Kid-Friendly Easy-Peasy Pasta (or the recipe that isn’t really a recipe)

I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve had fast-food anything in the past 10 years…but “fast-food”, that is to say, foods that can be prepared quickly, do have their place in our family’s meal repertoire.

With Guppy and Monsieur F. home every day for lunch, I try to keep things interesting, nutritious and affordable.  And quick.  While there are lots of  healthy and delicious things that I can whip up in just minutes, not all of them pass the Guppy-test, but this one does and it’s ready to eat in less than 30 minutes.

I’m not going to complain here : our daughter was the easiest kid in the world to feed for 4 years.  She’d eat just about anything from spicy lentil curries to tapanade.  She’d have her moments, but generally was very easy to please.  However, since turning 5 she’s gone into a more curious food-phase where she likes everything, sometimes.  One day she’ll love artichokes, the next will gag on them.  I let it go, because as my dear Mamafish would say, “if she’s hungry, she’ll eat.”, but it is still nice to see her clean her plate.  Broccoli, peas, spinach and mushrooms are still her top 5 foods, so I try to use them as often as possible, and will sub one of the above for the peas in this dish…but I didn’t want to lose the cute name and call it “Mushy-peasy Pasta” or “Easy-ccoli Pasta”.  But maybe I should?

Kids love me, you’ll see!

Easy-Peasy Pasta

For the child who doesn’t like rice or peanut butter & jelly sammies.

500 g whole-wheat pasta (mini-macaronis are our favourite)

Pot full of boiling, salted water

1/2 cup diced onion

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp non-dairy butter

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

3 tbsp soy cream, soy yogurt or non-dairy milk (in order of preference)

2 to 3 handfuls frozen peas, rinsed under hot water

1 or 2 diced meatless-dogs or sausage (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1) Prepare the pasta according to package instructions.

2) While the pasta is boiling, sautée the onion in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes or so.

3) Add the balsamic vinegar and set heat to low, stirring to keep the onion from sticking, then add the butter, soy cream and peas and stir until combined.

4) Drain the pasta and return to the pot, add the balsamic onion mixture and the nutritional yeast and stir until combined.  Add optional soydogs (if you’re in North America you can use Yves and I’m jealous!) and salt and pepper.

5) Youppie!  Eat a happy meal with your kidlet!

*I feel kind of guilty calling this a recipe, because it’s just pasta…but pasta with stuff, makes it fancier, right?

Vegan MoFo Day XXI : Cauliflower au gratin & Caluiflower alfredo sauce

Who would like a two-for-one meal?

It’s really easy.  Promise.  Make yourself some of this…

cauliflower au gratin

Just steam your cauliflower until tender, then put it into a baking dish and top with a double batch of your bechamel sauce (or just a simple batch if you’ve got a small cauliflower) and bake at about 200°c for around 20 minutes or until it’s browned and bubbly.  Serve up with a protein and maybe some green salad.

Now you’ve got yourself some left-over cauliflower, right?  What’s to do?  Make sauce, that’s what!

Just put your left-over cauliflower in your food processor and mix it up with an S blade.  You can add some dried herbs if you’d like, maybe some garlic salt…whatever. If you’d like to thin it out just add a little veg broth or water, but mine is usually just fine as is.

Now you’ve got some cauliflower alfredo sauce.  This stuff is really good, kids.  Monsieur Fish has a well-established mefiance towards anything remotely health-foodish, and he really enjoyed this.

Do you have a favourite way to use left-overs?

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to win some free-trade chocolate – you’ve got until next Thursday at midnight France time.

Vegan MoFo Day IV: Gratiné de coquillettes au potiron and easy béchemel

You’re not tiring of pumpkin yet, are you?  I’m truly not, and I am enjoying eating pumpkin daily.  In many industrialised countries, eating with the seasons has gone the way of the 8-Track.  Here in France, however, the seasons really dictate what we eat and when.  Thankfully the state of California doesn’t provide 80% of our produce (like, ahem, in some other countries), sadly however, imports are playing a larger role than before.

That being said, when I go to the local supermarché, the origins of all fruits and vegetables are clearly labeled, allowing people to make informed decisions about who they are supporting – multi-national food conglomerates, or local farmers.  I was wanting pumpkin so badly, and was frustrated that we wouldn’t have any fresh pumpkin a few weeks ago because it seemed that there was no pumpkin to be had.  Then, suddenly, a plethora of pumpkins appeared, and all of them grown in our village!

This is a very small village, so I’m guessing that the harvest came from more than one farmer.  I think it’s important to keep in mind that eating locally keeps the local farmers in business, in addition to local industry.  For example, about 10 minutes drive from here we have a company that makes candies, jams and other foods – and from local ingredients when possible.  Buying local means more local jobs, which means less economic uncertainty and unemployment, and this of course means happier homes, marriages and in turn, kids. Le boucle est bouclé.  All that from a pumpkin.  Wow.

So we’re eating pumpkin.  We’ll be eating pumpkin for quite a while, probably until we’re sick of it – and that will be at the end of the season.  We do the same thing for asparagus, cherries, apricots…even the figs that grow in our garden and grace us with two harvests.  Eating with the seasons means really getting your fill of vitamins, minerals and flavours, then going on to the next (ripe) thing. This was what nature intended, and why she allowed us to grow tired of our favourite foods – so that we wouldn’t miss them right away when they were gone, and so we would crave them when they were in season again!

I do realise that I’m preaching to the choir here, as most of my readers do follow the seasons, but I think it’s important to rationalise why I’m getting so crazy with the pumpkin recipes, after all, many of you are new here! Welcome! Of course I’ll be freezing some pumpkin, but my stocks never make it past New Year’s Eve.

Gratiné de pâtes au potiron or Baked pumpkin pasta au gratin

Sounds sexier in French, n’est ce pas?


1 recipe Easy Béchamel sauce

250g whole wheat pasta of choice (we used coquillettes, but any small pasta works)

1 large onion, diced

1 tbs olive oil

2 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (we love garlic, but it might be too much, so use 2!)

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tbs dried parsley

2 cups fresh pumpkin purée (canned will work, but whiz it in the food processor with a 1/4 cup water before adding to pasta)

1 cup frozen peas, rinsed under warm water to get icky frosty freezer taste away

salt and pepper to taste

Set your water boiling for the pasta, and follow package directions.  Strain, return to the pot and set aside.

Heat a skillet and sautée onions until translucent, then add garlic and sautée for about 3 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Add cumin, parsley, pumpkin and peas and stir for about a minute.  Turn off heat, carefully taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the pasta and stir until combined, then pour into an oven safe baking dish.

Now make your béchamel! There are more béchamel recipes out there than I can count (and I can count really high!), so just google béchamel, or look in your favourite cook book.  Or use this recipe, one of the first recipes I learned to make. Ever.

Wait! Before you begin your sauce, pre-heat your oven to 200°c/395°F!

Easy Béchamel Sauce

2/3 cup non-dairy milk (I use soy)

1/4 cup non-dairy butter (I use St. Hubért Bio)

1 to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (AP works, too.  So does brown rice flour.)

Pinch ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  When melted, lower heat and whisk in flour until it’s well combined.  Continue whisking while slowly adding the milk, a little at a time, to avoid making lumps.  Once it’s combined, continue stirring and turn the heat back up to medium.  The béchamel will thicken as you stir, if it’s not, turn the heat up a little more.  When desired consistency is reached, remove from heat and add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Now gently pour béchamel over your pasta, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is lightly browned in spots.  Let cool a little so you don’t burn your tongue.  Yippie!