe/nine-a-day-salad-382136

This salad is chunkier and heartier than what I usually come up with on my own.  It’s a real crowd pleaser, my go-to salad for parties/potlucks, so I knew exactly what to do when my Aunt Julie asked me bring a salad for a family dinner.

I always double the recipe for a crowd.  This time around I used tarragon instead of basil, doubled the olive oil (oh yeah!), and used one whole yellow bell pepper instead of two different colors.  I also subbed sunflower seeds for the almonds because that was what I happened to have.  I like to let it marinate in the dressing for a couple of hours before serving.  Everybody always asks me, “What kind of dressing did you use?”  and I take pleasure in responding, “homemade.”  The truth is, though, that vinaigrette is super, super simple to throw together.


  • 4 tablespoons cider vinegar: $0.32
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice: $0.24
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon: $0.02
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano: $0.02
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped: $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon salt: $0.01
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil: $0.20

=$0.91 for about five ounces of salad dressing or $0.18/ounce

Newman’s Own dressing is $3.99/16 ounces on their Web site, or about $0.25/ounce.


  • 2 cups broccoli florets: $0.90
  • 1 yellow bell pepper: $1.26
  • 4 slices red onions: $0.12
  • 1 can chickpeas: $0.89
  • 1 cup carrot, sliced: $0.16
  • 1 zucchini, sliced: $0.70
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced: $0.50
  • 16 cherry tomatoes: $0.66
  • 4 cups spinach: $0.99
  • 4 tablespoons sunflower seeds: $0.16

=$7.25 for a gigantic bowl of salad with dressing/7 servings

= $1.04/serving

…or I imagine it could feed 4 people as an entree, which would be $1.81/serving.

Julie set up a pasta bar, which was a fun idea.   She had different fresh chopped veggies and meats set out and let each person make a bowl of raw ingredients, which she sauteed, then added pasta and (choice of red or white) sauce: kind of like a Mongolian barbecue restaurant!  She very thoughtfully cooked mine first to avoid meatamination.
I chose garlic, red onions, yellow squash, and two(!) kinds of mushrooms.  She also made yummy garlic toast.
It was fun to catch up with the ladies over some comforting food.

Presto Pesto Pasta

Pesto is one of my favorite things, but it can be expensive to make.  I used to have giant basil plants in my backyard (when I had a backyard), but now that I live in an apartment (and my container basil plants died), I have come up with some other solutions to make pesto on a budget.

1). My local farmer’s market had huge bunches of basil for only $1 a piece last week.  Buying local produce in season is almost always cheaper.

2).  Pesto freezes really well.  Make a big batch during the summer bounty and then freeze some for winter.  I had a friend whose mom used to freeze it in ice cube trays, making it nice and easy to re-heat as much or as little as we wanted.

3).  When you don’t have access to a whole bunch of nice, fresh, seasonal, cheap-o basil, buy the expensive little clam-shell container at the grocery store and then supplement it with fresh baby spinach.  It will still be delicious and extra nutritious too.

4).  Trader Joe’s has cheap pine nuts.  If you can’t make it to a Trader Joe’s or you want to save even more money, you can substitute any type of nuts.  Walnuts and almonds both work really well.  I haven’t tried raw sunflower seeds yet, but I bet those would be good.

Now here is my recipe for Presto Pesto Pasta:

Boil water for pasta.  Meanwhile, throw the following into your food processor or blender and process until smooth:

  • 2 cups baby spinach (tightly packed)
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (or other nuts)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional: a good substitute for Parmesan cheese and a source of vitamin B12, usually available in the bulk section of health-food stores)
  • salt/pepper to taste

You can make the pesto ahead of time if you prefer.  In fact, it is better to give the flavors time to “marry.”

Also meanwhile, sautee:

  • 1/2 pound sliced portabello or cremini mushrooms in
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil.

When your water comes to a boil add:

  • 1 pound rotini (or any short pasta: gemelli, ziti, or orecchiti would all be good).

Toss the pasta with the mushrooms and pesto.  Before serving, sprinkle with:

  • sliced sun-dried tomatoes (or roasted cherry tomatoes would be nice).  This was Kate’s idea.  Or possibly Erin’s.  One of the two.  Either way, bravo, girls.  It really adds an extra dimension.

You can also garnish with extra pine nuts and/or basil.  In fact, feel free to add anything else you like.  Artichoke hearts or olives would be good in this.

  • 2 cups baby spinach: $1.00 (at farmer’s market)
  • 1 handful fresh basil: $0.25 (at farmer’s market)
  • 5 garlic cloves: $0.25 (at farmer’s market)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts: $1.99 (at Trader Joe’s) + extra for garnish = another $1
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil: $0.25 (at TJ’s)
  • juice of 1 lemon: $0.33 (at TJ’s)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast: $0.50 (at local health-food store)
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms: $1.99 (at TJ’s)
  • Pasta: $1.99 (at TJ’s)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: $1.99 (at TJ’s)

=$11.54/6 generous servings = $1.92/serving

Can you imagine how much a big serving of this pasta would cost in a restaurant?

By the way, the leftovers are really good COLD!