Improv Pasta

IMG_9608 Like anyone short on time and sleep, I find that eating, while epically important, is easy to forget to do and some nights it's a scramble just to eat anything at all let alone make a dinner. Well The Captain and I have found at least one meal that we can make on the fly and be eating in less than 15 minutes, and it's warm and filling and chock-o-block full of veggies. I would say that's a major step above rice cakes or cereal for dinner.

IMG_9609[Step 1]

Boil salted water in a sauce pan. Preheat oven to 375.

[Step 2]

In another pan, sauté onions and garlic in oil [or water for a low fat option.] Add anything you have in the fridge or pantry. Seriously. Just about anything. Whoaaa dream big.

Bell peppers

Kalamata olives

Artichoke hearts

Sliced mushrooms

Spinach

Capers

The possibilities are endless. We used peppers, olives, and artichokes. Add your desired ingredients to the pan.

[Step 3] Open up a can/jar/container of leftover red sauce and top all the veggies. Lower the heat to low and let simmer whilst you make some garlic bread.

[Step 4] Add your favorite pasta to the water. I use Trader Joes brown rice fusilli, gluten free and DELISH.

[Step 5,6,7ish] If you are like us if you buy a loaf of bread you will eat the whole damn thing, so for a little portion control I use 1 ciabatta roll for both of us. I keep them in the freezer. Pop in the microwave to defrost. Cut into 4 pieces about an inch thick. Take some more minced garlic and pop in the microwave with a tablespoon of earth balance butter. Stir in about a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of dried parsley. Pour all over the ciabatta pieces [I stuff them all in an aluminum foil boat so I don't have to do more dishes because I despise dishes] Toss in the oven for 5-6 minutes.

[Step 8ish] Enjoy your tasty meal in less than 20 minutes.

Vegan Manicotti

photo 4photo 7I love CARBS!! Pasta is seriously my weakness in life and during pregnancy I have never wanted it more! I few weeks ago manicotti was literally the only thing that I thought about… Luckily I have a super healthy, super vegan recipe that makes my soul dance!! Like for reals, I'm dancing right now just thinking about eating this meal!! Yum, yum, YUMMMM! On top of actually tasting really good, it has zero added oil, no added sugar! Now, I know there is the ongoing great soy debate, but my research tells me that non-gmo soy in it's whole form[tofu, miso, tempeh] is a great addition to your diet 2-3 times a week. Tofu is a great sauce of protein, calcium, and iron, all super important for your health, but even more so when you are carrying a little one!! Enjoy!!
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Serves 2 (doubles easily)
8 manicotti noodles
“Ricotta” Filling
1 package organic[ALWAYS] super firm tofu, pressed*
2 cups frozen kale, defrosted and strained
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of dried basil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the noodles until they are mostly cooked, but still have a more crunch than al dente about 8 minutes. They will finish cooking in the oven, you don’t want soggy noodles. Heat the kale up and strain out all the extra water. In a food processor or blender mix all of the ricotta ingredients until it’s a smooth paste resembling cheese. Stuff cooled noodles with the filling. I like to use a spoon to push the filling all the way through. No one wants a bite without filling, boo. Cover with sauce and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve with a salad and extra sauce!
*Pressing the tofu is important for this dish, you don’t want any moisture from the tofu to ruin the consistency of the “ricotta” filling. So I wrap the tofu in a few layers of paper towels then a kitchen towel. I place a heavy pan on top of the tofu with a few heavy cans and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Presto!photo 6

Eggplant Parm

vegan-eggplant-veggie-plant basedI'm Italian. I'm vegan. Many Italians would say that this is a physical impossibility. 5 years ago I would have probably agreed, but now here I sit a real live Italian girl who hasn't had milk, cheese, or eggs for over 4 years. I haven't gone mad or evaporated into thin air, I've managed quite nicely! I'm so much healthier and clearer, but I still love Italian food… like, a lot. Luckily, Italians aren't all meatballs and bolognese! I have adapted many of my mom, Sandy's, recipes, but the hardest was her eggplant parmigiana. I thought it would be impossible, but alas it wasn't!! Here is my healthy, vegan eggplant parm. You're welcome!! Serves 4-6

2 large eggplant, peeled and sliced thinly

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1 1/2 cup of veggie broth

1 package of Daiya vegan mozzarella*

4 cups of marinara sauce, recipe below or a really, really good jarred sauce

2 3/4 cups Trader Joes plain breadcrumbs (you could easily sub Gluten Free crumbs)

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. I like to mix up my own flavored bread crumbs, so in a mini-prep I blend up the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, parsley, and basil. Mix then pour into a bowl. In a separate bowl mix veggie stock and ground flax seeds until they form a gloppy egg like mixture. Start coating the eggplant in the flax egg, then the breadcrumbs and place on a sheet tray. It's a painstaking process, but soooo worth it. Place trays in oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Resist the urge to eat them all.

Then in a 8x8 baking dish, with a spoon spread a thin layer of sauce across the bottom. Layer in the baked eggplant. Top with another thin layer of sauce and 1/3 cup(or up to 1/2 cup if you like it gooey) of the daiya cheese. Continue like this. I like 4 layers. I top with sauce and no cheese because vegan cheese tends to back funny when it's exposed directly to heat. You can keep this in the fridge for 2-3 days or even freeze. When you are ready to bake heat the oven to 350 and cook  covered for 25 minutes, then uncovered for another 20. Serve with more sauce!!

Sandy's Red Sauce
Serves an army
2 32 oz cans of tomato sauce (I like Muir Glenn’s flavor)**
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 small onion, chopped fine (optional)
1 cup fresh basil, chopped in a fine chiffonade
dried oregano
dried basil
sea salt, pepper

Start by using 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or if you are a weirdo like me and trying to cut out oil, use 1-2 tablespoons of water. Add all of the garlic until fragrant. Be careful not to burn!!! Watch closely! Once it’s going, add onions and cook until translucent. Then add a big ole handful of salt, a few turns of the pepper mill, and 2 teaspoons each of dried oregano and dried basil. Stir for quick second and then add the tomato sauce. Mix throughly. Add another generous handful of salt. Once it’s nice and bubbly, reduce the heat to low and cover for 1-4 hours. Make sure and check on it regularly, burnt sauce SUCKS!!! At the very end, add the fresh basil until wilted. Use for your eggplant or with your favorite pasta!! I’m a big fan of eggplant parm with a side of rigatoni and red sauce. I’m starving now. Dammit. Someone make me some sauce!!

*Note: I'm not a huge fan of vegan cheese at all. Ever. Even the best quality vegan shreds are processed and they rarely taste great, but Daiya is far and away the best melting cheese and it really tastes yummy in this recipe which is meant as a special treat! That being said it would taste super delicious without the cheese too!! Then you could truly enjoy this meal guilt free!!! YUM!

**Yet another note: You can go old school and buy whole San Marzano tomatoes and blend them until smooth and start with that as your base. I use quite a bit more sea salt when I make it this way. We don’t do a super sweet sauce in my family! Bring on the sodium!!

Leek and Sun-Dried Deliciousness

vegan-pasta-gluten free2 My mom, Sandy, is the queen of throwing a pasta dish together. Seriously, she can make anything taste delicious. ANYTHING. So when Sandy came to visit a few weeks ago, I tasked myself with the challenge of creating a delicious Sandy-like pasta with only ingredients I had on hand! I also decided I wanted to make it gluten AND oil free on top of being vegan. Challenge accepted!!! It turned out pretty great, but the consensus was that it was a touch dry and I should've added olives... Picky, picky. Now I'm no quitter so I decided to try again and this time I got it right! It's such a delicious mix of textures and flavors, and it solidifies my love of leeks. Those tasty little bastards are so freaking good.

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Feeds 4 super hungry folks

1 pound Trader Joe's brown rice fusilli pasta

2 tablespoons veggie stock + any extra you need

1 can white beans, rinsed and strained

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 leeks, trimmed, rinsed, and chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 cup kale, de-ribbed and shredded

1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped

1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup pasta water

salt/pepper

Get pasta cooking per package instructions. Be sure to never overcook gluten free pasta, it goes from perfectly al dente to mushy at the drop of a hat. Start the leeks with the 2 tablespoons of veggie stock and a pinch of salt. Once they are softened, add garlic and mushrooms and another lil' pinch 'o' salt. Adding any stock if the pan gets dry. Once they are all cooked add kale and another heaping pinch of salt and some pepper. Once the kale is wilted toss in the remaining ingredients to heat through. Toss the pasta water, add strained pasta, and mix thoroughly. Enjoy with a big freaking glass of wine. Wine is optional, but encouraged.