Thursday, September 15, 2011
Pasta with Creamy Vegan 'Alfredo' Sauce
So I had been working a lot. Like, a LOT. And when I wasn't working, I wasn't able to muster up the energy to write a post. My weeks this summer pretty went like this: work, work, sleep (a little), work, work, deposit self on beach, work (sometimes on beach), sleep (a little more), work. In the little time I had in between, I was reading. A lot. Too much, some (cough, boyfriend, cough) might say.
All of this reading, coupled with an over-reactionary stomach these past few months, has led me to make some changes in my diet. Big time changes. As in, no meat or dairy, kind-of-sort-of-vegan changes. I mean, I love me some cheese, though it has admittedly always weirded me out that we are the only species on earth that eats milk of other mammals intended for their young. Sick. Though cheese is delicious.
Now I don't think I can say that I'll be shunning meat and dairy forever, but I can see myself significantly restricting my intake of both for the near and not-so-near future. While I don't know that I could forever say goodbye to smoked salmon, I think I'd be doing both myself and the environment a favor by largely limiting the amount of animal products I consume. And I'm not going to put pressure on myself my placing a label on my diet. I'm not going to declare that I "am" anything, and then set lofty expectations for what I (or others) think my diet should comprise. If I want to be a "kind-of-sort-of-vegan, who sometimes eats smoked salmon, or lobster rolls or finds herself at a really great restaurant and wants to enjoy a meal sans dietary restrictions", so be it.
And honestly, it's been kind of fun. It's really exciting to get into the kitchen and wing it sometimes. To try to create really exciting meals without the crutch of bacon fat or the richness of eggs. This hasn't been about trying to recreate the non-vegan dishes I love: the macs & cheeses, the bacon egg and cheese sandwich because honestly, I don't miss them. I have not eaten a single slice of Tofurkey (nor do I intend to) - substituting meat and dairy with overly processed soy is not really going to do my body much good. This for me has been about creating foods that are delicious in their own right, but that are easy enough to digest and don't make me feel bloated or tired afterwards. But once in a while, only a creamy pasta dish is going to satisfy, and for those times, I'm glad I found a few vegan 'alfredo' sauce recipes to mash together into one. A garlicky, saucy alfredo facsimile that I felt not only not bad about eating, but great about eating.
Pasta with Vegan Alfredo Sauce
Adapted from here and here
The cashews lend this sauce a nice, creaminess, and together with the tahini and nutritional yeast give the dish a boost of protein. Nutritional yeast is a great resource for vegetarians and vegans, since it is one of very few non-meat sources of vitamin B12, and it has a vaguely cheesy taste. The sauce comes together in a blender, food processor or a magic bullet in a snap and needs just a couple of minutes of warming and thickening in a pot with the pasta, making this a very weeknight-doable meal.
I'd recommend only combining the pasta and sauce that you plan on eating at that time; if there are leftovers, the sauce and pasta / vegetables are better stored separately and reheated together in the pot when you're ready to eat the rest of what you've prepared. Once combined, the dish doesn't reheat as well, though if you have sauced pasta left over, adding a bit of almond milk when reheating will restore some creaminess to the dish.
4 ounces pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chopped frozen broccoli
1/3 cup raw cashews
2 garlic cloves
3 T nutritional yeast
1 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
1 T lemon juice (I added a bit more after tasting it)
2 T non-dairy buttery spread, such as Earth Balance
1 T low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T tahini
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 tsp paprika
lots of freshly ground black pepper (or to taste I guess)
Cook pasta in well-salted water in a sauce pot. About two minutes before the pasta is to be al dente (don't cook it all the way in the water, since it will continue to cook a bit once the sauce is added), add the peas and broccoli to the pot with the pasta. Cook until the peas and broccoli are bright green and cooked, making sure not to allow them to get mushy. Drain the pasta and vegetables in a colander and return to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, add the rest of the ingredients to your blender or magic bullet and blent until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Add sauce to the pot with the pasta and vegetables and heat over medium heat. Allow the sauce to thicken and heat through, stirring frequently. Top with a few turns of freshly ground pepper and a dusting of paprika.