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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pasta with Kale in Lemon-Cashew Sauce

When life hands you lemons... make pasta!  Seriously, it's going to make you feel way better about yourself and life in general than lemonade.  Unless there's vodka in that lemonade.  Then it's a toss up...

My favorite- and simultaneously unfavorite- thing that people ask me when they discover that I'm vegan is, "What do you eat???"  Well, everything!  As long as it isn't made from animals!  Honestly, I have tried more new foods since going veg than I ever did before.  Quinoa, mango, beets, jicama, tempeh, parsnips, collard greens, papaya, couscous, arborio rice, Brussels sprouts, polenta, dates, to name a few.  But, most importantly, I have been introduced to kale.

Kale is like the super hero of the produce department.  That stuff can save lives.  And you probably aren't eating enough of it.  I know I'm not.  During my first year of navigating the vegetarian life, I ran across a recipe in a magazine for spaghetti with kale, and I remember thinking, "Hey, that looks easy.  I don't know if I like kale, but I could give it a shot."  And then I immediately forgot where I had read the recipe and never tried it and actually hadn't even thought about it again until just now.  So, yeah.  Moving on...

You may remember that I made a skillet salad with kale a while back.  The tofu was marinated in lemon juice and other stuff.  So I thought I'd take a shot at making a pasta dish with kale and lemon.  And I did.  And it was good.  REAL good.  In fact, I've just stuffed myself with three helpings of it [and kind of regretting that last serving].  But it's so awesome/delicious/flavorful/magical/addictive!!!

The sauce is creamy, but doesn't have any milk or cheese or anything of the sort.  As with the last post, I soaked cashews for the creaminess.  I was afraid that 1/2 cup of lemon juice would be too much, but I'd say the sauce came out perfect.  In fact, the whole thing pretty much rocks.  But don't just take my word for it- try it out yourself and let me know what you think!

1 box whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked*
3 cups vegetable broth
Juice of 2 lemons (I got about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp dried basil
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced baby carrots
 A lot of kale- I have no idea how much I used, it was just over half the bunch.  Maybe 5 cups? stems removed and torn into small pieces
Salt and pepper

*Cashew soaking: To quick soak, put the cashews in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with water.  Nuke for 2 minutes and set aside to cool.

For the sauce: In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine broth, lemon juice, basil, cornstarch, and oil.  Drain the cashews and add those as well.  Blend on high, until creamy.  
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Cook pasta according to directions on package.   Reserve about 2 cups of the water.
In another big pan, saute onions on medium heat for about 5 min.  Add garlic and cook 1 min more.  Now throw in the carrots and cook those babies for a minute as well.  Give the sauce a quick blend, since it has likely separated a little.  Pour the sauce over the veggies and simmer for a minute to thicken.  At this point, it looked like the sauce was going to be too thick, so I stirred in about 2 cups of the pasta water to thin it out a little.  Throw in the kale and stir to cover with the sauce.  Allow the kale to cook for about 5 min, until it has wilted a little but is still bright green.
If you have not yet done so, drain the pasta, and then add that to the saucy veggies.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!  In moderation.  You'll thank me later.

I won!!!   :)


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Scalloped Potatoes

Because third times a charm!

OK, this is the last potato recipe I'm posting for quite some time, I promise (although, I did make a potato soup last night that has lots of potential...).  The potato-themed recipe contest has officially come to an end, but I managed to throw this little number together just before it closed.

I don't have much of a story for this one, except that I was spacing out one day and thought, "Gee, I should combine roasted red peppers and potatoes.  I'll bet that hasn't been done before."  The sauce is a combination of several recipes I've used before, from hummus to "cheese" sauce.  I think it turned out fantastic!  In fact, a friend was visiting as I was putting it together, and between the two of us we polished off over half the pan.  Oh yeah, it is that good.  The sauce is creamy and satisfying, hinting at a cheese sauce, but just subtle and awesome.  If I change anything the next time I make this (oh yes, there will be a next time), it would be to add a little cayenne.  As it was, I ended up dumping a ton of pepper on it.  Of course, that doesn't mean much- I put pepper on everything.

I meant to bake this in my 2-quart casserole dish, but I was afraid that the veggies wouldn't fit or that the sauce would run over.  So I baked it in a 9x13 pan, which worked just fine.  Also, I didn't peel the potatoes, because I'm super lazy.  But also because the skin has lots of fiber.  Yay, fiber!

*The presentation is in thanks to my lovely sister, Mary, who graciously gifted me with some beautiful porcelain dishes to show off my recipes in the prettiest way possible.  Sisters are the best!

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked (we'll talk about that in a minute)
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (the kind that come in a jar), roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup nondairy milk
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 1/2 lb red-skinned potatoes, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced

Let's soak some cashews.  We're doing this because it softens them and makes them blend better.  Ta-da!
You can soak the cashews for a few hours or overnight, but come on, who's got time for that?  Instead, put cashews in a microwave-safe bowl and cover them with water and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Set aside for a bit.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Let it hang out for a sec.
Dump all of the sauce ingredients- except the cashews- into a high-speed blender or food processor.  Drain the cashews and then you can add them to the rest of the sauce stuff.  Blend on high speed until smooth.
Arrange the potatoes, onion, and pepper in the baking dish.  (You can make it look pretty, but I just kind of threw it all in and mixed it up.)  Pour the sauce over all of it evenly.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and potatoes are cooked through.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Creamy Tomato Primavera Soup

I had 45 minutes to cook, eat, and head back to campus.  Challenge accepted.

I find it hard to believe when people tell me that they don't have time to cook.  You have time, I promise.  But maybe you don't have the desire, the ingredients, the skill.  Or you have failed to prioritize eating.  Which I really can't understand, since eating is usually my highest priority.

It's all about having a few simple, super quick recipes in your repertoire.  Let me help you out with that.  You're welcome.

While fresh veggies have the best taste and all, they are super needy.  You can't buy them too far in advance before you want to use them.  You have to wash them, and chop them, and say sweet lovely things to them.  Ugh, no wonder you opted to grab food on the go.  But that doesn't have to be the case!  Enter frozen veggies. 

I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating.  (I have a habit of repeating myself a lot.  Just part of my charm.)  Frozen veggies are awesome because it takes maybe 2 seconds to open the bag and dump them into whatever you're making.  No planning ahead, washing, or chopping required!  [Although you really ought to wash your hands.]  I didn't time myself, but I'm pretty sure this soup was done in 20 minutes or less.  Prep time was maybe 5 minutes.  And I made it to school on time.  Yay, efficiency! 

                                         Eating by the light of the computer.  How romantic.

1 cup frozen diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (or whatever you have on hand, that's cool too)
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1 lb bag frozen mixed veggies
1 tsp dried dill
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper

Heat a large soup pot on medium high heat.  Toss in the onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes, or until onions are soft.  Add the tomatoes, milk, and broth and stir to combine.  Throw in everything else, adding  salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 12-15 minutes or until the veggies are heated through.
Ta-da!  Deliciousness in no time!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fennel and Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes

I know, I know, I've been slacking.  But come on, procrastination takes a lot of work.  You know?

So, here's a funny story about this recipe.  The stuffing for these potatoes was never actually intended to be a stuffing for these potatoes.  In fact, the stuffing was the result of a hilarious attempt for my friend Nina and I to create our very own "My Drunk Kitchen."  If you're not familiar with MDK, check it out on YouTube.  Unless you're easily offended by swearing, drunkenness, or unsanitary food prep conditions (seriously, every episode she drops something on the floor and uses it any way!).

Our version of the show definitely included swearing and drunkenness, but I happen to know how to cook, so that makes my show pretty rad, right?  Starting this thing, I had no idea what we were going to make.  We just picked up some random produce from the store, and I basically made up the recipe on the fly.  Because I am awesomeAnyhow, we were rolling the stuffing in phyllo dough and then baking it.  No biggie.  Except that when I tried one from the first batch, I LOVED it!  I hadn't expected them to taste so good!  Or even turn out right, since phyllo is the evilest ingredient ever to work with ever.

The next day, I woke up thinking about how awesome the phyllo triangles (or rhomboids, or octagons, I was having difficulty making shapes at that point) turned out, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what I put in them.  So I re-watched the video we took, laughed hysterically with myself for a while, and made a mental note to do this again some time.

Anyhow, the potato contest is still going on over at Taste of Home.  So for Easter last weekend, I used the filling to make stuffed baked potatoes.  It was a brilliant idea, though a little more time-consuming than I would have liked, and I got a little carried away with the mustard and vinegar (note to self: more is not better until you have actually tasted the food to gauge whether a half a cup of vinegar is necessary).  So below is the recipe with smaller amounts of the mustard and vinegar than what I used Sunday.  Add more as you see fit [taste it first, though!!!]

Also, the cheese looks weird in the pic because the store I went to didn't have any vegan cheddar, only pepper jack.  Which was cool, but not what I wanted.  I recommend sticking with cheddar, but hey, it's a free country.  You do what you want.

 6 large baking potatoes
1 cup diced sweet onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced fennel bulb
1 1/2 cups finely chopped broccoli
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried dill
1/2 cup vegetable broth
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

 Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub potatoes and poke them several times with a fork.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in oven for 1 hour.
While the potatoes are baking, saute the diced onion in a large saute pan for about 5 minutes, until soft.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add fennel and 1-2 Tbsp water, and saute 5 minutes, or until fennel is tender.  Add broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.  Stir in mustard and vinegar and dill until well combined.  Set aside until potatoes are done.
When potatoes are cooked through, carefully cut each one in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out flesh, keeping shells in tact.  Place the potato in a medium mixing bowl and repeat with all potato halves.  Coarsely mash potatoes with vegetable broth.  Add the potato mix and cheese to the veggie mix, and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stuff shells with mixture (shells will be very full but that's OK).  Place stuffed shells in a 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, until potato mixture is cooked through.

So, this makes a lot of food.  If you're serving it as a side, you've got 12 servings.  As a main dish, you have 6 servings.  Yay, math!