Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli, from Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Get ready to party like it’s 2009.

One of my main reasons for starting this blog, back in that ancient day, was to share plant-based recipes that I found fit for athletes. And for several years I did just that, but soon I started to enjoy writing other types of posts. Recipes, I figured, were best left to cooking blogs (like my current favorite, Oh She Glows).

But I miss those days of kitchen experimentation, so starting with this post, I plan to share new recipes now and then, whenever I find one that’s especially delicious, healthy, and easy to make.

First, an announcement …

… and it’s a big one. Susan, Doug, and I — along with Wendy, the newest member of the NMA team — have been working hard on building something special for the past few months.

That something special is a No Meat Athlete community site. With not just forums and other ways for members to connect (both online and in person, if they wish), but also a place where we’ll feature interviews and stories of No Meat Athletes kicking ass in the world — sometimes pros and elites, but often regular, everyday people from our amazing community. And all with the friendly, welcoming vibe that’s too often lacking in other approaches to sharing this message.

The new site isn’t quite ready yet — right now we’re incorporating feedback from over 1,400 people who gave us their input — but should be within the next two weeks, and you can be sure I’ll let you know.

(And by the way, we’re trying to come up with a name for the community blog — if you’ve got an idea, submit it in the comments section of this post. If we choose yours, you’ll win a No Meat Athlete shirt and book!)

Ok, enough with the teaser. Recipe time!

Isa Does It

isadoesit 242x300If pressed to name just one, go-to cookbook that my wife and I use at home (when not in Eat to Live mode — see the postscript below), it would be Appetite for Reduction, written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, with nutritional input from No Meat Athlete co-author Matt Ruscigno.

Appetite for Reduction is Isa’s healthy, low-fat cookbook, though quite honestly, that only just occurred to me — I figured the name was just a meaningless Guns ‘n’ Roses reference. And if you think about it, there’s no higher praise for a low-fat cookbook than not realizing it’s low-fat!

So when Isa asked if I wanted to check out her latest, Isa Does It, of course I said yes. It didn’t hurt that I scored major points at home when the book showed up on our doorstep while I was away on my book tour — and my wife, Erin, has been cooking her way through the book ever since.

Isa Does It, while of course vegan, isn’t specifically about healthy cooking, the way Appetite for Reduction so clearly is (at least for those who get puns). And when just a few minutes ago I asked my wife what she thought was premise of Isa Does It, I realized that yet more wordplay had gone over my head.

Isa Does It is supposed to be easy and fast. “Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week,” according to the subtitle. (I should start reading those.)

And it is. As much as Isa’s Veganomicon is revered as the bible of vegan cooking, and as delicious as the recipes within it are, I’ve always found it to be too involved for everyday cooking. Appetite for Reduction is simpler, and Isa Does It is the easiest and fastest of all. But while the recipes are simple, the book is big (150 recipes in 300 pages), beautiful (full color, with lots of photos and a fun design), and clearly a project that Isa poured her heart and soul into.

Which is all to say that it’s great. And even though it’s not ostensibly a health-food cookbook, I’ve noticed that oil and even salt quantities are lower than I’m used to seeing in other books (and easy to reduce even further).

Isa said it would be okay if I shared a few recipes here, so here’s the first: Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli! I just made it this weekend, and it’s a great introduction to using blended raw cashews to create a cream sauce if you’ve never done that before. And — like most everything else in the book — it’s delicious, quick, and easy (just don’t forget to soak your cashews two hours ahead of time).

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli

 penne with cashew and sundried tomato cream sauce 1024x768

Recipe re-printed (with permission, of course) from Isa Does It, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, published by Little, Brown and Company, 2013

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces penne [Matt's note: I used 100% whole wheat]

For the Sun-Dried Tomato Cream:

  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not the oil-packed kind)
  • 3/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or mushroom broth [Matt's note: I used a no-salt-added variety]

For everything else:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 sun-dried tomatoes (not the oil-packed kind), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth [Matt's note: I used a no-salt-added variety]
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups broccoli florets and julienned stems
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil (about 15 leaves)

Procedure

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. When it comes to a full boil, cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain. Set aside, keeping warm.

Prepare the tomato cream:

Pulse the sun-dried tomatoes in a blender just to get them chopped up. Then drain the cashews and add them to the blender, along with the broth. Blend until very smooth. This could take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on the strength of your machine. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula now and again to make sure you get everything. Set aside.

Prepare everything else:

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onion in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes, broth, wine, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, cover the pot, and turn the heat up to bring to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, add the broccoli and cover the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes. No need to stir; you’re just braising the broccoli so that it cooks through but is still bright and crisp.

Once the broccoli is cooked, pour in the cashew mixture and stir in the basil. Let thicken for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may want to thin the sauce a little bit depending on how much of it reduced, so you can add up to 1 cup of water depending on how thick you like it. Taste for seasoning. Add the penne and toss to coat, making sure that plenty of sauce fills the pasta tubes. Serve right away!

The ‘Eat to Live’ Followup

All in all, my Eat to Live challenge (from December) went really well. In the three weeks that I strictly followed the plan, I got used to not using oil in my cooking, and got at least partially used to not adding any salt to my food. Erin stayed on for the full six weeks, and lost a good amount of weight, which was her goal.

My problem was that I lost weight too, which I had hoped to avoid. Dr. Fuhrman suggests in the book that thin, active people add calories — usually in the form of nuts — to the standard plan. Seeing that I was already 10 pounds below my “ideal” weight (according to a chart in the book), I made this modification. I also snacked between meals — another no-no on the weight loss plan — but still couldn’t keep weight on, even without intense training (I’m only running about half an hour a day right now, several times a week).

So I’ve backed off the Eat to Live plan a bit, but I’m really glad to have done the challenge. Now, without fail, every time I reach for the olive oil or the salt, I’m mindful that I’m doing so. I use less oil than ever, a teaspoon here or there, but never like I used to. I’ve realized that I can buy low-sodium or no-salt-added versions of just about any food I buy in a can, jar, or bottle — whole peeled tomatoes, beans, vegetables stock, tamari, peanut butter — and I almost don’t even notice. I’ve learned that salt added at the table has a much bigger impact on flavor than salt added during cooking, so I generally add it only at the end, after tasting the food (I admit I used to be one of those people who added salt without even tasting).

And so my Eat to Live challenge did exactly what I had hoped, moving me further along the line towards what I currently view as a dietary ideal. I’m not ready to go all the way yet, but my eyes have been opened — and that’s really what challenges like this are for.

Don’t forget: submit your idea for what to name the new NMA community blog with a comment below. If we choose yours, I’ll send you a No Meat Athlete shirt and book!

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Comments

  1. Daniel Larkin says:

    I know exactly what I’m making for dinner this week! This looks outstanding!

    As for a site name: No Meat Meet Up

    Eh? Maybe I can do better, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

    Thanks for everything, Matt! I can’t wait to see the final site.

  2. I love Isa Does It! I got it as a Christmas present and have made several recipes, all delicious and kid-approved. I am so glad that you shared the Sun-dried Tomato Penne recipe because it’s not one I have tried yet and it looks and sounds delicious.

    I am super excited for the new community! I do not however have a clever or witty name.

  3. Ashley Rhule says:

    No Meat Athlete Fleet

    No Meat Athlete Suite

    No Meat Athlete Street

    I make a pasta just like this off one of my favorite vegan recipe blogs: Crumbs on My Laptop

  4. Nice to ehar about your experience with E2L. I was curious how you’d find it. Thank you for reminding how awesome IDI is. I put it away for a few months but now I am itching to return to it. :)

  5. Ah another cookbook by Isa! I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    Blog title idea: The Daily Graze :)

  6. I am such a huge fan of Isa’s. I have already made about 5-6 recipes from her new book (love the curries!) and totally forgot I actually own Appetite for Reduction. It’s on my Kindle, so it got lost in the shuffle. Definitely going to pull that one out soon.

  7. Heather McFadden says:

    Love this whole site. How about “The No Eating Place”?

  8. You could call the site the carrot corral – you know, sort of a mix between your running carrot guy and a start corral at a race. Plus, calling it a corral could be playfully ironic, but also would be an effective way to describe a meeting place…oh yeah and its alliterative too!

  9. I have one of your tshirts and was thinking about making my own up that says:
    NO
    MEAT
    Elite
    Athlete
    Training

    I wasn’t sure if maybe this would be a helpful name for your new site. Feel free to use it. Have Erin look at it so you don’t miss any of the meaning based on your blog post today:). Okay, now if anyone else goes and steals my tshirt design, I at least need to get a free tshirt or two out of the deal.

  10. Hey Matt!
    I was thinking you could call the blog “No Meat Nation”. I can’t wait to see the new community blog!

  11. No Meat Athlete > No Meat Community
    Socializes on Plants
    Plant Based Chat / Plant Based Community
    Chat ‘Til the Cows Come Home

  12. Also No Meat Network and
    No Meat Neighboorhood

  13. Nathan Lannan says:

    I’m going to spit out a bunch of name ideas:
    *The Sweat Garden
    *MuscleSprouts
    *Meat-Free Trainees
    *VAC (Vegan Athletic Community)
    *The Grove (Together Helping Everyone Grow Robust On Vegetable Energy)
    Weird Anagram of “No Meat Athlete” (likely not good for women or grain avoiders, but cool):
    *Athlete Oat Men

  14. Kristen H says:

    The No Meat Athlete – Cabbage Patch or Carrot Club

  15. Kristen H says:

    Broccoli Bunch ? Can you see where I’m going :)

  16. Awesome news, Matt. I think the community site will be a great resource…!

    BTW are you still planning to release the “Formulas Recipe eBook” bonus that came with the preorder of your NMA book?

  17. Name Suggestion: You said it yourself…”No Meat Kick-Ass Athlete”

  18. Gabrielle says:

    Hi Matt,
    I’m a gluten free vegan athlete (triathlete, marathoner mostly), and I don’t know how I ever lived without any of Isa’s cookbooks. I have collected them all and I’m so happy to see you giving her some well deserved attention. Every recipe I have ever made from her books has been great, and I love that she gives tips on how to “de-gluten-ize” recipes as well.

  19. Vickie Craven says:

    Name suggestion-

    No Meat Athlete Waves
    as in airwaves and staying in communication and marathon waves, the different designations if runners.

    If my suggestion is chosen I’m willing to give the prize to any other honorable mention since I’m related to the NMA :)

  20. Clay Schermerhorn says:

    I think this community is a great idea. Would love to be part of it.

    How about this for a name:

    The No Meat Place to Meet

    :-D

  21. Thank you, I was awaiting your update on the Eat to Live challenge! I’m slowly getting into Eat to Live way of eating and already noticed positive effects on my energy level and how light I feel. Before you posted about your challenge I thought that this way of eating is too extreme, but then I decided to give it a go and am so glad that I did! Thank you for being inspirational in so many ways!

  22. The Carrot Community. Cheesy I just like it.

  23. Carolyn in NC says:

    How about “Carrot Community” since your t-shirt has a carrot logo on it?

  24. Simply, ‘The Garden’ or ‘NMA’s Community Garden’

  25. The “No-Meat Meet”, or even worse: “No-Meat Pro-Meet”

  26. i thinking something with ‘beetroot’ for the blog name – beetroot connoting being red faced from running or other feats of athleticism and also, of course, the veg.

    The Beetroot Beat? The Beetroot Blog? Beet Feet? The Beet Meet? Beet Faces?

    hmmm… The Beet?

  27. I still like “Tribe of the Running Carrot.” :)

  28. Marius Baken says:

    Dear Matt,

    I’m a Norwegian two-time Olympic runner (13.06 5k back in ’04) as well as an MD. I have been following your blog for a while and want you to know that I’ve added it to a list of the Top 100 Running Blogs for 2014!

    You are there, and deservedly so, in spot # 21 :

    http://www.marathontrainingschedule.com/blog/awesome-list-top-100-best-running-blogs-2014/

    My blog is quite new, but I try to share quality, inspirational posts with my readers. Here’s one of my latest posts for you to check out:

    http:///www.marathontrainingschedule.com/blog/45-mind-numbing-facts-figures-statistics-running-2/

    If you like it, please feel free to share with your readers. ;)

    Keep up the wonderful work. If you ever want to get in touch to discuss running/diet, do not hesitate to do so.

    Kind regards,
    Marius Bakken, MD

  29. Idea for the forum:
    No meat athlete meet
    Vegan village

  30. Jon Weisblatt says:

    How about Meatless Meeting of the Minds?
    Meatless Madness?
    Plantagious? (like contagious?)
    I did like an earlier mentioned name of Carrott Community and Musclesprouts

  31. Johanna Naama says:

    No Meat and Greet

  32. Monica LaCroix says:

    What’s wrong with “NMA Community”?
    or NMA StreetTeam

  33. I like Vegan Village or Veggie Village…or simply NMA Village. Maybe NMA Place? I like the simpler names. The Starting Line? Like where the NMAs all meet up! Love Isa Does It and other awesome books!! Can’t wait for the community site.

  34. love No Meat Nation that was mentioned earlier. Congrats Matt, wonderful idea! Please feel free to reach out if you need help. I’m happy to support you and this growing community.

  35. Kelly Holloman says:

    No Meat Arena…that way the initials stay the same.

  36. How about “FrieNMA”? Like “frienemy” but positive and awesome!

  37. I do like the Carrot Community, but I think some of the rhyming ones are a bit more catchy.

    How about…

    No Meat Heartbeat
    No Meat Retreat
    No Meat Athlete Elite

  38. Hey Matt,
    Here’s my idea for the community site: The NMA Woof Pub (WooF PuB = play on Whole Food Plant Based).

  39. This was diner tonight, and I loved it! We’ll definitely be working this into our regular menu rotation. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    I love some of these ideas for community names. Can’t wait to see it up and running!

  40. Hey Matt,
    I reviewed your book and sharing a giveaway through your publisher today on my blog. Please feel free to share it with your readers:
    http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/south-of-the-border-tortilla-soup-no-meat-athlete-reviewgiveaway/

    Thanks!

  41. Hey Matt!
    I woke up in the middle of the night with this corker of a suggestion for the community site:
    “Meet & Vegetables.”
    :)

  42. Can we +1 someone else’s name? I was going to make a suggestion of my own, but I love Jayne’s “Meet & Vegetables” too much to suggest anything else.

    I love that you are going to post more recipes. I can’t eat grains, so I’m going to sub cubed potato in the penne recipe, and omit the oil, but it looks really good!

  43. I have Isa’s book and made this recipe for this weekend’s lunches. I made two changes – I didn’t add any additional salt (even to the onions) since the sundried tomatoes and broth already had a bit of salt. I also subbed peas for the broccoli. It’s delicious! As are all of Isa’s recipes.

    • I actually made 3 changes. I don’t drink wine so I subbed the 1/3 cup red wine with 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar plus water.

  44. Name for the community site – “No Meat Suite” :)

  45. Ah another cookbook by Isa! I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
    Blog title idea: The Daily Graze

  46. Hi,I love that you are going to post more recipes. I can’t eat grains, so I’m going to sub cubed potato in the penne recipe, and omit the oil, but it looks really good!

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