Monday, June 20, 2011

The Barebones Vegan: Another Quick Dish for Less

Orzo-Steamed Spinach

I'm going to tell you about a recent dish that my boyfriend and I invented, called "Orzo-Steamed Spinach." Well, technically, it was mostly me that invented it, but I'll give him credit for getting me to love orzo. :-)

There are a lot of ways in which this dish is awesome. Allow me to elaborate...
  • It can be made in less than 10 minutes.
  • Its ingredients are either very cheap or, if they're expensive, they are the kind that last a long time. I have listed the prices after each item on the "shopping list" for this dish, below. Although the Earth Balance is pricey, it will last you a while, provided you use it as a condiment and not for baking. Same goes for the sea salt and pepper, which you may even already have. As for the organic baby spinach, it's much more economical to buy the huge container, as the price per ounce is significantly less than that of the smaller containers (trust me, I checked!). Plus, it's a hearty vegetable, so you won't have to worry about it rapidly going bad, so long as you keep it refrigerated.
  • It's a great way to consume a large portion of green vegetables without having to go the salad or green smoothie route (which you may be sick of!)
  • You only have to dirty one pot, yet you get two hot foods.
  • Cheap and/or long-lasting ingredients, plus quickness (seriously under 10 minutes to make!!!), means that it's the perfect "eating for several days in a row" meal when you're mega-busy and don't have time or feel like meal-planning - like during finals week! or a week when you have to work late every night! or while you're writing your dissertation, like me!
  • It's really delicious, despite its simplicity! 
So here's your ingredients shopping list:

1. a box of "orzo" which is a type of pasta shaped like little, flat footballs (1 store-brand box costs about $0.99 or less here in LA)
2. Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (usually about $5.99)
3. the huge, 16 oz plastic container of organic baby spinach (I think this cost me something like $5.39)
4. sea salt (prices vary depending on container size)
5. black pepper (prices vary depending on container size)

And here's the recipe:

I'm not going to list the ingredients because they're just the 5 grocery-list items above. So, what you do is cook at least a couple "servings" (say, 1/3 of the box) according to the package instructions. When the orzo is done, stir in a teaspoon or more of the Earth Balance and mix it up real good. Hey, you could even use olive oil if you wanted. Put a mound (really, go nuts) of the fresh spinach on a plate. Cover the spinach some of/all of the hot orzo. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Wait a few minutes for the hot orzo to "cook" the spinach a bit. Makes more than enough for one person.

This is meant to be a light meal or an accompaniment to something else, say, a heap of white beans (which are also cheap and easy to prepare!).

My camera phone doesn't really do it justice, but you get the idea. In this particular photo, you'll see I added some yellow peppers. This was only because we had some from our CSA and I wanted to try them out.

For other cheap, easy ways to be vegan, see my other Barebones Vegan posts.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Deathrow Mac 'n Cheese

It's about time I post about this recipe. If I were famous for a recipe, or famous at all, really, it would be because of Deathrow Mac 'n Cheese.

A brief history is in order. The recipe itself was inspired by a google search long ago, when I came across this recipe

I decided to alter it a bit to suit my own personal tastes, which ultimately evolved into my signature recipe below. 

The name, "Deathrow" comes from my friends, AJ and R, who declared it the meal they'd want for their last, should they ever find themselves on death row. Yes, people think it's that good. AJ liked it so much that she even adapted the recipe a bit and posted her version of it on her blog, here. I've also been told, by an omnivore who does not like the dairy version of mac 'n cheese, that this tastes amazing. Like I said, lots of credibility for this dish.

Here's the recipe:

D e a t h r o w  M a c  ' n  C h e e s e 

1 1/2 cups plain soymilk (unsweetened kind)
1 cup water
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup nutritional yeast
2/3 cup canola oil
1/4 block of firm tofu
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of German-style mustard (I have mad love for inglehoffer's stone ground mustard)
2/3 a bag of mozzarella Daiya cheese shreds 
1.5 pounds/1.5 boxes of brown rice pasta, either the mini shells or the elbow macaroni variety

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except for the Daiya and pasta into a blender, and blend until smooth. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box/bag. Once the pasta is done, drain and spread evenly into a casserole pan. Pour the blender mixture over the pasta, and stir around until it is fully integrated throughout the pasta. Do the same for the mozzarella Daiya, and save some to sprinkle over the top.

Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes (or slightly more or less, depending on your oven). The cheesy mix should be bubbling and the pasta should look slightly goldened/browned.

Highly recomended: Serve with kale salad.

Note 1: You may be skeptical about the brown rice pasta, but one time I didn't have any other kind on hand, so I used that, and the results were amazing. The other party guests even said that it was particularly good compared to how it usually tastes! So I now make it exclusively with brown rice pasta.

Note 2: This makes a lot and keeps well in the fridge. To reheat, just put it back in the oven or microwave. 

Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you come up with your own variation that you love!