Pumpkin and Cashew Cream Pasta Sauce – Vegan Recipe

Pumpkin and cashew cream pasta sauce

Sometimes, I’m at the grocery store and find something I’d love to buy, but it’s way too unhealthy or not vegan, so it doesn’t quite work for our household. That was the case when I saw some (cream and butter-laden) pumpkin pasta sauce. So I snapped a picture of the ingredient list and made up a recipe to suit my liking. This time, my experiment turned out to be pretty delicious.

**Tip: Make this sauce on a Sunday, and stick it in the fridge for later in the week when you just want to make something quick and easy for dinner.

Ingredients, grouped by steps

½ cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked overnight
1 small carrot, peeled, roughly chopped and boiled in water – approx. 15 minutes
¾ cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic (approximately 1 tablespoon thinly sliced)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
2 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup pure pumpkin puree (canned or freshly made)
1 ½ teaspoon honey OR amber agave nectar (to make vegan)
4 San Marzano-style tomatoes, diced
1 cup juice from San Marzano-style tomatoes

(*Note: San Marzano-style tomatoes typically come in 28-ounce cans, so I drained 1 cup of juice from the can and diced 4 of the tomatoes, reserving the remaining juice and tomatoes for another weeknight dinner – probably tomato-braised jackfruit.)

*Special equipment: blender (or in a pinch, a food processor will work)

Step 1: Make a carrot-cashew cream.

Soak raw, unsalted cashews in cold water overnight. Drain water and put cashews in blender, along with the boiled carrot. Add vegetable broth (approximately ¾ cup, more or less) and blend until smooth and creamy.

Step 2: Sauté onion, garlic and spices.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add onion. Sautee for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add all spices/herbs and sauté for 3 more minutes, continuing to stir frequently to scrape up any spices stuck to bottom of pot.

Step 3: Simmer pumpkin, carrot-cashew cream, honey/agave nectar and tomatoes.

Add pumpkin puree and honey/agave nectar to pot. Stir to evenly distribute. Add San Marzano-style tomatoes and juice. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add sauce to your favorite type of pasta, and top with your choice of garnish, such as toasted pecans or fresh basil.

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Vegan Millet & Seed Muffins

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No matter how many times I remind people of the adage, “Read the entire recipe before you start it,” sometimes I forget to follow my own advice. That was the case with the original version of this recipe, which is from a wonderful vegetarian cookbook called Super Natural Every Day. A dear friend gifted it to me at a dinner party, and I frequently reference it for new ideas. For some reason, I remembered the Millet Muffins recipe being vegan, but once I started making it, I realized it’s not even remotely vegan. So I started substituting. And running out of things. And adding more substitutions. Surprisingly, the end result turned out to be delicious, so I thought I’d share it for any vegans who want a convenient snack that’s perfect for taking on early morning mountain adventures.

Recipe for Vegan Millet & Seed Muffins 
Makes 18 muffins

(Heavily adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson)

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup raw millet
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (approx. 1 large banana)
1/2 cup applesauce
3 teaspoons Ener-G (egg replacer)
4 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup lightly melted Earth Balance (butter replacer)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Grated zest from 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cupcake tin with coconut oil or use liners. Whisk together flour, millet, flax seeds, chia seeds, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together banana, applesauce, Earth Balance, brown sugar, agave nectar, lemon zest and lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, thoroughly whisk together the Ener-G egg replacer and water, then add to the bowl of wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the flour is just incorporated. Divide the batter among the cupcake cups, filling just a little bit below the rim. Bake for 15 minutes, until the muffin tops are browned and just starting to crack. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then flip over the tin to remove muffins. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Best enjoyed on a hiking trail with a view.