Easy Peasy Spaghetti Pie

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Cashews are one of my favorite nuts, if only because they pop up in so many vegan cheese recipes. And with their rich, savory, vaguely cheesy flavor, it’s no wonder why. (Gawker even rated them the Second-Best Nut of All Time. “Cashew: A crescent moon of flavor / In the night sky of nut jars.”)

In addition to some pretty rad dried strawberries, Gourmet Nuts and Dried Fruit also provided me a five pound bag of raw cashews to play around with.

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Naturally, I made cheesy pasta!

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So I was first introduced to the concept of Spaghetti Pie by Tami Noyes, by way of her most excellent cookbook, American Vegan Kitchen. (Seriously, this is one of a handful of cookbooks that I can’t recommend highly enough.) Since then, I’ve encountered variations on this theme in a number of places. (See, e.g., Bake and Destroy by Natalie Slater.) Over time, I’ve plucked elements from each recipe and smooshed and mashed and cobbled them together to create a version that’s a) easy; b) mostly sticks to ingredients that I’m likely to have on hand; and c) is still super freaking delicious.

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Spaghetti pie (or cake, or whatever you want to call it) typically has a bottom layer of pasta (either plain or lightly coated with sauce), followed by a tofu-based, ricotta-like cheese (this is where the cashews come in!), and then topped with pasta sauce and either vegan mozzarella cheese or some other bake-able topping, such as breadcrumbs mixed with nutritional yeast. You can get as complicated as you want; for example, by hand-roasting red peppers and then simmering them in your own special red sauce for a full day beforehand. One of my favorite things about this recipe is its versatility: sure, you can go all gourmet when time allows – but if you’re in a pinch, swapping out the special sauce for store-bought stuff saves time time without sacrificing quality (well, not too much, anyway).

Without further ado, I present: Kelly’s Easy Peasy Spaghetti Pie. (Yeah, I know it’s hot out. Still worth it.)

(More below the fold…)

Strawberry Banana Banana Bread

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

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A page from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, just because.
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When the folks at Gourmet Nuts and Dried Fruit offered me some goodies for review, I jumped at the chance to try their dried strawberries. Along with the smell of wet dogs and chlorinated pools, nothing says summer quite like berries. Specifically, strawberries. And while these bad girls aren’t summer fresh, I thought they might just be perfect for baking.

The first thing I noticed upon their arrival is that they look much plumper than expected – kind of like the candied strawberries, minus all the extra sugar. They have a nice consistency, vaguely reminiscent of the fruit leather I make every fall.

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Since strawberry-banana is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations – and I just so happened to have three brown bananas chilling on the counter – I decided to whip up a loaf of my crowd-pleasing banana bread. In addition to diced dried bananas, it also has a wee bit of strawberry extract (totally optional but also totally yummy). For something different, swap out a few tablespoons of the sugar for strawberry syrup. Or just add it in to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s pretty great either way!

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Fwiw, the strawberries also go quite well in oatmeal – they’re a nice change of pace from my usual dried cranberries, and make an otherwise boring breakfast feel a bit more like junk food. (Remember those instant oatmeal packs you ate as a kid, with the dinosaur eggs? Yeah, like that!)

 

Strawberry Banana Banana Bread

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Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed well
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plain or vanilla soy milk, mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon strawberry extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
a dash of cinnamon
a handful of dried strawberries, diced

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Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 8″x4″ bread pan with non-stick cooking spray, or lightly coat with margarine.

2. Pour 1/4 cup soy milk into a small glass measuring cup. Add the 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix well and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugars. Add the wet ingredients – mashed bananas, soy milk, and vanilla and strawberry extracts – and mix well. Add the salt, cinnamon, and baking soda and sift in the flour, mixing until the batter is smooth and (relatively) creamy. Mix in the diced strawberries; toss in a second handful if desired.

4. Pour the batter into a prepared bread pan, evening out the top with a rubber spatula. Bake at 350F for 50 to 70 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf and your oven’s own quirks. You can check the bread’s progress by inserting a toothpick or knife into the loaf’s center; when it comes out clean and the top of bread attains a nice golden color, you’ll know it’s done.

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