Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A vegan but not so vegan dinner....

I have professed my unwavering allegiance to cheese over and over again on this blog.  My love for the stinky, creamy heavenly food is pure and true! 

My personal heaven will have a Wall-O-Cheese Menu for me to select from!
That being said sitting down to a dinner of pasta and Alfredo sauce or mac n' cheese every week is not so good for my arteries or waist line.  My brain knows this but my heart does not.. it still cries out for cheesey ooey goodness on a daily basis! 

Last night I think I figured out a way to trick my cheese obsessed heart into thinking it was having a gluttonous meal of penne Alfredo all the while I was actually consuming a healthified version made with silken tofu and almond milk.

Now I what you are thinking... "Beth there is NO WAY tofu and almond milk could EVER imitate cheese sauce!"  I thought the same thing but it was a glorious meal that even my roomie loved! (she usually rolls her eyes at my tofu/fake milk meals, but humors me all the same).  

But wait you ask....Beth the title of the post is vegan not so vegan what's the catch?

The catch for this insanely yummy vegan Alfredo pasta & veggie dinner was that I added homemade chicken meatballs.  GASP for dramatic effect!!

That's right people, I took a completely vegan meal and added meat to it.  Why you ask?  Because I had a pound of ground chicken on hand that needed to be used.   So feel free when you make your version (which I know you will) to make it all vegan or be a rebel like me and throw some poultry into the mix!

I created this recipe after googling and combining several recipes for a traditional veggie Alfredo sauce with a vegan Alfredo sauce.  To make you will need:

  • 1lb pasta of your choice
Alfredo Sauce:
  • 2 cups un-sweetended Almond or non-dairy milk (I love the almond, it is much creamier than regular soy or rice milk)
  • 1 package silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (optional but adds a cheesy flavor to the sauce)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp Cornstarch
Chicken Meatballs & Veggies:
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced
  • 1/2 green pepper diced
  • 1/2 red pepper diced
  • minced garlic (1-2 gloves)
  • 1 head of broccoli cut into florets
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (or vessels of hot lava! beware their insides heat up during the cooking process!)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or white wine)
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (I used 1/4 BC and 1/4 Oatbran)
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • handful of dried parsley/oregano
  • 1 egg
In a pan, heat some olive oil and add your onion, pepper and garlic.  While they are heating put on your pasta water and combine in a bowl your chicken, breadcrumbs, cheese, spices and egg. Combine until mixture sticks together but isn't too wet.  Form into small meatballs and add to your pan along with the chicken broth.   Throw in your broccoli and cover the pan (set on low so the veggies don't burn).

Happy little meatballs
All purpose spice that I am now in love with thanks to Mr & Mrs Hall!

While your water is heating and meatballs cooking get out your blender or trusty immersion blender.  Mix together all the ingredients for the Alfredo sauce and blend until fully combined.

Add this mixture to your meatballs and veggies.  You want the sauce to heat up and thicken but not boil.  Heat until your meatballs are cooked through and sauce is thickened. 

Cook your pasta until it is almost the way you like it. Drain and add directly to the sauce mixture and combine.  You can add your tomatoes in at this point as well.

Heat for another 3-5 minutes to make sure all the flavors have melded together and you are ready to eat!
So much color!

Hello imposter cheese sauce!  So nice to meet you!!!
So there you have it.. my answer to the need for cheese but without the guilt!

What is your favorite recipe or dish that you have revamped to make it better?  Or do you want to Challenge me to see if I can revamp your favorite into a healthier version?

Let me know!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weight Watchers - Week 3 Update

So I am starting week 3 of Weight Watchers and I have lost a few pounds but have gained a ton in knowledge.  My original reason for taking this online challenge was to learn more about what I put into my body more so than wanting to loose weight. And by gosh I am learning a ton!!!!

To be honest I have been pretty shocked at the items I thought were healthy or the actual serving sizes vs my usual portions.  I eat pretty healthy overall... No soda, very little processed foods, lots of whole grains, fruits and little red meat.  What I didn't realize was how much of various "good" foods I was eating.  I was so used to filling myself up with lots of whole grains and cheeses that I didn't see the amount of calories I was ingesting.  Growing up in a big italian family I naturally turn to grains and cheeses for ways to fill up quickly (and cheaply). 

It is a hard pill to swallow when you realize that what you thought you were doing so well at is actually not the right path....

The easiest change has been replacing fruits and veggies where I would normally grab for bread, cheese  and grains in my day to day life. Small changes like packing lots of veggies and H2O with me during the day are really making a big difference!  You would be surprised at how filling one Ziploc bag filled with carrots, peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes can be! 

I also realized that I was drinking a lot of calories.  I always say, I would rather drink my dessert than to chow down on cake or ice cream at night.  What I didn't factor in was that my love for dark ales has about the same point value as my entire lunch! 

Sooo what does all this rambling come down too?  Weight watchers is teaching me how to balance my daily intake without giving up on the things I love or feel like I am dieting.  I am not going to lie and say that it has been simple or without its struggles. Last weekend I was faced with the a Pub Crawl and an Italian Family Luncheon.   It was a constant struggle not to go for the second helping of uber delicious lasagna or chow down on late night munchies while out with friends.  This process is a journey and I am taking the ups and downs.  Did I have a sub last night that wasn't super healthy last night?  Yes, but instead of beating myself up about it I am moving forward with a healthy breakfast lots of water and my trusty bag-o-veggies to get me back on track.

Anyone else feel this way or having trouble balancing social eating/drinking and still feel like you are making healthy choices?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Ultimate Veggie Burger!!!

I have written in length how I like strange dishes.  Usually they are covered in cheese and involve some sort of beef or pork option  However, with my new online challenge I am looking for ways to curb my classic cravings for flavors and textures with healthier alternatives.
It is true, I crave these Flinstone size ribs daily....

One of my favorites that I recently mastered is the veggie burger.  Not only is the homemade version healthy (think 0 preservatives and WAY less salt) but also sooo much cheaper than the frozen store bought version.  For around $8 I made enough veggie burger "batter" to make over 18 medium size burgers.  I have started making this in bulk and freezing the extra for later uses.  I am doing this for several reasons.
veggie burger w/ runny egg... Yes please!!!

1.  Grating vegetables is a pain... i would rather do it all at once than every week.
2.  I am really really really hungry when I get home from work!  If I can make my dinner in less than 15 minutes (yes 15!) then I am less likely to hurt people around me!
3. I crave these suckers!  They are actually really tasty. I know they will never beat a cheeseburger, but as a salad topper or main ingredient in a quick sandwich melt they will keep my cravings at bay for at least a week!

So for this round i changed the ingredients list a bit.  As always I encourage you to adapt the recipe to your tastes and what you have on hand.  Recipes are not written in stone and meant to be adapted to the chef, not the other way around.

Super Tasty Filing Veggie Burgers (makes 3 batches, about 6 burgers each)
1 pkt of Trader Joes Spiced chickpeas (umm yeah, all the seasoning done for me!)
1 can drained aduki beans (super healthy and fiber filled beans, similar to a kidney bean)
1 pkt of Trader Joes Black lentil beans
4 small zucchini's grated
1 large carrot grated
1 -1 1/2cups of oat bran(varies depending on how wet your mixture is) ( you can use breadcrumbs, panko, oatmeal or another fav grain to act as your binder)
2 beaten eggs

Mash all together with a potato masher or your hands.  Add enough oat bran until mixture sticks together but isn't too damp.  If you are not using the ready made packet of chickpeas from Trader Joe's you will want to add a small amount of garlic powder, cumin, corriander, salt n' pepper and whatever else you love!

veggie mixture..may not be the prettiest thing but it is the tastiest!!!!
Split your mixture into 3 and freeze 2 sections in ziploc bags for your next craving.   Form the remainder into burger shapes and sizzle to perfection on your trusty griddler or non-stick pan of choice.

Serve on a roll, atop a salad or over rice.... The options are endless.

These little power houses pack a punch when it comes to fiber, vitamins, protein and veggie goodness!!!