Tuscan Fresca Pasta-Copycat Noodles and Company

Tuscan Fresca Pasta

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Up until this past year it had been many years since I had eaten at Noodles and Company, and I had only eaten there once. After becoming vegan I needed to find a multitude of options, even on the go options. Thanks to my trusty friend Google (and the Noodles allergen menu), I discovered Noodles had a few dishes that were vegan or could easily be made vegan by holding the cheese. I’m not big on peanuty stuff or super spicy weird stuff so the whole grain Tuscan Fresca stuck out. It was yummy simple pasta with tasty vegetables and a zesty olive oil dressing. I ordered it and loved it and have ordered it a number of times since. The last time I got to thinking, this is a very simple pasta dish and it’s so good I should make it at home. I planned to eventually, but last night I did unexpectedly. So here’s the deal we really need to go grocery shopping, but payday is still a week away. Things were getting pretty desperate so the other day we picked up just a few things to get us through (of course the way I eat it got us through two days). So back to hardly any food, but thanks to my tiny shopping trip I happened to have a few fresh veggies and they happened to be what’s in this pasta. The pasta I used wasn’t whole grain, I only had plain linguine, but it was still yummy and I personally love pasta in any form so long as it is vegan. I found one recipe on Pinterest that looked like it was a similar copycat recipe, but the pasta was different and the dressing was for fifteen servings. So, I decided to wing it and try my own thing.

INGREDIENTS

-1/2 Box (8oz) Linguine

– 1 Tomato

-1/2 Red Onion

-1/2 Bag (3oz) Baby Spinach

-1 clove (1 tsp) Minced Garlic

-1/4 Cup Olive Oil (+ 1 tbsp for sauteing)

-1/8 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar

-1/8 Cup Grape Juice or Sweet White Wine

-Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

You can do these in almost any order, I did them all kind of at the same time. I had the pasta cooking as I mixed my dressing and then sauteed my vegetables. I then drained the pasta, poured on the olive oil/fresca dressing so it didn’t stick together, finished up my veggies and mixed it all.

-Begin preparing pasta per instructions

-Heat tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pain on low-medium heat

-Prepare your dressing by mixing 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar, and 1/8 cup either grape juice or sweet white wine. (If you like it sweeter add more grape juice, if you prefer more zest add more vinegar, if you want less oily use less oil)

-Add the tomato and red onion to the heated frying pan and saute for 1-2 minutes, then add garlic and saute for another minute or until fragrant or onions are partially translucent. Don’t saute too long you still want your veggies kind of crunchy.

-When your pasta is cooked drain it and add in about 1/4 to 1/2 of your dressing to keep the noodles from sticking. Do not add it all, you can add more later if you like, but you don’t want too much.

-When the veggies are done and them to the pasta and mix

-Then add in the fresh spinach and mix. The heat from the pasta and veggies will wilt/cook it a bit, but not too much 🙂

-Add salt and pepper to taste and then add more dressing if you like.

This was very good as leftovers, I think because the dressing was able to soak in and marinate. Either way it was simple and although the directions look long it really only took fifteen minutes all together. Let me know what you think. 

Quick Vegan Pancakes

Quick Vegan Pancakes

These are nothing fancy, but they are quick and easy to make and in my opinion taste pretty decent. I have used a number of different recipes found online in the past and this is my version of what I feel works. I’ve taken basics from numerous recipes and altered them into what I feel made a decent pancake in a short amount of time that tasted good topped with some earth balance and syrup!

INGREDIENTS

-1 cup flour

-1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use 2 for extra fluffy)

-Pinch of salt

-1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)

-1 tablespoon vegetable oil (you could use coconut)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat a pan to medium heat

Mix dry ingredients together (Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, and Salt)

Add in the “milk” and oil

Mix until smooth, the mix will be thick, if it is too thick or there is still dry ingredients visible add another dash of milk or oil to thin (we want it thick, but not too thick)

If you don’t have non-stick cookware add some oil or vegan butter to your pan and allow it to get hot

Now spoon or poor some batter onto the pan

Once you see bubbles appear on top of the pancake carefully flip it and cook the other side

*Should make about 6-8 pancakes depending on size*

Feel free to add chocolate chips, blueberries, coconut whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon, or anything else you can think of to spruce them up! I made them plain for dinner the other night, because I was lazy and hungry!

Let me know what you think.

Avocado Mashed Potatoes

AVOCADO MASHED POTATOES

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I absolutely LOVE potatoes, they have been a staple in my diet ever since I can remember. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, french fries, hash browns, you name it. I also happen to love avocados. Up until about a year ago the only form of avocado I was familiar with was guacamole, you know the stuff you eat with chips and salsa. I was unaware that there was a whole world of possibilities out there. So I started buying avocados, first I made homemade guacamole, but I eventually branched out. Now I find myself constantly eating avocados. One of my favorite meals is Gardein vegan burger with avocado slices and a baked potato. The avocado and potato go very well together and it was a simple, fast, and tasty meal. I have read numerous times that avocado makes a good butter substitute. This got me thinking that perhaps avocado mashed potatoes would be good. I started searching Pinterest and found a post, but the link was broken, and all the other posts were for avocado cauliflower mash. I decided to just throw something together myself since it isn’t exactly rocket science. I’m no expert, but it turned out pretty tasty. I will definitely play with the measurements more to perfect it to my taste in the future. This recipe is really something that varies based on taste preferences and the size of the potatoes ect that you are using, but mostly taste. This gives you the idea(s) and guidelines, but you really have to individualize it.

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Peel the potatoes. I used golden potatoes, because they have a creamier texture and it’s what I had on hand.

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Cut them up into chunks.

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Place potato chunks in boiling water and boil them until you can easily pierce them with a fork.

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While the potatoes are boiling, bust out the avocado

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Slice it up. You can use half, if you just want to replace the butter with it or the whole thing if you really like avocado like me!

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When potatoes are ready drain the water and then place potatoes back in the pot. Add vegetable broth. Some people are fancy and make their own veggie broth, I just used store bought.

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Add the sliced avocado, salt, lemon juice, pepper, and garlic to the potatoes.

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Blend together. I used an electric mixer, you could use a food processor or high speed blender.

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Taste test your pot of green mush and add salt, pepper, or other things as needed to taste.

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Begin preparing your plate…

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Continue adding food items to your plate…

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When your plate is appealing to both you eye and your stomach it is complete.

AVOCADO MASHED POTATOES

Remember to add ingredients slowly and adjust to taste

Ingredients:

-approximately 9 med/small golden potatoes

-1/2 to 1 medium avocado

-1/2 cup vegetable broth

-3/4 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp pepper

-1/2 tsp finely minced garlic

-1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1.) Start a pot of boiling water on the stove

2.) Peel potatoes and cut into chunks

3.) Add potatoes to boiling water and boil until you can easily pierce with a fork

4.) Drain water and place potatoes back in pan

5.) Add all ingredients to pan with potatoes (avocado, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic)

6.) Blend all ingredients with an electric mixer, food processor, or blender.

7.) Add more salt and pepper, ect to taste.

*Use the entire avocado for more full flavor, use only half to mimic butter substitution. You may substitute almond milk or another plant based milk instead of vegetable broth for an even more creamy texture, however the golden potatoes along with avocado tend to already produce a very creamy texture. I personally use more than one teaspoon of fresh lemon juice ( I squeezed almost half a lemon), I love lemon and love the extra flavor and kick. I recommend starting small and gradually adding. Don’t like garlic? Don’t add it. At the very end you may want to add more salt and pepper to taste. Add other seasonings and ideas to your hearts content. I garnished mine with green onions.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I know avocado and strange things like this aren’t for everyone and these amounts are very much based on taste, but what did you think?

How Veganism Changed My Life

I grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. There wasn’t much diversity up there or much going on at all. We lived rather simply out in the country on twenty acres of land with a huge garden, chickens, and rabbits. My dad was old fashioned and my mom a strong independent woman, hence why they are divorced. I was a shy and quiet child in the beginning and never really spoke up for myself. One evening, when I was six years old, Dateline came on (we didn’t have cable), they were airing a special on slaughterhouses and my mom let me watch. She stood in the kitchen making dinner and doing dishes and finding a small amount of sick humor in how grossed out I was. She never hid the truth about things from my brother and I, and she always encouraged education and free thinking. What she didn’t know was, that evening would change my life and who I was.

Absolutely horrified by what I had seen, I got up the next morning and announced I was not going to eat meat for a week. That week flew by and I was still couldn’t get those images out of my head and announced that it would now be two weeks that I wouldn’t be eating meat. After two weeks passed I was still traumatized and announced I was extending it to a month. Shortly after that we were visiting my grandparents and I overheard someone tell my mom it was just a phase and I’d get over it any time now. As soon as I heard that I proudly walked into the room and announced I was never going to eat meat again.

I spent my childhood as the weird kid who ate weird things. I made strange requests in the lunch line at school and I would often order cheeseburgers without the burger. I learned at a very young age how to read ingredients labels and then how to speed read them three more times just to be safe. I found my voice and was soon no longer the shy and quiet one. I wrote letters to companies about their products or the prices, I started arguments with hunters, I would debate with anyone, and I researched statistics and placed information in mailboxes. I even volunteered at the animal shelter.  I advocated greatly against the consumption of meat and harming animals. As I grew into my teens I continued to advocate, but despite my great compassion, I was naive. I consumed dairy products, I told myself no one dies for cheese so who cares, I wore leather, and even though I spoke out against animal testing I wasn’t buying cruelty free products.

I was vegetarian for twenty-one years. I was often tired and sluggish. I gained nearly one hundred pounds over a six year period due to my degenerative disc disease. Discs in my lumbar spine crumbled into my spinal column and were crushing my sciatic nerve causing constant excruciating pain. My lack of movement due to extreme pain and my diet filled with animal products caused the large amount of weight gain. In 2012 I had a spinal fusion, which removed my crumbled discs relieving the pressure from my sciatic nerve and then fused the lower third of my spine. The spinal fusion was a life saver, it allowed me to function fairly normally again. Being able to move normally again helped me to lose around forty-five pounds, but then the weight loss stopped. I was still almost sixty pounds heavier than before.

In September 2014, I began thinking about my lifestyle choices and it prompted me to do some research. While online I came across a video documenting abuse on a dairy farm and I was absolutely disgusted. I continued my research and what I found was very upsetting. I had been lying to myself all along, there most certainly is death involved with the dairy industry. The more I thought about it the more I realized I was a hypocrite, I eat dairy products, I wear leather, and my shampoo was probably tested on animals. I was horrified, I was an ethical hypocrite. I kept thinking and researching…what about health? I was even more disgusted by what I found. What about the environment?  I knew at that moment that I was a vegan starting that very second.

What was I supposed to eat? I had a hard enough time being meat free as a kid in a small town, I lived off grilled cheese. If I can’t have cheese what now? I assumed being in a larger city now that it wouldn’t be as difficult, but honestly what do I eat? So I turned to trusty old Google, and what did I find? I found that there was a whole world out there that I was unaware of. I found that I was sheltered and living in a bubble. I found that there is an insane amount of vegan food options and so much amazing food out there that I would never run out of ideas. What about personal products and household products? It’s going to be so expensive and hippie deodorant won’t work. WRONG. There are so many brands out there ranging from cheap to expensive, from scented to unscented, from hippie to chic, there is something for everyone.

So how exactly did veganism change my life?

  • I began losing weight again immediately after going vegan. I lost 40+ pounds.
  • My skin cleared up.
  • I have ten times more energy.
  • No stomach issues anymore!
  • Less pain and inflammation.
  • I eat twice as much as I use to and don’t gain weight.
  • All my personal care products are cruelty free and my hair still smells amazing.
  • I sleep better.
  • I’m happier.
  • I feel better and healthier overall.
  • I am more informed and no longer turn a blind.
  • I advocate against all forms of oppression.
  • My mom switched to a vegan lifestyle and has lost 96 pounds and lowered her cholesterol 65 points!

I could go on and on about the positive impact this has had on my life. It has been a journey of self discovery and it has been a learning experience. It has changed my life and I will never look back. How has it changed yours? Share in the comments.