Eatin’ With Vegans

Posted: December 2, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: pasta, pumpkin, quick, Rita | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A few times now I’ve referenced a vegan friend of mine who needs to be accommodated at times when it comes to cooking or going out to eat. As someone who’s lived her whole life with dietary restrictions, I’m completely cool with this, even if it’s really not for me! Said friend, despite being a pretty strict vegan and strictly kosher, doesn’t do much cooking for herself and is a little bit clueless when it comes to the kitchen. So, like any good foodie-ish friend, I offered to make her dinner some Sunday and guide her a bit on how to cook.

For her birthday last year, I got my friend Veganomicon, a friendly vegan cookbook with simple but tasty recipes, what I thought would be the perfect gift. But as it turns out, despite being very encouraging to novices and offering lots of tips (“Here’s how you core an apple,” say) my friend, ok I’ll just call her B., barely used it, partially because she was still a little afraid to! That just isn’t right!! Cooking is one of the greatest things one can do for oneself. To be able to feed yourself is to be self-reliant, and making a meal or dish is a great blend of creativity, science, health and timing. You can’t beat that! I resolved to help create a delicious, healthy, vegan meal for B, show her a couple of pointers and just have a good time hanging out with her.

B. picked the main, which was Pumpkin Ricotta Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Breadcrumbs, except since she has a sensitive stomach, the onions were nixed just in case they’d upset her. But hey, anything pumpkin is totally awesome by me. Even the recipe called for it to be paired with a light salad or veggie, so I also made sauteed swiss chard to go with it. Dessert was medjool dates — mmmm. I freaking love medjool dates, they’re like chewy natural candy.

So, you may be asking, how the heck can ricotta be vegan? I certainly was thinking that there’d be no way to mimic anything to even remotely resemble cheese. But it’s actually super easy and I wouldn’t have known the difference. In a food processor, blend raw cashews (cup and a half?); then one pound firm tofu (= one package), crumbled. Add two cloves garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, two tablespoons olive oil and half a teaspoon of dried basil. Blend in food processor. Done! You’ve got yourself some vegan ricotta. It even looks like it, too. For the pumpkin part, spice up a 15 oz can of it (cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, whatever else you want), mix, then mix it in with the ricotta in a bowl. Done!

While the ziti boils in a pot, make the sage breadcrumb topping. Now, this is key to the whole dish, because the breadcrumbs are pretty effing delicious. In a food processor (Clean it out after the ricotta! Or not, since it’s all going to the same place anyway.) chop up stale bread to make into the crumbs. B. didn’t have any stale bread on hand, so we toasted some for a few minutes then just pulled it apart with our hands into crouton-sized pieces. In a pan that we buttered up with margarine, coat the crumbs, then toss with fresh sage and let it pan-fry for a few minutes longer. No fresh sage was on hand so we just used dried. It worked well regardless.

When the ziti was drained, we mixed it with the pumpkin ricotta, poured into a lasagna pan, covered in breadcrumbs, then baked at 350 for about 35 minutes. Done! How easy is that? And since this dish is especially heavy it was definitely a good idea to accompany this with something light and leafy.

Another vegan friend of ours joined us for dinner, and between the three of us we ate half the pan. This is a damn delicious meal, vegan or not.

I’m glad I got to spend some time with a good friend doing something that I really enjoy, and getting to share that joy with her and showing her the ropes. We plan on doing dinner night another time soon!


Alex Runs, Joh Cooks p. 2

Posted: September 3, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, Johanna, pasta, quick, spicy, vegetarian | 17 Comments »

I return, with another runner-centric post to help my dear dear friend Alex raise funds for her half-marathon to help fund cancer research!!! Once again, or if you’re new to the game, here are the rules:

I’m making a pledge to donate to this race, and in an effort to get as many people involved as possible, here’s the plan: I’m creating a category of recipes and posts called “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks” — for every comment I get on one of these posts, I’m donating money to Alex’s cause. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell runners, or any other athletes you know. Tell people – I would rather not be able to afford my donation goal, than not be able to give my friend support.

The Rules: Each individual comment counts, up to 2 per person per post. You don’t have to give insight – you just have to leave your name (although I welcome your insights!!!) Check Alex’s site, check the blog, leave your name here, and Alex will get money!!

Tonight, we also give a shout-out to my amazing friend Laura, as well, because Laura is in training for the NYC Marathon and has mentioned to me that one of her perpetual cravings has been peanut butter.
Peanut Butter Sesame Soba Noodles of JOY!!!!!As you may know, Peanut butter is fabulous. There are restaurants devoted solely to its advancement. It can be used in various ways, as a sauce, as a binder, as a protein. As long as you get the sugar-free kind, you’re not wasting your calories or carbohydrates. In the spirit of peanut butter being long used in Asian cuisine, I made Peanut Butter-Sesame Soba Noodles! You may not know this, but soba noodles are buckwheat noodles that usually also contain whole wheat flour. They contain tons of amino acids, including lysine, as well as many anti-oxidants. 100grams of soba noodles produces more energy and more amino acids than either traditional pasta or bread, while still giving you some carb energy. In general, soba noodles plus peanut butter is a great way to bump up your proteins in the days leading up to a big run, especially if you are a vegetarian, like my girl Alex.
Peanut Butter-Sesame Soba Noodles
4oz./half a package Soba noodles
2 tbs sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbs olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbs cumin
1-2 tsp soy sauce (optional, depending on your sodium levels/preferences)
3-4 tbs sesame oil
Optional: Sriracha, other hot sauce, red chili flake, cayenne pepper to taste.
Soba Noodles in Boiling WaterDry-toasted Sesame SeedsThe Usual Suspects

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, and drop the soba noodles in. You don’t need to rinse the noodles before you cook them, although you WILL need to rinse them after, because buckwheat is gummy/sticky occasionally. 6-8 minutes should do it. When they’re done, drain them, rinse them with warm water, drain, and rinse a second time.
2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (to taste) in a dry skillet until they start to smell nice, then remove them to a bowl.
3. In the skillet that you toasted the sesame seeds in, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the 2 crushed garlic cloves. If using, this is the time to drop in some crushed red pepper flake, and stir a lot. This should be about medium heat, you don’t want to burn anything. You’re trying to infuse the flavor of the garlic into the oil, as well as the spice of the red pepper flake. When you pull the Soba out of the water, take the garlic out of the skillet, add the peanut butter, and drop the heat.
4. As the peanut butter melts and begins to thin, whisk in the soy sauce if you’re using it, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, and the cumin. If you’re using hot sauce, now’s the time as well. Let this get warm, and if it starts to get too thick, add some warm water. If you use cold water, the peanut butter will seize up, get grainy, and just generally refuse to play anymore.

5.When the sauce is heated through, creamy and pretty thin, pull it off the heat, and add the noodles to a big bowl. Drizzle another tablespoon of sesame oil onto the noodles, then pour on the sauce. Turn turn turn the noodles in the sauce, taste, adjust the seasonings, and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

While this meal is delicious and amazing, we did not eat it alone. In fact, we paired it with gazpacho. While it was a little weird in the sense that we were eating a cold soup, and lukewarm noodles, it’s a good pairing from a nutrition standpoint. To make the simplest gazpacho, take any vegetables you like, (we used cucumber, a quarter of a red onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 bell pepper, 1 fryer pepper, and 6-7 tomatoes) chop them into chunks, and put them in your blender. Dash in some red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, and if you have it, some tomato juice. If you don’t, that’s totally fine – it’ll work. Blend it until you like the texture, and eat immediately, after an hour, a few days later, whenever. Gazpacho loves you back.

Now remember!! Comment Comment Comment so I can give Alex money!! She deserves it, and she’s working hard!!!


A long time coming

Posted: March 1, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: delish, Johanna, pasta, pumpkin, Rachael Ray, sausage | 4 Comments »


Two words for you, my friends. Canned Pumpkin.

I’m sure there are more words I could give you, but these are the vital ones. Here are a few more: Sausage, Sage, Cream, Broth, Penne Rigate. Amazing. Outstanding. Delicious. I’ve been thinking about this recipe for ages. Since June, when I had a chance to make it but missed out because of a random babysitting job.

This is an awesome recipe and it totally goes along with my pumpkin obsession.
Here are a few fun facts about me: I don’t really like all things pork related. I mean, I really really like bacon. I’m not 100% in love with most other pig products, although I will try them, obviously. I’m coming around to sausage, in no small part because of this recipe. Browned sweet italian sausage, onion, garlic, sage, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. Tossed with whole-wheat penne. Basically, it was intense. I even had seconds. Topped with tons of grated parmesan. Even cold, it’s delish. Make this recipe. Check it:



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.