January 27, 2015 By This Vegan Girl
I do my best to support local family-owned restaurants. However, most of the restaurants I go to are vegan; therefore, when it comes to eating out with omnivorous family and friends, sometimes the easiest decision is to go to a chain restaurant. I have been impressed the past few times I’ve been to Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
For those of you who have been to Carrabba’s, have you ever had to consciously tell yourself to put down the bread and step away from the dipping oil full of herbs? I swear I could make that dipping oil my entire meal.
This pasta is inspired by the dipping oil at Carrabba’s. I basically made my own dipping oil with tons of herbs, added some tomatoes, olives, spinach, and homemade cream cheese, and mixed in some pasta. It’s so, so good and has lots of health benefits:
- Oregano – has both antibacterial and anti fungal properties that make it effective against some forms of food-borne illnesses and even some antibiotic resistant infections
- Thyme – full of antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage that can boost overall health and help prevent cancer, inflammation, signs of aging and more
- Parsley – contains chlorophyll, myricetin, and vitamin K, which can help prevent cancer and diabetes, as well as improve bone health
- Basil – reduces inflammation and swelling, contains anti-aging properties, and is rich in antioxidants
- Garlic chives – helps prevent prostate, esophageal, and stomach cancer, as well as regulating sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory; folate, found in chives, also helps prevent excess homocysteine, which helps with depression and production of feel-good hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Carrabba’s Dipping Oil Pasta
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 3-4 servings
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh garlic chives, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 pound of pasta (I used GF Ancient Harvest quinoa rotelle)
Optional add-ins (all highly recommended!):
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut into thirds
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, cut into thirds
- 2 tablespoons of 5-minute cream cheese (recipe here)
Step 1: Chop the dressing ingredients.
I picked all the herbs straight from my herb garden. Here in Florida, all these herbs are easy to maintain as long as they are watered a few times per week.
Place all the herbs, and other dressing ingredients, in a large boil with the olive oil, mix, and let it sit and relax in there. The idea is to mildly infuse the flavors into the oil.
Step 2: Start boiling the noodles.
Boil your noodles of choice according to packaged directions. When the pasta is finished boiling and it’s time for straining, I like to spray cold water on the noodles for a lukewarm pasta salad experience.
Step 3: Chop/add optional ingredients.
While the noodles are boiling, chop/add the optional ingredients you would like to add to your dish. This might be the perfect time to make your 5-minute homemade cream cheese. I love adding this stuff to pasta!
Step 4: Mix and serve!
Once all ingredients are in finished, add all ingredients to the large bowl, mix, and serve!
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December 25, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
I love eating raw food! Raw food never drags me down or changes its mind on how it wants to behave that day. Raw is fresh, bold, and gives me a healthy energy boost.
Cucumber noodles are an excellent alternative for anti-pasta people. It’s a lighter choice that packs a ton of that cool, crisp cucumber flavor that you know you love.
I love eating this recipe for dinner, as it doesn’t make me feel like a heavy sack of shit when I’m lying in bed.
You can serve this recipe on top of toast, with corn chips, or simply by itself. It doesn’t matter. It would probably be good if eaten off the sidewalk, for Christ’s sake. Try it for yourself!
Greek Cucumber Noodles
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
For the dressing:
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 large cucumbers, spiraled
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, cut into thirds
- 1 cup tomatoes, diced
- 2/3 cup red onions, finely chopped
- 2 avocados, pitted and diced
- 2 cups of spinach, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of Cream Cheese with Chives (click for recipe), optional
Step 1: Spiral your cucumber noodles.
To turn your cucumber into noodles, you will need a device or appliance. I bought the Vegetti, available at Bed Bath and Beyond for a good price. This is one of those items that actually is as easy as it looks. It takes only a minute to transform the cucumber into those healthy, raw noodles. You can also use one of those spiral peelers used for apples or potatoes, too, but you’ll spend more and it’ll take up more space.
Once your noodles are made, take some kitchen scissors and cut the noodles into smaller pieces. You might think it’s cool that they’re long, but trust me, there’s no reason to have a 6ft-long noodle. Place your noodles in a large bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Mix dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.
Start with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Whisk those ingredients together quickly for 30 seconds until contents aren’t separating from each other. (This step can also be done in the food processor.) Add the minced garlic, oregano, and salt to the dressing.
Let the dressing sit for a few minutes, letting all the flavors fuse together. You may want to return to the bowl at least once to whisk the ingredients together.
Step 3: Chop up all veggies.
Do this step while the dressing is sitting. When finished, place all ingredients, including the dressing, in the large bowl with the noodles. Mix and serve!
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- follow me on Instagram @thisvegangirl, where I post my day-to-day meals. I love when readers try my recipe, take a picture of it, and tag me or use the hashtag #thisvegangirl so I can see it. It’s so exciting!
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Thanks for your love and support. Happy Holidays!
December 14, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
I was out of cream cheese. I realized this when I was already toasting my toast and slicing my avocados. I was making avocado toast, and unless I could come up with cream cheese quickly, our avocado toast would be uncomfortably dry.
I came through, though. I came through like a super hero who treated bad meals like crimes.
With things I already had in my kitchen, I whipped this up in 5 minutes. I saved breakfast that day.
Now, it’s time for me to teach you what I learned that day. I learned that I don’t need processed ingredients that I don’t understand in my store-bought vegan cream cheese. I can have the same great taste in something I can quickly make at home; no fancy kitchen appliances required.
If you’ve been feeling weird about eating processed cream cheese lately as I had, I encourage you to give this a try. I hope you love this as much as I do.
Cream Cheese with Chives
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
- 2 cups almond meal
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
Step 1: Mix the milk and apple cider vinegar.
Something science-y happens when you mix these two ingredients. The milk begins to experience its very beginning stages of coagulation. When you don’t mix these two ingredients together aside from the other ingredients, the bound flavor won’t happen the same way. Whisk these two ingredients together for about 30 seconds.
By the way, the apple cider vinegar is the unsung hero in this recipe. Surprisingly, this odd ingredient is the key to achieving that cream cheese flavor.
Step 2: Mix the remainder of the ingredients.
Add the oil, almond meal, salt, and fresh chives to the milk.
Depending on what kind of consistency you’re looking for, you can use different utensils to mix these ingredients together. If you’re after a light and fluffy consistency, use a fork to mix and fluff. If you would rather have a smooth consistency, use a spoon to mix and press the ingredients together.
Step 3: Serve and/or store!
It was great with crackers and salad on top! As mentioned earlier, this was also fantastic on toast. Use it for breakfast or lunch; I don’t care!
If you have any fun ways to use your herby cream cheese, I’d love to see your creations. You can tag me on your cream cheese photo on Instagram @thisvegangirl or use the hashtag #thisvegangirl. You can also add me on Facebook or comment on this pin on Pinterest. Better yet, comment below! It’s so exciting to hear from you guys.
September 7, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
Recently, I’ve been seeing a trend of food blogs taking a “less is more” approach with their ingredient lists. The idea behind it is the less ingredients a passerby sees, the more likely they’re going to say, “Hey! I can do this.” I suppose a long list of ingredients can seem a bit daunting to, say, a busy mom who wants to whip up something fast and yummy on a hectic Thursday night. It’s a cool concept.
I don’t know why, but these blogs made me feel a little down about my own work. I was noticing that some of my entries had the daunting long list of ingredients, and it made me feel like my blog, and its content, wasn’t good enough. I began to try and simplify my ingredients in order to compete.
A few weeks ago, I saw that cooking movie The Hundred Foot Journey. You know, the one about the Indian restaurant that moved across the street from a snooty French restaurant. I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying that movie. Aside from the love story and giggly scenes, I was relieved to see how much they emphasized bold flavor, lots of spices, and a variety of ingredients. The chef in the movie was first criticized by the amount of flavor he used, but was then adored for it once he was given the chance.
As silly as it sounds, I don’t feel so bad about my own creations after seeing that movie. In fact, I’m proud of my flavors, regardless of how many ingredients are involved. Good taste isn’t always simple; sometimes, something complex is what makes someone say, “Mmmm! Wow, what’s in this?” I encourage you all to not be intimidated by ingredient lists, but be inspired to try something you’ve never tried before.
Anyway, back to the recipe at hand: this wrap is amazing and you need to make it today.
Balsamic Basil Chickun Wrap with Cashew Cheese
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes (can be done during prep time)
Yield: 4-6 wraps
Ingredients for Cashew Cheese:
- 3 handfuls (almost 1 cup) of raw cashews
- 3 tbs tahini sauce OR hummus
- 2 heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
Ingredients for Tofu Viniagrette:
- 6 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs fresh basil
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1 15oz container super firm tofu, pressed and diced
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- wrap or bread
Step 1: Chop and cook the tofu.
We’re aiming for a chicken-like texture here, so we’re going to pan fry the tofu. I have a green nonstick pan, so I didn’t add any oil to my tofu. However, if you’re afraid of a sticky disaster, use 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or grapeseed oil onto the pan.
I set my temperature a little higher than medium heat, tossing the tofu every couple of minutes. Your tofu will be complete when it’s golden brown, as seen below.
Step 2: Prepare the vinaigrette.
While your tofu is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. Chop the basil until it’s minced. Place the basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, and salt in a bowl. With a whisk, whip it up quickly for about 10-15 seconds. The idea is you want the oil and vinegar to blend, so it has to be fast.
Step 3: Combine the tofu and tomatoes in the vinaigrette.
Toss. Smell. Swoon. Set aside.
Step 4: Create cashew cheese.
It’s really easy. With a food processor, you’ll want to pulse your cashews to be chunky. Not whole, not milled, but a little in-between, like this:
After that, toss in the rest of the cashew cheese ingredients, and stir until contents are fully mixed together. Use the back of your spoon to press down on the mixture to truly blend the ingredients.
You might have some questions about the tahini sauce. It’s not your regular tahini. I get it from Trader Joe’s, and it looks like this:
I like its paste-y texture, unlike traditional tahini, which is more liquefied. I totally understand if you have never heard of tahini sauce, let alone have it available at your local grocer. If it’s not available, hummus works exactly the same. I’ve tried both, and I enjoyed them equally.
Step 5: That’s a wrap!
Assemble the wrap. This is the order I did mine:
First, cashew cheese.
Finally, topped with the tofu vinaigrette.
For those eating a gluten-free diet, you may or may not have a yummy wrap you can rely on. For those who don’t, you can always go the open-faced sandwich route, which Matt did for this particular meal.
I hope you can use this recipe to spruce up your lunch routine a bit. Enjoy!
August 24, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
I’ve been wanting to make a pizza with a pesto base for quite some time now. However, I just couldn’t seem to come up with ideal toppings for the pizza. I had found myself in a rut, using the same ingredients as toppings over and over. I decided to put off posting the recipe until I came up with the answer.
A week ago, we went to Clearwater, FL to celebrate Matt’s birthday with his parents. Matt’s mom, Gail, loves to cook, and she made him a spectacular dinner for his birthday. On the menu was this to-die-for fennel, red onion, and olive salad. The rest of the family had their salad topped with sea scallops, but even without, mine was incredible.
I kept thinking about that salad. I thought about it for the next week. I’m not a fan of fennel, or olives for that matter. Nonetheless, I kept thinking about how perfect it was.
It suddenly clicked that this winning salad combination might be my answer to my pesto base pizza woes. I acquired the recipe from Gail, put it on top of the pizza, and the result was out of this world. I always say this, but this time, I mean it; this is my new favorite pizza. Shh… don’t tell the others.
Fennel Salad Pizza with Pesto Base
Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: One pizza pie
For the Gluten-Free Crust: (see recipe here) (optional)
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 3/4 cup Water (warm)
- 1 tbs flax seed mixed with 3 tbs warm water
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1-1/2 cups GF all-purpose baking flour
- 2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
For the Fennel Salad:
- 5-6 fennel stalks OR 1 head of fennel, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup red onion, rinsed with cold water to reduce raw harshness
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, crushed and pitted
- 2 tbs fresh or dried tarragon
- 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For the Pesto Base:
- 1-2 handfuls of fresh basil, rinsed
- 1 handful of raw cashews
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
- 3 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Make the fennel salad.
The fennel salad needs to marinate for 20 minutes, so I think this should be numero uno.
I bought my olives at Whole Foods at their olive bar. Start by placing the olives in between sheets of parchment paper. Mash the olives with the palms of your hand. If it hurts your hand too much, a potato masher will probably do the trick. Once all the olives are mashed, remove the pits, separate the olives into smaller bits with your hands, and place in a bowl.
Next, chop up the red onion. Once chopped, place the red onion in a strainer, rinse off with cold water, and add it to the bowl of olives. Raw red onion is extremely harsh and has quite a bite to it, so we don’t need that type of drama here.
My knives are an embarrassment to the world of cooking, as I am a starving artist. Therefore, I had to pulse my fennel in the food processor to chop it properly. Hopefully, you don’t have these problems and can cut your fennel like a normal human being. Nevertheless, feel free to use my method.
Place the rest of the salad ingredients into the bowl. Mix and set aside. Let it marinate for at least 20 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare the gluten-free pizza crust. (optional)
Not everyone needs to make a gluten-free pizza crust. Not everyone wants to make a gluten-free pizza crust. However, if you do, I’ve found that Bob’s Red Mill’s website has provided the best recipe. View it here. (Substitute 1 tbs flax seed meal & 3 tbs warm water (mixed) for the egg to make it vegan.)
Your pizza crust should look like this when complete:
Gluten-free crust needs to be pre-cooked before adding any base or toppings to it. At 425º, cook the pizza crust for 7 minutes. Set aside.
Step 3: Food process the pesto base.
This is the easy part, and it’s the perfect thing to do while you’re waiting for your gluten-free crust to precook. Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until creamy. Garlic bits are graciously accepted.
Step 4: Spread pesto base on pizza crust and bake.
Scoop the pesto with a spoon, then use the back of the spoon to smooth out the pesto throughout the crust.
Bake in the oven at 425º for another 5-7 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
Why bake the pesto, you ask? I think it gives the garlic a roast-y taste, which I like.
Step 5: Strain the marinade and scoop contents on top of pizza.
Straining the marinade is crucial. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with the most greasy pizza of all time, and that’s not what we’re about here. Just stick it in a colander, let the oil drip out for a few minutes, and scoop the remaining salad on top of the pizza.
I’d be surprised if you’ve had anything like this pizza before. It tastes so fresh. One thing I really like about this pizza is that the need for tons of salt is minimal, as the parsley and lemon take care of that. It throws so many flavors at you at once, but they all seem to complement each other so nicely. These flavors really have seemed to taken a liking to each other and get along so well. I think they’ll be friends for a long time to come, and my mouth isn’t complaining.
If you’re interested on trying any of my other pizzas, take a look at the following:
- the tomato base, Easy Ricotta Pizza
- the refried bean base, Mexican Pizza
- the hummus base, Hummus Pizza with Cucumber Cream Sauce
- the creamy garlic base, Creamy Dreamy Garlic Pizza
If you happen to try making this pizza and are on Instagram, take a picture of it and use the hashtag #thisvegangirl so I can take a peek. I’d love to see how it worked out for you. Don’t forget to add me on Facebook, too, as I post all my blog updates on there.