How is everyone surviving while we are social distancing in our new reality of COVID-19? While my husband thankfully still has work, I do not. Since I work for a rehab hospital, census is low. I anticipate that there will be some interesting changes to the utilization of those beds soon. But no one really knows what’s coming with this virus. We can only speculate. And the more I read stories from Italy, the more anxious I become.
My kids, especially my older daughter who is a senior in high school, are devastated that the school year is over in our state of Virginia. We now await further decisions about fulfilling graduation requirements and what will happen with IB and AP testing. And we continue to hope that by this fall, life as she transitions to college, hopefully, will be returning to some new sense of normal.
But for now, as we collectively sit in our homes and try our best to avoid boredom and getting on the nerves of our family members, I will shift my blog posts to recipes and resources for exercise. I would love to continue the grocery store tours for vegans, but, quite frankly, trips to the grocery store induce panic as I survey empty shelves and produce stands. And who is buying all of the tofu? Publix was sold out and on backorder at their warehouses! So the tours will wait for now.
Cooking is a love language for me. I find comfort in making great food for my family, and limited trips to the grocery force me to get creative. I’m up for the challenge. I will be sharing recipes over the next few weeks, trying to feature those with shelf stable ingredients as much as possible. And although I’m vegan, I know many of you who read this are not. If there is a tweak to include dairy, I may include this as I did for the bread recipe I shared. These are interesting times, and I hope sharing recipes helps in some small way.
Exercise is a necessary mode of stress relief for me. Fortunately, I am a cardio addict, so as long as we are allowed to take to the streets, I will. I’ve dusted off my bike and taken several bike rides this week as well as keeping up with my 3x per week running schedule. My younger daughter has actually joined me for shorter bike rides. As more of our neighbors take to the streets, please, please, please be more aware as you are driving to complete those necessary errands. Give runners, walkers, and cyclists some space, preferably moving completely to the other side of the road to pass. Strength training will be limited to body weight activities for now, although my husband’s CrossFit box made a great suggestion of using a backpack loaded with whatever you can find to add weight and use that like a sandbag. I also have a generic TRX rig I bought from Aldi a few years ago that I may break out, especially if we are suddenly confined to indoors.
Now let’s get back to cooking. My friend and fellow runner Niki asked that I share some recipes which are high in protein, vegan, nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, as well as some ways to incorporate nutritional yeast. I immediately thought of an improvised version of a creamy alfredo sauce I created a few weeks ago. I served it over regular wheat pasta, but with a swap out for bean-based pasta, this will satisfy both the GF and higher protein needs. Here you go, Niki!
Creamy Alfredo-style Pasta with Broccoli (vegan, GF, nut-free option)
For the sauce:
- One can white beans, drained and rinsed (Great Northern or Cannellini both work)
- ½ cup unflavored and unsweetened plant based milk, plant-based half and half, or vegetable broth (I used Silk brand oat/coconut half and half)
- 1 clove garlic or one cube Dorat frozen crushed garlic
- 1 T nutritional yeast (optional, but adds some B-vitamins and cheesy flavor)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend all above ingredients together in a high powered blender, regular blender, or food processor until smooth.
- Pour mixture into a saucepan, bring to simmer on medium heat, reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer while pasta and broccoli are cooking, stirring occasionally. Once hot, you can cover and turn off the heat.
For the broccoli:
- Rinse and cut one crown of broccoli into bite size pieces.
- Steam until desired tenderness is reached (10-15 minutes).
- Alternatively, if you want to use your microwave, place all broccoli in a tempered glass measuring cup, like Pyrex, add a bit of water (about ¼ depth of vessel), cover with a plate, and microwave for 4-5 minutes until desired tenderness is achieved.
For the pasta:
- Prepare one box of any bean based pasta per directions. Make sure you salt the water! For this example, I used Barilla brand chickpea pasta since it is certified GF.
Once pasta is cooked and drained, return pasta to its pan, pour sauce over pasta, and mix. Top the pasta with desired amount of broccoli. Sprinkle with additional nutritional yeast or with vegan cheese if desired. This makes about 4 small servings. Enjoy!
For a general idea of protein content per serving, one serving of beans has 7g, one serving of the Barilla chickpea pasta has 11g, and ½ cup broccoli provides 1.5g. Depending on the type of liquid you use, you are also adding a small amount of protein with that. Nutritional yeast also provides 2.5g protein per tablespoon. So you’re getting about 20g of protein in each serving!
If you don’t care for broccoli, check out this web page for other high protein vegetables you can sub for the broccoli. I think using peas, sautéed spinach, or roasted Brussel sprouts would be delicious options. If you are using frozen or fresh peas, you can throw about 1 cup of these in with the pasta to heat, reducing dirty pans! (Trader Joe’s sells little bags of shelled fresh peas in their produce section).
If you want more of a cheesy flavor to the sauce, try adding a bit of vegan cheese or cream cheese to the sauce once warm.
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Stay safe and healthy, everyone.