Bubbie’s Split Pea Soup

It’s fall in Ontario, which means brightly colored leaves (most of which are on the ground now), shorter days, and blustery, chilly days (and nights!)

In other words, it’s soup season.

There’s a famous kosher-style dairy restaurant here in Toronto that’s been owned and operated by the same family for over 100 years, and they make the best split pea soup ever.

It tastes just like something my bubbie would make.

I’ve been craving warm, comforting bowls of goodness since the weather changed, and while that restaurant (which I grew up eating at), isn’t that far away from my home, I’m not 100% sure their soup is actually vegan (legend has it that either butter, cream – or both are routinely used in the soup).

So I set about making my own version.

I’ve chatted with others who have created copycat versions of it, and looked at an old family recipe that’s been passed down to me, and melded the two to create what I think is the ultimate Bubbie’s Split Pea Soup.

Most split pea soup recipes call for a smoked ham hock – which is simmered in the soup and then discarded, to add saltiness and smokey flavor, but this version yields a truly delicious tasting vegetarian (vegan, actually) split pea soup with the help of a few fresh, earthy herbs, like thyme, dill and bay leaf.

One of the most unique factors about this soup, aside from the copious amounts of dill, is the addition of parsnips. Parsnips are a root vegetable closely related to carrots and parsley that add earthy and sweet flavors to this dish.

Best of all, other than a few minutes of dicing and prepping upfront, this soup basically cooks itself, leaving you to go about your day, while making your kitchen smell delicious.

There’s one minor detail that I left out of this recipe, which is unique to the restaurant version I’m trying to emulate: noodles. Their version includes cooked, broken spaghetti or egg noodles in the soup, which works surprisingly well and adds lovely texture to the soup.

I’m always #teamcarbs and love adding noodles anywhere I can, but in the interest of keeping this recipe gluten-free, I omitted them. But if you’re so inclined (and I really, really think you should try it), boil up a cup of broken dry spaghetti noodles and add them to the soup after it’s cooked.

Bubbie’s split pea soup

Serves 8 | gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free | prep time: 15 minutes |cook time 70 minutes

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 large white onion, chopped

1 leek, washed and chopped, root and tops discarded

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced*

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dried green split peas, rinsed

4 cups salt-free vegetable stock

2 cups water

2 fresh bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with butcher’s twine

¼ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill, divided

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste

  1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the oil on medium-high heat until shimmering. Once hot, add the onion, leeks and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes or until onions are just slightly translucent. Add the potatoes, garlic, and split peas, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the broth, water, bay leaves, thyme, ¼ cup of fresh dill, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt (if using – see note below) and 1 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 60 minutes or until peas are mashed and tender. Stir occasionally to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  3. Remove the cooked soup from the heat and remove the bay leaves and thyme bundle, then use an immersion blender to partially puree the soup for 3-4 seconds, ensuring that some chunky pieces of potato and carrot are left behind. Taste and add the remaining dill and salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week, reheating by gently warming on the stove and adding a bit of water or broth to loosen if necessary.

Ingredient Tips: Potatoes help thicken this soup and add heartiness to it, but as an alternative, try swapping them for diced parsnips to boost the earthy flavor of pea soup.

I cook with no (or low) sodium vegetable stock so that I can adjust the level of salt to my liking. If your broth has sodium added, then reduce or eliminate the kosher salt.

Creamy Cajun Sausage and Mushroom Penne

As an Amazon associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases for items linked on this site.

Something really rare happened, y’all.

BOTH my kids tried a new dish I made and agreed it was delicious enough to make it into our permanent dinner rotation.

Twelve is pretty good about trying new dishes these days, and when I make one that has her two favorite things: Beyond Meat sausages and mushrooms, it’s pretty much a given that she will enjoy it.

Seven is the wild card. She doesn’t like spicy things. She doesn’t like mushrooms. She really only likes vegan breakfast sausages. But she lives for pasta. So I knew I had a fighting chance.

She was skeptical at first, and I won’t lie – she picked her way around the mushrooms and the sausage. But she loved the sauce. The base of this sauce is a classic, veganized bechamel, which I kicked up a few notches by adding Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning.

I chose the original version, which is a medium level spice, and was careful not to add too much. Just enough to make your tastebuds tingle – but without feeling like you needed to follow up each bite with a fire extinguisher.

The result: she ate THREE helpings. I definitely call that a win!

Creamy Cajun Sausage and Mushroom Penne

Serves: 6 | Nut-free, Gluten-free option | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

1 (16oz) package penne rigate*

1-2 tablespoons neutral oil (I use grapeseed)

1 small white onion, diced

1 (4oz) package cremini mushrooms, stems removed, and caps sliced

1 package Beyond Meat Sweet (or hot) Italian Sausage, slightly thawed and sliced into ½ inch pieces

3 tablespoons vegan butter or margarine

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour*

1 teaspoon mild red pepper paste

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 ½ tablespoons Cajun seasoning mix, divided

3 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice (I used soy)

1 teaspoon sweet paprika, optional, for garnish

½ teaspoon dried parsley, optional, for garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. In a medium-size skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are just translucent, and mushrooms are soft – about 5 minutes. Add the sliced sausage and cook for 5-7 minutes or until sausage is cooked through. Drain any excess oil from the pan and set the pan aside.
  3. In a large pan, heat the butter on medium-high heat. Once melted, add the garlic and red pepper paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant – about 2 minutes.  Add the flour, nutritional yeast, and 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, to form a thick roux.  Once formed, reduce heat to medium and switch to a balloon whisk. Add the milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until fully incorporated before adding the next cup. It should take anywhere from 6-8 minutes for the entire process. At that point, you should have a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Taste and add remaining ½ tablespoon of Cajun seasoning if you want the dish to be spicier. 
  4. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, along with the sausage, onions, and mushrooms. Dust with paprika and sprinkle with parsley if using.

Notes:

*for gluten-free diets, use a gluten-free pasta, such as Barilla gluten-free. and use a gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose

vegan low country boil

It’s the last long weekend of summer, and we’re making the most of it.

The weather is a little bit cooler here this week (mid-70s most days), which is a welcome respite from the wicked heat we had for most of July and August, but also a reminder that the long, lazy days of summer are coming to an end.

But we’ve still got a few adventures left in us, and summer bucket list items to check off.

Like another round of my vegan Low Country Boil that we’ve been loving all summer.

All the classic flavors of a good seafood boil, without the seafood. In fact, I’d say it’s more of a “SEE-FOOD” boil (see what I did there?) because when you see it, you’re gonna want to eat it all up.

I used Beyond Meat spicy sausage, farm fresh corn, baby potatoes and shishito peppers for some green (okra or green beans would also be fabulous) and generous amounts of {vegan} butter, garlic and seasonings to create the most delish sauce.

Best of all, this dish comes together in 30 minutes, meaning any night can be a low country boil night!

Low Country Boil

Serves: 4 | Gluten, Nut and Soy Free | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

1 – 1.5 lbs mini whole potatoes

3 ears of corn, shucked and cut into quarters

1/3 cup vegan butter, melted

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed chili flakes

4 large vegan sausages (I prefer Beyond Sausage for this), cut into 1’ thick slices

4oz (half a bag) shishito peppers

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

1 ½ fresh lemons, cut into wedges, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with tin foil. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or just until fork-tender. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the corn.
  3. While the potatoes and corn cook, melt the vegan butter in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Add the minced garlic, parsley, Old Bay seasoning, smoked paprika and chili flakes and stir to combine. Set aside
  4. Arrange the sausages and peppers on the prepared baking sheet. Drain the corn and potatoes and add to the baking sheet. Pour the butter mixture all over and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the sweet paprika over the entire pan and bake for 10 minutes or until sausages are cooked through.
  5. Remove from the oven, add the lemon wedges to the sheet pan and serve immediately.

Roasted Vegetable, Sausage and Tofu Skewers

It’s BBQ season!

Unfortunately, Mother Nature hasn’t been the most cooperative lately. Half the country is trapped in an intense heat wave, and the other half drenched in rain. Neither are ideal situations for firing up 30,000 BTUs of heat.

That’s why I love this indoor BBQ recipe. It’s perfect for days when you can’t cook outdoors, or if you don’t have access to a grill but still crave that great BBQ taste.

These Roasted Vegetable, Sausage, and Tofu Skewers are perfect for any time of year and are so easy to make. I roasted onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and bell peppers with Field Roast Italian-style sausages and extra-firm tofu on sheet pans in the oven until just tender.⁠ Then I assembled the skewers, brushed them with my favorite vegan BBQ sauce, and finished them off on an indoor smokeless grill. ⁣⁠

I have a small kitchen and appliance-storage space is always at a premium, so an indoor grill wasn’t on my purchase radar. I was lucky enough to be gifted one from my dad, but I have to admit that I am truly enjoying it. So if it’s in your budget and/or your space situation, I do recommend it.
⁣⁠
And if you don’t have a smokeless indoor grill, you could also use a flat grill pan on you stovetop on medium-high heat to achieve that caramelized, sticky BBQ sauce taste and texture.

Roasted Vegetable, Sausage and Tofu Skewers

Serves: 4-5 (2 skewers each) | Nut-free | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes

1 red onion, chopped into large pieces

1 zucchini, cut into half moons

4oz cremini mushrooms, stems removed

1 red bell pepper, chopped into large pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into large pieces

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 package plant-based sausage of choice, cut into 2-inch pieces (I used Field Roast Italian Garlic and Fennel sausage)

½ block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed and cut into 2-inch squares

2 tablespoons vegetarian hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari

6-8 shishito peppers (optional. I used these on mine but not my kids)

1/3 cup vegan BBQ sauce of choice (I like Stubb’s Sweet and Sticky)

8-10 bamboo skewers

⁣⁠

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line 2 standard baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the onion, zucchini, mushrooms and bell peppers in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, slat and pepper until well coated. Place on one baking sheet in a single layer along with the sausage. Bake for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender but not dark.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the tofu, hoisin sauce and tamari and toss well to coat. Place on the second parchment-lined baking sheet and bake alongside the vegetables for 10 minutes, then flip and bake another 5 minutes.
  4. Remove both trays from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, build skewers, adding shishito peppers if using. Brush skewers with BBQ sauce
  5. Heat indoor grill to medium-high (or use a flat grill pan on the stove), and place skewers on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side, or until BBQ sauce gets caramelized and sticky. Serve immediately


⁣⁠

Smoky bbq brisket with onion jam

Weekends are for slow cooking. Especially rainy weekends like we’re having today.

Since Mother Nature isn’t interested in outdoor BBQs right now, I’m bringing the outside indoors with this vegan take on a Smoky BBQ Brisket.

Smoky BBQ sauce, brown sugar, spices and caramelized onions give this seitan-based roast a nice crisp bark on top and a tender inside. Plus, the flavor is off the charts.

Because the onions, which are naturally sweet, caramelize as the brisket roasts, they help thicken up the already-sweet sauce into the most incredible onion jam, which you can serve with the brisket or save it in the fridge for up to a week and use it everywhere.  Seriously, everywhere. It makes a great burger topping and its even delish on toast with a savory cream cheese.

Enjoy this brisket immediately or refrigerate for up to a week and gently reheat in the oven for maximum enjoyment.

Smoky BBQ Brisket with Onion Jam

Serves 6-8 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 2 hours | Nut-free, Soy-free

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups vital wheat gluten

¼ cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

Sauce Ingredients:

2 packages Knorr/Lipton French Onion soup mix

3 cups water

1 cup ketchup

1 ¼ cups smoky BBQ sauce

1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (brown sugar, maple syrup or honey if you’re not vegan)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon powdered bacon seasoning, like Deliciou (optional but it adds another level of flavor and more smokiness.)

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the soup mix, water, ketchup, BBQ sauce, sweetener, garlic and black pepper.
  4. Add 2 cups of the sauce to the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough. Knead on a flat surface for 3 full minutes, then knead for another 30 seconds, stretching the dough into a brisket shape that is about 1-inch thick, and place in the prepared dish.  Place the onions in the dish so that some are on top of the brisket and some are in the pan. Add 1 cup of the sauce mix to the dish around the brisket.
  5. Bake for 2 hours, stopping every 20 minutes to baste and rotate the brisket in the dish (to keep it from sticking). Add the remaining sauce, ½ a cup at a time or as needed, at each basting interval, to keep the baking dish from drying out. When the brisket is done it will feel firm to the touch in the center, and the sauce will be thickened and almost jam-like.
  6. Let rest on a cutting board for ten minutes before slicing. Refrigerate any leftovers and warm them up by slicing the brisket and placing it in aluminium foil and warm it gently in the oven.

baked spicy korean “fried chicken”

Somehow I fell down a ‘mukbang‘ rabbit hole on Instagram the other night. (If you’re not familiar, it’s a social media thing where people eat vast quantities of food in front of a camera and share it to YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.) Sometimes it has an ASMR component to it, and sometimes it’s just for fun. It’s a trend that started in South Korea and is now a worldwide phenomenon.

As you may have guessed, it’s typically large quantities of foods like fried chicken, pizza, noodles, ice cream or candy that are consumed – because who wants to watch someone eat a gluttonous amount of salad?

I’ll admit, it seems like an odd thing for a vegan to watch, but I’ve always been transparent about the fact that I didn’t give up animal-based products because I didn’t like them, but because I know it’s healthier for me, for the earth and especially for the animals if I don’t consume them.

But I do still crave the flavors of good, old-fashioned “junk food.” Especially after watching someone else indulge in it.

I went vegan before things like “Nashville Hot” or “Korean Spicy” versions of fried chicken were commonplace, so I feel like there’s this whole new flavor phenomenon that I missed out on. (Not for the chicken part, because I’d rather chickens be my friends than my food, or for the artery-clogging deep-fried part – but I’m all about the crunchy, breaded, spicy saucy part.)

Recently I perfected a Ranch-Flavored Popcorn “Chick’n” using Butler Soy Curls, so I decided to apply that cooking method to this spicy Korean version.

I chose soy curls for this dish because they really do mimic the texture of chicken, and because I wanted small, bite-size pieces that would be reminiscent of boneless chicken bites – the kind you’d get if you ordered this at a Korean Chicken restaurant. Most importantly, it has that same crunch you get from deep-fried, but without all the oil, thanks to the use of finely crushed panko and a full-on 3-part breading station.

You’ll need a trip to your local Asian supermarket (or a few minutes on Amazon) for a couple of ingredients, particularly the Korean chili paste (gochujang) and chili powder (gochujaru) that give this dish it’s signature heat and flavor. Gochujang is like the Sriracha of Korean cooking. It’s a very flavorful, savory-sweet fermented chili paste that is widely used as a condiment and a base for sauces. Gochujaru is a dried chili powder made from Korean red chili peppers and adds intense heat. It’s really worth sourcing them before making this dish, which clearly was a hit – I barely got a chance to photograph it before my 11yo swooped in and declared this the “best dish ever!”

So I guess I’m making another batch of these tomorrow!

Baked Spicy Korean “Fried Chicken”

Serves 4 (as an appetizer) | Nut-free | Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

4oz Butler Soy Curls, dry

2 cups unsweetened soy milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon gochujaru (Korean chili powder)

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)

2 tablespoons agave nectar, plus extra for drizzle

3 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ cup low-sodium tamari

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon each black and white sesame seeds (for garnish) 2 green onion stalks, diced or sliced into strips (for garnish

  1. Place the soy curls in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let stand for 10 minutes to rehydrate. When done, drain and squeeze the curls to release as much water as possible. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. While the curls are rehydrating, prepare the breading station. Add the flour to a shallow, wide bowl or plate and set aside. Do the same for the milk. In a large resealable bag, combine the panko, salt, pepper, thyme, and gochujaru powder. Seal the bag, leaving air inside it, and shake well to combine. Release the air and reseal the bag, then use a rolling pin to crush the panko into fine crumbs. Transfer to a third shallow dish or bowl. Set aside.
  4. Working in small batches (5-6 pieces at a time), toss the soy curls in the flour to coat, shaking off any excess, then dip in the milk (again allowing any excess to drip off), toss to coat in the breadcrumbs and place on the prepared baking tray. Repeat until all soy curls are done. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. While the curls are baking, prepare the sauce. In a medium size bowl, combine the red pepper paste, 2 tablespoons of agave, brown sugar, tamari, ginger, garlic, vegetable and sesame oils. Whisk until fully combined.
  6. When the curls are cooked, transfer them to a large bowl, add the sauce and toss well to coat. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onions and a little drizzle of agave.

Broccoli Cheddar Rice Casserole

If you’ve got 20 minutes and a few pantry staples, you’ve got time to make this delicious Broccoli Cheddar Casserole for dinner tonight.

It’s a one-pot dish that requires the barest minimum of effort to set up, and then cooks away happily on it’s own, leaving you time to do whatever else you need to get done.

Also, did I mention it’s absolutely delish?

And it feeds a crowd?

The trick to filling this dish with flavor is ranch seasoning. Since most packaged dry ranch seasoning mixes contain dairy ingredients, like powdered buttermilk, I created my own Best-Ever Ranch Seasoning that I use on everything. The recipe is included below. You’ll only need 2 tablespoons for the broccoli cheddar casserole, so stash the rest in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (I like mason jars for this) and stash it in the pantry so you’re ready for any ranch seasoning emergency!

Here’s how you make the ranch seasoning:

In a 500ml mason jar combine:

1/4 cup ground black pepper, 1 1/2 cups dried parsley flakes, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 3/4 cups onion powder, 3 tablespoons dried dill

and shake well!

Store in the pantry (or another dark, cool place) for 6 months.

Broccoli Cheddar Rice Casserole

Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Dietary info: gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free

Ingredients:

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup unsweetened plain soy milk

2 cups basmati rice

2 tablespoons homemade vegan ranch seasoning

3 cups frozen broccoli florets

2 1/2 cups shredded vegan cheddar style cheese, divided

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the vegetable broth, milk, rice, ranch seasoning and broccoli and stir well to combine. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover and cook for 18 minutes (or until broccoli is tender and all the liquid has absorbed into the rice.
  2. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 2 cups of vegan cheddar shreds. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of shreds on top and serve

best-ever vegan meatloaf

Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beetloaf. I LOVE meatloaf???⁣

Wait, what?⁣

I was totally Randy Parker as a small child. I was a picky eater who would happily have lived on PB sandwiches (no jam), and mac and cheese.⁣

And I despised meatloaf.⁣

My mother, however, insisted on making it often when I was a little kid. It was the early 80s, money was tight, and a meatloaf went a long way in feeding a family of four.⁣

So, more nights than not, it graced our dining room table…and I pushed it around my plate until someone caved and made me a peanut butter sandwich instead.⁣

Fast forward 40ish years, and here I am, serving the best-ever VEGAN meat(less)loaf to my kids. (I may have put it on a hamburger bun and told them it was a “burger”…)🤭⁣

⁣I don’t know if it’s the fact that I just never loved meat as a kid – even before I went vegetarian (or vegan), or that I just didn’t like the way my mother made hers, but all of a sudden, I am singing meat(less) loaf’s praises.⁣

Made with @gardein beefless crumble, a whole lotta seasoning and the most amazing topping, this meat(less) loaf is easy, delish and totally kid-approved!⁣

The Best-Ever Vegan Meatloaf

Prep time: 15 minutes Bake time: 50 minutes Dietary info: Nut-free, Oil-free

Ingredients:
⁣2 tablespoons ground flax

3 tablespoons warm water

1 (14 ounce) bag Gardein beefless crumble, thawed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon ground mustard

¼ teaspoon sumac

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup unsweetened soy milk

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons ketchup, divided

2 tablespoons tamari, divided

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and spray or lightly grease a 9” loaf pan. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flax and water. Let stand for 5 minutes to thicken.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the Gardein Crumble, onion, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, sumac, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add the milk, 2 tablespoons of ketchup, 1 tablespoon of tamari and the flax mixture and mix well to form the meatloaf. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to get it well-mixed.  Transfer to the prepared loaf pan and press down to pack it firmly.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup of ketchup, 1 tablespoon tamari and the brown sugar. Spread evenly on top of the meatloaf. Bake, uncovered for 50 minutes.  Cool slightly before slicing.

High School cafeteria chocolate chip cookies

There really isn’t a lot I’d like to bring back from my high school years.

I’m quite content to leave my “Tease it to Jesus” 80s hair and mouthful of braces as nothing more than a fond memory.

But the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies from the school cafeteria are another story.

Warm, gooey, “make-your-gums-tingle-from-all-the-sugar” cookies were the best thing my high school cafe served. And I have been chasing those cookies for 20 years.

The trick to fully enjoying those cookies was getting them fresh from the oven. (I’m still convinced that they only half-baked them and we risked getting salmonella from half raw eggs and flour with every bite, but we were young and immortal back then so it didn’t matter.)

I think my version looks different – they are bigger and prettier than the high school cafeteria ones, but the taste is as close as any recipe I’ve tried since.

And believe me when I say I’ve tried A LOT of recipes trying to recreate it.

Best of all, this version is 100% dairy and egg-free.

I highly recommend eating them warm from the oven for the ultimate “16-year-old-angsty-teenager-experience.”

Not that they aren’t absolutely delicious when cooled, but if you didn’t burn the roof of your mouth trying to finish your cookie before you got to first period English class, you’re just not doing it right.

Ultimate High School Cafeteria Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nut-free, Soy-free, Oil-free

Prep time: 10 minutes Bake time: 13 minutes Inactive time: 2 hours Yields: 12-14 cookies

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) plant-based butter, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus extra for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the butter and both sugars. Using an electric hand mixer on high, cream them together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla and applesauce and mix for 1 minute to combine, then add the baking soda, powder and salt and mix for 1 minute until combined.
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour, ½ a cup at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding the next batch. Stop when all the flour has been just incorporated and there are no white flour streaks left in the dough.  Gently fold in 1 cup of chocolate chips by hand. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  3. Once dough is properly chilled, preheat the oven to 350F and line two standard baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets. Using a 2” diameter ice cream scoop, drop scoopfuls of the chilled dough onto the prepared sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. You should get 6-7 cookies per sheet.
  4. If desired, press additional chocolate chips onto the tops of each cookie to give them that bakery-style look. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until the tops just start to get golden but aren’t brown. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely – if you can wait that long!

Storage instructions: store baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 4 months.

Make ahead option: Prep the cookies as above, but instead of baking, pop the baking sheets in the freezer for 2 hours to freeze the cookie dough. Once solid, transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container until needed. To bake, place the frozen cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 12-13 minutes, as above.

Cauliflower “cheese” pasta

If you’re like me, you’ve almost always got parts of a cauliflower hanging around your fridge by the end of the week. 

I’m the only real fan here, so anytime it gets added to a dish, it’s in small quantities just for me.

And I’m always looking for ways to use it up.

Yesterday I taught an online cooking demo and we made Spicy Korean Cauliflower Wings. I used the leftover cauli to make this for dinner.

It’s my #vegan take on Jamie Oliver’s dish of the same name.

It uses ALL the cauliflower (except that gnarly hard part that holds the green leaves together) to make a rich, creamy “cheese” sauce AND a delicious breadcrumb topping to jazz up a box of spaghetti.

My small child ate THREE helpings. I may have *forgotten* to tell her what’s in the sauce…

Here’s how I made it:

Cauliflower Cheese Pasta (with breadcrumb topping)

Nut-free

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

½ loaf stale baguette, torn into pieces

4 garlic cloves, whole, peeled, divided

1 medium cauliflower, florets and stalk chopped small and outer green leaves separated and kept whole. (Discard the hard core at the bottom of the outer leaves)

1 tablespoon grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 cups unsweetened plain soy milk

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

½ teaspoon ground mustard

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

8oz spaghetti noodles

1 cup shredded vegan cheddar

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Make the breadcrumbs and boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Combine the torn bread, 2 garlic cloves, outer green cauliflower leaves and remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a food processor and process until fine crumbs form. Add to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Return the pan to the heat and add the 2 remaining garlic cloves, onion, cauliflower florets and stalk, milk, nutritional yeast, ground mustard and nutmeg. Raise the temperature to medium-high and bring to just under a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until soft, about 10 minutes. While this is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling pot of water.
  3. Gently pour the vegetables and milk into the food processor, add the cheese and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan and scoop out the pasta directly from the pot into the pan, including 1-2 ladles of starchy pasta water. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a generous topping of breadcrumbs.