Posts Tagged ‘easy vegetarian dinners’


I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love a bowl of pasta. I think the vast majority of us are engineered to love the stuff. In fact, I’m willing to bet that even those who have shunned all pasta, including gluten-free versions, still have fond memories of big bowls of the oh-so comforting food.

I’ve never been a big pasta eater since somehow I’ve always known deep down that it’s not the healthiest option. Or maybe it’s just that my Japanese mother cooked primarily with rice, and I just didn’t get a lot of face time (mouth time) with pasta until I recognized it for what it is. Let’s be honest, it’s a “carrier” food. At least that’s what I tell my kids. There’s nothing redeeming about the pasta itself, but it serves as an excellent carrier for all sorts of sauces. They get that, and that’s why they happily gobble up my spinach walnut pesto pasta.

This dish gives you all the flavor of pesto sauce, but with the added nutritional benefits of spinach and walnuts, and you get to enjoy pasta on top of it. It’s become one of our Meatless Monday favorites. I usually use a gluten-free capellini pasta made from organic brown rice, but rotini pasta holds the sauce really well, and that particular pasta shape is a favorite with most kids. I’m sure it’s not the same as traditional semolina noodles, but we’re so accustomed to it, that we don’t miss the old stuff.



2 large handfuls baby spinach

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (stems removed)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, extra if needed

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Squeeze fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or parm-reggiano blend)

Sea salt to taste

Fresh-ground pepper



Put the first six ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Note: The mixture typically isn’t liquid enough to blend down completely on its own, so I use the plunger tool for my Vitamix to make sure everything gets down into where the blades are spinning. You can add a bit more olive oil if necessary.

Spoon out into a medium bowl. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper and adjust to taste.

Cook pasta noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain. Top with sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.





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Last year, in our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint, we adopted Meatless Mondays. Now before you criticize me too harshly for claiming to love our planet while tucking into a juicy steak, I will say that even before our decision to abstain from meat on Mondays, we ate meatless meals regularly. But now I use the day to remind my children of our impact on the Earth, and to make sure they understand that while the four of us feel best including meat in our diet, we recognize we don’t need much, and we can enjoy days in which every meal contains only plants or their by-products.

This dish has become our Meatless Monday favorite. It has loads of flavor, gives you just the right sweet/salty balance, and it makes for a nice alternative to the roasted squash burritos I regularly serve up on Mondays. I confess it’s not the fastest meal to make. You can whip up the sauce in minutes, but pan-frying the tofu properly takes a bit of time. You might be tempted to short change this step, but don’t. When you take the time to get each side of each cube of tofu golden brown and crisp, it makes the texture perfect and the dish more delicious.

This recipe is from Budget Bites with just a slight adjustment from me.


Sauce ingredients

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp cornstarch


Stir fry ingredients

14 oz block extra-firm tofu

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp vegetable oil (I like to use avocado oil)

½ lb. broccoli florets or blanched green beans

3-4 green onions, sliced (optional)

4 cups cooked rice (sushi rice is my favorite with this dish)



Place a few folded paper towels a flat plate. Remove the tofu from its package and place it on the towels. Place more towels on top, cover with a second plate, and then weigh the top plate down with a few canned goods. Press the tofu for at least 30 minutes to extract excess water (refrigerate if pressing for longer).

While the tofu is pressing, prepare your rice according to the directions. Once the rice is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, brown sugar, rice vinegar, grated ginger, crushed garlic, sesame seeds, and cornstarch. Stir until the brown sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set aside.

Cut the pressed tofu into 3/4-inch cubes, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Sprinkle 1 tbsp cornstarch over the cubes, and toss to coat. Repeat with the second tablespoon of cornstarch, or until the cubes are evenly coated with cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over medium flame. Once hot, add 2 tbsp oil and tilt the skillet until the bottom is evenly coated with oil. Add the cornstarch-covered tofu cubes and let cook until golden brown on the bottom. Use a spatula to turn the cubes to an uncooked side, and cook until golden brown again. Continue this process until brown and crispy on all sides, then remove the crispy tofu to a clean plate lined with paper towels.

Add the broccoli or green beans to the hot skillet and briefly stir fry until slightly browned on the edges. Pour in the sauce and stir continuously until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken. (This happens very quickly.) Turn off the heat, add in the tofu cubes and toss to coat.

Serve the tofu and cooked greens over a rice, garnishing with sliced green onions, if desired.




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