Creamy Vegan Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

If I had to list 5 of my favorite things in life, it’d probably go a little something like this:

  1. Swimming in rivers
  2. Running on trails
  3. Cooking…anywhere
  4. Writing beneath the trees
  5. Eating rice of any kind

While a majority of people would rank pasta as their starch of choice, I am ALL ABOUT rice.

From curries and stir fries to enchiladas and soups, rice is the mother of carbs, and one of my true loves.

While I typically prefer brown rice, because of both its taste and health benefits, there are some times where I throw caution to the wind and serve up some white varieties, like when I eat risotto.

My devotion to rice is how I fell in love with cooking when I was a kid. Beginning with rice-a-roni, I elevated my craft over the years to actually cooking, and began experimenting more and more. After binge-watching Hell’s Kitchen, where all the chefs seem to do is cook (fuck up) risotto, I was determined to conquer this elusive dish and see if it really is as good as it looks.

Long story short, it was, and I cooked it at least once a week.

Back then, my risotto was chock full of cheese and cream, and could basically cause a heart attack just by taking a whiff.

So, in celebration of how far I’ve come on my journey to physical and mental health (oh, and for my mom’s birthday of course…) I decided to revamp my risotto recipe to make it not only vegan, but healthy…terms that people sometimes think are synonymous.

Not only is it just as decadent and creamy as my original version, it doesn’t rely on cheese and cream for its deliciousness. The herbs and vegetable flavors are front and center, rather than acting as necessary additives for the dairy to cover up.

Creamy Vegan Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup merlot or your favorite red wine
  • 1 container organic veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cups baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and cutting the ends off your asparagus, chopping them into fourths. Place on a baking sheet with 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper, and give them a shake to coat them evenly. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, bake for 10 more minutes, or until they’re soft, but still crunchy.

While asparagus bakes, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add sliced mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes more. Next, add the 1 cup rice and stir to incorporate everything. Cook rice with the veggies for another 5 minutes to toast the rice. Then, add the minced garlic, wine, and herbs. Stir constantly until wine is absorbed, and then add veggie broth one cup at a time, stirring constantly and making sure each cup is absorbed before adding the next. Once rice is tender and cooked through, turn heat to low and prepare cashew cream.

In a blender, add your drained soaked cashews, about 1/3 cup of water (less if you want it thicker, more if you want it thinner, you know the deal), lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until mixture is creamy and no lumps remain.

Add roasted asparagus and cashew cream to the risotto and mix well to incorporate. Let sit together on low for about 5 minutes until everything is incorporated and warmed through. 

This recipe will satisfy your craving for creamy indulgence without weighing you down and making you feel like you’re gonna pop a button off your jeans.

All you rice connoisseurs out there, try this baby out and let me know if you enjoyed devouring it as much as I did.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

Like I previously posted, I made a vegan spread for my non-vegan mother and stepdad this past Sunday.

When I was brainstorming recipe ideas, I had three main things in mind for what my mom likes

  1. Anything Decadent
  2. Anything Creamy
  3. Anything with Garlic

Now, I’m all over the “anything with garlic” aspect, but the other two aren’t typically what I look for in a meal, and aren’t usually what first comes to mind when most think vegan, so I had to batten down the hatches to make a meal that satisfied both my mom’s favorite meal components, while staying true to my veganism and keeping it all healthy. After all, there was a bit of nitpicky “mom pressure” on my shoulders to make her like my “vegan food.”

One of the first recipes I ever mastered as my very own classic is my rosemary risotto. I used to make it with tons of sharp cheddar, parmesan, and cream, and I made it at least once a week. I hadn’t ventured back to my risotto recipe since I committed myself to recovery and wellness, so I knew that I wanted to vegan-ize it for my mom who adores the recipe. (The vegan version came out DIVINE and I will be sharing tomorrow!)

To go with it, I decided on tomato soup. Not really one for Campbell’s, but a lover of restaurant-quality, creamy, lucious tomato, I’ve been craving a piping hot bowl from one of my favorite hometown restaurants that has since shut down. I know that my mom loves any kind of soup that’s creamy, so voila! Tomato soup was the answer to all three requirements of the birthday feast!

The cauliflower and cannellini beans make the soup creamy, thick, and decadent after everything is pureed, while the black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes give the soup a kick. It’s comfort in a bowl, I tell ya.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 large, vine ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 large can of organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup canellini beans
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup merlot or your favorite red wine
  • 1 container organic, unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Basil ribbons for topping

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your sliced fresh tomatoes on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and top with salt, pepper, and oregano. Bake for about 20 minutes or until skin starts to wrinkle and corners become crispy. While the tomatoes are cooking, heat a large pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add diced onion, pepper, and cauliflower to the oil, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and cannellnini beans and cook a few minutes more. Once veggies are softened and beginning to brown, turn heat to medium-high and add the balsamic vinegar, stirring constantly until the veggies have absorbed the vinegar. Next, add the can of crushed tomatoes, the wine and veggie broth. Stir to incorporate everything. Add the roasted tomatoes from the oven and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes. Let soup cool, then either use an immersion blender, or a regular blender to puree the soup. Reheat on low heat and season to taste. Serve immediately and top with fresh basil.

This soup is thick, spicy, and flavorful, and is best served with a giant slice of your favorite bakery fresh bread!

Enjoy!

Sunday Dinner: Happy Birthday Mom Edition!

I love my mom.

I know that’s a bold statement coming from a 22-year old millennial, but my mom and I have a pseudo-Gilmore Girls-esque relationship except, in my humble opinion, even better, because while I grew up amid a weird amount of divorces and marriages with both of my parents, I’ve grown to love my family dynamic more and more as the years go by.

With my mom, I can be a complete brat and tell the truth in any way, shape, or form, and I know my mom will always be there both as a BFF and with the wisdom every daughter craves from a mother/maternal figure, but is usually too proud to ask for.

This weekend, her and my stepdad came to Rochester for her birthday weekend spent with Collin and I. We went to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Natural Oasis on Monroe Ave (omg go, I swear you’ll thank me later), got some fancy wine at Apogee on Park Ave, then my mom and I went to yoga together on Sunday morning while Collin and Keith experienced the Zero Gravity Float Center they’ve been dying to try.

We met up for lunch at the Red Fern (duh), did some Halloween thrifting, and then col and I took a swim in their hotel pool before they came back to our place for my vegan birthday masterpiece!

We started off with my Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup:

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Then continued to the main course, Creamy Mushroom & Asparagus Risotto:

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Then we ended the feast on a sweet note with Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes, courtesy of Minimalist Baker:

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We ended the night giving gifts and playing catchphrase, me and my mom’s favorite game (we’re both quick-witted, word wizards & basically adore all word/fast-paced guessing games).

I woke up this morning with that all too familiar aching in my heart that comes with the end of a weekend with the people I love most, but cannot wait for the upcoming holiday season, where the bond my mom and I share always comes out full force when we bask in the glow of our favorite, and most wonderful time of the year!

Happy birthday Mom, I just love ya.

P.S. recipes for my soup and risotto will be up tomorrow & Wednesday!

Quick Veggie Stir Fry over Creamy Coconut Quiona + Book Recommendation

This past Monday was one of those classic “Manic Mondays” for me. I got up extra early, but still managed to have to run out the door because of a just plain tragic hair day, had a million emails to answer at work since our system was down the previous week, took my lunch time run and shoveled in some food before I had to be back on the clock, and had an equally stressful afternoon, which, I hate to admit, involved just how shitty my hair continued to look all day long.

When I got home, I only had about an hour before my yoga class was supposed to start, and I really wanted something that was light, but nourishing enough to keep my full for my hour and a half class.

Since I love anything coconut, anything asian-inspired, and anything veggie, I whipped up a really great meal that I’m going to keep on my “Manic Monday” repertoire: Veggie Stir Fry over Creamy Coconut Quiona.

It’s fast, decadent, healthy, and filling even if you have just a small bowl as a snack.

I apologize for the lack of photo evidence that I made this, but I ate it .098776353 seconds after it was done.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2):

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 zucchini, cut into medallions
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 2 tbsp. white or rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cook quinoa with the 1 cup of water according to the directions on box. While the quinoa cooks, chop all veggies and heat a pan over high heat and add sesame oil. Once oil starts to smoke slightly, add in veggies and stir constantly until they’re tender. Turn heat to medium-high and add soy sauce, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and salt & pepper. Add coconut milk, curry powder, crushed red pepper flakes and more salt & pepper to cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Once soy sauce and vinegar are 3/4 evaporated, serve veggies over coconut quinoa and enjoy!

This week I also finished an incredibly important and beautifully written book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:

download

Margaret Atwood is one of the most badass literary figures of our time, and is as witty and snarky as she is brilliant. This book is important for not only all women to read, but every person who has questions about the direction our world is headed in regards to gender discrimination, environmental depletion, and political collapse. It is also so beautifully written that it extends beyond the issues surrounding it, and takes you so deep inside the protagonist’s head you truly feel a part of her tragic world.

It knocked my socks off, and it anyone is looking for a great read, I recommend you check this baby out!

Perfect Weekend & Green Machine Juice Recipe

If you guys haven’t noticed, I am ALL ABOUT ideal weekends. Whether I’m in the mood for a glittered face, expensive drinks with all kinds of unwashed citrus hanging off the glass rims, and getting my dancing queen on, or intellectual conversations over equally expensive beers with the aftertaste of fennel gone bad, or days spent galavanting around the city, evenings spent concocting in the kitchen, and nights spent cross-stitching in bed, you can guarantee I pick a theme for my two days off and run with it.

This weekend was a little bit of all of these themes wrapped into three deliciously varied days.

On friday after work I went on a dinner date with my friend from work who’s fast-becoming my actual, true blue real friend! We’ve hung out before, but always with other people so Friday was out first outside-of-work hang out and it was so so nice! We have such similar personalities and have so much in common that out conversations were light and fun and also deeper and intellectual.

We ate at the Red Fern (duh, my favorite) and had delicious vegan meals with glasses of organic red white in ridiculously heavy, over-embellished goblets. We then went to her place to hang out, listen to music, drink more wine and talk while we got ready to meet up with Collin and his friend out at a few bars. I’m trying to limit my alcohol intake, so I stuck to just a glass of wine at my friend’s house and then a fireball shot (hey, it was free!) but Collin was hilariously drunk and we ended the night with him, myself, and my friend splitting a basket of fries at the Old Toad.

On Saturday, while col emptied the contents of Friday night into the toilet (i.e. puked) and slept it off, I woke up early, did some yoga, and went to the public market where I loaded up on cucumbers, celery, $1 organic bananas, onions, $1 giant spaghetti squash, and $1 organic red potatoes.

ahhh, bliss.

We went to a scarecrow fest and had lunch with his mom, then spent the evening curled up with the Office reruns and the sounds of the mouse (rat?) in our walls.

…ahh bliss?

Sunday, the most gorgeous day of the weekend by far, was also my favorite day of the weekend by far. I slept in (until 8…that’s “in” for me), read in the morning light pouring through our dilapidated curtains, made an out of this world oatmeal concoction with bananas, coconut oil, a melted date, raspberries, and almond butter, and cuddled with my man.

Since the yoga studio in the next neighborhood over had a free community class, I convinced Col to come with me because I’m thinking of becoming a member. Though it wasn’t the best session ever (we had an trainee as an instructor), I left with those feelings only yoga can bring: strength, clarity, flexibility, and a calm mind.

Starving, we had lunch at our favorite asian restaurant, Flavors of Asia, in the South Wedge where I got this baby:

Vermicelli Bowl with steamed tofu, Vietnamese pickles, lettuce, carrots, peanuts in a spicy & smoky lemongrass sauce.

Vermicelli Bowl with steamed tofu, Vietnamese pickles, lettuce, carrots, peanuts in a spicy & smoky lemongrass sauce.

Because the serving was GIANT, I have leftovers for today and tomorrow’s lunches. Plus, it was out of this world delicious and a dish I had never tried before which is always a favorite for me!

Last but not least, I used my farmer’s market cukes, celery, and apples to make green juices for the week:

INGREDIENTS (MAKES 4, 16 OZ. JUICES):

  • 3 Cucumbers
  • 8 Stalks of celery
  • 3 small apples (I used macouns)
  • 2 inches ginger

Cut everything into juicer-accessible pieces and juice cucumbers, celery, apples, and ginger. Give it a mix, and pour into jars.

This juice isn’t the sweetest, but it’s got a lot of flavor, nutrients, and really energizes!

Sorry for the length of this post, but I had a fab weekend filled with fab adventures. Enjoy!

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Curried Coconut Squash Soup

Yesterday the sky was a stunning turquoise, the clouds were perfectly puffed and symmetrically dotted, never once blocking the rays of the sun that cut right through the harsh wind disturbing the many hoops in my ears.

I took my lunchtime run on the banks of the Genesee River. It was the perfect escape from the fluorescent writer’s corner I where I spend nine of my precious hours five days a week.

What else could come to my mind other than “damn, I gotta make some kick ass soup tonight.”

Last week at the South Wedge Farmer’s Market a got a big, beautiful $1 locally-grown, organic acorn squash so I decided to put that baby to use and created one of the best recipes I’ve ever made; honest to goodness, this curried coconut squash soup is downright mouth-watering. While it’s a bit labor-intensive for a week day soup, it is by no means an all-day project that needs a wide-open sunday to concoct.

I roasted down the squash in the oven with a rub of olive oil, curry and spices so it developed its own richness before I even added it to the soup. I caramelized some onion while the squash was roasting to develop some depth out of them as well. You don’t have to follow these initial steps if you are really pressed for time, but in my opinion, this is what really gave the soup its richness and complexity.

Any way you choose to use the ingredients to make this soup, it’ll be a stunner, I guarantee it!

Curried Coconut Squash Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large acorn squash (or any squash you prefer), seeded and cut into fourths.
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can organic coconut milk (from a can, not a carton)
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • salt & pepper to taste

Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. Place your squash fourths on a greased cookie sheet and rub with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, 1/2 tbsp. of curry powder, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until each piece is soft, moist and fork-tender.

While squash bakes, heat remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Thinly slice your onion and add it to the oil. Let onion cook over this lower heat for about 30 minutes. To the onion and oil, add the veggie broth, coconut milk, and minced garlic. Turn heat up to medium-high and let flavors simmer together. Once squash is done, take out of the oven and let cool until you can handle it with your hands. Peel off the skin, cut into bite-size cubes and throw into the soup, mashing it a bit with a fork until it’s pleasantly chunky. Next, add the remaining curry powder, garam masala, tumeric, red pepper flake, cumin, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Let soup simmer on this medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, then turn heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking and you are ready to dig in! If you want, you can puree this soup like traditional squash soups, but I wanted to leave mine on the chunky side. It was already smooth enough for me with the coconut milk and mashing my squash a bit with a fork.

Seriously, give this soup a go. It’s the perfect way to spend a cozy fall evening, it’s decadent, healthy, and satisfying. Plus, it’s pretty!

Enjoy, buttercups!

Homemade Vegan Pizza Recipe

It’s been one of those nonstop weeks where I wake up, work, go home, workout, eat, sleep, wake up yada yada yada you get it.

Well, this past weekend that I spent with Collin and my family back home, while so completely enjoyable, gave me even less time to blog my little butt off!

I did, however, make a spectacular homemade pizza pie with my dad while I was home. He bought a ton of veggies for roasting, almonds for blending, and flour for rising, so I was all geared up to make the vegan pizza of a lifetime…or at least a really damn good pizza.

I made scratch made crust, my homemade almond ricotta, roasted some of my favorite veggies, poured a bit of some good, organic marinara sauce as a base, and topped it all off with ribbons of fresh basil.

While this pizza was a labor of love, it came out crunchy like you expect a thin crust pizza to be, but also nice and doughy towards the middle where the sauce made it moist, but not mushy. It had a colorful, rainbow of veggies that were charred just a bit on top, but still retained their distinct flavor, and a rich, cheesy topping from my garlic-infused almond-based ricotta. Each and every bite was a delight, and I’m not even a big pizza lover!

This recipe is perfect for a cozy, fall weekend spent with friends, family, or significant others.

Also, it’s perfect with a tall glass of vino. mmmm.

Vegan Roasted Veggie Pizza With Whole Wheat Crust & Almond Ricotta

For the Crust (Makes 2 large pizza crusts, or 4 small ones):

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp. active rise yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut sugar, honey (if not vegan), or regular white sugar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1tsp. salt

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water, reserving the other 1/2 cup for forming the dough ball. Set it aside and let sit for about 5 minutes. In the same bowl, add the flour, coconut sugar, olive oil and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir mixture until all ingredients are incorporated and a dough begins to come together. Lightly flour a surface and pour the dough onto it. Knead dough, adding water or flour as needed. (mine needed about a 1/2 cup more water while I was kneading). Once dough is elastic and can be formed into a ball that is firm, but shows your finger print when you press it, place it in a well-oiled bowl with a tea towel covering it. Put the bowl with the dough in a warm place and let rise for 1 hour. Once it has risen to about twice its size, separate into 2 equal balls or 4 balls, depending on the size of your pizzas. Let these separated dough balls rise for another 10 minutes. Reserve whatever dough you’re not using in the fridge or freezer for another time. 

Vegan Almond Riccota

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp. rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Place the almond in a bowl with enough water to cover them and pop it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably 5-8. Once the almonds have soaked for your desired time, drain them, and pop the skins off and discard them. Place the skinned almonds in a blender with 3/4 cup of water, chopped clove of garlic, chopped rosemary, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Blend until the mixture is creamy and thick. Use a cheesecloth, paper towel, or strainer to drain the almond ricotta until the excess liquid is all out. Stick cheese in the fridge to let it stiffen, or eat it as is (I like it softer mmm).

Roasted Veggies

  • 1/2 large eggplant, sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 zucchini or summer squash, sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 portabella mushroom, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

This one’s pretty self-explanatory haha but just toss the sliced veggies in a bowl with the olive oil and spices and stick on a cookie sheet. Put them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Assembling the Pizza Pie!

While your dough ball is rising for the additional 10 minutes, stick your pizza stone in the 400 degree oven. Once the 10 minutes are up, take your stone out and flour the surface. Place your dough ball in the middle of the stone, and use your hands to stretch it evenly to the ends of the pizza stone (or use a regular cookie sheet and skip the preheating of the pizza stone, it’s up to you!) Once the dough is evenly distributed, top it with about 1/2 cup of sauce, spreading to leave about 1/2 an inch crust all around. Top with your cooled, roasted veggies any which way you choose. Next, add spoonfuls of the almond ricotta so it evenly dots the pizza and top the whole thing with basil ribbons or whatever other herbs/spices you choose. Turn oven up to 425 degrees and bake for 20 minutes or until crust is crispy on the edges. Take out, let cool, and let it blow your minds.

Enjoy everyone, and let me know what toppings you use!