Monday, January 31, 2011

Meatless Mondays for the Masses...

My deepest apologies on ignoring this blog over the past couple of weeks. In all guilty honesty, my diet has consisted of soy BLTs, packed daily in a iced lunchbox with yogurt, fruit, and candy bar. I now work two jobs and am back in graduate school full-time, and those heavenly hours of self-discovery in the kitchen are now just a wistful memory. I am trying to work out my schedule to have more free time.

I got this e-mail today in my university account and thought it was worth replicating in this blog, given my inability to actually write a new entry lately! See the original e-mail at EKU Students Today.

Did you know that the average American will eat:

12 sheep
15 cows
24 hogs
900 chickens
plus 1000 pounds of other meat in their lifetime?!?!?

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2.5% of our daily calories should come from protein.

What is an easy way to cut back on protein? Cut out meat ONE day a week!

USAToday has dubbed people that cut meat out one day a week as "flexitarians" AKA people who enjoy meat, but want to cut back for the health benefits.

Try it out this week and cut out meat one day this week!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Veggie Meatloaf

As has been discussed in previous entries, the transition from omnivore to herbivore can be difficult for some vegetarian hopefuls. Some people truly miss the taste of meat, and others, like myself, are just constantly on the prowl for better recipes and vegetarian options.

I haven't had real meatloaf since probably very early in elementary school, and I remember disliking it. I honestly can't remember the taste, but I like to make "faux meat" dishes for my boyfriend to enjoy with me. Even for meat-eaters, supplementing fatty animal carcasses with vegan food can often quite nutritional and surprisingly yummy.

I found a recipe online for a vegetarian meatloaf and had to give it a shot, mainly out of morbid curiosity. Some of the ingredients--for example, an entire 12 oz. bottle of BBQ sauce--are nearly foreign to vegans and vegetarians; I had to try this out and find out what "meatloaf" was all about. I was anticipating a meal as unsavory as I remembered real meatloaf being.

To my shock, I loved it. As always, I overdid the spices, which certainly made it appetizing to my seasoning-loving taste buds, but it was actually the soft texture of the soy beef crumbles, baked in warm BBQ sauce, that was most delectable. We vegetarians are used to casseroles, salads, pasta dishes--not a completely "imitation meat" dish. I immediately asked my boyfriend to try it. He said, "Vegetarian meatloaf?" and crinkled his nose. I insisted, and as soon as he tried it, his facial expression softened. "Mmmm." He nodded approvingly. "That is good." He said it wasn't an exact match to the taste of meatloaf, but was still pretty tasty.

So that old expression, "Don't knock it til you try it," certainly goes for this surprisingly tasty and extremely healthy dish. Having not enjoyed meatloaf as a kid, I was stunned how much I liked eating the veggie meatloaf. Pair it with some dinner roles and mac'n'cheese for some cooking that will remind you of all those meat-based meals you were forced to eat as a kid. Or is that just me who remembers childhood that way...?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Manicotti in Eggplant Sauce

I don't know about you, but a three-day weekend to me means two things: catching up on homework, and finally being able to cook an amazing dinner this week!

Graduate school has resumed for me, and with it, of course, my graduate assistantship duties, in addition to my bartending job. In short? I'm busy. Too busy too cook a huge meal every night, or even eat one, for that matter. But as tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and university offices are closed, and today is Sunday, and the bar is closed, I can finally take a breath and enjoy some home cooking!

A dish that has been on my mind a lot lately is eggplant manicotti; unfortunately, I haven't had the time, until tonight, to make it again. I first made eggplant manicotti several months ago and thought it was so scrumptious, as did my boyfriend. It's very filling and hearty. Prefaced with a crisp salad, this is a perfect romantic dinner for a cold night in! I used this recipe from AllRecipes, with only a few minor adjustments. My meat-eating boyfriend thought the original recipe was too "bland," so we upped the amount of thyme and added garlic powder, black pepper, basil, and parsley. I also found that 10 ounces of spinach was quite a bit for just six manicotti shells, so we were able to make more servings out of this.

I think everybody remembers the first time they try an outstanding dish. I remember the first time I ever had manicotti; I was in high school, and my sister came to visit and made a vegetarian-friendly manicotti for dinner. Manicotti is one of those dishes, like vegetarian lasagna, that is just so yummy that you have a hard time believing it would be easy or uncomplicated to make yourself. Don't be fooled by the lengthy ingredient list; this recipe is extremely easy to make. The only thing tricky is trying not to tear the manicotti shells during the stuffing step, especially if you overcook them. Otherwise, all the preparation consists of are the same basic steps you follow in hundreds of other vegetarian recipes. Nothing fancy, just a remarkably delicious outcome.

Manicotti is loved by vegans and meat-eaters, and no "faux meats" are needed to spice this dish up. In fact, I actually think the addition of soy beef would unnecessarily, and unwantedly, distract from the overall "herb and cheese" taste of this eggplant- and spinach-based pasta meal. Warm, cheesy, healthy, and a mealtime favorite, eggplant manicotti is a flawless and easy culinary piece that should grace every vegetarian and meat-eater's dinner table.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easiest Cookies Ever

I'd like to share two extremely easy and delicious cookie recipes today. Quite frankly, there is no reason why anyone should have to buy stale pre-cooked cookies (ew!), pre-made cookie dough (shame!), or cookie mixes (blasphemy!) when baking cookies is really this easy. In the culinary arts, there seems to be a huge fear of baking in general. Truthfully, it is a lot harder to cover upyour mistakes when you're baking--you're much more likely to have to throw everything out and admit to yourself that you just wasted a whole lot of time and ingredients than you would if you made a cooking goof. But don't let those fears overwhelm you. Start small with cookies and work your way up to more advanced baking recipes!

The first recipe is the extremely traditional Chocolate Chip Cookiesrecipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book: Celebrating the Promise. Look, this cook book has been around since 1930--so this is the same recipe your grandmother used when she would make you chocolate chip cookies from scratch. In fact, it's the exact way my mother taught me to make cookies--only she had this recipe memorized, so I never realized it was duplicated in an actual cookbook until I bought my own copy of the BH&G recipe collection. You know, I ran into a regular customer of mine from The Players Club, where I tend bar, once while I was shopping in thebaking aisle at the grocery store. He looked in my cart and said, "Shortening? Do you actually know what that's for?" He was stunned that a 22-year-old girl baked for herself. But why wouldn't you bake for yourself? Made-from-scratch cookies taste so better than any pre-mixed brands, and there's no sweeter gift to your friends and family members. Make these cookies for a friend who's down in the dumps, your sweetheart, party guests, or just for fun. After, they only take maybe five minutes longer to prepare than a pre-made mix.

The second recipe is just as easy as the first one, and a copy can be found online at AllRecipes. Don't be fooled by how simple the recipe is; these cookies are extremely rich, and so scrumptious. Sometimes when I make these, I substitute the cup of butter with a cup of butter-flavored shortening. It almost seems wrong for something so easy to make to be so delectable.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Faux Meat 102 - Where to Dine

So now you're a fan of these meatless meats, but when you want to go out to dinner with some friends, you don't know where you can find any soy options?

Carrying soy foods has yet to become the norm for restaurants. The best soy-catering restaurant I have ever experienced was Cafe Bamboo while I was on vacation in New Orleans; unfortunately, my veggie paradise has now closed. They carried amazing Creole-seasoned soy food, such as the BBQ Chik'n Po' Boy Wrap--made with organic meatless chicken. There are probably local restaurants in your own area that carry a veggie burger; here, in Richmond, Ky., a locally owned restaurant where I used to bartend, Madison Garden, has a very popular, and massive, veggie burger.

Chain restaurants, which will connect to blog readers nationwide, are not as easy to pinpoint. I have scrambled together a list of those popular restaurants I know serve soy foods, and any additions to this list are certainly welcomed, so please write me!

1.) The BK Veggie Burger, at Burger King
It's actually quite yummy, and their website allows you to customize the burger how you would actually want it prepared (add mayo, hold the tomatoes, etc.) to find out the exact amount of calories, carbs, and grams of fat it would have.

2.) The Black Bean Burger, at Chili's
I couldn't find this on their website. I've had it before, and I thought it was decent. It's a huge burger, so at least it's filling.

3.) The Veggie Burger, at Ruby Tuesday
Ruby Tuesday's veggie burger is at least better than just munching on a salad and fries, and we certainly appreciate the effort of recognizing herbivores on the menu.

4.) The Boca Burger, at Denny's
Well, if you go to eat at Denny's in the middle of the day, this veggie patty may seem bland. But at least in my age group, Denny's is a late-night haunt after the bars are closed, and I suppose this ordinary dish is fine cuisine that early in the morning!

5.) The Substituted Veggie Burger, at Ted's Montana Grill
Five well-deserved stars. Ted's will substitute any of its interesting burger combos with a veggie patty; I often get mine with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese on a heated wheat bun, but there's a limitless variety of options. The best part about this burger is that they treat it like they would meat--they grill it to perfection instead of just popping it in the microwave, which is clearly what Denny's, Ruby Tuesday, and Chili's do. My boyfriend loves to tell the story of the first time he took me to Ted's; I was so impressed that I wrote a note to the manager complimenting how well the kitchen had prepared my burger. Seriously, it's very, very rare that soy burgers are given such careful treatment, and the results are delicious. We go to Ted's quite frequently, and I always make my meat-eating friends try the burger. A couple of weeks after trying a bite of my veggie burger there, a meat-eating girlfriend of mine went back with her husband and ordered the soy burger for herself!

6.) The Gardenburger, at T.G.I. Friday's
I've eaten their Gardenburger before, and a quick Internet search confirmed that many other people have as well, but when I went to Friday's in Lexington, Ky., during an afternoon of Christmas shopping last month, I was told it was no longer served. I don't know if they meant just at lunch hour, or just that location, or what exactly was meant. I remember Friday's burger being rather good, similar to Chili's.

7.) The Veggie Burger, at The Hard Rock Cafe
Any time I visit a Hard Rock, no matter what city I'm in, I know I'm going to get the veggie burger. While it's not the incredible perfection of Ted's Montana Grill's soy options, Hard Rock does an awesome job at cooking and preparing their veggie patties.

I've also read that Red Robin has a veggie burger, which I have yet to try, and apparently some Subways in the United States have soy patties for their sandwiches. Doesn't it seem strange, too, that McDonald's locations in Germany, India, and other countries serve veggie burgers--but none do in the United States?

Have you noticed something about this list? It's all veggie burgers. And, if you remember from the "Faux Meat 101" entry, soy burgers are hardly the best-tasting or most useful of soy food options! Alfafa in Lexington, Ky., is likely to be the most vegetarian-friendly restaurant near me, but even they only have the soy burger as a faux meat option. Restaurants like the Soy Cafe in New York City also offer soy ham; apparently there is also a Soy Cafe in Philadelphia that has a soy steak wrap. Do you know any restaurants that serve faux meat dishes? If so, please write on this blog! I--and, surely, many other vegetarians and vegans--would love to try these places out, even if we have to wait until our next vacation!

Faux Meat 101 - What to Buy

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, imitation meat products--also known as soy food--are very handy as substitutes for actual animal products in recipes. They can also make the transition into vegetarianism easier, because they do mock the taste of popular meat dishes and are also high in protein and iron, nutrients that newbie vegetarians often miss out on. Plus, they're handy for those rushed days when you don't have time to cook yourself a big meal.

Many people who have never eaten soy, or have only sampled it, have apprehensions about these products. First, they're afraid they're going to taste crappy. As an experiment once, I brought a variety of soy foods into my workplace--which at that time was a newspaper office--and served them to my coworkers as a snack. Everyone was shocked at how tasty the soy foods were, and several meat-loving reporters actually wrote down the brand names and started bringing in soy dinners for their breaks! I heard from one recently that, a few years later, she and her husband are still regularly eating soy chicken at home. In the weeks that followed, several employees approached me excitedly, saying they had just tried a new soy product, or wanting to asking me a question about my own soy preferences. The climatic moment for me was when I fed soy ribs to the editor-in-chief, who had said he had no interest in trying soy food. Keep in mind, western Kentucky is the world's BBQ capital, and after one bite, he immediately dug back in and said, "Who made these?"--having no idea he wasn't even eating meat. Soy foods are definitely yummy, and they're high in protein, iron, and fiber. They're low in calories (usually less than 100 per serving), and the majority of soy products contain no fat or cholesterol. So even meat-eaters could use some healthy soy supplements in their meals from time to time.

Secondly, people seem to not understand what imitation meats there are out there. Most people have heard about a veggie burger by now, but that's it. So with this blog, I'd like to introduce you to...The Basics of Soy Products! I'll guide you on the brands to choose and those to avoid, the flavors, and even a few recipe suggestions.

1.) Soy Chicken
Hello, my name is Alli, and I'm addicted to soy chicken. I love it. I can't help it. Morningstar Farms Chik'n is the absolute best. Just this morning, I had a Chik Patties Original sandwich--made with a faux-chicken patty, lettuce, and mayo on wheat bread. Delicious! Try their Chick'n Tenders or Chick'n Nuggets with your favorite sauce--those are staples in my own diet. Grillers Chik'n Veggie Patties and Italian Herbs Chik Patties are also tasty from Morning Star.

For a softer-textured faux chicken, try Dr. Praeger's Chickenless Nuggets--I like to eat a few of these sometimes with a bunch of hearty vegetables for a well-rounded dinner. Do avoid Boca Foods's faux chicken products, though--they're not as flavorful as Morningstar Farms's, with the exception of their Spicy Chik'n, which comes in either patty or nugget form.

2.) Soy Beef
You must have a stash of soy beef in your freezer at all times if you plan on cooking vegetarian food. I recommend BOCA Foods Ground Crumbles or Morningstar Farms MealStarts Grillers Recipe Crumbles. I use these for chili, rice and beans, stuffed bell peppers, casseroles, Sloppy Joes, and numerous other dishes. Any vegan or vegetarian chef must have these tasty little fake-beef crumbles for cooking. Several times I've included these in my cooking and had people say, "Alli, you put meat in this? Wow, thanks!" Seriously, if I could only recommend one soy product to you--it would be soy ground crumbles. They're flawless and I can name dozens of recipes you can use them in.

3.) Soy Riblets
Delicious. My only complaint is that I can't have just one! Morningstar Farms sells these already soaked in hickory BBQ sauce. I love to eat these with cole slaw, potato salad, and baked beans--it reminds me of the BBQ meals my parents used to fix as a kid.

4.) Soy Breakfasts: Sausage and Bacon
Thanks to Morningstar Farms, I never have to miss that aroma of a warm breakfast being prepared by my dad. When we eat pancakes, hash browns, biscuits, and other breakfast foods, we always have some soy supplements in our meal. Breakfast Patties made with Organic Soy, Hot & Spicy Veggie Sausage Patties, Maple Flavored Sausage Patties, and Veggie Sausage Patties are just some of the options you have to make a soy sausage biscuit with! There's also the scrumptious Veggie Sausage Links, which even meat-eaters really seem to love, and Veggie Bacon Strips. Be cautious with these bacon strips, though--their hard nature makes it easy for them to overcook, but they are excellent when you crumble them in salads or if you eat them drenched in some maple syrup with your breakfast...yum! My boyfriend even eats these "fake meats" for breakfast with me instead of preparing animal products.

5.) Soy Lunchmeat
Smart Deli, usually located in your produce section (as opposed to frozen foods, where most of these vegan options are), makes a variety of soy lunchmeats, including Roast Turkey, Ham, and Bologna. I love the ham, and I often use it as a pizza topping and to make hors d'oeuvres and other finger foods with. Think about the veggie wraps you can make with these tasty faux lunchmeats!

6.) Soy Hamburgers
Hands down, Gardenburger wins this category. Their hamburger options include California Burger, Veggie Medley, Blackbean Chipotle, Sun-Dried Tomato Basil, and my favorite, Portabella. I love grilling out using Gardenburger products. The picture at the top of this blog is a grilled Gardenburger patty, adorned by grilled tomato slices, two hearty grilled portabella caps, melted mozzarella cheese, and fresh lettuce. Makes me hungry just thinking about it! Morningstar also makes a quarter-pounder and a turkey burger, if those are more your flavor.

7.) Soy Hotdogs & Corndogs
Speaking of grilling out, who doesn't love a grilled hotdog, like Lightlife's Smart Dogs? I love eating these with vegetarian chili. Morningstar also makes soy corndogs, which are a good "TV dinner" style product for vegetarians!

So now that I've given you these recommendations, I hope you decide to try some of these fat-free, cholesterol-free meatless options. I'd love to hear everyone's opinions and even some recipe recommendations. After providing you with this "101" familiarity with soybean alternatives, I am going to start publishing more recipes incorporating these products, particularly the ground crumbles.

Dine on, herbivores!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Herb-Glazed Carrots

Ever complete a new cooking project and think, "Why haven't I been doing things this way for years?"

"Herbed-Glazed Carrots" is actually a small after-note under "Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots" in Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book: Celebrating the Promise, Limited Edition, a recipe that has you stir brown sugar and butter with boiled baby carrots. The herb glaze option involves coating cooked carrots with butter, honey, and thyme. Thinking this might be somewhat bland, I added herbs de provence--but I must say, Better Homes and Gardens knew what they were talking about. The herbs de provence actually tasted unnecessary. (And for me to say seasoning was unnecessary is huge; I'm known for overusing my spice rack.) Thyme and honey are such excellent accents to softened, cooked carrots, and it's a scrumptious side for any winter meal, especially one with soup, potatoes, or other home-cooked delights.

After eating herb-glazed carrots two dinners in a row, though, I had to wonder, why did I ever serve myself carrots at dinnertime prepared any other way? Thyme-sprinkled, honey-glazed, buttered carrots are too yummy to modify. Eating these carrots reminded me of the home-cooked meals I enjoyed as a kid growing up in Robards, Ky., where all the veggies were grown by my father and cooked to perfection by my mother. There's something to be said about warm, hearty food like cooked carrots on the dinner table--and delightful culinary twists like thyme and honey to make that home-cooked experience even more enjoyable.

Baker's Potatoes

Forget the butter, the sour cream, the soy bacon, the chives...forget all of that. Here is a magnificent baked potato recipe you will never have to embellish.

The recipe "Baker's Potatoes" is featured in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Bon Appetit, Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking, by the very talented Virginia Willis. As evident through all my entries, I never duplicate recipes in this blog, especially ones from copyrighted books, so I can only tell you about the recipe. In this French-influenced dish, peeled potatoes are sliced thinly--though not all the way down, not enough to sever the slices from one another--and oven-baked in sliced onions, herbs, garlic, and vegetable broth. The recipe actually calls for chicken broth, but I used a carton of Imagine Foods vegetable stock. It's the best thing besides actually making a bullion from scratch (which, if you would like to do, the best recipe for veggie bullion I have ever seen is in Cook's Library Vegetarian).

When I first saw the broth-and-onion mixture in the picture in the book, I was skeptical about how much I'd enjoy eating baked potatoes surrounded by juice-covered onion slices. However, after a couple of bites, the mix was so delicious that I took my plate back to the dish and started scooping out more broth onto the potatoes. Additionally, it's important to note that the slices in the potatoes allow for them to absorb all of the herbs and broth while soaking, so every bite is full of flavor. I didn't change a thing in the recipe, except that I did add some multicolored peppercorn and spicy garlic for seasoning.

I made these for dinner last night, and both Ty and I were so surprised at how much we loved them. The generous forty-five minutes in the oven still prevents the potatoes from becoming too soft or overcooked. We both had seconds...and thirds...and then leftovers today! Forget the baked potatoes you have previously eaten--these delicious thyme-and-broth soaked potatoes are delightfully seasoned side dishes that will perfectly complement any dinner and thrill your taste buds.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Three Chocolate-Dipped Musts

I'm a chocoholic. It's undeniable, and everyone who knows me knows about my addiction. I won't apologize for it, and I will advocate that you deserve some delicious chocolate goodies tonight for dessert as well!

Dipping normal foods in chocolate is an awesome bridge for those weird members of society who claim they're "not really into sweets"--like Ty, my boyfriend, who actually has converted to chocoholism after dating me. I believe for dessert-hungry diners, there are three major chocolate-dipped snacks worth trying, and I'm counting them down in this entry!

(3.) Grains: Rice Krispies or Pretzels
The first time we went to The Melting Pot and saw Rice Krispies treats as a dipper for our chocolate fondue, we were surprised; Ty was even a little turned off. But I tried it, and, woo, it was awesome! For a Christmas party a couple of weeks ago, I made chocolate-covered pretzels after seeing them on AllRecipes, and it was a rich after-dinner snack and a welcomed accompaniment to everyone's cocktails. Ty and I finished the leftovers after breakfast on Christmas day.

(2.) Fruits: Strawberries or Bananas
Okay, honestly, chocolate-covered strawberries are my favorite, with bananas dipped in chocolate fondue coming in a close second. But let's face it, chocolate is also good over raspberries, cherries, apples, blueberries, and oranges. Chocolate-dipped fruit is irresistible, and it makes a delicious gift or sweet gesture for Valentine's Day, anniversaries, birthdays, or holiday-themed parties. I took that blurry cell phone pic at the top of this entry after making this snack from AllRecipes.

(1.) Peanut Butter
What did you think was going to be number one...marshmallows? Caramel? Gummy worms? All honorable mentions, but think about it...Reese's will never go out of business because they recognize the priceless combo of peanut butter and chocolate. My favorite recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook: Celebrating the Promise, a limited edition of the famous and beloved collection of recipes in celebration of breast cancer awareness. I made the "Peanut Butter Balls" featured in this book today, and they were excellent. Ty couldn't help but to indulge, and we were both extremely pleased. I didn't have the chocolate-favored candy coating the recipe asked for, so I melted a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in about half a cup of milk on the stove. Probably because of the large amount of milk I used, this chocolate would just not harden, even after I put it in the refrigerator for about ten minutes. But that's okay, because the soft nature of these peanut butter balls is one reason they're so scrumptious! If you want stiffer peanut butter balls, mix in a fourth cup of Rice Krispies to give them some sturdy texture.

Chocolate-dipped goodies are delicious, impossible to turn down, and so easy to make. There's no reason anyone with a stove or fondue pot can't be enjoying savory chocolate dishes at home every night.

Asparagus & Basil Spaghetti

Any amateur chef teaching herself is bound to make a few errors, which this blog has certainly spotlighted from time to time. However, I always try to look on the bright side of my errors, even when I can't creatively save my dishes. Today, though, I had a difficult time saving an easy-to-make, hard-to-enjoy veggie meal.

My boyfriend gave me a cookbook, Pasta, and I was eager to try a new recipe out for us on my day off. Most vegetarians learn quickly that the majority of our population has a very narrow view of meatless food, believing it all to be boring salads, which is, of course, one thing I am trying to disprove with this blog. However, Pasta's very limited vegetarian section mostly featured recipes I didn't have the exact ingredients for, so I chose "Spaghetti with Charred Asparagus, Lemon, and Basil." Just by looking at the recipe, I thought it sounded rather bland--obviously written by someone with a limited scope of vegetarian cuisine--and I wondered if I was going to be able to impress my omnivore boyfriend at all with this meat-free, and seemingly tasteless, meal.

More often than one would think, it's actually very feasible to substitute frozen or canned vegetables in recipes that ask for fresh produce. However, I committed a huge lapse in judgment using canned asparagus spears today, and, irritatingly, now that I reflect on today's meal, I knew deep down--even before I started cooking--that it would be a bad idea not to use fresh asparagus. Alas, I was so anxious to try something from this new cookbook without having to visit the grocery store, and the recipe did not specify if the spears needed to be fresh, canned, or frozen. Here is the problem with using canned asparagus. It's already cooked, and it's packed with preserving juices, so it's already tender. So broiling it until it's "charred and tender," as the book instructed, was an impossible task, and the extra virgin olive oil I used in this feat just made the asparagus soggy. You can't "char" canned asparagus--you can just, well, ruin it, which is basically what I did. By the time I stirred it in with the cheese, pasta, and seasoning, it just kind of crumbled soggily to the point where it looked like additional seasoning instead of the fresh, straight, well-cooked spears that would have saved this dish.

To try to repair the blandness of this recipe, I upped the basil, pepper, and garlic, and also added in oregano, Italian seasoning, and just a hint of paprika. I also stirred in sliced mozzarella (in addition to the Parmesan) at the very end, to prevent the cheese from getting overcooked. (Doing an internet search later, I found that many similar asparagus/spaghetti recipes use mozzarella in place of Parmesan.)

The results of this recipe were not completely disastrous, apart from, of course, the lack of visible asparagus, or asparagus that you can actually taste. I added in some cold chunks of fresh tomato to liven it up, which was an excellent decision. Apart from the tomatoes, though, this literally was like eating creamy spaghetti (with some very well-done seasoning, though, I must add). I couldn't taste or see the asparagus, so DO NOT USE ANYTHING BUT FRESH GREEN PRODUCE IF YOU MAKE THIS!! The recipe actually says you can substitute the asparagus with broccoli florets, which I think, with the heavy amount of basil it calls for, would not be a good idea. Asparagus and basil go together much better.

Would I make this again? Well, put it this way: I need to have the memory of that soggy asparagus completely leave my mind first! Hey, every cook makes a faux pas here and there, and, usually, our mistakes are repairable, or at least, cover-up-able! However, this mistake-in-a-can was just beyond saving, although I certainly tried. I actually tried eating this with spaghetti sauce, too, and, astonishingly, doing so made me realize my spaghetti dish actually could get worse! This is truly an example when spaghetti and spaghetti sauce are not a match made in heaven.

The reheat value on this recipe, by the way, is nonexistent. Fresh from the stovetop, it was tolerable; six hours later later and a minute and a half in the microwave, it was definitely not.

This isn't to knock Pasta, though. The cookbook is a great little manual and contains a variety of ways to prepare different grain-based meals, but this dish suffered from two big errors: (1.) The generally bland nature of vegetarian recipes in omnivore cookbooks, and (2.) My use of canned asparagus. However, there are nearly twenty recipes in the vegetarian section of Pasta, and many in the meat-based sections are easily adaptable to a vegan diet (we often use Morning Star Farms's soy ground beef for cooking). I'll just have to remember to make a more comprehensive grocery list next time I visit the produce section--and keep the pantry door closed.