Broccoli & Tofu Lo-Mein

23 06 2012

Well, my life almost changed drastically the other week. I found a job on Craigslist that I was totally under-qualified for, but thought would be right up my alley. I applied and was basically hired on the spot. Cut to me sweating as a sous chef for a new restaurant in a resort town on opening night. Me apartment-hunting in a part of the country I have always dreamed of living. Culminate in me declining the job and returning to my parents house in the town I grew up in.

Sometimes almost taking that giant life leap is just enough to make you have an epiphone on who you are and where you see yourself. Covered in flour, in my new chef jacket, I realized that I don’t want to be a pizza cook for the rest of my life. Even a glorified one.

So I’m taking a step back, back into my own kitchen, to focus on my recipes, my brewing, and my writing. Here’s hoping that from these things, I can salvage some sort of financially-stable career. Or at least help me into my own house because I really want a cat. All roads lead to cat.

Here’s one of my “I work all the damn time so have no time to grocery shop”-recipes. This lo-mein sauce is now my go-to stir-fry sauce; so easy and quick to make, with stuff that you almost certaintly have hanging around the kitchen. It’s savory, with the perfect level of heat, and drenches the noodles without becoming too absorbed.

Broccoli Lo Mein
Adapted from 365 Easy Vegetarian Recipes

8 oz. of whatever noodle you like (soba, rice noodles, whole wheat spaghetti, whatever)
1 tb. canola oil, divided
1 lb. broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb. firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1-inch. pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsps. fresh gingerroot, minced
1 recipe of Lo Mein Sauce (see below)

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

Heat 1 1/2 tsps. oil in a large, heavy pan over high heat. Add broccoli and tofu. Stir-fry about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger and stir-fry 1 minute. Transfer to plate and keep warm. Add remaining oil to pan and heat. Add cooked noodles and stir-fry about 2 minutes or until thoroughly hot. Toss noodles with Lo Mein Sauce.

Lo Mein Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsps. rice wine vinegar
2 tsps. sesame oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sugar

Combine ingredients in an airtight container. Shake.





Pasta Primavera

28 03 2012

I have become a gym rat. Not an over-committed, beefed-up zoomba nutzo, but I frequent the gym 3-4 times a week, in my first real attempt to get in shape. I have finally realized that you cannot eat your way to good health. You actually have to move sometimes. Ugghhhhhh.

So with some encouragement from my boyfriend, who just ran his first 5k this weekend, I went for a run. I’ve used an elliptical and a treadmill, but I have never put foot to pavement and gone for a real run. It started off…weird. Am I running towards something? Is someone chasing me? I became extremely self-conscious that every car that drove by knew I was an out-of-shape ass going on her first jog. Hands over mouths, stifling laughter, pointing, confident in their perfect physique.

I ran on. A mile and a half. Felt great afterwards. Alive, even. Day after, dead. I feel like I’m in the initial stages of Lou Gehrigs disease. Like literally, I cannot lift my legs.

UPDATE: Day after running and not being able to move legs, I wake up in the middle of the night with a 100 degree fever and an awesome case of night terrors/violent shivers.

Conclusion: Running is either terrible for the body or it purged some sort of demon inside of me. If I feel great tomorrow, then the latter is true. If I don’t feel better, then I give up and it’s donuts for breakfast because apparently exercise is pure evil.

I suppose I should talk about food now. This cookbook was a Christmas present from my parents during my first year of vegetarianism. Though it’s all pretty simple stuff, it’s still one of my favorites, mainly for the pictures. I love this primavera because it is packed full of veggies and doesn’t make you feel too guilty about eating a bowl full of pasta with cream sauce.

Pasta Primavera
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies

1 tb. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed & cut into 3-in. pieces
1 medium zucchini, sliced and halved
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 tbs. fresh basil, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. hot cooked fettuccine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the asparagus, zucchini, and mushrooms, cover and cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and tender.

Add the milk, broth, and basil and cook over high heat until the liquid boils. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add the peas and scallions. Simmer for 1 minute.

Add the salt and pepper, and then add the pasta and cheese, tossing until the ingredients are well mixed. Serve immediately topped with a little more Parmesan.





Fettuccine Margherita

5 12 2011

So I recently joined Mint.com to try and manage my budget. All I can say is, don’t do it. It makes you horrified and extremely disappointed in every single one of your spending decisions. Every. Single. One. I had to buy floss today and felt like a jerk.

But what mainly gets me is the amount I spend going on out to eat. I just love trying out new restaurants and all sorts of types of cuisine. But now instead of trying other peoples food, I will be trying out my own skills in the kitchen A LOT more. This month has been dubbed No Spend December. I am not going out to eat once. Home-cooked goodies all around. My wallet and tummy will be thanking me.

Starting NSD off, we have this lovely pasta dish. The original recipe called for one pound of pasta, but I kicked it down to half a pound. I don’t know if anyone else has this issue with pasta recipes, but the sauce:pasta ratios are always way off. A full pound of pasta is just going to absorb all of the sauce, leaving nothing  for me to dip my bread in or slurp from the bowl. So either double the amount of sauce or reduce the amount of pasta.

This sauce is really exquisite. Mushrooms browned in butter, mixed with tangy tomatoes, wine and silky cream blend together perfectly to make a dish that is ideal for a cozy night in. Pair with crusty bread and a glass of red wine and you wonder why you dish out cash for someone else to make this stuff for you.

On a different note, if you’re into beer, I have a few new reviews for brews you need to try over in the Beer Section: Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Anderson Valley’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout and Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin, to name a few.

Fettuccine Margherita
Adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

1/2 lb. fettuccine
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. unsalted butter
12 oz (about 4 1/2 cups) sliced mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes, well-drained and chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the fettuccine until al dente in a large pot of boiling, salted water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until they brown and the juices begin to evaporate, about 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and wine and boil 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the cream and salt and boil 1 minute.

Drain the fettuccine thoroughly. Place in a large bowl, then pour on the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Toss quickly and serve immediately.





Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

13 10 2011

Yes, another butternut squash post. ANDTHEREWILLBEMORE. Muaaahhhhaha. *sighs* October.  Honestly, everything about autumn, October and Halloween fills me with this creative, motivational energy. It’s a really magical time. And this is a magical lasagna. Because it only uses a handful of ingredients and is very simply seasoned, the flavors of the vegetables and cheeses are forefront. Tis awesome.

On the topic of the magical and cheesy, check out my band, Cheri Love Affair. We are damned adorable, is my general consensus.

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, about 3 lbs, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch. pieces
1 lb. spinach
2 cups ricotta
2 tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Lasagna noodles
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the squash and toss over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Don’t worry if some of the squash gets slightly mashed. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep warm.

Blanch the spinach in a large saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds, or until wilted. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain well, squeezing out as much excess water as possible, then finely chop.

Add the lasagna to the pot of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain.

Put the ricotta, cream, Parmesan, spinach and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until warmed through.

Arrange 4 noodles in a lasagna baking dish. Top with half of the pumpkin, then more lasagna strips. Top with half the ricotta mixture, then the final lasagna strips. Arrange the remaining pumpkin and ricotta mixture over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Serve!





Spaghetti with Chili, Lemon and Arugula

4 08 2011

Can I start off by saying how A friggin’ plus this summer has been so far? Las Vegas, full-day beach excursions, kites..in the shape of ducks!, pool parties, drunkenly reconnecting with some of the best people I know, karaoke, margaritas, skee-ball, new friends, a live-in loverfriendboy. It’s pretty much all really inappropriate for a 24 year-old living at their parents house. This is the stuff of college summer breaks and of the unemployed.  Now it’s time to watch Lost and drink wine. Death is for babies.

Any ways. Ryan and I were going to make this meal together, but he ended up talking to his mother on the phone the whole time and by the time he was off, I was done. Second time this has happened. Whisper voice: I’m starting to think it’s intentional. His loss, I guess. Preparing the meal is almost as good as eatin’ it.

A bright little dish. Flecks of color and popping flavors throughout; lemon zest, bursts of chili and garlic. I used a garlic-infused olive oil that gave the whole dish a powerful presence. Highly recommended if you can find it. The sharp parmesan is a perfect match to the peppery arugula. Though if arugula isn’t your favorite, you could try basil as a substitute.

Spaghetti with Chili, Lemon and Arugula
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

13 oz. spaghetti
3 1/2 oz. arugula, finely shredded
1 tb. lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red chili, seeded and minced
1 tsp. chili oil (or just some olive oil mixed with red pepper flakes)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, put the arugula, lemon zest, garlic, chili, chili oil, olive oil and two-thirds of the cheese in a large bowl and mix together.

Drain the pasta well, then add to the argula mixture and toss together. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan.





Tropical Pasta Salad with Fresh Fruit, Coconut and Jerk-Tempeh

15 07 2011

Monday was one of those days where I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Cape Cod. Refreshing. A day off from work with the boyfriend lead to lunch at La Petite France Cafe on Main St. Gazpacho Soup & Garden Veggie sandwich (lettuce, tomato, avocado, cucumber, onion, sprouts, roasted red peppers, baby Swiss and balsamic vinegarette)

Followed by splurging on a cheap pair of Keens, iced lemon matés at Common Ground (my lifeblood), library books (currently reading An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin), an hour at the beach then a stop at Lamberts to pick up fresh fruits & veggies for tonights din.

The creamy coconut dressing mixed with the sharp cheese and juicy fruit is a crazy awesome flavor combo. And the coolness of the salad helps balance out the jerk spice, which can be a little overwhelming, if your boyfriend accidentally dumps half a bottle of cayenne pepper into it. If you use a fresh pineapple, be sure to use it as bowl because it leaves some awesome flavor bits at the bottom.

Tropical Pasta Salad with Fresh Fruit & Coconut
Adapted from Vegan Planet

12 oz. small pasta of your choice
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (about 1 pineapple)
1 ripe mango; peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-in. pieces
1 navel orange; peeled, white pith removed and cut into 1-in. chunks
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup celery, minced
2 tbs. scallions, minced
2 tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup orange juice
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Salt
Salad greens
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut; toasted
Gorgonzola cheese (optional)

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water and place in a large bowl. Add the pineapple, mango, orange, bell pepper, celery, scallions and mint. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, orange juice, lime juice/zest, brown sugar, allspice, cayenne and salt to taste. Mix well. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to coat evenly.

Arrange the salad greens on plates (or if you’re in a fancy decorative mood OR have just 2 people eating and used a whole pineapple OR if you have more than 2 people eating but only like 2 of them, plate the greens in the hulled out pineapple halves and give them to your two besties/sexies). Place some pasta salad on top and sprinkle with the toasted coconut, gorgonzola and jerk-spiced tempeh (Recipe below). Gorge.

Jerk-Spiced Tempeh

2 tsps. brown sugar
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Olive oil

In a shallow bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cut the tempeh in half then into 4 trianges. Coat with olive oil then dredge all sides in the spice mixture. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh and cook until brown and crispy on both sides, about 5 minutes.





Tomato-Basil Lasagna Spirals

1 04 2011

I love checking off a movie classic that I finally get around to seeing a little bit too late. I had never seen the movie Alien so Ryan proposed a dinner/movie night. Netflix and vegan lasagna, how middle-class! I thought a chunky red tomato sauce would pair nicely with watching people being eviscerated by space creatures, but turns out, the movie doesn’t play out as the typical gory movie of modern day, and instead, relies more on suspense. You barely even see the damn Alien. Who woulda known. Apparently everyone else who saw the movie twenty years ago. Oh well.

Highlight of the night though, the creamy filling of this lasagna. Oh my lord. Eat it with a spoon-good. The sun-dried tomatoes and pesto add such a savory depth of flavor, with just a tiny kick of heat from the pinch of cayenne. You can hardly believe that it’s tofu and not some heavy cheese/egg blend.

The only thing I really changed is to double the amount of sauce, otherwise there wouldn’t be any left for plating or for leftovers the next day.

Tomato-Basil Lasagna Spirals
Adapted from Vegan Planet

2 tbs. olive oil
4 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Box tofu, drained & crumbled
2 tbs. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup pesto
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3 tbs. tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
One 28-oz. can plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles
Whole fresh basil leaves for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add half of the shallots and all of the garlic, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add the tofu, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, bread crumbs, salt and cayenne. Process until smooth then refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining shallots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste. Remove from heat and add the wine. Return to heat and add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes then stir in the minced basil. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the noodles and spread out on a work surface to prevent them from sticking together. Pat dry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide the filling among the noodles, spreading evenly over the surface of each noodle. Roll each one up tightly into a spiral-shaped roll. Place seam side down in a lightly oiled baking dish. Cover the rolls with 1 cup of tomato sauce. Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes.

To serve, spread a small amount of warm sauce on each plate and stand 2-3 rolls upright on the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce over the rolls and garnish with the whole basil leaves. Serve with warm focaccia bread and roasted asparagus.