OMG... almost home, back to reality and all that is not Italia. This trip has taught me three things : 1. I lurve Italy and I want to move here ASAP. 2. Before doing so I must learn Italian so when I get home? Rosetta stone or something like that... here I come. 3. I can NOT not have internet. Seriously. Internet is da bomb and I don't want to be without that bomb.
Oh, also... I have consumed more pasta in the last week and a half than I have in at least the last year of my life. Funny thing about it... my body loves it! Heck, I may throw the whole diet thing out the window and just carb it out. It seems to be working here.
It could be working though because of the vast amount of walking, nay, hiking I have been doing. Everything is at a mandatory incline. Everything. I don't complain because first I don't complain and second it's good for the whole carbohydrate intake whatnot.
Want to know what the bonus is? Travelling with a 52 (ish) pound 4 1/2 year old. Aside from the fact that he is basically the most adorable child in the world, he also tires easily because one of our steps is like two steps for him so basically he's walking twice as far as we are. Guess what that means? I get to carry the 52 (ish) pount 4 1/2 year old practically everywhere. I texted a picture of the 163 stairs I have to climb to where we are staying to my boot camp instructor and told him I was doing ok considering I was hauling said 52 (ish) pount 4 1/2 year old up these stairs at least a dozen times a day.
I may have even lost weight. Score.
Pasta... ok. Here's a vegan version of what Noodle (and me!) loves over here. Oh and by the way... being vegan in Italy? Yeah, not so easy. Umm. Basically impossible. It's a good thing I'm one of those flexible vegan/vegetarian types. For this trip at least. I think so but my body doesn't. More on the sickness later.
I will finish with this: I can't wait for a whole pot load of crunchy, bright, fresh, delicious leafy green salads and steamed vegetables. That is one thing they just don't have here and if I lived here that would definitely have to change.
Note: I made several versions of this mac and cheese. The initial recipe (seen here) is just one. See variations below.
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, diced or smashed
About 1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced fairly thin
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1 cup plain soy milk or unsweetened So Delicious coconut milk)
1 tub Tofutti cream cheese
1 block Vegan Gourmet 'cheese'
1 package elbow macaroni, or your favorite pasta
About 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, divided into two 1/4 cup portions
About 1 1/2 cups panko breading divided into about 3/4 cup portions
Salt and pepper
Three or four green onions, chopped (for garnish)
In a saute pan, heat a little extra virgin olive oil and saute shallots and garlic for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add shitakes to the mix and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until soft. Turn heat off and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Boil pasta in salted water; when al dente, strain and transfer into a large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a medium pan, melt Earth Balance on med/low heat. When just melted, add soy milk and Tofutti cream cheese and stir until thick and smooth.
Once melted, add the Vegan Gourmet cheese cubes and let melt, continuing to stir. Once combined, add the first 1/4 cup of your nutritional yeast and salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Once combined, taste it then add the remaining 1/4 cup nutritional yeast and more salt and pepper, if needed.
Continue stirring to combine and give it another taste once the salt and pepper have had time to incorporate. Taste and add more as needed.
When the salt and pepper ratio is to your liking, pour your cheesy mix onto the noodles and add your shitake mix as well. Give it a light stir then add the first 3/4 cup panko breading. Gently stir to combine, making sure the noodles are covered and everything is mixed evenly.
Portion into extra large muffin tins, pressing down fairly liberally to compact noodles as you go. Note: you can also use regular size muffin tins, they will just be smaller.
Top tins with remaining panko breading, cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, remove tin foil and let bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
To remove from muffin tins, gently run a knife along the edges then use a fork to gently pop it out. If you compacted enough it will pop out but still be rather 'loose'.
Put on a plate, top with fresh chopped green onions and serve.
Note: this meal is also great with a fresh green salad on the side.
Add'l note: Here are the other options aside from shitakes:
Broccoli.... Macaroni and 'tree' equals the best. The end. It's Noodle's favorite.
Kale with chopped onions and garlic... cooked just like the shitakes were. This one was fantastic!
Now, since I'm in Italy I don't have the exact measurements for these variations. I will post them later but if you want them ASAP, email me. I have my recipe book in my bag.
Love you all and can't wait to be back in the food blogger world in a few days!!