Italian Quinoa

There has been a long dry spell for my creativity in the kitchen.  I’m sure it’s been caused in part by my busy life and in part by my mental focus on creating a dessert for the up-coming Virtual Vegan Potluck (more on that soon.)  Overall, the family has been receiving old stand-bys on the table and some lazy versions of home cooked meals!

No wonder, then, my family just about licked the pan clean last night when I served this.  I was a bit surprised, because most of them aren’t big fans of sun-dried tomatoes and usually pick them out to toss onto my plate (which means I get tons more – yay!)  However, last night I didn’t get any extras on my plate!  None!  If I had known that, I would have put more in the recipe than I did.  I was informed it is a texture issue and these sun-dried tomatoes were soft enough for their palates this time.  Who knew?  Therefore, I wrote a scope of choice below for how many tomatoes you use.  The picture shows the quinoa with about 4 oz. of sun-dried tomatoes (approximately).  It would have been tastier with the larger amount and that is what I will do next time.

Italian QuinoaYou can switch a few things around in this recipe depending on what you have in your cupboards and refrigerator.  I didn’t have any fresh mushrooms, so I used canned, but either works.  If you prefer a stronger tasting olive such as Kalamata, then by all means, try those.  I’m the only one in this house who likes cooked bell peppers – of any color, so I didn’t toss any in, but those would be great here, too – either fresh or frozen.  (I figured I was pushing it by using the sun-dried tomatoes, let alone making it “worse” in their minds by adding peppers.)

Addendum:  You will need a large frying pan with lid or dutch oven.  Mine is 4-5 quarts!

Italian Quinoa

  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 2 Tofurkey Italian “sausage” links, diced (optional, or reduce)
  • 6-8 oz. frozen artichoke hearts (half a bag)
  • olive oil (may use oil from sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 4-8 oz. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 4 oz. can of chopped portabella mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives, sliced or quartered
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 c. water
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • soy parmesan “cheese”

Saute the onion, Tofurkey links, and artichoke hearts in just enough olive oil to keep them from sticking or burning.  As the artichokes thaw, they will put off some liquid that will help.  Once the onion is softening some and the artichokes can be mushed with the back of a spoon to break them up and distribute them a bit, add remaining ingredients, excluding parmesan “cheese.”  (Include some or all of the oil from the tomatoes for the best overall flavor.)  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle soy parmesan over the whole dish and stir in.  Serve with extra parmesan at the table.

Best served with cooked greens or a salad.

Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Spread

My husband isn’t a fan of sandwiches.  Actually, there are a number of food things of which he isn’t a fan.  It can make preparing food difficult if I cater to his tastes.  Thankfully, he’s not demanding about it and will quietly eat whatever is set in front of him (unlike my fussy eater…who should know better at almost 15.)  This was his favorite spread of the 3 that I made last week.

That being said, his favorite way of eating it wasn’t on a sandwich!  (No surprise there!)  He put it on top of leftover rice and heated it in the microwave.  Then after tasting it he said something about ketchup….*gasp!*  (I’m telling you, having a non-taster destroy finely-tuned “gourmet” dishes can do something to your psyche!  lol) I couldn’t bear it.  I said, “Here, give it to me.”  And disappeared into the kitchen.  There was half a jar of pizza sauce and some vegan mozzarella cheese leftover in the frig.  I topped the whole thing artfully with those items and reheated it all in the microwave.  Now you know why it was his favorite of the fillings ~ because it was more like a pizza casserole!  (Actually, it smelled wonderful heated up even before I embellished it.  It probably would make into patties or meatballs, or into a casserole situation very nicely.)

Nevertheless, this does make a marvelous sandwich spread.  I can say this not only because I like it so much, but because my fussy eater loved it ~ even though it does have sun-dried tomatoes in it!

If you use organic ingredients (as in any recipe), the results will be tastier.

Tofu Spread

  • 1/2 c. pecan meal (or very finely chopped pecans – you can do this in the food processor before you chop any of the other moist ingredients)
  • 1/4 of a large onion
  • 1 7-8″ stalk of celery heart, cut into several chunks
  • 14-16 oz. water-packed extra-firm tofu, rinsed and squeezed out some
  • 1/4 c. sliced or diced sun-dried tomatoes ~ oil packed
  • 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 c. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 T. nutritional yeast

Place pecan meal in a bowl.  Finely chop onion and celery in food processor.  Place in the bowl with the pecan meal.

Process remaining ingredients until sun-dried tomatoes are mostly in small pieces and tofu is not smooth, but evenly textured and well mixed with everything else.  (See picture.)  Scrape out into the bowl with pecan meal, onion, and celery.  Stir everything is evenly combined.  Chill for an hour or so to meld flavors.

Vegetable Tofu Penne

I should probably rename this recipe for the blog, because when I went to reach for my pasta in the cupboard, I discovered it wasn’t penne at all.  It was shells.  It’s not that penne and shells taste differently.  But the texture isn’t quite the same.  And ~ honestly ~ it doesn’t look as interesting with shells.  Oh, well.  Shells it is!

One dish meals are marvelous inventions.  However, if you end up with a crowd to eat this, just put a fresh veggie tray out with colorful produce and it will really make your table pop!

This recipe happened the first time because of what was pouring out of the garden!  Since then nobody wants me to wait until the peak of summer to serve it.  It’s best ~ and amazing ~ when you have fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and fresh basil (!), and raw spinach, and….oh, you get the idea.  Other veggies can show up in this, too.  I’ve used eggplant, broccoli, and asparagus, too.  Any way you fix it, though, it will make your taste buds happy.  Leftovers reheat in the microwave well, or you can eat it as a cold pasta salad if you are like me and my daughter (the guys head for the microwave.)

One note ~ not everyone loves sun-dried tomatoes.  I tried leaving them out, but the flavor wasn’t the same.  Even those who pawn their sun-dried tomatoes off on me after picking them out of their own serving complained that it didn’t taste as good without them.  So…even if you have to pick them out later, don’t leave them out.

Vegetable Tofu Penne

  • 1 lb. penne pasta (or other style)**
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 very large onion or several smaller ones
  • 2-3 lg. garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3-4 small zucchini, diced or quartered
  • 16 oz. firm or ex-firm tofu
  • Braggs liquid aminos
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, frozen chopped spinach, or leftover cooked spinach
  • 1 can portabella mushroom pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (not petite diced)
  •  ½ c. sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
  • 2 T. basil (more if fresh)
  • 1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Veggie (soy) Parmesan cheese or mozzarella style
  • salt to taste

In a large non-stick skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until a few pieces of onion are just beginning to brown.  Add zucchini and garlic; stir.  Heat water for the pasta to cook while you continue the next steps (toss in the pasta when you notice it boiling and cook according to directions on box – it should be ready when the vegetables are.)  Drain and then break up or dice the tofu and stir to the zucchini.  Squirt in some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, zig-zagging quickly back and forth across the skillet a few times.  Sprinkle the chicken-style seasoning across the tofu and stir until well distributed. If you are using fresh or frozen spinach and/or fresh basil, add at this time.  Wait a minute or two before adding the tomatoes and mushrooms, unless you are using leftover spinach. Toss in the rest of seasonings, stir in veggie Parmesan cheese to taste, and turn down the heat.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and combine with the veggies. Serve with extra veggie Parmesan.

**Since I wrote this recipe, manufacturers have ceased to fill their pasta boxes with 16 oz.  They now put in 13.25 oz.  The funny thing is that the boxes are still the same size.  So, buy 2 boxes and fill one of them to the top.  That will give you approximately the 1 pound box that the recipe calls for.  Or just use less pasta.  It’s your call.  🙂