Tag Archives: Pesto

Baked Potatoes with Pesto-Tofu Cream

This is from a cookbook called The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman, which was a belated Xmas present from my awesome friend Jesi. When I saw this particular recipe, I knew that I needed to try it ASAP.  It did not disappoint.  The tofu mixture has a creamy, comforting texture, and the fresh flavor of the basil is a lovely counterpoint to the earthy potato.

It makes enough to fill about 12 potatoes (more like 8 for me since I used less tofu), but the authors point out that you can also use it on sandwiches, pasta, or as a dip.  This is one of those things that tastes even better the next day, after the flavors have a chance to marry.

This is super easy to throw together.  Just grab a potato or two.  Stab it with a fork a few times.  Rub the skin with a bit of oil, and throw it in the oven at 375 degrees about an hour before you want to eat.  Meanwhile, blend in your food processor:

  • 19 ounces firm tofu (I used a 12-ounce box of firm silken tofu)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder (I omitted this because I was out)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar (I will omit this next time…I thought it was too sweet)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (I used dried)

Then cut your potato open and fill it with about 2 heaping tablespoons of creamy pesto deliciousness!

  • 12 ounces silken tofu: $1.99
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil: $2.50
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar: $0.32
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil: $0.20
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes: $0.02
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled: $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard: $0.04
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice: $0.25
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme: $0.05
  • 8 potatoes: $1.99

=$7.46/8 servings



Restaurant Review: Eden Alley

Last week our potluck plans fell through, but that meant that I got to go on a special date with my dear friend Kate.  We went to Kansas City’s all-vegetarian restaurant, Eden Alley.  Serving up homemade food in the basement of a local Unity church, this place has a quirky charm that is certainly welcome in a restaurant/shopping district that has become home to a steadily increasing number of chain restaurants over the past few years.

I usually try to order one of the specials.  This time I got the “Spinach-Walnut Melty,” a potato pancake, filled with spinach-walnut pesto, kale, and cheese (you can sub vegan cashew cheese for the “real” stuff in just about anything, which I did, of course), and topped with a chunky tomato sauce.

Kate ordered the Falafel Platter:

I definitely needed dessert, so we shared a slice of chocolate-strawberry cake.

The waitress apologized for the sloppy appearance: she had trouble getting it out of the pan, but it didn’t matter.  It was, of course, still delicious.

If you find yourself in Kansas City, go to the Country Club Plaza, but be sure to pass up The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s in favor of a much more unique dining experience at Eden Alley.

Our Korean-themed potluck is ON tomorrow, and it’s going to be quite the feast.  I can’t wait to share photos from that.


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!