With an oversized apron tied ‘round my waist and a wooden spoon in hand, I was always an eager young cook. This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “first cooking memories,” and I have quite a few of those! I remember rolling, cutting and decorating sugar cookies for Christmas with Oma (and trying to sneak some of the raw dough while she wasn’t looking). I remember stirring the contents of various pots of food on the stove at Grandma’s house during holiday & birthday dinners. I remember rolling out the dough and prepping the fillings with dad for apple and pumpkin pies leading up to Thanksgiving. And I remember how much I loved spaghetti for dinner, and helping mom prepare it.
Those daily memories are often the most basic, yet enjoyable to think back on. Oma had made kid-sized aprons for my sister and I to don while helping our parents cook. Which is good – I can only imagine we created somewhat of a mess in the process! My love of cooking and food began with all of that. My family respected my help in the kitchen, and the older I got, the more responsibility was given to me. Where I first was allowed to stir the sauce, I progressed to browning the meat for the sauce (yes, I used to eat meat). Instead of just putting the pot of water on the stove to boil, I actually cooked the noodles all the way through. We switched from store-bought garlic bread, to garlicking (is that a word? It is now) a fresh loaf of bread.
When my sis and I were finally old enough, and knowledgeable enough, to cook on our own, our parents tasked us with making dinner once a week for a whole summer! We had to plan the meal, add the ingredients to the grocery list (after first checking the pantry & freezer for anything we already had), go shopping with them (an activity I still love to this day), prep the ingredients, and cook the entire meal. Sure, we frequently asked questions regarding technique, timing, and what something in the recipe might mean, but we did it all on our own, at a relatively young age. This was fantastic prep for meals when we were alone, and certainly for college survival.
Thanks to my parents and grandparents for those early cooking experiences! Because of that, I now find great joy in the entire cooking process, from recipe creation to meal devouring. And with that, here’s a healthy, vegan take on that spaghetti dinner I used to help prepare. Mashed and seasoned black beans replace ground beef, and a homemade sauce elevates the flavor of jarred varieties. It’s a great weeknight dinner that you can even get your kids to help with 🙂
Vegan Spaghetti Dinner
- 8 oz whole wheat or gluten free spaghetti
- 1 tbsp olive or coconut oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 C water
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
Heat oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Cook the onion 5-7 minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add the black beans and cook another 3-4 minutes to heat through. Use a flat wooden spoon or fork to mash the black beans and onions together. You’re looking for consistency similar to cooked ground beef. Stir in the seasonings, cooking through another 2-3 minutes.
Now stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, garlic and water. Mom always taught me to add a spoonful of sugar to tomato-based sauces, to cut the acidic properties of tomatoes and bring out their taste.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes. Cook through another 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.
Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it into the skillet with your sauce, and toss to coat. Taste and add more salt or pepper as desired.
Serve and enjoy hot! This pairs well with a leafy green salad and bottle of red wine (or juice for the kids).