Fusilli with Broccoli and Cheese Sauce

Well, I’m back in New York for the week to visit my husband (if this last sentence confuses you, see: coconut macaroons — the post, not the actual recipe). I brought some work with me to do during the day while Gennaro is at work. Otherwise, I had a chance to catch up on some of my favorite T.V. shows (my parents don’t have DVR. Enough said).

Bravo was nice enough to provide a gratuitous Bethenny Ever After marathon on Monday. I have to say, maybe it’s the name (I’m a Bethany), or the fact that there’s a cute baby on the show pretty much all the time now (Gennaro would probably have a field day with this one. He knows how I feel about cute babies. I can’t say he’s not a little worried about it, actually), or maybe it’s the whole New York aspect (there’s something fascinating about watching others navigate the city you live in/lived in for four years). Whatever it is, though, I find that show to be the ultimate in my guilty pleasures. And now I’m caught up. Vacation: successful.

Then yesterday Oprah replayed her “going vegan” episode, where 300+ Oprah staffers signed up to go vegan for a week. Of course, as a vegetarian/vegan who has been known to try to gently convince others of the merits of a vegan diet from time to time, (and who says this doesn’t work? My parents went from reluctant to full-throttle — they’re actually signed up to go on a vegan retreat this summer. By their own free will) it made me giddy with excitement to see that some Oprah staffers not only felt better after a week of going vegan, but that they were going to stick with the plan indefinitely.

Then again, it made me sad to see that some folks were less than enthused about their new food options. As someone who does not eat gluten or animal products on a regular basis (if at all), I am used to the questions and cringing from others over what my diet consists of. In those moments, I feel some sense of duty to channel my inner salesperson and convince others that not only am I not deprived, but that I’ve actually never been more satisfied with my diet (and that is really the truth). But I have to say, I felt for Kathy Freston when it was on her shoulders, alone, to do that with hundreds of Oprah staffers at one time. Sometimes, defending your food can be exhausting.

As a blogger, things get even more complicated. I’m putting myself — and my food — out there, so it’s much more likely to be analyzed (Whoah, that girl eats wayy too much Daiya cheese! Probably true.) On the one hand, I would like to be able to say, “It’s my blog, so I can do what I want.” Still, on the other other hand, I feel a sense of duty to those who might be curious about or just starting a gluten-free or vegan or sugar-free diet. I truly want to show people how satisfying these diets can be, which is why I started this blog in the first place. Plus, I want to provide a variety, so everyone can enjoy at least something on this site.

This dish was inspired by that mindset. I am always asking myself, if I could make one meal to convince someone that “gluten-free, vegan” doesn’t mean lettuce and sunflower seeds for eternity, what would it be? My lasagna? My tempeh tacos? I tend to think comfort foods are the most longed-for when we’re overhauling our diets. I already have a macaroni and cheese recipe on this site, but this really easy, somewhat sophisticated version is the ultimate in comfort fare. It’s rich and creamy, but ultimately full of fiber (brown rice pasta) and healthy veggies (a full head of broccoli).*

So, next time Oprah and her staffers need convincing, I would send Kathy Freston this recipe to make for them.

Fusilli with Broccoli and Cheese Sauce:

1 lb. brown rice fusilli pasta

1 head of broccoli florets, chopped

salt to taste

Cheese Sauce:

1 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread

1 1/4 cups unsweetened soy milk

1 1/2 cups Daiya cheddar-style shreds

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. Add broccoli during lasting minute to two minutes of cooking. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, while pasta cooks, melt buttery spread in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in soy milk, then Daiya and stir until cheese is completely melted, about 5 minutes. Add drained pasta and broccoli back to pot and pour in cheese sauce. Stir to coat completely. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

It’s worth explaining that I view carb-laden recipes as wasted calories if they’re not infiltrated with something healthy like broccoli or other veggies, which might explain my broccoli with mac-and-cheese streak on this site.

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Winter Rice Bake

Well, I’m a delinquent blogger. While my fellow, more disciplined, blogging buddies have likely supplied their readers with things like year-end lists of their favorite recipes or healthy detox recipes for those ready to start the new year off on a healthy foot, here I am, presenting an everyday recipe — a simple, no-frills baked rice dish. Sure, it’s quite healthy in its own right; brown rice, leafy greens, low-fat Cannellini beans, butternut squash. But it’s not necessarily a detox-friendly dish (unless you’re on a detox that allows for processed foods, and I’ve not heard of any of those myself).

Still, after contemplating my own list of favorite recipes (after awhile I felt like a bad parent, not wanting to make any of the other recipes feel bad) and reminding myself that I’m not a person who likes the all-or-nothing resolution diet attitude (I prefer a year-round, more balanced approach), I reassured myself that there are at least some out there who are open to an easy, comforting winter dish. As many of you gear-up for a return to the 5 day work week and cold months ahead, consider this one antidote to all of that work and cold, and presumably, tiredness.

Oh, and in keeping with my New Years delinquincy, I am writing this post while I should be paying attention to the Michigan bowl game. However, the performance on the field is such an atrocity, I can find comfort only in writing to all of you. Let’s hope 2011 is a better year for my Wolverines. Maybe someone should tell them to eat some black-eyed peas…

Serves: 4-6

Winter Rice Bake:

3 cups butternut squash; peeled, seeded and cubed

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 cups swiss chard, chopped into short ribbons

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella-style shreds

a pinch of salt to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and lay flat on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until soft.

3. Reduce oven heat to 350. Meanwhile, toss together butternut squash with remaining ingredients. Taste for salt. Spread into a baking dish and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes, or until edges are golden. Serve.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

This will be my first Thanksgiving sans turkey. And while I’m not exactly sad about it, it did get me thinking about ideas for how to create a delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving. My family has always taken a pretty traditional approach to Thanksgiving. We’ve never been a sage-in-the stuffing, skin-on “smashed” potatoes kind of crew. But I’ve always appreciated a good Thanksgiving-inspired recipe that colors outside the lines a little.

I also recently noticed that the ubiquitous fall ingredient — butternut squash — has been noticeably absent around these parts. My friend Liz sent me a great recipe for butternut squash soup with a curried apple chutney. But every time I had the squash, I didn’t have apples. When I had apples, I had no squash. When I had vegetable stock, I had neither squash nor apples. Then today, I found myself with squash, lasagna noodles, some Daiya cheese (I know, it’s about time I seek help for my affinity for fake cheese), and all the ingredients I needed for my pine nut ricotta. I’m sure you can figure out where this is leading. And while my family will likely be celebrating Thanksgiving with the expected mashed potatoes and stuffing, I’m thinking this will make a great vegan side for a large, adventurous group, or even a main course for a small family.

This Thanksgiving, I will be SO THANKFUL for passing the NY Bar Exam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I figure it’s only fair to share my joy here, where I’ve also lamented for months about my stress, anxiety, sleepless nights and endless studying. Thanks, all, for your support and well-wishes during a trying but ultimately rewarding time.

Butternut Squash Lasagna:

3/4 cup raw pinenuts, soaked for 4 hours, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 box Tinkyada gluten-free brown rice noodles

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 18 oz.)

3 tablespoons sage leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella, plus more for top

Directions:

1. Prepare filling: in a blender or food processor, add soaked pine nuts, lemon juice, water and salt. Blend until smooth. Set aside (keep in food processor).

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of hot water to a boil. Add butternut squash and boil for about 4 minutes. Remove from pot (leave hot water for noodles) and drain. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions, undercooking by a few minutes. Drain and rinse.

3. Preheat oven to 350. Rinse squash with cold water and add squash to food processor. Process until squash pieces are small and mixture is relatively smooth. Stir in sage leaves.

4. Assemble lasagna: add a layer of 3 noodles flat to the bottom of a baking dish. Spread about 3/4 of the squash-ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles and sprinkle 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup cheese over the squash mixture. Repeat 2x. Place remaining noodles on top and sprinkle with additional cheese.

5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake, uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.

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Cheddar Scallion Biscuits

These biscuits are awesome. And if there’s any doubt that that last statement is just a result of my I-haven’t-had-a-biscuit-in-years brain talking, my husband ate seven of these last night along with his meal.

Ever since I discovered Daiya cheese, I’ve had this idea that I wanted to make cheddar-scallion biscuits. It was sort of one of those recipes that lingered in the back of my mind, but one I never tried to execute for one reason or another. Maybe I was out of an ingredient. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was watching my calories and didn’t really feel like testing batches of biscuits for days. Whatever the reason, the gluten-free, vegan cheddar-scallion biscuit was, for a long time, a figment of my imagination — a recipe that seemed destined to live forever in my head.

One advantage of being unemployed (always have to look for a silver lining, right?) is that all of the recipes that have made homes in my imagination have actually been given an opportunity to come to life. The best part about this one is that it’s even easier to make in reality than it was in my head. While the first batch I made contained xanthan gum, I found that the Daiya cheese held everything together nicely enough, and the addition of gum only served to make these chewier and gummier; less flaky.

Serve these with chili or soup. I think they’re the perfect addition to a fall evening. I don’t even think the picture does justice, because it struck me that these appear sort of dry-ish and heavy in the picture, and they are actually quite light and flaky and soft inside. While I thought the addition of garbanzo bean flour lightened up the batter and made the final product even flakier, you could use 1 cup of brown rice flour if that’s all you have on hand. The final product will be slightly more dense, but still good.

On that note, I’m off to apply to do more job applications and maybe make some more recipes while I’m at it. I’m curious: what recipes have you conjured-up in your head but never actually got around to trying?

Gluten-Free, Vegan Cheddar Scallion Biscuits:

The reason I’ve listed the brands I’ve used here is that I’ve noticed a stark contrast between results with different brands of flours — especially when it comes to brown rice flour. Feel free to use whichever brand you have on hand, but keep in mind that the results might vary.

3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Bean (chickpea) Flour

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

5 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon light coconut milk, plus more for brushing

1 tablespoon agave nectar

3/4 cup Daiya vegan cheddar cheese

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add shortening and, using your hands, crumble into the flour mixture. Add in agave and coconut milk and stir until everything just comes together. You can use a little more (about a tablespoon) coconut milk if necessary but try to stick with the 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (the more liquid, the more dense and chewy these will be). Add Daiya and scallions and knead into the dough using your hands until evenly distributed.

3. Drop batter by packed 1/4 cup onto a pre-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, a few inches apart. Press down slightly on each biscuit with the bottom of measuring cup to flatten. Brush tops with coconut milk.

4. Bake biscuits in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Eat while still warm or let cool on a rack until ready to eat.

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

My love affair with eggplant Parmesan began years ago, back when I was a precociously adventurous eater. Not that eggplant Parmesan is necessarily adventurous. But when you’re a kid and claim eggplant to be one of your favorite foods while others your age cite hot dogs and pizza, you tend to earn the title over time.  Telling someone that your all-time favorite food is “squid with black bean sauce” when you’re in kindergarten doesn’t hurt, either.

I still find this dish at the top of my list of comfort foods. It’s creamy and gooey and rich and cheesy — all recognizable comfort food attributes. It took some time to figure out a way to make this dish gluten-free and vegan, however. So when I came up with this recipe a few weeks back, I was so excited that I made it several times, even though it turned out just fine after the first attempt.

This is a relatively easy dish to pull-off, as it lends itself nicely to liberties and variations. I could imagine some shaved zucchini or roasted red pepper making an appearance in here. There’s also the possibility of using various types of pasta sauces. I would recommend, however, a relatively light pasta sauce here, as the almonds tend to let out some oil as this dish bakes. An oily pasta sauce would make this dish a bit on the heavy side. And while this recipe could comfortably feed four people, don’t hesitate to make this if you’re only feeding one or two — you’ll find the flavors even more developed the next day.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan:

I would recommend a chunkier pasta sauce here. If you use a thinner sauce, try adjusting the amount used so the end product is not too runny. Most importantly, use a sauce you would eat alone on pasta, as the sauce really makes a difference in the dish.

15 eggplant slices, between 1/4″  and 1/3″ thick (from 1 medium eggplant)

2 tablespoons flax seed meal

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3-4 teaspoons soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread, divided

1 cup jarred pasta sauce, divided

3/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a blender or immersion blender, add flax seed meal and water and blend until frothy. Pour mixture into a shallow dish.

3. In a separate shallow dish, mix together almond flour, nutritional yeast and salt. Individually dip eggplant slices into the flax-water mixture, turning to cover both sides. Transfer slices to the almond flour-nutritional yeast dish and press into the mixture, turning to coat both sides. Shake off any excess coating.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon buttery spread (or more as needed) over a non-stick skillet on medium-high until melted. Add eggplant slices — about 4 at a time — to the pan and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until outsides are golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat as necessary with remaining slices.

5. Layer a 1-qt. baking dish or 9″ cast iron skillet with 5 eggplant slices. Top slices with 1/3 cup sauce, then 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat 2x. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pasta sauce is bubbly and eggplant is soft.

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Apple “Cheddar” Muffins

I just discovered Daiya vegan cheese. It might have been the best thing to ever happen to me. Or the most dangerous. It started as just a “special treat” — something I sprinkled on top of dishes as a finishing touch. Then I knew I was really developing a problem when I made a gorgeous, green stir fry with tofu, broccoli and asparagus last weekened. The only problem was that I added a little too much sauce. Simple solution: I just added the rice I was going to serve alongside the stir fry into the dish to soak up the sauce. But that’s when my mind started to do crazy things, and I thought maybe a bit of cheese would be good in this…So I added some. Cheese in stir-fry? I know, I might have a Daiya problem.

I also used Daiya to make a focaccia pizza, then to make a wonderful, baked vegan soy-free mac and cheese. Look out for that recipe on here soon. And then I used Daiya cheddar cheese for these muffins. They are subtle and savory and best when eaten warm out of the oven. Still, they’re quite good as a snack, and I imagine that some scallions would add a really nice kick here and a nice flavor.

And no, Daiya didn’t pay me or ask me to write anything for them. No free cheese (I wishhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…but that would lead to some real trouble). I just really, really like this cheese. It’s everything you thought vegan, dairy-free, casein-free, soy-free cheese could never be. It’s good.

Yield: 12 muffins

Vegan Apple Cheddar Muffins:

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo/fava bean flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/4 cup arrowroot

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other dairy-free milk)

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 cup grated green apple

1 1/2 cups Daiya vegan cheddar cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours and arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in milk, agave and grapeseed oil and whisk until smooth. Fold in apples and cheddar.

3. Drop batter by heaping 1/4 cup into pre-greased muffin tins (or muffins tins lined with baking cups). Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Let sit in baking tins for a few minutes before removing.

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Kale Pesto Lasagna

kale pestoMy friend Christian came up with the idea of doing a green lasagna and asked if I could execute it. He gave me liberty with the “green” description — green tomatoes, green pesto, whatever worked. I went into full Top Chef mode thinking about all of the possible “green lasagnas” I could make. After two weeks of deliberation, taken Christian’s request perhaps a bit too seriously (hey, I live for this stuff, what can I say?), I decided to make a lasagna using a kale pesto. The kale is steamed to a bright green color and blended with roasted garlic, lemon zest, a little olive oil and some of the pine nuts lets over from the “ricotta.”

This kale pesto can also be used in a number of other dishes. I’m thinking over chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, or even as a dressing for salad. This lasagna was also created in hopes that people would take some creative liberties with the recipe. For example, I used the same pine nut ricotta that I made for my gluten free, vegan lasagna recipe. But a regular ricotta could easily be used here. I also used some vegan mozarella from Follow Your Heart, but I think a regular, part-skim mozarella would be very delicious here for those who eat dairy. Want some meat? Add an extra layer of cooked ground turkey to the mix. I also added the option of parmesan cheese in the pesto. I didn’t use any and didn’t miss it, but I could imagine some parmesan being really good in there.

kale pesto lasagnaThis dish may require a few steps (fewer if you take the shortcut of using store-bought ricotta), but it’s well worth the effort and healthy to boot! Thanks for the inspiration, Christian!

Kale Pesto:

1 bunch kale, steamed to a bright green

green tops from 2 scallions, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

zest of one lemon

3 cloves garlic, roasted (baked whole in a ramekin, drizzled with olive oil for 15 minutes, cool, then peel)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if needed)

1 tablespoon pine nut ricotta or pine nuts

(2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese)

Other Components:

1 recipe pine nut ricotta or 1 cup ricotta cheese

1 box gluten free lasagna noodles

1 cup (or more) mozarella cheese or vegan mozarella, shredded

(1 lb. cooked ground turkey)

Directions:

1. Prepare pine nut ricotta and set aside.

2. Prepare pesto in same blender (don’t have to clean it out). Add some more olive oil if necessary to blend. Set aside.

3. Prepare lasagna noodles.

4. Preheat oven to 350.

5. Assemble lasagna: place a layer of noodles on the bottom of casserole dish. Spread with 1/3 cup ricotta and about the same amount of pesto. Sprinkle with a thin layer of mozarella cheese. Repeat 2x and top with final layer of noodles and sprinkle top with parmesan. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese on top begins to bubble.

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