Sunday, October 5, 2014

Penne alla Vegan Vodka Sauce

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.
I eat out a lot. It's getting to be a problem. (I signed up for a professional culinary course, just to force myself to cook more. A little drastic/expensive? Yes. But I think it will be worth it). My preference is always Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian or Middle Eastern cuisines. But my boyfriend's favorite is Italian. He could eat pizza and pasta twice a day for the rest of his life and be happy. This is not an exaggeration. Italian isn't the friendliest for those of us who can't eat dairy without running immediately to the bathroom, but I'll take one for the team and have my olive oil drenched pasta while eying everyone else's delicious meal.

October is National Pasta Month, and I'm  not going to lie, pasta is a staple in our house, not just because Jesse loves it, but because it's so fast to whip up. You really can't go wrong with pasta + veggies + beans,and it never takes over 25 minutes.  Hello weeknight savior! It taste great, and it's a balanced nutritious meal. So when I found out there was a pasta Recipe Redux contest, I knew I had to up my cooking ante and try something I've always admired, but haven't tasted since before the age of 12.  Don't worry--Jesse has had both regular and this version of vodka sauce and this gets his thumbs up.

Before we get to the recipe, let's talk about the vodka in vodka sauce. Pretty sure I ordered this as a small child just because alcohol sounded cool and grown up. While I love Bloody Mary's now, the thought of eating vodka and tomatoes together still sounds a little strange... Thanks to food genius, Kenji Lopez-Alt, I now have the answer. You must check out his full explanation and experiment, but in short, vodka adds heat and a sharp note to balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and the creaminess of...cream... So if you won't have vodka in your house, it's not the end of the world. But you should really have vodka in your house.
Plus, the alcohol almost all burns off, and you're left with 100% whole grain pasta, baby kale and mushroom goodness covered in delicious, decadent vodka sauce. 

Penne alla Vegan Vodka Sauce with Baby Kale and Mushrooms
Makes 4 servings

  • 12 oz 100% whole wheat penne pasta, dry
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes with garlic, canned
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes, no salt added, canned
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small clamshell baby kale (about 2 cups) 
  • 14 oz can white beans drained and rinsed 
  • Pinch of sea salt
  1. Put water on to boil for pasta. 
  2. Blend cashews and water until it's a fine puree. Set aside.
  3. In one pan, start sauteing mushrooms
  4. In a second pan, saute onions with olive oil and red pepper flakes until onions turn translucent. Add in garlic and saute for one minute. 
  5. Add in both cans of tomatoes and vodka. Reduce heat to a simmer for 7 minutes.
  6. If your water is boiling by now, add pasta to boiling water, and cook according to package (usually 9-11 minutes). 
  7.  To sauteed mushrooms add white beans and kale. Simmer for 1 minute, turn off heat and cover.
  8. To tomato sauce, add cashew puree and nutritional yeast. Stir.
  9. Plate pasta and vegetables, and cover with vodka sauce. Enjoy!

Want more healthy pasta dishes? Start here:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Stop! Smoothie Time!

When Heather from Williams-Sonoma asked if I would be interested in answering some questions about smoothies, I said hell to the yes. I start almost every day with a smoothie. Whether it's a post-workout high protein shake, or a green-rich meal smoothie, smoothies are a key part of my morning routine.

1. Most people who don’t own a juicer but own a blender really enjoy creating smoothies. What is a smoothie recipe you like to create and why? Do you like creating a smoothie consisting of fruits and veggies?

Personally, I'm all about the smoothie. I'll enjoy a green juice here or there, but since I don't own a juicer, I mostly stick to smoothies. Nut Milk + Protein + Fruit + Greens = Your ultimate smoothie combo. Let me break it down a little further fr you: 5 Essential Ingredients Every Smoothie Needs Obviously, all my smoothies have Vega One or Vega Sport Performance Protein in them. But you can also stick to a hemp or pea protein. Get crazy and experiment with flavors. The worst thing that can happen is you'll have to dump it down the drain and start again. Not the end of the world. Pinterest is one of my favorite places to find AND save my favorite smoothie combinations.

2. Green juices and smoothies seem to be very popular, but could be a little scary because of the color. What are ingredients you suggest someone using in a green smoothie? Is there a green smoothie that you love?

The first time I heard of a "Green Monster" I dismissed it, because how the heck could that taste good?? Finally, I bit the bullet and added some spinach to my smoothie. It blew me away that you can't even taste it! On days when I'm running around, and possibly eating out a lot, I love starting my day with at least a handful of greens so I know I'll get some veggies it. Green smoothies are basically a veggie insurance plan.

To make green smoothies taste good, add a hunk of ginger. The heat will eliminate all grassy tastes. Or stick to one of these foolproof smoothies.

3. There are so many different brands of juicers and blenders, and depending on the equipment you choose it can make the same ingredients taste differently. Why do you prefer to use a blender vs. a juicer?

Blend it baby! I'm all about my blender. (and no, I don't have a vitamix yet. Anyone want to hook me up with one?) Though, after looking at this list of juicers, I might have to add one to my wish list...Sure would be cheaper than buying them out!

What are YOUR smoothie secrets?