Creamy Basil Tomato Spaghetti with Kale

I am in love with quick and easy meals. Busy families need access to healthy food that doesn’t take hours to prepare. This recipe falls into the quick and easy category. To make it even faster you can always use a jar of your favourite pasta sauce instead of making your own. The addition of the cashew cream adds a little sweetness and creaminess to the sauce and also a bit of texture. We have started our own little herb garden in our kitchen window. If you aren’t growing your own herbs, basil can be purchased at your local grocery store in the fresh produce department. I love the smell of fresh basil and the pop of flavour that it adds to a pasta dish. The topping on the pasta is a sautéed kale. I chose to sauté it in a flavoured red pepper chili oil. This added a bite of heat to the kale. Mary Mattern, the original inspiration for this recipe, suggests trying Swiss chard, collard greens or kohlrabi in place of kale if you want to try something different. Not only is this meal delicious, it presents beautifully with the contrast of texture and the bright green on top of the pasta nest. Hope you love it as much as we did!

With thanks to Mary Mattern of the cookbook Nom Yourself

Makes three cups of sauce


2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28oz) can chopped tomatoes*
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp organic granulated sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt**
1 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained***
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 package spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 cup kale, lightly sautéed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp nutritional yeast****
  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, pepper, and kosher salt.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.
  5. In a blender, add soaked cashews and water and blend until the cashews are smooth.
  6. Add the cashew cream to the pot of tomato sauce.
  7. In a large bowl, combine the cooked spaghetti and half the sauce. Toss until the pasta is well coated.
  8. Add the basil. Then plate it by using a ladle and large fork (I used a meat fork). Twirl a heaping amount of spaghetti around the fork. Place the spaghetti and the fork inside the ladle and continue to twirl. Once the spaghetti had formed a nice “Nest”, transfer the pasta to a plate.
  9. Place the spaghetti on the plate and pull the fork up carefully (you may need two hands for this).
  10. Pull the spaghetti from the center, making a nest-like shape. Add extra sauce to the center of each nest.
  11. Place the sautéed kale on top of the extra sauce and sprinkle with red pepper flajes and nutritional yeast.

Kathryn’s tips

*I used six Roma tomatoes and a handful of heirloom cherry tomatoes. I prefer to avoid canned tomatoes when possible or to buy cans that are labelled BPA free.

**I used coarse sea salt.

***Cover the cashews in boiling water and let soak for at least 30 minutes. This softens them up so you can purée them.

****If you are not eating dairy this is your cheese topping option. If you do eat dairy then you can use freshly grated Parmesan.

Vegan Parmesan Cheese

I know, how can you mess with cheese? You just might be surprised. This vegan version is cheesy thanks to the nutritional yeast and crumbly from the pulverized nuts/seeds.

With thanks to Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows Every Day

Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free option, soy-free, grain-free, oil-free

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Makes 3/4 cup (175 ml)

1/2 cup (125 ml) raw cashews or raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) nutritional yeast
1/4 to 1/2 tsp (1 to 2 ml) fine sea salt, to taste
1 clove garlic, or 1/4 tsp (1 ml) garlic powder, or to taste
  1. If using fresh garlic, mince it in a mini food processor. Add the cashews or pepita seeds, nutritional yeast, salt, and garlic powder (if not using fresh garlic). Process until a coarse meal forms. The parmesan will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Penne with Winter Squash and Fried Sage

Straight forward, quick to prepare and yummy, this make again meal warms the belly with its combination of flavours and a little bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. You could easily make this spicier by adding more red pepper flakes. Adjust based on your preference for heat. The recipe is vegetarian but could be made vegan by substituting the Parmesan cheese for Vegan Parmesan Cheese (see Other Yummy Stuff). I made it with sweet potatoes which worked out quite nicely. Either way, it makes a great meal paired with a side salad.

With thanks to Ivy Manning of the Weeknight Vegetarian cookbook

Makes 4 servings


3 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup (1/3oz, 10g) Fresh Sage Leaves (about 25 large leaves), packed
2 1/4 lb (about 1 kg) Butternut, Hubbard or acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Garlic, finely chopped
1 cup (8 fl oz, 250 ml) Vegetable broth
1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes
3/4 lb (375 g) Penne pasta
1/3 cup (1 1/3 oz, 40 g) Parmesan cheese, grated (or Vegan Parmesan Cheese)
4 tsp Lemon juice
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the sage leaves until crisp and beginning to brown, 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the leaves to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Add the squash to the pan with the sage oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once, until the squash begins to caramelize, 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, push the squash aside a bit, and add the garlic; sauté the garlic until fragrant, 20 seconds. Add the broth an d red pepper flakes, cover and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup (4 fl oz, 125 ml) of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to the pan with the squash along with the cheese and lemon juice. Stir gently to combine, adding the reserved pasta cooking water 1 Tbsp at a time if needed to moisten the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the fried sage leaves over the top and serve.

Ivy’s tip:

Not keen on prepping winter squash? Buy pre-diced and peeled butternut squash from the produce department of the grocery store. You may need to cut the chunks into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Just don’t be tempted to use frozen squash here: It’ll turn to mush instantly.

Buttermilk Ranch Dip

So good with Buffalo Cauliflower and Kale Salad (see Main Dishes). I substituted dill for the parsley and really liked it. It makes a great salad dressing too.

With thanks to Mary Mattern from the cookbook Nom Yourself

Makes a little more than 2 cups of Ranch Dip

1 1/2 cups vegan mayonnaise (or not vegan, I used Hellman’s)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried parsley
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
  1. Whisk the mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, parsley, almond milk, and apple cider vinegar in a medium bowl.
  2. If the dip is too thin, add more mayonnaise to make your preferred consistency.

Buffalo Cauliflower Kale Salad

Even before going to a plant based diet I did not eat chicken wings. Chicken on a bone- blegh! So Buffalo wings were never on my list of yummy things I would eat when out. I tried this recipe because I had never had Buffalo wings and because I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge that needed to get eaten and fast. No regrets. And it was easy. Instead of putting the cauliflower on the kale I put it beside it. Paired with sweet potato fries and a homemade Buttermilk Ranch (mine was dill based instead of parsley) this was a delicious and easy meal.

With thanks to Mary Mattern from the cookbook Nom Yourself

Makes 4 servings of salad

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
Coconut oil cooking spray
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup hot sauce (Mary prefers Frank’s RedHot and that’s what I used)
2 cups chopped kale leaves
Buttermilk Ranch Dip (see Other yummy stuff)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Mix the water, flour, garlic powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  4. Dip each piece of cauliflower into the batter and shake all access batter off. Then place the pieces on the parchment paper. Repeat the process until all the cauliflower pieces are coated.
  5. Spray the tops of the cauliflower with coconut oil cooking spray. Do this lightly by holding the bottle about a foot from the cauliflower.
  6. Bake for 17 minutes.
  7. When the cauliflower is cooking, melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the hot sauce and stir. Once combined, remove the pan from the heat.
  8. When the cauliflower is ready, put the florets in a heat-safe bowl and pour the hot sauce mixture over them. Toss to coat.
  9. Place the cauliflower back on the parchment paper and bake for another 5 minutes.Massage the kale until it is a bit wilted, about 5 minutes.
  10. Place the kale in a bowl. Top with the Buffalo cauliflower and the Buttermilk Ranch Dip.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Snack Bars

I made these for a family get-away snack instead of buying granola bars and chips. These bars are a great treat to grab on the go. They are quite dense and therefore filling. The recipe comes with a Cashew Butter Maple Glaze option that I have not tried. Let me know if you try it and what your thoughts are.

With thanks to Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows

Yield: 10-12 bars     Prep Time: 20 minutes     Cook Time: 23 minutes


Wet Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup coconut sugar (or granulated sugar of choice)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Dry Ingredients:
1 + 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
heaping 1/3 cup dried cranberries
Cashew Butter Maple Glaze (optional):
2 Tbsp raw cashew butter
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
pinch of cinnamon, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper, one going each way.
  2. In a medium pot over medium heat, stir together the pumpkin, molasses, sugar, and oil. Heat until melted and combined. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  3. In a blender or food processor, add the rolled oats. Blend on the lowest speed (or pulse, if using a processor) until roughly chopped. You don’t want to pulverize it into a flour – the goal here is to keep a coarse texture, with some large pieces of oats and some smaller ones.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (oats, flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cranberries).
  5. Scoop the wet ingredients over the dry and stir well until combined. The mixture will be very sticky and heavy. Totally normal.
  6. Scoop the dough into the prepared square pan. Since the dough is so sticky and dense, it’s challenging to spread out smoothly. Angela’s suggestion is to place a piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and press down on it with your hands, trying to spread it out evenly as you go. It takes a bit of time to get it smooth. After pressing it smooth, place a pastry roller (or a jar or can) on top of the parchment and roll it smooth while pressing in the edges with your fingers.
  7. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 22-25 minutes (I baked for 23 minutes) until firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before lifting out the square and cooling it on a cooling rack for another 30 minutes. Slice into 10-12 bars.
  8. For the glaze (optional): In a small bowl stir together all the glaze ingredients until combined. Add the glaze into a plastic bag and snip off the corner so you can “pipe” it on the bars. Or simply spread the bars with the cashew mixture using a knife. Your call.

Angela’s Tips:

*If you aren’t using gluten-free all-purpose flour, Angela suggests using all-purpose flour or light spelt flour. Whole wheat pastry flour might work too.

If you try anything else post your comments on Angela’s and on this blog.

Feel free to swap the cashew butter glaze for a simple icing sugar glaze.

For a nut-free option, skip the cashew butter glaze.

Kathryn’s Tips:

My family felt like this treat needed a little crunch and texture. The next time I make it I would try adding pepita seeds or walnuts. If you try it let me know!



Homemade Vegetable Broth

This is a great Sunday afternoon activity. Grab your stock pot and a bunch of veggies and make yourself some veggie broth for the week. This recipe uses fresh whole vegetables but there is another option. As you are preparing your other whole food recipes, save your ends and peels. Our friends over at Thug Kitchen suggest keeping a bag in the freezer for your scraps (ends of onions, carrot peels, celery, garlic, shallots, green onion pieces, and the ends of leeks). Veggies that are starting to turn or wilt like mushrooms, herbs or peppers, are good to add too. For either the fresh veg or the scraps avoid the strong flavoured vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. And, always avoid anything that is starting to rot or is moldy. Just to get a health Public Service Announcement in, don’t store your food in plastic – ever. Use glass containers. For your stock, large Mason jars (I like the wide mouth kind) are a great choice. They store easily and they hold lots.

With thanks to Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows

Makes 10 to 11 cups (2.4 to 2.6L)

Prep Time: 30 minutes              Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours

Gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free, soy-free, grain-free

1 1/2 tsp (7ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 onions, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, peeled entirely and cloves smashed
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium carrots, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 bunch green onions, roughly chopped
1 cup (250ml) shiitake or cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs fresh thyme
2-inch (5cm) piece kombu (optional)
1 1/2 tsp (7ml) whole black peppercorns
2 tsp (10ml) fine-grain sea salt
  1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch or two of salt and lots of pepper.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, green onions, mushrooms, tomato, bay leaves, thyme. kombu (if using), and peppercorns and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes more.
  3. Finally, stir in 12 cups (2.8L) water and 2 tsp (10ml) salt. Bring the mixture to a low boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 90 minutes, or longer if you have the time.
  4. Carefully pour the broth through a strainer into a large bowl or pitcher. Compost the solids. Transfer the broth to large glass canning jars, leaving about 1 inch (2.5cm) at the top for expansion. Cool the broth completely, then screw on the lids and place in the freezer. The broth will keep in the freezer for 1 to 2 months or in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Angela’s Tips:

If you’d like to season the broth even more, add a splash or two of tamari. Keep in mind, however, that it will no longer be soy-free. For a soy-free option, use coconut aminos.