Posts Tagged ‘italian’
Lasagna, the Oil-Free Way

OK, I will admit that I talk a big game when it comes to McDougalling. In October, I made it a full two weeks on the McDougall plan (with some minor deviations), but that was all it lasted. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great lifestyle, but even I had a very difficult time keeping up with all the at-home cooking required. Also, many of the recipes that we tried left us feeling a little underwhelmed. I think it’s great to be aware of and limit your intake of oils (or any processed food for that matter), but I’ve hung up my McDougall hat once-again. I do know, however, that some of my readers are curious about the plan and would appreciate some tested recipes. So, here is one for a vegan tofu ricotta. It was a little too cheesy for my tastes, and I would reduce the nutritional yeast if I went back and did it again. I would also probably substitute fresh basil for the dried basil, because it might have livened up the flavors a little bit. I used this “ricotta” in a vegetable lasagna, where I layered brown rice lasagna noodles with spinach, zucchini, these cheese, and tomato sauce.  It was pretty good, but it’s telling when something like this lasts in our refrigerator for more than a week.

Pasta Primavera: An Iteration

I’m not going to be coy about it. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I blame my upbringing for my love of pasta. In a past life, I enjoyed all sorts of oily and creamy sauces for my pasta, but lately I have been opting to toss it with fresh vegetables instead. Since this is a McDougall-friendly recipe, I also added a bit of vegetable broth to the mix. The recipe for this is so simple that I won’t even post it after the jump. Take a cup of vegetables (I used asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes) and sautee them in half a cup of vegetable broth until tender. Then, toss in one serving of your favorite pasta. You can garnish with a little fresh ground black pepper or perhaps some nutritional yeast. I used this really cute pasta that I found at Jordan Middle Eastern market in Westwood.

Tofu Francaise

Lately, my boyfriend and I have been focusing our efforts on cultivating our appreciation of the french language. He set us up with Rosetta Stone,which has taught me (among important words like mange) that my 3 semesters of french at USC were practically wasted. For those of you who don’t know, Rosetta Stone uses flash cards and only speaks to you in French, kind of like trial by fire. It also makes you repeat after it and uses voice recognition technology to either build you up or shame you until you get it right. According to the evil lady robot, who I like to call Rosie, my pronunciation is absolutely atrocious. Last night, Rosie took particular offense to my butchering of the word “boit”.  In honor of the french, here is my recipe for tofu francais, which is a vegan take on an italian recipe with a french name. My serving suggestion is to pair it with some lightly steamed haricort vert (that’s green beans for those of you who only speak languages where they pronounce all the letters). I added some whole wheat garlic knots to the mix, which is my new favorite way to deal with leftover pizza dough.

Rotini and Broccoli

Have you ever had one of those mornings when you knew that you needed to bring something for lunch, but had no idea what you were going to do about it? Due to my busy schedule, I have that morning more times than I would care to admit. The scenario: I’ve planned out some meals for the week, but not a full schedule. I have some vegetables left over from other dishes and know that I need to use them. I have all of my pantry staples lying around. This dish is perfect for mornings (or evenings) when you don’t have a lot of time, but you are looking for something that can be thrown together in the time it takes you to wash a sink full of dishes.

M-M-M Eye-talian

The above is a quote from Dr. Sheldon Cooper of the show Big Bang Theory. I saw him at a play last week and refrained from gushing and running over for a picture. Instead, I took some secret ones on my i-phone.
Anyway, I used to love ravioli. My freezer was always stocked with a bag of frozen ravioli, which could be turned into a wonderful meal with tomato sauce or sometimes just butter and garlic. Since I’ve already got tofu ricotta down to an art, I decided to mess around with some wonton wrappers and see what I could come up with.
My first tango with vegan ravioli did not end so well. I stuffed them with tofu ricotta and spinach, and then submerged them in boiling water for 3 minutes. The result was pretty good, but they stuck together in this weird way. The second time, i was met with more success. I used two wonton wrappers for each ravioli and only cooked them 2 at a time. Then, I let them dry in a single layer before layering them together with tomato sauce. The result was a delicious baked ravioli.

Brown Rice Pasta Primavera

Cooking with friends is always an enjoyable time and a great experience. I recommend it to anyone who is looking to pass a quiet night with good company and delicious food. The funny thing about cooking with friends is that sometimes you learn cooking techniques that stick with you forever. Whenever you use that technique, you naturally think of that person. Such is the case whenever I make pasta with broccoli. One night in college I made pasta with my friend Nathan, and he literally blew my mind when he told me that you could just drop broccoli into pasta during the last few minutes of cooking. Not only did it add a vegetable to the dish, it also saved a dirty pan. Lately I feel like my hands are a little dry, and I have attributed this to the number of dishes I have been doing. So, every time that I take the opportunity to save myself a pan and some trouble, I say a silent thank-you to Mr. Punwario(this is Nathan’s college nickname that he would not want reprinted here).
Unlike most vegetables, there was never really a time when I hated broccoli. I attribute this to two things. First, my mom used to ply us with cheese-covered broccoli. Second, it was commonly used in pasta dishes. These two disguises allowed broccoli to slip undetected into my diet. The other day I found myself wanting something quick and delicious. It was nearing the end of the grocery week, but I had a bottle of Charles Shaw opened. Past the age of 22, Charles Shaw is never meant to be drank, and only acceptable as a cooking wine. So, I pieced together some things from my pantry with some things from my fridge and ended up with a magical little pasta dish that reminds me of cavatelli with broccoli. (Author’s note: in New Jersey this would be pronounced Cah-vah-teal).

 Brown Rice Pasta with Broccoli

  • 2 c. broccoli florets
  • 2 c. mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 c. brown rice pasta (dry measure)

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, chop the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces, quarter the mushrooms, and mince the garlic.
2. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the broccolli to the boiling water.
3. In a saute pan over medium heat, cook the garlic for one minute in a small amount of oil (just enough to not burn the pan).
3. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 a cup of dry white wine and lemon juice. Stir and continue to simmer over medium heat.
4. Drain the pasta and broccoli, add to the mushroom/wine mixture and simmer until the wine reduces (about 3 minutes).
5. Serve hot. You can sprinkle this with Italian Daiya, vegan Parmesan, or sun-dried tomatoes. Go crazy.

Oil-free Vegan Pesto

There are some word combinations that make anyone’s ears pop up, and oil-free vegan pesto always seems to do the trick. Let me start out by talking about pesto. I love it. I love basil on its own, but when its diced into tiny pieces and mixed with pine nuts, my blood really gets pumping. I love pesto on my pasta, pesto on my pizza, pesto on a sandwich (it is the only condiment besides ketchup that I will allow on a sandwich or burger). However, a traditional pesto is really, really, really bad for you, especially in the amounts that I like to use. It’s full of olive oil and most commercial pestos also contain Parmesan cheese (a big vegan no-no). This used to be a problem for me, until I realized that I could take a hint from Fat Free Vegan and replace all of that olive oil with vegetable broth. I further decided to include some spinach in my pesto, because I am a firm believer in the nutritional properties of that little superfood.
The result is a pesto that you can feel good about. I use my food processor for this recipe, but if you do not have one, and your knife skills are up to par, you should do just fine. This pesto goes great on a pizza in place of tomato sauce, on a vegan caprese sandwich (use the daiya cheese and warm it ever so slightly), or over some whole wheat pasta. It keeps in the fridge for about a week, so it’s a good make-ahead item for those of you who, like me, see the inside of our cubicles more than the inside of our kitchens.

Easiest Pesto Ever

  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered but not chopped
  • 1 c. basil
  • 1/2 c. fresh or frozen spinach, if frozen, don’t forget to drain and pat dry
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts
  • 1/3 c. vegetable broth

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse on high for about 10 seconds, or until smooth.

Quinoa Stuffed peppers

 Stuffed peppers are one of those Italian dishes that I always remember having around when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I refused to eat anything green, so I really missed out. Now that I’m older, I feel bad for my mom, because I was probably such a pain in the ass to feed. I’ll try to do better with my kids, which I am not having for awhile, despite my sister passing on my mom’s message to get to work on some grandkids. 
So, I grew up in New Jersey, and while my personal affiliations lean more towards Irish, sometimes I feel like I should get some sort of honorary “guidette” award. This is probably a good time to make some comments on MTV’s Jersey Shore. I watched a few episodes, mostly because everyone I know kept asking me if New Jersey was really that bad. I will say this: I grew up at the Jersey Shore and 90% of the wintertime population was completely normal. However, in the summer a lot of tourists from Northern Jersey and New York come down to live in the summer rentals. They turn our quiet, classy town into Ed Hardy central and their bars start pumping house music at 180dB. It would be easy for me to rag on them, but I am grateful to the Italians for bringing such good food over to America. So, I salute you and your forefathers with my recipe for quinoa-stuffed peppers. This dish is a great way to use up vegetables that you might have on hand near the end of your grocery cycle, or to use some things that have been hanging out in the freezer. It’s also a nifty use of quinoa, which is probably one of my favorite superfoods.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

4 medium sized green peppers
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup egg plant, cubed
1/2 a cup of mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes (or dice them fresh)
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
3/4 c. water
fresh ground black pepper
daiya cheese (cheddar or italian based on your preference)

1. Prep your vegetables by slicing the mushrooms, dicing the onion, mincing the garlic, and cutting the eggplant into 1/2″ cubes.
2. Saute the onions and garlic in 1 tbsp. olive oil for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions start to turn golden brown.
3. Add the eggplant and cook for an extra minute until it starts to soften. Add mushrooms and cook for another minute.
4. Add tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes before adding frozen corn. Stir well.
5. Add the quinoa, oregano, and cumin and mix very very well. Allow this mixture to simmer on low while you prep the peppers.
6. Cut the stems off of the peppers and remove all the seeds. Fill a pot with water and place the peppers on a screen above the water. Steam for 4 minutes. I usually use a handled strainer in a big pot with a cover, but you might be working with some fancy equipment.
7. Carefully transfer the peppers into a baking dish and stuff with your filling.
8. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the foil, sprinkle with daiya (or your favorite shredded cheeze) and cook for 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the tops of the peppers brown.
 Serves 4. Each pepper has about 250 calories before you add the vegetables. I rarely count the calories in my vegetables.

Mama Mia! Garlic Knots!

Apologies for being so bad about posting lately. Work has been ridiculous and between there and the gym, I haven’t had a spare moment to write anything lately. I’ve been super low on energy and not really prioritizing my cooking or blogging as much as I wish I could. Rest assured, I’ve still been eating very healthy and very vegan. I even tried out a couple of new recipes which I was very pleased with. I’ll be posting them here over the next couple of days so that you too can try them out.

One of my most favorite places in the world is C&O’s Trattoria in Venice Beach. Not only do they serve the most amazing, gigantic plates of pasta I’ve ever seen, but they have a very great hook as well. Three words. Unlimited garlic knots. You just sit down and order an entree, and the garlic knot guy will come to your table time and time again, filling your plate with delicious garlic knots that are warm out of the oven. I’m pretty sure that their garlic knots are vegan, because most pizza dough usually is, but I really should call to do some investigating. If the opportunity arises to visit there in the next 40 days, I will have to call them and find out if their delicious garlic-y goodness fits in line with my new lifestyle choices. If they tell me that they aren’t vegan, however, it might be a real deal-breaker. It’s debatable whether it would ruin my relationship with veganism or my relationship with C&O’s.

Once upon a time, I was a Girl Scout. Our motto was to always be prepared. Thus, if C&O’s doesn’t come through for me, I have an excellent backup plan. That backup plan is my very delicious, previously top-secret recipe for garlic knots. It’s super easy to make, but they always seem to really impress people. When I made a tray on New Years Eve, they were a big hit. Luckily, they’re one of those things that are just naturally vegan. You could, I suppose, screw everything up by adding parmesan or romano cheese. If you really feel like you need that extra garnish, you should go ahead and pick up some vegan parmesan from your local Whole Foods. It’s just as good.

Without further adieu, here is a totally simple, totally awesome garlic knot recipe. You could serve these as an accompaniment to a pasta dish, as an appetizer, or as part of a cocktail party spread. If you were feeling particularly lazy, you could probably put these out with some tomato sauce for dipping and call it a meal.

Garlic Knots
1 package vegan pizza dough (I just buy it in the bag from Trader Joe’s, but you could make it as well)
6! cloves of garlic
1/2  c. earth balance
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Turn your pizza dough onto a floured surface. Knead it a few times before rolling it out to a rectangle about 1/4″ thick and 5″ long.
Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips that are about 1″ wide.
Tie each individual strip into a knot and place on a nonstick baking sheet.
Brush tops with 1 tbsp. olive oil.
Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until tops of the knots are a golden brown.
While these are done cooking, sauté minced garlic in 1 tbsp. olive oil until it starts to turn golden.
Add the earth balance to the sauce pan and stir until completely melted.
Transfer the still-warm garlic knots to a bowl and toss with the garlic-butter mixture.
Chop the fresh basil and sprinkle over your garlic knots with a pinch of salt (kosher is best).

Pesto, Picnics, and Populism

OK so maybe I was kidding about the third one, but I did go on a picnic and I did make a pesto pasta salad. Last Sunday I went on the most gorgeous hiking trip with my new friends in the Greater LA Veggie Hikers group. We drove out to the California poppy fields and then did an amazing hike of Devil’s Chair. Not only was the scenery lovely, but the change in elevation really got my blood pumping. Yes, we saw lots of great bits of nature, but the best part of the entire day had to have been the vegetarian potluck. There were so many delicious vegan dishes, and it was the first time in months that I can remember having so many different options on a table. I ate a ton of different pastas and salads and some great dessert. It sure was a good thing that we were able to burn it all off in the afternoon. For my contribution to the event, I brought a pesto pasta salad with brown rice pasta. It was pretty good, but definitely not the most delicious thing on the table. This is a dish that is great hot but is also good cold. It’s a great take-along dish for any potluck or picnic, or sometimes just to keep in the fridge when you know there are going to be nights when you don’t even have time to heat up dinner.

Pesto Pasta Salad

  • 2 c. fresh basil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 c. grape tomatoes
  • 1 pound brown rice pasta

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. While it cooks, assemble your pesto.
Place washed basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, vegetable broth, and nutritional yeast in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Cut the grape tomatoes in half, don’t worry about removing the seeds.
When is is cooked, drain the pasta and toss with the pesto and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve hot, cold, or anywhere in between.