Hearty Tortellini and Vegetable Soup

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Today was a rainy, cool fall day. A hearty soup seemed like the perfect meal to make for dinner. I love soup, but sometimes find that they lack texture and flavor. This soup is packed full of different textures and salty, sweet, acidic, and creamy flavors. Perfect for a cool fall or winter night!

Ingredients:

-2 cups uncooked tortellini (I used spinach and cheese)

-2 large carrots, finely chopped (about 1.5 cups)

-1 red onion, finely chopped

-2 cups baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped, or 1, 8 oz can sliced mushrooms

-2, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

-3 cups vegetable stock

-handful of basil, roughly chopped

-4 cups fresh spinach

-4 cloves garlic, minced

-1 tablespoon italian seasoning

-1 teaspoon garlic powder

-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

-1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

-2 tablespoons olive oil

-Fresh parmesan for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Add carrots, onion, and mushrooms. Saute until the vegetables are fork tender. Add garlic and fresh basil and saute for one more minute. Add cans of crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock, and seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes until flavors meld. Turn heat up to medium-high heat and when it comes to a boil, add the tortellini and fresh spinach. Cook until tortellini is cooked and taste for seasoning; adjusting if needed. Top with a spoonful of fresh parmesan if desired. Enjoy!

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Honey Dijon Dressing

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Ingredients:

-3 large beets; peeled

-1, 4 oz package of honey goat cheese (or plain goat cheese)

-2 tablespoons dijon mustard

-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

-1 tablespoon honey

-Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the beets and wrap them in aluminum foil, drizzled with a little bit of olive oil. I put mine on a sheet pan so that the liquid stays contained. Cook for about 1 and a half hours, or until beets are fork tender. Let cool slightly, and cut into bite sized pieces. Crumble the goat cheese on top.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dijon mustard, olive oil, and honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle on top of the beets and goat cheese. Serve warm or room temperature, & enjoy!

Mushroom & Broccoli Scrambled Tofu

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Serves: 2

Ingredients:

-1, 16 oz. container of extra firm tofu, drained

-1 cup chopped mushrooms

-1 cup chopped broccoli

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-2 tsps turmeric powder

-1 tsp salt

-1 tsp cracked black pepper

-hot sauce (optional)

In a non-stick skillet, add the mushrooms, broccoli, and a bit of water until the vegetables are steamed and cooked through. You can add more water until fully cooked if needed. This way, you don’t need to use any added oils or fats.

Add the garlic and cook for another 10-20 seconds. Crumble the tofu straight into the pan, and then add the seasonings. Cook until some of the moisture from the tofu has evaporated; around 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve warm. I love putting some hot sauce on top, but serve however you prefer. Enjoy!

Flavorful and Healthy Vegan Cheese Sauce

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Yield: ~4 cups of cheese sauce

Ingredients:

-2 cups peeled and diced potatoes

-2 cups diced carrots

-1/2 cup-3/4 cup nutritional yeast, based on your preference

-3 cloves garlic

-1 tsp salt

-1 tsp paprika

-1 tsp onion powder

This recipe is so super simple and the cheese sauce can be used in a variety of meals. Since the yield is so big, I used this cheese sauce on top of nachos & then on whole wheat pasta (as pictured). Simply boil the potatoes and carrots in a pot of water until fall-apart tender, and add the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Reserve some of the starchy water to add to the mixture to get it to a cheese-sauce consistency (about 1/2 cup). Taste for salt and seasonings, and serve however you’d like! It can also be used as a cheese dip with veggies or chips, a cheese sauce for quesadillas, or any other thing you can think of. Enjoy!

Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

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Serves: 2

-1 small spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise and seeds removed

-3 cups fresh spinach, chopped

-1, 4 oz. can of sliced mushrooms

-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

-1 teaspoon dried oregano

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon; scraping the inside of the spaghetti squash until it’s smooth. Dampen 2 paper towels and cover the spaghetti squash, cut side up. Place into the microwave for two, 5 minute increments, or until fork tender. Use your fork to break apart the spaghetti squash. Place the chopped spinach in a microwave safe bowl with a splash of water.Cook for 1 minute, or until spinach is wilted. Split the spinach, mushrooms, cheese, and seasonings equally between the two spaghetti squash halves. Taste for salt, and serve warm. Enjoy!

Spicy Walnut Pesto

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Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients:

-4 cups basil leaves

-1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

-1/2-2/3rds cup grated parmesan cheese

-3 cloves garlic

-1/2 cup olive oil

-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

In a food processor, add half the basil, walnuts, and olive oil. Once it is processed well, there will be enough room to add the remaining ingredients. Depending on how thick you like your pesto (I like to make mine thick and add more olive oil if needed), adjust the oil amount. Taste for salt and heat level and adjust if needed. I like to store mine in the freezer, and use it as needed.

 

Mom’s Broccoli & Oat Soup

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My mom’s been making this soup for our family since we were kids, and we’ve loved it ever since. The creaminess comes from the cooked oats, and it has so much flavor. If you don’t have a handheld blender, a food processor or blender work just fine!

Serves: 4-6

-4 cups broccoli, chopped finely

-1 and 1/4 cups oats

-1, 32 oz box of vegetable stock (or whatever flavor you prefer)

-2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-3 tablespoons soy sauce

-1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large soup pot, add the oil or butter and chopped broccoli. Cook on medium heat until the broccoli is fall-apart tender. Remove from the pot. Add 1 cup of stock and the oats. Once the oats are soft and cooked through, add the broccoli back in, along with the minced garlic & ground pepper. Add another cup of stock and either using a hand-held blender, food processor, or blender, blend until the broccoli/oat mixture is smooth. Add back into the pot with the rest of the stock. Add more water to get your desired consistency, and taste for salt. Add more soy sauce or salt if need be. I like this soup to be fairly thick, so adjust as you prefer!

Curried Cauliflower & Peppers

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I love the meatiness of the cauliflower and the freshness from the cilantro. The curry makes this dish full of flavor without added calories, and the peppers give a nice crunch. As always, super simple to make with a fairly short ingredient list. Give it a try!

Serves: 4

-3 cups cauliflower; chopped into small pieces

-1 red pepper, sliced

-handful of cilantro, chopped

-1 tablespoon chopped garlic

-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

-1 tablespoon curry powder

-2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large sheet pan, place your chopped cauliflower and toss it with 2 tablespoons olive oil, curry powder, and salt. Bake for 25 minutes until it begins to tenderize, and then add the sliced red pepper and toss the vegetables together. Place back into the oven for another 15 minutes. Once removed from the oven, toss in the chopped garlic and cilantro. Stir, taste for salt, and serve warm. Enjoy!

After a long hiatus: super simple tofu and kale foil packets

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So yeah, it has been quite a long time since my last post. Life has changed a lot; but my love of cooking has stayed solid. I thought I’d start back out with a very simple, quick side dish recipe that I love to do on busy week nights or weekends.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

-3 cups kale; chopped

-1, 16 oz package tofu

-2 cloves garlic; minced

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 tsp italian seasoning

-1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drain excess liquid from the tofu container, and wrap with paper towels. Place something heavy on top of the tofu for 20 minutes, or until water has been adequately pressed out.

Chop kale into bite sized pieces. When tofu has been dried out, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss the kale and tofu with the minced garlic, olive oil, italian seasoning, and salt. Place onto a sheet of aluminum foil and roll up the sides, leaving the center open so that it gets crispy.

Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the kale and tofu are crispy. Enjoy!

 

 

The Story of Summer, 2016

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When my summer was cut short on the last day of July, I realized I hadn’t taken a lot of photographs yet this summer. I kept telling myself “there’s more time, don’t bother with your camera right now.” Unfortunately, I fractured my leg and ankle joint in a freak accident at my best friend’s camp on Lake Ontario. In an instant, summer was over. I didn’t have that slow goodbye that I usually have.  That familiar, month-long period that typically starts at the beginning of August and ends sometime early September, where I reflect on my summer and realize I did a lot more than I thought I did. Then begins the excitement for fall; the changing leaves, the crisp air, the dozens of activities that bring out energy in us that we lost through the summer heat. Summer ending doesn’t feel that bad anymore. But this year, I didn’t have that transition.

What I did have was a metal plate and 13 screws in my leg. I had long nights in the hospital filled with excruciating pain, random moments of panic, tears pouring out of my eyes when I told myself I’d “keep it together today,” and very limited mobility and freedom. That initial shock of what an injury entails; the first moment when your doctor tells you that no, you cannot work for several months at a job you just started, and no, you cannot drive or bear any weight on your leg whatsoever, THOSE were the most difficult moments I have experienced with this injury. Then comes the slow, drawn out pain–the feelings of loneliness, like you are missing out on life, the anxiety that comes from feeling trapped in your own body, and the guilty feeling you get because you are relying on everyone else for things you never thought you would. But then, in between all these variations and hews of pain and sorrow, you experience and witness beauty in so many forms.

I always tell myself that I “know” how lucky I am. But truthfully, before this accident, I really did not know. I forgot how selfless my mother can be; how she puts herself on the back burner time and time again to make me feel loved, safe, and not alone. She spent two nights in the hospital with me; sleeping on a pull out chair. The nurses buzzed in and out to check my vitals, give me more morphine, and see how I was doing. Sleep wasn’t really in the cards. She didn’t complain, she just woke up with the same tenacity in trying to make me smile; make me feel like I had made improvements in my mobility, and hug me when I just couldn’t hold in the tears again. Despite my crabby mood that comes and goes as quickly as summer, she maintains a smile, she maintains her positivity, and above all, she is always on my side.

The outpouring of support has been astonishing to me. People coming over to keep me company and sit with me, a seemingly simple task that means so much to me, my best friend Shannon coming over every few days to help me shower, lift my spirits, and tend to my needs. As she says with a smile, “all I do is work, sleep, and come over to see you!” How did I get so lucky to have a best friend who says that without a tinge of resentment, and with love in her eyes so that I don’t feel any guilt? Friends taking me to/from doctor’s visits–where I sit miserably; my spirit worn down. Yet they still somehow enjoy my company & offer to do it again next week. People come over & bring food, or cook for or with me; keeping my spirits up. Family friends found me a wheelchair that’s more suitable to my needs and brought me their “injury supplies”–like a walker and travel wheelchair. My Dad tucks me into bed and caters to my daily needs throughout the week, my sister gives me special treatment–like a pedicure–and keeps me in her busy schedule, neighbors stop by frequently, friends who moved far away came to visit or sent their condolences & gifts, and so much more. It is because of all of these people (I hope you know who you are), that I really know how lucky I am. Despite people telling me that this is them paying me forward; I can’t wait for the trend to reverse, for the seasons to change, & I can shower them with love and support again.

Now, back to these photos. What I think I WAS able to capture, all in the month of July, was how diverse the landscape is in New York State. We have everything–from large mountains, to sharp cliffs, from rivers and streams, to vast oceans and great lakes. I feel lucky to live here and experience its vastness, its richness, and its range of beauty.

These photos, in order from top to bottom, are from Green Lakes State Park, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, various spots in the Catskill Mountains, & Chimney Bluffs state park on Lake Ontario. Although I wish I captured more this summer, I am so happy I at least have these. For me, photographs help bring me back to what I was feeling when I was in that moment. Even if they aren’t photographed, I can remember who was right next to me when I was taking the photo. I can hear their voices, recall what we were talking about, what we did right after I stopped to take the photos, and I am transported to that moment; that glimpse in time, even if the people & conversations aren’t captured.

So here I am, still trapped in many ways by my immobility. But my mind is free–able to transport myself back in time to cherished memories, but also carry myself forward to brighter days. As Robert Frost so eloquently writes in his poem titled “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” both beauty and sorrow don’t last forever. We are constantly transforming and changing. And alas, it all passes by, eventually.

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.”

With love and immense gratitude,

Antonia