Thermos 3-Tier Bento #25

Some garlic toast made from a veganized version of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook's Entire Wheat Bread, a TVP pasta bake I invented (recipe below), and some zucchini loosely inspired by a recipe in Cookery for 1 or 2.

A few different factors inspired me to go back to baking my own bread sometimes. It's hard to want to have the oven on some parts of the year, but for now it's fine, so that's one excuse out of the way. I have also been thinking that grocery store bread does me few favors--either I buy pretty expensive bread I know is about seven times the cost of its ingredients, or I buy the cheapest store brand bread because it's the only vegan option other than the really expensive bread, but I don't think that bread is particularly good for my health. Part of the trouble is that I really dislike most commercially prepared whole wheat breads, but I know I like the kind I make myself. And a lot of the impetus for grocery store runs is the need for bread, when I could get by without a trip to the store if I had bread. But once I go to the store, I don't want to waste the trip so of course I buy other things. And I did just spend a ridiculous amount of money on my car, as you'll recall if you're following along. And also, I'm a little uncomfortable with how much single use plastic is in our lives, and every loaf of bread comes in a plastic bag. I'm not going to save the world alone, I know, and I will still have many reasons to still need some plastic, and I know I will still be buying bread sometimes, too, but it makes me feel good to cut back on it where I can.

So I started out on this new adventure with veganizing Fannie Farmer's Entire Wheat Bread. I substituted soy milk for the cow's milk and I had to substitute about 1/4 of the molasses with maple syrup because I ran out of molasses. It is a no-knead recipe so it didn't require all that much attention. It baked up fine and made for excellent garlic toast. It was too strong to make sandwiches out of, and I do not possess the talent of slicing bread evenly, so it's just a first step. But it was a step! And I had bread for the week (I kept it in the fridge and it stayed fresh). And I'll try this recipe again sometime when I have all the molasses to see what that's like, but it won't be the next loaf you see--I'm going to try something a bit lighter and perhaps more appropriate for sandwiches next.

Along the lines of more such frugality, I present to you this "what I already had around" pasta bake. It is good and simple and cheap and the leftovers are excellent. (I know it looks like a lot of ingredients but the primary activities you need to do are measuring and stirring. It's not that hands on.) You can easily double the recipe if you have more people, too, if you need it. Because it uses no boil noodles, you use fewer dishes and spend less time on it, which is a bonus for some of us. The TVP sausage is based on this recipe, but I didn't bake it first because I knew it would soften in the sauce anyway.

TVP Pasta Bake
Serves 3-4

For TVP Italian sausage:

1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 cup TVP
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the pasta bake:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 jar spaghetti sauce of your choice
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan cheese, divided (I used Follow Your Heart)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. no boil/oven ready penne
1 batch TVP Italian sausage
2 tablespoons vegan mozzarella

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and make the sausage:
  1. In a small pot, mix 1/2 cup water, liquid smoke, soy sauce, and maple syrup. Bring to a light boil over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, mix TVP, nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powders, sage, fennel seeds, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.
  3. Stir dry TVP mixture into boiling liquid. Cover the pot and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed. Set aside.
Then, prepare the casserole:
  1. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onions and peppers and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  2. Coat a glass casserole dish (I used a 9 x 9 square pan) with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Add spaghetti sauce, hot water, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to casserole dish. Stir until smooth and well blended.
  4. Add uncooked pasta and stir to coat well.
  5. Stir in onions, peppers, and TVP sausage. Spread out in casserole dish evenly.
  6. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir. Spread out in casserole dish evenly again.
  7. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and mozzarella and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.
  8. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes before serving to allow sauce to thicken.


  1. That bake sounds really good, and I applaud your bread making skillz! I am not very good at making bread, though I imagine no knead recipes would be better. I think I fail at the needing? But I do have a breadmaker, and while I don't like the shape of the loaf that it bakes, it does have a dough setting where it kneads and rises the dough for you. Strangely, I have never used it to make bread dough, but I have used it to make dough for pizza and cinnamon rolls and stuff.

    1. There are a lot of ways bread can go wrong. It's a science experiment, kind of. I sometimes want a bread maker but I don't like the shape or the really hard crust you end up with. But maybe in the summer when I don't want my oven on? Sigh. The ideal life eludes me.

  2. Oooooh that pasta bake looks amazing, thanks for the recipe! I have always wanted to get into bread making, mostly because bread is one of my favorite foods and home made just always tastes better. I do agree with you that it costs way less to make it yourself and that's so true about less wear and tear on your car and the environment. I'm definitely going to have to start trying to make my own bread in the future!

    1. It feels vaguely like of all the things I should be doing maybe bread isn't it when I'm now chronically ill--except that it's harder to go to the store to buy bread than to bake it, really, and I'm home a lot anyway. It's mostly mix-wait-mix-wait-bake.

  3. That's great that you've started baking your own bread, and the pasta bake sounds delicious; I'll have to try your recipe sometime!


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