Showing posts with label Presto Pasta Nights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Presto Pasta Nights. Show all posts

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cheezy Tomato Pasta Bake: My (Vegan) Version of a Classic Hamburger Casserole for Food 'n Flix July: "Because I Said So"

Some degree of meddling is a given with mothers, but in Because I Said So, our Food 'n Flix July movie pick, Daphne Wilder (Dianne Keaton), makes it an art form. Unlucky in love herself, Daphne wants her three daughters happy and settled and for her youngest daughter Milly (Mandy Moore), that is turning out to be quite a problem.

Milly, a catering manger (the foodie part of the flick), has just broken up with her boyfriend and Daphne, convinced she won't find someone, places a personal ad for Milly and interviews and rejects potential candidates without Milly knowing. She finds an excellent catch in Jason (Tom Everett Scott) a well-bred architect. Rejected applicant musician Johnny (Gabriel Macht) goes around Daphne to meet Milly and Milly starts dating both of them. 

Does mother really know best?  

Because I Said So is a cute, chick-flick with some delicious looking food--chocolate souffles, quirky cakes, delicious dinners, tuna pasta salad in Milly's seniors' cooking class. The cast is and pretty to look at and mostly likable. Dianne Keaton manages to keep her overbearing mama character, although definitely very often exasperating, still appealing. Mandy more is cute/sweet/funny and of course Gabriel Macht and Tom Everett Scott are there for some good eye candy. It's fluffy, fun and light--perfect for July. Although I don't own this movie, I catch up with it whenever it is on and DVR'd it in June to watch it again this month. 
With all that food, especially the plethora of desserts, my choice of a dish may seem a little pedestrian. But this movie makes me think mostly of the mother-daughter relationship and makes me thankful that although my mom worries, nags, and more than freely offers advice in a variety of subjects--she recognizes that fact and it is nowhere near the level of Daphne. My mom has long since given up on being concerned by my love life and now focuses on the more mundane things to worry about. My health, finances, and especially since I stopped eating meat, poultry and dairy--my protein levels. "Do you think you are eating enough protein?" is a frequent question on our phone chats--if I dare to say I am tired, or stuffy, or angry, or have a headache, or didn't sleep well, or had a long day at work, or for that matter, any mention of any dish or meal I have cooked or eaten.  

I decided to pick a typical childhood dish and revamp it to make it fit into the way I eat today. Hamburger Noodle Casserole was on the menu fairly regularly when I was growing up--it was cheap, tasted good and everyone liked it. Think Hamburger Helper without the box--hamburger, tomato sauce, noodles, cheese all baked together. It's not glamorous, it's not pretty but it is comfort food and there is nothing wrong with that. ;-)

This is my vegan version--soy crumbles instead of meat and instead of a gooey cheese topping, my favorite cheeze sauce stirred into the tomato sauce and pasta and then a topping of crispy seasoned panko breadcrumbs. Reminiscent of home and childhood in taste and texture but much less saturated fat and cholesterol. You can have an extra large helping and not feel guilty and with the soy crumbles, quinoa pasta and almond milk--it has plenty of protein mom. Sometimes daughters know best! ;-)
Cheezy Tomato Pasta Bake (A Vegan Hamburger Casserole)
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6)

1-2 Tbsp olive oil 
1 pound package soy crumbles/ground-meat alternative 
1 medium onion, chopped, 1 cup 
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Italian salt-free, herb seasoning  
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes 
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp tamari sauce or Bragg's 
1 (8 oz) package dried pasta of choice 
2 cups cheeze sauce (recipe below)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup seasoned (panko preferably) bread crumbs

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Make cheese sauce (recipe below), and allow it to thicken.

In a large saucepan brown ground meat alternative in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Remove meat with slotted spoon and set aside. Adding a bit more oil if needed, add onion to pan and sauté until tender and lightly caramelized. Add garlic and Italian seasoning and cook a few minutes more. Add the canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste and tamari sauce, along with the cooked soy crumbles. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes. Cook pasta following package directions, drain and rinse lightly with hot water and make cheeze sauce (recipe below). 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9"x13" baking dish.

Mix cheeze sauce into tomato sauce mixture, add cooked pasta and mix it together carefully but thoroughly. Pour into oiled pan and top with seasoned panko. Bake about 35 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and breadcrumbs are lightly toasted.


Vegan Cheeze Sauce
Adapted from Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli
(Makes about 2 cups
 2 Tbsp vegan margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
2 cups soy, almond, or rice milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tsp agave
In a medium saucepan, whisking margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes to make a roux. Add the nondairy milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, smoked paprika and garlic powder to the pan and whisking briskly, bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and agave and adjust salt and seasonings to taste.

Notes/Results:  Tasty, filling and hard to tell it isn't cheese and meat-laden. I used a quinoa pasta rotini--the next time I might choose a smaller sized pasta cut--just to make it "prettier." Easily adaptable to other ingredients, making it gluten-free, etc. A good way to relive a childhood favorite. I would make this again.

Thanks to Heather of girlichef, founder of the Food 'n Flix event and host for this month. If you want to join in, you have until the 30th, or join us next month for The Help. 

I am also sending this noodle casserole to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder Ruth of Once Upon A Feast.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rotini with Goat Cheese Pesto: A Plate of Cheesy Green Pasta Goodness

Sometimes I see a recipe somewhere and it just gets stuck in my head. I keep thinking about it, over and over, until I finally give in and make it. This was the case when I was flipping through Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures by Rick Bayless and his daughter, and saw the recipe for Bayless Family Pasta with Pesto. It wasn't exactly what I was planning on making this week but I kept reading the recipe, then going back and reading it again. I had it make it. It wasn't really the pesto itself that caught my eye, but rather the fact that there was goat cheese in it. I never thought about blending goat cheese into pesto before, but it seemed like a mighty good idea to me and although I try to limit my dairy due to allergies and such, this dish seemed like a worthy reason to splurge on some cheese. 

Lanie Bayless says, "My dad said that the pesto for pasta is supposed to be just basil, nuts, garlic and olive oil blended until smooth. You toss it with boiled pasta and Parmesan. And I don't really like it. At least not dome that way. Too strong. So we made a compromise: we add cream cheese or goat cheese to kind of m-e-l-l-o-w out those "classic" flavors.'

Rick Bayless says, "Yes,this recipe is a cross between what'll appear to be Italian tastes and American ones. Here, the classic Italian version Lanie described above is balanced with more cheese. But we brightened the flavors again with a little lemon or lime. It's our favorite pesto.

Bayless Family Goat Cheese Pesto
From Rick & Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures
(Serves 4 as Main Course / 6 to 8 as Italian "Pasta" Course)

1/4 cups pine nuts or walnuts (I used walnuts)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups fresh basil leaves 
1/4 cup lemon balm, optional 
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cream cheese or fresh goat cheese 
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice 
1 lb dried pasta of choice
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

Toast Nuts: Scoop nuts into a small skillet. Set over medium heat. Stir until nuts release toasty aroma into kitchen--about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let nuts cool. 

Blanch Garlic: Place peeled garlic in microwave-safe cup and barely cover with water. Microwave on high (100%) power for 1 minute. Scoop garlic out of water with spoon. Allow to cool. 

Make Pesto: In a food processor, combine cooled toasted nuts, basil leaves, lemon balm if desired, olive oil, cream cheese, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut each garlic clove into 3 pieces and add to processor. Secure lid. Pulse 5 or 6 times, then run machine until mixture is smooth--about 1 minute. Leave pesto in food processor. 

Boil Pasta: Cook according to package instructions. Scoop out 1/2 cup pasta-boiling water and set aside. Drain pasta.

Finish Pasta and Serve: Turn on food processor. Pour reserved pasta water through processor feed tube. Torn off, remove lid and blade (scrape pesto from blade back into bowl).  Dump drained pasta back into pot. Mix pesto with pasta. Sprinkle on half of the grated Parmesan. Stir, evenly coating pasta with pesto and cheese. Divide onto plates and garnish with basil leaves if you have extras. Serve immediately, sprinkled with remaining Parmesan.

Notes/Results: Goat cheese in pesto is an excellent idea! ;-) It mellows the herby sharpness of the basil while adding a little tangy essence of its own and makes the texture thick and creamy. There is a homemade pasta recipe in the book but the Bayless family also recommends dried fusilli or spaghetti. I used some multigrain rotini. If you don't have lemon balm, I find a mix of mint leaves and lemon zest gives a similar flavor profile. This was quick, easy and very good. I'll make it again. 

Since this Sunday is Mother's Day, this week's IHCC them is For Mom! For moms who like pesto and goat cheese, this would be a great dish, and it's easy enough for dads and kids to put together. ;-) You can check out all the mom-friendly dishes this week by going to the post and following the links.

Of course I also have to send it to one of my favorite blog events, Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Emma of Emma's Kitchen Diary. Stop by and check out all of the delicious pasta dishes in the roundup on her blog this Friday.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Canal House Pappardelle & Mushrooms for Food 'N Flix: Big Night

Ah, Big Night... how I LOVE this movie. It was one of the first foodie movies I "collected" and I was so excited to see it picked for April's Food 'N Flix event. If you have not seen it and love food, especially Italian food, you must see it. It helps that the cast is stellar--Stanly Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Isabella Rossellini and Minne Driver headline. Campbell Scott plays a supporting role (as well as directed the film, along with Tucci), and Allison Janney is her usually delightful self.

Set in the 1950's, the movie is about two brothers, Primo (Shalhoub) and Secondo (Tucci), fresh from Italy, who open a restaurant (Paradise), on the Jersey Shore. The restaurant is failing despite the wonderful food cooked by Primo--who hates the fact that the customers want  "Americanized" versions of the Italian dishes he cooks. Philistines! Secondo, who manages the front-of-house of the restaurant, has tried to build the business and mediate between the customers' wishes and Primo's stubborness (although he gets a little fed up too, telling a woman who insists that spaghetti should always come with meatballs, "Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone," one of my favorite lines from the movie) 

Rival restaurant owner Pascal, has a booming business despite his mediocre food and wants the brothers (mainly chef Primo) to come work for him. Turning Secondo down for a loan, Pascal tells Secondo that he will call jazz great Louis Prima to eat at their restaurant when he is in town, saying it will help revive their business. The rest of the movie is devoted to preparing for this "Big Night" and the brothers put all of their effort and resources into this one evening that can change their fortunes. 

The food in this movie is sublime from the risotto to the rosy fioretina sauce, to the timballo (a tower of baked pasta goodness), but as usual, I waited until the last possible minute (umm... the night before entries are due) to make my Food 'n Flix dish inspired by the movie. I needed a quick and simple pasta dish, full of Italian goodness. Not one to let an opportunity to multitask go by, I had the perfect cookbook sitting on my review stack to "road test" a recipe from and be my Big Night dish.

Canal House Cooking: Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita, by Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hirsheimer (Andrews McMeel Publishing, January 2012, Paperback 122 pages) has been on my  stack for a few months now, with lots of recipes tagged to make. Part of the Canal House series of seasonal cookbooks, it is full of luscious Italian dishes and gorgeous photos that the authors spent a month creating and perfecting in a rustic farmhouse in Tuscany. You can easily tell from flipping through it, that Hirsheimer and Hamilton are are former magazine editors from the sheer beauty of the book. Their cooking chops are formidable too, with recipes like Chickpeas and Stewed Tomatoes, Osso Buco, Cabbage & Fennel with Sausages & Borlotti, Oil Poached Swordfish, Fresh Ricotta, Butter & Lemon Ravioli, and Gelato di Gianduia. It's a book that is a great addition to the series, but stands well on its own for any Italian food lover out there who like to cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Having a passion for both pappardelle and mushrooms, my heart quickly went to the dried porcini and fresh cremini mushroom sauce tossed with thick ribbons of pasta. Of course Primo would have made the pasta himself (and there is a fresh pasta recipe in the book), but I have a good little gourmet section of a nearby grocery store that stocks a wonderful pappardelle that cooks in about 2 minutes. They also stock my favorite sun-dried tomato paste and dried porcini. This dish goes together quickly but tastes like it took time and effort making it perfect for a casual dinner or serving to company.

Canal House says, "You can use fresh porcini in this recipe in place of the cremini and dried porcini. But if you can't find fresh porcini in your market, do what we (and the Italians) do, use dried porcini with the affordable and more commonly cultivated cremini to add deep, earthy mushroom flavor."

Pappardelle & Mushrooms
Canal House Cooking: Volume No.7: La Dolce Vita, Hamilton & Hirsheimer
(Serves 4)

1 oz dried porcini
2 Tbsp butter (I used Earth Balance spread)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 Tbsp tomato paste (I used sun-dried tomato paste)
1 1/2 lbs cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 lb dried pappardelle

Cover the porcini with boiling water and soak about 15 minutes to let soften. Heat butter and olive oil together in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the cremini mushrooms, stir everything together, and cook 10 minutes.

Strain the porcini and reserve the soaking liquid. Chop porcini and add them, their liquid, and parsley to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and stir to mix everything together. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.

Cook pappardelle according to package instructions and drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add drained pappardelle to the sauce along with the water and mix everything together.

Notes/Results: This dish has just a few ingredients, but they work together perfectly to make a meaty, earthy dish that is full of wonderful mushroom flavor. If you enjoy mushrooms at all, this is the pasta for you. The wide pappardelle noodles are the perfect size and weight for the mushrooms making it a bowl of elegant comfort food. The only real change I made was to substitute Earth Balance butter spread for the butter--making it dairy-free, but keeping the flavor and richness that butter adds to the sauce. Delicious! I will make this again. 

Our April Food 'N Flix host Spabettie, did a fabulous job of selecting Big Night for this round, and she will be rounding up all of the entries on her blog in a few days. May's F'nF pick is another favorite foodie film in my collection, Sideways, hosted by Tina at Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Manor.

Pasta perfection like this must also go directly to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by my friend Simona at briciole. She will be rounding up a bevvy of pasta dishes on her blog on Friday. 

Note: I received a copy of Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita from the publisher (Andrews McMeel), however I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thai Garlic Soup with Rice Noodles for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Nothing soothes and comforts more than a bowlful of flavorful noodles. I have had the Thai Garlic Soup in Molly Katzen's Still Life With Menu Cookbook tagged to make for ages now and feeling slightly stuffy on a "voggy" weekend, decided to adapt it as the base of a garlicky Thai-inspired noodle bowl.

The recipe was a great starting point for adaptation. I made several changes to the ingredients based on what I had on hand and to give more Thai flavors to the soup. My ingredient changes are in red below.

Thai Garlic Soup with Rice Noodles
Adapted from Thai Garlic Soup, Still Life With Menu by Mollie Katzen
(Yield 6 Servings with Noodles)

(1 pack rice noodles (I used Thai Kitchen Stir-Fry Rice Noodles), cooked according to package instructions and drained.)

4 to 5 Tbsp minced garlic (I used 3 Tbsp due to the garlic-ginger broth base)
(2 stalks lemongrass, peeled, sliced in 2-inch pieces and bruised)
2 Tbsp peanut oil (I used 1 Tbsp coconut oil)
6 cups light stock or water (I used this ginger-garlic broth recipe)
4 to 5 tsp soy sauce (I used 1 Tbsp low-sodium tamari)
3 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
2 medium-sized carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths
1 stalk celery, chopped (optional) (I used 3 smallish stalks)
a few mushrooms, sliced (optional) (I used about 8 white mushrooms)
(8-10 stalks of asparagus cut on the diagonal in 1/2-inch pieces)
(juice of 1 lime)

crushed red pepper, to taste
(chopped cilantro to garnish)
(sweet chili sauce or samba oelek to serve)

In a soup pot or Dutch oven, saute the garlic and lemongrass pieces in oil over medium heat until the garlic begins to turn golden brown, just a few minutes. Add stock, tamari, cabbage, carrots, and celery, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 1o minutes, until vegetables start to get tender. Add mushrooms and asparagus and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove lemongrass pieces with a slotted spoon, add lime juice and a few crushed red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

To serve, place rice noodles in a deep bowl and ladle soup on top. Sprinkle cilantro on top and serve with chili sauce or samba oelek for optional extra spice.

Notes/Results: Soothing, filling and delicious. In addition to getting that garlic golden and flavorful, the key to this one is a good broth with lots of flavor. Even with the homemade garlic-ginger broth I used, the garlic doesn't smack you over the head, but it is there in all its savory garlicky glory. You can use whatever veggies you have on hand for this, I had some extra asparagus in the veggie bin so I threw it in. With the mushrooms and noodles, I found it very satisfying, but if you want a little something more, you can added a protein of your choice. The lemongrass and lime juice add brightness, which I like in Thai-style dishes, the pepper flakes give it a hit of spice, and rice noodles make it gluten-free. Healthy and good, I would make this again.

This bowl of noodle goodness is headed for one of my favorite events, Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. Check out her roundup on Friday of all kinds of delicious pasta creations.

We have a few friends waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's take a look.

Margo at made this hearty "The Most Amazing Vegan Chili." Margo says, "As I prepped it, I thought about all the great things that were going into it. Black beans, cumin seeds, yellow peppers and onion are all great in combination and certainly pack a nutritional punch. I, of course, can never leave a recipe alone and added coriander because for me, cumin and coriander, if not married, are at least living together in a healthy, loving relationship. With that in mind, I have both black beans and white beans, which to me are so much prettier together. Since I have fresh oregano, gotta add some of that. The final product is beautifully colorful and amazingly flavorful. I LOVE THIS RECIPE and I love when I can get really excited about a recipe."

Rachel, The Crispy Cook recently reviewed a dairy-free and gluten-free cookbook and tried the Creamy Broccoli Soup recipe it contained saying, "I made a batch of silky Broccoli Soup, which was delicious and creamy. I am delighted to be able to share the recipe with you so that you can test drive this great cookbook for yourself with this dish." Check out her post for the recipe, a photo of the completed dish and a chance to win a copy of this cookbook for your own.

Corina of Searching for Spice says, "Usually when I put carrot in a soup I add it along with a lot of other vegetables. It’s not a carrot a soup, it just contains some carrot. Yes, I have made carrot soup, about five years ago but I found it very sweet. Too sweet and so carrot soup has been one to avoid since then. Then, a few months ago I came across this recipe for Carrot and Tahini Soup on Eats Well with Others. It got me thinking. The sweetness of the carrots would be balanced out by the bitterness of the tahini. Hmmm. Maybe carrot soup could be delicious after all, just like carrots dipped in houmous."

Janet of The Taste Space has a healthy Wild Rice and Edamame Salad with a Lemon-Miso Dressing to share this week and says, "Now about this salad. It is another salad bursting with whole foods and boasts a higher protein content. Wild rice is not rice at all, instead it is a seed. Higher in protein, with a lower glycemic index, it is a great gluten-free option for hearty salads. Coupled with edamame and tofu, loaded with carrots, sprinkled with greens and doused in a sesame-lemon-miso dressing, you have an unassuming salad that will make you anticipate lunch time."

Heather of girlichef tried April Bloomfield's Warm Bacon and Egg Salad this week and says, "I chose this salad to represent April this week because I think it showcases some of the best local ingredients it's simple and tasty. These gorgeous organic eggs are from a local farmer, the bacon, arugula, and chives were found in my local farmer's market. The golden, garlicky bread crumbs are from a loaf of bread that I made in my kitchen. Fresh, local ingredients and simplicity combine to make deliciously satisfying eating."

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food has a sandwich this week, this Asparagus Salmon Loaf Sandwich Burger. She says, "There was something going on in my head when I baked the quiche-frittata loaf in a deep loaf pan. A purpose. To make this sandwich-burger. This is an easy and tasty idea from the Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Loaf made earlier. Grill/toast burger buns (English muffins used here), prepare some lettuce (baby spinach or arugula works too), and in goes the salmon-asparagus slice. "

Some great dishes this week--thanks to everyone who joined in! If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Book Tour Stops Here: Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps and Peanut Seitan Noodles

Whether for health reasons, environmental concerns, a love of animals, or viewings of the films Food Inc. or Forks Over Knives, more and more people are changing their diets and eliminating (or at least eating less) meat and animal products. Although I am not a strict vegan or vegetarian, or anything with a label on it, I follow a plant-strong, meat, poultry and dairy free diet the majority of the time. It's for a lot of different reasons, some from the list above, but mainly because my body just feels better eating this way. Sure, there are some things I miss (bacon and cheese) and some things that I will occasionally veer off the path for (good cheese, sushi or good local fish, and the occasional baked good made with butter and eggs), but those are just occasional side trips. In addition to how it makes me feel and how it has relieved many of the issues with allergies and asthma that plagued me for so long, I really love that eating this way has re-energized my cooking, "forcing" me to be more creative, and I love the food I eat.

Now, I love to cook, I am not afraid to try new things and I am comfortable experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients which makes it a bit easier. Still, when I first started dabbling in vegetarian and vegan cooking and eating, I had to do a lot of research and a lot of trial and error to find the right ingredients and products I liked. The Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps by bestselling author Kim Barnouin, takes much of the work out of navigating your grocery or specialty food store and is a small but comprehensive guide to vegan eating and shopping.

Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps is not a cookbook, although there are ten recipes contained in it. It is a spiral-bound handy reference guide to take shopping with you rather than a book that you read cover-to-cover. It is full of tips and tricks for vegans as well as for those who may not yet be ready or even wanting to take the complete plunge into a vegan lifestyle, but who are wanting to try it out. Perhaps a weekend vegan improving their health and reducing their meat intake. (Kim has that covered in a Weekend Vegan chapter with menu ideas, snacks and a few of her favorite recipes.) There are lists of places to shop and vegan restaurants in different cities, but there are also vegan menu options at popular chain restaurants--good when your friends/family don't share your eating goals. Other handy chapters cover what to eat in airports, how to decode a label to make sure the product you are putting in your hard doesn't have any hidden animal ingredients, and tips on being a healthy vegan. The real meat (tofu?) of the book however, are the extensive "swaps" chapters, with lists or the best swaps for dairy, eggs and meats, condiments, dry goods and pantry items, frozen foods, desserts and baking, and beverages. Here Kim gives detailed advice on the best-tasting vegan products and the brands she likes and trusts because of the quality and type of ingredients. Obviously many of these are processed or at least somewhat processed products and Kim readily admits that the products are not all "squeaky clean" and some contain a few artificial or processed ingredients that she doesn't love but that "...we're human. Sometimes we need a piece of soy beef jerky or a calorie-packed salad dressing to get us through PMS or a shitty breakup. The point is to give you options." And, options do abound in this handy book. I consider myself a fairly savvy shopper and many of the items and brands in the book are ones I use and love, but the host of sticky tabs I marked the book with show that there are quite a few new products for me to find and try.

It's not a perfect book. Some of the brands and items she suggests are regional products that may be hard for the person in a remote area to find unless they ship them in. Some of the stores, restaurants and markets she names are specific only to certain areas (although I was impressed that the all-vegetarian Hawaii grocer Down to Earth is listed). If you are familiar with any of the other Skinny Bitch books (Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, etc.) that Kim co-authored or authored, the tone is the similar "in-your-face" tart and blunt style. This can be fun and entertaining, but it can get grating after a while. The original book that started it off Skinny Bitch, was kind of a call-to-arms about the benefits of a vegan diet so strong anti-meat messages were expected. With the Book of Vegan Swaps, I have to assume that the person buying it and carting it around the grocery store is at least somewhat bought into the vegan lifestyle, so the constant litany of the evils of animal products began to annoy me. I got it, I know, let's move on...

Overall, I think this book is a good resource, especially for a new vegan or someone wanting to experiment with different, healthier ingredients or a vegan life-style. I spend time working with individuals and groups looking to improve their diets and much of that is helping them learn to plan, shop and cook so this book will be a useful tool and addition to my reference shelves.

Author Notes: Kim Barnouin holds a master of science in holistic nutrition. A former model, she is the author or coauthor of seven books and has successfully counseled models, actors, athletes, and other professionals using the Skinny Bitch method. She lives in Los Angeles.

Note: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher HarperOne through TLC Book Tours but I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts, opinions and experiences cooking from it are my own.

For my dish inspired by the book, there were ten recipes to choose from in the book itself. I really wanted to make the Cherry Jam-Filled Muffins or the Mint Chocolate Whoopee Pies, but there has been far too much baking and candy-making going on at my house lately. Instead I selected another favorite dish of mine, savory noodles with a peanut butter sauce. In Kim's version, Peanut Seitan Noodles, seitan plays a starring role. When I first started experimenting with it, seitan freaked me out. It just doesn't look that pretty in the package (although raw chicken or other raw meat are pretty unappealing to look at too), and like tofu, there is not a lot of flavor to speak of. That is actually the beauty of seitan--whatever flavor you want can be added to it and the texture is like meat. It is made from wheat gluten and has about the same amount of protein as beef and twice the protein of tofu--great info for my mom who thinks that I can't possibly be getting enough protein eating this way. It's also low fat and of course, since it isn't an animal product, there is no cholesterol.

Kim says, "This is one of my favorite dishes hands down. You can eat it hot for dinner and cold the next day for lunch. It is that versatile and flavorful. On top of that, it’s quick, healthy, and easy to make. The kids will even love it—just change up the pasta shapes for more fun and variety."

Peanut Seitan Noodles
Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps by Kim Barnouin
(Serves 6)

8 oz whole-wheat spaghetti (I used whole wheat fettucine)
1 cup snow peas
2 Tbsps sesame oil
1 cup seitan, cubed
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1/4 cup cucumbers, chopped (English or Persian)
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 scallion, thinly sliced

For the Dressing:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsps soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Cook the pasta according to package directions; add the snow peas to the boiling water about 1 minute before pasta is about cooked, then drain. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet and add the seitan; sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until well combined and smooth. Add the noodles, snow peas, carrots, cucumbers, and peanuts to the dressing and toss until ingredients are well coated. When done, add the seitan to the noodle mixture. Top each serving with sesame seeds and scallions.

Notes/Results: Easy and very tasty, with good peanutty flavor. The only peanut butter I had in the house was a natural, freshly ground one, so my sauce wasn't as smooth as it would have been with creamy peanut butter but the flavor was all there. I like the crunch of the fresh veggies and added larger quantities to the dish including adding a half of a red pepper, julienned. The seitan crisps up in the pan and tastes great in the mix. Texturally, the cubed seitan is like pieces of pork or chicken--very satisfying. (If you are scared to try seitan, this is a great starter dish that makes it approachable.) Instead of garnishing with sesame seeds which I couldn't seem to find my package of (someone's freezer needs a serious clean out), I just sprinkled some extra peanuts on top. As Kim points out, this dish works both warm and cold but I prefer it right out of the fridge. I would make this again, maybe with something to give it a bit of spice for an extra flavor kick.

I am sending these tasty noodles over to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Helen of Fuss Free Flavors who will be rounding up a bevy of delicious pasta creations on her blog on Friday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tomato and Walnut Pesto on Pappardelle: Quick and Easy Comfort Food

Perhaps this is not the prettiest pasta dish out there. Pappardelle is usually best with a smoother consistency sauce and this coarse Tomato and Walnut Pesto adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros would have been better suited on the spinach ravioli I had in the fridge, or the Ricotta Gnocchi recipe it's paired with in the book. The heart wants what the heart wants however, and my heart was wanting pappardelle (it's my favorite). What it lacks in eye appeal, this one makes up for in taste with the wide ribbons of noodles coated in thick flavorful pesto.

I adapted this recipe a bit--reducing the olive oil, upping the garlic, making it dairy free with a soy-based parmesan, swapping out the pine nuts for some roasted walnuts, changing up some of the ingredient amounts, and topping it with a layer of seasoned panko. My changes are in red below.

Tomato-Walnut Pesto
Adapted from the Tomato Pesto recipe in Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 4)

1/3 cup olive oil (reduced to 3 Tbsp)
2 cloves garlic, peeled (increased to 4 cloves)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes (used organic/no salt tomatoes)
salt (and freshly ground black pepper)
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
4 Tbsp pine nuts (used 1/3 cup toasted walnuts)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (used 1/4 cup vegan soy parmesan)
(topped it with about 1/4 cup of Italian-seasoned panko breadcrumbs)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive in a medium saucepan with two cloves of garlic. When it starts to sizzle, add the canned tomato. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, periodically crushing it up with a wooden spoon, until the tomato thickens, reduces, and becomes smooth.

Chop the other garlic cloves and add it along with the torn basil leaves and nuts to a food processor or mini chop. Pulse mixture until it's finely chopped, then add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the cheese, and pulse until just mixed. Stir basil mixture into the tomato sauce and heat through. Remove the whole garlic cloves before serving.

Mix with pasta and top with additional cheese or crispy panko.

Note: If you are making the tomato pesto in advance, keep the pesto separate and add to the heated tomato sauce just before serving.

Notes/Results: The pesto has great tomato and basil flavor. I like how the canned tomatoes cooked down into an almost "jammy" state and blend into the basil-nut mixture. I like the texture that walnuts give pesto and I prefer using them to the standard pine nuts. This is a quick and easy dish to make--you can boil the pasta and make the pesto while the tomatoes simmer away and then just toss it all together and serve with a simple salad. Simple and tastes great, I would make this again.

We are "Getting a Little Nutty, or Seedy" at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. You can check out all the other nut and seed-filled dishes by going to the post and following the links.

I am also sending this dish to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Juli of Pictures of All My Princesses. Stop by her blog on Friday to see some fabulous pasta creations there.