Spinach and Tomato Bechamel Pasta Bake

rich tomato, fresh spinach, and creamy bechamel all make friends in this cozy baked pasta dish.

You guys, it’s getting colder.

There’s no denying that creep of autumn into Melbourne. Cool, dark mornings, days where it just doesn’t quite warm up, the re-emergence of evening socks. What, you don’t have evening socks?

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Roasted Veggie Pasta Bake

Roasted-Tomato-and-Asparagus-Pasta-2

There is something about this time of year, when I’m still half in school holiday-mode, where all ideas of meal plans and being organised in dinner-related dinner activities go flying out the window with all of my cares and most of my dreams.

This means I’m either scrabbling to find dinner out of whatever we happen to have in the cupboard, or I’ve forgotten about dinner until it’s dinner time. Which is where I drag out the pasta bake. Find sad veg, add to pasta, top with cheese, EAT WITH WINE.

Normally I’m even lazier and I just chop veg and throw it in the sauce, then throw the sauce on the pasta. Then throw the lot in the oven. This time I pre-roasted the veg which is only ever going to be a good thing – roasting really brings out their flavour. And if you’ve got half a container of black olives, throw them in too – the more flavour the better!

I usually cook one 500g packet of pasta to just before al dente (it will keep cooking in the oven) – I’ve been buying organic pasta in bulk lately so I’ve got PLENTY to go round. This time I roasted a bunch of asparagus (cut into pieces), a few mushrooms, a mixture of all the tomatoes I could find lying around, some onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic. All in the same pan, all with a generous pour of olive oil and plenty of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Mix that lot once cooked with a can or two of tomatoes or a jar of tomato passata, pinch of sugar, bit o’ basil and some more salt, pepper, and olive oil. Stir the sauce through the pasta, top with excruciating amounts of a good, sharp cheese, and pop in the oven until all have had a change to mingle and perhaps even a couple of them make out in the corner.

Pour wine into a glass. Sit on the couch with a bowl of this in one hand, and your wine in the other. Enjoy.

 

Minted Pea Soup with Goat Cheese and Watercress

I can’t remember what reminded me, but I was thinking about minted pea soup, and I remembered reading a recipe by Sophie Dahl where she said she thinks of English summers and cricket and whatnot when she makes it. I don’t know what I think of, except it’s delicious, and before I knew it, I found myself in front of the freezers at my local shops trying to buy a kilo of tiny sweet little globes of goodness.

Minted-pea-and-watercress-soup

Which I lovingly simmered in some homemade veggie stock with some sauteed onion and garlic and a little mint from my struggling balcony pot. Then I blended to within an inch of its life, topped with Meredith goat feta, watercress, and mucho black pepper.

Now I’m not one for frozen veggies usually, but if you’re going to take the time to shell fresh peas, then you should really eat them boiled with a little butter and salt – enjoyed in their natural state! It’s criminal to sit through all that effort only to blend them when frozen peas taste just as good in soup.

Minted-pea-and-watercress-soup-2

Keep things vegan by omitting the sauteeing butter, and the extra goat feta at the end. It’s still (as with most vegan food) utterly divine. You won’t miss a thing.

So tell me, do you soup? Do you pea soup? I know some of you out there loathe peas with the fire of a thousand suns – are you one of them?

Minted Pea Soup with Goat Cheese and Watercress

Ingredients

  • 1 Large onion, diced
  • 2 Large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
  • 1kg frozen peas
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 pinch sugar, salt, and pepper
  • 1 handful mint
  • 100g goat cheese
  • 1 Small bunch watercress

Directions

Step 1
Heat a medium pot over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic gently in the olive oil and butter.
Step 2
Add peas, mint, stock, and a pinch of sugar.
Step 3
Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes until the peas are soft. Blend with a stick blender until as smooth as you can get it (it won't be totally smooth) and check for seasoning.
Step 4
Serve hot or warm with a topping of goat feta and watercress. Don't forget the extra black pepper!

Vegetarian Meatloaf

I  know, right – meatless meatloaf? What is it, then?

Well, it’s delicious, is what it is. In fact, when I first found the recipe, it was called “Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (Really!)” and I was intrigued. It had high ratings, and people who tried the recipe appeared to agree.

I’ll be the judge of that, I thought.

Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (excellent if you're looking for a veg option on Christmas)

Yeah, ok – they were right. It was really good.

Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (excellent if you're looking for a veg option on Christmas)

What you’re really looking for anyway is something baked in an oven that is the vehicle for gravy, amirite?

Anyway, we really liked it, and although next time I will probably put the mix in a food processor rather than just mashing the lentils, I think it does what is says it’s going to do. And if I was home for Christmas, this is what I’d be making. Alongside 84 kilos of potato bake, all the roasted pumpkin in the land, minted peas, and a pavlova chaser.

Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (excellent if you're looking for a veg option on Christmas)

If you’re wanting something festively veg for Christmas dinner (besides these vegetarian Christmas meal ideas, of course!) then may you enjoy really good vegetarian meatloaf. Really!

 

Vegetarian Christmas Meal Ideas

I know, I know – you’re a vegetarian at Christmas and you don’t know what’s festive enough to eat when everyone else is chowing down on ham. Or worse – you’re a carnivore hosting a vegetarian and you don’t know what to do.

Relax.

I got some vegetarian Christmas meal ideas that don’t take long, aren’t fiddly, but are super-festive and full of flavour. Nobody will miss out on this special day, I promise. Well, except maybe Santa, I hear he’s on a diet.

Vegetarian Christmas Meal Ideas  The Veggie Mama

 

The Main Event

Roasted-Pumpkin-and-Fennel-Lasagna-__-The-Veggie-Mama.jpg

Pumpkin and Fennel Lasagne

brown-rice-stuffed-peppers

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

sundried tomato quiche

Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Mini Quiche

feta-and-oregano-quinoa-patties-2

Feta and Oregano Quinoa Burgers

Mushroom-Risotto-5

Mixed Mushroom Risotto with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Sideshow

loving earth pumpkin and haloumi salad copy

Roasted Pumpkin, Kale, and Haloumi salad. So good!

pumpkin and haloumi with honey jalapeno copy

Pumpkin and Haloumi Salad with Honey-Jalapeno Dressing

roast tomato, haloumi and mint salad

ummm, see a pattern?!

Salad recipe here.

brown rice salad copy

Brown Rice Salad (which is utterly delicious, I swear!)

Festive Fun!

rum balls

Rum Balls (hold the rum, please – blecch)

cranberry and brie

Brie and Cranberry Rolls

spinach and mint dip

Spinach and Mint Dip

roast pumpkin hommus

Roasted Pumpkin Hommus

 What do you normally eat? Share a link, if you have one!

Potato and Cabbage Soup with a Jalapeno Lime Twist

I don’t know where y’all are, but it is STILL freezing in Melbourne. Last night I was huddling under a blanket and I’ve been walking around with constant cold feet. We can still eat soup here, people. Soup in December. SOUP, I tell you! If you’re cold too, you might like to warm up with this Potato and Cabbage soup with a Jalapeno Lime Twist – or Pin it for when the cooler weather hits!

Cabbage-and-Potato-Soup-with-Jalapeno-and-LIme

If, like me, you are thinking – cabbage soup with lime? WTF? I totally understand. I did too, at first. And then I made it, and added sour cream and coriander, and whaddya know? This thing is GOOD.

I had only been in Melbourne a few months, and was regularly getting the Whole Larder Love veggie boxes. When Ro means “seasonal”, he means “seasonal“. We had more cabbage than we knew what to do with.

I started Pinning all the European recipes I could find for cabbage and potato staples. When I came across one that had cabbage and potato mixed with jalapeno and lime I was intrigued, but kind of freaked out. Remember?

I made it basically the same way as this recipe, but without the broccoli and recommended parsley or dill. I mashed some of the potato to make a heartier-looking soup and let it all simmer down to a delightful bowl of warmth. The lime really makes a huge difference, and I know what will be my go-to when Ro starts up the boxes again next year.

Is it hot where you are? I know it’s meant to be summer in the Southern Hemisphere, but it’s forgotten us down here in Melbs :)

 

Honey Wholemeal Pizza Dough

Veggie-mama-Pizza

Pizza has become a once-a-week staple at VMHQ, and with good reason.

Reasons.

1. Breadmaker does all the work.

2. We all eat it (fussies included)

3. It takes hardly any time, and has VEGETABLES (I even make the girls’ tomato sauce a hidden veggie one)

4. Pizza.

Veggie-Mama-PizzA-2We are also very fortunate to live in basically what is the Deli capital of Australia, so are swimming in authentic Italianness to top our pies with. And also inauthentic pineapple on top of all that.

If you aren’t into wholemeal/wholewheat you can leave it out and sub regular flour for it, but I promise you can’t even taste it. It’s by far the best wholemeal pizza dough recipe I’ve ever tried (which is now why it’s the only one we make). I also pre-bake the bases for about 10-15 mins each which then means the bottom of the pizza is ready at the same time as the top!

Enjoy!

Adapted from here.

Honey Wholemeal Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 packet dried yeast
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 2.5 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Directions

Step 1
Add water and yeast together and leave for 10 minutes. I do this in the bowl of the breadmaker, but you can do it in a regular bowl.
Step 2
Mix in flours, honey, oil, and salt. Leave to rise (or set the dough cycle on the breadmaker) for at least an hour.
Step 3
Roll out on a floured bench - I get two large pizzas and a mini one for the kids out of this amount of dough.

Easy Pumpkin and Fennel Risotto

When there’s fennel in my veggie order, I am ashamed to say I pretty much do the same thing with it. Every time. It’s so good roasted though, so nobody complains (yet). Paired with roasted root veg – well, who’s going to turn their nose up at a pumpkin and fennel risotto? Especially if it’s easy!

roast-pumpkin-and-fennel-risotto

Not me, anyway. I love risotto. In fact, I don’t there’s ever been a risotto I didn’t like – I appear to be able to make friends with all varieties. I also tend to make an absolute ton, and freeze it for those days when I just cannot be arsed making a proper lunch. Which, let’s face it, is every day. Totally the reason I started The Quick Lunch series.

roast-pumpkin-and-fennel-risotto-2

So if you’re wondering what the hell to do with a bunch of fennel (and you’re not going to make Roasted Pumpkin, Haloumi, and Fennel Salad, or Pumpkin and Fennel Lasagna (seeing a pattern yet?!!) you can make this.

So what do YOU do with fennel?

Easy Pumpkin and Fennel Risotto

Serves 4-6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable

Ingredients

  • 1 Large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 400g arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2l vegetable stock (you may not need this much, but it's good to have extra in case)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup parmesan style cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 500g pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and diced into chunks
  • 1 Large fennel bulb, sliced into 2-inch pieces (save the fronds)

Directions

Step 1
Spread the vegetables out into two baking dishes, so there's a bit of room around them. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until pumpkin and fennel is soft and starting to caramelise.
Step 2
Heat your stock in a saucepan, and leave to simmer.
Step 3
heat a drizzle of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large pot and saute the onion, garlic, and celery, until soft.
Step 4
Add the arborio rice and stir for a minute or two, to lightly fry. Turn heat down to just above a simmer.
Step 5
Add the wine, and stir until totally absorbed.
Step 6
Add the stock to the rice, a ladelful at a time, until rice is tender. I find this takes 20-25 minutes. And yes, you must stir pretty constantly!
Step 7
When rice is soft, check for seasoning. Add butter and cheese. Gently fold through the pumpkin and fennel and serve with extra cheese and the fennel fronds on top.
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