Monday, September 19, 2011

From animal to vegan, a challenge.

I love to cook. I have for as long as I can remember. I love the challenge of creating a complicated dish, and getting inspired from someone I admire.
Recently, I love learning about and eating healthy, following a plant-based diet. You wouldn't think the two are natural companions, but I shall make it so. You see, I'm not willing to compromise flavor and creativity when it comes to culinary creations (alliteration alert!). While I am continuously surprised by the scope and breadth vegan fare has to offer (I've made and consumed everything from enchiladas to pizzas and burgers, even!), I sometimes find it stimulatingly lacking. I get that it is totally all in my head, the food is creative and delicious, but for whatever reason I often find myself un-willing to cook, thinking that it will be boring because it's healthy. (Really, what a road block, what is wrong with me? I once made a vegan pizza so good that my mom's friends asked for the recipe, she was going on about it so much!) No longer.
I also love a certain food blogger who now has her own show on the Food Network. The Pioneer Woman lives on a working cattle ranch in Oklahoma, and her food demonstrates it! There is really nothing healthy about it, lots of meat and potatoes going on! I've made a ton of her recipes, all absolutely delicious, all a huge hit with my husband (who definitely has his own preferences when it comes to food!) and 99 percent of them pretty unhealthy. I was watching her show the other day, almost drooling over her Cajun Chicken Pasta. 'Man, I need that in my belly!' I though to myself. I caught myself in time to remember my new healthy eating habits, and reluctantly didn't run to the kitchen to whip it up. A couple days later I was still thinking about it and just HAD to have it! I was upset that I had to restrict myself from something so tasty, and knew there had to be a compromise. There was, and a new era of my journey has been born! I will be taking unhealthy meals, tweaking them a little and re-creating them into something healthful and still delicious, not compromising the integrity of the dish. I am SO excited about this and can't wait to share more!
I'm happy to share with you now my take on the Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta!

The original recipe:
  • 3 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes
  • 3 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix, More To Taste
  • 1 pound Fettuccine
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • 1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • 1/2 whole Large Red Onion, Sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Diced
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Cayenne Pepper To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • Salt To Taste
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste

What I did:

-Substitute the chicken for 2 bricks of extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed.
-Substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
-Substitute the heavy cream for vegan heavy cream.
    -Now, this was a real challenge. I spent about an hour researching vegan heavy cream substitutes. I found an extremely simple recipe and went with that, after all, PW is all about simplicity! Two ingredients: 1/2 block silken tofu, and 1/2 cup soy milk. (I used almond milk, it's what I like.) The flavor was fine (non-descript), but took a little longer to thicken once it was in the pan.

I also used quinoa pasta instead of regular. Quinoa has but two ingredients, whole corn flour and whole quinoa flour. It's still high in carbs (though lower than regular varieties) but the quality of ingredients is much better. Honestly, if you didn't know, you wouldn't know that it was any different from normal pasta, definitely switching to quinoa pasta from now on! 

Look at those heirloom tomatoes, mmm I'm going to miss summer produce!

Everything else remains the same. I followed the same methods, the same order. The result?
A dish so delicious you would never think 'vegan' at the same time! It was a direct hit, my dad even high five-ed me he loved it so much! It's already been determined that tomorrow's dinner will be the leftovers from tonight, that's a success if I ever heard one!

1 comment: