Delectably Creamy Tomato Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach

pasta

In the continuous struggle to cut down on my extravagant food spending and eat a more wholesome diet, I developed a dish that I not only crave enough to make week after week, but is surprisingly healthy and inexpensive to make. It’s perfect for that loathsome ‘meal-prep’ racket, toward which any health-minded professional finds themselves inevitably driven, because it holds up so well being reheated, even 5 days later.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon some red lentil pasta at Trader Joe’s and it is life changing… as far as pasta can be life changing. Red lentils are the only ingredient and it has 13 grams of protein per serving. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can order it for an exorbitant price on amazon, because guilt-free pasta is worth it! Well, maybe not, but I didn’t want to deprive you the opportunity to find out for yourself. You could sub in whole wheat or brown rice pasta to make it slightly healthier than traditional. Or just go with regular old pasta if that’s your jam.

Besides being an easy lunch to reheat at work, this is also the perfect dish to make for your omnivore friends who think vegan food is scary or weird. Because it’s really freaking tasty.

Also I did the math (roughly) here is the nutrition break-down per serving (based on using lentil pasta):

300 calories, 19 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbs, and a whopping 23 grams of protein!

 

Delectably Creamy Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach

makes 6 servings

1 recipe for vegan alfredo

1 double recipe for homemade tomato sauce OR 1 25 oz jar of tomato sauce of your choice

12 oz red lentil pasta, cooked according to package

1 tbs olive oil or vegan butter

1o oz sliced crimini mushrooms

1/4 tsp chili flakes

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup white wine

2.5 cups fresh baby spinach

5 basil leaves, chopped

zest of 1 lemon

optional: chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Make the Alfredo and tomato sauce and blend them together until really smooth to form a rich and creamy pink sauce. Set Aside.

Cook the Pasta according to the package, set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and spread them out as best you can in a single layer and cook for about 5-8 minutes. They should release their liquid then start to dry out. Toss them a few times, but don’t stir often, so that they get a nice, brown sear. Add the chili flakes, salt, pepper, and garlic, and stir a minute or so until the garlic starts to brown.

When the pan seems really dry and the mushrooms and garlic have those nice browned edges, pour in the wine. Give it a good stir and then add the spinach. Stir continuously until the spinach has shrunk and wilted. Add the basil and lemon zest and stir for another 30 seconds or so.

Add the cooked pasta and the pink sauce to the mushroom pan and stir everything to combine. Keep scraping and stirring the pan for about a minute over the heat, which will cause the sauce to thicken a bit.  Remove from heat and serve sprinkled with fresh parsley. This keeps beautifully in the fridge for a week and tastes just as yummy reheated in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

 

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The California Sandwich

the california sandwich (1)

Besides the perfect weather, striking landscapes, and culture of positivity and innovation, one of the best things about being a Californian is the food. Whenever I travel to another state I am reminded of how spoiled I am to live in this land of  plenty, and how much I depend on it. My husband and I are leaving on a 3 week road trip in a few days to travel the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We are going to drive up the coast of California, through Oregon to Portland, maybe even up into Washington, then through Idaho to Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone National Park, then Utah and down to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and back through Nevada and home again. Then we will catch a flight to Kauai for another week. One whole month on the road with as many national parks and waterfalls as we can find! We will camp and back pack through the mainland, then do Airbnb rentals in Hawaii. It is going to be an amazing month! I can’t wait to see the beauty our country has to offer.
Having said that, I know that life on the road means lots of camping food like trail mix and canned beans. We are trying to do the whole trip on the cheap. So with a few days left before we depart, I wanted to treat myself to the bounty that Los Angeles and California has to offer, which is when I came up with the California Sandwich.

 

California cuisine is diverse and covers everything from barbecue to fine french fusion, but there are some common themes that have emerged over the last 20 years or so. Being one of the main sources of produce for the whole country, California cuisine is foremost fresh and vegetable-centric. The emphasis on local, seasonal fruits and vegetables harmonizes perfectly with our liberal-leaning, health-conscious demand for organic and sustainable food. We love to take casual foods like burgers, pizza, and sandwiches and turn them into gourmet delicacies that surprise and excite the senses. We love to ‘fancify’ the little details of a dish to make them cool and new. We also love to nail the presentation, we’re vain like that. And, our on-the-go culture is the perfect place for hand-held food to be eaten on the road, on a hike, and generally outside under the sun. This sandwich is my personal interpretation of all those things.
Starting with locally baked La Brea Bakery ciabatta and topped with seasonal California grown veggies, I notched it up with unusually gourmet details like the garlic-basil mayo, added local touches like a splash of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and of course the star of the show is the California Hass avocado. I just so happened to have some California State Golden Poppy toothpicks to top it off and I highly recommend eating this creation poolside and under the sun! I hope you’ll try it and get a taste of the golden state for yourself! Peace out dudes.

 

The California Sandwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced into 2 loafs, each with a top and bottom

2 tbs vegan mayo (I like Hampton Creek’s ‘Just Mayo’, a San Francisco based innovator!)

2 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press

2 big basil leaves, minced (I used some from my own garden)

1 tbs olive oil

2 shallots, finely sliced

a splash of white wine

a dash of salt

2 big leaves of romaine, finely shredded

1 hass avocado, very thinly sliced

1 big tomato, very thinly sliced

a drizzle of balsamic reduction (I got this already made in a squeeze bottle at the grocery store but you can easily make it yourself by heating up some balsamic vinegar over low heat on the stove until it becomes thick and sticky.)

More salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Start by toasting the bread or even better, throw it on a hot outdoor grill for a few minutes until it’s toasty. Set aside.

Combine the mayo, garlic and basil in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over low heat and add the shallots. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and add the salt. Cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring to prevent burning. You want to cook them until nice and golden.

I split all the ingredients in half to make two sandwiches. (I ate both, that’s right!) When ready to assemble, start with the bottom half of the bread and slather with the mayo mixture. Sprinkle on the caramelized onions. Then, add the romaine lettuce. Top the lettuce with the avocado slices, then the tomato slices. Finally, finish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and some final salt and pepper before topping with the other half of bread. You’ll notice we are alternating ‘sticky’ and ‘wet’ layers, so it all holds together better. To see a cool timelapse video of the sandwich assembly, check out my instagram post

And there it is! A taste of the golden state before your very eyes. I hope you like it as much as I do!

For similar recipes, check out my beloved bruschetta or BLT!

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