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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November 21, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
As a vegan, you sometimes have to take a deep breath and go to a normal restaurant. I met up with my sister at a local restaurant in Stuart, FL at a restaurant in the downtown area called Eighteen Seminole Street Italian Bistro. Italian restaurants are almost completely safe for vegans, as you can always settle for spaghetti and veggies if they don’t have much to offer.
They had a dish called Linguini Puttanesca, which was the only menu option I could eat. I’ve never had it before. Linguini alla Puttanesca is literally “linguini of the whore” in Italian. Well, smack my ass and call me a whore, because this dish was fantastic. It was salty and tangy, which was a fun change from the plain ol’ spaghetti sauce I’ve been eating for 25 years.
Here is my version, “fattened up” with some lentils to give it a meaty texture. This one is A+ husband/boyfriend approved. It’s so easy to make: in fact, this recipe is only broken up into 3 steps! Enjoy!
Linguini Puttanesca in a Meat(less) Sauce
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
For the food processor:
- 4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
- 3 oz, or 1/2 cup, tomato paste
- 3 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs coconut oil
- 1 tbs, or 1 sprig, fresh oregano
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 pound of pasta (I use Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Quinoa Linguini)
- 1 15oz can of lentils, drained
- 1 cup of Castelvetrano olives, pitted and cut into thirds
- 2 tsp capers
- basil, for garnish (optional)
Step 1: Make the tomato sauce.
Throw in all the food processor ingredients into your food processor. Mix until fully incorporated.
Traditional Italian cuisine dictates that Puttanesca is made with olive oil. However, since Puttanesca is a salty dish, I decided to use coconut oil instead of olive oil. The coconut oil has a subtle sweetness that can help offset the tang a bit, so it complements the sauce well. Not only that, but apparently, olive oil doesn’t do well in high heat, but coconut oil does. I’ve been trying to mix up my recipes to only use olive oil in raw dishes.
Once your sauce has been mixed, pour the sauce into a sauce pan set at medium heat. When the sauce starts bubbling, set heat to low.
Step 2: Cook your pasta.
In a separate pot, boil your pasta until cooked. Strain and rinse your noodles when finished. Set aside, if necessary. Normally, my everything seems to be finished by the time the noodles are finished cooking, so I jump right in and serve!
Step 3: Add the olives, capers, and lentils to your sauce.
I’m an olive snob; I only buy my olives from Whole Foods’s olive bar. These were the olives that turned me on to liking olives in the first place, so it’s been hard to endure low-quality olives when I’ve already had the best. Therefore, I refuse to buy my olives anywhere else. Their Castelvetrano olives are out of this world!
I also buy my lentils canned. It sounds sketchy as f, but it’s actually not that bad! The lentils are organic and come in a non-BPA lining can, so I trust the source. A sad amount of attempts were made (years of trying) to try and transform dried lentils into that texturally-perfect plump consistency, but it never, ever worked for me. Ever since I’ve found organic canned lentils in my local grocery store, it has changed my life. It’s quick, easy, delicious, and perfect for a perpetual lentil failure like me.
Anyway, add in the olives, capers, and lentils. Mix. Cover the sauce and let it sit until your pasta is ready.
Step 4: Serve!
Pour some sauce on top of the pasta, garnish, and serve!
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September 14, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
When I first became vegan, I tried to substitute a lot of food I was previously addicted to (namely cheese). I bought all the fake cheeses at the store, and almost every single one disappointed me. I tried to substitute the taste I missed so much.
Here I am, a year and a half later, and I don’t have those cravings anymore. I guess you can say I’ve weaned myself off of my former addiction to cheese. Although I make cashew cheese now (my latest obsession), I’ve accepted that they are two different tastes. In fact, I love the way my cashew cheese tastes, and I feel good about the benefits.
This recipe is an upgrade from my last macaroni and cheese entry, which I deemed to be “The Best Vegan Macaroni and Cheese.” No, lol. Just no. It was not the best macaroni and cheese. I know this now because THIS is the best macaroni and cheese.
Here is a picture of my former macaroni and cheese, including a list of why it wasn’t the best:
- It was sticky. Macaroni and cheese shouldn’t have the consistency of white rice. It should be oozy.
- It was processed. Adding the Tofutti cream cheese gave the mac n’ cheese a processed flair that I didn’t care for.
- The flavor still had room for improvement. It could still afford to be cheesier.
Rest assured that this entry right here is the cure to all of your vegan mac ‘n cheese woes, including the ones listed above. To make the dish more oozy, I added more oil and milk and took away the water completely. I formerly used Tofutti cream cheese to improve texture, but it turns out that if I added more cashew cream, Tofutti wasn’t at all necessary. Finally, to improve flavor, I used some different spices, which includes a perfected medley of nutritional yeast, sea salt, and smoked paprika.
So come on down and try the best vegan mac ‘n cheese you will ever try in your life. Yeah, performed that song and dance before, but that was then and this is now. I guarantee you that this is the last time I will ever change this recipe, because now, it’s perfect the way it is.
The Best Vegan Mac ‘n Cheese!
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 full servings or 8 side-dish servings
In the skillet:
- 1 cup russet potatoes, chopped (any white variety will do)
- 1/3 cup onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup carrots, chopped
- 2 tsp grape seed oil
For the cashew cream:
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked** for 8 hours prior to use OR milled)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbs of grape seed oil
- 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbs nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 pound of your favorite noodles (I use gluten-free quinoa pasta from Ancient Harvest)
- 1 head of broccoli, de-stemmed and chopped
** If you soak your cashews, use 3/4 cup of raw cashews instead of 1 cup, as the cashews will expand.
Step 1: Cook the skillet ingredients.
Cut up the potatoes, carrots, and onion. Don’t peel your potatoes; keep those nutrients in! Place these items in skillet with the 2 tablespoons of oil. Initially, place the items on medium heat. Once the contents start crackling, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
Step 2: Boil the macaroni noodles.
Don’t worry about cooking them al dente. I have found that the al dente noodles tend to get a little crunchy in the oven, so I always cook my noodles until they are squishy, but not mushy. Nobody likes mushy.
Once you strain the noodles, rinse them off with cold water. This prevents the noodles from cooking themselves longer from the heat they retain during boiling.
Step 3: Prepare the cashew cream.
I have a NutriBullet, which has a milling blade that grinds cashews to a flour without the need for soaking. If you place the raw cashews in a strong food processor, blender, or coffee grinder, it will probably work. The result you’re looking for is the cashew pulp, seen below. For the non-soakers, blend your cashews first before adding the rest of the ingredients.
For most of you, you will need to soak your cashews for 8 hours prior to making this meal. Once the soaking is over, drain your cashews. Make sure you have a strong blender or food processor to avoid chunks of wet cashews (ew). For the soakers, you’ll probably need blend the cashews and coconut milk first before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Once you have blended the cashews, add the rest of the cashew cream ingredients. It will look something like this:
Step 4: Blend the skillet and cashew cream ingredients in a food processor.
Your skillet time should be up. Dump both the skillet ingredients and cashew cream ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
Step 5: Mix the noodles, cheese, and broccoli together. Cook.
I cook for only two, so this recipe is excessive for us. We are huge leftover fans, so I put half of the noodles in one baking dish and half in another. I do the same with the cheese and broccoli. One dish will be cooked now; the other will be placed in the fridge and will be cooked tomorrow.
If you live in a house of 4 or more, you’re probably intent on cooking all of it at once, and that is a splendid idea! Oil your favorite baking dish(es) first. Place your noodles in the baking dish. Dump the cheese on top, sprinkle your broccoli pieces, and stir it all up.
Place your dish(es) in the oven at 350º for 30 minutes.
See? No more sticky noodles. Only the yums.
Also, as always, make sure you let me know how your dish turned out! You can comment below, tell me on Facebook, or use the hashtag #thisvegangirl on Instagram. I update the blog once a week, but I post on Instagram several times a day. Also, you can follow my board on Pinterest. I post my own recipes there, but I also post other recipes that tickle my fancy.
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June 24, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
Who out there can’t live without their food processor? Mine is perpetually in the dishwasher, being that I use it on the daily. Now that I’ve had one, I don’t think I could happily go on without one.
I regularly make hummus, broth, dressings, and drizzles with it. I’ve dabbled with ice cream-making and pie crusts with it, too. Surprisingly enough, this was the first time I’ve made pasta sauce with it, and I feel like I’ve found a key to a door that should’ve been opened a long time ago.
Pasta dishes seem so boring and cliche. Not to mention that the pictures are pretty unstimulating, as well. (Who has the energy to put the oregano leaves on top, and surround the final photo with the raw ingredients used? Hmm… real photographers, I guess. Complaining like a true amateur.) But trust me when I say that despite the dullness these photos may exude, this pasta sauce is easy to make and easy to fall in love with.
Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
Yield: 3-4 servings
- a heaping cup of tomatoes
- a heaping cup of red bell pepper
- 1/2 lemon, squeezed
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbs fresh oregano, minced
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Other ingredients seen in pictures:
- gluten-free quinoa spaghetti
- 1 1/2 cups baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup baby eggplants, sliced
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
STEP 1: Mince the garlic and oregano.
I use my NutriBullet’s mincing blade to make these two as small as possible. I find that if I throw the garlic and herbs full-sized along with the other ingredients in the food processor, it doesn’t get the ingredients as small as I want it to be. The smaller it is, the more flavor throughout.
By the way, I would like to congratulate my oregano on its first appearance! It’s doing well in the herb garden.
STEP 2: Throw in all ingredients in the food processor.
Make sure it’s a strong food processor, as you want the sauce to be smooth. If not thoroughly mixed, this will not produce the “chunky” sauce you want.
Set aside when smooth.
STEP 3: Chop up other ingredients you wish to feature in your pasta.
I found these adorable baby eggplants at Nelson Family Farms in Fort Pierce, FL! There a bit longer than my palm. I’ve never seen these before! This variety of eggplant is easy to chop, perfect for bite-sized disks, and absorbs flavors like a dream.
I also chose to throw in onion and mushrooms. It was a medley of perfection.
STEP 4: Cook pasta and chopped veggies.
I used two tablespoons of coconut oil to cook the veggies with. It takes about 10 or so minutes to accomplish.
STEP 6: Simmer sauce and strain pasta.
Once the veggies are cooked down, set the stove to a low setting and pour in the spicy red pepper sauce. Mix and let it sit for a few minutes.
Dish out the pasta noodles, pour the sauce on top, and enjoy!
February 9, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Central Florida. After a rainy, disgusting week, it’s sunny and beautiful, with a high of 71 degrees. Oh Florida, it’s great to have you back!
After a stellar morning involving a morning run, yoga in the park, and some partner yoga with my best friend, I came home wanting a great lunch. We haven’t had a big grocery run in about a week, and we need to clear out the ripe veggies in the fridge to make way for the new ones. “Perfect for soup!” I thought.
Much to my dismay (initially), I realized that my stash of vegetable bouillon was all gone. What started out as a soupy defeat quickly turned into a chance to be creative. I didn’t have an hour to simmer my veggies to make stock (who does?), so I decided to use the same approach as I did to make my instant cashew cream: mill it up!
In order to successfully make this soup, you’ll need a really powerful food processor, or some type of milling device. If not, you’ll end up with a chunky broth, and nobody wants that.
This soup was tasty, quick, fridge-clearing, packed with nutrition, and didn’t take a lot of ingredients!
Lentil Soup in a Homemade Veggie Broth
Prep and Cook Time: 20 minutes combined
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 cups ripe tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes that were getting a bit wrinkly)
- 4 celery stalks
- 3 large carrots
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbs sea salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 cans of organic lentils, strained and rinsed
- 8oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- ½ cup white onion, chopped
- 4oz quinoa pasta – OPTIONAL – (I used Ancient Harvest Garden Pagoda quinoa pasta)
STEP 1: Create the broth.
Prep your stove by setting your pot on medium-low heat. That way, when your broth is ready, you can make it instantly hot.
Take the broth ingredients, except the water and salt, and put them in your food processor. Mill those ingredients together until it has become completely smooth liquid.
Once your veggies are smooth, pour your soup onto the pot. Add the water and salt.
STEP 2: Strain and rinse your lentils.
Add the lentils to the pot.
Why the canned lentils? I’ve tried raw lentils a countless amount of times through soaking, simmering, adding baking soda, and a combination of all three. No matter what I did, I couldn’t ever seem to get my lentils to be that puffy, soft consistency. They would ALWAYS turn out a bit crunchy. I finally gave in and bought organic lentils, and I haven’t looked back since! It doesn’t hurt that they’re also quick and easy.
STEP 3 (optional): Prepare the pasta.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add in 4oz of quinoa pasta to boiling water, allowing the pasta to boil for 6 minutes. Strain and add to the pot when ready.
STEP 4: Add chopped veggies to the pot.
While the pasta water is heating up, increase the stove to medium heat. Chop the onion and mushrooms and add the two to the pot. Cover with a lid until you add in the pasta, about 6-8 minutes.
STEP 5: Ready to eat!
We prepared Schar Gluten-free Ciabatta Rolls to dip into our soup.
By the way, it’s REALLY difficult to get a great picture of soup. Here is my best attempt.