Monday, September 21, 2009

Squash - Spaghetti Squash!

I've been on an angel hair pasta kick for months. Simply can't get enough of it. There's nothing inherently wrong with that... except that I'm not really someone who can eat all the pasta I want and not have it affect me. And by me I mean my weight. Dang those dangerous processed carbs and their yummy goodness!

To pull myself off the pasta train I decided to go to nature's own spaghetti: the awesome spaghetti squash! Of course it doesn't taste like processed pasta, but it allows you to have the same kind of mouth feel, eye appeal and it goes beautifully with things you would typically put on your pasta. What's not to love?

Spaghetti squash used to make me apprehensive because I was always afraid I'd somehow cook it wrong and mess up the strings that make it such a neat pasta alternative.

I'm no longer apprehensive.

It's really very simple to make, and once you've done it a couple of times you'll wonder why you didn't do it before.

To prepare:
Simply cut the squash in half down width-wise (if you've bought a particularly wide one that you can't cut through - you can cook it whole, it just takes a little longer). Put the two halves cut-side down into a baking pan with a couple of inches of plain water in the bottom, pop it into a 350 oven and let it bake for about 45 minutes, or until the skin pierces easily with a fork. If you're cooking it whole you want to slice into the skin in a few spots, or prick with a fork, the way you would with a baked potato.

After you remove it from the oven let it sit for a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then scoop out the innards. Some people stress that you have to flake it with a fork to get the strands to separate, which works, but don't let it worry you - I have pulled out the entire 'meat' of the squash and then separated it outside it's shell and it works just as well. Just be kind of gentle with it and you won't mush up the strands too much. Really.

Then serve it however you would serve pasta!

I did this dish with a quick tomato basil sauce. Just saute some garlic in a saucepan, throw a couple of freshly chopped tomatoes into the pot, add a bit of fresh basil, salt, pepper, some red pepper flakes if you like a little kick and cook it down for maybe 10 minutes. It's that simple. I like to throw a few pine nuts on top for a little extra protein.

The cauliflower and string-beans were VERY lightly coated with olive oil and roasted in the oven while the squash cooked.

This is my new obsession dish. I'm hoping it will keep my pasta demons at bay for at least a couple of weeks. And you know, if you have kids who aren't too fond of squash - they might discover they like it if you make it like pasta! Try it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pita Bread!

A friend of mine has a friend who has a vegan blog: Novel Eats. When he forwarded me the link to this blog the first thing I came across was a recipe for Pita. Well it NEVER occurred to me to make my own pita so I was intrigued. Vegans reading here are probably aware that it isn't always easy to find pita that is vegan, or that doesn't have a ton of preservatives, and when you do find it it's not always cheap.

Well I'm here to tell ya: make your own! It's super easy and fun!

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here, rather I'll refer you to Novel Eats where there are detailed directions. But I will tell you that rather than bake my pitas in the oven - it's summer, a hot oven isn't something I was in the mood for today - I cooked them on a cast iron griddle on top of the stove and it worked very well.

I also used only whole wheat flour (because that's what I had) and while some comments on other blogs say that whole wheat tends not to 'puff' I didn't have any issues. They puffed, they cooked in only minutes and hello saving the money!

After they cooled I put them in a zip-lock bag... I don't think they'll last long.

Many thanks to Tom-Jim for sending me to Novel Eats!

P.S. Hummus Here and Here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Baked Ziti

I've been hankerin' for baked ziti for weeks, but just didn't have the 'oompf' to figure out how to do it. It's not something I ever made before I became vegan so while I had a vague idea of what was needed I was still sort of at a loss. Yesterday I finally got myself googling for recipes and while I found a few (hundreds of non-vegan recipes, natch) I ended up futzing with what I did find, mostly because I was in the mood to cook and not in the mood to shop so I had to make substitutions depending on what I had in the house. The 'ricotta uncheez' recipe is adapted from Kathleen's lasagna recipe on Vegweb, and while it's not white like ricotta, the texture and taste work really, really well.  I was never a big ricotta fan, but this stuff - I LOVE! 

Most baked ziti recipes are for a huge panful (9X13). Since I only had a half box of rigatoni and one jar of sauce I was forced to make a half portion. Of course, now I'm sad because it came out so good I wish I'd made a huge platter!

Baked Ziti Vegan-style

1/2 box rigatoni (if I had ziti in the house I'd have used it, but rigatoni works fine too)
1 26 oz jar Basil Marinara sauce
1/2 package Yves 'ground beef'
5 slices Tofutti Mozarella
sprinkle of vegam 'parmesan'
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Uncheez "Ricotta"

1/2 tablespoon margarine
1 block firm silken tofu, thoroughly mashed
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup soy milk
3 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise 
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon mixed seasoning such as Spike or Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Start by boiling the pasta - take 2-3 minutes off the suggested cooking time. You want it to be al dente because it will cook more in the oven. While the pasta's cooking preheat your oven to 350 and start making the 'cheese'

In a medium saucepan melt margarine then add the mashed tofu, mix add yeast, paprika, salt, mixed seasoning, mustard and mayonnaise, mix thoroughly and saute for 3-4 min. Then add soymilk, lower heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. After 5 minutes take the pot off the heat and set aside.

For this recipe I used and 8" x 8" pan, if you're doubling the recipe you'll need the more traditional 9" x 13". Lightly grease the pan with some oil or margerine. When the pasta is done drain well and layer half of it into the pan.Top the pasta with enough tomato sauce to cover, sprinkle with about a quarter package of the Yves ground 'beef' and broken up pieces of mozzarella.If you have a shredded cheese use it - it will spread more easily. I just happened to have the slices so I used them. Then take about half the 'ricotta' you just made and layer it on top of everything. This is where I sprinkled on the red pepper flakes, but if you don't like that 'kick' you can leave them out altogether.Follow that with the remaining pasta, 'beef', sauce and more mozzarella to top it off. If you have a parmesan sprinkle - now's the time to use it.
Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and pop it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. It will be bubbling and the cheese will be melted when it's done.
I didn't try freezing any, since I only made a couple of days worth, but traditionally baked ziti does freeze well and there's nothing here that makes me think this version would be any different.