Vegan Alfredo…So Good!

IMG_0193Last night I decided to try my hand at vegan alfredo sauce.  J and I have a brand that we really like (Victoria), but we don’t have a grocery store in town that sells that brand, and it’s pretty hard to find, not to mention it’s expensive.  So, with that in mind, I set out to find a vegan alfredo sauce recipe that would stand up to traditional Pasta Alfredo, which is  a favorite of ours.

I won’t lie, I poured over Pinterest, for at least 5 minutes 30 seconds, before quickly realizing that most of the posts used Cauliflower as a thickening agent instead of butter and flour.  Plus…hey…another way to get in a vegetable?  I’ll take it!  I pretty much gave up after that point and decided to make up my own recipe and see how it went.   So, here you go!

The ingredient list is pretty simple, and probably already in your pantry if you follow a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Olive oil, garlic, cauliflower, nutritional yeast, milk/milk substitute (we use whatever we have on hand, typically either rice milk, oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk), sun-tomatoes, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.  We happened to have everything in our pantry, and had picked up some cauliflower at the grocery, so we were set.

Start with sautéing the garlic in some olive oil.  I used a teaspoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of garlic.  What can I say…garlic is heavenly!  However, this is one of those areas where you can go with how much you like.  You want alfredo with 40 cloves are garlic?  Then get on with your bad self!  You want less than that…feel free.  I sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, taking care to not let it burn.  Burnt garlic tastes terrible.   While that was going, I cut up a half a head of cauliflower.  I figured I could have used the whole head, but it was just the two of us, and I had plans for the other half of the cauliflower (roasted cauliflower with turmeric…that’s for tonight!).

Once the garlic was ready, I added a cup and a half of soy milk (use whatever milk you have on hand) and the cauliflower florets, along with salt and pepper (to taste).  Then, you let the cauliflower cook until it’s soft.  It took about 10 minutes for mine to soften, mostly because I was lazy and cut it into big chunks.  The smaller your cauliflower chunks, the faster it will cook.  Keep and eye on it and when it will break up easily with a spoon, it’s good to go.

After your cauliflower is soft, pour the milk/garlic/cauliflower mixture into a blender.  Add in nutritional yeast (I put in 2 Tablespoons) along with lemon juice (1 Tablespoon).  Blend away!  Here’s where it really becomes your preference…the thickness of the sauce.  I personally like a thicker alfredo sauce.  However, while blending, it was a tad too thick even for me, so I added more milk.  Don’t be afraid to add more milk if you think your sauce is too thick!  This is all personal preference here, folks, make it how you like it!

When you’re done blending…taste it.  I decided that mine needed a little something extra, so I added nutmeg to the sauce.  I used to add nutmeg to my regular alfredo, so why not this?  It really made all the difference!

For dinner, we paired the alfredo with whole wheat pasta, roasted asparagus, and roasted carrots.  So good and healthy!  Hope you make it and enjoy it as much as we did!

Much love,

Recipe Wednesday (because I’ve given up on Mondays…)

I actually made this meal on Sunday, and was totally prepared to write up this post on Monday.  And then Monday happened.  And we all know how Monday’s are.  They taunt you with the promise of a bright and happy week, and then they arrive and then reality sets in, and you realize that instead of bright and happy, you’re actually buried under the weight of deadlines and work.  I’m sure you’ve all be there.  If you haven’t…come hang out with me for awhile, I’ll show you around.

Anyways, enough of that.  After our weekend in Louisville, which was full of sun, great weather, time spent with J, and LOTS of food, we got home on Sunday and realized that we needed veg.  Lots and lots of veg.  I always get that way after a weekend of eating out…it’s as though I pretty much crave anything healthy and made at home.  We didn’t eat overly terrible while we were away (though we definitely indulged), and the food was all fantastic, but it was still eating out.  And three days of straight eating out will do us in, every time.  So, once we got home, I immediately set out to see what I could put together from our fridge.

Luckily for me, we had the ingredients for eggplant parmesan!  I love eggplant parmesan…especially with fresh mozzarella.  We normally put it on ciabatta bread as an open-faced sandwich, but I was all carb-ed out from the weekend (I know, it just sounds like a tragedy, doesn’t it!), so I wanted something other than bread of pasta.  J came up with a great suggest…spaghetti squash!  I love spaghetti squash!  It’s all the tasty goodness of al dente pasta, only it’s not.  It’s a veg.  And really, who doesn’t feel good about a meal of veg, served on a bed of more veg.  That’s right…NO ONE.  So…off I went.

My favorite eggplant parmesan recipe is one from Martha Stewart.  It’s an eggplant and mozzarella melt recipe, for sandwiches.  And the sandwiches are AWESOME, don’t get me wrong.  In fact, I’d definitely recommend you try the sandwich too, because it’s a great meal for lunch or dinner, and it’s fairly quick.  The reason why I really like this recipe so much is that the eggplant is baked, not fried, and it doesn’t involve salting the eggplant and letting it rest.  It’s basically cutting up the eggplant, dipping in egg, breading it with breadcrumbs, and baking it.  Simple!

Then, the spaghetti squash.  Spaghetti squash is one of my most favorite vegetables out there, because it’s SO easy to prepare.  Basically, you cut the squash in half and scoop out the innards (like you would a pumpkin…also another type of squash…are we sensing a trend?).  Then, you drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on the insides, add some salt and pepper, and put it into the oven for around forty minutes while it bakes!  Then, after it’s finished, let it cool a bit so you can touch it and not burn yourself, then take a fork and scrape out the insides.  Instant veggie spaghetti!

So…I did all this.  And I managed to snag a jar of my favorite pasta sauce for both the eggplant and the squash.  It’s the Classico Roasted Tomato and garlic pasta sauce…so good.  (Yes, homemade is way better, but I was out, and this was cheap.  Sometimes easy wins out)  After adding the sauce to the eggplant rounds, I topped them with a slice of fresh mozzarella and put back under the broiler for a few minutes to let the cheese melt.  Oh yeah…mozzarella makes it awesome.  Then, I added more sauce to the spaghetti squash (like I would do with normal spaghetti), and topped the squash with the melty, cheesy, eggplanty rounds.  And then I ate it.  All.

So…that’s my recipe of the day!  You all should try it…it’s pretty darn healthy and nutritious, and if you like eggplant, it’ll taste great!  Enjoy!

Much love,

Recipe Monday!! (Ok, it’s Wednesday…don’t judge me.)

I know I normally do recipe posts on Monday.  And, well…the truth of the matter is, Monday rolled around and I totally forgot.  Please don’t misunderstand…you all are important to me and I love sharing my food adventures with you all, but the fact of the matter is, these past few weeks have been insane.  Work has been at an all time stress level of DEFCON 1defcon 1 (please feel free to Wikipedia what DEFCON 1 is…that’s basically my life at the moment), my volunteering and social activities are ramping up, and the bathroom is still down to the studs.  On top of it all, spring is on its way and all I want to do is be outside!  I love spring (spring and fall are my two favorite seasons, by far), and this winter has been absolutely brutal, so any time the weather is above freeze point, it feels like a heat wave and I want to go outside and sun myself like a lizard on a rock.

That said…if there is one thing that I love to do, even amidst all the hustle and bustle that is life, it’s cooking.  And, with cooking, comes sharing recipes and stories from my kitchen.  I love it!  I grew up with the adage that flowers and food fix everything.  Doesn’t matter the occasion:  birth (food and flowers), weddings/engagements (food and flowers), deaths (food and flowers).  All major life events can be celebrated and/or mourned with food and flowers.  The flowers help soothe your mind and the food helps soothe your soul.  So, when it comes to life and the world around me, I cook.  It’s just…well…it’s what I do.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post!  My weekly recipe post.  We’ve been continually getting our green bean delivery on Tuesdays, so I’ve been doing my best to cook more seasonally (and locally), so we’ve had lots of fresh fruit and veg.  And I love it, truly.  But sometimes…sometimes, you just want starch.  And cheese.  CHEESY STARCH!!  This was me on Monday.  All I wanted to enter my stomach was delicious carbs.   My “go-to” meal for cheesy starch is usually macaroni and cheese, but alas, I was out of macaroni (TRAVESTY)!!  BUT!  The gods were smiling upon me, because I had beaucoup de orzo from my favorite orzo salad I make all the time.  And guess what, folks…orzo = pasta.  WE WERE IN BUSINESS!

And such, cheesy orzo was born.  I don’t have a link because I didn’t use a recipe.  PSHT…who needs a recipe when all you want is cheesy starch!  And here’s how I did it:

You need two ingredients; orzo and cheese.  Ok, you also need water (or you can use chicken/vegetable stock) to cook your orzo in it…so I guess that’s three ingredients, but who’s counting.  Boil your orzo.  I’m not going to tell you how much, because I have no idea how much orzo you can eat.  Make enough for you…or your significant other/roommate/friend/stranger down the street.  Basically, make enough to get full and move on.  Boil, boil, boil…I usually cook my orzo for about 8 minutes, or until I can chew it without breaking a molar…up to you.  After you boil it to your desired “doneness,” drain it.  You might want to reserve some of the cooking liquid (maybe 1/4 cup total), but I actually just didn’t let my orzo get super dry from draining it, and tossed it back into the pot.  I’m lazy, folks, we’ve already established this long ago.

Meanwhile, if you were smart, while you were boiling the crap out of the orzo, you were shredding cheese.  Or maybe, you were even smarter than that and had shredded cheese already on hand, in a bag.  I did not.  Nor was I smart.  So…at this point, I frantically started grating cheese.  Normally, I like a nice, sharp cheddar.  But…the cheddar wasn’t opened yet, and my Monterey Jack cheese was half used, so I said “to hell with it” and grated that instead.  Guess what…it was still cheese, and I still added it to starch, so it was still amaze-balls.

At this point, the orzo is cooked, and the cheese is grated.  Here’s the hard part.  Put the grated cheese in the pot with the orzo.  Seriously.   Stir.  Keep stirring until it’s melted (it should take all of about 4.8 seconds).  And…that’s it!  If it seems dry, add some milk, or butter, or leftover cooking water…up to you.  Mine wasn’t dry…it was deliciously creamy and cheesy and amazing.  I scooped it up into a bowl and FEASTED!  And, my tummy was happy.

Because I was so enamored with my cheesy orzo, I didn’t bother taking photos.  Sorry about that.  But it really was awesome, I promise!  You all should try it…and feel free to mix it up!  I think next time I’m going to add peas.  There’s something about macaroni and cheese (or orzo and cheese) with crunchy peas that is so filling.  Plus, those hints of green in the dish allow me to lie to myself that the meal is actually well-rounded and healthy.  And really, isn’t self-delusion worth it every now and again?

Give it a try, let me know what you thought of it!  Hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did!

Much love,

Recipe Monday!

So, over the last few weeks I’ve been slacking in the recipe department.  Life has been busy, and incredibly stressful, and cooking (unfortunately) falls my the wayside in times such as those.  But, this week should be better, and I have a fantastic recipe for you all today!  That makes up for it, right?

One of my favorite cities in the world is Washington D.C.  I like the culture, the hustle and bustle, the beauty of the scenery…pretty much all of it.  And, on top of it, it houses one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Zaytina!   Zaytina is a Turkish, Lebenese, and Greek cuisine restaurant, full of Mezzes (think Spanish Tapas, or small plates) and entrées and pretty much enough delicious food to fatten you up for a month.  Their hummus is to die for, and their falafel can seriously make me cry.  And the fresh bread they bring out?!  Oh man…just…all the words!

So, I really wanted to recreate the falafel, but one thing I don’t like about falafel is how it’s typically deep-fried.  Deep fried =/= healthy, and when you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, having everything deep-fried in vats of oil really doesn’t cut it.  I want it all, I won’t lie.  I wanted the taste of their falafel, but without the added calories and fat.  Tall order, I must say.  So, where did I turn?  Why, Google of course!  Luckily, my search was fairly quick and painless.  I came across a health food / Vegetarian cooking blog, Cookie + Kate, and was looking through it, and what did I come across?  That’s right, baked falafel!  What’s even better?  She turned it into a salad (it’s like she’s after my heart, seriously), and I nearly came unglued.  Baked falafel, PLUS delicious veggie salad?!  Be still my vegetable loving heart!

So…last night, I made them.  I had planned to make them earlier in the week, but never got around to it (plus I kept forgetting to soak the beans).  I put the beans on to soak around noon, and made the recipe around 7pm, and that was plenty of time (in case you’re wondering if you have to soak them overnight…you do not).  It was honestly very easy.  Shove everything into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Then scoop out and make patties, and bake them in the oven.  My lord, could it BE any easier?!  I did a few on a skillet on top of the stove, because I ran out of room in the pan in the oven, but apparently I don’t understand how a gas stove works because I burned them.  Whoops!  They were still delicious, however…burned or no.  The ones in the oven, however, were pure perfection!  For those, I put two into a half pita with some radish, tomatoes, goat cheese, and onion.  I was lazy and didn’t want to cut up the salad bits last night…sue me.  This afternoon, I did have my salad, and topped it with the falafel, along with goat cheese, onion, radish, tomato, carrots, and sugar snap peas.  Pretty much, any veg I had in the fridge.  Both times…DELICIOUS!  Honestly, I would recommend this recipe to the ends of the earth and back…you all need to try it!  Plus…the prep and assembly time is so fast!

Here’s a photo of last night’s dinner…I managed to snap it before stuffing my mouth with the last pita.  NOM!  So good, and so incredibly filling!


I put the ingredients into MyFitnessPal and portioned it out for 12 servings (I managed to make 12 falafel out of her recipe).  With the serving size of 1 falafel = 1 serving, it came out to 83 calories a falafel!  Totally nutritious, and low in calories, while still being very filling.  Definitely a winner, and I’m seriously contemplating making it again next week!

Hope you enjoy it (if you do try it)…let me know what you think!

Much love,

Recipe Monday: The Art of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

If there is one thing that I absolutely LOVE (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), it’s a good grilled cheese sandwich.  I like how you can change it up and really completely different from the last time you ate it, and there are so many options!  There’s the classic:  white bread and Kraft cheese singles, and while I enjoyed it as a kid, I can’t really stomach it now.  Something about the grease factor of the cheese slices and the butter on the bread…it basically kills my stomach.  I guess that’s a good thing, as I’m sure the original grilled cheese wasn’t exactly “figure friendly” either.

But, I’ve found a few ways to lighten up the amazingness that is the Grilled Cheese sandwich.  I try to use really flavorful cheeses, so I can use less of it, and I skip all the butter business altogether.  Some people would argue that it’s no longer a grilled cheese, but I love it, and that’s what matters.  So, the point of this is to talk about my creation last night!  It’s my favorite go-to Grilled Cheese sandwich (though I have several in my arsenal, this is my favorite).  It’s a sharp cheddar and apple grilled cheese.  YUM!

Normally, before I started changing my diet, I’d make grilled cheese sandwiches on deliciously thick cut, sourdough bread.  But, after decided to get my eating under control and make healthier choices, I found these amazing things called Sandwich Rounds.  They’re like a bun, but super thin!  You still get bread, but not too much bread, and definitely far fewer calories.  I make a lot of our own breads, but I haven’t quite mastered the thin sandwich rounds just yet.  It’s a future goal…we’ll get there.

sandwich rounds

Another thing I like to add to my grilled cheese (specifically the cheddar and apple one) is spicy stone ground mustard.  Something about the mustard, with the apples, with the cheese.  OMG…it just WORKS!  So, instead of butter on the inside of the bread (because who likes a dry grilled cheese), I mix up a teaspoon of olive oil mayonnaise and a teaspoon of spicy, stone ground mustard.  I slather that on the inside of the bun before putting on my cheese.

Finally, the key ingredients.  The apple and the cheese.  This is where you can go nuts in your choices.  Personally, I like nothing better than a nice, raw milk, white sharp cheddar cheese.  I recently got a good one from Organic Valley.  It’s a raw milk, sharp cheddar, and it is so tasty!  It also melts beautifully, which is important for a good grilled cheese.  Plus, a serving size is 1 ounce, but I realized last night that 1 ounce is almost too much cheese for the sandwich, so you can easily cut it back a bit for a more calorie friendly portion!  SCORE!


The, of course, the apple.  I prefer granny smith apples for these sandwiches, because they’re nice and tart.  However, this honestly is a “whatever floats your boat” kind of preference choice.  Last night, I used a gala apple…it was all we had.  Guess what, the sandwich was still darn tasty!  So, you could go with any sort of apple here.  I would choose one that’s a bit under-ripe so that you can have that nice crunch, but again, it’s up to you.

Here’s where my grilled cheese really deviates from the classic.  I don’t do the whole “butter on the outside and slap it in a skillet” part.  GASP!  I know.  But…I go for healthy a lot of the time, and a few tablespoons of butter and frying a sandwich doesn’t usually equate “healthy.”  So, what I do is take my bread/sandwich round/whatever, and put it in the toaster.  Then, with the toasted bread, I build the sandwich and put it in the microwave to melt the cheese.  I would use a Panini press, if we had one, but we don’t.  So…I do the toaster and microwave combo and go from there.  Some people will be apoplectic over my choice, but I like it and it honestly doesn’t taste different from the original (to me).

So…there you have it…my grilled cheese sandwich.  I have a produce delivery coming tomorrow, and we’re getting two pints of fresh blueberries, so I’m thinking about making a blueberry brie grilled cheese later in the week.  I’ll be sure to report back and let you know how it goes!  What’s your favorite combination for a grilled cheese?  I’d love to have new ideas!

Much love,

Recipe Monday!

Normally, at this point, I’d be writing about a recipe that I made last week that really blew my mind.  Unfortunately, as J was out on a business trip to Japan, I didn’t make much of anything.  So…my recipe would probably go something like this: Pick up my iPhone, find the number to Ru-Yi Chinese take-out, call in order, go pick it up.  Yeah…more like a recipe for delicious food, water retention from sodium overload, and higher numbers on the scale.

So, I decided that instead of writing up about that, I’d write a post on a recipe that I want to make this week!  I’ll definitely come back later in the week with a review once I make it (and hopefully remember to take photos), but this way I can give you a little preview of what is to come!  I’ve been craving spring food.  The weather here has been atrocious lately.  This is coming from a girl who LOVES winter and all it has to offer, and I’m even over it.  So, because of that, I wanted to make something that reminds me of the spring.  I came across a food blog that has tons of recipes that I can’t wait to try, and this one really caught my eye!  Spring Pea and Asparagus Pasta!  YUMMY!  I absolutely love peas, and asparagus is also another favorite vegetable, so I thought this would be right up my flavor alley.  Plus, we don’t really allow ourselves much pasta, but every so often it’s a nice treat.  We haven’t had it in a while, and I think it’s time to bring it back into rotation.

I’ll have to let you know how it goes!  I might make it for dinner tonight.  We recently signed up for a produce delivery program where every Tuesday we get a big box of fresh produce that is all local and all in season.  That will come tomorrow, so I’ll line up meals for Tuesday through Monday using those ingredients, once I get an idea of what all we’ll get.  But…we don’t have any from last week, since I put the delivery on hold knowing J would be out-of-town (hence the take-out).  So…I’ll add the ingredients to my list for the grocery run, and hopefully we can have a delicious (and nutritious) meal tonight!

Much love,

Recipe Monday!

The week has kick-started yet again!  I don’t generally hate Monday’s, per se, but I will admit that I’m much more in love with Friday’s.  But that’s ok…I have a feeling this week will drag by as it is.  J is overseas on work travel, so I’ll be hanging out on my own this week.  Not really a big deal…I honestly don’t mind it, but the time does seem to slow down a lot when he’s gone.

On Saturday, while J was working on the home remodel projects with his brother-in-law, I was busy in the kitchen.  Apparently, the cooking bug had hit, and I had to make ALL OF THE FOODS.  There was one particular recipe I had been dying to try for quite some time…honey challah.  So…I figured I had a free Saturday, why not!  Let me tell you, I am SO glad I did!

For those of you familiar with challah bread, you know that it’s absolutely delicious.  Sort of like a croissant in a bread form.  Buttery, light, sweet…fabulous for breakfast, or a nice brie cheese and jam Panini.  It’s one of my absolute favorite breads, but it’s hard to find around here (unless you manage to get to Panera early on a Friday, the only day they have it available).  So, while browsing Pinterest one day, I came across this recipe for Honey Challah, and was totally in love!

The recipe is surprisingly simple.  I’d always been scared to death of making challah…I assumed it was ridiculously hard and I’d fail miserably.  Maybe that’s true of some challah recipes, but this one was really easy!  I mixed everything up (very similar to regular bread, with the addition of honey and eggs), and used my KitchenAid mixer to do the work for me.  After running the mixer to let it knead, all I had to do was knead it a few more times, put it in an oiled bowl, and let it rise.  Then, separate it into thirds and braid it…then let it rise again!  Then, bake it.  The hands on time for this recipe was really short…maybe 10 minutes or so to make the dough, then another few minutes to separate and braid.  The rest of the time is spent with the dough rising, and you don’t really have to do anything for that.  I will say, I did have to bake it longer than the directions called for, because it wasn’t quite done in the middle, but after giving it another 10 minutes or so, it came out perfect!  The bread was light and fluffy, with a really nice sweetness (very subtle, not super sweet).  The loaf was enormous, so I ended up sending half of it home with my in-laws who had come over to help with the remodel.  Even after that, though, I was still left with PLENTY of bread.  I’ve been munching on it randomly ever since, and each day it’s still super good!

And, what is a post without photos!  Here is my challah bread…the egg wash at that I brushed on prior to baking really allowed the top to brown up, and I think it looks really nice and shiny!  If you’re interested in challah, I can definitely recommend this recipe.  Give it a try, and I hope you enjoy it!

Much love,

unbaked challah        honey challah