Hey folks! Happy Sunday everyone. Since it’s a cold Sunday afternoon in November, my least favourite month, I thought I’d share a warm and comforting recipe that brings back nostalgic images of my childhood. I got the idea a couple weeks ago while thinking of easy meals to make during the week. Why not make a healthy, meat-free and grown-up version of this 90’s kid boxed wonder?
It certainly brought back memories of my brother and I spending the afternoon with our babysitter who whipped up this muck. When my mom was cooking, we got real food with real ingredients like this dish I’m about to show you. It’s comforting and delicious without tasting gross and artificial. It’s also probably easy, quick and convenient enough for a teenage babysitter to cook for a couple of kids.
Mmm! “That looks delicious, but how on earth were you able to make that without any meat? Where’s the animal protein? You need meat or you’ll stop breathing and DIE! You cannot survive without the flesh of an animal! I know this for a fact because within this brief conversation I suddenly went back to school and became a Registered Dietitian, so you should listen to me.”
I thought I’d show you pretty much what I hear when someone asks me “where I get my protein” and how on earth I’m able to buy all those expensive ingredients of dried beans, produce and grains at a regular grocery store. To me, it’s like the food version of “When are you having kids?”. Do you really want to know the entire list of everything I eat? How much time do you have? And will you give me a chocolate bar if I tell you? Jeesh.
Any who, I’m getting sidetracked…
When throwing this meal together I broke it down into three components: Pasta, protein source/veggies, sauce.
For the pasta I used a box of penne I had in the cabinet instead of the more traditional elbow macaroni. So I cooked my pasta and set that aside.
For the protein I chopped two patties of Yves soy-free veggie burgers into cubes and fried with oil, garlic and onion until they were brown and slightly crispy. Gardein beefless tips would also work well or if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own burgers.
Set aside the “meat” and chop some spinach and bell peppers to add to the pan. You can of course use any vegetables you choose, these are just the ones I happened to have in the fridge. I’ve also been reading a lot about how important folic acid is for women my age. Yay, leafy greens! Saute the veggies for a couple minutes until they’re tender.
Now, it’s time to make the sauce! I may have made the sauce before I cooked the burgers and the veggies but I honestly can’t remember. For this, I used a simple white sauce: butter, flour and unsweetened almond milk. Yes, you can cook with almond milk, I use it all the time because we don’t drink cow’s milk. Just make sure it’s unsweetened. No, it will not curdle and is perfectly fine to use in making simple sauces such as this one. While it’s simmering, season the sauce with salt and pepper, chili powder and whatever spice you fancy.
You’re going to add a magical ingredient to this base: 1 can of cheddar cheese soup. It gives the sauce that essential creamy texture and helps bind the flavours together. I remembered to check the label on the can for any suspicious and artificial ingredients and I’m happy to report that there were none that I could see. So this will also please all those people who watch way too many documentaries on food.
See? No curdles
Add the “meat” to the pan with the cooked vegetables and stir in the pasta and sauce. And, finito!
- 1-2 tbsp oil
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 Onion, diced
- 1 Box Penne Pasta
- 2-4 Veggie Burger patties chopped into cube-like pieces
- 1-2 Red bell peppers, diced
- 1 cup chopped fresh Spinach
For the sauce
- 1 Can Cheddar cheese soup
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Milk, any kind
- Garlic powder, chili powder to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste