SPICES IN THE VEGAN PANTRY
When I was little, our spice cabinet was my favorite part of the kitchen. I remember smelling and tasting each of the spices and spending hours experimenting, creating and coming up with new recipes. I loved the idea that something as small as a dash of nutmeg, for instance, could change the entire feel and taste of a dish. Years later, I’m still transported right back to my childhood whenever I smell or taste certain spices. During my teenage years and early twenties, my passion for spices was temporarily lost and replaced with a weakness for convenience food and simple dishes that required not much more than salt and pepper.
Going vegan, however, helped me rekindle my love for spices in a special way. With no access to vegan restaurants and not many ready-made plant-based dishes available, I had to start experimenting again. What I never realized while I still ate meat was that most of the dishes I loved were so flavorful and unique because of the sides, the spices and other condiments used, not necessarily the meat, eggs or cheese. I soon noticed that with the right mix, I was able to make dishes that had familiar flavors without having to rely on animal products. I also started coming up with new combinations and became more and more passionate about the process of cooking and creating.
For today’s recipe, I teamed up with Simply Organic, my favorite spice brand, to show you how to make an easy cheesy roasted veggie pasta bowl, without any cheese! The cheesy flavor comes from the spice-, veggie- and nut combination. Before sharing the recipe with you, however, I want to tell you a bit more about my favorite spices and why I believe they belong in every vegan kitchen.
MY SIMPLY ORGANIC MUST-HAVES
A few years ago, when I moved to New York, I had to start fresh and stock my kitchen once more. The first time I got Simply Organic spices, I got them mostly because I loved that they came in glass containers, making them more eco-friendly, and that the design was so simply elegant and beautiful. I ended up loving the taste and quality of the product, so from then on, the majority of the spices I bought were from Simply Organic. I later found out that Simply Organic is part of a member co-op that stands for ethical practices and sustainability. I love companies that give back and have a social mission, so I couldn’t have wished for a better company to collaborate with. Through the Simply Organic 1% Fund, more than $1.4 million has been donated worldwide as part of every single sale goes is used to create an impact well beyond the kitchen.
When it comes to the vegan kitchen “must-haves”, I would say that smoked paprika and nutritional yeast are my personal winners. Smoked paprika brings a slight barbecue-like flavor to dishes, immediately intensifying and, in my opinion, improving the taste. I use it in pasta sauces, spicy tempeh or lentil based dishes, as well as in dips. It is one of the spices I run out of most often because I use it so much. Nutritional yeast is the answer to any cheese loving vegan’s prayers. Its slightly nutty flavor is surprisingly reminiscent of some cheeses, in a very good way. It is often blended with cashews and a little water or lemon juice to add a “melted cheese” texture to the flavor, which is what you’ll find in today’s recipe as well. The runner up spice combo that I believe belongs in every vegan pantry is the minced onion and garlic powder duo. You can get them separately, but I use them together most of the time. You can add them to any vegetable-based dish, as well as soups, quiches, pizzas and so much more. The other four spices I use all the time are curry, chili, rosemary and cinnamon. I use curry in coconut milk based dishes and sides and chili in bean stews. Both spices have a very intense flavor, so it’s important to let them be the “star” of their dishes and to combine them with other spices that won’t overpower them, like a little garlic salt. Dried rosemary tastes amazing with roasted root vegetables. Paired with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, it’s perfection and simplicity at its best. Last, but not least, cinnamon is my go-to spice when I make sweet breakfasts like oatmeal, but I also use it in my homemade hot chocolate and in some banana based smoothies. It’s amazing when combined with vanilla extract as well!
If you’re new to veganism and/or are just starting to cook and create your own dishes and you feel a little intimidated by the huge selection of spices, the Simply Organic Spice Right Everyday Blends, like “All-purpose Salt Free” or “Pepper and More” are a great way to start.
WHEN TO ENJOY THIS RECIPE
This Cheesy Roasted Veggie Pasta Bowl is the perfect recipe for a chilly fall or winter afternoon or night. The great thing is that even though it includes mainly vegetables, it’ll satisfy any cravings for a savory dish and will make you feel full and warm right away. Our bodies crave nutrients, so feeding them plenty of plant-based foods that are full of vitamins and fiber is one of the best and healthiest forms of self care.
4oz whole wheat or gluten-free pasta of choice (dry weight)
1/2 small golden acorn squash
1/4 head (yellow) cauliflower
1/2 yellow squash
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 cup Brussels Sprouts, halved
1 golden beet, peeled
1/2 lemon, the juice
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup cashew milk
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 celery stalk
3 cups of kale
1 green onion
Spices and condiments:
1/4 tsp Simply Organic Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Simply Organic Garlic Salt
1/4 tsp Simply Organic Garlic Powder
1 pinch Simply Organic Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp cornstarch
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Chop the veggies (except for the kale, green onion and celery), line a baking tray with parchment paper, drizzle the olive oil and a 1/4 of garlic salt on top of the veggies and bake them for 40-45 minutes.
- About 10-15 minutes before the veggies are done, cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- In a high speed blender, blend the water, cashews, 1/3 cup cashew milk, roasted acorn squash, all the remaining spices and condiments, the green onion, lemon juice and celery until smooth.
- In a large pan, mix the kale and cheesy sauce and cook for 2 minutes at medium to high heat. Add 1/3 cup cashew milk, the roasted veggies and pasta to the pan, stir well and remove from the stovetop. Serve in bowls and top with a little more nutritional yeast and crushed red pepper.
- Instead of the cashew milk, you can simply use more water.
- Feel free to replace any of the vegetables with other vegetables. Sweet potatoes are a great substitute for the acorn squash.
- If you’re allergic to nuts, use 1/4 more acorn squash, 2 tbsp more nutritional yeast and 1 tbsp more cornstarch instead of the cashews (and water or soy milk instead of the cashew milk).
- If you’re allergic or intolerant to gluten, use rice pasta or quinoa instead.
- Since this recipe calls for 1/4 or 1/2 of certain vegetables, feel free to roast the entire vegetable and simply freeze the rest for later use. As an alternative, you can use them the next day to make soup or a veggie bowl with legumes.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Simply Organic. Join the Cook For A Change movement – explore new flavors, ideas and recipes that create change in the kitchen and in our hearts: www.cookforachange.com
All opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products I personally use and believe in.