Meatless Monday: Spicy Eggplant Pasta

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

Ingredients
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!

Preparation

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.

step 1 - prep eggplant
prep the eggplants with salt and olive oil for roasting

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.

step 2 - sautee onion and garlic
sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil

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.

step 3 - add crushed tomatoes oregano and chili pepper
add the can of crushed tomatoes, as well as the oregano and red pepper flakes

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.

step 4 - add diced eggplants
add the chopped eggplants

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!

step 5 - serve
spicy eggplant pasta for dinner – gluten free and meat free, but not free of taste!

Vegan Week: Creamy Coconut Milk Tofu Curry

curry tofu - step 7

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.

Ingredients
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)

Preparation

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.

curry tofu - step 4
seasoning the tofu cubes with curry powder

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.

curry tofu - step 1
pan-frying the finely chopped onions

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.

curry tofu - step 3
a medley of onion, garlic, spices and tomato paste

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.

curry tofu - step 6
letting the coconut milk boil and thicken, and adding red peppers for some color and texture

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.