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Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Can I have a car air freshener in Shepherd’s Pie??  For Shirley’s birthday, my boss decided we’d all make an ethnic food and share during lunch.  There was everything from Thai food to Polish to my Irish Sheppard’s Pie (mutilated, as Brandon says, because I made it vegetarian and it is usually rich with meat).

You should buy:

  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 ounce portabella mushrooms
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, and cut into large dice
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp. sage leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

With a whisk, whip together the cream of mushroom soup, your choice of dry red wine (I used a cheap brand, but the addition of wine really perked up the adult taste buds), tomato paste and flour. When the liquid is creamy and smooth, set aside for some time to let the flavors meld.

Chop up your potatoes and place in a large, covered, boiling pot of water.  Cook until they almost fall of a fork when poked, about 20-30 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add in a handful of mushrooms (don’t overcrowd them, just enough to evenly cover the bottom of the pan) and cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are browned on both sides.  Place in a separate bowl, and then repeat until all of the mushrooms are completely browned.

Melt another tablespoon of butter in the now empty pan and toss in your onion, celery, garlic, carrots and seasonings. 

 Cook until the vegetables are soft and the onions become translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, mushroom broth mix to the pan making sure to scrape the sides of the pan and bottom to keep from burning. Simmer for 3 minutes.  Plop in the mushrooms and cook at a simmering stage until thick and darker maroon in color, approximately 8 minutes.

Strain the liquid from the potatoes and return to the pot.  

Mash together the potato chunks, 2 Tbsp. butter and cream with an electric hand mixer for about 5 minutes or until smooth and whipped. Season with salt and pepper.

In a pie dish, 9″ x 9″ baking dish or mini bread loaf pans, spread the vegetable mixture over the bottom.

On top, dot the potatoes all the way across to the edges.  Take your fork and sporadically dip in and out of the top of the potatoes to create little peaks and valleys. These will become a crunchy texture in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. The vegetable mixture may bubble, breaking the potatoes away from the sides.  If you like the top more crunchy and browned, turn on the broiler and heat for 5 more minutes.

I chose to cook this in disposable mini bread tins for the sole purpose of reheating them at lunch in the toaster oven. They fit perfectly.  I tossed them in the oven to cook before leaving for work and by lunch, they only needed about 5 minutes of reheating.  I drove all the way to work (just under an hour) to work smelling this deliciousness and somehow managed to dispel the urge to pop open a pie and dig in.  The mix made about 7 minis: one for my mom, two and a half for lunch, and three for people to take home.


Just the smell was enough to make someone do a happy dance.  The mushrooms (could have been chopped smaller) mixed with cream of mushroom soup helped to make a hearty, thick vegetarian version of this hodgepodge of a dish.  The potatoes fill your stomach right up, as Irish food is known for, and the butter and cream helped to flavor the bland starch some.  I used Lucky Duck Shiraz, a cheap wine, but it supplied the distinct, incomparable oomph necessary to make a meat dish turned vegetarian work.  The potatoes just melt in your mouth, and dissipate some of the saltiness of the cream of mushroom soup.


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Andrew’s Veg-Friendly Puttanesca Sauce

Andrew claims there is more than one vegetarian-friendly recipe in his repertoire, and I’m sure hoping because this recipe was out of this world.  Next time, the sous chef gets to help out with more than cutting the onion and garlic and stirring.

While at the store, pick up:

  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 jar Kalamata olives
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1 box Rigatoni
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (more for drinking)
  • 1 loaf of bread +butter and garlic

Start by prepping the onions, mushrooms and garlic by roughly chopping. 

Sauté the onion with oil for 2 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. 

Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.  Turn down the heat, toss in the garlic and cook until aromatic. 

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, begin cooking the pasta and sprinkle in a little sea salt to the water.

Pit the olives and slice a knife lengthwise through the batch a few times for a chunky chopped look. 

Heat them in the sauté pan for a few minutes.


Top with the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Stir until hot.


Drain the pasta, adding 1/4-1/2 cup of the starchy water to the sauce.  The starch will thicken it.  Continue stirring to it from splattering and sputtering all over the oven-top.  Pour in the wine, stirring for another minute or so.  Mix in the drained pasta and top with a few capers.

See my previous Garlic Bread recipe for the remaining ingredients.

Rigatoni holds little chunks of mushroom and olives inside its short tube whilst squishing out warm tomato sauce onto your taste buds with each bite.  The big globs of mushrooms and olives created a thickness and texture to the sauce, segregating it from bland store-bought Ragu.  Even though there is no meat in the sauce, the mushrooms create a smooth, unseasoned meat consistency and flavoring to the meal.  The olives, kalamata ones in particular, add in the salty twang (like the capers) with a meaty heartiness.  Paired with sweet, yet tart, acidic tomatoes, you end up with a well-rounded palate for dinner.  Don’t forget to add in a glass of wine and garlic bread.

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Broccoli-Carrot Pepper-Onion Asian Vermicelli

Mom was feeling better last night, finally, so I helped her cook this quick and easy dinner with an Asian flair.  If you don’t own a Wok I highly suggest buying one.


  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger
  • 4 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 cups cooked vermicelli
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Sriracha, for garnish

Start by chopping up all the vegetables and leaving them off to the side.  Heat up the Wok and add in the olive oil.  When the oil is hot and has that glazed shiny look to it, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.


Add the carrots, peppers, broccoli and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stirring occasionally to keep the veggies from sticking to the bottom of the Wok.


Stir in the soy sauce, ginger and rice vinegar.  Some hoison sauce would really bring flavor to the dish, also, but our cabinet was fresh out. 

Add the vermicelli and distribute evenly throughout the vegetables.  If I made this recipe again, I would use another, more Asian,  noodle, like udon or soba. Even ramen noodles minus the flavor packet would suffice.  But, the in-between spaghetti and angel hair pasta noodles worked just fine, it just didn’t absorb the sauce as much.


In a large bowl, top your Asian blend with sesame seeds and sriracha for spice. 

The meal was very filling and fresh.  Next time, I’d cut the vegetables a little thinner and maybe add peapods and mushrooms.  It only took about 15 minutes to complete once the vegetables were chopped and ready to cook.  The broccoli absorbed the tangy, salty sauce the best.


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BCT & Onion Balsamic Pasta Salad

The combination of black beans, corn and tomatoes is one of my all time favorites.  What better way to make the combination filling than creating a cold pasta salad?  So, I attempted just that, and, man, was it delicious. From now on I will call this combo BCT.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups cooked Farfale pasta
  • 1 can Southwestern black beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Balsamic, for dressing
  • Olive Oil, for dressing
  • Parmesan, for garnish

 Start by cooking your pasta al dente.  While this is cooking, rinse off and drain the beans, corn and tomatoes. I usually start with the beans (which sit in a thick, repulsive liquid) and once these are rinsed thoroughly in the strainer, I top them off with the corn and tomatoes for a second quick rinse.


Combine the pasta, BCT and onions in a bowl, tossing until each ingredient  is evenly distributed.  Sprinkle in the spices: allspice, black pepper, Italian seasoning, curry, chili, red pepper flakes. 

When you’re ready to serve the dish, toss each bowl with a tsp. of olive oil and a Tbsp. of balsamic vinaigrette. I’d wait to put these dressing fixings in until you are ready to eat as the pasta will dye brown. Top with a scattering of parmesan cheese and enjoy. Best served cold.


The filling nature of the pasta, corn and black beans will have your stomach full and happy for hours.  The balsamic, curry and allspice give the salad a sweet tang to pair with the tomatoes acidic nature and tart flavor.  The beans balance this out and onions.  The pepper and red pepper flakes bring in a hint of spice which I found really brought the meal to a completion. It turned into a sweet spice, like apple cider or, as Rosette suggested, orange chicken.  The parmesan cheese helped to absorb the olive oil and balsamic and added a different texture opposing the slimy feel of the noodles, tomatoes and beans.

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Vegetable Cannellini Black Bean Soup

It’s soup season! What better way to get the warm fuzzies this fall/winter than to eat a toasty bowl of this delicious soup?

The ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Lipton Rice Sides Cheddar Broccoli
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 red Roma tomato, diced
  • 1 yellow tomato, diced
  • 1 Habanero, diced and seeded (if you like the heat, leave the seeds)
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 garlic clove
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. curry
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of cumin

Start by cooking the rice side according to the directions on the package.  imageIn a large saucepan toss your frozen vegetables with a Tablespoon of water and sautée.  You can also use fresh vegetables, just make sure to cook them long enough or you’ll be biting into a rock while sipping your soup.  While these are cooking, dice your vegetables and toss them in to soften.  Start with the onion and end with the tomatoes.  imageWhen the vegetables are all cooked to a desired flaccidity, combine in the cannellini and black beans.  Pour in the liquids.  Heat until the liquid starts to simmer.  imageYour vegetables will continue to cook in the liquid.  Keep the burner at medium-low and sprinkle in the curry powder, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, allspice, pepper, and garlic. Let those meld together in the soup for five minutes.  Stir in your rice side. By using only one cup of vegetable broth and mostly water with a rice side, the seasoning in the rice packet will fuse with the water creating a broth of its own.image

This was exactly what my stomach was craving on a chilled, rainy fall day.  I love how broccoli florets mush in your mouth when you take a bite.  The rush of warm liquid pushes out of the vegetable tossing an array of spices onto your tongue.  The rice and beans create a hearty meal, leaving you full and satisfied. Mix and match your favorite vegetables, canned, frozen or fresh.  Dip in a loaf of Asiago cheese bread or pita chips for a finishing touch.



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Quinoa Veggie Cakes with Red Pepper Almond Sauce

A wonderful addition to girl’s weekend and the BBQ at Dani’s.  These are a vegetarian’s dream food, including all of the daily nutrients in one small “cake”.

For the cakes:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. tahini or almond butter 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup finely grated sweet potato
  • 1/2 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbs. finely diced onion
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Start by pre-cooking your quinoa and pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking pan to keep the lumps of quinoa from later sticking to the pan and breaking apart.

Next, in a large bowl, mix together the egg, flour, red wine vinegar and tahini or nut butter. I chose almond butter because it was in the cabinet, but feel free to experiment with different flavors. Peanut butter is acceptable, but may be a little too much as it tends to overpower anything it’s added to. If you use peanut butter, I’d also use Asian spices like soy sauce, 5-spice powder, chili pepper or hoisin sauce instead of going the Indian spice route I took.image

In the same bowl, add the remaining “cake” ingredients.  If you don’t have frozen spinach, do like I did; take fresh spinach leaves, add a tsp. of water, cover with a paper towel or plastic wrap and microwave for 20 seconds. It will wither into a similar fashion as the frozen spinach making it easier to blend into the hodgepodge of vegetables and grains.


Take a handful of the medley and create a hockey puck like shape, placing the final result on your baking pan repeating until all the mix is gone.  Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 25 minutes or until the tops of the “cakes” are brown and creating a crusty outer shell.image

While the main part of the dish is cooking you can quickly blend together the sauce ingredients. Combine everything in a small blender or Magic Bulletimage I left out the almonds in mine, but they would pair nicely with the almond butter in the quinoa cakes.  Blend until smooth.


When your entree is fully cooked, remove from the oven and either drizzle the roasted red pepper almond sauce on top or serve next to the “cakes” for dipping.  I tried the sauce both cold and hot. Either way works because the quinoa vegetable “cakes” are served piping hot, warming the sauce when it’s mixed together in your mouth.


As Dani’s stepbrother stated so well, “It looks like bird food.” And it does, but it the taste trumps looks in this recipe. 

The acidity of the sauce and watery nature soaks right into the absorbent quinoa.  Bursts of cumin and curry tango with candied sweet potato, green spinach, nutty flavors and sweet onions.  The bitterness often associated with spinach is drawn out with the acidic red wine vinegar and these both evenly pair with the nutty aspect of the almond butter, toasted almonds in the dressing and walnuts (which add a perfect amount of crunch). This dish is a vegetarian’s dream, carrying protein in the quinoa and so many vitamin-rich vegetables mixed in one “cake”.  You’ll never know you’re eating healthy the way everything rounds to a patty-like conformity melding with each bite.  The sauce is a must as it smooths all the spices to a consistent sapidity.image

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Spicy Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

On our Sunday cook-before-football day, Sarah and I also started the fall weather off with one of our favorite comfort soups. 

Go to the store and pickup:

  • 2 cans of pumpkin puree (not the pumpkin pie filling-the stuff without the condensed milk and sugars)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1-3 cups of vegetable broth (Depends on your desired thickness. You can experiment with the levels of pumpkin puree and vegetable broth.)
  • 1 onion
  • Curry powder
  • Pumpkin Spice (or the spices that make up pumpkin spice)
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne
  • Black Pepper


In a stock pot begin by heating up some vegetable oil and cooking the onion for 3-5 minutes until it appears see through. 


Next toss in the tomatoes, vegetable broth, pumpkin and black beans. We chose to cut the onion into a little larger of chunks than usual for added crunch to eat bite. Stir ingredients together and bring to a boil.image

Add in your spices.  We usually use pumpkin spice, but didn’t have any, so Sarah tossed in a whole cinnamon stick, some nutmeg, black pepper, 1 tsp. of cayenne (we like everything spicy), 1 tsp. cumin and 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder.


Once all your spices are stirred into the soup thoroughly, add in the heavy cream and reduce heat to a simmer.  The cream will mellow out your spices, so you may have to readjust and add a little more of one or another.  Simmer for 5 more minutes to make sure everything is completely interfused.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkling of blue cheese or chives to garnish. 


The chunky nature of this soup makes it hearty and perfect for those cold winter nights or chilly, rainy fall afternoons.  And if you are like Sarah and me, the spicy cayenne pepper will help clear your sinuses, as fall attacks mine every year.  The sweet pumpkin seeps into the equally as sweet and rather tart tomatoes and onions.  While the evenness of the black beans adds another tier of texture and protein.  Dip in an Asiago cheese roll to soak up the juice (Super Walmart’s bakery has these in the day old section and they’ll last up to three more days).


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