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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These are a few of my favorite things~🎶 April 2016

I certainly need to set aside more time for creating posts here. I was hoping to experiment and make some interesting recipes to share, but I came down with a pretty nasty stomach bug that, for the first time in my life, completely zapped my appetite. I have suffered from nausea for various reasons throughout the years, but this was the first time that I was repulsed at the thought of food (and coffee *gasp*!) for days. Normally I live to eat – I’ll be eating one meal while day dreaming about the next. I’m one of those people that loves falling asleep at night because I know that breakfast will arrive that much sooner. Once the worst part of the “bug” had left my body I immediately returned to eating my normal diet, and I think that mistake prolonged whatever ickiness had invaded my body. I finally wised up and put myself on the same sort of bland diet my puppy dogs go on when they have tummy issues, and within a few days I was feeling much better. If it works for the fur babies why shouldn’t it work for me? It’s funny how I get so worried about upsetting their little stomachs that I immediately whip up batches of safe recovery food for their tummies, but for myself I figured I could just tough it out.

On the bright side something positive did come from this whole fiasco. I came to truly appreciate good health, specifically the ability to exercise. While I was sick I felt as if all of my energy was being used fighting to get well, and I found myself begging my body (along with any sort of higher power out there) to cure me as soon as possible so that I could return to exercise. Instead of being upbeat and positive I was feeling very glum, gloomy and anxious. I knew that if I could manage to muster up enough energy to go for a run I would feel a lot better mentally, but my body just wasn’t cooperating.

As soon as I started slowly incorporating exercise back into my life I immediately felt my mind clearing, I was much more energetic and overall felt happy again. I was hesitant to eat anything with spice, acidity or fat since it had such negative effects on me while recovering. Slowly, I introduced these back into my diet as well, and now I’m feeling great again! Prior to becoming sick I was finding it difficult to wake up each morning to exercise before work. Since my health has returned I have been extremely grateful and excited to wake up and get moving!

Since I haven’t had much time or the appetite for recipe experimentation as of late I thought it would be fun to share a list of things that I’m obsessed with right now.

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1.) Health-Ade Kombucha ($5~/ea)

I knew that my gut needed some good bacteria reintroduced to it since all of the bad bacteria had taken over and kicked them out. If you’ve never had Kombucha before it’s wonderful because it contains probiotics, B-vitamins, enzymes and has a lovely natural effervescence (think healthy champagne!). I purchased a few different flavors of Health Ade’s Kombucha, and they are all delicious! While I was sick I preferred the Pink Lady Apple, but now that my tummy’s in shape again for spice I’m really digging the Cayenne Cleanse!

2.) GoMacro Bars ($3~/ea)

Serving portions were an issue for me while recovering, and once I graduated from plain Ezekiel bread I decided to munch on GoMacro bars because of their high nutrient profile in a concise package. All sorts of flavors here as well, but my favorites are Protein Purity (Sunflower butter/Chocolate), Protein Replenishment (Peanut Butter) and Cherries & Berries (self explanatory!).

3.) Macrovegetarian Shanghai Dumplings ($5~/container)

It’s always exciting to me when I find something that’s equally delicious as it is nutritious, and that’s exactly what all Macrovegetarian products are. This particular dumpling has a bit of spice from the ginger, crunch from cabbage and a “meaty’ texture because of the mushrooms. I love buying these in bulk, separating them into multiple containers to freeze and then defrosting them to bring for quick and healthy work lunches.

4.) YOGASMOGA Gear ($50-$250)

Oh my, where to begin… What could be better than high quality athletic gear that cares about you and the environment? I began with a pair of cropped leggings (which are by far the most comfortable athletic leggings I have ever purchased, by the way), and the addiction has continued to grow from there. After a couple of months I find myself a proud owner of a tank, tee, long sleeve tee, sweater, bra, multiple shorts, crops and I see a jacket in my future! I have a problem, don’t I? Ha! These items are about the same price as brand competitors (Lulu, Beyond Yoga, Athleta, etc..), but the quality is ah-may-zing! I’ve done spin class, pilates and ran all in the same pair of crops without any pilling or stretching – a yoga pants miracle I tell you! A nice added bonus is for every item you purchase you receive “SMOGI Bucks” which can be used towards future purchases. You receive 25 SMOGI Bucks to use towards your first online order too, which is great!

PS- These are made completely in the USA, yay!

5.) Splurge Alert (!): Peloton Exercise Bike ($1995 + $39/mo Subscription)

Ok ok, I realize not everyone will be able to go out and buy one of these puppies tomorrow, but if you can I highly recommend it! It’s definitely worth saving up for! This is the best piece of exercise equipment I have ever used, and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. This is obviously a big investment, but the payoff in your physical fitness makes it more than worth your while. I’ve always been an active person, but this excites me for physical activity in a whole new way. The Peloton system allows you to bring spin class into your own home, rain or shine and at whatever hour of the day your little heart desires. There are thousands of “On Demand” videos to watch whenever you like, or you can sign up for live classes to participate with other riders all over the world. The coaches are energetic and motivating while the community is supportive and gets you engaged in an entirely new way. The bike itself is quality supremacy and customer service is always more than happy to assist you. If you’re looking  to add a new piece of equipment to your home gym this is definitely worth researching!

Virtual Vegan Potluck 2014 – Miche’s Winter-spiced Fruities

Fruitcakecookies

If these cookies look familiar it is because they are from my very first post to this blog a few years ago. I decided to use the recipe again for the potluck because I don’t think they got the love that I feel they deserve. The recipe has been adapted from Ina Garten’s “Fruitcake Cookies” because I absolutely loved them before making the switch over to vegan-eating. I also decided to go with a different name this time around because I have changed them a bit from Ina’s recipe, and I feel that the word “fruitcake” automatically sours a lot of people towards the recipe. This cookie actually doesn’t contain any candied fruit that you traditionally see in Fruitcake — it’s all dried fruits! I apologize for having to use the same photo as well, but John and I are away at a wedding all weekend in Rhode Island, and dummy (me) forgot to get the pictures off of the SD card in the camera back home.

Fruitcake Cookies:
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Fruitcake Cookies
 
Ingredients:
8 dried figs
4 ounces raisins
1 ounce dried cherries
1 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 ounces chopped pecans
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick non-dairy butter (I used an Earth Balance buttery stick)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup sugar (I used an organic coconut palm sugar)
1/3 cup light brown sugar or turbinado sugar
1 chia egg (1 tbsp chia seed + 3 tbsp water – You can use a flax egg here, too!)
1 1/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

Directions:

Remove the tough stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, maple syrup, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

The next day…

Get your chia-egg (or flax-egg) ready so it can get gooey while you prep the rest of the ingredients!

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or old-fashioned elbow grease), cream the non-dairy butter, cloves, sugar, and brown/turbinado sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the chia-egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place onto a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll the dough into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm (when I’m impatient I put it into the freezer for a little over an hour, hehe)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. I was able to get 28 cookies from this!

I hope that you all will give this recipe a try! These cookies make an appearance in my holiday cookie gift baskets every year, and they are always a hit 🙂

-Miche

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