{Vegan} Asparagus and Sweet Pea Fettuccine Alfredo | With White Wine and Lemon

Our new house is proving to be the gift that gives on giving in the faulty appliance department. It started with the archaic beast of a cathode ray tube TV we dragged in from the shed when we first moved in; our initial plan was to put this relic to use until we could retrieve our flat screen from the storage locker. Evidently the years it spent mouldering out back proved to be too much for this already obsolete goggle box, for upon plugging it into the wall it began scrolling itself (!?) through various static-y channels before going completely dark, presumably forever. As we aren’t avid enough fans of TV to attempt to trouble shoot and repair such an ancient piece of technology, the next day it was dispatched to the local waste disposal station along with the teal wall-to-wall carpet ripped up from the bedroom floor.

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I won’t reiterate the problems we were having with our screwy toilet and besides, a toilet doesn’t really count as an appliance. I will mention briefly that those issues seemed to have resolved themselves, something which has had a surprisingly significant impact on my personal quality of life index; being able to flush and be done with the matter is pretty awesome! The next piece of appliance drama came in the form of a humongous ball of fluff – possibly years worth (seriously, I could have made a throw pillow out of it ) – extracted from the lint trap in the dryer. That’s it. The real drama played itself out in my brain, where the fluff ball caught ablaze and burned the whole house down while we slept. Morbid thoughts! My inner neurotic always has a field day with potential hazards.

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The most recent appliance debacle occurred just a couple days ago and nearly toppled my plans to make this moreish pasta dish. In the midst of reheating some food in the oven I noticed a few wisps of smoke rising from behind the stove. This wasn’t merely ‘burning food’ smoke (which would have freaked me out enough), but the far more menacing, hot and plastically, ‘electrical component failure’ variety. I switched off the oven and started panicking a little – not like the time flames leapt into the air when I threw a bunch of kale into a skillet containing overheated olive oil, that was out-and-out hysterics – but panicking enough. Mike (an electrician by trade, hallelujah) was summoned from the front lawn and was able to quickly ID the problem (something with one of the connections in the wiring) and fix it – and in so doing put an end to sinister thoughts of preparing this dish in the microwave.

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Alas, I’m back with yet another cashew cream sauce recipe. I can’t help it – the stuff is just so versatile and delish I want to throw it into everything these days! There’s a fun little game I’ve been playing with Mike – I call it ‘vegan bombing’ and it involves feeding him vegan dishes and seeing if he’s able to discern the absence of eggs and dairy products. My cashew cream recipes, I’m proud to report, ALWAYS pass the test! What’s more, they don’t leave you with that depressing ‘I just consumed my weight in butter and cream’ feeling with which conventional cream sauces probably leave you. I don’t know about you, but white wine alfredo sauce totally makes me think of the 80s – you know, yuppies yucking it up on yachts, Hall and Oates, gigantic shoulder pads, stuff along those lines of cocaine – but I love it all the same! Combined with fresh asparagus, sweet green peas and lemon, it’s like a mouthful o’ Spring 🙂

What is your favourite way to cook asparagus? I’m always looking for new ideas!

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Recipe: Asparagus and Sweet Pea Fettuccine Alfredo | With White Wine and Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain cashews (+ water for soaking)
  • 225g fettuccine pasta (or your choice of gluten free pasta)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (I used low sodium broth)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup sweet green peas (thawed if using frozen)
  • 12 thin asparagus stalks, tough ends removed
  • 1/3 cup white wine (I used Pinot Blanc)
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place cashews in a small bowl and cover with water. Let soak for an hour. Drain and rinse.

2. Place soaked cashews and vegetable broth in a blender or food processor. Blend for two minutes or until cashews and broth form a smooth liquid. Set aside.

3. Fill a medium skillet with cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Add asparagus and reduce to a simmer. Let asparagus cook just until bright green and tender crisp (this should only take a minute or two). Immediately drain asparagus and transfer to a bowl of ice water (this will ensure asparagus doesn’t over cook).

4. Once asparagus is cold, remove from water and cut into 1″ pieces. Set aside until needed.

5. Cook fettuccine according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain and rinse. Set aside until needed.

6. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute just until garlic is golden brown.

7. Reduce heat slightly. Sprinkle flour into skillet and whisk continuously until a smooth paste forms.

8. Slowly pour cashew and broth mixture into skillet, whisking continuously until everything is incorporated and a smooth, creamy sauce forms.

9. Stir in wine and lemon zest. Taste sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.

10. Fold in pasta, peas and asparagus.

11. Serve immediately, topping each portion with freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

I broke the hot news in my previous post that we’re finally out of the RV and living in a real house – as in, one that sits on a foundation and has a front and back yard. We’re just getting started with the renovations – ripping up the carpets in the bedrooms, updating the bizarro apricot and teal bathroom, and sanding the walls to remove the faux ‘suede’ finish fancied by the previous owners. Does anyone remember this type of paint from the late 80s (or possibly early 90s)? If not, consider yourself lucky. And by the way, if you’ve never attempted it, sanding paint is the dustiest endeavour known to man!

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Despite the dishevelled state of the house I’m having no trouble adjusting to life outside of the RV. I finally have a washer and drier at my disposal, so I no longer have to drag my laundry to a public facility like I did at the trailer park – often through the rain or snow, the horror – squirming child in tow. Plus I’ve quit hoarding change like an old lady for the machines. I’m also enjoying being able to shower without fear of the hot water running out before I’ve rinsed the shampoo out of my hair (the hot water tank in the RV only allowed for a 6-7 minute shower), and having a toilet that flushes into the ground and not a stinky tank that needs to me emptied with a pull of a lever. And best of all, little Hunter now has more space to move around and bigger cupboards to hide from me in.

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I’ve been so preoccupied with scrubbing the house that I’ve fallen a bit behind on posting recipes here. This gravy has the vast honour of being the very last thing I made for the blog before we moved out of the RV last week. Admittedly, the shiitake mushrooms that went into the gravy were meant for this soup recipe, but somehow they made their way to the back of the fridge, where they remained unnoticed and hence unused. I noticed them back there the next day and after feeling momentarily flabbergasted that I’d left them out of the soup, set about devising a plan to put the evasive fungi to use!

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At first I considered simply throwing the shiitakes in a stir-fry, but in the end decided to indulge my obsession with cashew cream yet again and use them to concoct a gravy. Yes, I’ve been talking a lot about cashews lately, possibly too much. My obsession started off savoury here with a roasted red pepper cashew cream sauce, then took a sweet turn here with a vanilla cashew cream. Now that I’ve made this gravy, I’m thinking I should become a professional matchmaker – shiitakes are a wonderfully flavourful mushroom and meld perfectly with cashew cream to form a marvellously rich-tasting gravy. As you can see, I used the gravy to jazz up a simple bowl of steamed vegetables, but you could put it on top of just about anything – mashed potatoes, soba noodles, grilled tofu, you name it. It would also make a fantastic dipping sauce for roasted potato or yam wedges!

Recipe: Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain cashews (+ water for soaking)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (I used low sodium broth)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Place cashews in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 2 hours. Drain, rinse and set aside until needed.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute just until golden brown. Add sliced mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are cooked all the way through. Remove from heat.

3. Place cashews and vegetable broth in blender and pulse until completely smooth.

4. Transfer mushrooms from skillet to blender and pulse until ingredients are blender together. (If you prefer a chunkier gravy, blend for less time.) Taste and adjust with salt if necessary.

5. Transfer gravy to back to skillet and warm through over low-medium heat, stirring often.

Serving ideas: Ladle gravy over steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, brown rice – or whatever you like!

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Bumbleberry Breakfast Lentil Bowl | With Vanilla Cashew Cream

All my talk of cocktails in my ‘Bloody Mary’ Tortilla Soup post gave me the urge to splurge on new (to me) vintage tiki mugs. I’ve thought better of purchasing anything beyond the basics since we moved into the RV – simply because there is nowhere to put anything. But now that we’re moving out of the Gypsy Roller and into a real house (next week hopefully!), I’ve given myself permission to acquire a few new tchotchkes. On the recommendation of my blogger buddy GiRRL_Earth – herself a 1950s vintage hound – I went shopping on Etsy, which turned out to be a great source for tiki stuff – although many sellers, to my dismay, don’t ship to Canada. After much perusing and ogling I finally settled on this guy. From there I went over to Ebay and picked up this fierce twosome. Once they arrive in the mail I plan on busting out the Polynesian tunes and celebrating with a Mai Tai or two.

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Anyway, on to the food. When I posted my Fragrant Breakfast Lentil Bowl with Apples, Golden Raisins and Indian Spices back in October I wasn’t sure how it would go over. For most people in the Western World lentils are mostly the stuff of stews, soups and chilli; in other words, we generally don’t consume them before noon. So while I really enjoyed the recipe, I didn’t expect anyone to join me on the lentils-for-breakfast bandwagon. But surprisingly (to me, anyway) this recipe gets viewed far more than anything else I’ve posted to date! Rather than a breakfast lentil bowl being an whacko idea, it looks like I was on to something!

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Given the relative success of my first lentil bowl, I figured it would be neat to come up with a completely different version. Like the original recipe I use red lentils, which are more tender when cooked than other lentil varieties and have a shorter preparation time. In the new version I incorporate the flavours of a bumbleberry pie – juicy blueberries and strawberries, sweet apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a touch of brown sugar. If I’d had blackberries on hand I would have included these as well. Next time!

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I must admit I’m on a cashew-cream kick, having figured out recently how easy it is to make the stuff. My last recipe featured a savoury version, and at the risk of committing cashew-cream overkill I whipped up a sweet version and used it to top my bumbleberry lentil bowl. It functions much like a dollop of vanilla ice cream – but without the guilt that might result from eating ice cream in the morning. The lentil bowl is tasty in itself, but I highly recommend you try it with the cashew cream. It’s a simple recipe and can be prepared the night before.

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Tip: If the concept of lentils for breakfast is just too weird for you, you could easily make this recipe using old fashioned rolled oats. Just reduce the cooking time a little.

Recipe: Bumbleberry Breakfast Lentil Bowl | With Vanilla Cashew Cream

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

For Vanilla Cashew Cream:

  • 1/2 cup plain cashews + 1 cup water for soaking
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Tiny pinch of salt

For Lentil Bowl:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + more to serve (optional)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 apple (I used an Ambrosia), peeled and grated
  • 1 cup mixed berries (thawed if using frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

Prepare vanilla cashew cream: Place cashews and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Place in fridge and let soak for two hours. Drain cashews and transfer to blender along with remainder of ingredients. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the edges of blender with a spatula as needed. Set aside until needed.

Prepare lentil bowl: Place berries in a small bowl and toss with brown sugar and lemon juice. Set aside. Place lentils, grated apple, almond milk, water, spices and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed and lentils are tender. Gently fold in berries and let warm through – a couple of minutes.

Serve, topping each portion with a dollop of Vanilla Cashew Cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or brown sugar. Eat!

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