Biting into a tender and marbled piece of Japanese wagyu beef is one of the greatest pleasures of a meat lover’s life. Meat like this comes at a high premium, though, and it’s not like you can just roll up to a Whole Foods and buy several pounds of it. There are plenty of restaurants in New York City that offer wagyu beef dishes, but if you’re lucky enough to be downtown, you can stop by the butcher Japan Premium Beef in Noho, which specializes almost exclusively in Japanese and American wagyu.
It’s been awhile since I posted something on vegan week! My vegan diet has lost a bit of momentum with all the distractions from my weekend trips, in which there were too many delicious meat and dairy options around me, and these habits carried over into the week. Furthermore, I kept noticing that my workouts were significantly better on the days when I had meat, so I’ve been incorporating meat more regularly into my work week diet.
But I still try to stick to mostly vegetables where I can. And this delicious spicy eggplant pasta dish, which is comforting, satisfying and filling, makes me look forward to the vegan work week. The original recipe calls for regular wheat linguine, but I actually swapped it for a brown rice pasta. I wanted to see if I could meet the challenge of vegan, gluten-free and delicious, and luckily this brown rice version passed the test!
Spicy Eggplant Pasta, adapted from Food52.com
1 large eggplant
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
several tablespoons of olive oil
1 8 oz. package of brown rice pasta (I used Pastariso Rice Pasta), you can also use regular linguine!
Cut the eggplant crosswise in 1 inch thick slices. Lay the slices on a baking sheet, and salt them well on both sides. Drizzle olive oil over the eggplant, and make sure both sides are coated.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven is ready, roast the eggplant pieces for about 20 minutes.
While the eggplant roasts, heat some olive oil on a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and cook for about 8-10 minutes.
Add the can of crushed tomatoes, dried oregano and red pepper flakes. The mixture will already be pretty thick. Set the heat very low and mix the sauce from time to time.
Once the eggplant is ready, slice it into 1 inch pieces and incorporate into the sauce. Continue to simmer on low heat until the pasta noodles are ready.
After adding the eggplant to the sauce mixture, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 6-8 minutes. Stir from time-to-time so that the noodles don’t stick together, which tends to happen more frequently with brown rice pasta. Drain the pasta and fold into the sauce. If you’re using the brown rice pasta, be extra careful, as it is not as sturdy and tensile as its wheat counterpart. It is a delicious, slightly nutty substitute though!
For some reason, my energy levels came crashing down from their record highs last week, which was really disappointing. Last week I felt like I could take on the world, and I was totally managing my inbox like a champ, but this week I was so tired and unproductive. I definitely needed coffee in addition to my green tea multiple times. On Thursday I was feeling really good again, but on Friday I felt like my blood sugars were dangerously low in the early evening. I’m not sure what I did differently to cause this shift–I did eat less quinoa this time around, but could that really be it? I’m hoping this is a one-off and I’ll have better luck in week 3.
Day 1 – Kind Bar (so hard to avoid honey!), sweet potato kale salad, orange, almonds, coconut milk curried tofu
Day 2 – 1/2 of a Clif bar, almonds, sweet potato kale salad, orange and fruit salad as snacks, leftover coconut milk curried tofu, an Emmy’s chai tea macaroon, an apple
Day 3 – 1/2 of a Clif bar, oatmeal with dried fruit, sweet potato kale salad (I clearly made these in bulk on a Sunday), orange and almonds for snacks, tofu udon noodle soup
Day 4 – Emmy’s chai tea macaroon and a banana, Hale & Hearty’s 10-vegetable soup, almonds, apple and a Kind Bar for snacks, Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean Enchilada
Day 5 – Kind Bar, a Moroccan vegetable soup from Frame, a bag of pretzels, almonds, carrots and hummus, salmon, broccoli crowns and quinoa to conclude vegan week
One of my highlights from this week’s vegan entry was a new quick udon noodle soup recipe that I tried from thekitchn.com. It had all the elements of a perfect weekday homemade dinner – quick, easy and tasty. The hardest part about it was trying to find some of the seasonings, specifically the star anise, which is a very intense licorice spice that is commonly used in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. Needless to say, I couldn’t find it at Whole Foods, but luckily the awesome Dual Specialty Store just an avenue over sells every spice imaginable at extremely reasonable prices, including this novelty. As the recipe title suggest, this is a quick broth, so it won’t have as much depth and fullness as a restaurant one, but it certainly is flavorful, and you can add whatever vegetables you want to it.
Quick Udon Noodle Soup, adapted from theKitchn.com
1 cup vegetable broth
5 cups water
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
handful of udon noodles
1/2 block of firm tofu, cubed
1-2 cups of kale or any other hearty green
2 scallions, chopped
soy sauce to taste
Bring liquids, bay leaf, anise and salt to boil. Add the udon noodles. About 6 minutes in, add the kale, tofu and scallions. Cook until the udon and kale are tender.
Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the bay leaf and star anise, and season with soy sauce (I used about 2 teaspoons). Serve in a bowl and enjoy!
Week 2 of the vegan work week diet was surprisingly good! I definitely had a breakthrough in my energy levels. You know that feeling you get when you call it an early night and sleep in for a really long time? That’s sort of how I felt for most of last week. It was pretty awesome feeling refreshed and operating with more clarity than my usual out-of-it, blah self. I didn’t need a cup of coffee once and was totally fine with green tea. I could still finish my workouts at the same energy level as my non-vegan weeks, even my more intensive HIIT ones, which is something I’m always paranoid about because the last time I did the vegan diet, I collapsed after 10 minutes on the treadmill. I also felt like I could get full on less, and I never had any cravings for sweets or junk food (it probably helped that I had an arsenal of Emmy’s vegan macaroons with me). It’s getting psychologically easier to eat mostly vegetables, and I don’t find myself longing for a chicken or burger ever. Although to be honest, I do find myself thinking about almond croissants and cheese from time to time.
Below is a recap of week 2–onwards to week 3!
Day 1 – Raw Revolution Chocolate Coconut Bliss bar for breakfast, curried chickpeas (inspired by the amazing salad from Joan’s on Third in LA) and quinoa for lunch, an orange and almonds for snacks, Amy’s Black Bean Enchilada for dinner
Day 2 – Raw Revolution Spirulina bar for breakfast, curried chickpeas and quinoa for lunch, an orange and almonds for snacks, veggie sushi rolls from Alpha Fusion (pickled radish, mushrooms, seaweed and tofu)
Day 3 – oatmeal w/raisins for breakfast, roasted sweet potatoes with arugula salad for lunch, an orange and almonds for snacks, pan-fried brussels sprouts for dinner
Day 4 – White Chocolate Chip Clif Bar for early breakfast, oatmeal w/soy milk and cinnamon for late breakfast, roasted sweet potatoes with arugula salad for lunch, an apple for a snack, sauteed kale and garlic for dinner
Day 5 – a bit of a strange day here, but some fruit and an apple for breakfast, lots of lemon ginger tea, an Almond + Apricot Kind Bar for lunch (being flexible with the honey here), 1 cinnamon bagel from Murray’s that happens to be “accidentally” vegan, salmon and brussels sprouts for dinner (veganism comes to a close by 5 pm!)
For tonight’s vegan dinner, I really wanted to use up my coconut milk before it went bad, so I decided to make some curried tofu. This recipe is adapted from the Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry recipe on Food52.com, with a few modifications. Obviously I swapped in firm tofu for chicken to make it vegan friendly, and I didn’t have turmeric so I just used whatever I had in my spice rack–curry powder, cumin and red chili powder. I also threw in some chopped red pepper for a little color and texture. The vegan version of this recipe was very good, although I think the chicken absorbed the fragrant spices better than the tofu did. The warm, creamy sauce is the heart and soul of the dish, so you can’t really go wrong with whatever protein you end up using.
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 14 oz. package of firm tofu
1 medium onion
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk (I used So Delicious’ original unsweetened coconut milk)
Prepare the onion, garlic and red pepper. Chop the red bell pepper into small pieces and remove the inner core and seeds. Mince the garlic cloves. Finely chop the onion.
Take the entire block of tofu out of the packaging and remove the water. Slice the tofu into small 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of curry powder over the tofu cubes and distribute evenly. Set aside the tofu in a bowl or plate.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook the onions for about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, the cumin, the red chili powder and salt into the pan and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and mix everything together.
Add the tofu to the pan and pan-fry for about 6 minutes. Add the cup of coconut milk and red peppers. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the coconut milk has assumed more of a thick, sauce-like consistency.
Ladle the tofu and curry sauce over some hot rice or quinoa. Dish must be served warm!
Yields about 2-3 individual servings.
Cronut mania…we’re about 3 months into the trend now. You would think that cronuts would have jumped the shark at this point, but the fad shows no signs of dying down. Lines are still wrapping around the block and scalpers are still selling cronuts for $35 a piece.
I’ve already checked the cronut line off my list, but I was tempted to wait in line again when I heard that Dominique Ansel had introduced a new blackberry flavor. But all the endless rain and humidity deterred me from a second attempt. So I came up with a genius idea–I would skip the line and make cronuts at home instead!
Except…my homemade cronuts were a pretty big failure. Everything from making the filling, to rolling the dough, to shaping the cronut, to frying the thing, it was a disaster. And it tasted bad too. Like soggy, uncooked refrigerated dough. Sigh. I used this online recipe as a guide–let me know if you have better luck following it. One quick tip–when the pudding mix says to use cold cow’s milk, don’t use almond milk. Your pudding will turn out watery and sad.
Inspired by “How to Make a Cronut at Home!”
From www.babble.com, courtesy of Pillsbury
2 cups vegetable oil (I used like 1/2 a cup)
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 vanilla pudding from a Jell-O box mix
Make the pudding mix according to the Jell-O box instructions. Mine said to combine the mix with 2 cups of cold milk and whisk for 2 minutes. I didn’t have cow’s milk, so I used almond milk instead. This was a mistake, because my pudding never became firm and became a soupy mess.
Set aside the finished pudding in the refrigerator. Now it’s time to make the cronuts. I recommend that you lightly flour your surface and use a rolling pin, as opposed to the ghetto chilled wine bottle I used as a substitute. The dough got a bit sticky and was hard to work with.