A cast iron skillet? But what do you even DO with that? You're vegetarian!

Alas, many people equate cast iron skillets with grilling meat. Sure, that's a great use for them - if you swing with the meat-eating crowd. However, if you're like us, following a mostly plant-based diet, you might wonder if you even need to add this tool to your current kitchen arsenal. The answer is: yes. Yes, you do. You need a cast iron skillet in your life. You need it because cast iron heats to temperatures that your non-stick pan has only dreamt of. You need it because cast iron sears vegetables evenly, without wilting or over-cooking them. You need it because cast iron is the secret weapon in this fabulous weeknight recipe. Did I mention that you also need seared broccoli in your life? Well, you do, and I'm here to bring you the quick and easy recipe.

Seared broccoli is delicious on it's own, but you can crank it up a notch by tossing it with some incredibly delicious homemade vegan ginger molasses sauce. (Or, if you're SUPER pinched for time, you can totally use this awesome vegetarian hoisin sauce if you wish. I don't judge.)

Already a seasoned (pun-intended) cast-iron user? Skip directly to the recipe here!

Tips & Tricks for Cooking with Cast Iron

How to make sure your vegetables don't wilt
Blanch, blanch, blanch! Blanch your vegetables (do this by tossing your cut up vegetable into a pot of boiling water for only one minute) This method ensures that your veggies' bright colours and delicious crunch get locked in.

How to make sure your food doesn't stick to your cast iron pan
Two things will ensure that your food doesn't stick to your cast iron: oil, and heat. First, always make sure that your pan is well oiled. It should be glistening, but not pooling. Second, always heat the pan BEFORE adding the vegetable. Once your cold food hits the hot pan, it will sear instantly, creating a non-stick barrier.

How to clean and store your cast iron pan

All you need is some salt, some warm water, and a paper towel or a soft brush.
Step 1: Let your pan fully cool and remove as much excess food as you can.
Step 2: Sprinkle a generous amount of salt in your pan.
Step 3: Dampen your paper towel or soft brush. In circular motions, gently rub away the excess food in the pan.
Step 4: Rinse lightly
Step 5: Dry immediately
Step 6: Oil up your pan with two or three tbsp of canola or grapeseed oil (or any other oil with a high smoke point will do. Olive oil is NOT recommended.)
Step 7: Heat the pan until the oil smokes, swirl, then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. This step ensures that your oil does not become rancid while the pan is not in use. Wipe away any excess oil with a paper towel.
Step 8: Hang your pan, keep it out on the stove, or put it in a drawer - just make sure that it's not in contact with anything wet and you're good to go!

Seared Broccoli with Vegan Ginger Molasses Sauce
original recipe by allison sklar

seared broccoli ingredients
1 medium bunch of broccoli, cut into fork-sized pieces
2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil

ginger molasses sauce
1 tsp miso paste
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
generous pinch of chili flakes (optional, if you like a little spice!)

Mix together all sauce ingredients and set aside.

Start by blanching your broccoli. This will ensure that bright green colour and crunch gets locked in! To do this, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop your chopped up broccoli inside. Let them get nice and green and remove after just one minute. No leaving the kitchen here, this is some quick and serious blanching action!

Drain your broccoli and pat dry. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet (until a drop of water sizzles). Toss your broccoli in and stir for a few seconds. Allow to sear for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, without moving around too much. Florets should be nice and golden with hints of char.

Remove from heat. (Pan and broccoli will remain hot, beware!) Immediately add sauce and stir. Serve hot.

I've always been a fan of the Traveling Wilburys, as far back as I can remember, playing their record over and over again throughout my childhood. Recently, I've re-discovered the albums, and have been listening to them on a loop. For those of you who don't know, the Wilburys are actually a supergroup (in which nobody is actually named Wilbury) consisting of Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Jeff Lynn. A supergroup is what occurs when multiple successful solo artists come together to form something that can only be described as super. 

These stuffed shells are the supergroup of the food world: a combination of already amazing foods that become exponentially more delicious when they're put together.  Pasta. Sweet Potatoes. Fennel. Kale. Pesto. Mascarpone. (Writing this, I'm already wishing that I had made more.) I mean, just look at the photos. And then, when you find out that it's spiced with an unusually delicious combination of cinnamon, sage, allspice and nutmeg, you'll want to eat this all autumn long.

Sweet Potato & Fennel Stuffed Shells
recipe by allison sklar

MAKE IT VEGAN: omit the mascarpone and sub 1/4 cup soaked raw cashews, blended. 

1/4 cup vegan pesto sauce

4 tbsp mascarpone (if vegan, see note above)
2 tsp cooking oil
2 onions, diced

1 bulb fennel, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & diced
3 tbsp salted butter or vegan margarine
4 tbsp maple syrup
3 cups water

1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup finely chopped fresh kale
10 to 12 large pasta shells


Mix mascarpone (or cashew paste) and pesto together and set aside.

In a wide, deep saucepan over medium heat, heat oil and sautée onions until translucent. Add fennel and stir, sautéeing until brown. Add water, sweet potatoes, butter/margarine and maple syrup. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, stir once, and continue to cook uncovered until water is absorbed and butter & honey start to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Do not stir.

Add spinach & kale, stir, and scrape the bottom of the pan. Spoon in 1/4 cup of pesto mixture. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired. Cover and keep warm.

Cook shells according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Carefully spoon potato mixture into each shell, topping with remaining pesto mixture. Serve warm, garnished with your favorite parmesan or vegan cheese shreds. 

Looking for something with lots of flavour and very little work? Dust off your CrockPot and make this vegan mixed bean ragout - the perfect dish to warm your soul on chilly winter nights. Set it and forget it, then come home to something magical. Use canned pumpkin purée, canned beans & canned tomatoes to make your prep work ultra-fast!

Slow Cooker Mixed Bean Ragout
vegan and gluten-free


2 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can San Marzano tomatoes, diced
1 large red onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup navy beans
1 cup pinto beans
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce

2 cups spinach
1 cup cilantro

1 tbsp corriander seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
pinch chili flakes
1 tbsp cumin seed
3 star anise pods
2 tsp ground allspice
3 tsp ground black pepper

In slow cooker, mix all ingredients and seasonings together except spinach and cilantro. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours. Uncover, taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or hot sauce if necessary. Add spinach & cilantro. Cover and continue cooking on high power for 1 more hour.
Serve warm. Leftovers? Keep it in the fridge up to 5 days, or freeze for up to three months.

Pesto sauce. That delicious, garlicky green stuff that you want to smother on everything. Once you learn how ridiculously easy it is to make your own fresh vegan nut-free pesto at home, you'll wonder why you haven't done it before. With only four ingredients and a blender - this sauce is faster than a frozen pizza! The most wonderful thing about it, other than how absolutely delicious it is, is how easy it is to change it up depending on how you feel, and what you've got on hand. Throw in a little arugula for a peppery bite, or some sundried tomatoes & olives for a little mediterranean flair. Add spinach to make it super duper fresh tasting, or satisfy your garlic craving when garlic scapes are in season. 

Perfect Vegan Nut-Free Pesto 
recipe by allison sklar

6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup good quality olive oil 
1/8 tsp salt 

Place half of the oil, basil, garlic and salt into a blender or a food processor and pulse until mixture comes together. Slowly add the rest of the oil, streaming in and turning up the speed. Scrape down the sides. Blend on high for one minute, or until mixture becomes homogenous. Store refrigerated up to two weeks in a mason jar topped with a little extra oil, or freeze for up to 3 months. Wonderful on sandwiches, pasta (like these stuffed shells!) or secretly enjoy it straight out of the jar!

As a general rule, food is cuter when it's miniature. Mini cakes. Mini brownies. Mini sandwiches. Mini burgers. Something about handheld food makes it significantly more appealing than it's full sized counterpart. Handheld mini patties are easy to make - finding burger buns to match, however, can prove to be a challenge. Readers, rejoice, I've found the solution - just make your own. Super quick and easy, and obviously SUPER tasty. 

Homemade Slider Burger Buns

make it vegan by using non-dairy milk and coconut oil!


1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy, you choose!)
2 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp granulated sugar2 tsp instant dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, with a bit more for kneading

1 tbsp cooking oil (your choice of canola, vegetable, olive, etc.)

1 cup water

1 1/2 tbsp baking soda

2 tbsp butter, melted 

2 tbsp of toppers (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onions, or a mix of all three!)


Oil a large clean bowl and set aside. 

Heat milk gently until 100F and pour into another large bowl. If the milk is too hot, or if you don't have a thermometer, wait for it to cool to approximately body temp. 
Whisk in sugar, sprinkle yeast on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Add butter and half of the flour. Stir to make a batter. (It will be lumpy, don't worry about it!) 
Add in salt and remaining flour and mix with a spatula or with your hands. 
Once it starts to come together, knead in the bowl until it becomes a ball. Dust your countertop with flour and knead an additional 2 to 3 minutes. 
Put dough into oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled. Meanwhile, heat water to a near boil, add to a small bowl and whisk in baking soda to dissolve. Set aside. 

Once dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a work surface and cut into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. 

Preheat oven to 450F.
Submerge one by one into the baking soda solution for 10-15 seconds, then transfer to a parchment-paper lined baking baking sheet. Sprinkle with toppings.
Bake for 9 to 12 minutes until golden brown. 
Remove from oven and brush with remaining melted butter. 
Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.