pasta

watching the oscars / not your mom’s chicken noodle soup

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DSC_0302Every year I watch the Academy Awards. Translation: every year I fall asleep while making fun of the oscars. So why do I watch? Why does anyone want to watch overpaid celebrities parade down a piece of red carpet, stuffed into sparkly gowns and tuxes while the paparazzi clicks away and scary Joan-Rivers-types ask “What are you wearing?” Do I really care about who wins best actress- or even worse, best dressed? Nope, not at all. But I put it on anyway because I somehow feel like I’m skipping christmas if I don’t. It’s ridiculous. This is similar to how I feel about 99% of the Olympics. I like to watch the equestrian show jumping, which is minimally covered (or sometimes not at all), so in the end I usually see more of Michael Phelps than horses. Or even better, I get the privilege of watching a Ryan Lochte interview.

But I digress. Back to the glitz and glam of the oscars. Oh I’ll be watching, decked out in my finest yoga pants and hoodie, hoping that my girl crush, Jennifer Lawrence, picks up a golden statue. But the best part is, while I sit on my couch with my furry children snuggled up next to me, I can indulge in the ultimate winter comfort food…vegan chicken noodle soup. Don’t worry, there isn’t any weird vegan chicken in this recipe, but sadly, I didn’t think that “miso noodle soup” would bring back as many golden childhood memories as “chicken noodle soup”. In this recipe, I omit the dead bird and add delicious ingredients like collards, miso, and ginger. This is the perfect winter soup, and even better for those days when you’re feeling under the weather. Ginger and garlic are a match made in heaven, not just for their taste and good looks, but for their antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that will kick that sickness right out of your body. This recipe is gluten free, soy free, nut free, animal free, and guilt free…hooray!DSC_0277

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Not Your Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup  

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, smashed & chopped (I use the side of my knife to smash the garlic, or you can use a garlic press)

1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled & grated

1 bay leaf

4 cups stock (homemade or Imagine No-Chicken Stock) + 2 cups water

1 small handful of spaghetti noodles or noodle of choice, broken into thirds (I recommend Jovial brown rice spaghetti)

1 handful or about 4 large collard leaves, ribs removed and leaves stacked, then chiffonnade into thin ribbons

2 T dark miso (I recommend South River Miso 3 Year Barley)

Sea salt & fresh black pepper to taste

In a soup pot, heat oil over low to medium flame and add onion. Stir and allow to cook for a few minutes, or until soft. Add carrots, celery, garlic, grated ginger, & bay leaf. Stir to incorporate ingredients, then pour in stock and water. Raise flame and bring soup to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 2 minutes, then lower flame to a lively simmer and add collard ribbons. Allow soup to simmer for another ten minutes, or until noodles are cooked (cooking time will depend on what kind of noodles you’re using). Turn off flame. Dip a glass into the soup and remove a little bit of broth. Combine miso with the broth and mix until miso has broken down and become incorporated. Pour miso mixture into soup, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve to 4 overpaid unicorns wearing Stella McCartney gowns and Neil Lane diamonds.

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protein & the vegan elephant in the room / soba noodle veggie bowl in coconut ginger broth

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“How do you get your protein?” says everyone I’ve spoken to about veganism, ever. Yes, it’s repetitive and sometimes I have to find my happy place (translation: sparkly cave with unicorns) before I can calmly reply without cursing the popular media, western doctors and nutritionists across the globe that have brainwashed our culture into equating veganism with kwashiorkor syndrome. “Wait, what is that?” asks those same people. Oh, never heard of it? I respond coyly. Hmm, maybe that’s because it’s the name for severe protein deficiency and it’s never been documented in this country. Hooray! If you’re vegan or vegetarian you will survive after all! I don’t mean to sound cynical, and at one time I asked the same question to my sister when she first went vegan. Unfortunately, It’s the result of repeated whisperings that blow into our innocent ears from social media, parents, doctors, pretend doctors, and friends that over time harden into an accepted truth without personal investigation. It’s the same reason you think that milk is good for your bones, that cane sugar is better than high fructose corn syrup, that meat is the richest protein & B12 source on the planet, and that all soy is bad for you and will cause breast cancer. In a nutshell, you can thank the meat & dairy industries for brainwashing you, little by little, through clever advertising that we don’t even realize is affecting our opinions. So instead of marketing propaganda, let’s turn to plain old common sense.

Take a look at our fellow plant-based animal friends: elephants, giraffes, gorillas, bison, and hippos. These are some of the largest and strongest mammals on the planet, but they don’t look like they’re having any problems with protein intake do they? Gorilla5

And it just so happens that vegetables and grains are chock full of protein: spinach, broccoli, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, lentils, oatmeal, whole grain breads, cacao, quinoa, seitan, beans, and artichokes to name a few! In fact, nearly all vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts contain protein in them. Fruits, alcohol and sugars on the other hand, are low in protein so if you plan on being an alcoholic fruitarian, then yeah, you’ll risk becoming deficient in protein (and friends), but if you eat lots of vegetables and whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds you’ll be a veggie-powered superhuman! So next time someone asks you where you get your protein, gently point out the literal vegan elephant in the room…

Now that you’re armed with confidence and gorilla strength about your protein intake, why not rub it in a little more and make a cozy, protein-filled soba noodle bowl in a coconut peanut broth! Peanut butter, chickpeas, broccoli and whole grain soba noodles are great sources of protein. This dish is perfect on a day like today – a freshly snowed, gray skied wintry heaven.
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Veggie Soba Noodle Bowl with Coconut-Peanut Sauce

1 package soba noodles (I recommend Eden)

1 T refined coconut oil

1 small yellow onion or 4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 head of broccoli, chopped

1 T mirin

1 T tamari or shoyu

2 tsp brown rice vinegar

1 T maple syrup

1 can coconut milk 

1/4 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter

1 aseptic package or can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Top with sriracha or favorite hot sauce (optional)

Cook soba noodles according to package directions in a large pot of salted, gently boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. In a deep saute pan, heat coconut oil on medium to high heat, and add onions or scallions. Cook for a few minutes, then add garlic and use a microplane grater to add ginger knob. Toss in broccoli, peppers, and carrot and continue to saute until veggies are bright and beginning to soften. Deglaze with mirin and use a wooden spoon to scrap up any pieces of food stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the coconut milk in and bring to a lively simmer, then reduce heat to low and add brown rice vinegar, tamari, maple syrup, peanut butter, chickpeas and chili powder. Simmer and stir occasionally until ingredients are well mixed and peanut butter has melted into the coconut broth. Remove from flame and toss mixture with soba noodles and cilantro. Drizzle with sriracha or hot sauce. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with shiny, flowing manes and rippling muscles from their protein fabulous vegan diets.

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and now for something completely different / fettuccine with cashew alfredo

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Sometimes I like to write poetry. And since I’m on a cleanse right now (translation: no life), I’m feeling less cynical and more contemplative. I know…boring, boring, boring. But what else am I supposed to do when it’s 20 degrees outside and I can’t drink? Exactly. Poetry is the answer. Here’s one that I wrote about my mom and I.

“I had a thought today,” said my mother to me,
“and it didn’t make me sad or glad. It was just there in front of me
like a wide-eyed creature.”
A sparrow landed on the slate patio and picked up a piece of millet.
I asked her what it was.
“That we are insignificant. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, 
we don’t matter.” 
The sky was ocean blue with white-capped clouds.
“We are dust gathering in a corner, we are blades of grass
hanging onto the earth;
we are the small things that no one ever sees, we are seeds blowing on a wayward sojourn;
we are the raindrops that never reach the ground,
splattered on a bough, a fence, a rooftop—we are nothing.”
The phone was ringing. Mom always answers, but she didn’t get up. 
I guess she didn’t hear it. 
I smiled. She knew that I knew exactly what she meant because I always did. 
I agreed, of course, and asked her how this insignificance made her feel. 
“Like a wet blanket lifting from my shoulders,” she said, “like the first burst of radiant sunlight over a sleeping field—shouting—go on and do it Kim! 
Go on and wear the clothes you want, go on and tell the world how you feel about it, 
because in the end, none of it will matter!”
We shared a maniacal laugh. 
The laundry announced that it was clean. 
Yes, I thought to myself, this is one of those pure moments. 
This is what really matters.   

Now that you’re feeling nostalgic and want to call your mom and tell her you love her, why not indulge in a sinfully rich dish with your unicorn friends and watch Steel Magnolias? This fettuccine alfredo will blow you away with its creaminess without the added nastiness of dairy. In fact, this dish is soy and gluten free too so I can’t think of one person who won’t be able to eat this (unless you’re allergic to cashews in which case, I feel sorry for you because they are the greatest nut on the planet). 

Fettuccine with Cashew Alfredo

for the pasta:
1 box of fettuccine noodles (use whole wheat noodles or brown rice noodles to make it gluten free)
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 box of button mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
A few handfuls of spinach or kale or chard (everything I make has greens in it because I am a dirty hippie…and unicorns love their greens)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

for the sauce:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked preferably for at least an hour
1/2 cup stock or water
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 clove raw garlic OR 2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup unsweetened nut milk of choice (I use EdenSoy Unsweetened Soy Milk)
Handful of nutritional yeast 
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, optional
1 T tamari 

Get out a big pot and fill it up with lots of water and a generous pinch of sea salt. Cover, and bring to a boil, then add noodles and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, saute your onion in some olive oil until soft, then add mushrooms, stir once or twice, then add the rest of your veggies. Season with salt and pepper. 
In a high speed blender (buy a Vita-Mix! They’re amazing!) add all sauce ingredients and blend on variable speed until combined, then pump it up to highest speed until creamy and smooth. If you’re using a Vita-Mix, leave motor running until sauce is heated up. If you’re using a conventional blender, remove once creamy and smooth, then gently heat in a saucepan until warm. Toss noodles with sauce, fresh black pepper, and a bit of the starchy water from the pot to thin out the sauce, if desired. Add veggies and serve to four nostalgic unicorns who want to feed their emotions. 

weather drama / tofu ricotta lasagna

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IMG_3049You know how people always tell you that they don’t like drama? They’re lying.

The weatherperson stands before a neon map of the United States with a clicker and a bug-eyed expression of terror. “It’s going to be a wet one out there today folks,” he says while waving his hand over a green smudge in Connecticut, “expect flooding in some parts and power outages from the wind gusts”. This is when you start to get excited and check to make sure that your flashlights have fresh batteries in them. “Gusts could be over 40 miles per hour”. You lock all of the windows and check the pantry. Six cans of beans, some mustard, pasta sauce, brown rice, and a hundred other items. But if this system turns into as big of a storm as they’re predicting, there’s no way you’ll be able to survive. Solution? Go to the store and buy water (this is one of those automatic human responses to any type of weather from light rain to a full blown you-need-to-evacuate hurricane). “And the traffic is going to be a doozy too”. Maybe you shouldn’t go on the highway? Although if it’s windy, a tree might fall down, in which case the backroads would be more dangerous than traffic on the highway. You’ll have to wait and see.
Several hours and three raindrops later, you go outside and look at the blue sky with disappointment. “Where’s the storm?” You were so excited to wear your new rain boots, but since you already called in from work, you throw your PJ’s back on and put on the news.
“Steve Jobs didn’t have to die!” says the newsperson dramatically, with the same voice as the guy who does movie previews. Really? Was he murdered, given the wrong medication, or secretly living on a tiny island in the caribbean? “He started his cancer treatment too late”. Seriously? This is a news story? You pretend to want to turn off the news, but another headline catches your eye: “What happened to Lindsay Lohan’s teeth?” they announce. “Sources say that smoking cigarettes are to blame.” Cigarettes make your teeth yellow? What an astonishing breakthrough! After watching for 10 more minutes, you put on Pride & Prejudice, snuggle with your pets on the couch, and allow yourself to get lost in Mr. Darcy’s eyes.
And since you’re staying in and watching a movie, why not whip up some lasagna for those unicorn friends that are stopping by later with bottled water and rain boots?
Growing up, lasagna was always my favorite dish. I remember one day at school, the teacher asked us to write down our favorite food. Most kids put down chocolate, cookies, hot dogs, or hamburgers, but not me. Nope, I was the weirdo who put down lasagna (but it was spelled more like: lazanya). Hey, I was in third grade.
Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta
1 package whole wheat lasagna noodles (I use Bionaturae) or brown rice lasagna noodles
1 large jar of Rao’s marinara sauce, or marinara sauce of your choice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 package button mushrooms, diced
1-2 heads broccoli, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

For tofu ricotta:

2 packages extra firm tofu (I use The Bridge) crumbled
4 T italian seasoning blend or Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle (not sure why they call it this…weird)
1/4 cup + more nutritional yeast (in the bulk section of Whole Foods)
2 T + stock (I use Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
2 T lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

*a note about making the tofu ricotta…I’ve never really measured out these ingredients before, so I’m estimating for you, but taste as you go and see. It should taste salty, cheesy & herbalicious. If not, adjust accordingly.*

Preheat oven to 350. In a large pot, cook pasta noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water, then set aside in a bowl of cool water. In a saute pan, saute onions in olive oil until soft, then add garlic, mushrooms, broccoli and some salt. Cook until soft, just a few minutes. Take off stove and let cool. In a mixing bowl, combine crumbled tofu, seasoning, nutritional yeast, stock (use as much as you need to make a ricotta cheese consistency), and lemon juice. Take out a 9 x 12 baking dish (I use a cast iron or ceramic baking dish), and pour a thin layer of pasta sauce over the bottom of the pan. Now add one layer of cooked noodles, side by side over the sauce. Add half of the veggie mixture and half of the ricotta mixture and pat down lightly and evening over the noodles. Cover with a generous amount of pasta sauce, then repeat the process one more time. Top with a third layer of noodles, and pour the rest of your pasta sauce over top. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast for a cheesy top. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then top with almesan sprinkles and pesto and serve to 6 nervous unicorns.
Optional topping: Walnut pesto
1 cup loosely packed basil, washed and pulled off stems
1/2 cup raw walnuts, toasted (in oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until fragrant)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp miso (I use South River brown rice miso)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste
process ingredients in food processor until just a little chunky…adjust seasonings to preference.
Optional topping: Almesan sprinkles (tastes better than parmesan!)
1/2 cup almonds, toasted (see above toasting procedure for walnuts)
1 tsp + lemon zest
sea salt to taste
process ingredients in food processor until crumbly and reminiscent of parmesan cheese…adjust seasoning to preference.

passport renewal / penne perfection

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Whenever I have to do something that involves a visit to a government run agency, I realize that those cocktail parties aren’t so bad after all.
I needed to renew my passport. I’m an american citizen and I already have a passport, shouldn’t be too complicated, right?  Wrong.  I brought my passport to the post office along with my marriage license, driver’s license, american flag, soul, and cross.  This didn’t change anything. The woman at the desk looked at me as if I was a criminal, handed me a form, and told me that I had to go somewhere else to have my photo taken.  “Why can’t I do it here?” I asked.  “Cannot do it here,” was her reply.  Fine.  I went to AAA and got my photo taken, and you know what?  They’re really nice there and didn’t charge me anything for my photos. I started to feel better about the whole process, and brought my filled out form and photos back to the evil post office woman. No good. She said that because I had gotten married, I needed to make a notarized copy of my marriage license.  “I have it right here…can’t you just make a copy or sign off that I showed it to you?”  She shook her head, and I felt the distinct urge to scream. I gave her a fake smile and said “thanks for your help,” sarcasm heavy on my tongue, and went to town hall.

The office was in the basement, at the end of a long corridor.  I was feeling sorry for myself until I saw how bad the town hall people had it.  Their bodies were slowly expanding over the sides of their chairs, and desks were littered with glass jars of jelly beans and hershey’s kisses. A plaque bearing the words “Live, Love, Laugh” brought on a feeling of sudden nausea, not to mention the seasonal decorations; an attempt to evoke the feeling of celebrating the season, but instead only managing to look cheap. The windows, which overlooked a slope of dirt and a few gangly bushes, was littered with scarecrows and dried corn stalks. Black spiders and cats hung above the windows. I felt as though I had been transported to a scarier version of The Wizard of Oz.  $25 dollars later, I was given a copy of my marriage license from a woman wearing earrings that said “Boo!”, and drove back to the post office.  I wrote a check for $110, then paid a few more dollars to mail everything out to the passport processing center, and then, I was done.  Hooray!  It only took me three hours, four stops, four different people, and $140 dollars to renew my passport!  What an efficient system!  

In light of the time I wasted for passport renewal, I will share a lovely pasta recipe of mine that takes 30 minutes or less to make, and tastes so delicious that you’ll feel like you’re dining in an Italian countryside, with or without your passport.  I use tempeh for an added boost of protein and to give the dish a meatier texture.  If you don’t like capers and olives, then I don’t know what to say except: I’m sorry.  Capers and olives make pasta extraordinary so if you’ve never tried this combination out before, now is the perfect time!

Penne Perfection with Tempeh, Capers, and Olives

1/2 bag or 3 cups whole wheat penne (I use Bionaturae brand) or brown rice pasta (I use Jovial brand)
1 jar marinara sauce (if you’re not using homemade, splurge a little on the good stuff…Rao’s marinara sauce = amazing)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 package tempeh, crumbled (I use SoyBoy soy or five grain tempeh)
generous splash of white wine or stock to deglaze the pan
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 container or 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 jar capers + brine (I use Mediterranean Organics capers)
generous handful of kalamata olives, pitted (buy them pitted, otherwise make a unicorn work on pitting them while you do the rest of the cooking)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Fill a large pot halfway with water, add a small handful of salt (yup, handful.  Water for pasta should almost taste like teardrops), and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil on medium flame and add onions, cooking for a few minutes until soft and starting to brown.  Add crumbled tempeh and stir occasionally, until cooked through, about five minutes (the tempeh will stick, and that’s okay!).  Deglaze the pan with wine or stock, using a wooden spoon to loosen the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.  Now add garlic and mushrooms.  Once the water is boiling in your pot, use a colander, chinois, or strainer to briefly submerge kale in water.  Press out excess water with spoon, then add to saute pan.  Turn down flame to low and add capers, olives and marinara sauce. allow to simmer for a few minutes while you cook the pasta according to package instructions (usually about 10 minutes for whole wheat).  Once the pasta is al dente, drain in colander and place back in pot with a little olive oil.  Now add the entire mixture in your saute pan to the pot and mix everything together with a little salt and pepper.  Serve to four italian-wannabe unicorns.