Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vegan Coconut And Macadamia Nut Cake
The Perfect Easter Dessert

Coconut and macadamia nuts blend beautifully
in this simple and delicious Easter cake.

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Simple and Delicious
When the holidays come, I like to go with a simple dessert, like a cake without icing. It's quick and easy and I get to dress it up with fresh fruit, and a selection of dairy-free ice creams. And what goes together better than coconut and macadamia nuts? 

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Coconut and Macadamia Nut Cake
[makes 12 servings]
Requires a 9 inch cake pan and wax paper

Earth Balance or olive oil to grease cake pan
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons room temperature water
1/2 cup almond or light coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small ripe banana, mashed (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup macadamia nuts

Cut the wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan. Grease the sides with Earth Balance or olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make flax eggs by mixing the ground flax seeds and water. Beat until gooey and set aside.

Place the milk, coconut extract, oil, mashed banana, sugar, and flax eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer until well combined.

Make sure the banana is very ripe.
One small banana should yield 1/2 cup of mashed banana.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and beat until well combined.
Add the coconut and blend in thoroughly with the beater.  

Crush the macadamia nuts and fold into the batter.

Crush the macadamia nuts with the side of a mallet.
Don't overdo - leave big chunks.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Place on a rack and cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

Flip over onto a plate and slowly peel the wax paper off of the bottom of the cake.

Flip back over onto the rack and cool.

Place on a serving platter with the golden top up.  Slice into 12 or more pieces.

Serve with fresh raspberries or other fruit, like pineapple or strawberries, and a scoop of vanilla, or coconut non-dairy ice cream.

Per serving (make with unsweetened almond milk): 226 calories, 14 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 326 mg omega-3 and 760 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 3 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 198 mg sodium.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Matzo Ball Soup With Veggies And Shiitake Mushrooms
Vegan And Vegetarian Options

Vegan or vegetarian matzo ball soup for Passover.
Less than 200 calories per serving!

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This Italian Girl LOVES Matzo Ball Soup
For some reason Jews and Italians seem to live in the same neighborhoods in Brooklyn. At least that was the case in Borough Park and Ocean Parkway, two of the neighborhoods I lived in as a child. I was introduced to matzo balls at an early age and have always loved them. I usually don't think about them until Passover comes around and the shelves in the local supermarkets are stocked with matzo meal which immediately triggers a pavlovian response. 

This was the case this week when I bought a big container of matzo meal. I wanted to create a vegan matzo ball for those of you who avoid all animal products. For my readers who enjoy eggs (so many of you raise happy and well cared for chickens), I'll also include a recipe that uses real eggs instead of flax eggs.

Nutritionally, the vegan matzo balls have slightly fewer calories, zero cholesterol, 16 times the omega-3 fatty acid, and more the fiber. The vegetarian matzo balls have more protein. With either one, a serving of soup with 3 matzo balls has less than 200 calories.

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Matzo Ball Soup with Veggies and Shiitake Mushrooms
Vegan or Vegetarian Options
[makes 6 servings]
Requires a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot with cover

For the soup
8 cups veggie broth*
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion
6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
1 small turnip, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
* Instead of veggie broth, you can use 8 cups of water and 1 whole Rapunzel Vegan Bouillon Cube with Herbs.

For the vegan matzo balls
3 tablespoons ground golden flax seeds
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water (divided)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup matzo meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

For vegetarian matzo balls
3 fresh eggs from happy chickens
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

To make the soup, fill a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot with all of the soup ingredients. Set aside.

Soup ingredients

To make the vegan matzo balls, make flax eggs in a medium bowl by mixing the ground flax seeds with 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of room temperature water. Beat until gooey, about a minute.

Flax egg

After the "eggs" are nice and gooey, stir in 1/2 cup of water and olive oil. 

(If you are making the vegetarian matzo balls, you would use 3 fresh eggs instead of making the flax eggs. First beat the eggs, then add 1/2 cup of water and olive oil.)

Add the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley.

(If you are making the vegetarian matzo balls, notice that the amount of baking powder is reduced from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1/2 teaspoon.)

Mix until completely combined and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the soup and veggies to a boil.

Let rest for 10 minutes while soup is coming to a boil.

Divide the matzo mixture into 18 pieces and roll them into small matzo balls. If they get sticky and hard to handle, wet your hands. 

Drop the matzo balls into the boiling soup. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Do not stir or disturb during the soup during this time, other than occasionally peeking in.

Serve while hot and enjoy!

Per serving of soup with 3 vegan matzo balls: 171 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 840 mg omega-3 and 694 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 4 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 782 mg sodium*.

Per serving of soup (using a bouillon cube) with 3 vegetarian matzo balls: 184 calories, 8 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 93 mg cholesterol, 58 mg omega-3 and 739 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 6 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 732 mg sodium*.

* Using a Rapunzel bouillon cube instead of low-sodium veggie broth.

Per serving of vegan matzo balls (3 balls): 133 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 833 mg omega-3 and 648 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 3 g protein, 17.5 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 218 mg sodium. 

Per serving of vegetarian matzo balls (3 balls): 146 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 93 mg cholesterol, 51 mg omega-3 and 694 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 5 g protein, 16.5 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 168 mg sodium. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mexican Lasagna Or Enchilada Casserole
Whatever You Call It, It's Yummy!
Vegan And Gluten Free

This Mexican Lasagna or Enchilada Casserole
is perfect for entertaining!

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Holiday Entertaining
Spring is here and guests will soon be arriving for the Easter holidays. If you are trying to think of easy meals that feed a larger group, this delicious casserole could be it. Since I'm Italian, I can turn anything into a lasagna. This recipe takes beans, rice, corn, my delicious homemade enchilada sauce, daiya pepperjack style shreds, and tortillas and makes a mouth watering healthy Mexican meal for eight people. 

Homemade enchilada sauce is easy to make!

I'm not generally a fan of fake cheese but's what's a lactose-intolerant girl gonna do when she's craving enchilada casserole? But I must say, of all the one's I've tried, spicy daiya pepperjack style shreds is my favorite. It has a nice little kick to it and adds just the right flavor to this dish.

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Enchilada Casserole (Mexican Lasagna)
Vegan, Gluten Free (If using corn or GF tortillas)
[makes 8 servings]
Requires 9x11 deep baking dish

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can organic corn, drained (or 1 1/2 cups fresh kernels)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 cups medium-heat enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups daiya pepperjack style shreds
12 (6-inch) tortillas, cut in half

This recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice so if you don't have leftover rice, prepare ahead of time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or large pot and cook the onion and bell pepper on medium-low heat until they begin to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. 

Stir in the pinto and black beans, corn, rice, cumin, salt, and cilantro and turn off the heat.

To build the casserole, place one cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x11 baking dish. Spread evenly.

Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 8 tortilla halves in this manner.

Place one half of the bean filling evenly over the tortillas. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the daiya shreds over the filling and 1 cup of the sauce.

Cover with an additional 8 tortilla halves in the same manner as above.
Place the rest of the bean filling over the tortillas.
Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of "cheese" over the filling and another 1 cup of sauce.

Place a final layer of tortillas over the filling and cover with the last cup of enchilada sauce.

Cover tightly and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle the last 1/2 cup of daiya shreds over the top and heat, uncovered, until melted. About 10 minutes.

Cut into 8 slices and serve with diced avocado and vegan sour cream.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Simple To Make, Much Better Than Canned
Vegan And Gluten Free

This delicious enchilada sauce is simple to make!

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Enchilada Sauce
I was making an enchilada casserole for dinner guests last weekend and couldn't seem to find any enchilada sauce in my cabinet. So I thought I'd try to make my own. I was going to attempt my son's famous enchilada sauce but he does everything from scratch and I knew I didn't have the time, patience, or ingredients. But I did have some Regular Chili Powder from Penseys Spices, made from Ancho chili peppers, and some wonderful tomato sauce that I canned from my garden along with a few other ingredients, so I gave it a try. It came out so much better than the stuff you buy in a can. For some reason, most of the store-bought enchilada sauce taste bitter and a little metallic. If you're making enchiladas, I think you'll really like this sauce!

This recipe makes a pretty big batch (six cups) so use what you need and freeze the rest. I can't get a solid reading on whether or not enchilada sauce requires a pressure canner or just a hot water bath so to be safe, it's going in the freezer.

I like to use Ball's BPA-free plastic freezer cups. Just mark the date and contents on the cups and pop them in the freezer until you need them.

Freeze extra enchilada sauce in Ball freezer cups.

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Enchilada Sauce (Medium Heat)
Vegan, Gluten-Free (when using corn or other GF flour)
[makes 12 (1/2-cup) servings]

2 cups plus 2 tablespoon hot water
1 whole Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cube with herbs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Penseys regular chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper*
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons corn flour
2 (15 oz) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
* For mild, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or less. For hot, increase to 1 teaspoon.

Make veggie broth by dissolving an entire Rapunzel bouillon cube in 2 cups of hot water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven and cook the onions on medium-low heat until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. 

Add the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, oregano, and salt. 

Stir until well combined. 

Add the flour.

Stir the flour into the onion and spice mixture until well combined.

Slowly stir in the broth.

After the broth is completely incorporated, stir in the tomato sauce.

Blend the sauce until smooth, using an immersion hand blender or a regular blender.

Once smooth, use in any recipe that calls for enchilada sauce. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Per serving: 57 calories, 2 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 29 mg omega-3 and 331 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g dietary fiber, and 325 mg sodium.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Raw Beet And Kale Salad
A Delicious Way To Detox!
Vegan And Vegetarian Options

Raw beets and beet greens are mixed with raw kale
in this simple and delicious gluten-free salad.

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Beets Aid Detoxification
If you are looking for a spring cleanse, adding raw beets to your diet is the way to go. The body rids itself of toxins in a two-step process - Phase I detoxification and Phase II detoxification. Beets contain betalain pigments which support our body's Phase II detoxification operation. In this process, toxins are hooked up to other molecules, neutralized, and excreted from the body. Betalains lose their potency when cooked for long periods of time so they are most effective when eaten raw, steamed for 15 minutes or less, or roasted for less than one hour. Beets are also known to purify the blood.

Other Benefits of Beets
The phytonutrients in beets also reduce inflammation by inhibiting the activity of COX-1 and COX-2 inflammation-triggering enzymes. Beets also provide strong anti-oxidant support, especially for eyes health and nerve tissue.

1 cup of raw beets is only 58.5 calories and provides:
4 g dietary fiber
2 g protein
13 g carbohydrates
34% daily requirement (DV) of folate
22% DV of manganese
13% DV of potassium
11% DV of vitamin C

Don't Forget the Greens
Beet greens are very delicious and can be used like Swiss chard or spinach. They are particularly rich in carotenoids, like beta-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin, critical for eye health.

Kale Also Aids Detoxification
Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale help our body detox at the cellular level supporting both Phase I and Phase II detoxification. Phase II detoxification also requires sulfur and kale is extremely rich in sulfur compounds. 

Together, beets and kale can play a powerful role in protecting our bodies from environmental toxins.

Beets and kale are a detoxifying combination!

Inspired by Chef Esteban's Kitchen
Chef Esteban, from the Vineyards Inn in Kenwood, California, makes a kale salad that inspired me to make this dish. His version is vegetarian, with cooked egg white chopped so fine over the dish that I thought it was grated cheese. In my vegan version of the dish, I omit the egg but add the pressed garlic and a touch of creamy mayo and vinegar to achieve the flavor of his recipe. I'll also present a vegetarian version too which includes the hardboiled, pasture-raised egg.

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Raw Beet and Kale Salad
Mostly Raw, Gluten Free, Vegan or Vegetarian Options

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil or hemp oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 pound raw kale, stems removed and thinly sliced (4 cups) 
Beet greens from 2 medium beets, stems removed and thinly sliced (1 cup)
1 clove pressed garlic, or more 
1 tablespoon Vegenaise or mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 hard-boiled pasture-raised egg  (optional)
2 medium beets, peeled and grated (2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)

In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice, oil, and salt until well combined.

Add the kale and beet greens and mix well until they are completely coated with the dressing. (I like to massage the lemon and oil into the greens with my hands.) Set aside and let marinate for 15 minutes. This will tenderize the greens.

Marinate the kale and beet greens in lemon, oil and salt.

In a cup or small bowl, mix the garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar. If you are making the vegetarian version, mash the cooked egg yolk into the dressing. If too thick, add a teaspoon of water, or more as needed. Set aside.

Add the grated beets to the marinated greens. Add the creamy dressing and black pepper and toss well. 

If making the vegetarian version, top with finely chopped egg white and serve.

Inspired by Chef Esteban's Kale Salad at the Vineyards Inn.

Per serving (vegan version using olive oil and without egg): 74 calories, 3 g total fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 95 mg omega-3 and 237 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 444 mg sodium.

Per serving (vegetarian version using olive oil and including egg): 87 calories, 4 g total fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 101 mg omega-3 and 336 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 35 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 454 mg sodium.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes
Fruit - A Nice Alternative to Syrup

Light and healthy whole wheat pancakes.

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Pancakes always seem like a special meal to me. Maybe because they are generally served on weekends when we have a bit more time. I used to love making little silver dollar-sized ones when the kids were little. And I'll admit that I occasionally still make the little guys for myself. 

Pancakes themselves can make a light and healthy meal. But when weighed down with butter on every layer and drowned in sugary syrup, not so much. A great alternative to that is to smother the pancakes in fresh berries and fruit. One of my favorite combinations is raspberries and chopped mangos. Bananas and strawberries or peaches and blueberries also make great toppings - the combinations are endless!  

A touch of powdered sugar goes a long way and makes a nice presentation. Place one half teaspoon of powdered sugar in a fine mesh strainer and shake over each serving of pancakes. One half teaspoon of powdered sugar only adds 5 calories.

Low sugar jam is another good alternative to butter and syrup. Low Sugar Strawberry Jam is delicious on pancakes or French toast. My eBook has an entire chapter dedicated to making healthy jam. 

But if you do use butter (or a vegan buttery spread) and syrup, use it sparingly. A little will give you the flavor you need. This stack of pancakes has only a single tablespoon of maple syrup over the top. 

Pancakes also make a great dinner when served with vegan sausage!

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Whole Wheat Pancakes
[makes 4 servings]

1 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus some for griddle
1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar

Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a 1-quart pyrex pourable glass container. Stir to combine.

Mix the milk, oil, and maple syrup (or agave) in a 1-pint container.

Heat a large, lightly oiled griddle on medium heat.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Pour pancakes onto the griddle using about 1/4 cup for each pancake.

Cook until you see bubbles on top, about 3 minutes or so. Flip over.

Cook another few minutes until done and brown on both sides.

Serve immediately. Top with fruit, low-sugar jam, or syrup.

Per serving (pancakes only): 153 calories, 5 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 597 mg sodium.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Let's Make Pasta!
Homemade Vegan Saffron Fettuccine

Homemade whole wheat and semolina saffron noodles.

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Making your own Pasta
I love the taste and texture of homemade pasta but I never tried making it myself until my son bought me a pasta machine for my birthday. You don't really need one because you can roll out the dough and cut each individual noodle with a knife, but the pasta maker makes the job easier, faster and, more importantly, creates a more consistent noodle. If each noodle is a different thickness and width, which happens when you are doing it by hand, they won't cook evenly.

A pasta maker is not only a nice gift, but it's a good investment. Gourmet pasta is now selling for $6.00 or more a pound (kind of crazy since we're just talking water and flour here!). So it pays for itself pretty quickly.

Marcato Stainless Steel Pasta Machine 

The other fun thing about making your own pasta is you can select your ingredients. I like to mix semolina with King Arthur's white whole wheat flour. To make it even more fun, I like adding other things like turmeric to give it some anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties. Today I'm going to add saffron to the noodles. I was dying to try matcha green tea powder but Doug wasn't that into it so I will save that for another day. 

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Saffron Fettuccine with Semolina and White Whole Wheat Flour
[makes 6 or more servings]
Requires Food Processor with a dough blade and a Pasta Maker (optional)

1 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (or more, to taste)*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
* For plain fettuccine, omit the saffron

Crush the saffron threads until they are powder.

Add boiling water and olive oil. Stir and set aside.

Place white whole wheat, semolina flour and salt into a food processor with a dough blade. (I forgot to change the blade and it worked ok with the S-blade, but if you have a dough blade, it's best to use it.) Pulse until the flours and salt are well mixed.

With the food processor on, slowly add the saffron liquid to the flour until it forms a ball. You might have to stop and scrape down the sides. The ball should still be moist but not too sticky. If it's too dry, add more hot water, a tablespoon at a time. It it's too moist, add a touch of flour.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface (pastry mats work really well) and knead until smooth, a few minutes. 

Cut into 8 pieces.

Roll each into a ball, place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once rested, you can either roll these out by hand or with a pasta maker.

To roll out by hand, place on a lightly floured pastry mat or flat surface and roll out until thin. With a sharp knife, slice into individual noodles.

To use a pasta maker, dust each ball of dough with some flour. Roll through the first section of the pasta maker and make a long noodle. Do this twice for delicate, thin noodles.

You can use the long noodles as is to make lasagne. To make fettuccine noodles, run them through the next slot set for fettuccine-sized noodles (or set for spaghetti if you want thinner ones.) Have someone there to catch them!

You can cook them right away or dry them for cooking later. The first time I did this, I used several coat hangers and hung noodles all over the house.

Once I got more serious about making pasta, I bought a pasta drying rack. It's less than $20 and worth the money.

Fante's Grandma Nadia's Pasta Drying Rack

Once they dry, if you are not using them right away, place them in a ziplock bag and store in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Dried noodles

To cook, place in a pot of boiling, salted water and cook until they reach the desired texture. The time will vary depending on how long you dried the noodles and how thin they are. Thin fresh noodles can cook in just a few minutes so taste them often.

Drain and serve with a sauce, tossed in some veggies, or in a noodle soup.

Last night for dinner I served the saffron fettucine with cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms that were sautéed in garlic and oil and cooked, until tender, in veggie broth.

I made the rest of the noodles for lunch in a simple veggie broth with carrots, onions, and celery.