Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lasagna Lifestyle

I think if you went to a party where you didn't know anyone, or maybe one of those meet-and-greet mixers, or some vulnerably awkward situation where you needed to quickly find something interesting to talk about with strangers, you should start talking about lasagna. Every American child of the 90s has a soft spot for lasagna. Lasagna night was awesome. Lasagna filled with something creamy and tangy, or something fresh like tomatoes, or chewy like mushrooms, or meaty, like lentils... there are so many possibilities. As long as you have that doughy pasta bite covered in salty red tomato sauce, it doesn't matter if it's lasagna rolls, lasagna soup, or stuffed shells. You can't really go wrong. You could start by saying, "I made this vegan lasagna last night!" Then, "Yeah, it's vegan!" Then, "it had spinach, artichokes, lentils, Oh and this crumbly parmesan-style topping!" And eventually, "Oh you have to try it, I'll give you the recipe..."

The best thing about lasagna is that it makes a TON. You won't have to cook for a week. And you get to eat lasagna for a whole week. So that's like a bonus.

The TLC required in lasagna-making might be a touch laborious for a weeknight. So on a Sunday or whatever day you don't work, put on some calming tunes, and relax yourself while you dive elbow deep into lasagna and make it everything you ever wanted lasagna to be like. Make it with your best bud and it can be a team effort. A long cooking task isn't always unenjoyable. Sometimes I emerge zen-like from my kitchen after a Sunday cooking marathon.

There would be more peace in the world if we all made lasagna a little more often. Vegan lasagna, that is.

1 box lasagna noodles

1 lb soft tofu
3/4 cup cashews
1/3 cup nooch
1 can or 1 1/2 cups lentils
1 can or 6 artichoke hearts, chopped into 4 pieces
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 bunch chopped fresh basil
1 bunch chopped fresh parsley

4-5 cups tomato sauce, jarred or homemade

1/2 cup almonds
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon nooch

Boil the lasagna noodles and lay them out on a large cutting board or workspace. If they are sticking, spray with a little olive oil cooking spray. 
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with a little olive oil if you like, and sauté the onion until light brown. Add garlic and stir around for a minute or two, then add the lentils and artichokes. You can wilt the spinach in now, or you can layer it fresh into the lasagna before baking. Stir around and add the dried spices and salt. Saute for a few minutes. and turn off the heat.
If you're super savvy you can make the tofu-cashew filling while you sauté the lentils and veggies. All you have to do is crumble the tofu into a blender with the cashews and nooch and blend it really well. I have a high-speed blender so it only takes me about a minute, but I never had any problems when I had a tag-sale blender either. I just blended an extra minute or two. 
Scoop this mixture out of the blender and into a mixing bowl. Rinse the blender out because you're going to use it again to make the topping. 
Once the lentil-veggie filling is not totally burning hot, add it to the tofu mixture in the mixing bowl, and fold in. Fold in the chopped basil and parsley.
Preheat your oven to 400ºF. 
Get your 9x13 or whatever size lasagna pan you want out and spoon some tomato sauce over the bottom so that there's no dry space. Now add 3 or 4 lasagna noodles lengthwise, overlapping a little if necessary. Actually I think overlapping helps with the integrity of the lasagna after baking, so overlap away! Now add a few heaps of the tofu-lentil mixture and smooth out on top of the noodles. If you didn't wilt in the spinach before, you can lay your spinach leaves flat on top of the filling, just enough of them to cover the filling layer. Now add some more tomato sauce over the top of that.
Keep layering in the same order, and you should get about 3 full layers. Finish by topping off the pan with red sauce.
Now make the topping by throwing the almonds, lemon zest, salt and nooch into your blender and pulverizing them to make dust. If you doubt your blender's abilities, then you can use a food processor.
Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of the lasagna, cover and bake for about 30 minutes. You can remove the foil to try and brown the top after the 30 minutes, but it's not necessary.

Let cool a minute, call all your friends, tell them you made a lasagna bigger than an air-hockey table and come help you eat it. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

More Babies, More Showers, More Cupcakes!!

You guys my best friend is having a baby soon and last weekend she had her baby shower! Obviously, I made the cupcakes. They were chocolate-covered strawberry flavored, as per her request. They are chocolate cake, with a strawberry buttercream topped with a strawberry and chocolate ganache drizzle. 

I can't believe the time has finally come for my friends to grow up and have babies and buy houses and become real adults. All I do to feel like an adult is eat goji berries. She's winning the adult race. But I was never very competitive...

When I got there she was in heels, and I applauded her for wearing heels while pregnant. Then she told me to give it an hour, because she brought flip flops as a back up, and I think about 40 minutes later she was rocking them. That's 40 minutes in heels I couldn't have done..

Okay baby showers are the smartest idea ever, and whoever thought of them is a complete genius. Throwing yourself a party so people bring you tons of presents? So smart. And all the guests think it's cute and nice and everyone loves babies, so they're all fooled into buying you like 100 outfits and everything you will ever need. Ever. Except college. 

The cupcakes went over well, as everyone told me they looked pretty and tasted delicious! Really, they were considerably easier than a lot of other baking jobs I've had, it was just chocolate cake! 
Chocolate: A crowd pleaser.

Also someone brought this really cute cake with a baby's butt! It's super cute and fancy!

 Congrats to Jessica! We all can't wait to meet Baby Ava! <333

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adventure Time with KZ !

Happy Spring Y'all! The weather is just beginning to tilt towards Spring, and each day I can smell more life in the air than the day before. The sun is up when I leave work, and cherry season is but a month away. I have been doing what I do, making veggie stock, drinking seasonal brews, cooking spaghetti, taking walks to explore, and practicing my chaturanga ;) Also, look at this drink my friend Lauren made for me! I don't know how to speak coffee, but its made from almond milk, chocolate, and magic. That's all I can disclose.

My boss reminded me to eat more broccoli rabe because it is awesome. He is right. Especially when you cover it in spaghetti, but what isn't amazing when covered in spaghetti??

Alex and I hit the shop-up so hard, you guys. Most recently, in one 6-hour stint at a Saturday Shop-up I ate a BBQ slider, split an Ethiopian feast from Bunna, mac n cheese, a cinnamon bun with peanut butter, a macaroon, a chocolate caramel, a bunch of fudge, a cup of chai, and drank 4 beers. Whaddyagonnado...

For St. Paddys Day some friends came over and I made some Irish stylee food to enjoy over beers. This is my Irish Soda Bread, which looks a bit freakishly huge, but it was freakishly tasty too, so I'm not sweating it either.

 Pretty dope vegan Irish Stout

 Irish Stew with seitan and biscuits

 vegan Baileys with coconut milk

So the other night I was thinking about what to make for dinner, so I texted Alex and was like what do you want for dinner, to which he replied, "I got this." So Alex has cooked for me one time in the last ten years.. and with a track record like he's got, I assumed "I got this" meant "I'll get seamless," but in fact, when I walked in the door, he was almost done making enchiladas!! The best part is that he used a recipe from my site. Awww. I was super impressed because enchiladas are not really a beginner's recipe. It requires making a chile paste by reconstituting chiles, making a vegetable filling which requires chopping veggies, and on top of that he made rice and beans in a chipotle-beer sauce! I was so amazed, it's almost like I made it up. Did I make this up??? Is this real life???? 

 Impressive Enchiladas ala Alex

Oh, and I made the Roasted Red Pepper Mac from Isa Does It again. What else is new??

This past weekend it was so nice out, so we ran with our Springtime jackets on to BK and went to Champs, my first love, and got breakfast, went wandering through McCarren Park and flipped through all the vinyl in Human Head Records, scoring a few 7"s and ultimately our weight in doughnuts from Dunwell. It had been too long. I had an apple pie doughnut there and it reminded me that I haven't made a pie since like, Thanksgiving? What gives?? Pie soon. For days.

 I had a moment with this brownie. It contains my soul.

Perusing the #vegan hashtag is a little depressing for me, since it's just a bunch of pictures of skinny girls in their underwear, or pictures of food that looks so good but I can't eat because it is only on a screen, or pictures of really wholesome-looking food like smoothies with flaxseeds and goji berries and maca powder and spirulina and green tea extract. All of the pictures usually look great, and make me feel like the worst junk-food vegan. So to console myself, I made this smoothie today! It has a frozen banana, 1/2 cup of coconut yogurt, 1 tablespoon of coconut crystals, a big ass spoonful of peanut butter, 1/4 cup of chia seeds and some almond milk. I put walnuts and chia on top for maximum instagram cuteness. It was so amazing and I felt so good that I walked to work! I beat up all the punks on Crescent Street because I was so jacked up on chia, and got to work 10 minutes early, all while googling the health benefits of chia seeds. I eat chia, so I'm a good vegan, RIGHT YOU GUYS?!?!?

Also, check out my new Summa-time vegan kicks I got today!! Ready for Spring time fighting Crime! I will be back soon with a bunch of baby shower cupcakes and the lasagna recipe of my dreams <33

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Baby Shower and NYC Vegfest

This weekend I journeyed back to New England to bake for a baby shower! The baby shower was for my cousin, Jen, and it was Beatles-themed! There were lots of yellow submarines, Beatles song titled-games, a Beatles mix to take home as a favor, and of course, Strawberry Fields-themed cupcakes, baked by yours truly. 

These were void of allergens, especially gluten, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, peanuts.. I think thats it ? They are strawberry-lemonade flavored, and they got high marks! It was a long night and early morning, but I kept myself sane by singing Strawberry Fields Forever while they were baked, frosted, decorated and packed. They cooked vegan for me at the shower, too :) My cousin Nick made scrambled chickpeas, potatoes and pancakes for me in addition to all the other food for the other guests. When people cook things especially for you, they just taste better. I'm very used to not being accommodated and usually come prepared with back-up food. I don't get mad when there's nothing I can eat, but when someone makes sure you're taken care of at their event, it goes a really long way. So, THANKS!<3

 The first of 2 trees to be set up and ready for post-baby bingo hunger

Strawberry Fields, Forever...

 See my pastel pink and yellow swirl frosting?! Look how fancy, you guys!

The NYC VegFest was the day after the shower, so we scored some Sunday tickets and rolled home late so we could roll out early. I love the VegFest! This is the 3rd one I've been to. It's always so fun to see all the different businesses, big and small, probably located right under our noses, who are helping us all do the right things and support good causes. This year there were 2 floors! A full-house as always, we pushed our way around and got nearly every sample in the house. Some places were businesses I was learning about for the first time, and others that I'm a long-time fan of. Wait, is that girl wearing a thong over her pants? Is that back?!?

The best vegan chai! I always get it at the Shop-Ups in Brooklyn, so I definitely swooped in when I saw it for a spicy steamy mug of chai. It's almost like I'm over coffee. Almost. Just try it. You'll understand.
Dancing pony balloons accompanied by a certain handsome gentleman. 

We returned home with a modest haul, compared to years passed. 

BUT WAIT. We got tons of ice cream. And I talked to the owner who told me they are opening their store at the end of April or early May. I guess many people don't buy tons of ice cream from her at a time, amd she was so happy to talk to us and told us she would give us a tour of her factory! Also she took a picture of us to put on their facebook. We tried a bunch of flavors, and decided it would be unacceptable to come home with less than $20 worth of ice cream, so we got 4 pints. It was the most sane decision we made all day. That Del Lago Chocolate, though...

 We saw this guy do the parallel park-job of the century while we waited in line for the festival, and what with his lime green truck and logo, we spotted him at his booth and felt compelled to buy some energy drinks from him. Better than RedBull for sure, fewer ingredients, fewer ingredients with difficult-to-pronounce names, though does contain a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of sugar. What gives?

 Last, but not least, I got some macaroons from Sweet Maresa! These are pistachio burnt caramel or something to that effect. I loved them, obviously, because I have a beating heart and taste buds. The Veg Fest was so fun! There were more samples this year than before I think, maybe because ticket prices went up? It's always a fun event to tackle as the gates to springtime in NYC begin to open, the first of many good things to come.

Now look at these obligatory Isa Does It pictures.

 Spinach Burrito Bowl
 Creamy Potato Leek Soup
 Queso Blanco Bowl with Kale Chips
Edamame Hummus Tofu Wraps
Curried Peanut Bowl with Tofu

So excited for Spring to begin and enjoy every minute of it in this incredible city eating incredible food with incredible people!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Vegan

Guys I have been having so much fun this year! I feel like I may be on a lucky streak. I won't give too much away just in case superstitions are real, but I'll gladly throw salt over my left (or right?) shoulder and sidestep a few ladders to avoid my lucky streak ending. So a few strange things have been happening in KZTown this past month, like that I got a new job! Day job, that is. I'm obviously still a vegan baker and neighborhood watchwoman by night. I got my TV to hook up to my computer finally, got my car registered in the State of New York in just 1 day, got extra money back from taxes, and inexplicably lost weight. It must be all the pasta I've been eating. 

I've started doing Yoga. It's crazy hard, and I find even the beginner's videos challenging. But I am doing it at least 4 times a week, for at least 30 minutes. By the end of the 30 minutes I am covered in sweat and in need of a shower, a nap and several cookies, while the yoga instructor (from youtube) looks like she just woke up from a nap in her tanning bed. She calls me a beautiful yogi every time I turn her channel on, so I like her. Does anyone else do yoga? Where's a good place in the city to take classes? 

It's been Isa Does It City here in my apartment. I'm into the Bowl Chapter. I love eating that way. It's a strange mishmash of stuff sometimes, but still seemingly healthy. I have made almost all of them and love them all! Here are a million pictures to prove it.

Citrus Tahini Bowl from Isa Does It

Pizza Bowl from Isa Does It

Cozy Hummus Bowl from Isa Does It

Cucumber Ranch Bowl from Isa Does It

For Valentines Day, I couldn't decide which restaurant I wanted to go to, especially since they all seem to do this prix fixe menu thing that is like the price of two people for 1 person. Then you have to pay twice, so it's like you pay for 4 people. Romantic, right? So since I didn't feel like dealing with reservations, fancy attire and an empty wallet after coming home from work on Valentines Day, I thought I'd whip up a nice dinner and stay in. It was plenty romantic and warm, especially considering the foot of snow on the ground from the day before. My BF cleaned the house and lit some candles and put his blazer on before I came home from work. It was so cute! He got me a record, a novel and some PB Cups! I'm really not a flowers and chocolate kind of chick. I don't really want generic gifts that every guy stands in line at cvs on Valentines Day evening to buy. I like gifts that are for me specifically. I'm way too punk for pink flowers and the only jewelry I own is from my mom. but PB CUPS?!?! The man knows the way to my heart. I made Seitan braised in red wine with leeks and mushrooms from Vegan Eats World and some whipped potatoes. I used a potato ricer. So yeah. Pretty fancy.

The February Vegan Shop Up was this weekend!! I love this pop-up market because a) it's free admission, b) there's ethiopian food, c)it's at a vegan bar d) there's a lot of chocolate available e)It's a good excuse for midday drinking. Plus, everyone you meet there is more than likely awesome. So it's a good place to meet new vegan friends. I got a free tote bag because they gave out free totes to the first 10 people in the door, and I was #10! I was the winner! They were selling them for $20 so I was super happy that they were expensive because mine was free. Is that weird? I got my first bloody mary ever, which was this massive spicy concoction with a bunch of food jammed in it. I also got Ethiopian food from Bunna, which I am SO PSYCHED that they opened a new restaurant in BK. I will be there like ALL THE TIME. I got at least $30 in chocolate from Lagusta's Luscious, which was all amazing, and some macaroons (macarons?) from Sweet Maresa's that blew my mind. So pillowy! I loved them. I got a cinnamon bun from Cake Thieves with chocolate and PB CUPS! also a chocolate covered strawberry with chocolate chip armor. I had several beers in addition to all of these high sugar food-like substances, and Alex and I stumbled on the subway home, completely indecent at 4pm. I swore I was going to do yoga when I got home, but very obviously passed out for 3 hours until dinner time just minutes after walking in the door. 

Speaking of vegans drinking, Alex and I went to Vegan Drinks in Manhattan last month, where Monks Meats was doling out southern comfort food. I got the Tempeh meatloaf, Alex got the salisbury steak. The sides were maple carrots and mashed potatoes with gravy, The tempeh meatloaf was so amazing, and I didn't try the salisbury steak but I was told it was delicious. The mashed potatoes were obviously great, but that gravy though.. that gravy. I would pour that shit on cereal. I would pour it on my ice cream. I would pour it anyplace that would be near my mouth. Enough I guess.

Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy with mapley carrots
Tempeh Meatloaf, Cauliflower Gratin, and mapley carrots

I got Beyond Sushi today, just cause. I don't know why we don't go there every day. It's so good. I got an orange coconut juice this time. It reminded me of an Orange Julius, except in a good way. 
I like that part of town. There's a bunch of vegan spots there and downwards on the east side of 14th. I've been hitting up the East Village hard lately, whether for brunch, coffee, records, spices, ice cream, thrills, whathaveyou. Also WHEN IS DF MAVENS OPENING?! 

 I guess I've been good about getting out of the house this winter. I've been okay with the winter for the first time in my life. I grew up in New England, hating the snow, hating the long winter, barricaded in my room with the door shut to trap all the warm air, wearing 6 hoodies and under my covers, hibernating. I always thought I wanted to move to California and be on the beach all the time, but as I got older I grew strong East Coast Pride. I'm loving the winter in NYC. I've got a sweet vegan winter coat, some awesome vegan boots, and a Dr. Dog winter hat to sport, and I find the winter kind of charming. I guess I really am getting old. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I don't have to drive in the snow, brush my car off, shovel the snow, and my apartment is so effing hot that I currently have all the windows open. Oh, it's February btw. So yeah, winter, you can stay.

Plus if I lived on the west coast, I couldn't get brunch like THIS all the time! East Coast: 1. West Coast: 0.