Broccoli and Parsnip Risotto

I don’t really have a cute story to go with this recipe. I had orzo pasta, broccoli, and parsnips. I thought a creamy pasta dish with some crisp vegetables would be nice for lunch. Yeah…that’s about it.

One ladle at a time…

I love risotto, but hate that it’s usually loaded with a ton of cheese, cream, and butter. Too rich and heavy. I like creamy without all that junk. My recipe only has a bit of vegan cheese and some olive oil–just it’s still rich and creamy. Also, I don’t love that it takes an hour to make well. And you can’t rush it, just be patience.

“This is taking forever, I’m hungry!”

Jack didn’t like that either, he had to go up in a back carry to keep him happy. However, he was more than happy to eat it!

Broccoli and Parsnip Risotto 
6 cups vegetable broth (or you can do like I did, 5 cups water with 1 cup of pureed vegetable baby food)
2 tbs olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large parsnips, chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 cup orzo
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring the vegetable to a simmer over medium-low heat.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent.

Add the parsnips and cook until tender.

Add the garlic and broccoli,  took until the broccoli is tender.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a another large skillet over medium heat.

Add the orzo and brown the pasta lightly. Stir continuously to prevent burning. It’s okay if some pieces are darker than others.

Once orzo is all lightly browned, reduce heat to medium-low. Then add one ladle of hot broth to the pot, stir continuously until it is all absorbed.

Repeat adding one ladle of broth at a time and stirring until it is all absorbed until the pasta is tender and the broth no longer absorbs easily. This will take around an hour to complete. Don’t rush it by turning up the heat or adding more than one ladleful.

Before you add your last ladle or so, add the broccoli and parsnips to the skillet.

Once the pasta is tender, remove from the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast.

Top with the mozzarella and enjoy!

Creamy, filling, and loaded with veggies. Your patience has been rewarded!

Pilothouse and The Argonaut Cafe

A few weekends ago, Michael and I went on our babymoon in California’s Gold Country. Check out my pregnancy blog for a full review of the trip and money saving travel tips. We had both been dying for a Gold Country trip for over a year now, so this was the perfect way for us to have some quality time before the baby comes. We ate at two restaurants that really impressed me, so I thought I would share.

Old Town Sacramento at night.

We went on our babymoon starting the Saturday of Presidents’ Day weekend, so we decided to save our fancy Valentine’s Day dinner for that night. We both wanted a nice dinner in Old Town Sacramento, so I did some online research and found Pilothouse.

source

The restaurant is located inside the Delta King Hotel, a retired riverboat docked along the Sacramento River. I made reservations online, but we probably did not need them. We came later in the evening so we missed the rush, and the hostess told me that the day after Valentines Day is never that busy. She suggested that in the future we always make a reservation just in case.

The staff was very friendly, though our specific waiter was kinda slow (Michael’s beer and our bread came about 15 minutes later). The atmosphere was very nice, the whole dinning room restored to it’s 1930’s charm. And the view of the river all lit up at night was lovely.

I ordered the beet salad (Michael just ate the cheese for me). It was sooo good. The beets were perfectly cooked and very juicy.

For my entree, I had to order the only vegan thing on the menu, Grilled Vegetable Tagine. I was a little annoyed at first there was only one choice, but it was tasted good so I have no complaints. Lovely crisp veggies served over rice, seasoned with a sweet but savory spice blend. I am sorry I don’t have a photo of my entree, I know I took one and somehow it vanished off my phone….

Michael ordered the Saturday Night Steak Dinner Special—nothing besides his starter salad was vegan. He always wants steak for Valentines Day. I can’t complain because I didn’t have to cook it for once. He loved his organic and antibiotic free prime rib. And was in heaven with his buttery mashed potatoes. Meh, I will stick to my still delicious healthier food 🙂

Aren’t we cute all dressed up?

This place is expensive, but it was a lovely treat. We got to dress up and snuggle up next to each other. It would have been even better if I could have sampled the wine selection…..

On Monday while visiting the Marshall Gold Discovery Park, we had a lunch at this adorable little cafe across the street from the Visitor’s Center. The Argonaut Cafe is an organic, farm-to-fork style restaurant. It’s a tiny little building, and even at 2:30 PM when we entered, it was pretty busy.

The cafe is decorated like an old Gold Rush era store, mostly wood and metal. There are a lot of picnic tables out back with a great view of the American River.

The menu is basic cafe foods, like soups, sandwiches, salad, and a few desserts. I ordered the Fresh Veggie Sandwich (without the cheese) on Sourdough and Michael got the Organic Smoked Turkey on Sourdough. My sandwich was heavenly. Fresh, crispy veggies with a creamy hummus. And I love buttery California avocados. I was so happy to find fresh organic food in such a small town at reasonable price (both sandwiches were $8 each).  The soup of the day was vegan chili, but I didn’t want to be too full and set off my acid reflux. It looked really good though, maybe next time.

We want to do a bigger Gold Country trip when Jack is old enough and I totally plan on coming to both these restaurants again. Though, Jack might stay the night with his Auntie who lives nearby when we go back to Pilothouse so momma can enjoy some wine in peace.

And see, it’s not that hard to go on a vacation and eat vegan. Just do some research and be prepared that your food will be delicious, just not a mound of buttery mashed potatoes. Or who knows, maybe you will luck out and find an awesome organic cafe!

Deep Dish Pizza

Do you know how to make a food blogger very happy? Buy her a new stove!!!!

As you can see from the rust ring, the old
stove hadn’t been moved in over 60 years.

As I mentioned before, we moved into Michael’s grandparent’s old house and inherited all the old stuff that came with it. Including the original stove from the the 50s. It’s a nice stove and still works, but as Michael put it, “People have landed on the moon since this stove was made.” There was a good sale on end of the year clearance stuff at a local appliance store so we checked it out.

We got a GE 30″ Free-Standing Gas Convection Range, for around 45% off. It was delivered Friday and I was so excited! Finally burners that don’t need a lighter to light! A stove with a digital display and a working timer!

So for our inaugural meal, I decided to make a vegan deep dish pizza. I used a lot Daiya mozzarella, Tofurky Italian sausage, and lot of veggies. I made it in a 9×9 casserole pan since I don’t have a deep dish pan (and couldn’t find my cake pan). I like the square shape, the corner pieces had a crunchier crust.

Deep Dish Pizza
1 red onion, diced
1 cup white mushrooms, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 meatless Italian sausage, diced (I used Tofurky)
1 ball of pizza dough (try my recipe)
1 cup of pizza sauce
1/4 cup cilantro leafs optional
1 cup fresh Spinach
1 cup dairy-free mozzarella cheese ( I used Daiya)
Red pepper flakes, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree.

Saute the red onions in a little olive oil until they soften.

Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to release their water.

Add the bell peppers. Cook until all the veggies are soft and slightly golden. Set the veggies aside.

Lightly brown the diced Italian sausage, set aside when done.

Lightly oil your baking pan.

Roll the pizza dough the shape of our pan (big enough to have it go at least half way up the sides too) and about 1/8 inch thick.

Place the dough in the pan and work it in gentle so it covers the bottom and the sides.

Spoon half the pizza sauce on to the dough.

Sprinkle on the cilantro, if using (it’s Michael loves it on everything).

Place the spinach in an even layer on top.

Now evenly spread the veggie mixture.

Then the diced sausage.

Pour on the rest of the sauce.

Lastly, sprinkle on the cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until the sauce starts to bubble.

Turn the oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes or so, until the cheese starts to get slightly golden (remember that vegan cheese does not get all bubbly, it will just burn).

Let this cool for a few minutes before you cut, it will be so much easier and stay in one piece.

Sprinkle with a little more cilantro and red peppers flakes if desired.

It’s not quite like an authentic Chicago deep dish, but that is probably for the best. As good as they are, they are insanely unhealthy. Michael pretty much inhaled this pizza, didn’t care that it was vegan at all. He was sad when I told him we finished the whole pan!

This was a great inaugural dish for my new stove. Can’t wait to make more delicious vegan food with it!

One Pot Pasta

I kept seeing all the pins on Pintrest for One Pot Pasta. Pretty much throw everything into one pot, let it cook for awhile, and you have prefect pasta in a light tomato sauce. Sounded too good not to try! There are a ton of variations of the recipe, but it appears that the “original recipe” (the one that made it popular) is from Martha Stewart. I kept it simple and pretty true to the originally. But I wanted it creamier, so I added some arrow root powder (or starch) to thicken it up without adding a lot of calories.

Arrow root powder is a natural thickener that comes from South America. It’s is similar to corn starch and can substitute for it. I like it better because it is finer and blends better (plus you know, the whole Monsanto King of the Corn thing…) You may notice in the photos that I used spaghetti and fettuccine. I had a half box of each and wanted to use them up. I am big believer is using what you have on hand in order to save money.  I also used organic cherry tomatoes from the veggie box delivery (they are so good, I could eat them by themselves!).

This recipe makes 4 servings.

One Pot Pasta
1/2 small white onion, sliced fine
1 small carton of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and greens removed
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 sprigs of basil, leafs removed and roughly chopped
12 oz  (just shy of one box) of pasta
1 tps red chili flakes
5 cups of water
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbs Arrow Root Powder or Corn Starch

In a large, shallow pot, add all the ingredients except the olive oil, arrow root powder, salt, and pepper.

Cook for 5 minutes, just until the tomatoes bring to break. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Cook for another 5 minutes or so (it will vary based on the directions for the pasta), until  the pasta is cooked.
Remove from the heat. About about 1/4 cup of liquid will remain.

Add the arrow root powder and toss together well. The sauce will get slightly thicker and creamier.

Taste for seasoning, mine need a little more salt.

Now serve it up with some extra basil and enjoy!

A light sauce that is just a tad creamy without all the fat! Filling without being over the top. I am so going to make this again.

Lasagna Rolls Up

I kept seeing several versions of lasagna rolls ups on Pintrest so I thought I would give them a try. I like the portion control and that they not as messy as traditional lasagna. I decided to make a very simple version with just vegan cheese, kale, and spinach. I made my own pasta sauce, but jarred is just fine.

This recipe makes 6 servings.

Lasagna Roll Ups
1 box of lasagna noodles (oven-ready is fine)
4 cups pasta sauce  (Try my Mushroom Sauce)
1.5 cup vegan mozzarella cheese, divided into 1 cup and half a cup.  (I used Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds)
1 cup kale (I put it in fresh but sauté would be fine too)
1 cup fresh basil

If you noodles have cooking directions, follow them. If you have no-boil kinda, just bring a large pot of water to boil and cook until al dente. Drain and let cool slightly—but do not leave in the colander too long, they will stick together.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce on a baking sheet or baking pan.

On a clean surface, separate the noodles and lie them down flat.

Evenly sprinkle about 2 tablespoons on mozzarella evenly over the upside of each noodle.

Next lay a few kale leaves down in an even thing layer over the noodle.

Next lay a few basil leaves down in an even thing layer on top of the kale.

Starting at one end of the noodle, tightly roll the noodle up. It should hold its rolled shape, if not squish it a bit until it stays.

Repeat the previous 4 steps with all the noodles.

Place the roll ups on the baking sheet. Space a bit apart from each other.

Cover the rolls ups with the remaining sauce.

Sprinkle the remaining half cup of mozzarella over the top.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly golden.

Michael loved these—though I made his with dairy cheese. I think next time I will load them up more, maybe some crumbled tofu and roasted peppers.

Parents’ 27th Anniversary Dinner, Part 2: Antipasto and Pizza

Sorry it took a couple days to post part two of my parents’ anniversary dinner, I got distracted spending time with my family. The dinner was delicious and my parents were very happy. My brother had to work, so it sadly was not a family dinner. I made an antipasto platter with some marinated veggies, and provolone and prosciutto. I didn’t eat the meat and cheese, that was for my parents. Like I’ve said before, if you are crazy oversensitive about veganism, no one will like you. If you don’t ever let others have meat or dairy near you, they just won’t have you around. I like eating meals with my family and friends, so I just let it go. Just because they are eating meat and cheese, doesn’t mean you have to.

Anyways, I also made them a pizza margarita with real fresh mozzarella and fresh basil from my mom’s garden.  For myself, I made two mini pizzas. One was a based on a recipe I saw in Cooking Light for a Summer Veggie Pizza with fresh grilled veggies. The second was a fake BBQ chicken pizza. There was small oven-transferring accident for the summer pizza so I do not have a final picture of pie, but I promise it was good.

I must confess, I did not make the pizza dough. I had so much stuff to make, the last thing I wanted to do was watch yeast proof. I also did not pre-bake the dough this time because my mom has a pizza stone so the oven gets hot enough to make a crunchy crust the first time.


Pizza Margarita (Non-Vegan)
1 ball of pizza dough
1 cup tomato sauce (I made my own, I’ll post the recipe sometime)
2 medium balls of fresh mozzarella
2 medium roma tomatoes
Handful of fresh basil

Pre-heat the oven as high it will go. If you have a pizza stone, pop it in too.

Roll the pizza dough out into desired shape and thickness.

Spread on the tomato sauce.

Cut the mozzarella balls and the tomatoes into semi-thin slices.

Place on the mozzarella slices, then top with the tomatoes.

Next lay on the basil leafs. I left them whole but you can chop them up too.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.

My parents said the pizza was delicious. They almost forgot to save my brother a few pieces!

Summer Pizza

1 red pepper
8 asparagus stalks 
1/4 of a small red onion
1 ear of corn 

1 ball of pizza dough
1 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya)
Fresh basil

Roast the red pepper, either on the grill or under the broiler, until the skin blackens. Once it is cooled, peel off the brunt skin. Then remove the stem and seeds, then chop into strips. Add to a small bowl.

Roast the asparagus, once again either grill or broiler,  just until tender. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add to the bowl.

Remove the corn from the bowl. I suggest doing this in the bowl so the kernels do not fly everywhere.

Cut the onion into slices. Add to the bowl and mix together.

Pre-heat oven as high it will go. If you have a pizza stone, throw it in too.

Roll the dough out into desired shape and thickness.

Spread the olive oil and garlic on the dough, season with some salt.

Top with the veggie mixture.

Sprinkle on the cheese and top with the fresh basil.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and crunchy. Because it is non-dairy cheese, it will not get bubbly so do not leave it in too long.

Like I said, this pizza had a small accident but what remained was so good. I am so making this pizza again.

BBQ “Chicken” Pizza
1 ball of pizza dough (I use half since it was a mini pizza)
1 cup vegan chicken strips (I used MorningStar Farms)
1/4 white onion, sliced
1/2-3/4 cup BBQ sauce (depending on taste, I like mine saucy but my mom said it was bit much)
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya)

Pre-heat oven as high as it can go. Once again, if you have pizza stone, throw it in.

In a large bowl, mix together the onion slices, chicken strips, and BBQ sauce together well.

Roll the dough out to desired shape and thickness.

Spread the BBQ mixture onto the dough and top with the cheese.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden. Once again, the cheese is not dairy so it will not get bubbly.

I had been craving a BBQ pizza and this was exactly what I wanted. So simple but so good.

Love you mom and dad! May you have many many more anniversaries to come!

Pad Thai Fettuccine

I am not quiet sure how or why I came up with this dish, but it was sure tasty! It is like a mix between pad thai and pasta primivera.  Really easy to make too.

Pad Thai Fettuccine 
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
2 tps garlic powder
1 tps onion powder
1 tbs chili powder
1/8 cup jarred jalapenos (less or more to depending on personal heat level)
1/2 box fettuccine (or enough for four servings, most boxes are actually 8)
Assorted veggies, fresh or frozen (I used a bag of stir fry mix but try any veggies you would put in Pad Thai)

Put a large covered pot of water on the stove to boil.


Toss the stewed tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and jalapenos into the blender and blend until smooth. Taste it and adjust seasoning to your tastes. I added a little more chili powder because I like it spicy.

Once your water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the directions. Drain and return to the pot.

Heat up (or cook if you are using fresh) the veggies in a skillet with a bit of cooking spray or oil.

Add the cooked veggies to the pasta pot. Pour in the sauce and mix well.

I topped mine with a few more jalapenos and chili powder. A very lovely and easy dinner!

Easy Rice Bake

I hate when it’s almost time to go grocery shopping so you don’t have enough of anything to make a real recipe. For dinner tonight, I decided to follow in the footsteps of generations of housewives and make a baked casserole. Casseroles became household favorites because they were a cheap way to stretch a a few ingredients into a hearty meal.  They really took off when companies like Betty Crocker made prepackaged versions like Hamburger Helper (ha, a Hamburger Helper commercial came on TV as I typed that). But, they aren’t vegan and aren’t the healthiest. I made my own version instead. I had some fresh basil and canned pasta sauce that needed to be used up, so I made an Italian-style rice bake. You can make a pasta bake with this recipe too, just replace the rice with any pasta you like. Besides being tasty, this dish is a good way to clean out the fridge. You can throw in whatever veggies or leftovers you have kicking around.

Italian-Style Rice Bake
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cashews
1/4 of a tub of silken tofu, drained
1 cup pasta sauce
1 cup frozen veggies (carrots, peas–whatever you have in the freezer)
1 cup canned beans (I suggest white or pinto)
Anything else you want to clear out of the fridge or freezer

Everyone claims to have the secret to perfect rice, so cooked the rice according to your own method.

While your rice cooks, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.

To make the “pesto”, add the basil, garlic clove, cashews, and olive oil into a blender. Blend until the cashews are ground up and the mixture is smooth. Next add the tofu and blend until smooth. I suggest adding the tofu separately so the nuts gets thoroughly ground up.

Put the “pesto” into a large bowl. Next add the pasta sauce and mix together.

Now add your veggies, beans, or whatever else you want. I had a few fake chicken strips left over so I threw them in too.

Now add your cooked rice and mix it all together.

Spread evenly into your baking dish. Normally casseroles and other bakes are covered with cheese.  You could cover this with some vegan mozzarella, but I took a little healthier approach by just topping it with some Italian breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven, until the top is golden and crunchy.

This will easily feed a family of four or a college kid for a couple day. It would go lovely with a nice spinach salad too.

Tofu Parmesan

So, I know I called this dish tofu parmesan, but there is no parmesan in it. But, to be fair the mozzarella is the best part of chicken or eggplant parm so I think my title is still fairly accurate.  I love eggplant parm. I thought about it the other day, which is where I got my inspiration for this dish. I guess someone could argue this is more like Italian-style baked tofu but whatever. You can add some vegan parm into the batter, I just didn’t have any on hand. It’s delicious either way.

Tofu Parmesan 
1 block tofu
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 cup+2tbs flour, (I used rice, but any kind is fine)
1/4 tbs Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup soy milk, unflavored
2 tbs Ener-G Egg Replacer + 1 tbs water, mixed
1/4 vegan mozzarella (Try Dayia)
1/2 tbs soy sauce
1 tps garlic salt
Pinch of pepper

Drain the tofu.

Place several sheets of paper towels on a flat, clean surface. Put the tofu on the paper towels, then place some more paper towels on top. Now get something heavy (I use my science textbooks, my mom uses stone bookends) and place it on top. This will squeeze out all the liquid so it will get a denser texture when cooked. Leave this for at least an hour, but the longer the better.

Next, place the tofu in a freezable container and freeze over night.

The next morning, place it on the counter to thaw.

 

Once fairly thawed, sliced in half lengthwise so it’s like 1/4 inch thick steak. Since I am only cooking for me, I put one half back in the fridge for another day. Pour the 2tbs of soy sauce over both sides and let it marinade for at least a half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients, it should be slightly thick.

 

Dip the tofu steak in the cheese batter, coating well on both sides.

Place on the baking sheet and put it in the oven.

I forgot to set a timer so I don’t know exactly how long it took to cook. But something around 20 minutes I guess. Check yours after 15 just to be safe. It will be all golden and crispy when ready.

I had some basil-tomato sauce I made last week that needed to be eaten so I slathered my tofu with it. I loved the crispy and cheesy crust.

If you want to make this more chicken parm like, top it with the sauce and more cheese and bake for a few minutes longer. If you want to make this a full meal, pair it with some pasta and nice green salad.

Alicia Silverstone’s Rustic Bread and Eggplant Lasagna

If you want a good introduction to veganism, read Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet. In it she explains her vegan story as well as outlines the health benefits of an all-plant based diet— plus it has killer recipes. This recipe for Rustic Bread and Eggplant Lasagna I got from her website The Kind Life and have been dying to make it. I made my own bread for it this morning, which I posted in my last entry. I made a few changes to adapt to what I have on hand. I have posted my version, which isn’t too different from the original. Her recipe includes instructions to make your own tomato sauce, but I did not have enough tomatoes so I used jarred Prego. It’s always best to use local produce, so I used Japanese eggplant that I bought from the Hilo Farmers Market. I also did not have breadcrumbs so I made my own from toasted oatmeal.

The picture from website

Rustic Bread and Eggplant Lasagna 
6 Japanese eggplants
1 tbs olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
3 cups tomato sauce
1 tbs Italian seasoning
1/8 tps ground black pepper
1/4 tps red pepper flakes
8 thick slices of a rustic-style bread (try my Italian Herb Oat Bread)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 large ripe tomato, cut into thick slices
Basil to garnish

Pre-heat oven to 400 degree F.
 

Japanese eggplant is less bitter than normal eggplant

Slice eggplant length wise into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange in one layer on a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil and salt on both sides. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning over half way through, until soft and slightly golden.  Leave the oven at the same temperature for baking the assembled lasagna.

Although great as is, jazz up pre-made sauces to your tastes

While the eggplant is cooking, heat olive oil over low heat, add garlic and cook till slightly golden. Add tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Heat until warm.

Extra slices make a good snack while you wait

Spray both sides of the bread slices with cooking spray and heat in a skillet over medium heat until toasted, flip and repeat for the other side. Do this in 2 to 3 batches, since all 8 slices can’t fit in at once….unless you have a very large skillet.

I almost forgot the tomato slices!

 In a large baking dish, spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce. Line the dish with half the bread without overlapping the slices. Layer half the eggplant on top of the bread, then top with 1 cup tomato sauce. Repeat another bread and eggplant layer then top with remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle on breadcrumbs and put tomato slices on top.

Bake for 40 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting in to it.

The eggplant has a creamy texture that totally makes the dish.

Alicia suggests garnishing it with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar, which sounds great, but I do not have either at the moment so I sprinkled it with red pepper flakes and paired with a nice green salad.