Quarantine pasta lunch: a recipe

Hello! Hope you are well in these strange times. I just made this dish for lunch by throwing together some bits and bobs that I had lying around from other recipes, and I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. Pasta is my favorite comfort food, and it’s always fun to find a new and quick way to prepare it. This one utilizes tofu feta, for which I just posted a recipe that you should also check out. 🙂

Vegan tomato-basil-feta pasta

  • Serves: 2
  • Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. fusilli or other pasta of choice
  • 1 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste*
  • 1-2 large cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • a few handfuls spinach
  • 3 Tbsp tofu feta
  • several leaves fresh basil
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
  • Optional: cooked chickpeas or veggie sausage (I love Field Roast)

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, mince garlic and roughly chop or tear spinach and basil.
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add vegan butter.
  4. Once the butter is melted, add tomato paste and garlic to the skillet. Fry for a couple minutes or until fragrant.
  5. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. If using red pepper, chickpeas, or veggie sausage, add ’em at this point and saute for a couple more minutes.
  6. Add spinach and pasta water (starting with 2/3 cup and adding more if needed) to the skillet. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste into the pasta water until a smooth sauce forms.
  7. Add cooked, drained pasta to the sauce (or vice versa) and stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
  8. Divide pasta into two servings and top each with fresh basil and tofu feta. Enjoy!

Notes

*This pasta is also great with a chopped fresh tomato instead of tomato paste and just a splash of pasta water, which forms less of a sauce and more of a juicy, fresh tomato-y delight. Try it both ways!

The best tofu feta: a recipe

I should maybe stop adding “: a recipe” to the end of my recipe posts, huh? Maybe there’s a better system?

Anyway, this is the best (in my humble opinion) tofu feta recipe! I’ve shared it quite a few times on my Instagram stories, but now I’m immortalizing it on my blog. The texture of tofu is not quite the same as that of feta, but the flavor is perfect: creamy, cheesy, tangy, salty, herby. What’s not to love?

This feta is super quick to prepare, but it does require chilling in the fridge for 24 hours. That wait time is not optional—it makes the feta immeasurably more delicious once all the flavors have had ample time to mingle and infuse into the tofu. Patience is a virtue!

Use this recipe to top pastas, salads, roasted vegetables…it makes pretty much anything more delicious.

Again…I’m really not a photographer. But trust me, this stuff is delicious!

My best tofu feta

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 25 hours (but only 15 minutes active prep)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • juice of 1 lemon (~2 Tbsp)
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Optional: fresh basil or sun-dried tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Press your tofu: drain the excess liquid from the tofu package, then wrap the block in a clean kitchen towel. Sandwich it between two cutting boards/baking pans/other flat kitchen tools and place several heavy cans or cookbooks on top to squeeze out excess moisture. This improves the tofu’s ability to absorb the feta flavors. Press for 20 minutes.
  2. Once pressed, use your fingers or a fork to crumble the tofu into smallish chunks in a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the tofu and mix well to combine. Then, sample it. The flavors will develop while it’s chilling, but at this point you can add more of whatever you feel might be lacking: nutritional yeast for cheesiness, lemon juice or ACV for tanginess, etc.
  4. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
  5. Enjoy! Some optional add-ins to make it even more delicious: Fresh basil or sun-dried tomatoes.

My best vegan mac & cheese: a recipe!

I’m comin’ at ya with another recipe post! This is the vegan mac & cheese that I make at least once a month. Is there any more quintessential comfort food than mac & cheese? I DON’T THINK SO. Anyway, I’m writing this post late at night from my self-isolation and if I keep writing I’m going to get pretty loopy, so I’m just going to move on to the recipe. (Bonus: You should have most, if not all, of these ingredients in your pantry right now! :)) (Another bonus: This mac & cheese is whole-heartedly omnivore approved. Though it doesn’t taste exactly like traditional mac, it’s very delicious in its own way.)

Important note: This recipe was very much inspired by/based on the VegNews Best Ever Vegan Macaroni & Cheese, but I’ve adapted it enough that I feel OK with claiming it as my own. Still, I would be nowhere without this OG inspiration! (And by “nowhere” I mean eating subpar vegan mac & cheese. No thank you.)

Let’s be honest: my food photography skills are not great. I assure you, this mac & cheese tastes better than it looks!

My best vegan mac & cheese

  • Serves: 4-6 (depending on how much you eat……)
  • Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. small pasta (I suggest macaroni, obvi, but you do you)
  • 2 cups potatoes, chopped (~ 1 medium or 2 small potatoes)
  • 1 scant cup onion, chopped (~ half an onion)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped (~ 1-2 carrots)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil (I use canola or coconut)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (juice of ~ 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Smoked paprika (a few shakes, for smoky flavor)
  • Optional: Turmeric (a pinch, just for color)
  • Optional: 3 cups broccoli, chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add your pasta and cook according to package directions.
    • If using broccoli: Add the chopped broccoli to the boiling pasta when you have ~ 4 minutes left to cook it.
  2. While pasta water is boiling, chop your vegetables and add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic to a medium pot with 2 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are fork-tender.
  3. While the vegetables and pasta are boiling, add the remaining ingredients (cashews, vegan butter, oil, mustard, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and optional spices) to a high-speed blender.
  4. When the vegetables are tender, add them + the water they cooked in to the other ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Sample the cheesy sauce and adjust, adding more salt, pepper, etc. to taste, then blend again. (You can also add cayenne, red pepper flake, or other spices at this stage, but I figured if you’re going to do that, I don’t need to tell you to do it. Ya know?)
  6. Combine your luscious sauce with the drained pasta (and broccoli, if using) until it’s evenly coated. Serve with a protein, like Field Roast sausages or smoky tempeh. Bon appetit!

Recipe notes

This recipe is pretty forgiving and tastes delicious in every iteration! With that said, here are a few substitutions you can make as needed.

  • If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you should soften the cashews (soak them in hot water for a few hours or boil them for 20 minutes) before adding them to the regular blender. If you only have a small, smoothie-sized blender, you can make the sauce in batches (with some of the vegetables & water in each) and stir them together at the end.
  • The vegan butter & oil can be swapped for other fats in whatever proportions you have on hand. My happy medium is half-solid at room temp (butter) and half-liquid (oil), but feel free to switch it up.
  • Also, if you’d like to lower the oil content in this dish, you can reduce the oil and butter to 1/4 cup each and/or swap some of them for more cashews. The sauce just won’t be quiiiite as creamy. Add a splash of water if needed to thin out the sauce.
  • If you don’t have lemon juice on hand, you can use apple cider vinegar instead. I prefer the lemon, but ACV will do the trick as well to add a cheesy tang.
  • I haven’t tried this, but it occurs to me that you could substitute cauliflower for the potato for a lower-carb option. I might have to test this substitution next time…stay tuned!

Please let me know if you make this recipe or if you have any questions about it. Hope you enjoy!

Something old, something new

Hello, friends! Long time, no blog. It’s been a busy month so far—I was traveling for a week, and then I jumped right back into classes, work, and NaNoWriMo(!). Balancing all of these commitments has been no easy feat, but this weekend I have a bit more time to relax and decided to get a blog post up.

I’ve bought some new things recently, as I am wont to do, and have been getting a lot of use and enjoyment out of them, both out of town and in. But I didn’t want to do a post dedicated solely to new stuff, so I am mixing them in with three “old” belongings that I’ve been using and enjoying just as much. I’ve had each of the “old” things for at least a year, and bought each of the “new” things within the past month or so. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Old: Doc Martens Vegan 1460

Photo from Dr. Martens website

I’ve always loved the look of classic Doc Martens patent boots, but I don’t love the leather they are traditionally made of. Luckily, Dr. M has us vegans covered with a whole range of animal-free boots and accessories. I bought this classic style, the 1460, in black vegan leather over 2 years ago and they show no signs of wear so far. I wear these boots at least a few times a week through the fall and winter, and I look forward to keeping them for many more years.

New: Rifle Paper Co x Corkcicle water bottle

Photo from Rifle Paper Co website

Over the years, I’ve collected a number of water bottles (and lost a fair amount of them). But somehow, I found myself at the beginning of this school year with several bottles, but none that didn’t leak in my backpack. I put off getting a new bottle because I already had a few, but the leaking was getting to me. Then I stumbled upon this beautiful bottle in Birdfolk Collective, a delightful gift shop near me that I will definitely be returning to for my holiday card purchases. The bottle is by Corkcicle, and it’s designed by Rifle Paper Co, a company that can take my money all day, every day with everything they make. (What can I say, I love well-designed, whimsical floral prints!!!) I have had a bit of an aversion to the color pink for most of my life (internalized misogyny, anyone?), but I liked this bottle so much that I decided to go for it. And I love it! It’s so pretty, the shape is easy to hold, and it DOES. NOT. LEAK. If you’re in the market for a new water bottle that’s a bit more elegant than the tried and true Hydro Flask or Nalgene (no shade—I still love those brands, too), check out this collection!

Old: My makeup bags

The first makeup bag I ever used was a gift-with-purchase one from the Clinique counter at Boscov’s when I first started wearing makeup. It was a loud pink-and-orange floral print, and not exactly my style. It served me well for years, but I’ve since acquired a few makeup bags that are much more personal and that I love to use. One is from a gift shop in St. Louis (it’s on the Delmar Loop, but I don’t remember the name!), and it is made of a fabric with animals and cacti all over it. Delightful! (Upon recent, closer examination, the brand seems to be called Danica Studios.) The other was a Christmas gift from a friend while she was in the UK, and it features…wait for it…the periodic table of elements. It’s an unexpected combination, and it tickles me every time I use it! This bigger bag is primarily for toiletries, and I use the smaller, printed fabric one for makeup. They’re the best travel companions.

New: Ilia Beauty Necessary Palette in Cool Nudes

Photo from Beauty Rebel

I’ve been eyeing this Ilia palette for months and months, and I finally ordered it a few weeks ago. It’s a wonderfully compact range of shades that I will actually use, and the cool tones are perfect for winter (and for making brown eyes pop!). I appreciate Ilia’s commitment to ethical, cruelty-free beauty, and I am really loving this palette so far. It’s perfect for travel and everyday use. And if warm shades are more your speed, they have a “Warm Nudes” palette, too.

Old: girlfriend collective leggings

Photo from girlfriend collective

Girlfriend makes amazing activewear out of recycled plastic water bottles. How neat is that?! Not only is it a great, sustainable concept, the pieces are wonderful (and come in a size-inclusive size range, too). I’ve acquired three pairs of girlfriend leggings in the past several years—the first I tore a hole in during an overly enthusiastic game of volleyball at the Y, so I bought an identical pair of the standard black leggings to replace them. (I still have that first pair with a hole in them, but I might be sending them in soon to take advantage of the reGirlfriend program. This company puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainability. Oh, and speaking of sustainability, I got both of those leggings gently used on thredUp for a fraction of the retail cost. Score!) The classic black leggings are probably my most-worn bottoms; I wear them at least a couple times a week and they are durable, stretchy, comfy, flattering…truly, what more can you ask for in a legging?

New: Everlane Cheeky Straight Jeans

Like the Cool Nudes palette, I’ve been eyeing these jeans for months. For the past year or so I’ve only had a pair of dark-wash skinnies and a stained, distressed pair of boyfriend jeans in the denim department, and I’ve been craving a middle ground—something that’s not skinny, but still fitted and flattering, but also comfy. These Cheeky Straight jeans from Everlane fit the bill perfectly, and I loved my first pair so much that I got them in another color, too (Washed Black and Sky Blue). I was compulsively checking PoshMark multiple times a day to see if a pair had popped up in my size and preferred color, and luckily, they did! These jeans are versatile; I wear them from the office to the field to a night out with friends, and they handle it all with style and ease.

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my “old and new” favorite things! What have you been loving lately, whether it’s a new find, a rediscovered treasure, or a tried-and-true standby? Let me know!

Quick + easy fall makeup look

Normally, I’m an eye makeup fiend. Shadow, liner, you name it—the more, the better! Lately, though, I’ve been drawn to this simple look that’s easy on the eyes (literally!), focusing instead on flushed cheeks and a bold lip. Keep reading to hear about the six products I used to get the look.

BareMinerals Original Foundation in Fairly Light: An oldie but a goodie! BareMinerals is still an excellent powder foundation, and one I’ve been reaching for more often lately in the morning rush. It’s pretty foolproof —no dreaded foundation lines—and gives better coverage than you might expect. I also find that it’s more forgiving of the flaky skin patches I have been getting from both acne and drying skincare products. It does a nice job of evening out my skin tone; my spots aren’t completely covered with this product, but that’s quite alright with me.

Pure Anada Pressed Cheek Colour in Sweet Pea: This lovely mauve is my go-to everyday cheek color. I applied it a bit more heavy-handedly than I might if I was wearing eye makeup. Plus, I love a flushed cheek in the fall and winter. Pure Anada is a really awesome, cruelty-free, affordable brand, and they have a great sample program if you want to try out any of their products.

Wet n Wild Color Icon Bronzer in Reserve Your Cabana: This shade has been my go-to subtle highlighting powder for years, and I’m so bummed that Wet n Wild is no longer cruelty-free. 😦 Still, I’ll use this up while I have it! I applied this highlighter along the tops of my cheekbones, under my eyes, and along the bridge of my nose for a subtle warm glow.

Essence Lash & Brow Gel Mascara: Being blessed/cursed with dark, bushy eyebrows, I rarely use more than a clear gel to tame and shape them. Essence’s offering is a relatively new one for me, but it’s quickly become a staple! I have used the e.l.f. Clear Brow & Lash Mascara for years, but a new tube would always give my brows an over-gelled, crunchy look. Definitely not ideal. Essence’s clear gel is a bit of a softer hold, so it avoids the crunchiness. It’s a dollar more, but the tube seems to be lasting me longer than e.l.f.’s usually did, so I’ll take it!

SheaMoisture 100% Pure Jamaican Black Castor Oil: I combed this castor oil through my lashes to give them a bit of shine and nourish them, too. Normally, I wouldn’t apply this heavy oil during the daytime because it could interfere with the rest of my eye makeup, opting instead to use it as a nighttime treatment. But today, I don’t have on any other eye makeup, so my lashes get a treat! It’s quite nice not to worry about mascara flaking or smudging throughout the day.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Budapest: Another tried-and-true classic product! I’ve been switching up my lip color the past few days, but today I spotted this one in my drawer and felt drawn to it. It’s a great fall color—a rich, warm berry that’s still appropriate for pretty much any occasion. Unfortunately, this product isn’t vegan because it contains beeswax. Otherwise, though, I love it.

That’s it for my simple fall makeup look! Six products is wayyyy fewer than what I usually use, and it feels nice to do this look in just 5 minutes during a busy month. Clean, groomed brows and lashes, flushed cheeks, and a dark lip make for a great combo. What colors or products are you loving this season? Would you like to see more makeup looks? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Blogging about blogs

For my first real post, I’m going to talk about some of the blogs I love to follow. They have collectively inspired me to get back into it! Blogging about blogs—how very meta.

(Quick tangent—does anyone know how to easily put an em dash into WordPress? Right now I’m just copying and pasting from Google. The disrespect to em dashes on computer keyboards could be the subject of a whole separate post. Hmm…Stay tuned!)

Anyway. By category and in no particular order, here are my favorite blogs!

Recipe/Food blogs

hot for food: Lauren Toyota is an incredible chef, and all of her delicious, deep-fried concoctions happen to be vegan! She is also tons of fun on YouTube. Check out one of her videos, like the RECIPE?! series, and prepare to be sucked in. One series she recently started on the blog is “hot for food approved,” which breaks down her favorite vegan restaurants in each city she visits for future travelers to reference.

One of Lauren Toyota’s impressively off-the-cuff RECIPE?! creations.

Minimalist Baker: If you’re not following Minimalist Baker yet, honestly, what are you doing with your life? I’m just kidding (not really). MB is hands-down my most-used resource for vegan cooking and baking. SO many of my go-to, staple recipes come from her! For a long time, all MB recipes were vegan, and a lot of them still are, but not all, so be aware of that. She’s also great for accommodating other dietary needs, like gluten-free, oil-free, etc. in her recipes.

Sweet Simple Vegan: Jasmine and Chris are two of my favorite people to follow on Instagram, and their blog is just as delightful. Simple, approachable, often healthy recipes grace the site. If you’re intimidated by obscure ingredients or mile-long shopping lists, Sweet Simple Vegan is the refreshingly easy gateway into making vegan food at home.

From My Bowl: Caitlin Shoemaker is another simple recipe connoisseur who I love to follow. Plus, she’s friends with Jasmine and Chris, and I love their friendship!

Oh She Glows: Anglea Liddon’s cookbook is the first one I ever bought, and on her blog you get her wonderful content…for free! Her delicious recipes and thoughtful reflections on life and family are virtual comfort food.

My first cookbook!

Fashion blogs

Style Bee: Lee “the Bee” Vosburgh is my absolute favorite blogger as of late. Her content is always so thoughtful, detailed, and beautifully designed. Lee writes primarily about minimal/ethical/sustainable fashion, but also about a range of other topics. She has inspired me to consider my personal style more carefully (even though it’s quite different from hers), and I love following along with the bits of her life she shares, too (she has a corgi named Dobby!). I reread this post of hers every time I pack for a trip.

In addition to all of her lovely style content, Lee periodically shares her gorgeous floral photographs for readers to use as phone wallpapers. I have this one as my lock screen right now. (Photo: Lee Vosburgh)

Un-Fancy: Caroline is another minimalist-ish fashion blogger whose style is quite unlike my own. She inspires me with both outfit ideas and honest reflections about her ever-evolving relationship to her personal style. Plus, she has the best low-key playlists.

Beauty blogs

Temptalia: All hail the Queen. I get a lot of my beauty product recommendations from social media, but when I want to know more about a specific eyeshadow palette or lipstick shade, I always turn to Christine. Her encyclopedic collection of reviews and resources is unparalleled. Recently, she’s also been sharing more personal thoughts about beauty industry controversies, and I am so here for it.

Logical Harmony: Tashina Combs is my go-to cruelty-free beauty guide. She puts in the work to contact brands about their animal testing policies and vegan products so the rest of us don’t have to. Use her resources to simplify your life, like the one below listing tons of cruelty-free brands you can find in the drugstore.

Phyrra: Courtney is an indie beauty aficionado, cruelty-free connoisseur, and glam goth. Plus, her hair color is always amazing.

Fitness blogs

Blogilates: Cassey Ho is an entrepreneur and fitness instructor whose YouTube videos and (free!) monthly workout calendars are my go-to at-home work out. She makes me feel strong, empowered, and very, very sweaty. Recently, Cassey’s been blogging every day as part of her 90 Day Challenge, wherein she shares the good, bad, and ugly of her quest for personal transformation. I’ve been reading her daily posts religiously.

One of Cassey’s workout videos. You can get a full-body workout for the day in 28 MINUTES! Efficiency queen!

Ecology blogs

Dynamic Ecology: This blog by ecologists Jeremy Fox, Meghan Duffy, and Brian McGill is my go-to whenever I have a big question, like: Should I go to grad school? It’s less about popular science (although there are links to that, too!) and more about the field of ecology itself and the humans who populate it. Plus, cute fox photos.

In Memoriam (inactive or defunct favorites)

Paris To Go: Ariana of Paris To Go is no longer actively posting, but her blog is still an incredible wealth of information about sustainability and “zero”-waste living. Her singularly snarky, direct, dry, self-deprecating voice is my favorite on the web. (And she still keeps the dream alive on Instagram, at least.)

Ariana in her natural habitat: the bulk aisle.

Van City Allie: RIP VanCityAllie, a Them of mid-2000s blogs! She was (is? I don’t know what she’s up to now) an amazing photographer, outdoors enthusiast, and Twilight fan living her best life in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC. She was lifestyle inspiration in a real, wonderful way. I hope she’s doing well.

Brightest Bulb in the Box: Robyn blogged about makeup from a scientific point of view, combining two of my favorite things with a delightful writing style. Her beauty breakdowns, explaining why certain products or ingredients work the way they do, were some of my favorite web content. The blog is gone now, but it will live on forever in my heart.

Hope Jahren Sure Can Write: Scientist Hope Jahren is the author of one of my favorite books, “Lab Girl.” Before that, she was convincing publishers to publish her book via her subtly-named blog, Hope Jahren Sure Can Write. She wrote about “interactions between women and men and Academia.” All her posts are gone now, but the home page says there is more to come (plus a new book in 2020!!), so…fingers crossed!

Me @ Hope Jahren.

Well, that’s it for my favorite blogs! I hope you find this list…Useful? Fun? Informative? All of the above? Let me know what you think, and see you next time!