A Sweet & Spicy Start to Your Month

             A festive wine and food pairing to try for the family! 

              The hardest part about being vegan is trying to find somewhere to dine out. I may have picked the worst living location to transition into a plant-based diet at. More options have been popping up around the Winchester area, but if I want a good vegan meal I have to drive forty-five minutes to get there. About two years ago when I made my way into the vegan world, I quickly realized that I was going to be cooking every meal for myself. Luckily, my mom is a chef and made sure to teach me how to cook at a young age. Having to cook each of my own meals as a vegan opened up a whole new world of cuisine and I found a passion in making vegan meals taste…well, good enough for a non-vegan to eat and enjoy!

               As I was reading the label of James Charles Wineries Cuvée de la Reine for the first time, I saw that a suggested food pairing would be something spicy, for example: a Cajun meal. I am a big fan of heat and with Mardi Gras coming up, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to try out a Cajun pasta recipe that I had been saving. I thought of combining my love of vegan cooking with my love of wine and enjoying a new experiment.

               Along with my experiments in the kitchen, I have found that I get better results when I fill in vegan substitutes for a regular recipe as opposed to following an already vegan recipe. This has caused me to discover some really great substitutes and some not-so-great substitutes, and has also helped me figure out what substitutes work better with each type of cooking (ie; baking, cooking). When I found this Cajun pasta recipe online, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to veganize. I made some adjustments, as well as adding a bunch of tweaks on measurements and ideas for taste and ended up making a pretty decent vegan meal. 

The recipe that I followed and tweaked is linked here: 


Creamy Cajun Pasta Vegan Replacements and Tweaks:

  • Vegan butter as opposed to olive oil – I used four tablespoons of Country Crock Vegan Butter Spread made with Olive oil. 
  • The recipe calls for chicken, but you can add whatever vegan protein option that is your favorite. I went with some pre-made, plant-based meatballs that I found at my local grocery store.
  • Added a dash of cayenne pepper (or two if you like heat)
  • Vegan chicken broth instead of regular chicken broth -I used RC Fine Foods Hearty Foundations Vegan Chicken Flavor Base. Mix 1 ½ teaspoons with 1 cup of water and it acts as chicken broth. Instead of mixing it in with regular water, I mixed it in with a cup of the pasta water which is a chef secret that sends any pasta dish over the top!.
  • 1 cup of plant based milk as opposed to regular milk or cream- You can use whatever floats your boat, but I used Chobani’s Extra Creamy Oat Milk. This acts more as a heavy cream and thickens up your soup base, pasta sauce, or milkshake way more than regular plant based milk. It calls for a much richer taste. 
  • 2 ounces of Tofutti Vegan Cream Cheese Spread instead of regular cream cheese
  • ½ cup of vegan shredded cheese – I used Daiya Parmesan shreds as opposed to regular parmesan cheese
  • Added ¼  cup of nutritional yeast (a staple in all vegan’s homes)
  • Added Squeeze of a fresh lemon on top

                I grabbed myself a bottle of the Cuvée, picked up the ingredients for the pasta dish, and made a nice night of cooking and wine pairing at my home. I even went as far as putting on some New Orleans style music in the background to get myself in the proper mindset. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I try my best to make a whole experience out of it because I find it makes the meal taste MUCH better.

                Everything was coming together nicely until the end. At the end of this attempt at this recipe, the sauce ended up not being as thick as you would want a pasta sauce to be. I ended up having to add some corn starch to try and thicken this delicious smelling sauce up. This little trick is super easy and is quite useful to know for whenever you need to thicken something quickly if you hadn’t started your dish with a rue (a mixture of flour and fat). The trick is to take a bit of corn starch in a bowl and add a tad bit of water and stir it together. The mixture should have a liquid texture, but on the thicker side. Slowly pour a small amount of this mixture at a time into your sauce, stir for a minute, and let simmer. Observe how it thickens the sauce and use your best judgment on if you should add more of the mixture or not. Once your sauce is to your desired thickness, serve and enjoy! But be careful, this recipe packs some heat that sneaks up on you!

                 I was nervous but excited to try the first bite of my dish but as soon as I did I was pleasantly greeted with a brilliant taste. This pairing of the Cuvée de la Reine and the veganized Cajun pasta could not have been better. The spice from the pasta lingers towards the front of your mouth, creating a sort of buzz between the tip of your tongue and your lips. The Cuvée slides past the spice, giving a slight smoothing effect, before shooting back to the top curve of the pallet (if you’re a singer, you know exactly where I’m talking about) and brightens up the taste. This creates a harmonious contrast of feeling and blend of flavor that invigorates your mouth and makes this meal a delightful experience. The fresh basil and squeeze of lemon on top of this dish is an extremely important component because it compliments the light lemony tones of the wine and puts an extra twist on the whole experience.

                 If you’re interested in trying this recipe and pairing out, I highly recommend it. Especially if you like heat and enjoy the insightful experience of a wine and food pairing. You can even make this pairing a festive night in your home with a little Mardi Gras homage/celebration. Pick up an extra bottle of the Cuvée de la Reine when you go to pick up your March wine club shipment. Even if you’re not a Legacy Wine Club member, come and grab yourself a bottle any time and enjoy this delectable pairing! You will not regret it and you can make a whole night out of it

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