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You can make authentic-tasting Italian food, and eat it, too!
When it comes to real Italian food, you may picture the Olive Garden commercials. However, “Italy” Italian food has a lot of veggies and not as MUCH less cheese. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat carb-filled fake cheese-erific dishes.
With the winter winds starting to blow so early, I have been in the mood for lasagna, but it takes a bit of time and effort. For a single gal like me, for some dishes to eat alone, there is not enough motivation.
Well, I found a yummy, quick substitute to get the same taste and texture: lasagna rolls.
It’s the same ingredients, but in a quicker format and an easier way to dish out this dish. What also is great is how easy you can make the parts separately, store in the fridge and pull out to assemble. It’s perfect for an hour dinner break.

First, you need to cook the pasta noodles. Boil them according to directions, for how many you need to make. A typical 8×8-inch pan can fit about 6 rolls.

While they are boiling, make the “ricotta” cheese by using tofu. As an Italian, I am always improvising in the kitchen, so my “ricotta” is tofu, a multitude of spices and a food processor. For an actual recipe, use the one from “Skinny Bitch In the Kitch”: Take 14 to 16 ounces of extra firm tofu, crumbled, and put in processor; add garlic or garlic powder (to how strong you love garlic), 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of oregano and a dash of salt. Add any other spices that tickle your fancy, such as onion powder, basil, Italian spices. Pulse in processor until pureed, and then use immediately or store in refrigerator for a week.

When noodles are done, rinse in cold water and lay out, one by one, on wax or parchment paper. If you want to use a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the boiling water to help the noodles not stick, you can do that, too.

When the noodles have cooled enough the handle, heat up some leftover tomato sauce. If you need to make some more, do so as the noodles cool.

Heat oven to 400-450 degrees.

Spray the pan with nonstick spray or rub with oil. Put a small amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan, but not too much. Take the noodles and spread the “ricotta” on each one. Don’t add too much, because you have to roll the noodles. If you want to add anything else inside the rolls, do so now. I suggest a leafy green such as spinach or Swiss chard (already cooked), vegan meats or other types of vegan cheese.

Now, it’s time to roll! Take an edge and roll it into itself, like a jelly roll. Place in the pan with the end side down, so it won’t unroll. When they are all in there, spread tomato sauce on top of the rolls and then add the “cheese”, such as mozzarella or parm (all vegan, of course.)

Place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, covered tight with foil. Then, take foil off, and let cook for another 10-15 minutes. When the cheese is bubbling, take out and let it sit to up to 10 minutes (put foil back on to keep warm.)

Then, serve and eat!

For recipes or more ideas, try reading: Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)

More VeganMoFo

Tis the season for potatoes and soup. When the temperature drops, I love eating a big bowl of something steaming, that will keep me full and warm, without spending a lot of money.

Soup is such a great go-to eats when you can stand it, because its easy to make a huge batch and then heat some up when you are hungry, in a pinch for dinner or just craving soup.

What also is helpful with making a large batch of soup is the storage. Soups can easily be frozen and unfrozen, and it will keep your electric bill down.

Not what you thought I was going to say, huh? Really, freezing and storing a lot of food will keep your electric bill low, and will waste less of our finite resources.

If you can’t go without a refrigerator and can’t track down (or afford) an energy-saving model or an old-fashion smaller model, filling up the fridge is the ticket.

But instead of going out and buying a lot of food to keep that appliance stocked, just make soup!

First, it will keep your fridge happy because it’s full. By having less room to constantly circulate cold air, the items, once frozen or chilled, will hold the temperature and prevent the constant rotation. This means your refrigerator doesn’t need to be turning its cool jets on and off, and that uses less energy. (Just don’t be standing with the doors open and your head in the ice box.)

Second, it will keep your families happy. When desperate, pull out a large container of pre-made soup, and make some yummy sandwiches or salads to go with the main course. It will fill their bellies up quickly!

Third, it will keep you happy (and sane.) Sometimes, I dream of the dinners I want to make, only to realize I don’t have enough time on my hour break at night; or a house caught on fire, the phone is ringing off the hook and our nightly paper strategy has been ruined, all at 7 p.m. — right before break. I know many people have similar days sometimes, only to have their dreams crushed about their marvelous dinner. Go with the soup! You made it in the first place because you liked it, so eat it again!

Fourth, soup saves you money in the long run. Yes, sometimes all those veggies can be expensive, but if you buy what is in season, just adding some simple water to those veggies and a bit a spice can make a delicious dinner. There is usually plenty of leftovers from one batch (even though it’s easy to double or triple and just store.)

I love soups for all the reasons above, and it just brings a smile to my face to share this recipe with you.

I found it a year ago, when I was still dairy-free but not vegan. I was looking for an easy potato soup that didn’t have dairy. I found the simple recipe and improvised:

Baked Potato Soup

4-5 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup all purpose flour

6 cups of soy milk (plain, non-vanilla or it will taste funny)

3/4 cup vegan cheese, your favorite

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 cup vegan sour cream

1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1. Cook potatoes how you would to prepare them mashed, except mash them dry (without milk, butter or any other ingredients.) I found purely baking them doesn’t do the job right, so boil/steam away!

2. Lightly spoon the flour in a large Dutch oven or pot; gradually add the soy milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, vegan cheese, salt and pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Turn the heat to low. Stir in the vegan sour cream and the green onions. Cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated—DO NOT BOIL.

Toppings:

Slices of fake bacon, cooked and crumbled

Green onions, chopped

Vegan cheese

Vegan Sour cream with chives

More of VeganMoFo

VeganMoFo

VeganMoFo

What exactly is VeganMoFo?

Well, about three years ago,popular vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz gathered up vegans of the world to celebrate their way of life with Vegan Month of Food (or VeganMoFo.) It was her way of putting a spin on NaNoWriMo, which is the National Novel Writing Month that takes place in November.

In 2007, vegan writers and bloggers united for the month of November to share tips, tricks and recipes, and in 2008, the project permanently moved to the month of October.

And here we are, October 1, 2009. Vegans have begun their invasion of the Web, posting recipes and mouth-watering pictures of their creations.

Yes, I am a vegan. What started as a test of will five months ago turned into a life-saving technique that has helped ease the pain from a chronic condition. As more and more people have become vegan, whether because of health reasons or from a natural concern with nature, the Web has exploded with resources.

Being vegan also is an eco-step in the right direction. Vegans don’t eat meat, which cuts their contribution toward a heavily environmentally hurting industry (meat producing), they don’t eat dairy or cheese, which also reduces this contribution, they worry about pesticides and chemicals because of their huge intake of vegetables and fruits, and they tend to buy eco-friendly items because these items did not hurt the animals they so dearly love and honor.

So, let’s kick off VeganMoFo together! It’s OK if you aren’t a vegan or even a vegetarian! Use this month as part of Meatless Mondays, which is an effort to get families eating healthier. Hey, even President Barack Obama is encouraging going meatless.

Awhile ago, I made Vegetable Stew with Her Dumplings, vegan-style. I got the recipe off of Betty Crocker, but knew I couldn’t handle the dairy or chicken stock that was part of the recipe. So, here is my spin on this yummy autumn-time meal, which is perfect as the cooler weather seems to be sweeping in (at least on the Northeast side!)

Prep Time: 10 min

Total Time: 30 min

Makes: 4 servings

1    medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

1    tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2    cup uncooked orzo or rosamarina pasta

1    carton (32 ounces) of vegetable broth (make sure they did not add any type of animal product, or to be on the safe side, make your own or buy vegan vegetable cubes.)

1    teaspoon ground mustard

1    bag (16 ounces) frozen sweet peas, potatoes and carrots, thawed (or fresh)

1    can (15 to 16 ounces) great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1    cup Bisquick Heart Smart mix (or any other biscuit mix, but just make sure there is only the dry ingredients and does not contain eggs or milk.)

2/3    cup cornmeal

1/4    teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4    teaspoon dried basil leaves

2/3    cup soy milk (I bet almond, hemp or any other type would be just as good.)

1.    Cook onion in oil in Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender.

2.    Stir in pasta, broth, mustard, vegetables and beans. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.

3.    Stir together Bisquick mix, cornmeal, oregano and basil. Stir in soy milk just until dry ingredients are moistened.

4.    Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto boiling stew; reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

Veggie dumplings

Veggie dumplings

Additional resources: To add your name to the list of vegan writers for VeganMoFo, contact Kittee at Cake Maker to the Stars.

The awesome people at Post Punk Kitchen have a forum, where you can chat with other VeganMoFo-ers.

There is another VeganMoFo headquarters on the Web.

La Dolce Vegan!: Vegan Livin' Made Easy