Rigatoni with Vegan Sausage, White Beans, and Swiss Chard

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Today was our first cold day in Chicago. The temperature were in the 40’s Fahrenheit and the first thing I did this morning was grab my robe and fuzzy slippers. This weather makes me want to hibernate! Of course, that’s not possible but a cozy pasta dish will have to do. I do a lot of cardio work outs so a reasonable amount of carbs are an important part of my diet. A hearty, nutrient dense meal is a great way to satisfy your hunger for a long time. I really crave comfort food in cold weather. I find it impossible to eat low calorie food for every meal because I end up wanting to eat larger portions and feel hungry all the time. This dish is balanced and has a LOT of protein – 33 grams per serving. I used Tofurkey brand Italian sausage which has 30 grams of protein per serving. I am not a fan of eating processed food for every meal but the sausage flavor goes really well with the beans and pasta in this recipe. This is a dish from the Tuscan region of Italy. I remember eating a similar dish when I visited Tuscany many years ago (before I was vegan). I’ve seen many different versions of it since – none of which are vegan. Some recipes add butter at the end, whereas others add tomatoes and basil. I wanted to vegan-ize the recipe but also keep it simple. This is an easy weeknight dish that will keep you from snacking and give you lots of energy for your next workout. The protein in the beans and vegan sausage goes a long way. Nutritional yeast is my favorite vegan substitute for parmesan cheese and adds B vitamins that are not available in other plant based foods. The lemon adds freshness and bright acidity. This is an easy and painless way to get your serving of green leafy vegetables in. If you are gluten free, you can use gluten free pasta such as quinoa pasta. If you’re not a fan of vegan sausage then I recommend leaving it out altogether and adding extra beans. Kale or spinach would also work really well instead of Swiss chard. You could use chickpeas as a substitute for Cannellini beans. I hope this hearty Tuscan pasta dish will keep you warm and energized this fall! Make sure you post a picture and tag @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram or Facebook or Pin this recipe on Pinterest if you make it!



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An easy and balanced weeknight meal!

Rigatoni with Vegan Sausage, White Beans, and Swiss Chard

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 cups uncooked rigatoni
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 2.5 cups Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2,  15oz cans)
  • 2 Italian flavored Tofurkey sausages, crumbled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Directions

Heat a large pot of salted water until boiling. Add rigatoni and cook for about 7 minutes or until al dente. Save 1 cup of pasta water in a small bowl. Drain pasta and set aside. Heat 1 tbs of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add Tofurkey sausages and cook for about 4 minutes. Next, add white beans and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup pasta water and Swiss chard. Cook until Swiss chard is wilted and most of the water is absorbed. Add cooked rigatoni, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast. Stir until combined and pasta is warm throughout. Top with chopped parsley and serve immediately. May store in the fridge for up to 5 to 7 days.

Nutrition information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/4 of recipe:  556 cal
  • Approximate protein per 1/4 recipe: 33g

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

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There’s just something about this meal that is so warming and comforting. Acorn squash is my favorite type of squash and I’m always excited to see it at the grocery store. It has a beautiful color and a delightful shape. It tastes slightly sweet and starchy and just melts in your mouth. It’s super easy to roast and goes with almost everything. I paired it with the bright flavors of fresh thyme, lemon, and coriander. These flavors combined with mushrooms and hearty seitan make this dish really memorable. It’s filling and nutrient dense and makes a wholesome main course. You can cut the squash in half either lengthwise or horizontally. In order to have it lay flat and not roll around, I recommend making a thin cut to the bottom of the squash. Be careful not to cut too much off the bottom or you will have a hole at the bottom of your squash! The squash will come out tender all the way through when cooked properly. It’s also piping hot so handle it carefully with an oven mitt. You can rewarm the squash once it’s assembled by placing it in the oven at 400F for about 10 minutes. Stuffed squash is a great vegan main course for a holiday dinner or dinner party. The seitan adds a ton of plant based protein and the nutritional yeast is a great source of B vitamins not found in other plant based foods. If you are gluten free you can substitute with a gluten free, soy based beef crumble and quinoa or brown rice. The stuffing is very versatile and is great in stuffed bell peppers as well. You may have leftover stuffing which is great alone or in a lettuce wrap or soft taco. Make sure you tag @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram and Facebook and Pin this recipe on Pinterest if you make it!

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Acorn squash has a beautiful orange and green color to it.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 large acorn squash
  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 1.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, diced
  • 1 (8oz) package of chorizo seitan (such as Upton’s brand)
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 3 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • salt to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut each squash in half, remove seeds, and spray with olive oil. Place face down on a baking sheet and bake for 37 to 40 minutes. Remove squash from oven and set aside to cool. Squash should be soft all the way through. Next, heat bulgur and broth in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat until boiling. Lower heat and simmer until water is absorbed – about 10 minutes. In a medium sized sauté pan, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and coriander and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 6-7 minutes or until moisture from mushrooms is absorbed. Add seitan chorizo and cook for another 2-3 minutes until seitan is heated through. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Add mushroom mixture to cooked bulgur and stir well to combine. Season with salt to taste. Next, assemble the squash. Partially scoop out cooled squash with a spoon, leaving about 1/2 inch of squash intact to hold shape. Mix removed squash with bulgur mixture. Top each squash half with bulgur mixture. Place stuffed squash halves back onto baking sheet and bake at 400F for about 10 minutes to warm, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately. May store in the fridge for up to one day.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/4 bulgur mixture plus 1/2 squash: 381 cal

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Chana Masala with Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

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It’s the end of summer… September is one of my favorite months. I start to lay off on the grilling and switch to roasting instead. I also start to crave things like curry and soup this time of year. Chickpeas are a staple in my house. I usually use organic canned chickpeas to save on time. They’re so versatile and can be used to make so many delicious things. They’re also high in protein and fiber. Chana masala at Indian restaurants is always so good. That may be because they use a lot of oil and also serve it with a deep fried Indian bread known as Bhatura. At home, I prefer the low fat, healthier version with low carb cauliflower rice. I am pretty much obsessed with vegetable substitutes for pasta a rice these days. I love cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles and make them almost every day. Cauliflower rice does take some extra time but once you make it, it lasts for days in the fridge. It can be flavored anyway you like and it really does keep you full. You could also serve Chana with quinoa or brown rice as healthy alternatives to traditional white rice. The leftovers from this meal make an excellent desk lunch the next day! I always say that Chana is better the next day. It’s really hard to mess up Chana masala. It’s so quick and easy to make. Feel free to substitute fresh grated ginger instead of powdered if you have it. You can also kick up the spice level by adding 2-3 more chili peppers. The squeeze of lemon at the end adds a much needed bit of tartness. In Indian cooking, cilantro is often used as a garnish in lieu of parsley. After all, it is from the same plant that produces coriander seeds. The cumin and coriander are what make the “masala”. They pair together beautifully and give this classic dish it’s depth. They are essential in Indian cuisine and give off a signature aroma. The turmeric adds beautiful color and has anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re trying to save on groceries, canned tomatoes and cayenne pepper (instead of chili peppers) will work just as well. This dish is great for everyday because it’s relatively inexpensive to make. Make sure you take a picture and tag @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram or Facebook if you make it or Pin this recipe!

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Chana Masala with Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

    For the Chana Masala:
  • 2 (15oz) cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green chili pepper, seeds removed and minced
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • For the cauliflower rice:
  • 1 medium sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6 cups of cauliflower florets)
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent/golden brown – about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Next, reduce heat and add chili pepper, ginger, coriander, cumin, and turmeric and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer on low heat until tomatoes have released their juices and thickened – about 8-10 minutes. Add chickpeas, garam masala, lemon juice, and salt and stir well. Simmer on low heat for another 6-7 minutes. Top with fresh cilantro just before serving. Next, make the cauliflower rice. Cut cauliflower into florets and towel off any excess water. Place 1/2 of the florets in a high powered blender or food processor. Pulse until cauliflower is rice sized. Remove from food processor and place in a large mixing bowl. Pulse second half of cauliflower florets until rice sized then empty into mixing bowl. Toss with salt and chopped cilantro. Serve chana masala over raw cauliflower rice. May store both in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/6 chana masala + 1/4 cauliflower rice: 243 cal

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Creamy Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese is one of the most universal comfort foods. As far as comfort foods go, it’s at the top of my list along with pizza and fries. Boxed vegan mac and cheese isn’t hard to find and isn’t so bad tasting, but there’s just something about the flavor “powder” that turns me off. I much prefer using fresh ingredients and high quality pasta. This recipe uses simple ingredients like carrot and potato. Having a hidden serving of vegetables in this dish just makes me happy! The “cheese” sauce in this recipe has no dairy so it doesn’t taste exactly like traditional cheese, but has a delicious cheese-like flavor. The nutritional yeast is what gives it a nutty, cheesy taste. Nutritional yeast is great as a cheese substitute for vegan food and contains more than your daily requirement of several important B vitamins. Vegan sources of B12 are hard to find so nutritional yeast is great if you are completely plant based. You can use this sauce as a cheese substitute on baked potatoes and for cheese fries. This sauce is amazing and something I will be creating variations of and using over and over again! It’s creamy, rich, and flavorful. If you’re gluten free you can substitute gluten free or quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta. You will need a good food processor or blender to make the cheese sauce. For delicious variations, add vegan bacon, truffle oil, or top with bread crumbs and bake! If you make it, make sure to tag @thefriendlyepicurean or Pin the recipe!

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Creamy Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 small carrot, peeled
  • 1 small white potato, peeled
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs almond flour
  • 1 1/4 cups almond milk
  • 1 tbs vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions

Boil potato and carrot in a small saucepan until they are soft all the way through. In a small saute pan, saute shallot in vegan butter for about 2 to 3 minutes. Next add garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add almond milk, almond flour, and nutritional yeast, and salt and whisk until smooth. Heat mixture until just boiling. Remove from heat and carefully transfer to a food processor or blender along with boiled carrot and potato. Blend mixture until smooth. Makes about 1 1/4 cups of cheese sauce. Next, cook 2 cups elbow macaroni in at least 2 quarts of boiling water until pasta is al dente – about 7-8 minutes. Drain pasta and mix together cheese sauce and pasta in a large serving dish. Add more salt, vegan butter, and almond milk to desired taste and consistency if needed. Serve while hot. May store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/4 cup cheese sauce: 103 cal
  • Approximate calories per 1/2 cup uncooked pasta: 200 cal

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Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowl

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Burritos are delicious but I haven’t ordered one from a restaurant in years. That’s because of how unhealthy they can be. They’re often loaded with calories and a lot of fat and carbs. The carbs from the rice and the tortilla always leave me feeling sleepy and super full. The portion size is so huge that I can only eat half. But since I love burritos and crave them, I came up with a healthier version to make at home. Once you get the hang of making cauliflower rice, it’s pretty easy. It’s important to make sure your cauliflower florets are free of any excess moisture. You also want to work in small batches. If you add too many florets to the food processor, you may end up with cauliflower puree on the bottom of your food processor and big chunks of cauliflower at the top. You will definitely need a food processor to make cauliflower rice (or a high powered blender like a Vitamix). I love my food processor because it’s the right size and easy to clean (you can find it here). It makes cauliflower rice a breeze. Cauliflower rice is a staple at my house. I use it as a rice substitute in almost everything. I don’t typically cook it because I’ve been trying to eat as many raw vegetables as possible. But if you prefer it warmed up, you can sauté in a large pan in olive oil spray for about 2-3 minutes. Instead of lettuce, I chose purple cabbage as a healthier and more colorful replacement. It adds some crunch and fiber to this dish. There are limitless variations for burrito bowls. You can substitute black beans, chickpeas, or any other plant based protein. You could also add corn or vegan cheese. I tried to keep the processed ingredients at a minimum. This recipe is super quick. It’s filling, nutritious, low carb, low fat and most importantly – delicious! I prefer homemade pico de gallo over store bought. It adds freshness and spicy kick. If you like a little sweetness, some ripe mango would go really well with all of the flavors in this meal. If you decide to make this recipe, make sure to let me know! Tag me @thefriendlyepicurean or Pin the recipe on Pinterest.

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Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowl

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

    For the cauliflower rice:
  • 1 medium sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6 cups of cauliflower florets)
  • 2 to 3 tbs lime juice (juice of half a lime)
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For the refried beans:
  • 1 (150z) can of organic, vegan refried beans (such Amy’s Organic brand)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For the Pico de Gallo:
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (about 3 tbs)
  • 2-3 tbs lime juice (juice of half a lime)
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • To serve:
  • 1 large, ripe avocado, diced
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream, homemade (click here for the recipe) or Toffuti brand (optional)

Directions

First, make the Pico de Gallo. Combine diced tomatoes, onion, minced jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl and chill. Next, make the cauliflower rice. Cut cauliflower into florets and towel off any excess water. Place 1/2 of the florets in a high powered blender or food processor. Pulse until cauliflower is rice sized. Remove from food processor and place in a large mixing bowl. Pulse second half of cauliflower florets until rice sized then empty into mixing bowl. Toss with lime juice, salt, and chopped cilantro and set aside. Finally, make the refried beans. Heat olive oil spray in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat. Saute onions until golden brown – about 5 to 6 minutes. Then sauté minced garlic for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add refried beans, chili powder, and salt and sauté for another 4-5 minutes. Assemble bowls with cauliflower rice, 1/2 cup refried beans, purple cabbage, 1/2 avocado, and pico de gallo. Garnish with cilantro, vegan sour cream, and lime wedges and serve immediately. May store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for one day.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per serving: 401 cal (includes 1/2 cup refried beans, 1/2 avocado, and 1/4 cauliflower rice mixture)

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Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Lime Chickpeas 

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This is probably one of the simplest, easiest recipes I’ve ever made. It doesn’t require much prep or constant attention and clean up is a breeze. This is a great weeknight meal especially after a long cardio workout. I love comfort food that comes with minimal guilt. Chickpeas and sweet potatoes are two of my favorite foods, so combining them sounded like a great idea! What I like about this dish is that the spice, salt, and garlic in the chickpeas balance out the sweetness of the potato. The lime adds the perfect amount of acid and freshness. The mint, lime, and sweet potato go really well together. This is a hearty dish that will keep you satisfied long after you’re done eating. It’s healthy because it’s minimally processed and the chickpeas add protein and fiber. Chickpeas are also a great source of  folate and iron. Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A and are lower in calories vs. white potatoes. There are lots of variations to this recipes that would work as well. You could try adding avocado, vegan sour cream, or cilantro as toppings. Chili lime chickpeas are great as a salad topping, snack, or in your Buddha Bowl. If you make this recipe make sure to tag me on social media @thefriendlyepicurean or Pin It on Pinterest!

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Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Lime Chickpeas

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 (15oz) can of chickpeas
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 tbs)
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh mint

Directions


Preheat oven to 400F. Wash and dry sweet potatoes and place them on a baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and lime juice. Add drained and rinsed chickpeas to lime juice mixture and stir well to coat evenly. Spread chickpeas in a single layer on a separate baking sheet. Bake chickpeas and sweet potatoes for about 40 minutes. Flip chickpeas halfway through cooking time. Allow sweet potatoes and chickpeas to cool before handling. Slit potato and scoop out about a 1/4 of it. Stuff each potato with about 1/2 of chickpea mixture and top with fresh, chopped mint. Serve immediately. May store in the fridge for up to one day.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories for 1 baked sweet potato plus 1/2 chickpeas: 496 cal

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