Browse Category by Skinny Pasta
Main Dishes, Skinny Pasta, Soups

Nikujaga

NikujagaEntering the winter months, we can’t go wrong in preparing healthy stews and soups for ourselves, our family, and our friends. I had a nightmare last night in which a nurse held me down with a flu shot needle/syringe in her hand. No joke. I recall screaming at her “just because I passed up the free flu shots at CVS…doesn’t mean I want your injection”. Oh, the horror. My dream state (a futuristic, fantastical version of real life) mandated flu shots in an Orwellian sort of way. In other words, Big Brother finally caught up with us. I have nightmares over flu shots as a result of the time I traveled to Mexico to work and the employer required vaccinations. I was 19. As a vegan of 4 years at the time, the fact that the hospital exclusively used egg-based up-the-nose vaccinations (which I later found is also legal in the States) freaked me out. The thing was–if I didn’t comply and go through with this vaccination I would lose the opportunity to work and travel abroad. The verdict? As I predicted, I got sick. I stayed in bed for a week, suffering from influenza. In other words, I got sick from the flu vaccine.

…Moving on to the point of this post, which describes and documents my decision to eat soup every day as opposed to subjecting myself to the terror of flu shots:

Nikujaga

I first discovered the traditional recipe for Nikukjaga whilst perusing the shelves at an Asian market. I experienced this recently, and found that the market in question sells shiritaki noodles for a fraction of the price it goes for at Safeway, Lucky, Fred Meyer, HEB, or other brand-name stores. The purchase I made influenced me to study happiness economics, or the economics of happiness. As a person on a limited budget, I can identify with many other individuals in the USA, I assume. So, to avoid over-intellectualizing things–I’ll continue with the ways in which you can make this dish in a paleo-vegan fashion.Nikujaga (2)
Nikujaga or 肉じゃが is a Japanese dish of meat, potatoes and stewed in sweetened soy sauce and vegetables. Potatoes often make up the bulk of it, with meat mostly serving as a condiment. The stew typically boils until at least 90% liquid reduces.

Nikujaga is a common home-cooked winter dish, often served in place of or to accompany miso soup.

To Veganize Nikujaga:

First off, we will of course eliminate the beef. Second, make sure you have carrots, onions, green beans on hand. Preferably, you will have ginger, garlic, and onion. The paleo-vegan “cheat” I used in this recipe is diakon radish to substitute for additional potatoes. Also, daikon is often used in Japanese cuisine. The recipe for Nijujaga that I found on a package of shiritaki noodles from a Korean market did not call for it, but in my adaptation it eliminates 20 carbs per serving. If you don’t have access to that type of radish, use any other radish. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

PaleoVegan Nikujaga:

Ingredients

2 x 4″ square pieces kombu seaweed
2 cups water
1 small red potato, chopped
4 green beans
1/2 large diakon radish, chopped
1 onion, minced
1″ piece ginger, minced
1 tsp red chiles, granulated
1 medium carrot, grated
1 package shirataki noodles, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups water
1 pkg. stevia granules (equivalent to 1 sugar packet).
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

Method

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add the kombu seaweed, cover the pot, and reduce heat to medium-low.

Drain and rinse shirataki noodles. Heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil (or your oil of choice) in a wok or soup pot over medium heat. Saute the potato, onion, carrot, ginger, red chiles, and diakon radish. Once you’ve sauteed the vegetables, reduce heat to low.

Remove kombu from the water and add water to the soup pot. Now add the drained and rinsed shirataki noodles, the 2 Tbsp sake, and 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce. Stir. Cook until most of the water evaporates, or when the texture begins to resemble a stew.
Nikujaga (1)Enjoy frequently, especially during flu season. Add fresh-cut lime as a garnish, to improve the flavor and increase the Vitamin C content.

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Korean, Main Dishes, Sides, Skinny Pasta

Raw Vegan Japchae

skinny-japchae-featured (1)

Japchae?

Japchae, jabchae, chapchae, chop chae, or chap chae is a Korean dish traditionally made with sweet potato noodles aka dangmyeon (Korean: 당면) stir-fried in sesame oil with very thinly sliced aka julienne-cut carrots mixed with fresh spinach and thinly sliced shitake mushrooms and onion…topped with toasted sesame seeds and garnished with hot chili flakes. Served hot or cold depending on the season, japchae is vitamin-rich and considered medicine in a number of cultures within Korean society. The flavor profile of japchae is important, so I adapted it to the best of my ability to suit the diet(s) of raw foodists and the paleo inclined.

Developing this recipe proved less challenging than I’d expected, since shirataki noodles easily replicate sweet potato noodles* or vermicelli** (bean thread) in all recipes. The noodles I used for this particular recipe do not contain certain additives present in commercial brands of shiratakI. The type I buy fresh costs approx. $1.25 USD per 8oz package fresh–so for this recipe, if you choose to use fresh as opposed to dry shirataki you will spend $5 on noodles if cooking for 4-6 people. Obviously, all ingredients are vegan.

*The nearly carb-free noodles used in this recipe are made from Konjac yams as opposed to conventional yams or sweet potatoes–and often at Korean or Vietnamese grocery stores the labels do not provide translations in other languages. For this reason, I have provided the following images to assist you:

clear-shirataki-noodle clear-shirataki-noodle1 konjac-yam

**Also called bean thread noodle, vermicelli is as high in calories as sweet potato noodle but looks the same and tastes the same. For those with an aversion [regarding flavor] or lack of availability [to purchase] shirataki noodles I recommend kelp noodles as an alternative.

Now that we’ve established* that…let’s get on with it, shall we?

*Ask in the comments or shoot me an email if certain things don’t make sense.

Raw Vegan Japchae Recipe

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces dried shirataki noodles or
8oz pkg fresh or reconstituted shirataki noodles
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
1/4 tsp stevia powdered extract or 6 to 9 drops liquid extract
4oz fresh or reconstituted shiitake mushroom, stems trimmed, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh raw carrot, very thinly sliced (julienne-cut)
1/2 cup baby spinach or chopped spinach leaves
1/2 cup scallion or green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

skinny-japchae-featured (2)

Method

Step 1: reconstitute and/or marinade:

*To reconstitute dried shiitake mushrooms: Cover 1 ounce dried whole shiitake mushrooms with warm tap water. Let sit until softened, at least 6 hours or overnight.

**To reconstitute dried shirataki noodles: See above.

In a small bowl, combine the tamari/soy sauce with the stevia powder or extract, lemon juice, and chili garlic-sauce. Consult the stevia conversion chart. If using powder or granules, stir until dissolved.

Soak the sliced onion, carrot, scallion, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and baby spinach with the tamari/stevia blend for 2 hours or overnight. If using reconstituted shiitake mushrooms, you can do this step overnight at the same time. Just add the mushrooms to the mix after they hydrate.

Step 2: Drain shirataki noodles and return to bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil. Drain excess stevia/soy sauce marinade from vegetables and toss with noodles. Top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
skinny-japchae

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Main Dishes, Skinny Pasta, Soups

Vegetable Broth + Paleo Vegan Pho

National Blog Posting Month, Nov 10 prompt: What knowledge do you have that others don’t? Write a “how to” post about anything you’ve got skills for, small or large.vegetable-broth-101Sure, you can buy it by the carton. It’s less of a hassle than running around the produce department, gathering carrots, parsnips, celery, etc., only to return home and realize you’ve forgotten the onions or another key ingredient. We’ve all been there with some recipe or another. However, store-bought vegetable broth contains too much salt in my opinion–while the low-sodium kind lacks flavor. With a bit of planning and mere minutes of prep time, it’s easy to make your own. I guarantee you’ll notice an improvement in the flavor and body of soups and stews. More elaborate recipes might have ingredients you don’t recognize (which won’t be the case at the end of this tutorial. More on that later). We’ll start with a basic, unintimidating recipe that utilizes everyday ingredients for use as a prototype for more complex broths and stocks in the future. When I’m short on time, this is my go-to recipe:

Basic Vegetable Broth

Makes approximately 2 quarts
Tip: Don’t peel anything or discard the scraps. Things like the tops of carrots or celery, stems, etc. contribute to the flavor and nutritional value of the broth/stock. Obviously, discard any spoiled or rotten parts.

Ingredients

1 gallon water
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, minced
1 cup carrot, chopped
2 cups tomato, quartered
1 medium bell pepper, cut
2 cups parsnip, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 whole peppercorn
1 tsp red pepper flakes (like the kind they give you at pizza restaurants)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Add all ingredients to a large stock pot. Bring to a full boil and reduce to simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low to continue cooking (covered, to maintain the flavors and vitamin content of the vegetables) until the liquid is reduced by half.

Pour broth through a filter/sieve/colander, with a bowl or pot underneath it that is larger than the circumference of the filter (to avoid wasting any broth).

Asian-Style Vegetable Broth

asian-style-soup-broth
Using the basic vegetable broth recipe as a base, you only need a few more ingredients to emulate the flavors of a Chinese-style noodle soup or traditional Vietnamese pho. You can experiment with combinations of different ingredients, so the following are merely suggestions or guidelines. I recommend using ginger in all combinations if you can. As with any broth recipe–you don’t need to peel the root since you’ll remove it before serving/adding the noodles and toppings.

Ingredients

1 x 4″ piece ginger root, unpeeled, sliced
5 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
ginger-rootcinnamon-sticksstar-anise
4 cups vegetable stock (see above recipe)
2 cups water

Method

Simmer 20 minutes on medium heat

Paleo Vegan Pho

vegan-pho

Ingredients

6 cups Asian-style vegetable broth (see above recipe)
2 x 8oz package fettuccine-style shirataki noodles.

Toppings

4 scallions or green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced. Remove the seeds for less heat.
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 Tbsp vegetarian “fish sauce”, found in Asian markets, natural food stores, some conventional grocery stores, and online. *However, many of these brands contain preservatives and food coloring/caramel color, and even the natural brands contain sugar. Vegetarian “fish sauce” is very easy to make with all natural ingredients & no added sugar:

Combine 1/4 Tbsp pure powdered stevia extract OR 12-18 drops Stevia Liquid Concentrate (for more info, see the Stevia Conversion Chart) with 1 cup warm water + 1/4 cup canned pineapple juice (if you use fresh, I’m totally impressed) and 1 cup 2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari or 1 Tbsp regular tamari. You can also use conventional soy sauce like Kikoman brand if you’re not worried about the additives. When I’m traveling or living abroad it tends to be the only thing available, anyway :)

fresh cilantro, shredded
fresh Thai basil leaves
lime wedges
chili garlic sauce

Method

In a large pot over medium heat, add the ginger, star anise and cinnamon sticks to 4 cups vegetable broth (diluted with 2 cups water) and simmer about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare shirataki noodles according to package instructions.

Reduce heat to low and remove the ginger, star anise, and cinnamon. Stir in 4 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce and let simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain shirataki noodles and divide among 4 bowls. Top with broth, scallions, cilantro, basil leaves, jalapeno, red onion, and bean sprouts. Serve with chili garlic sauce and lime wedges.

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Salads, Sides, Skinny Pasta, Snacks

Sea Spaghetti: Better than Kelp Noodles

saladLately I’ve seen quite a few recipe posts that feature kelp noodles, especially as a carb-free replacement for noodles. The type of kelp noodle these recipes call for is stripped of its outer green/brown layer in order to resemble vermicelli or bean thread aka glass noodles. This process removes not only flavor but also vitamins and minerals. While still a decent alternative for the paleo inclined, I prefer to use sea spaghetti, or Himanthalia elongata, a species of kelp with a natural noodle-like shape (no processing required).

Nutrients in Sea Spaghetti vs. Kelp Noodles

According the the nutrition fact labels of kelp noodle brands on the market, a 4oz serving contains 4g dietary fiber, 15% calcium, and 4% iron. In contrast, a 4oz serving of sea spaghetti contains 5% dietary fiber and 25% calcium, 400% vitamin C, 40% potassium, 29% magnesium, and 56% iodine.

Unprocessed kelp like sea spaghetti and other sea vegetables play an important role in staying healthy and balanced, especially when following a paleo-vegan diet. I try to eat some form of it daily; if not as a meal, in the form of spirulina, blue-green algae or chorella supplement. I’m kind of a sea vegetable connoisseur, and I enjoy the natural flavor and texture of all varieties. Considering the reduced nutritional value, bland flavor profile, and vaguely chemical aroma prior to cooking/soaking, kelp noodles just don’t do it for me.

Also, considering the cost of some varieties it seems like a waste to make the splurge and not benefit from the vitamin C, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium naturally present in kelp.

Where to Buy Sea Spaghetti
Sea Spaghetti is harvested in Brittany and the west coast of Ireland. Shipment to the United States or elsewhere can be costly, especially direct from the manufacturer. Fortunately, like other retailers in the UK and Europe, some manufacturers of sea spaghetti have partnered with Amazon.com to significantly reduce the cost of shipping as part of an overall purchase of $25.

I have not ordered sea spaghetti online, but tried it at a raw vegan potluck and purchased some from a friend who bought it wholesale to reduce the cost. I later discovered it on sale at an Asian grocery store in San Francisco for $1.99. It was merely labeled “dried seaweed” but the flavor and texture seemed like sea spaghetti. *Edit: It was arame, which looks and tastes very similar so if you can’t get the real thing I recommend it. Look for “long arame” at Asian grocery stores.

How to use Sea Spaghetti, Arame, etc.
Soak overnight or for at least an hour if you choose to use it raw. You can also boil it or cook it under 115 degrees Fahrenheit so it is technically raw according to the principles of a raw food diet. To use as a replacement for spaghetti (as a raw foodist) soak it first and heat on low until the water achieves warmth to your liking/dietary requirements. For those who don’t follow a strict raw diet, heat it as you would regular pasta. If this is the case for you, there isn’t a need to soak it first (though some experts say this is more optimal for nutrient absorption). Use in place of spaghetti in any recipe, in a salad, or by itself. I like it with sesame seeds and no dressing or other ingredients (see photo, above). It’s also great with tahini and carrots, a recipe I developed my sophomore year at college and rediscovered a few days ago. I’ll post the recipe soon.

After visiting a few other Asian groceries and a bit of internet research, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that any “string” or “sea tangle” seaweed would function as sea spaghetti. Not all of us can or want to pay $25 in shipping for Irish or French sea spaghetti. I no longer keep in touch with the aforementioned friend from the raw vegan potluck, and haven’t met anyone else who wants to buy it in bulk. That said, I think it’s a great product and perfect replacement for wheat or rice or quinoa or other grain pasta…but other seaweeds can work just as well. Enter: arame and other types that are often marketed as wakame or kombu but are cut in strips to resemble spaghetti also. I was never a huge fan of spaghetti anyway, but the sheer novelty of the fact that seaweed can emulate it so easily and pack such a profoundly more potent nutrient punch–I had to write this post. Not to mention the fact that it’s carb-free and causes weight loss while flooding your body with more nutrients. Did I mention nutrients? Oh yeah, I did.

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Italian, Main Dishes, Mediterranean, Skinny Pasta

Heirloom Tomato Fettuccine with Cilantro-Pesto Cheez

vegan heirloom tomato fettuccine

My relationship with pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, linguini, etc.) is interesting. My dad was obsessed with pasta. Pesto pasta, that is– always accompanied by sliced black olives. I remember feeling guilty for eating a few of them whole before slicing and bringing them to the table. My dad’s love for pasta was unwavering and unabashed. Whatever the circumstance– from a potluck or wedding reception to my birthday party or brown bag lunch in the summers for day camp– most every time it was a reused plastic yogurt container filled with pesto pasta, with a smaller reused plastic container of carrots and celery, and an apple from the tree in the backyard. While I got a lot of flack from my classmates for the lack of sugar… no “fruit by the foot”, Go-gurt, jello pudding or snack paks in there…the only packaged “sweet” I ever got was a Nutrigrain bar (remember those?). Anyway, both my parents were very committed to eating right…but it was never as if they decided to “go on a diet” or “cleanse” from years of bad eating or lack of exercise. Continue Reading

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Main Dishes, Skinny Pasta, Thai

Skinny Pad Thai

skinny-pad-thaiMany years ago, back in my not-quite-vegan days, I would order Pad Thai at every opportunity.  While it is easy to veganize by omitting the eggs, the noodles alone contain way more carbs than I prefer to eat in a day. Then there’s the sauce–which is normally made with cane sugar (more carbs) and peanut butter (the full fat kind, which–depending on the restaurant in question–is likely to be the commercial type–made with hydrogenated oil). I’ve made Pad Thai before (once from scratch and other times from a box) and always used natural peanut butter–but to achieve a result that actually tastes like peanuts it’s pretty necessary to use a generous amount which can result in caloric overload (upwards of 200, just from the peanut butter alone). I’ve started making pasta dishes with Shirataki noodles, and today I was thinking about Thai food and lamenting the fact that Pad Thai wouldn’t be the same without the noodles. And then I had the sudden epiphany that Shirataki noodles could replace the traditional rice or wheat noodles, and other substitutions could be used (i.e. stevia in place of cane sugar and defatted peanut flour to omit the need for peanut butter–giving the dish a noticeable peanut flavor without the fat gram overload). Continue Reading

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