vegan “spaghetti & meatballs”

There is no spaghetti in this recipe, nor are there any meatballs. But if you’re in the mood for something with the same sort of flavor without all the weight of a bowling ball in your tummy afterwards, try this healthier alternative! (Note: the “meatballs” don’t really taste like meatballs; I’d say they’re closer to falafel, but if you’re not expecting a meaty taste you won’t be disappointed).

I’ve been really into this vegan recipe website Oh She Glows lately. That’s where I got the idea for the “meatballs” – Italian Bean Balls really. Not only are her recipes awesome and creative, but the food photography is outstanding, and she’s all self-taught. Ok, so onto the bean balls!

Preheat the oven to 350. Take 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and either toast in the oven for 7-9 minutes until fragrant or pan-toast (this is what I did) & set aside in a bowl. Put 3/4 cup oats into a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour, then add to the bowl with the walnuts. Add 1 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/3 cup chopped basil (I used a little extra), about 2 large finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, and 3 large minced garlic cloves. Stir. Then drain and rinse a 15-oz can of kidney beans and toss them into the food processor until finely chopped and stir them into the bowl with the mixture. In a mug or little bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp ground flax seed and 3 tbsp warm water and let it sit for 15-20 seconds, then stir into the mix. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp oregano, 3/4 tsp salt, some ground pepper, and (optional) a dash of red pepper flakes. Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (golf-ball size), packing them tightly between your hands. Place onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes on each side.

I served mine with zucchini “noodles” but you could also do spaghetti squash – I didn’t, only because we just had spaghetti squash a few days ago. If you go the spaghetti squash route, just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake face down on parchment paper at 375 for about 45 minutes. Then scoop out the contents, and add your toppings. For the zucchini noodles, use a mandolin with a tooth attachment (or grater, or food processor with some kind of shredding attachment) to create long ribbons of raw zucchini. Then either stir fry or microwave (about 2-3 minutes) until tender!

We had our “noodles” and bean balls with our favorite Arrabiata tomato sauce from Russo’s, a little Italian shop down the street. We’re completely obsessed with their homemade sauces. And if you’re not vegan, a little grated asiago cheese on top really takes it up a notch. So good…

Zucchini "noodles" with Italian bean "meatballs"

Zucchini “noodles” with Italian bean “meatballs”

crispy baked crabcakes

It’s been just over 6 months since my last post, which is truly and completely unacceptable! But allow me to fill you in on what’s been keeping me so busy…

In the past 6 months, I studied-like-a-madwoman-for and successfully passed my 3 hour long comprehensive exam, which determined whether or not I could graduate, applied for and got accepted to the Dietetic Internship program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital (which I will be starting in just under 3 weeks), graduated with my MS in Nutrition from Hunter, traveled to Belgium to present a research poster of mine at a nutrition conference, worked 6 days a week, and got engaged! It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. So it’s not that I haven’t found time to cook, I just haven’t found time to write about it.
So two days ago I was chatting about wedding planning (which is a whole new level of insanity that I’m about to tackle while doing my full time 50 weeks of DI rotations – yes, excuses for not food-blogging in advance this time), and someone said to me: “There’s only one thing that every wedding must have: crab cakes.” And thanks to that, I’ve wanted crab cakes for the past 48 hours. I’ve never made crab cakes myself, so I decided to try it out tonight. I wanted to make it a little lighter than the usual deep-fried ones, so these are baked, and I threw together a combination of a couple of different recipes I saw, but mostly drawing from Ellie Krieger’s recipe.
Whisk together 1 egg, 2 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbs fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tsp Old Bay (or similar crab seasoning), and a little tabasco or other hot sauce. Add to that 1/2 cup of red bell pepper and 1 scallion, both finely chopped. Then fold in 1 lb fresh lump crab meat and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, with a little salt & pepper added. Divide the mixture into about 8 servings, shape them into balls and then flatten slightly, and roll in Japanese panko (about 1/2 cup to coat all). Spritz with olive oil, or cooking spray, and bake for about 10 minutes on each side at 400 degrees.
I’m vehemently opposed to tartar sauce, but feel free to serve these with the sauce of your choice! I just served ours with a squeeze of lemon, next to a salad of arugula, wheatberries, feta, dried cranberries, and pistachios, with orange zest vinaigrette.  You could also make it into a sandwich. The cakes had some trouble staying together – possibly due to my inferior spatula skills – but made up for it by being delicious. Crabcake craving officially taken care of.
Panko-encrusted crabcake

Panko-encrusted crabcake

spicy kimchi stew

It’s surprising, given my love of all Asian food, that I’ve never really cooked Korean food. Luckily, thanks to an awesome birthday gift from my friend Sherri this weekend, that has changed! Sherri gave me a book called “The Korean Kitchen” by Young Jin Song, a book her mom gave her to get her started on Korean cooking. The book is full of beautiful photos, and it even gives you some Korean history and tells you where to buy specific ingredients. After trying to recover from two colds and the flu back to back, and with the temperatures dropping below 20 degrees in NYC, nothing sounded better to me last night than the recipe for spicy kimchi stew.

So I’ll tell you both the original recipe, and the changes I made. First of all, the original recipe calls for boneless pork chop, but there is a suggestion in the notes that you can substitute fresh tuna steak. Since I haven’t eaten pork in over a year, I went with the tuna! I actually think it could work well with just the tofu in the recipe, but I leave that up to you… Also, I cheated and didn’t make my own kimchi. There is a recipe for kimchi in the book, but there are two Korean markets in my neighborhood that make their own and sell it, so I went for the easy route (I’ll blame it on the fact that it was a school night). Anyway, here it is: Soak 4 dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes. When they are soft, drain and slice them, discarding the stems. Dice 5oz of firm/extra firm tofu into cubes. Dice the 7oz of pork (or fish) into bite sized cubes. Slice 11oz of kimchi into small pieces, squeezing out the liquid first. Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil to a heavy pot, adding your meat/fish and 1 crushed garlic clove, and saute until cooked. Then add the kimchi and 1 tbsp of Korean chili powder (I actually couldn’t find this either, and used Sambal Oelek chili paste, which came out fine!) and cook for 1 more minute. Then add 3 cups vegetable stock and bring it to a boil. Add the tofu, mushrooms, and 2 chopped scallions, cover, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Add salt if you want (I found it didn’t need any) and serve hot! We had ours over a little rice, but it’s delicious just on its own too.

The perfect spicy concoction for a cold winter night…

spicy kimchi stew

spicy kimchi stew

squash & sweet potato tagine

Fall veggies – I could eat them all year long. Sometimes I think if everything contained butternut squash, the world would be a better place (the fact that trying to chop a butternut squash almost cost me a finger once doesn’t deter me). It just tastes like hearty sweet nutritious comforting perfection to me. So when we got butternut squash, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes in our CSA bag this week, I was really excited to get cooking! I came across this recipe for a vegetable tagine, which didn’t include acorn squash but I figured I could throw it in anyway. I also didn’t have a tagine, which is sort of a traditional Moroccan clay pot, or a dutch oven or terra cotta substitute, but I do have a beautiful Le Creuset french blue stoneware baking dish that my dad and stepmom got me for my birthday and I don’t get to use nearly enough. So I prepped the first part of the recipe in a pan and transferred it to the Le Creuset for the baking part, which seemed to work out just fine!

If you also don’t have a tagine, or something similar that can go from stovetop to oven, do this: Preheat the oven to 375. In a pan, saute one chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until it turns golden. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp crushed saffron threads, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, and cook for another minutes. Then transfer this to your baking dish with 1 butternut squash, 2 sweet potatoes, and 1 acorn squash (chopped into cubes) or any ratio of these veggies you want (I personally would have gone with more butternut and less sweet potato if I did it again). You could also add carrots. Slowly stir in 2 cups of hot vegetable stock, top with a 1/2 cup of raisins, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of agave (or honey). Stick a cinnamon stick in the middle, cover and bake for an hour. Remove the cinnamon stick, sprinkle with cilantro leaves, serve on its own, with bread for dipping, or over brown rice or cous cous. Now I have to admit (and I LOVE cilantro), I was skeptical of how the cilantro would taste with this… but it was great! Such a nice flavor contrast. Definitely don’t skip it (if you tolerate cilantro). We ate it as a main course over brown rice (Lundberg, my favorite) with sauteed snap beans. Delish…

Squash and sweet potato tagine right out of the oven

Tagine with brown rice and snap beans


bulgur basil brinjal bake

Today was one of those days that called for inventing recipes from whatever was in my fridge. For brunch I made a fritatta with artichoke hearts, broccoli, mozzarella, and spicy veggie sausage. And for dinner (and for lunches for the next few days) I threw an even more random assortment of foods into the oven. I started out making sort of a casserole, and then discovered halfway through that I had a half box of lasagna noodles, so it turned into a sort of casserole-lasagna-bake. Caslake? Not so happy with that name. Well, I had bulgur, a ton of basil, and some veggies in my casserole-lasagna-bake. Eager for alliteration in my title of this baked creation, I was excited to discover that eggplant goes by many names, one of which is “brinjal.” So here you have it: Bulgur Basil Brinjal Bake.


First I sliced an eggplant and two zucchinis and baked them at 400 for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile I cooked 1/2 cup of bulgur wheat with a cube of vegetable bouillon. I layered the bottom of a lasagna/casserole dish with some Monte Bene farm fresh tomato sauce (a brand I really like lately) and some lasanga noodles. Then I layered the bulgur over that, and then a layer of eggplant, topped with another layer of sauce and a layer of basil almost as thick as the sauce. After another layer of noodles, I added the zucchini, then the remaining sauce and a sprinkle of part-skim mozzarella. I also gave the sauce a hefty shake of red pepper flakes – you can leave that out if you’re not into the spiciness – and baked at 400 for about 30 minutes until the top was brown and crispy!