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A Fresh Pasta Virgin No More


The other day I came to a somewhat embarrassing realization: Bridget Jones’s Diary is my favorite movie. Sure, if asked I’ll always says it’s Annie Hall, but it’s not. When it’s cold outside and I’m home alone and I want to spend an evening on the couch watching a movie, it’s usually Bridget Jones. So it was to her that I turned to keep me company as I embarked on my first attempt at homemade pasta. After all, no matter what happened to my noodles, I would never end up eating a dinner as disgusting as blue soup, omelet with green gunge, and marmalade.

With my nice new shint pasta machine clamped down to the counter, I started to play, using a recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan that used chicpea flour as a binding protein. The dough looked great, very pliable, and I ran a few test pieces through to clean out the machine. Then I ran them through again. And again. And as it turned out, pretty much my whole batch of dough was used to clean out the machine, even though we still had to eat it. It was rather frustrating to see bits of grit in my otherwise wonderful looking pasta, and I spent the rest of night convinced that I had specks of chrome stuck in my throat, so hopefully the machine is good and clean by now.

The rolling process was not nearly as fun as I thought it would be. I imagined some sort of wonderful eadible version of the Play-Doh Fun Factory, but as my countertops got more and more full and the oven made my kitchen more and more unbearable and my stomach became more and more restless, the fun was kind of gone. But next time will be different, because I’ve learned a few things.

1) Start with an immacualately clean kitchen. Don’t have a rack of biscotti cooling on one counter, a stack of dishwasher ready dishes on the other, bits and pieces for a side dish on yet another. Make room, or you might go crazy.

2) Chickpea flour is temperamental and shouldn’t be kept in a cupboard for nearly a year. While the pasta had a wonderful texture in the end, it had a bit of an off taste. And while this could have been metal and grease and other disgustingness posioning me (or my imagination thinking that was the case), it was probably some past its prime besan. Next time it’s going in refrigerator.

3) When you’re making something for the very first time that’s somewhat complicated and will take a bit of learning to master, don’t make any other dishes that take more than five minutes (or one bowl/pan). The crostini with roasted onions and swiss chard was great (even though I forgot to toast the bread until everything else was cooked and got to impatient to actually get it crispy), but it was far too involved to make when all of my attention should have been on the pasta.

4) Drink wine while eating, not while cooking. Franticness and a near buzz are not good companions. Especially on an empty stomach.

5) If you’re too impatient to let the pasta dry a bit before cooking it, it will stick together. I knew this would happen, but after two hours in the kitchen I didn’t really care.

And now that I know these things, my next pasta-making excursion will by completely painless and will convince me that I’m a culinary genius and can whip up fresh pasta every single night, right? OK, maybe not. But it will be easier. And hopefully with at least 90% less “facotry grit and sediment.” Yum.

Teese Baked Mac and Cheese


I’ve been experimenting with a decent mac & cheese using Teese vegan cheese for a while now, and I think this is the closest I’ve come to deliciousness yet. As usual, there are still things I think I’d tweak, but overall it seemed to be a success. The interior was gooey but not runny, and the large bread crumbs on top added a nice crunch. Curiously, the Teese I sprinkled on top (below the breadcrumbs) didn’t melt much in the oven, but every last bit that was stirred into the macaroni and sauce melted wonderfully, so next time it’s all going inside, which should make it even moister. This batch turned out a bit on the spicy side, which was nice, as I’m still working my way through an especially potent batch of cayenne pepper, but if you don’t have super cayenne, you want to add more.

Teese Baked Mac & Cheese

1 Tbsp Earth Balance
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
a few grinds of black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 cups Teese vegan mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and crumbled into pieces
1/2 pound macaroni

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni until it is almost al dente but still slightly undercooked. Melt Earth Balance in small saucepan and add 1 Tbsp flour. Cook until it gets bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining flour, water, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, turmeric, paprika, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce thickens but is still runny enough to drip off of the whisk. Mix in mustard. Add sauce and Teese to cooked macaroni in a casserole dish (I used an 8 x 6 1/2 inch Pyrex dish) and mix until well combined. Top with breadcrumbs and cook for about twenty minutes, with a couple of minutes under the broiler if you want the breadcrumbs extra crunchy.

Dan’s Birthday Dinner


Last week was my lovely husband Dan’s birthday. But since we had just returned from our Seattle/Portland vacation (where we ate roughly 80,000 calories, I’m estimating) two days before, there wasn’t much time to plan much of a celebration. On the cab ride home from the airport (at 11:30 on a Tuesday. ugh), Dan declared that he wanted cheesy mac and garlic bread for a birthday dinner. Now, due to those roughly 80,000 calories, I wasn’t too stoked on this idea, as what he wanted was one of the first recipes I mastered when I was in college. I have no idea where the original recipe came from, as I think I received a stained print-out from someone along the way. It was incredibly creamy and velvety and delicious but called for loads and loads of both oil and margarine. Add super greasy garlic bread to that, and my vacation-stuffed stomach wasn’t thrilled. So I decided it was finally time to de-fat (at least partially) the recipe and see how it turned out. It still needs some tweaking (I think the tempeh needs to be grated for a more “sausage” like texture, and it could maybe be a bit moister), but overall it was a (much-healthier) success. And it gets even better the next day. The tempeh sausage crumbles are straight from Vegan with a Vengeance (minus the spices I had unexpectedly run out of), but the rest is straight from my head.

Tempeh Cheesy Mac

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
3 Tbsp margarine
paprika
1 1/2 cups macaroni, slightly undercooked
1 recipe tempeh sausage crumbles

Mix nutritional yeast, flour, water, soy sauce, garlice powder, and turmeric together in a small saucepan and heat over medium until thickened. Melt in margarine. In an 8×8 casserole dish, mix together sauce, macaroni, and tempeh and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

And to totally mess up the “healthiness” of the cheesy mac, Dan made his “world famous” garlic bread. Whenever he cooks something, he calls it world famous, even (or maybe especially) when it’s the first time he’s ever made it. I think the only time I’ve disputed this title was when he found a cucumber in the fridge, thought it was a zucchini (not sure how one makes that mistake), and put it in chili! Then again, maybe that is world famous, just not in a good way.

And dessert. Strawberry shortcake, with biscuits from Martha, with WAY less sugar on the berries, and whipped Soyatoo. Oh my God, Soyatoo is the best thing ever. Seriously. I whipped it up with half a vanilla bean and a few spoonfuls of sugar, and it reminded me of being a kid and eating spoonful and spoonful of Cool-Whip straight out of the package. I loved that stuff. But knowing that it’s 99% chemicals, 1% whey freaks me out now. So thank you, Soyatoo, for actually resembling whipped cream (or whipped-cream-like product) without being icky. The whole thing was incredible, and such an improvement over those weird little sponge cakes at the grocery store.

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