What I Ate (These Past 3 Months) Wednesday

Throughout my 6 years of French lessons, in between insulting our jaded American attitudes and telling us that no one in France would ever actually be able to understand our terrible accents, my bitter instructor would pause daily to impart on us some examples of how Europeans exceed us in all areas of life.

If it wasn’t terrible enough that the French somehow manage to maintain the smallest waist-lines in the developed world on a steady diet of butter, cheese, and pastries, one tidbit that burrowed its way into my small American mind and made itself a bitter home was the knowledge that all French workers get 7 weeks paid summer vacation that they can take all at one time.

Yes, while most of us full-time workers here in the U.S. are sitting in our window-less cubicles, counting down the days to that 1-week vacay we begged our bosses for this year, most of France is gayly sunbathing their perfect, topless bodies on the beaches of the French Riviera while stuffing their faces full of soft cheese and macarons… and will be doing so for the next 5-11 weeks. What the eff? The world is a cruel, cruel place, mes amis.

Clearly my 1/4 french heritage has been having an affect on me, because summer hiatuses seem to have become a theme of this little blog. Last year I flat out took the summer off, this year I seem to have taken an early spring leave of just under 3 months…

And lot has happened in 3 months. Since I last posted, the weather has shot from a consistent 40 degrees straight up to 90, flowers have bloomed, pollen has infuriated my sinuses, the “S*** ______ Say” meme has died, and giffs have somehow become popular again through #whatshouldwecallme-type blogs. Yes, we’ve come a long way in 3 months.

When someone asks me what I’m making for my next blog post.

Expectation:

Reality:

But just as the French still manage to vacation and eat their hearts out at the same time, just because I haven’t been bloggin’ doesn’t mean I’ve been skipping out on making yummy meals (without the help of an iron, I might add)…

…And since I’m so back-logged, what better way to play catch-up than to join in the fun that is Peas and Crayon’s “What I Ate Wednesday”!

So without further ado, here’s what I cooked (and ate) while “en vacances” (as the French would say)…

Peas and Crayon’s own Quinoa Fried Rice

Skillet Penne With Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Cannelloni Beans, and Mozzarella

Toasted Coconut Cake Pops (my own creation!)

Decorated Marshmallow Peeps

Cadbury Deviled Eggs

Real Deviled Eggs

“Slutty” Brownies

Vegetarian Paella (From a bargain aisle cookbook) ;)

Spinach, Tempeh, and Rice Pilaf (my own concoction!)

New Year’s Resolutions and No-Calorie Noodles, Three Ways

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not good at a lot of things. I’m a terrible parallel parker. My artistic abilities are limited to shoddily drawn cartoons on par with those found in a third grade art class. I can’t for the life of me deep fry something without either completely ruining it, starting a fire, or burning off half of my taste buds.

But I have no shame in admitting that I am exceptionally good at making New Year’s resolutions. So good in fact, that last year I made exactly 50 of them.

Yes, 50. I have issues, don’t judge me.

Did I accomplish any of said resolutions? Considering I threw away the notebook containing them sometime in September, I would venture to say probably not…

But this year I’m doing things differently.

For starters, I’m not making 50 resolutions.

And this year I’m not going to be secretive about them and pretend I’m above all that New Year’s hoo-ha.

And I’m going to resist the urge to lump all of my goals into one big resolution like, “I’m going to be better at everything I’m already doing and start doing all the things I’m currently not.”

And this year I’m not going to start my list of resolutions with a resolution to make a list of resolutions. Yeah, that happened:

This year, I’m narrowing it down to five solid, concrete, accomplishable resolutions with measurable outcomes.

And I’m going to work my butt off to accomplish them…

…because on the off chance the world ends this December, and judgment day is less than 12 months away…well, I’ve got a loooooootttttt of work to do if I ever have a shot of getting my ass into heaven.

So, this year I’m going to work on 5 things, and only 5 things:

1) Find a new job.
2) Cook. Five times a week. No excuses, mofo. And baked potatoes with butter and cheese don’t count. Oh, and start packing a lunch while you’re at it. And for god’s sake, eat a normal breakfast once in awhile.
3) Blog. Once a week. At least. Don’t complain about it, you love this shit.
4) Share. Let others read Two Veggies. Play guitar for someone other than your stuffed animals. Go running with someone, even if you’re afraid you look like an injured ostrich while doing it.
5) Be healthier. Resume some form of viable exercise and perform it at least three times a week. Eat more vegetables. Eat a piece of fruit once in awhile. Commit to eating “healthy” meals five days a week.

Concise, right? <<Insert applause>>

But let’s talk about that last one for a minute.

A lot of people make resolutions like that… you know, the usual buffet of typical New Year’s promises: be healthy, lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, stop drinking, stop stuffing yo’ face full of chocolate cake at every forsaken opportunity.

I’m not a nutritionist, or a doctor, or motivator, or a life coach. I can’t give a long, inspired speech about finding your inner willpower, harnessing the inspiration to make get off the couch, making small permanent changes instead of big temporary ones… all that sing-songey new year’s stuff.

But I can share a little secret I stumbled upon that might make all those things easier:

Tofu shirataki. Looks like pasta. Tastes like pasta (i.e., nothing). Has the same texture as pasta (almost). But is only 20 calories per serving.

Did you hear that?!

I said, 20 friggin’ calories per serving. If that’s not a New Year’s miracle, then I don’t know what is.

In addition, the shirataki is (sort of) all natural. It has three ingredients: tofu, yams, water. It is dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and (almost) no carb. If you’re Paleo, I imagine this is as close to a pasta substitute you can get (while I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t eat tofu shirataki and it wouldn’t “technically” be Paleo, I doubt it would be a harmful addition to a Paleo meal when you’re just dying for some friggin’ pasta). They’re available at pretty much every grocery store I’ve been to, usually in the produce aisle next to where they keep the meat substitutes.

I’ve spent some time cooking with these bad boys over the past few months and I’ve had great results. As an Italian, it would be sacrilegious of me to ever consider permanently giving up pasta, but it’s always good to make substitutes when and where you can and save up all your pasta points for a night when you can really splurge on something goooooood…like pasta carbonara.

Here are three tried and tested recipes using tofu shirataki, each with a completely different taste to help you get kick started with your goals in the New Year! They all serve two VERY generously. Happy 2012!

Broccoli and Tofu Shirataki in a Spicy Ginger Scallion Sauce

  • 1 package of tofu shirataki, drained and rinsed with hot water
  • peanut oil, for sautéing
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 large broccoli crowns, chopped
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, ground
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet or salty you like your sauce)
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • siracha sauce to taste
  1. In a large pan or wok over high heat, add a liberal amount of peanut oil and the chopped onion. Stir until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli crowns, stirring constantly until they become heated and soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the onions and broccoli from the pan and onto a nearby plate for later use.
  3. Heat a little more peanut oil and add the scallions and ginger. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, honey, red pepper and some siracha. Heat for about 2 minutes and then taste, adjust the ingredients to your liking.
  4. Add back in the broccoli and onions and coat well in the sauce.
  5. Lower the heat and add the tofu shirataki, stirring until evenly coated with the sauce and heated through.
  6. Serve with some freshly grated ginger on top!

Thai Curry Noodle Soup

  • 1 package of tofu shirataki, drained
  • 2oz Laksa paste or other Thai curry paste
  • 1 large can (1 1/2 cups) light or full fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups mixed chopped vegetables
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  1. Place noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1 minute then massage to loosen into individual strands. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of peanut or other vegetable oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add curry paste and stir fry for 30 seconds. Quickly add coconut milk and 2 cups boiling water. Bring to the boil and add vegetables. Simmer for 2 minutes or until vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  3. To serve, divide noodles between 2 bowls. Pour soup and vegetable mixture on top of the noodles and top with basil leaves.

Mexican Pasta Bowls

  • 1 package tofu shirataki, drained and rinsed under hot water
  • half an onion, minced
  • splash of olive oil
  • 1 package fake veggie chicken (if you like)
  • three bell peppers (of assorted colors if you’re feeling fancy), cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup of canned black beans
  • 1/4 cup of frozen corn
  • small pinch of red pepper flakes
  • shredded chedda’ cheese, if you please (I sho’ do!)
  • Hefty pinches of:
    • Cumin
    • Chile powder
    • Paprika
    • Salt
    • Pepper
  1. In a large pan, saute the onion in the olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the fake chicken, bell peppers and frozen corn. Cook for about 7 minutes, until peppers are soft.
  3. Add the black beans and all the spices, mix well and heat thoroughly, about 3 minutes. Toss in the tofu shirataki and heat another 2 minutes.
  4. Dish into bowls and serve topped with shredded cheese, salsa, gauc, or whatever else fits your palette!

Christmas Recipe Round-Up

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Only a tiny handful of days left on the advent calendar, friends! Yes sir, Christmas is almost here!!!

Some people are partial to summer, others to fall and spring. My favorite season?! Christmas season, of course! For me (and most department stores and retail establishments) this season begins roughly a week after Halloween, when I start makin’ my list and checkin’ it twice. Christmas music starts a little before Thanksgiving, just so that my playlists can be perfect by the time Black Friday rolls around. Then I try to do something full o’ Christmas cheer every day until the BIG DAY itself. Yep, there’s nothing I love more than Christmastime.

This Christmas season has been a whirlwind one! We got a dog (a big black lab we’re fostering for a rescue organization… his name is Paddy, short for Padfoot… you know, like Sirius Black? Yes, I named him). I picked out, purchased, and managed to schlep home my first real adult Christmas tree. I folded more paper crane ornaments than I can count to decorate said tree. I spent $200 at William Sonoma on Christmas cookie supplies so that I could bake sugar cookies with my brothers. We had visits from both mine and le boyfriend’s parents. I bought lots of gifts for people I love. It snowed!

As much as I adore Christmas, I wouldn’t call December 25th my favorite day of the whole year. Nope, that distinction is reserved for the day before, Christmas Eve – the night all the Christmas magic happens.

I grew up in an exceptionally Italian family and Christmas Eve was always the big event. I have few happier memories than those spent gathered around the table at my Nonna and Nonno’s house and eating course after course after course of traditional Italian fare. Well, maybe not all of it was traditional, but it was certainly traditional to us – I looked forward all year to my Nonna’s stuffed shells and my uncle’s pasta primavera.

After at least 6 whole hours of eating and game playing, we would open gifts at midnight while eating dessert (yep, we still had room). The highlight was always these giant trash bags my Nonna passed off as stockings that would be full to the brim with every sort of knick knack you could never want. We’d all laugh and compare our finds, trade with each other, and gawk at the “real” gifts. It was the way Christmas should be; bellies full, family abundant, gifts galore, a feeling of excitement and anticipation as your head hits the pillow – just perfect.

These days our Christmas Eve’s are only a shadow of what they were in their prime. My Nonna sold her house when my Nonno died and now we all cram into her 1 bedroom apartment. She no longer has the energy to put together our trash bag stockings. Many of my family members can’t make it each year. We’ve scaled down the menu to a few appetizers, one pasta dish, and one dessert.

I miss the days when the holiday was big, but the important things are still there: amazing family, fun games, copious gifts, a Christmas Story playing on repeat. There is still nothing better, that’s for sure.

I still hold out hope that sometime, someone will revive our traditional Christmas Eve, but in the meantime, I’ve rounded up some of my family’s favorite recipes that fill my heart (and tummy) with holiday cheer. Hope they fill you up too!

Antipasto Salad Spread
Stuffed Shells
Clams Casino
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Fried Calamari
Pasta Primavera 
Pasta Aglio e Olio Con Sarde
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Holidays! 

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

Holidays can be hard for us vegetarians, even ones like me that have been known to sneak a few slices of turkey every now and then.

Thanksgiving is arguably the hardest of all holidays for us veggies. If your Thanksgiving day host is unprepared for a vegetarian at the holiday table, it can be particularly dismaying — no big centerpiece entree, no stuffing, no gravy…and if your family is like mine and puts bacon in everything, no mashed potatoes either. Sometimes we vegetarians need to bite the holiday bullet and take matters into our own hands…

As I mentioned last week, le boyfriend and I were fed up with being second class citizens on Big Thursday and decided to host a vegetarian Thanksgiving as an alternative to trekking home to one of our parents. It worked out well! We made the following:

Veggie Seitan Loaf
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
Mushroom Gravy
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Sautéed Green Beans
Stuffing with Veggie Sausage
Seasoned Corn
Roasted Squash

I’ve never cooked SO much at one time before, and with three cooks in a teeny tiny kitchen, it was quite a feat! I completely blanked on taking pictures, so you’re just going to have to trust me when I say that it was AMAZING. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I’d be more than happy to make it a yearly tradition.

Leading up to our party, I did a lot of research about vegetarian thanksgivings. I wanted to find the BEST of what was out there for our menu and leave a good impression in our guest’s heads…many of whom had never attended a vegetarian Thanksgiving before!

It took no time at all to come up with a handful of good lookin’ side dishes that were meatless — sub in some of the fake stuff and your favorite Thanksgiving dishes are instantly vegetarian. But one conundrum that kept popping up was the severe lack of a big, centerpiece entree akin to a Turkey or a ham. Sure, there were plenty of great suggestions out there for making what amounted to glorified side dishes, but I wanted something big, traditional, and equally as satisfying.

My criteria were as follows:

Traditional – as in, something that could easily be associated with Thanksgiving. A lot of recipes for Thanksgiving lasagna out there… no thank you!
Comparable – if non-vegetarians were to have this instead of turkey, it would be acceptable.
Takes time and effort to prepare – there’s something to be said for the dedication and time it takes to prepare a turkey. It’s part of what makes Thanksgiving special.

In the end, my friend made this seitan turkey loaf. It met ALL of criteria and far outclassed my original plan, which was to reheat some Gardein Turkey Loafs that I ordered from Whole Foods (which I had later … blehhhh).

Next year, my plan is to make the Seitan Turkey Loaf all by myself (like a grown-up cook!) and when I do, I promise a huge, full post with pictures and deliciousness. Until then, I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving and a great start to the most wonderful time of the year!