Friday, January 8, 2016

Vegan Spaghetti and Mushrooms

2015 was all about changing up my diet. After doing a bit of research and listening to my body I decided to cut back on the amount of meat that I was consuming. I even went so far as to cut back dramatically on the amount of any animal products that I was using or consuming in my home. Now there's never been a bigger meat eater than me. I adore cheese burgers pork chops chicken fried steak you name it I would eat a pound of bacon in one sitting if I could. But after discovering how harmful it was for the earth and how harmful it was for my body, I decided to make some big changes. in August of 2014, shortly after my son was born, I decided to go meat free for 3 days out of the week. Initially it was difficult. I kept craving cheese burgers and all of the things that I was used to eating. But slowly but surely, after making some healthy swaps my body acclimated and I actually prefer meat free meals.

 One of my favorite meals is spaghetti and meatballs. I've tried soy meatballs, but they didn't have the depth of flavor that I'm used to. Plus, we don't really eat a lot of spy in this house. So one day I decided to try mushrooms. Mushrooms are often used to replace meat in burgers and sauces, so why not meatballs? They are the perfect shape, size, and they take on flavors very well. It's the perfect swap. Delicious, filling and vegan.

Look, I know what it's like to have those cherished, familiar recipes that all center on meat proteins. I know how hard it can be to wrap your head around going meatfree, but if you start small...swapping out veggies in your breakfast burrito instead of bacon, or using soy chorizo instead of beef in your favorite chili recipe
 It's not as difficult as you'd think. I have found that commiting to just 3 meals a week meatfree was easiest. There are countless benefits to reducing your consumption of animal products, but my favorite benefit has been WEIGHT LOSS! You heard me right, limiting beef, butter, eggs etc, has had an incredible effect on my overall health. And it can do the same for you. Don't know where to start? Try this easy recipe of spaghetti and mushrooms. Easy and damn tasty!

Vegan Spaghetti and Mushrooms

2 8 oz cans organic tomatoes sauce
1/2 vegan vegetable broth
1 tbsp organic maple syrup
1 tbsp dried Italian spices
2 tsp garlic or 1 small clove diced
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz mushrooms whole
1 package whole wheat spaghetti cooked according to instructions

Combine all ingredients except for pasta and stew for 2-3 hours over low heat. Top cooked pasta and serve with green salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Roasted Veggie Soup aka Refrigerator Soup

So...Refrigerator Soup may not be the most mouthwatering description of this recipe, but it's certainly the most accurate. Every few weeks, you probably end up throwing out a bunch of produce from the bottom of your fridge because the lettuce is wilted or your tomatoes got so bruised that the idea of eating them fresh makes you gag. Fine. I get that. But, I promise that with a little tender love and care, those neglected bits of leftover veggies can become something incredibly tasty!

With this recipe, high heat is your friend Roasting vegetables (or anything for that matter) really concentrates flavor. All the browned bits taste carmelized and even more savory at the same time. It's one of the rules drilled into us at culinary school. "Browning equals flavour!" I can hear Mr. RICCOMINI saying it now!
The higher and more direct heat the better. I don't have a broiler, but if I did, I'd use that.  Your oven will work just fine though so don't fret.
I learned this method fro working in restaurant after restaurant. You think your favorite five star eatery throws out hundreds of dollars in quality produce every week just because It's a little past It's prime? Nope. You're eating that produce in the soup of the day!
And be honest, it's your favorite soup, isn't it?

It's also worth mentioning that, in addition to being very very delicious and easy, my Roasted Veggie Soup is also completely vegan! How fun.

Roasted Veggie Soup aka Refrigerator Soup

Approx. 3 cups of chopped assorted veggies
(I used 5 medium brown mushrooms, half a small potato, 1 tomato, 2 romaine lettuce cores, a nub of carrot,  onion and celery)
4 cups water or organic vegetable broth

Coat your veggies with good olive oil and place in a cast iron pot. Roast veggies in a 450 degree oven until the veggies are a deep golden brown. Do not burn. This took me about 20 minutes. Remove and immediately add water or broth, scraping the bottom of the pan, releasing delicious browned bits. At this point you can either cool and blend in your blender, or simply use an immersion blender and puree right in the pot**. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve with chopped fresh herbs and garlic croutons.

** I don't strain my vegetable soup, personally I like the texture and all the added fiber. However if you decide to strain it, do so using a china cap or cheese cloth for a silkier soup.