Spaghetti with Vegan Alfredo Sauce and "Meat"balls

 Dammit these photos suck. My constant plight: do I make the food and then spend hours getting the right shot? Or do I eat it while it's still hot, in the company of friends, and bad lighting? Certainly for this meal I went with the latter.
I'm not vegan, but there is something I absolutely love about making something when you have restrictions. I had vegan friend for dinner, so I went all out. We made some kale salad, too, and had homemade peanut-butter cups for dessert (just buy vegan chocolate). The crowning glory was this pasta dish. The alfredo gains its creaminess largely from cashews, which are often substituted in place of dairy. The meatballs were fabulous. They benefited from putting a whole lot of flavors in. The great thing about vegan food is there's often a lot less cooking. The alfredo is raw: all you have to do is put everything in the blender! And the balls you just mix together, form, and bake. It was a really great meal. The one thing I would warn is don't go into this looking for the glory or taste of traditional, mother's alfredo or meatballs. It's a beast of its own accord.

Pasta with Vegan Alfredo Sauce and "Meat"balls
makes 4-6 servings
adapted from Vegan Yum Yum and My Vegan Cookbook

for meatballs
(note: sorry I haven't added in instructions for the lentil and brown rice! I'm a bit of a freak and I often have them leftover in my fridge and I'm too lazy to add cooking instructions right now. Neither should take too long though, especially if you use a pressure cooker.)

1/2 cup cooked lentils
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tsps lemon juice
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp chili powder (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsps molasses
2 tsps dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 300 F.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If mixture isn't sticking enough, add a little water. 
Measure out 2 tablespoons of mixture for each meatball if you want them big, or 1 if you want them mini (like I did) and roll into a ball with your hands. 
Spray cooking sheet and place meatballs on it. Place into oven and cook 15 minutes on one side and roll over and cook 15 minutes on the other side. 
After they are out of the oven, let stand for about 10 minutes to allow them to firm up. They may crumble a bit, but that's ok. They still taste great in bits.

for alfredo sauce
1 cup soymilk
1/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsps soy sauce (low-sodium is best)
2 tbsps earth balance buttery spread
1 tbsps tahini
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsps dijon mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
1 sprinkle nutmeg
4 cloves garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
black pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain if you want really smooth, but I personally like the crunchy cashew bits. Adjust flavoring as you see fit.

for spaghetti
2 lbs spaghetti
boiling water

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, 8-10 minutes (or whatever the box says) and drain.

In a large serving bowl, add hot pasta and alfredo sauce. Mix thoroughly, then throw in meatballs. Serve!


Cantaloupe Horchata

 People who do know what horchata is often know it as its traditional, basic rice version, with milk and cinnamon.
What most people don't know is that you can also make fruit horchatas. In this case, there is no rice involved. What qualifies it with horchata status is that something unusual is added. Or, I should say, not removed. For cantaloupe horchata, everything--save the rind--is added. The fruit, the pulp, and the seeds. The seeds give it an odd, deep body that takes some time getting used to but is very impressive once you've come to terms with. I know I should be making this closer to summer, but I couldn't help it. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. If, um, I mean, if that means making horchata.

Cantaloupe Horchata
adapted from Mark Bittman's Best Recipes in the World
serves 4.

1 ripe cantaloupe
1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 c. sugar (to taste)

Cut the cantaloupe in half and scoop everything–fruit, seeds, and pulp–into a blender. Add a couple tablespoons of lime juice and sugar and 2 cups of water. 
Blend until smooth (this could take a bit of time). Taste and adjust the lime juice and sugar. You can choose to strain the drink at this point if you want, then serve cold immediately or store in fridge.


Peanut Butter Button Cookies

 When I say button I actually mean it. They look like actually buttons.
 Simple peanut butter cookie recipe. I will you save you from the fate of your cousins: no fork tines will scrape your back.
 As you can see, these cookies are pretty small. As uncooked balls they should fit inside a bottle cap.
 We're getting to the fun part. Just as the cookies come out of the oven, still warm, you have to make the buttons. Hurry, there's not a lot of time before they get too rigid and cool.
 How do you make the cute little button-ridge? That afore-mentioned bottle cap. Press it into the cookie. Perfect.
 Then the holes? It involves a straw. Bring it down and give the straw a smart turn. When you draw up, you should have left a neat hole for your button. This is fun for the first, oh, 100 holes. Then it starts to get sucky. Wait, did I mention? The cookie left from the button holes accumulate. What's really fun? Sucking them out of the straw. Like a pneumatic tube that ends in your mouth.
These make great gifts. Put them in a jar and tie with a ribbon. That's what I did. ANd the best thing about giving a gift of food? You often get to help eat them.

Peanut Butter Button Cookies
adapted from Bakerella and allrecipes
makes about 60 tiny buttons

note: bake these in about four batches. As you take one out, put the next in and start transforming the done batch into buttons. As you finish, the next batch should be ready. Be careful not to bake too many at one time, because they'll cool and harden before you're ready to work with them.

6 tbsps unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into batter. 
Optional: at this time, you can chill in the refrigerator for an hour to help combat spreading when they bake.
Roll into balls that will fit inside a soda cap and put on baking sheets.  
Bake for about 6-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. Do not over-bake.
While cookies are still warm and soft, press the soda top into each to make an indent in the middle,a nd then use a straw to poke four button holes for each cookie. Some will crack. Don't worry. Those are for eating while you work.