We are all staying home and being safe and and therefore doing a lot more cooking in our own kitchens this year (right?) . So, as we head into the Fall and what will sadly most likely be the Second Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I thought I’d share some of the recipes that I have really loved or that have been on our meal plan on repeat since the beginning of the lockdown.
- First on my list is Oven Baked Falafel (Pass the Plants) because after almost 20 years of veganism and attempting to make falafel at home so many times that never seemed quite right, this recipe finally showed me what I had been doing wrong all along. Hint: and it wasn’t because it was baked instead of fried. Of course, you can’t serve falafel without tahini sauce and this recipe from Cookie and Kate also has a special tweak to it that makes it so much better than all the tahini sauce recipes that I’ve tried in the past. Here’s a photo from one of our homemade falafel nights this summer:
- We get a CSA share from Shared Harvest Community Farm in Dunnville and luckily for me, because kale is one of my favourite veggies, we have received a bunch in our share almost every week this summer. After trying and loving Cookie and Kate’s Super Kale Pesto recipe it ended up on our meal plan regularly throughout July and August. She suggests a few different types of nuts to use in the recipe, and I tried walnuts and hempseeds, and even though I am a huge hempseed fan (I put that sh*t in everything) I actually preferred the walnuts for this recipe. Since I’ve also been trying to eat more whole foods, I cut the olive oil down to 2 tablespoons. There’s plenty of good fat in the nuts and the addition of a bit of the warm pasta boiling water at the end liquefies it enough to toss with the noodles. (Speaking of noodles, if you haven’t already tried Chickapea pasta it is my new favourite. Costco sells large boxes of the penne for a pretty decent price.)
- I am so sad that I didn’t get a chance to make this recipe more than once this summer. We had a stockpile of zucchini from our CSA share and some from our own garden, but I only discovered this recipe right as we were getting down to the last few. The night that I made this Vegan Zucchini Gratin (Minimalist Baker) I just omitted the asparagus because we didn’t have any and served it with some quinoa with a bit of the extra vegan parm from the recipe tossed in. It was so good.
- There are a few cashew-based recipes on my list because after wanting one for over a decade, I finally bought myself a Vitamix when it was on sale at Costco a couple months ago. However, most of the recipes I’m sharing say that you can use a food processor or less pricey blender if you just soak the cashews overnight, including this Vegan Alfredo Sauce from Downshiftology. This is also great on Chickapea pasta, and if you still have leftover vegan parm from the Vegan Zucchini Gratin you can sprinkle a bit on top for even more yum.
- The PPK’s Everyday Pad Thai is a recipe I actually tried much earlier this year, but this is a 2020 list, not just a pandemic list, so it gets a spot on here. After I shared this recipe on Facebook an acquaintance who lived in Thailand for a while informed me that it is “nothing like real Pad Thai” but I don’t care. It’s really, really good and the simple ingredients and the detailed instructions that you get for cooking the tofu and vegetables make it easy enough for even a novice home cook to handle. (Just use a timer!)
- Unlike the last couple of pasta recipes (yes, I am now noticing how many pasta recipes made it on to this list, more on that later) this Tofu Spinach Lasagna (fetched from Peta.org) is what I’d call an “old school” vegan recipe from back when we just made our cheeses out of various types of tofu and nutritional yeast. In fact, I pulled it out of an 18 year old binder of recipes that I had printed out long before there were iPads and cool apps like AnyList that you can just import recipes to and pull them up on your phone. All that is to say, you can probably find yummier more authentic tasting lasagna recipes nowadays (I’m looking forward to trying this one soon) but for some reason this old standby was just the comfort food I needed during these strange times.
- My 13-year old daughter came across a few Tik Toks of teenagers making gnocchi and just like the slime fad of 2016 and the mug cakes in 2019, this was another thing she just had to try. Thankfully, as the recipe title suggests, it actually was pretty easy to make and also ended up being so much tastier than the vacuum packed store bought stuff we usually get. Here’s the link: Easy Homemade Vegan Gnocchi by The Curious Chickpea and below is a pic of our finished product. Can you guess which ones were made by me and which ones she made?
- When I first came across this Homemade Pizza Dough recipe by King Arthur Flour and saw how many steps there were and how many hours it was supposed to rise, even as an experienced baker, I was a bit daunted. But if you like thick-crust pizza that you can pile high with veggies without it collapsing into a pizza taco, this is the recipe for you. It is airy and light with a crispy bottom and can support a nice thick layer of sauce and a pretty unlimited array of vegetable toppings. (Also worth noting is that the rise times do seem to be a bit exaggerated, at least if you’re in a warm and humid climate like I am. I definitely did not do a 90-minute second rise, it was probably closer to 60 minutes maximum.)
- Another recipe that I found while looking for high-protein snacks and fun ways to use my Vitamix was this Chocolate Cashew Pudding (Mom’s Kitchen Handbook). I made a one important tweak which was to omit the chocolate chips in favour of frozen raspberries and for the milk I used soy or oat (I try to avoid almond). I posted a picture of my version on my Instagram but it really wasn’t that pretty so I’m going to skip including it a second time here.
- And of course no 2020 favourite recipe list would be complete without a recipe for homemade bread. Considering I still had most of a 20 kilogram bag of flour and an enviably large supply of active dry yeast leftover from the donut shop, I actually didn’t make homemade bread very often. But I did try a few new bread recipes out and this Rustic Italian Bread (For the Feast) was one of my faves. As you can see in the photo, I actually made it into big buns instead of a loaf (they were probably to serve with Sunday dinner) and dusted them with cornmeal on top. Just skimming the recipe again and it looks like it’s saying to hand knead it – there’s no way I did that – I would have put in in the mixer with the dough hook on medium speed for 3-4 minutes.
If this strikes you as a somewhat carb-heavy list that actually makes sense based on something new I learned this week at an online seminar by Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe. In her presentation (I found one similar to the one I watched on YouTube, you can and should check it out, here) she mentions a few ways to help reduce the increased stress people may be experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She suggests three things that help lower cortisol levels in the body: getting exercise, having a big messy, snotty cry, and eating carbohydrates. So go ahead and try these recipes, eat up those carbs, because if ever there was a time you need them, it’s probably now.