Fusilli Roasted Veggie Primavera

This is the Fusilli Roasted Veggie Primavera from (of course) Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction. Losing weight can never hurt (especially since I gained about 15 lbs the past few years), and all of the recipes in this book are lower in calories and nastiness than your average meal. This one made me feel good about my life choices, for sure.

I was a bit surprised that there was no sauce to speak of with this, I expected it to be a bit on the dry or dull side. Turns out that the freshly roasted veg is so flavorful and juicy that it doesn't lack anything in the sauce department.

The recipe calls for a pile of roasted vegetables, which were damn pretty in all stages of cooking this (see photo). I also swapped butternut squash for yellow, since it's oddly what the store had (yellow is more in season). There was zucchini, asparagus (which I held on putting in till the last 10-15 min b/c it was so spindly), Red bell, red onioin, cherry tomatoes and garlic. Other than that, it was pretty simple (oregano, thyme, olive oil, salt, black pepper and balsamic).

Keeping it pretty simple really accentuates the flavor of the veg. The cherry tomatoes were fantastic, hitting one of those was like having a really fresh Italian sauce since it was combo'd with the aforementioned spices.

This will be a staple for sure, probably more when fall comes around though, as it needs a hot, hot oven and my apartment is 88 degrees in the shade today (though there's always the grill!)

Italian Vegan Sausage Ravioli with Fresh Pasta and Mama Sauce

I have to apologize for the pic- the lighting makes the food look like hell. Which is tragic, because this is one of the best eyes-rolling-back-into-my-head meals that I've made in awhile. It was for my Valentine, so it was a bit more all-out than ... who am I kidding, I'm always cooking all out :)

So- for starts, I made the Italian Sausage from Vegan Brunch. You'll recall that her Chorizo is amazing from the same book, and this is equally so. I had actually made these before and we ate them on buns and they were kind of meh (nothing fantastically exceptional). But pairing these with the pasta sauce turns out to be the trick. Literally, Davey and I were taking sausage slices and just dunking them into the sauce ala chips and dip and it was amazing! For the ravioli filling, I minced the sausage and we just went with it alone. It would be great with cheese too, but I'm not wild about vegan cheeses, so for us, the sausage plain was great.

I then made the pasta dough. I got the recipe online HERE. It was good. I am a bit of a pasta making amateur. We did it a few times in Chicago years ago when we first got our handy Kitchenaid pasta attachments for the stand mixer, but we used egg in those days. This was a really stiff dough that was a bit hard to work with at first, but it turned out alright. It was also pretty heavy, I think that had to do with thickness, but, it was fine. I did find the most fantastic trick for ravioli making, though! I looked up how to seal them up without egg online and found a fella who did the following; you lay the dough down over a mini muffin tin loosely, push the dough down gently into the muffin cups, fill the divots with your filling, top with another dough sheet, roll over the whole thing with a rolling pin (which seals and gets bubbles out), flip the whole thing over, cut your squares out, and voila! It was so flipping easy, and such a great trick. I highly recommend that (versus laying the stuffing on top, then sealing- which I remember to be a bit of a pain).

The ravioli just gets boiled like normal and that bit is done. Meanwhile, I was simmering mama sauce all day. I'm posting my recipe below, which, like chili, gets altered depending on what's in the house. On Valentines, I used about 1/4 c of fresh herbs (oregano, sage and rosemary), then added dried thyme, oregano, marjoram and such. That was absolutely delicious, but this is too. The key, I think, is to simmer for 4+ hours and also to go with what the sauce is doing. It never seems identical to me, throughout the day, I taste and add sugar if it's too acidic, oregano and pepper if it's too bright, etc. Go with what tastes good for you. But, by all means, make that sausage with it because, holy amazing!

Mama’s Sauce

1 roma or small tomato
2 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 lil (8oz?) can tomato paste
1 small palm full (2T or so) dried basil
1 small palm full dried parsley
¾ onion
6 cloves garlic
1 ½- 2 cups veg stock
3 T dried oregano
1 T ground sage
½ t thyme
shake-a shake-a cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 t sea salt
1 t ground black pepper
2-3T sugar

Sauteé onions until translucent, add garlic, sauteé a bit more, add basil (or save for the last hour- if it's fresh, I wait, but I've added dry at the start) and parsley, add 1 28 oz can of tomato sauce, paste, broth and all spices- no sugar.

Mix well, bring to a rapid simmer, turn heat down to low, simmer- stirring somewhat often for about 4-5 hours, tasting and adjusting every hour or so. Add sugar if it’s too acidic. Blend with an immersion blender, add 28 oz can of sauce, mix well, heat until warmed again, stir and serve.

Arancini w/ Roasted Tomato Sauce

This is an appetizer from the Candle 79 book. It was pretty darn good. Quite a lot of effort for an appetizer at home, but good. I had read it over and deemed it worthy of being an entree- but it turns out that they were right. It would have been far better as a starter.

Their sauce was a great lesson in simplicity though. Turns out that I have never written about my mama sauce recipe. I'll have to photo it and post it next time I make it. My childhood BFF is Italian. She refuses to eat any other red sauce besides her mom's. This is rather stereotypical (the whole "my mom's sauce is the best" thing)- but I've had Lucia's sauce. It is the best. My recipe is an amalgam of hers and RFD's, and involves a minimum of 6 hours of cooking. One time that I made it, I was tasting it throughout the day and found a significant shift between hours 5 and 6. At 5 it was a really good sauce, at 6- the flavors melded in a way that really dialed it to 11. And, Lucy had said that 8 hours simmer is ideal, so I'm going to listen to her.

Having said all that- this is a sauce that only takes about an hour. They get away with it because the only spices in it are fresh basil, salt and pepper. The key to boosting the flavor is roasting the tomatoes. I was extremely skeptical- being a mama sauce convert and all, but this is a really nice, fresh, light sauce that worked great with this dish and would be amazing with a really hearty ravioli. So, I shall keep it in my pocket for such occasions.

The balls themselves were good too. For one, they incited endless crass jokes and giggles from me and Davey (3rd grade humor). Also, they were tasty. They were a bit labor intensive for an appetizer, but would really be impressive at a dinner party. They are basically Italian rice that is supposed to be stuffed with tempeh and vegan cheese, then breaded and pan fried. All went well except that the rice mix wasn't firm enough to hold it's shape when I stuffed it so I mixed the filling into the rice and then rolled them up and breaded and fried them. This actually worked out well- I think that getting tempeh in most bites worked out best- it could even have used about double the tempeh to make me happy.

All in all- very tasty!

Pasta Con Broccoli

This is the Pasta Con Broccoli from Appetite for Reduction. Again, I was trying to mimic something that I love from a restaurant. The restaurant is Joey's on Jackson that was in Milwaukee (it has since closed, a fact that I am devistated by because it was a darling family place and also we had our amazing wedding reception dinner there where we fed most of the restaurant with my mom and aunt Pat's amazing Martha stewart espresso chocolate cake). Anyway, I always got the Pasta Con Broccoli there, and it was always mind-blowingly amazing. Generally, it was kind of greasy but loaded with garlic, it had cheese and probably cream and butter to really gunk it up in a gooey delicious way, and it was just over the moon fantastic. Now all I have left of our relationship together is a wedding photo of me and the dish at our reception (see 2nd and 3rd photos).

This was good too. Not Joey's good. Probably far healthier good, though. There's a great undercurrent of sizzle to this because you sautée crushed red pepper in the oil with the onion (my addition, there's no onion in the recipe, but Joey's had onion). This uses 1/4 cup of garlic which is more than I have ever used ever in a recipe- except bruscetta (and I love garlic). Still, I think Joey's had more. Because this didn't have all the dairy to congeal, it was way waterier than my beloved Joey's, so although it was really very tasty, it wasn't what I was going for. It's a nice, light pasta dish though that, like I said- is really the thin, fit cousin of what I was looking to make.

I also added cauliflower and the recommended pine nuts. Joey's was great with cauliflower, but this probably would have been better without it. The pine nuts were great in it though.

Still, I miss Joey's.

Eggplant Stacks

A frequent fave of ours, this was modded out a bit from a Peta recipe that I got about 100 years ago. I'll share b/c we've changed it a bit. The eggplant is fried, so it may be a bad New Year's resolution dish, but it's also a decadent treat.

1 large Eggplant
1 jar red pasta sauce (or equivalent homemade, I made RFD's tomato sauce which was amazing with it)
1 package Angel Hair Pasta
soy parmesan
1/2 c Olive Oil
1-2 c Flour
1 T salt
Lots of paper towels.
Parmesan cheese (if you're into that kind of thing)

*goes nicely with red wine and crusty bread

If you're making your sauce, do that first or be sure that it's ready to go.

Wash the eggplant and slice horizontally into disks. Dissolve the salt into the water, add the slices, weigh them down with a plate and leave for 20 minutes to de-bitter the eggplant (I've read a lot about this being unnecessary, I'm too scared about ruining a dish to skip the step, so far, it works out great, so I do it).

Preheat oven to 350 and get a 9x12 baking pan ready. In a large skillet, heat the oil until it's almost bubbly. Leave all of your slices in the water, they'll need to be wet. Place a wet slice into the flour and coat both sides, put floured eggplant into the oil and repeat with other slices. Fry the eggplant until both sides are golden brown, let drain on a paper towel (or 12). Once your slices are all cooked up, you can start your stacking.

Pour enough sauce in the 9x12 pan to coat the bottom. Place eggplant slices into the sauce (about 6 fit into the pan). Now, if you eat cheese, this is amazing with a good parmesan that you can layer in at this point the way that you would lasagna. I don't- and it's still good. put a spoonful of sauce on each slice of eggplant, cover with another slice of eggplant, etc. You're basically just making layered stacks; sauce, eggplant, sauce, eggplant... until you run out of eggplant. I finish it with a dollop of sauce on top too to keep the top layer from drying out. Pour any extra sauce into the pan being careful not to drown your bottom layers.

Heat for about 12 minutes. If you've cheesed it up, that's a great way to know if they're done or not (when the cheese is melted and browned a bit). If not, 12 minutes will suffice.

While the eggplant is baking, boil your angel hair. Drain, and then make little nests of noodles on your serving plates. Once the eggplant is done, spoon some sauce from the pan onto a noodle nest, top with a stack, dust with vegan parmesan, and you're done! A nice crusty bread goes well with this too (what doesn't go well with a nice crusty bread?!)

Pasta e Fagioli with Spinach

New Cookbook! I just got Appetite for Reduction, Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new book (awesome title and cover), which features low cal vegan recipes (it is the new year and time for that sort of thing- especially after the 3 dozen batch of sugar cookies that Davey and I ate in a week). This is the Pasta e Fagioli with Spinach on pg 185. We had never had pasta with beans, and both loved it. I thought that on the whole, the tomatoes made it a bit acidic and that it could have used some deeper tones. The spinach and beans were great in it though, maybe I'll add more beans next time to round it out a bit more. All in all, very good, though. Davey loved it and had seconds, which is always a good sign. Also, since it cooks up rather fast (about 30 minutes total), it may be a recipe that tastes better the next day after everything has steeped overnight. And, it's good to know that you're only eating 440 calories of pasta too!


This is easy peasy do-it-in-your-sleep easy, but I took a nice photo of it so I thought I'd share.

1 baguette
3 firm tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c basil chopped
Olive oil (about 4 T)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine tomatoes, garlic and basil in a bowl and set aside. Slice baguette into 1/5 ths, and then slice each piece lengthwise. Set out inside-side-up on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes or until crusty. Divide tomato mixture onto tops and serve immediately.

Tyler and Phoebe's Perfect Pesto Sauce

The name don't lie. This is page 177 from La Dolce Vegan. I've made it plenty of times, and there was always something off about it. I toasted the pine nuts because the recipe says "toasted pine nuts". We have a basil plant that I harvest every so often for this recipe, and then I'd make it and we'd be like, eh- not so good. S'alright- but not good. The pine nut taste was way too pungent.

File that under "taking things far too literally". The f-ing pine nuts say "toasted" on the bag. So, this time, I just used the 1/4 cup of them plain- untoasted, and abra cadabra shezam- perfect pesto. Duy.

So, yeah, don't toast your toasted pine nuts.

Basil Tofu Ricotta

This is the Basil Tofu Ricotta from p 133 of Vegan with a Vengeance. This picture pretty much looks like hell and does it no justice. Please don't take that out on the recipe, which is really very delicious. It calls for just the right amount of nutritional yeast which can make me sick when there's too much in a recipe. It tastes full and rich and flavorful, but has a fraction of the fat and calories of ricotta. I used it in a lasagna which was good for days (we made a separate real ricotta cheese one for days so I had an 8x8 tofu one all to meself). Davey tasted mine and said it was better than the cheese one. Also, I finished mine and his is still aging in the fridge, so I guess he was right.