"Reinventing Indulgence" One meal at a time!

Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Perfect Vegan Lasagna

I’m beginning to think I’m obsessed with lasagna but in reality it’s something I only eat around the holidays. I did however make a few perfect lasagnas back to back and they truly need to be documented- first for my friends and second so I don’t forget! If one were to go through my blog, they would find so many lasagnas. One day it’s about raw lasagna, the next without pasta and then just trial & error. Today’s blog is just simply… “perfect vegan lasagna”.  I nailed it! Yes, I can take joy in that – if you only knew the number of experiments. I’m a virgo perfectionist and a diehard Italian pastaholic – don’t forget that.

lasagnaperfect
First things first, they may revoke my Italian status here, but I used “oven ready” whole wheat lasagna noodles. I have never done this before. This time my focus was in the filling and hoping it wouldn’t melt away into vegan watery vegetable land nor burn in it’s attempt to make a sweet potato perfectly soft. Did I say sweet potato?  Yes I did. Hey my Grandmother, may she rest in peace, was the best pasta/ best sauce maker and best baker that I know of. Sorry Mom and sorry to my brother Rob – they both fight for title every holiday and I’m not even allowed in because mine is “special”. Anyway, my Grama.. she always tossed a pinch of sugar in there. Luckily, GMOs weren’t  around back then! The sweet potato is my way of adding in some sweetness, healthy fiber and a vegetable that won’t disintegrate like a zucchini I once knew.

megram

My Grama! This blog is for you- I bet anything you would have made me special vegan Italian food if I asked! RIP.. years ago due to diabetes related causes. And yes.. that’s me!

I wanted to add my meat too. I know.. one day I hate the word and the next it’s mine to empower. Whatever.. I wanted my vegan meat layer and I used soy crumbles and mushrooms to get it. My sauce of course is always on point; thanks Grama! Next up.. Daiya cheese. Again.. to cheese or not to cheese and then to call it cheese or not to call it cheese. I’m in a simplistic mood right now so vegan cheese it is and the best melted vegan cheese out there hands down and slammed shut. Mozzarella shredded style to be exact. Be careful not to use too much like me or you will be swimming in lasagna fondue. Spinach – talk about disintegrating. I don’t use frozen; I use fresh and a lot of it due to shrinkage. A lot- get a few bags or bunches. I outed myself again by saying bags. This is a shortcut perfect lasagna. Ready to bake lasagna, bags of spinach and sweet potato puree to avoid having to bake the sweet potatoes first. For the record, I don’t boil any vegetables unless making a broth or soup. This lasagna is really for a party- not so much something I would eat every week- at all!

Sauce:

  • Italian canned tomatoes, usually crushed but maybe one or two as puree. I like Tuttorossa and Sclafani. I use at least (4) 28oz cans. Always go more! (5) cans is good! I usually make 2 big trays.
  • Tomato paste – the small cans. I use 1 or 2.
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Spices – salt, pepper, oregano, hot chili flakes if you can handle it etc.

I start with an olive oil, onion and garlic sauté; then I add one can of paste and simmer. After a few minutes I add the sauce cans and water. Give it time. Add spices in too as you are taste testing.

Vegan meat:

  • I used Boca soy crumbles. There are a few different brands so feel free to experiment. Boca makes PETA’s favorite vegan substitutes list. 
  • I used portabella mushrooms. Again.. experiment! Mushrooms are king in the health world.
  • I am a spice girl! Well, not the London kind although I love them. I like my spices so I use them intensely here – bay leaf, basil, oregano, chili flakes, pepper, salt etc.

I also began this sauté with olive oil, onions and garlic.

Lasagna:

  • First I put a little oil in the baking dish and a little sauce to prevent sticking. Then I placed in the bottom layer of pasta. I think I used about 1 1/2 boxes per tray. Again, buy more so you don’t have to run out later!
  • Then I layered on the vegan meat.
  • I added dollops of sweet potato puree. I’d say 1/2 to 3/4 can of organic sweet potato puree. I have made it with thin slices of baked sweet potato but the puree melts in more perfectly. Trust me.
  • Another layer of pasta.
  • A plentiful layer of sauce and Daiya cheese
  • Another layer of pasta
  • A heavy full layer of spinach. Press down gently.
  • The top layer of pasta with sauce on top to cover it nicely and some Daiya cheese. Make sure you get sauce in all the corners too so it doesn’t dry out.

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Approximately 45 minutes baking time at 350 degrees. Be careful not to use too much salt with the vegan meat and sauce because the Boca and Daiya have salt too. 

Bake, set, cut, eat! Approximately 45 minutes baking time at 350 degrees. Be careful not to use too much salt with the vegan meat and sauce because the Boca and Daiya have salt too.

Party time- have fun!

 

 

 

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Kelp Noodles

I have come a long way in my acceptance and transition back to the world of pasta… well, at least to the word “noodle” itself. Self acclaimed pasta-holic that I am, I have mentioned and confessed my addiction many times along this vegan blog journey. I feared the word pasta or noodle even up to my very recent zucchini noodle blog. To recap quickly, the recipe called for both zucchini and kelp noodles, but I didn’t care what the non-vegetable noodle was made of- from soy to mung bean to even kelp- I wasn’t falling for it. As I researched a bit, I found no nutritional or emotional damage would be made from the kelp noodles. I admitted that I would give them a try and today is the day!

Kelp noodles are made from water, kelp and sodium alginate. Kelp is classified as a brown sea vegetable like some of the other algae or seaweeds. Kelp noodles have many properties which may make a nice addition to anyone’s diet especially those interested in weight loss or raw foods:

  • No fat or cholesterol
  • Very low in calories; about 15 calories per portion size and 45 calories total in the entire bag
  • Gluten-free for those with sensitivities
  • (No protein and very little fiber) – please keep in mind that suggested fiber intakes for women range between 25-35 grams daily and 35-45 grams daily for men.
  • Powerhouse source of the mineral Iodine. Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function and metabolism. Too much Iodine is equally problematic. (see quote below)
  • Kelp satisfies 15% of the RDA for calcium and 4% for iron. If you eat the whole bag like I did, that’s almost 50% of the calcium levels needed in one meal.
  • Rich in the mineral vanadium, which works with enzymes to produce a highly antioxidant defense for the body
  • Contains lignans which act as phytoestrogens and antioxidants
  • Contains sulfated polysaccharides called fucoidans which are known to reduce inflammation and pain. (see quote below)
  • Good source of vitamin K and folate
  • “Kelp works as a blood purifier, relieves arthritis stiffness, and promotes adrenal, pituitary and thyroid health.”  Retrieved from Safety of Herbal Supplements & Health Articles/ What Are Sea Vegetables? http://www.healthyhealing.com/herbs-articles-safety/bid/175220/What-Are-Sea-Vegetables
  • Kelp and sea vegetables in general also have many other minerals, trace elements and enzymes which function together for optimum health

I prepared these noodles today from a pasta perspective, however, I am excited to try them in raw dishes. On my to-do list now that I am a fan of these kelp noodles are:

  • A raw noodle dish with sesame oil, shoyu and brown rice vinegar- perhaps even spicy.
  • Miso soup with tofu, mushrooms and kelp noodles
  • A combination of these noodles with spiraled zucchini noodles prepared Italian style
  • Pad Thai– I’m so excited! I have been thinking about this old favorite of mine for years!
  • Coconut flavored noodles (raw) with slivered coconut meat from fresh young Thai coconuts
  • Salad sensations– I want to create a whole new array of salads with these noodles throw in.

This is purely an example of “Reinventing Indulgence”. The sky is the limit with these noodles and even if someone indulges, it won’t be too horrific like a major pasta binge which may call for an intervention. (Thinking of my own personal experiences here).

REMEMBER:
Rinse these noodles well and then let them soak in warm water to soften them up a bit if that is the texture you are looking for. They can also be marinaded for those who want to prepare a raw experience. If you are cooking them, they will automatically soften up.

First I steamed some asparagus that I had on hand.  You can choose any vegetable and switch it up. Next, and separately, I was in the mood for a spicy and flavorful sauté so I started with coconut oil and jalapeños – fresh! I added some cut garden tomatoes and then the kelp noodles. I added the steamed asparagus to the kelp noodles, stirred, served and indulged!

Iodine information
“Sea vegetables may be a unique food source not only of the mineral iodine, but also of the mineral vanadium. As part of their natural defense mechanisms, sea vegetables contain a variety of enzymes called haloperoxidases. These enzymes all require vanadium in order to function. Although this mineral is not as well known as some of the other mineral nutrients, it appears to play a multi-faceted role in regulation of carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar. While research in this area is still in the preliminary stage and remains mixed in terms of results, vanadium may help to increase our body’s sensitivity to insulin by inhibiting a group of enzymes called protein tyrosine phosphatases. It may also help us decrease our body’s production of glucose and help us increase our body’s ability to store starch in the form of glycogen.”  Retrieved from the World’s Healthiest Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=135

Sulfated polysaccharides called fucodans
“Sea vegetables also contain a unique group of polysaccharides called fucoidans. These fucoidans have a characteristic branching pattern with sulfur containing molecules. They are being widely studied for their ability to reduce inflammation within the body. These sulfated fucoidans have been shown to reduce pain, fight viruses and prevent atherosclerosis.”  Retrieved from Natural News: http://www.naturalnews.com/034055_sea_vegetables_kelp.html

Learn more:
http://www.naturalnews.com/025816_kelp_food_health.html

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

Vegan lasagna

I love making lasagna and have mastered it quite often and in all different ways- regular meat lasagna (yes before I went vegan), vegetarian lasagna, vegan lasagna, pasta-less lasagna and even raw lasagna! So I decided to have a mini vegan get together and I do not know what happened! I guess I got confused with all my lasagnas. I must have had my meat/ whole wheat lasagna hat on when I made my vegan pasta-less lasagna. Hence I cooked it too high and too long. I guess at this point you could call it lasagna soup. It was delicious none-the-less but not of too much substance nor of health for that matter. 

So- I did what any determined blogger would do. I made it again and invited more people over. This time.. lol.. I wore my pasta-less/ vegetable lasagna hat.. and didn’t cook it long enough. It was like reverse fear! Oh my God! Take me out of the world of pasta for three years and look what happens! This was easily rectified though. I cooked it longer and there is goes.. a beautiful (vegan) whole wheat vegetable lasagna with daiya cheese (vegan) and all! I of course, made a pasta-less vegan one on the side for me which finally came out good! The key was– longer times with the whole wheat pasta and shorter times for just vegetables. Also zucchini and squash create possibly too much liquid unless you cook them slightly before hand. When using other vegetables like eggplant or sweet potato – be sure to cut them thinly. Spinach and mushrooms also work great. 

First things first- you have to make a slamming sauce. This I have mastered from my Grama for sure.. and then my Mom and believe it or not.. my brother too is a great cook! I have ventured away from the meat infused recipes so it’s all about the olive oil, garlic, onions, spices, tomato sauces and letting it cook for a while!

Next up is the pasta cooking. I know they make those ones that just bake in- but where do I find them in whole wheat? Since I do not know, I went ahead with boiling the whole wheat lasagna noodles. While that was cooking, I sliced my vegetables thin. The first time I used eggplant, zucchini and squash- the second: eggplant, spinach and sweet potato. I have a mandolin but I don’t like using it as I almost lost skin a few times. I admit- I must learn how to slice thiner! 

Where can you buy daiya cheese and vegan ricotta? Well, daiya is becoming more popular every day – it may even be in your local supermarket. I used the shredded mozzarella version. Vegan ricotta– lol- I wasn’t even sure it existed but it did! I found this at Whole Foods. I will admit though that it almost tasted like a vegan ice cream of some sort. In any case, melted daiya is heavenly and can carry the whole lasagna!

Layering is always fun. Just dive in with the pasta, the vegetables, the sauce and the vegan cheeses! Have fun and watch the lasagna for timing. It should obviously be not too soupy and not too tough!


The final lasagna picture is up top. This one here is the pasta-less vegetable one that could have been layered a little better but was still remarkably delicious!

Enjoy! For the record, here is the raw lasagna recipe from an earlier blog.

Vegan day 300: Spaghetti squash and veggies

Spaghetti squash and veggies in a seitan tomato sauce
It still seems to be squash season and really what could be more fun that then spaghetti squash. I wrote recently about this but I just haven’t had enough yet. This time I wanted to to try it with a SEITAN sauce. While I was baking anyway and had extra vegetables, I figured I would bake a few different items. Luckily I did, because the vegetables lasted for a few days worth of meal additions. 

Spaghetti squash
Seitan packaged
Tomato sauce I used canned and honestly, I paid for it after. I think I had a salt attack or acid or something. Good to know that my body is adjusting to eating better and when I resort back to things like canned tomato sauce, I can’t handle it. This is supercool info for me taking into account I was a pasta-holic and SAUCE JUNKIE! I could literally just drink it at times claiming I was testing it. lol Ok- not funny in reality.

What else:
Italian spices
Onions
Garlic
zucchini
PotatoesI really am not a regular fan of potatoes except for potato skin broth for it’s alkalizing effects. Another reason I may have potatoes is because it could be the only vegan item in a restaurant besides lettuce and tomato. From time to time however, it can be an irresistible treat! Sweet potatoes seem to have more nutrients and are lower on the glycemic index!

The how to on spaghetti squash:
I put the squash in it’s whole form into a baking dish (with an inch or two of water) at 350 degrees for 45 minutes turning it only once.
Then I cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seed and then use a fork to PULL OUT THE READY TO EAT SPAGHETTI!

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

[Friday, October 26th 2012 blog]

Vegan day 295: Vegan Moussaka

VEGANOMICON is an amazing vegan cookbook that I was delighted to receive as a birthday gift not too long ago! My friend said.. “page 164.. MOUSSAKA”. First of all, I was impressed that a non-vegan friend of mine even opened the book! Then to say moussaka, ok.. you have my attention. I remember the last time I made moussaka and pastitsio and it was pretty intense. It’s basically the Greek version of an Italian’s lasagna. I have spoken of lasagna plenty of times- yes I consider myself a pro.. in a non-chef/ non-cook type of way. The Greek dishes were the same for me- planning, prep and execution! I love these types of dishes- perfect for parties and events. Now I had to veganize. 


I remember the last time making these but by no means the exact ingredients and they were far from vegan. I read through this recipe a few times and I was ready to tackle it.

I am so happy that I started Veganomicon with this one and so proud that it came out delicious! This is really a wonderful dish to try and it was even more amazing that it was animal-free.

Eggplant- Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream
from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
(slightly altered)

Vegetable layering

eggplant (2-3 medium size)
zucchini (2-3 medium size)
potatoes (4-5 large)
(sliced and brushed with olive oil)

Tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
shallots (about 2 small)
garlic (3 cloves)
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
spices: oregano, tiny amount of cinnamon, bay leaf, salt and pepper

Pine But Cream
silken tofu (1lb)
pine nuts (1/2 cup)
lemon juice (3 tablespoons)
arrowroot powder (1 teaspoon)
garlic (1 clove)
nutmeg, salt and pepper


This is the order I went in: vegetables, tomato sauce and then the pine nut cream. 

First thing was to cut, lightly oil and bake slices of potatoes, eggplant and zucchini. While these were cooking I started the tomato sauce and then prepared the pine nut cream sauce. 

The tomato sauce was basic. 

The pine nut cream flavor that I was trying to resemble was that of bechamel cream sauce. Interestingly enough, as I sit here and write, I find that the bechamel sauce is sometimes made with milk and flour. I knew it needed something creamier and now it makes sense. I wanted to add a nut milk but it was already on the thin side. I knew to add a little brown rice flour that I had on hand to compensate for the arrowroot powder that I was missing. In retrospect, I could have added some nut milk and more flour then to thicken it. Live and learn. The nut cream was prepared in a food processor- no pre-cooking. 

After the vegetables were cooked for about 20 minutes, I began the layering. 
I greased a baking dish with olive oil and then layered in the eggplant, potatoes, then tomato sauce, zucchini, pine nut cheese and then topped it all with some extra whole pine nuts. 

(Skipped days 286-294; ok it’s not a daily blog but I’m keeping up best I can!)

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.
[Sunday, October 21st 2012 blog]

Vegan day 282: Baked spaghetti casserole

Spaghetti squash is really a pasta-holic’s savior. It resembles pasta yet it is simply a vegetable. I often come across mac and cheese recipes and skip over them because I don’t want to engage in pasta and fake cheese dishes. This one however, caught me off guard. It was vegan mac and cheese with vegetables- the catch is that the vegan cheese wasn’t soy or nut based. I totally wanted to try this. I knew I was going to make it with spaghetti squash so I was thinking something along the lines of “cheezy spaghetti”. This really should be called “my spaghetti experiment” since I had no idea how it would turn out.

I read the recipe for the sauce and really couldn’t believe that it would taste like cheese. I couldn’t wait to make it. This credit for this sauce recipe goes to vegaliciousrecipes.

The cheese sauce:
carrots- 2 large shredded, boiled and then pureed
nutritional yeast- 1/4 cup
mustard- 3 teaspoons
light miso- 1 tablespoon
lemon juice- 1 tablespoon
onion powder- 2 teaspoons
nutmeg- tiny bit
cayenne- tiny bit

Vegetables to add into the sauce:
broccoli 
peas (or mixed veggies like peas, carrots and corn)

Next I was on my way to making mac and cheese except I couldn’t hold back memories from the early freshmen college years of living off of these types of food right from my dorm room. I almost cried just thinking about it.. and no longer wondered why I gained a tremendous amount of weight that year. It was mac and cheese right out of the box. Boil the pasta and mix in the sauce. That was the only way I made it until now. So I get started mixing and stirring only to realize that this is a baking job. Patience and reading recipes.. still not my forte.

What’s the difference if I mix it on the stovetop or bake it. I thought about baked ziti for a minute and then just trusted the recipe. It’s a good thing because it really did turn out pretty good. I had expected the worse but the cheese sauce was flavorful and even better after it was baked.

First I made the spaghetti squash: I placed the whole spaghetti squash in a baking dish with an inch of water. I left it in the oven for an hour- actually an entire DEXTER episode to be exact. I then sliced it one time in half lengthwise. I scooped out the seeds and then pulled the spaghetti out with a fork. 

Then I baked the spaghetti squash with the vegetable cheese sauce layered on top. I have to admit that I had a back up plan ready to go if this sauce didn’t taste good. I had prepared a tomato based sauce with vegetables and basil.

We later added the tomato sauce to the cheese sauce and it ended up tasting like a casserole. 

Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.
[Monday, October 8th 2012 blog]

Vegan day 248: RAW VEGAN LASAGNA

As with any lasagna – this is a process… well worth the prep!
 
I am truly a lover of all things lasagna. Lasagna has always been my thing. I would make lasagna for big parties and holidays! I used to make lasagna with meat but I have changed it up over the years. I have made lasagnas vegetarian, whole wheat, vegan and also pasta-less. I have NOT until today- made it RAW and VEGAN! 
 
I have to give total credit for this recipe to Celine Beitchman at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food & Health. The recipe is broken out into (4) parts. I will highlight how I made this and if anyone has specific questions they can email me: djlisag@gmail.com.
 
Sun-dried tomato LASAGNA with marinated portabella mushrooms, zucchini, cashew-pine nut cheese and sun-dried tomato marinara
 
(1) The nut cheese: I soaked 2 cups of cashew nuts and 1 cup of pine nuts with water for 2-6 hours. Then I drained them, put them in a blender- covered with fresh water by 1 inch and 2 teaspoons of white miso. I pulse blended the nut mix but not until smooth. It should look like ricotta. Next I transferred this to a large mason jar (covered with mesh or cheesecloth) and left it out at room temperature for 12 hours. After 12 hours, I gently squeezed out the liquid portion or whey and put the remaining cheese into a food processor for flavoring. I added garlic, onion, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. DELICIOUS!- Refrigerate!
 

(2) Portabella mushrooms– I de-capped them, cleaned them well and sliced them into long thin strips. I massaged them with a mix of olive oil, nama shoyu, garlic, onion, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Nama shoyu is a fermented soy sauce. I let this sit for an hour or so. 
 
(3) Zucchini- I finally learned how to use my new mandolin slicer. I am really afraid of this thing though I must admit. Anyway, slice the zucchini into long thin wide strips and marinate for an hour or so with lemon juice and sea salt. 
 
(4) The sauce: This was the most fun! Just as I used to make sauce… I winged it! Basically though, sun-dried tomatoes (1 1/2 cups) soaked, tomatoes (4-6), garlic, onion, basil, bay leaf, oregano, parsley, jalapeño or chili flakes, olive oil, maple syrup (not much), lemon juice (tiny bit), sea salt and black pepper. 
My food processor has become my new best friend. This sauce was insane- I couldn’t believe it and in this very moment, I knew I made my grandmother PROUD! I learned my sauce-making from my Grama who was the “best” cook and baker out there. It was even highlighted in her obituary. My Grama cooked for everyone and for all occasions. She even prepared many a care package for my college friends and I. 
Unfortunately, and heartbreaking for me, she died at a very young age for a Grama; none-the-less from a heart attack (& diabetes). There is no doubt with my intense craving for candy and sugar that I wouldn’t be on that track had I not committed to and delivered a COMPLETE LIFESTYLE CHANGE! I still have to beware of my vegan and raw vegan desserts. Sugar comes in many many many different forms- sneaky sugar! This blog is dedicated to my Grama for giving me the basics on making the best Italian sauce ever- not to mention an incredible life altering amount of love! I love you Grama– you would have liked this sauce too, even as it’s raw and vegan!
 
*The rest is all about layering- have fun!
 
Disclaimer: The information given here is for educational purposes only. You should not use this to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.
[Tuesday, September 4th 2012 blog]