VeganMoFo Day 18: Rapid Rigatoni and Herbed Bread

If you’ve ever seen The Biggest Loser, you’re familiar with the Last Chance Workout. The contestants run and wail and scream and sweat as they struggle to put all their effort into this final chance to drop the weight they need to stay another week. My Thursdays are my equivalent to a Last Chance Workout.

You know how it is. Weekdays seem to breed paper and chores. By Thursday evening, all horizontal surfaces are covered with blankets of reminders and lists of unwelcome tasks. Waiting for the weekend to get back on top of things is a slippery slope. Who wants to sacrifice their weekend to cleaning and getting organized? “Chores on Friday?!?” yells the inner child. “No way!” This is where the Last Chance Workout comes in.

“Last Chance!” Jillian Michaels screams on The Biggest Loser. “Last Chance Workout!” Contestants run until they cry and throw up, but they get it done.

Thursday afternoon, I come in and start cleaning. I’m a monster, hauling laundry, scrubbing bathrooms, vacuuming, finding surfaces that have been lost under a week’s worth of life. I’m running up and down stairs, squatting, reaching, lifting, polishing, piling, unpiling, whatever it takes. The dog stays out of my way, the boys ask, “Mom, are you okay?” but I’m in the zone. “I’m cleaning!” I holler as I charge past them. I’m on a mission. On The Biggest Loser, they want to lose weight. Here, I want to gain my weekend.

On Thursdays like this, dinner’d better be easy or stay out of my way!

I arrived home early tonight and hauled my bread machine out of its cupboard in the garage. I grabbed my favorite bread machine cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Best Bread Machine Cookbook.

The book fell open to Mediterranean Herbed Bread and I had my dough kneading in a few minutes. I did change the recipe as follows to use dried herbs I had on hand and to make it vegan.

Mediterranean Herbed Bread

  • ¾ cup water, plus additional as needed if dough is too dry
  • ¼ cup plain almond milk
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian Seasoning, plus 1/8 teaspoon
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons quick active dry yeast

Put all ingredients except the last 1/8 teaspoon Italian Seasoning into your bread machine in the order your bread machine’s manual describes. Watch the dough ball form. In my case, the dough was extremely dry and I added a few tablespoons more water to get it to form a nice ball. I sprinkled the extra 1/8 teaspoon Italian Seasoning over the dough ball because I was concerned the herbs weren’t being well dispersed in the dough. When I sliced it, I discovered they actually were well mixed. This step may be omitted if you wish.

The aroma of baking bread was stronger than my cleaning supplies and made me hungry for something Italian. Pasta is quick, easy, and filling. It was just the thing to complete the meal.

Quick Mediterranean Pasta from Vegetarian Fast Food by Rose Elliot tastes much more complicated than it is.

I served it tonight for a quick family meal, but I’d serve it to guests of both the omni and vegan persuasions without hesitation. They’d all love it.

The recipe says that it serves only two, but there’s no need to double it completely. It makes plenty if you plump up parts of the recipe and it tastes just as good. I made some minor adjustments that worked out perfectly.

Quick Mediterranean Pasta for Four

  • 2 tablespoons oil from sun-dried tomatoes jar
  • 1 ½ onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes with liquid, cut and then crushed
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 6 oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 3 oz. black olives
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • Approximately 10 ounces uncooked rigatoni

The pasta will need to be prepared, so you can get the water boiling and follow the directions on the package while you do the sauce. You don’t need to worry too much about this. It’s just that when it’s not on the radar at all, it is – hypothetically – possible that some people might forget to cook the pasta. Some people might feel silly when this happens. So some people thought you might like a reminder so this doesn’t happen to you.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onions and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.

Add the tomatoes and the liquid from the can into your skillet. If you go straight to crushing the tomatoes, you add cleaning the stove top to your list of chores, so I prefer to cut them first. After the tomatoes are mostly crushed and are boiling, add the rest of your ingredients and allow this to simmer until your pasta is ready.

I made a quick salad while the, ahem, pasta boiled and the sauce simmered. I don’t know if the extra simmering time affected the sauce’s taste. It’s possible it did, in which case delaying the pasta prep was a stroke of genius because the sauce was flavorful and hearty. Dinner was devoured and clean up was simple because so much of the sauce didn’t require anything other than a twist of a cap or a can opener. I’m pleased to say you’d never have known it!

Hey… Do you hear that? Does that sounds like Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser to you? It’s like I just keep hearing “Last Chance! Last Chance Weekend!”

I’d love to write a bit more, but I really have to run… This is my last shot at having a relaxing weekend and I’m gonna give it all I got!


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