Linguine with Potatoes, Green Beans, and Spinach-Walnut Pesto

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

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File this one under “different, but in a good way”! Linguine served with boiled white potatoes and fresh green beans and topped with a delicious spinach pesto; recipe via Vegan Italiano.

Klein gives instructions for cooking the pasta, potatoes, and beans all in the same pot for maximum efficiency, but I wussed out and boiled the potatoes and beans first, followed by the pasta. (But in the same water! Down with waste!) I wasn’t entirely confident on the cook times, you see, and am super-fussy when it comes to the tenderness (or lack thereof) of my veggies, so decided that my way was safer. I think I may have “overcooked” the potatoes, at least for this recipe; they were on the soft and mushy side. But don’t think I’m complaining! That’s just what I was aiming for.

The Spinach-Walnut Pesto is almost as tasty as it is messy. Cleaning up the stray bits of pulverized spinach, I felt like I was mopping up Poison Ivy’s murder scene or something. Streaks of green everywhere! The pesto is most def my favorite part of this dish, though – I can see using it on pizza, pasta, breads, or other veggies (baked potatoes!), even. And once the food processor has done its magic, you can hardly tell there’s spinach in there. Consider that a pro tip. Parents/partners/chefs to vegetable haters, I’m looking at you.

Tomato and Bread Stew with Pasta

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

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Orzo, to be exact. The most adorable of all the pasta shapes! They’re just baby pastas, yo!

This is yet another dish from Vegan Italiano, which I seem to be devouring in record speed. Most of the recipes are ridiculously simple, with ingredients lists coming in at a dozen items or less. You can see the attraction, no?

This soup-stew-bread pudding-thingie has just eleven: olive oil, white wine, veggie broth, onions, garlic, tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper, pasta, and toasted Italian bread. Throw it all together and you’ve got one hearty bowl of carbs.

The only thing I’ll change the next time around (and there will be a next time, oh yes!) is when I add the bread, namely: closer to the end of the cook time, rather than with the orzo. After fifteen minutes simmering in broth, it’s hardly recognizable as bread anymore. More like little blobs of mush. Tasty blobs they are, but I still prefer chunks. I like my bread with some bite, okay.

Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

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If it seems like I’m eating a ton of pasta lately, that’s because I am! This dish is the Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano – but with rotini in place of bow ties and using the basil variation suggested by Klein. Ridiculously good, and a most excellent use of zucchini, too. You dice and boil a few zucchinis until tender, and then combine three quarters of the zukes with basil, almonds, and some other goodies in the food processor to make a saucy pesto-esque topping. SO GOOD!

I’ll have to remember this come summer, when my fridge overfloweth with zucchini. With a few tweaks, I could easily transform this into a gravy for the dogs’ food. Hello, immersion blender!

Farfalle with Sundried Tomato-Mint Pesto

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

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…with a side of Fresh Broccoli Marinara! Both recipes from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano, naturally. (I seem to be incapable of cooking from more than one book at once.)

The pesto is okay, though a little strong; next time around, I might try it with a full pound of pasta instead of just twelve ounces. Or maybe I just found the mint a little overpowering? I don’t know! For what it’s worth, Shane loved it.

At first glance, I mistook the Broccoli Marinara for a sauce – turns out it’s really side o’ veggies, though it could very easily be turned into a proper sauce with a few tweaks: double the canned tomatoes, chop the broccoli a bit more coarsely, maybe add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and some oregano and basil. Pour on top of bow tie pasta or something similarly small and bite-sized and voila, dinner is served.

Mushrooms, Marsala, and Rosemary – oh my!

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

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The title of today’s meal is entirely too long to cram into a post title; to wit: Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala and a side of Roasted Carrots with Rosemary and Sage – hence the cutesy mojo above. The recipes are from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano, in case the tags didn’t give it away.

Both dishes are quite good and, even though they’re recommended for Thanksgiving use – alongside a Tofurky roast, perhaps? – the carrots pair nicely with the pasta. The mushroom sauce is pretty quick and easy to throw together, minus the mushroom prep (and suddenly I remember why I always used canned!). I did take the liberty of adding some kalamata olives to the mix; at $5 a pound, how could I not? I put those suckers in everything, yo! Pizza, pasta, pancakes, you name it. (Kidding! Mostly.)

Anyway, another success story. But then it’s hard to go wrong with pasta, am I right?

Microwave Risotto with Saffron

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

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Normally I’m not big on microwave cooking – stop, stir, restart, repeat x infinity – but seeing as the oven-baked risotto recipes in Vegan Italiano also require constant babysitting, I decided to give the microwave version a try. And you know what? It actually wasn’t that bad!

I had just enough time to make some veggie broth during the first few cooking cycles, and the last few went by quickly enough. All in all, it took about thirty minutes to prepare. Tasty, too.

I tried dressing the risotto up by sprinkling some extra saffron on top for the photo, but the result is reminiscent of teeny tiny little pond worms, don’t you think? Weird and not a little gross. Saffron, why you so funny looking?

Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie (and then some!)

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

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I can’t even believe that I hadn’t heard of spaghetti pies up until a few months ago. Now it’s one of my new favorites! Top 5 easy.

This version is from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano, though you’d hardly know it – I changed it up that much. Whereas hers is relatively healthy, mine is not so much.

For starters, I topped the pie with homemade breadcrumbs and a generous helping of mozzarella Daiya cheese.

(Sorry if the breadcrumbs look a little on the burned side – I’m still getting used to my oven’s broiler settings. Not ninety seconds in and they were practically smoking! Still tasty though, and the toasty sides softened right up in the sauce.)

In place of fresh cherry tomatoes (boo winter!), I used a batch of marinara sauce that I made and frozen in the fall. There was enough sauce – about three cups – that I decided to skip the canned tomatoes altogether, though I did throw in a few tablespoons of tomato pasta for that extra saucy goodness. Double the kalamata olives and quadruple the sundried tomatoes, and you’re good to go! Cook as directed and add the breadcrumbs and cheese before you set the oven to broil.

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Not to toot my own horn, but the breadcrumbs and cheese proved an inspired choice; can you say hot carb-on-carb action? I came back for seconds and still couldn’t help but sneak nibbles as I packed up the leftovers. Even so, this recipe would’ve been a winner without ’em. Casseroles are awesome; doubly so when PASTA.

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But. Tami Noyes’s Spaghetti Pie with Arrabbiata Sauce? Still my favorite.

Baked Mixed Vegetable Casserole

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

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Baked Mixed Vegetable Casserole from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano – like last week’s Baked Vegetable Soup, but minus the broth! With potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, bread crumbs, and tons o’ onion and garlic (two of my main food groups, dontchaknow). Not bad, though I adjusted the recipe to accommodate what was in the fridge, and I think I overdid it on the potatoes. File that under “things I never thought I’d say.”

Pro tip: if you make your own breadcrumbs, err on the side of lightly toasted. They’ll crisp up even more while baking atop the casserole.

Exhibit A: potato bread breadcrumbs so dark they look like whole wheat or rye. That’s okay, they’re still delicious – especially soaked in casserole juices!

Also, make extras for the inevitable snacking which will ensue. You’re welcome.

Fusilli with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts & Green Beans with Walnut Sauce

Friday, February 8th, 2013

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This one’s for the walnut lovers in the house: Fusilli with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts and Green Beans with Walnut Sauce; both recipes from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano.

The pasta’s really quite delicious, though it’s by no means the kind of dish you can throw together on the fly. Caramelizing onions takes forever, yo! Luckily, the rest is super-easy: just cook the pasta and toss it in the skillet along with walnuts, veggie broth, and some basil, and you’re good to go.

I used a little more fusilli than the recipe calls for – a full pound versus ten ounces – so the dish didn’t come out quite as onion-y as Klein intended. Still yummy though.

As for the beans, sadly I was unable to find fresh beans anywhere (the refrigeration unit at our local Piggly Wiggly-esque grocery died, and they were out of fresh produce all week!), so I had to sub in canned. Which, as it turns out, wasn’t a total loss – I was able to microwave the beans, which is totally easier than cooking them in the stovetop. Just combine the beans with the sauce in a microwavable dish, cover, and nuke for four minutes. Done and done.

The walnut sauce is so ridiculously good that I might start using it on the regular: Pasta. Bagels. Salad. Pizza (duh!). Waffles, even. Word on the streets is that they can be savory too, yeah?

Spinach-Basil Pesto Pasta and Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

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Tonight – well, last Wednesday night; my queue is pleasantly plump! – was a cleaning out the fridge kind of night. The remains of the spinach I bought for the Cheesy Mac and Greens became Spinach-Pesto Sauce, and the week-old green beans and half a can of diced tomatoes combined to make Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic – both recipes from Vegan Italiano. It doesn’t look like much, but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t the most delicious fridge-emptying dinner in recent memory!

The pesto, which comes together in all of three minutes, was good enough as is – though I decided to add a half a cup of walnuts for a little extra bulk. Klein doesn’t say how much pasta one batch will coat, but a pound of angel hair seems about right. Use a little less pasta (or a little more pesto) if you like your pasta extra-pesto-y!

Spinach pesto is actually kind of genius – an excellent way of sneaking spinach onto the plate of someone who normally won’t touch the stuff. Now that I think about it, I’m a little surprised that Wild About Greens doesn’t have a pesto recipe.

As for the green beans, they’re ridiculously good. Granted, they require an hour plus of cook time, but it’s totally worth it (and mostly hands-off, anyway). Mine didn’t get quite as melt-in-your mouth tender as Klein promises, but they came pretty close. Soft and juicy, with an almost buttery taste – mmmmm mmmmmm. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Pro tip: use canned tomatoes instead of fresh, juices and all. You won’t need to add much extra water, and the tomato juice will cook down into a heavenly garlicky sauce. I used the pasta to sop it up, no lie.

Baked (!) Vegetable Soup

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

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Now that I’m doing more cooking, I’m for serious starting to appreciate the convenience and flexibility of baked dishes. (Prepare it an hour or even a day in advance, and pop in it the oven when your stomach starts threatening to grumble. Easy peasy!) Stuffed pasta. Spaghetti pie. Lasagna. Herbed rice. Baked French toast. And now: Baked Vegetable Soup, courtesy of Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano.

This soup is surprisingly tasty, given how few seasonings it calls for. Just minced onion and garlic, along with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and veggie broth. (Though I must admit to doubling the thyme and oregano!) After Tami Noyes’s ‘Big Soup’ Minestrone, this seems downright stingy. But together they create a savory, chunky soup. (Potatoes, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes, oh my!)

One which you’re supposed to serve on top of toasted French bread, but I enjoyed mine on the side (yet still partially submerged) because I like a little crunch in my bread. Otherwise I’m totally on the bread-bottomed-soup bandwagon.

My only quibble is with the cook time: after 45 minutes at 350F, the soup was hardly bubbling and the potatoes were still a bit crunchy, so I jacked the heat up to 400F and let it bake an extra 15 minutes. Next time around I’ll probably try 375F for 45 minutes, or 400 for 30. Depending on how hungry I am, natch.

Italian-Style Butter Bean Dip (Pizza!)

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

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As it happens, butter bean dip is quite similar to hummus – just made with (you guessed it!) butter beans instead of chickpeas. Luckily, my food processor had a much easier go of blending the former vs. the latter. (I’d love to make my own hummus, but it never comes out as creamy as the store-bought stuff!)

The Italian-Style Butter Bean Dip from Vegan Italiano is simple and easy to make: blend butter beans, lemon, juice, and oil and then garnish with black olives and red onions. Tasty, though I think I’d rather swap out the black for kalamata olives for more of a kick. I also doubled with amount of lemon juice for a more spreadable dip, and microwaved the butter beans for 90 seconds beforehand in the hopes that this would make them easier to process. (I’ve yet to test this process with a control, so who knows?)

Much like hummus, butter bean dip is also delicious on pizza! For this mini-pie, I just used some leftover butter bean dip (about half a recipe) in place of red sauce and topped with sundried tomatoes, mozzarella Daiya, and kalamata olives. Singed slightly from a minute too long on the broil setting (hence the extreme closeup), but still tasty.

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Pro tip: since baking will dry out the dip, add some extra water or lemon juice before using. No need to break out the blender, as this is easily done by hand.

‘Big Soup’ Minestrone with Baked Garlic Bread and Herbes de Provence

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Say that five times fast!

Today’s meal is three recipes in one, namely: ‘Big Soup’ Minestrone from American Vegan Kitchen, seasoned (in part) with Herbes de Provence from The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe (yup, another new cookbook for me to play with!) and served with a side of Baked Garlic Bread from Vegan Italiano. Oooh-la-la.

First, the soup. Hot damn, THE SOUP.

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A delicious, slow-cooked pot of goodness including white beans (or tempeh, take your pick), diced tomatoes, green beans, carrots, onions, garlic, pasta, veggie broth, and red wine. The seasonings are many – seven, not including the spice mix Herbes de Provence, which Wiki describes as “a mixture of dried herbs typical of Provence.”

Since it’s not something I normally keep on hand, I was lucky that my newly acquired copy of The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe had a recipe for it. (Serendipitous!) So that’s at least another seven herbs right there.

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While the soup was simmering, I also threw together some Baked Garlic Bread: Italian bread topped with sauteed garlic, parsley, salt, and olive oil and baked in the oven for about five minutes. So easy, with a most excellent taste-to-effort ratio.

In fact, I think I like this even more than the Skillet Garlic Bread from the same cookbook: the minced garlic is much more difficult to burn this way. Plus, it’s a little less oily, so it doesn’t sit as heavy in the stomach. Just as tasty though!

Happy National Pizza Week!*

Monday, January 21st, 2013

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Did you know that it’s National Pizza Week? ME EITHER! At least not until the day of, otherwise I would have held a contest or giveaway on fuck yeah vegan pizza. Oh well, there’s always next year. Or next week. Every day is vegan pizza day, is what I say!

Yesterday Shane and I celebrated by trying a few new recipes from two of the cookbooks we’re working through: Vegan Italiano and American Vegan Kitchen.

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First up: Pesto Pizza with a Semolina Crust from Vegan Italiano. Where to start? The crust is tasty – crunchy and medium-thin – though not discernibly different from some of the other crusts we’ve made. According to Klein, semolina flour is supposed to have a nutty flavor, but my unsophisticated palate didn’t catch it.

The pesto isn’t half bad, but I was afraid that the recipe didn’t make enough to cover the pizza, so I tossed a half a cup of walnuts and an extra tablespoon of olive oil in for good measure. Personally I prefer sundried tomato pesto, but I’m not complaining.

Topped with Roma tomatoes at Klein’s direction. Kicking myself for not adding more!

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Then there’s the Margherita Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce from Tami Noyes’s American Vegan Kitchen – which includes recipes for the pizza, dough, and sauce. Yum!

The dough’s delish, though again not all that different from what we normally make. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Funny story: we didn’t realize until after we’d assembled the pizza that the recipe makes two pies. (No wonder we had “extra” sauce.) So really the crust was twice as thick as it should have been – but alas, it’s about the same thickness as our go-to recipe, so all’s good.

As for the sauce, it’s a mix of diced tomatoes and roasted red peppers – a little spicier than what I’m used to, but quite good! You can put it on the pizza direct from the stove top (chunky!), or run it through a blender or food processor for a more uniform sauce. I chose option #2.

Topped with Roma tomatoes, mozzarella Daiya cheese (of course!), and basil.

Food related holidays, they’re my favorite.

* Belated! Turns out I’m a week late. Old gif is old.

Spaghetti with Red Wine and Rosemary Marinara Sauce (Plus!) and Skillet Garlic Bread

Monday, January 14th, 2013

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From – you guessed it – Vegan Italiano! (Why didn’t I get this cookbook sooner? I’m vegan! I’m Italian! I ♥ carbs! IT IS SO ME!)

What makes the Red Wine and Rosemary Marinara Sauce “plus,” you ask? Simple! In addition to red wine, tomatoes, and assorted seasonings, it’s also sporting a package of Yves Meatless Ground Round, which I just so happened to have on hand. (Yay to cleaning out the fridge!) Klein avoids using processed vegan meats in her recipes – but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up now and again. I fried the “beef” alongside the onions, so it got nice and crispy and flavorful, and then left it in the skillet to make a meaty marinara sauce. It did the trick, but the marinara sauce would’ve been just as tasty without it.

As for the garlic bread, it’s pure genius. Simply fry a few big, fat, thick slices of Italian bread in some olive oil and garlic and, voilà, you have garlic bread! In just five minutes!

As it just so happens, this is also a handy way to rescue stale(ish) Italian bread from the trash, since the bread absorbs the olive oil and softens up as it cooks. Ditto: french toast. (Same principle, different liquids.)

Got leftover garlic bread garlic? Put it in the marinara! Zero waste, y’all.

Lunch is served!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

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Another one from Vegan Italiano: Baked Herbed Rice. What I love about this recipe is that it’s 100% oven-baked. White rice, veggie broth, scallions, carrots (in place of celery), seasonings – just combine the ingredients in a baking dish, cook for thirty minutes, and lunch is served. No stirring required!

I assembled it after my morning workout and popped it in the oven while I grabbed a quick shower. When I was done, my afternoon snack was sitting there, just waiting for me. Can’t do that with stove top rice.

As far as rice dishes go, it’s pretty basic, but also tasty and satisfying.

Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

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As if straight-up pasta isn’t carbalicious enough, this recipe from Vegan Italiano features linguine topped with breadcrumbs. Yeah, you heard me right. BREADCRUMBS! Imagine that.

This pasta dish is ridiculously simple to make and boasts a high taste-to-effort ratio. Toasting the breadcrumbs is the most time-consuming step of the process, but can easily be done hours or even days beforehand. Then it’s as simple as cooking the pasta and topping with a delicious mix of lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper, and minced garlic, sauteed and mixed with the breadcrumbs. (The kalamata olives were my own special touch.) Breadcrumbs excepted, it took me all of 15 minutes to make.

I was worried that the dish might be a little dry – on accounta the breadcrumbs – or, conversely, that the lemon juice would make the breadcrumbs soggy and gross. Not so! Turns out that breadcrumbs plus pasta is kind of awesome. Who knew? *

* Italian chefs, apparently.

Frying-Pan Pizza, you have revolutionized my kitchen!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Along with copious volumes of The Hunger Games criticism and a shiny old vintage WWII gas mask (child-sized!), I received not a few food-related items this holiday season. From my parents: all three vegan cookbooks on my wish list (Vegan Italiano, Vegan a la Mode, and Chloe’s Kitchen), as well as (*drumroll please*) a pasta roller! Homemade pierogies, I’m coming for you!

Pierogies are a little more effort than I can muster after all that holiday baking, so for now I’ll have to settle on breaking in those cookbooks. First up: Vegan Italiano (by Donna Klein, whose latest cookbook I recently had the pleasure of reviewing) – specifically, the Frying-Pan Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Onions. ALWAYS START WITH PIZZA, that’s my motto.

(Technically Shane makes the pizza in our house, but who’s counting? It’s weird how we tend to arbitrarily divvy up the meals like that – he’s always pizza, I’m always pasta, and beyond that it’s a free-for-all.)

 

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What’s so rad about this recipe is that the dough doesn’t use any yeast – just flour, oil, and water (Klein calls this “scone dough,” but I’ve never made scones, so the reference is lost on me) – so you don’t need to let it rise AT ALL beforehand. Pizza in a pinch, and without using pita bread to boot! (Not that I don’t love you pita, you know that I do. Sometimes I just need a, ahem, more filling meal.) Fry it up in a skillet, flip, and repeat. Transfer to a baking sheet, add your toppings, and bake for ~5 minutes. It’s that easy!

The resulting crust is thick and hearty, but doesn’t sit in your stomach like a brick. Dense but still light. Plus the little browned patches on the underside add an extra richness that regular pizza just doesn’t have.

 

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I really love the no-cheese, olives! olives! olives! version provided by Klein, but the husband decided to try another pie with our favorite standards, including mozzarella Daiya, Lightlife Smart Bacon, sundried tomatoes, and black olives. What can I say but yum yum yum?

Supposedly one pizza makes four to six servings (hahahaha!), but Shane and I polished a pie off in one sitting. In our defense it was a VERY filling meal.