No Need to Be Afraid of Vegan Alfredo

Vegan Fusili Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables

We are all afraid of something. I mean, as New Yorkers, we’re afraid of more things than people from other cities – quote ‘Rent’ ‘I’m a New Yorker. Fear’s my life.’ But, everyone is afraid of something.

Some of these fears are totally rational: falling, heights, being buried alive, cockroaches, zombies.

Michael Strahan Kelly Ripa

Pain-O-Phobic Michael Strahan

On Live! With Kelly and Michael, Michael Strahan admitted that he is afraid of needles and, oddly, pain. In spite of the fact that the ex-Giant must have endured great pain and doled some out as well during his football career, Michael Strahan fears pain.

Some people are afraid of things that crawl; mice, rats, gophers, gerbils etc. Some fears are so common that they can draw huge audiences at the box office – Fear of spiders, Arachnophobia. Fear of snakes – Snakes on a Plane. Fear that your house was built on a cemetery where the builder ‘moved the headstones but not the bodies’ : Poltergeist.

It’s amazing where our heads can go in times of great fear. One minute everything is fine and safe, then, a loud noise in the distance and you think ‘Gun fire! Take cover!’ Generally just a car engine backfiring, but, sure, it could have been gun fire.

Scary Evil Witchy Poo

Growing up I was most afraid of Witchy Poo. She was the evil witch on HR Pufnstuf’s television show that ran in reruns on Saturday mornings in our house.

I spent my nights shaking in fear, waking in a pool of sweat from the nightmare of Witchy Poo. I mean, look at her…very scary.

Some fears, however, are less than rational. In California, it’s pretty common to have an awareness and fear of earthquakes – because they happen out there with relative frequency. This is a geographically rational fear.

Earthquakes in New York, however…not so common. We had an earthquake in New York last summer – like summer of 2011. I was home and the building started to just shimmy shake a little. Then, I heard a rattle-y noise and noticed that the handles on my dresser were shaking. I thought it might be an earthquake, but my head went to a completely different place. At that moment, as the rolling 5.8 earthquake rolled through my apartment, shook my floors and rattled the handles on my furniture, I thought….

‘ALIEN INVASION!’…..uhm…What?

Another fear that is not wholly rational is a fear of Vegan cuisine. Last night I went Vegan for no reason and made…

Vegan Fusilli Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables (serves 4)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

1. Cube 1 medium sized sweet potato and cut the florets from one stalk of broccoli  into bite size pieces. (Note you can save the broccoli stalk for vegetable stock if you so choose.)

SuperFood Sweet Potatoes Cubed

Broccoli

Broccoli Florets in Bite Size Pieces

2. In a bowl, toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper…you can use Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt as well. Just toss enough to lightly coat the veggies.

3. Arrange the vegetables on a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for :20minutes, turning the vegetables about halfway through the roasting. Once the veggies are softened and gently beginning to brown, remove from the oven and set aside.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Pretty Roasted SuperFoods

4. Once the water is boiling, drop in about 1 cup of fusilli per person. Then season the water generously with salt and a little olive oil.

NOTE: Waiting to add the salt until the water is boiling will help prevent salt stains on the bottom of your pot.

NOW – time to make the sauce…

Vegan Alfredo Sauce Mise En Place

5. While the pasta is boiling…In a food processor, puree 1/4 cup of raw cashews until fine.

Finely Ground Cashews

6. Add in:

  • 1 TBSP of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 TSP of Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TSP of Soy Sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TBSP of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 cup of boiling water from the Pasta Pot
  • 1/2 cup of Almond Milk (at room temperature)

Puree until creamy – you’ll see gentle bubbles of frothiness form. This can take about a minute or so…

Vegan Alfredo Sauce Frothy

7. Drain the pasta, but reserve at least one cup of the pasta water

8. Put the pasta back into the pot over low heat and pour the sauce over it. Stir to combine and heat through. If the sauce is too thick, use the pasta water to thin it just a bit.

9. Once heated through, transfer to a serving bowl and add the vegetables on top. You can also add some sliced cherry tomatoes. Very pretty!

Pretty Vegan Fusilli Alfredo With Veggies

10. Toss and serve. I served with a side of garlic bread and should have served a salad as well…but didn’t.

When I was about 10, I awoke from a dream in which I had witnessed the exile of Witchy Poo. In the dream, the evil witch was sent off to an island in the middle of the ocean. With her in exile, I took back the nights and could finally sleep without fear.

Last night, my guests for Vegan dinner were two cautiously supportive friends. When I served the Vegan Fusilli Alfredo, they each politely took about a spoonful and a half onto their plates. Each smiled through their fear as they went in for the first bite…I waited.

We had a back up plan to order in if the meal proved to be inedible.

‘Wow. It’s actually good.’ One of my friends finally said with surprise breaking the silence and the mystery aura surrounding Vegan cuisine. The other agreed and each helped herself to and finished a real portion of the dish.

I admit…I was skeptical too. I am not a Vegan, but wanted to give this dish a shot. And, I’m glad I did. It was a great, low-calorie option…And, more importantly, I am no longer afraid of Vegan Alfredo.

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Sweet Potatoes, A Super SuperFood

Baked Super Sweet Potato Fries (in hand thrown bowl by DG)

I am not normal. And, I think that’s just they way it is. I’ve grown to accept it. I didn’t always like the stuff that everyone liked or want to wear the clothes that everyone wanted to wear – sometimes this was a good thing as no one can produce a photograph of me in bobby socks and MIA flats. I didn’t have a LeSportSac or wear enough makeup or even like the right foods…

I may have been, for example, the only kid who loved liverwurst (did not make me very popular in the fifth grade), Brussels sprouts (granted, I buttered and salted them to death back then) and cottage cheese. And I’ve always felt bad for these hated foods.

In more recent years, however, I have found redemption in the fact that Brussels Sprouts are like totally all the rage. OK, I know it’s still hard to find someone who loves cottage cheese beyond having to eat it for dietary reasons and I highly doubt that I can bring liverwurst into favor – do they even make it anymore? But, one out of three ain’t bad.

So, when I was working on Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and people totally gasped when I wanted to make sweet potatoes, I was shocked. The first time, I was told that I could make sweet potatoes, but only if I did it ‘southern style’ – with a heap of sugar and melted baby marshmallows on top. The next time, it was only OK to include a sweet potato dish if I promised to make regular mashed potatoes and only if the regular mashed potato bowl was like four times the size of the sweet potato dish. I may have recently been given this as a directive for the upcoming Thanksgiving as well.

I get it. Sweet potatoes are not that easy to love. They’re different, after all.

But it is their difference that makes them so interesting…and, delicious. And, not just for Thanksgiving.

Plus…they’re a superfood! Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, Vitamin A, C and B6. Also they’re high in potassium and manganese. They can, according to Yahoo ‘help stabilize blood sugar…[and] they’re relatively low in calories’. WebMD recommends them and, as if that isn’t good enough…so does Doctor Oz!

So stop with the hate and find a way that works to enjoy this delicious superfood.

One option is:

Sweet Potato Baked Fries with, if you must, a Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce (serves 4)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

1. Peel 3 large sweet potatoes and then chop into 1/4 inch thick fries

Pretty Peeled Sweet Potato

Raw Sweet Potato in Fry Form

NOTE: getting the sweet potatoes peeled and cut into fry form is the hardest part. And, I’m a little klutzy with a knife. So have a sharp one and be careful.

2. Toss the sweet potato fries with olive oil, Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt or Sea Salt and Pepper. Just enough to coat the fries. You can also add spicy spices here if you want them with a little kick – cayenne, paprika etc.

3. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Sweet Potato Fries-To-Be Ready for Baking

4. Put into the oven for a total of :20 – :25 mins

BUT: toss the fries about every :05 minutes. This will help even cooking.

Sweet Potato Fries in the Oven

5. Remove from the oven and let cool for :03-:05 mins

   and since you’re not sure you really like sweet potatoes…serve with a Maple-Mayo dipping sauce

Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce

All you need for a Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce

Mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1/8 cup of pure maple syrup and 1 1/4 TBSPs of brown sugar. And chill at least :15 mins before serving.

Super Sweet Potato Fries with Sweet Dipping Sauce

Sweet potatoes aren’t just a Superfood, they’re a Super SuperFood. Keep trying them until you find a way to love them. If nothing else, their bright orange color brings newness and energy to your table and can liven up the appearance of any plate.

Plus, they can become a fry – yes, you can actually fry them in hot fatty oil, but try not to negate the super-ness and just bake them – would you?

OK, off my soap box for the underrated and sometimes hated sweet potato. Just eat and enjoy. I mean I’m not asking you to love liverwurst…

What the Kale? Not so Super Super Food.

Kale Greens Red Russian

Red Russian Kale Greens

I don’t love sharing my age…and here’s what I will say: in the ’70’s I rocked a pair of moon boots. They were pretty much the most awesome moon boots ever. Striped in shades of the rainbow and puffily filled with polyester to keep me warm in the dead of winter, I was the envy of all my friends – at least that’s how I’m telling it. Moon Boots back then weren’t all techy like they are now. It was a free-love fashion statement for kids who were too young to know about free-love. Moon Boots showcased one of the iconic symbols of  the ’70’s – the rainbow. And we all wore our own twist of rainbow on whatever we could.

Rainbow Moon Boots

I also had a pet rock. I could solve Rubics Cube in four minutes. I wore totally flammable, Danskin clothing. I cut a 45 out of the back of a Honey Comb box and played it on a flip down record player. I had a CB Radio Handle (“ShortCake” – after Joanie from Happy Days, not some porn star). I could rock a creepy crawler. I never squeezed the Charmin and Gee My Hair Smelled Terrific.

I liked a good fad. I still do.

So, when everyone was all like ‘OMG! Kale!’ and ‘Kale! The Amazing Super Food!’ Kale in many iterations started to appear on menus and people were comparing Kale recipes while boasting about how much Kale and how often Kale, I had to check it out.

While I’m not a salad fan…I do like a good bitter green – give me some arugula, spinach or even endives…and I’m good. Wait, I can put cheese on them, right?

But Kale? Kale…I just wasn’t sure. So I gave it a shot in what seemed to be the tamest form I could find: Kale Chips. Chips is one of my favorite words. What could be the harm?

Kale Chips (appetizer)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

2. Take 1 large bunch of Kale and remove the center vein. I used Russian Red Kale…Might have been a mistake.

3. Tear or cut (your call) the leaves into bite sized pieces and arrange on a baking sheet covered in tin foil and sprayed with an Olive Oil cooking spray. (Pam Olive Oil spray was on sale yesterday at Food Emporium – like $2 off on sale! – it’s the little things that make me happy)

Kale Chips Pre-Oven

4. Spray the Kale pieces with Olive Oil spray and then sprinkle with sea salt

5. Put in the oven for 10-12 minutes – turning the pieces about halfway through the cooking process. Total cook time really depends upon your oven’s accuracy. Goal is crispy.

6. When they reach the desired crispiness, remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a serving bowl

7. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve

Kale Chips with Parmesan

UHHHHH, they were good, I guess. They were crispy and bitter with a good degree of saltiness. They were pretty.

But, probably the biggest selling point was that we all felt better. We felt better because we were eating the most super of Super Foods….

Like I said, I’m hip to a food fad and I’m not going to dis such a super food as Kale. So here’s what I’ll say – make sure you cook them to totally crispy and they mimic the crispy spinach at China Grill (though not as oily). Serve them alongside other appetizers and they’ll provide a nice, rich color to your assortment and make your guests feel better about eating snacks before dinner.

But, at the end of the day…Not my fave food fad. I’m all ‘What the Kale?’ And, I’d rather have a pet rock.