Butternut Squash Farfalle & (Vegan) Cheese!

I got some positive feedback about my barbecue “pulled pork” quesadillas, so I’m introducing another comfort food recipe! I consulted one of my favorite vegan cooks, Angela Liddon, author of the Oh She Glows blog and cookbook by the same name – and found a recipe on her blog for mac and cheese!  I used the same ingredients she did at slightly different amounts, but I baked the mac and cheese at the end for that extra gourmet texture.  The cheesy sauce was easy to make and I already had all the ingredients in my pantry.  It was a huge hit in our house – we ate it 3 nights in a row until it was all gone!  Every time my husband would eat it, his eyes would get really wide and he’d ask, “You’re sure you wrote down the recipe, right? You have to make this again, exactly the same way!!!”

Let’s talk about nutritional yeast.  Sounds unappealing to eat if you haven’t heard of it, but it’s a useful and healthy cheese replacement with its nutty, cheesy taste. It’s a yeast that’s usually grown on molasses, then deactivated with heat. (Yes, it’s vegan because yeast is a fungus, like mushrooms.)  It has lots of B vitamins and vitamin B12 may be added, so it’s good for cell building.  It is a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids your body needs, all in one place.  It has no saturated fat or sodium.

Compare this with dairy.

-Dairy products are loaded with saturated fat, and cheese has tons of sodium.  Saturated fat and sodium increase your risk of heart disease and strokes, two of the leading causes of death in the United States and developed countries.  The compound choline in dairy and eggs is converted by your intestines and your liver to TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide), which increases risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks.

-Cheese is actually addictive – the mammalian body’s metabolism of casein, the milk protein, turns it into casomorphins which are opiate-like chemicals that encourage a nursing calf to bond with its mother by activating its brain’s pleasure centers.  No wonder so many of my friends say, “I could give up meat, but I can’t give up cheese, I love it too much!” Casomorphins can make you feel a little like you got a small dose of morphine, which may not sound bad, but there have been studies that show that in children who cannot metabolize it well, it is associated with sudden infant death syndrome and autism.

-Cheese can also contain inflammatory cells due to cow mastitis, an infection of the udders.

-Casein, the dairy milk protein, was implicated in increasing the rate of liver and breast cancer development in rats and mice. Countries with higher animal-source dietary fat have higher rates of breast cancer. (Campbell T., The China Study 2005)

If all this information doesn’t make you want to lay off the cheese for your own health and well-being, visit my post about how dairy cows in factory farms are subjected to a lifetime of suffering and sickness, or watch any number of the documentaries to educate yourself: Conspiracy, Earthlings, Vegucated, etc.

Now, for the recipe!

Serves 8

Time: 60 minutes

4 pounds of butternut squash, peeled
-2 cloves garlic
-EVOO – 4 tablespoons
-1 tablespoon Coriander seeds, crushed into small pieces
-Salt and pepper
-Cut peeled butternut squash into 1-2 inch cubes
-In a casserole dish, put all ingredients together

-Bake for 40 minutes in 450 degrees

In the meantime, make the cheese sauce:
Cheese sauce ingredients:
-3 tablespoons vegan butter
-3 tablespoons corn starch
-2 cups unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
-12 tablespoons nutritional yeast (or to taste)
-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
-1 tablespoon each garlic powder and onion powder
-Salt and pepper to taste
-2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
-Optional: small pinch of cayenne pepper
Cheese sauce instructions:
1. Melt the earth balance in a sauce pan over low to medium heat
2. Add the almond milk and corn starch, mixing together until almost smooth
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, took together for 15-20 minutes total, tasting and adjusting (maybe adding more yeast)
Start cooking the pasta – 8 servings (I used farfalle) until al dente
4. Once the butternut squash is done, take 2 cups of the cooked butternut squash and combine with the cheesy sauce in a blender. Blend together to liquefy.
 Cut up the 1 large bunch of kale into 1-2 inch pieces
Once the pasta is done, drain and then add the raw kale, mix together, then add the sauce and the extra roasted butternut squash. Mix all together in the pot.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, pour the pasta mixture and then sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes.













Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas M. Campbell. The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2005. Print.

W.H. Wilson Tang, M.D., Zeneng Wang, Ph.D., Bruce S. Levison, Ph.D., Robert A. Koeth, B.S., Earl B. Britt, M.D., Xiaoming Fu, M.S., Yuping Wu, Ph.D., and Stanley L. Hazen, M.D., Ph.D. Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk. New England Journal of Medicine 368:1575-1584.



Linguine with Lentils


This dish is based on a Tuscan-style pasta I loved at a restaurant.  Think of it as “spaghetti Bolognese” but substitute lentils for meat to make it healthy and hearty, without the deleterious impacts of animal products.

Lentils (and other beans) are really good for you.  They lower the glycemic index of other foods you eat them with, and keep working for hours afterward.  That means that your blood sugar won’t spike if you eat a healthy serving of lentils with your pasta.  Legumes lessen blood sugar spikes by stimulating your good gut bacteria to produce a hormone that slows the rate at which your stomach empties the food out into the intestines to get absorbed.

(T. M. Wolever, D. J. Jenkins, A. M. Ocana, V. A. Rao, G. R. Collier. Second-meal effect: Low-glycemic-index foods eaten at dinner improve subsequent breakfast glycemic response. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1988 48(4):1041 – 1047)

 Legumes have also shown to improve people’s lifespan.  In cultures where legumes are consumed frequently – Japan (soy, tofu, miso), the Mediterranean region (garbanzo, white beans), Sweden (brown beans, peas) – longevity is increased with increased intake in legumes. (Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217-20 ). A study of nearly 6000 people in Taiwan showed that not eating legumes was associated with increased risk of mortality in women due to increased metabolic syndrome (the precursor to Diabetes and heart disease).  Increased risk of metabolic syndrome was seen in both women and men. (Public Health Nutr. 2012 Apr;15(4):663-72.)

What nutritional value do legumes provide?  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Beans and peas are excellent sources of protein. They also provide other nutrients, such as iron and zing, similar to seafood, meat, and poultry. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as potassium and folate, which are also found in other vegetables.”  (http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf)

So, you can count legumes as both a vegetable and a protein source!  Score!

I made the tomato sauce with an onion/garlic base, foods which are the best at fighting the growth of many different types of cancers (see my leek soup post). Tomatoes, which are among the richest vegetable/plant sources of potassium (NOT bananas, by the way, which rank 50th!), reduce the risk of vascular diseases, therefore reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

(D’Elia L, Barba G, Cappuccio FP, Strazzullo P. Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Mar 8;57(10):1210-9.)

Spaghetti with Lentils

Servings: 6-8

Time: 1 hour


1 cup of lentils

2.5 cups water

1 vegetable buillon cube

1 bay leaf

Combine lentils and above ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low, covered, until water is absorbed (30-45 minutes) and/or lentils are medium soft.

Combine the lentils with the sauce in the last step, below.

The sauce:

3 tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup of strained tomatoes

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1-2 cups of loose basil, then chopped roughly

1-2 cups of loose parsley, then chopped roughly

1 teaspoon sage

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, saute together until the onions become opaque.

2. Add the tomato paste, strained tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and sage. Turn heat down to medium-low, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Try not to let the mixture come to a complete boil.

3. After 10-15 minutes, add the parsley and basil. Continue to cook until the parsley and basil have wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. When the lentils are cooked, pour them into the sauce. Cook together on low heat, covered, for 5 minutes.


Pasta: There are all sorts of pastas out there.  You can use whole wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, or whatever else you prefer.  I ended up using the pasta I already had on hand. A spaghetti or linguine works best.  I cooked enough pasta for 8 servings, al dente, according to the instructions on the box.

The finished product:


Thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for providing helpful nutritional information!