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”

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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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Very Veggie Chili (with spice!)

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Ah, finally! John and I have been making this chili probably every weekend since we decided to begin eating vegan. There’s something very comforting about a nice big bowl of piping hot chili, and we’ve actually done quite a good job in repurposing it to keep it exciting (although, I am pretty boring, and I could most likely just keep eating it exactly the way it is!). We usually toss in spices from our cupboard until we reach the flavor that we were looking for, but the problem with that was that I couldn’t share it with anyone since I wasn’t positive of the exact measurements.

John wrote down the amounts of everything he plopped into the pot last weekend, but he wasn’t content with the flavor, and he instructed me not to share the recipe until it was perfect, ha! I made it again this week with all of the spices/measurements listed, and we both agreed it turned out quite yummy in our tummies. My favorite way to serve this is with the chili served inside of a roasted sweet potato along with crumbled tortilla chips on top. We have also made chili nachos, chili fries, chili “dogs”, and chili burgers with the left overs. If you happen to come up with any other spiffy dishes using chili please share!

Very Veggie Chili

Yields: 4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are! This nearly fills my 3 1/2 qt pot

Ingredients:

1 onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp roasted cumin (or more cumin if you don’t have roasted)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
sprinkling of salt (to taste)
2 15.5 oz cans of Black Beans
1 15.5 oz can Navy Beans
1 15.5 oz Can Kidney Beans
1 15.5 oz Can of whole kernel corn
1 28 oz Can of chunky tomato sauce

Directions:

1.) Chop your veggies to desired size; I usually mince the onion because John is not a fan of large pieces of onion, but I chop the peppers into large rustic-styled chunks.
2.) On medium-high heat sauté the onion in a splash of water or low-sodium veggie broth until translucent (a couple of minutes). Add in the peppers, and allow them to cook for a couple more minutes.
3.) Add the chunky tomato sauce along with all of the beans, and corn. Now you can toss in all of your spices then give it all a nice big stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir everything again to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom, turn the heat down to simmer, and cover for at least 20 minutes to allow all of the flavors to meld together. The longer this sits the better it will be!

Notes: I always look for reduced sodium or no-salt added cans when I am feeling too lazy to cook all the beans myself. There is a bit of spice in this chili therefore, feel free to adjust the measurements to your preferred taste. The ancho and chipotle chile powders are the culprits for creating the heat in this chile, and if that isn’t your thing go ahead and leave them out. You might want to add a little more of the plain ‘ol chile powder if you decide to do so 🙂

I also made a few desserts over the weekend, but I only snapped quick iPhone pics of two of them. On Friday I attempted black bean brownie bites that looked gorgeous, tasted pretty good, but were a bit mushy on the inside.

My buddy and I also worked on some strawberry cupcakes together. Again, they tasted all right, but they just didn’t seem to have that special something about them. The frosting also reminded me of acid-wash jeans… if they came in pink!

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This weekend is going to be a busy one… it’s John’s birthday weekend, and I am going to make an entire vegan feast along with Hummingbird Cake!

Pizza Dough all dressed up!

Pretzels
Blah, I certainly didn’t intend on allowing this much time to pass before posting these! The photos aren’t anything spectacular, but in my resolve to continue posting recipes that are not solely sweets I decided to go ahead and post these less than stellar photographs anyway.

Even though I missed a post last week I have still been busy every weekend creating new and tasty dishes for John, our best buddies, and myself. Over Oscar weekend we wanted to try out more finger foods, and after some brainstorming (or maybe it would be tummy-storming?) we decided upon pizza bites and jalapeno cheese pretzels (along with Mac & No cheese that we make nearly every weekend).

We actually found a recipe that we had planned on using to make the pretzels, but it seemed a bit silly to create more dough since I already had two of those left-over pizza dough balls sitting in my freezer. Being brave and adventurous (or just a little lazy.. but shh! We’ll go with brave!) I made the executive decision to sub in my whole-wheat pizza dough in place of the pretzel dough. Amazingly enough it worked like a charm! The pretzels came out perfectly, and I would definitely make them again. It’s a wonder all of the tantalizing treats this pizza dough is capable of creating.

Spicy Jalapeno Cheeze Pretzels:

Adapted from Fork and Beans
Ingredients:

1 Whole-wheat pizza dough ball
4 tablespoons canned or jarred jalapenos, chopped
6 tablespoons vegan cheese
3 cups water
½ cup baking soda

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

1.) Separate the dough ball into 6 like-size pieces and then roll each out into a 12-inch long cylinder-shape. Initially, I had been doing this on my cutting board until John couldn’t stand watching me take 10 minutes to finish one pretzel… He came over and whipped out the rest of them in less time by rubbing the dough between both of his hands (ever watched the workers at Auntie Anne’s? That’s exactly what he did, and I felt so silly afterwards). Shape the long pieces of dough into a pretzel, and set them aside.
2.) Boil 3 cups of water with ½ cup of baking soda in a large pot. Once the water is boiling use a slotted spoon to gently lower one pretzel at a time into the water for 30 seconds, and set them aside on a lined baking sheet.
3.) After all of the pretzels are done with their soak now you can dress them up with the toppings! I sprinkled about a tablespoon of vegan cheese on each pretzel and lightly sprinkled the chopped jalapenos on after that.
4.) Once all of your pretzels are dressed for success pop them into the oven for 10 minutes or until they are lightly browned.

The next treat that was requested by grumbling tummies of our household was pizza bites. The inspiration came from the Amy’s pizza snacks that we used to eat before going vegan (they have real cheese in them, boooo!).  I had originally planned on making a savory vegan pie dough and creating the pizza bites that way, but once again… that laz- I mean, kitchen courage popped up and told me to use my already prepped pizza dough! They were a little on the puffy side, but that definitely made them no less of a yummy treat!

Pizzapockets

Pizza Bites

Ingredients:
1 Whole-wheat pizza dough ball
½ can of Muir Glenn pizza sauce (or any sauce of your liking)
4 oz mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup TVP
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
½ package of Vegan pepperoni

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

For the sauce:

1.) Toss your mushrooms into a small saucepan and cook for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms release their juices.
2.) Add your TVP (textured vegetable protein – I use this to give my sauces a “meaty” texture and for the added protein, of course!) and spices then cook for a couple more minutes.
3.) Add in the sauce, stir, and turn off the heat.

For the bites:

1.) Roll out your pizza dough into a large square (mine was about 12 x 12 give or take a little). Cut your dough into small squares that don’t need to be perfect, we ended up with about 36 total.
2.) Roll out each of the tiny squares when you’re about to fill them in order to get as much delicious filling into each without it overflowing. I placed 1 pepperoni and 1 tablespoon of sauce per pizza bite. Cover the bottom dough square with another square then use a fork to press down and seal the sides. Move to a lined baking sheet. Continue this method until all of your dough squares are gone.
3.) Bake the pizza bites for 12-15 minutes until the tops are lightly browned.

As you can see from the picture, it took us a while to figure out the best method to making these. We had a lot of blowouts because we originally made 18 larger squares, placed the filling on one side, and then we pulled the bare side over the filling. This was a pretty sloppy method, and it wasn’t very effective. It was much simpler to make double the amount of dough squares and cover the bottom layer with the top before sealing off the sides.

I hope that you enjoy these tasty little treats, and that they inspire you to experiment in creating new ones out of old recipes : )!

Whole Wheat Pizzas

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I am determined to post something on here that is not a dessert or sweet recipe! So determined in fact, that while I was prepping our dinner for tonight I decided to go ahead and take a quick snap of our weekly veggie pizza. It’s not cooked in any of the pictures, but all of the vegetables atop of the crust looked so yummy and bright that I felt it wouldn’t matter anyways.

We often made this same pizza for our dinners before we began eating vegan, but a little cheese used to accompany all of those lovely veggies. We honestly haven’t missed the cheese at all, and now I just sprinkle a little nutritional yeast on top when I’m feeling “cheezy”. I’ve even used the basil cashew cheese from “Oh She Glows” as a base in place of the sauce, and that was absolutely delightful.

The reason that this little pizza visits our dinner menu multiple times a month is because it’s so easy to prep, make, and on top of all of that it’s quite healthy!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough:

I always separate this into 3 dough balls that make 12-inch pizzas (thin crust)

Ingredients:

2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 cups bread flour

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cups water

1 packet of yeast (I use Hodgson Mill’s rapid rise)

1.) Heat ½ cup of the water to 110-115 degrees, and then empty the contents of the yeast packet into the water. Allow the yeast mixture to rest for 5 minutes

2.) While your yeast is proofing combine the flours and salt into a bowl (I used a stand-mixer with the dough hook attachment).

3.) Once the 5 minutes are up add 1 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil to the water along with the remaining 1 ½ cups of water. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to combine. Once all of the dry is incorporated into the wet ingredients knead for 5 minutes.

4.) Remove the dough from the bowl (if using a stand-mixer), form into a cute little dough ball, coat the bowl with your remaining 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and then place your dough ball back into the bowl. Cover the bowl, and let this sit at room temperature for about 2 hours (I have honestly left this thing out for nearly 6 hours before on accident, and it was fine!).

5.) Now, here comes the fun part – time to punch that dough! Punch the dough down then scoop it out of the bowl with your hands. Separate the dough into 3 even balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the freezer for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to use your dough let it sit in the fridge overnight to thaw or on your counter for a couple of hours. If you plan on using them sooner, you can store these in refrigerator for about 5 days.

As for toppings… the sky is the limit, really. I make this veggie pizza as often as I do simply because it’s such a cinch, we happen to always have the ingredients, and it’s good for us too! If you’re really interested in what exactly is on this beauty I used:

  • 3 tbsp Muir Glen Pizza Sauce
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 small bunches of broccoli
  • ¼ of a red bell pepper
  • 2 mushrooms
  • Large forkful of banana peppers
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Then, I baked it at 425 degrees for 13 minutes 🙂

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I figure I can’t depart without (even if it’s a crappy one..) a picture of those cuh-ray-zee pizzas I mentioned from the weekend. No need to worry, that Mac & Cheeze had no real cheese, and the little hot dogs were slices of the lightlife brand; which I highly recommend! They have made John’s transition into vegan eating much easier seeing that I can bribe him with fake tubes of meat as a special treat every once in a while (haha!).

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