Spinning for Cheezy Baked Vegan “Ziti”

Continuing on from my last post… I am still beaming with excitement and enthusiasm over my new Peloton spin bike!

I’ve always enjoyed the after effects of exercise because nothing feels better than completing a tough workout and knowing that you’ve done something marvelous for yourself from the inside and out. Looking good doesn’t hurt either! The problem that occasionally creeps up on me is motivating myself to get going. Each morning I awaken to the sound of one of those obnoxious ringtones on my phone alarm followed by my dogs jumping up and down on my stomach because they are ready to E-A-T. I wonder who they could get that from? Hehe… Next, we all trudge downstairs and go through our typical morning routine that used to include giving myself a pep talk to exercise (or maybe a guilt trip?), and every once in a while I’d reason with myself that I would be better off with a little more sleep.

Since the Peloton arrived this hasn’t been the case at all! The pups and I still have our morning ritual, but I no longer have to remind myself of all the reasons why I want to exercise rather than catch a few extra zzz’s. I now find myself surprisingly giddy to wake up and jump on the spin bike every morning (I’ve actually been heading to bed early just so I can wake up earlier)! So much so that lately I’m needing to consciously remind myself to calm my mind when I go to bed otherwise, I’ll never be able to wake up in time, ha! It’s so much fun to escape to a different place through exercise, the music and with friends that encourage you along the way. While all of the instructors are incredible and push every rider to their very best, each one brings a little something different to the table. If you’re channeling your hip hop self today then maybe you’ll want to jump on and ride with Alex. Feeling more rock and roll? Then jump on with Jenn! Feeling like a badass? Try a session with Robin! Need a little more zen in your ride today? Join one of Nicole’s rides! If you’re wanting to train like a pro then spend some time in Steven’s classes. There are even more amazing instructors that I haven’t gotten the chance to spend quality time on the bike with yet, but I know they will be just as inspiring, motivating and all around awesome as the others. I feel as if I can never get bored on this bike because there are so many options of rides to choose from. I’m struggling to catch up on all of the rides I want to try in a reasonable amount of time! If I’m not feeling up to snuff one day for a full blown 45 minute workout then I know I can at least scrape through a 15-20 minute one. The great thing is I know when I come out on the other side of that workout that I’m going to feel completely amazing. There are some rides designed specifically for recovery days if you want to take it easy, but still have some quality time with your bike, a coach and the community.

This brings me to the main reason for this post. Within the last couple of weeks I have experienced a vast amount of joy by connecting with, sharing, and getting to know the fellow Peloton riders that make up this truly special community. Most of the group members are positive, uplifting, and cheerleaders to one another. Not only is it comforting to have a group of friends that are constantly cheering you on, but they also understand the addiction that is Peloton. I recently joined an accountability sub group with a number of Peloton Ladies created solely with the intention of helping each other work towards, reach and maintain fitness/wellness goals. With this pack of wonderful gals staying healthy and fit somehow turned into a fun mini game of life! For a goal of 6 total days a week we’re encouraged to post 1 picture of a physical activity we completed along with 1 picture of a healthy meal or snack. This, of course, is where my current blog post stemmed from. I figured, why not share some of the healthy dishes that I make on a regular basis? I often talk myself out of posting recipes thinking there’s no point in sharing a recipe unless it’s flashy and exciting. Sometimes its tough to remember that the basics are just as exciting if they are delicious! For my first night of this challenge my healthy meal is “Baked Ziti”, but it’s really only inspired by traditional baked ziti.

Being a California girl, with no Italian blood to be found in my lineage, I had never heard of Baked Ziti prior to moving to PA. My husband (then boyfriend) quickly changed that! Once he introduced me to the dish I quickly grew to love indulging in the warm, comforting and gooey pile of pasta. Over the years I have since morphed that original recipe into something much more nutritious and a whole lot less fatty!

Baked “Ziti”

IMG_1411

Ingredients:

Filling:

• 16 oz. package sprouted whole grain pasta (I usually use penne even though this is called baked ziti; just use whatever your family prefers!)
• 1 jar of pasta sauce (about 20-24 oz. since they vary depending on the brand you buy)
• 2 bell peppers
• 1 ½ cups baby bella mushrooms
• 1 cup faux meat crumbles*
• ¼-1 tsp. dried basil, to taste
• ¼ – 1 tsp. dried oregano, to taste
• ¼ – tsp. red pepper flakes, to taste
• Salt and pepper, to taste

*Note: I’ve used everything from cooked brown lentils, Gardein “Meat” crumbles, Veggie Sausage slices, Crumbled Veggie Burgers to TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). The recipe works even if you leave this out, but it does add a bit more “oomph”.

No-Cheese Sauce:
From the Engine 2 Diet

• 1/3 cup cashews
• 1/2 cup water
• 4 oz. roasted red bell pepper (found in jars in the veggie aisle)
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• 1 tsp. onion powder
• ½ tsp. pink Himalayan salt (I use this because it doesn’t raise blood pressure the way that regular salt does, but use whatever you have on hand!)
• 1 onion
• 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
• The juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Filling:

1.) Cook pasta according to package, drain, and set aside.
2.) Sauté peppers, mushrooms, and faux meat crumbles (if using) until the veggies are soft (about 8-10 minutes). Sprinkle in the spices, if using.
3.) Add jar of sauce and cooked pasta to your veggie “meat” mixture and stir until fully combined.
4.) Pour this filling into a 9×13” inch pan (or whatever you’re using – as long as it fits!)
5.) Pour “cheese” sauce on top of pasta filling then sprinkle smoked paprika over the top.
6.) Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Cheese Sauce:

1.) Place all ingredients into a blender/food processor and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix just soak the cashews for a few hours on your counter, then drain them before using – it helps the sauce to come out super creamy!

*Note: I use this cheese sauce on many different things. I use this same sauce for my enchiladas, but to alter it just a bit I add some red pepper flakes, chili pepper, and Tabasco sauce. I’ve even used this to make baked nachos, and the results were phenomenal!

** Since I had a few globs of Miyoko’s Kitchen FreshMozz sitting in my refrigerator I topped this version with that and fresh basil. I’ve made this dish plenty of times without either of these garnishes, and it was just as yummy 🙂

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