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.

Eggplant Bolognese

This recipe came from Whole Foods website. Not sure what rabbit hole got me there, but I thought I'd try it (we had a spare eggplant). It had great flavor for sure. It wasn't very saucy- the chopped veg is just chunky and the sauce was pretty runny (vs a nice thick, stick to your noodle sauce). We ate it over spaghetti noodles the first night and then took the leftovers and used them as a pizza topping the next day. Davey (who eats cheese) did; crust, pizza sauce, Bolognese and covered it with cheese for his 1/2. My 1/2 had; crust, olive oil, shredded FYH "mozzerella" and Bolognese on top. It was so-so. Davey said his was great. I doubt I'd make it again because it's not really my thing. But, if you're into chunky veg, this may be the sauce for you.

The recipe is HERE.

Cold Penne Salad

This is the Cold Penne Salad from RFD's book (otherwise known in the restaurant as "Penne for Your Thoughts", I guess (says the book, so it must be so). It's phenomenal. While I was making it, I was really second guessing it. It seemed like such a loony mix of stuff. There's cooked onion, broccoli, green pepper, garlic... then chopped kalamata olives, re-hydrated sun dried tomatoes, penne, balsamic vinagrette-marinated grilled portabello and... pesto sauce (with miso!). Yet, because Ann Gentry has come up with things far more over the moon than I ever have, I followed the recipe to the letter and it payed off (whew!). It was fantastic! Oh, there's pine nuts too, which I'm convinced elevate a lot of salad, pasta and rice dishes to heights that they'd never otherwise achieve. It's also served room temp, which worked out great for my new job which doesn't have a fridge or micro (a vegan lunchtime challenge!) But, this works. It did take a long time to cook, though (a sauce, a marinade, grilling, cooking, etc)- but, as the RFD book has taught me, really amazing food usually takes time.

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.

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!

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.