Recreating Vita Cafe’s Italian Pasta

On one of our first visits to Portland together, the boy and I visited the very vegan-friendly Vita Cafe, (in its original location!) in the Alberta District of Portland. Quaint, colorful and teeming with veg options on their menu, we were eager to check it out.

The old location, directly across from where Vita stands today. Photo credit:

Try as I might, I can’t remember what I ordered on that first visit, but we both know that the bf ordered their Italian pasta dinner. From their menu, it contains:

kale, veggie sausage, garlic, chili flakes and crushed tomatoes, sautéed in lemon and olive oil topped with toasted bread crumbs

I definitely remember stealing a few bites and thinking that it was one of the best restaurant dishes I’d tried in some time, yet it was composed of simple, basic ingredients.

Months go by, and we both couldn’t get that pasta out of our heads. So we decided to make it ourselves at home. This recipe has since become our standard recipe whenever we’re in the mood for pasta. It doesn’t use a sauce, per se, but rather depends on the flavor of vegetables and juice from tomatoes, vinegar and spices to make a delicious dish perfect for any night of the week. We took a few creative liberties here, most notably switching out many whole garlic cloves for only a few minced, and adding a lot more vegetables to the mix. But on the whole, we stayed true to the PDX-based dish that inspired us.

D + R’s Veggie Sausage Pasta

(Inspired by Vita Cafe’s Italian Pasta)

Yields: 3-4 servings



3-4 servings whole wheat pasta, uncooked
Hefty pinch of salt

Veggie “sauce”:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a bell pepper
1/2-1 small zucchini
2 vegan Italian sausages (we use Tofurky, but feel free to sub your favorite)
Splashes of balsamic vinegar and red wine
Dashes of the following spices: parsley, oregano, basil, paprika, rosemary, red pepper flakes, fennel seed
1/2 c. diced tomatoes with juice
Few handfuls of chopped kale (can use spinach, chard or another preferred green)
Broccoli, fresh or frozen
Asparagus, fresh or frozen, chopped
Bread crumbs (we use Panko)
Optional: Kalamata olives, nooch or vegan cheese

Heat salted water for the pasta on high. While waiting on that, start on the veggie sauce.

Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, until it smells like onions that are cooking. Add in the bell pepper, zucchini, sausages, vinegar, wine and spices and cook on medium-low heat. Stir every once in a while and add extra liquid if needed, or things may get dry/stuck to your pan.

The water should be boiling after a bit, so add the pasta in. Cook as directed.

Lower heat to low on the sauce and add the greens, tomatoes, broccoli and asparagus. Cover and cook until greens have wilted and broccoli/asparagus are bright green.

Drain pasta, serve some in a bowl and scoop veggie sauce on top. Add bread crumbs and any additional ingredients your heart desires on top. Serve and enjoy with a glass of your favorite red wine and maybe a green salad.

Have you ever recreated a dish you loved at a restaurant? What were the results?

PS: Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Hannah Kaminsky’s cookbook My Sweet Vegan! 


Chickpea Cutlets, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The Chickpea Cutlet recipe in Veganomicon is a big staple in our house. I’ve made it for friends and family, have convinced people to buy the book because of it and pretty much have it committed to memory by now. Simple, fast and always delicious, they’re a protein-filled part of dinner that we have at least a few times a month during weeknights. If you have yet to try the recipe, I’m giving you a virtual kick in the pants to get going on that.

We generally fix this meal with the exact same sides every time: roasted Brussels sprouts and baked sweet potatoes, (as pictured above). If it ain’t broke, right? Since we are in the midst of Vegan MoFo and I want to try to step out of my comfort zone (ever so slightly) with some of my standards, I thought I’d try to switch up our spuds and mash them into a bright orange glory. Problem was, I’d never mashed sweet potatoes before.

I did a little research and apparently the traditional method for creating regular mashed potatoes, (boiling then smashing) doesn’t work for sweet potatoes, as the boiling process drains the flavor. I read that it’s better to cook the potatoes down with seasonings then mash once soft to the touch. I couldn’t find a recipe for savory rather than sweet that I liked, so I created my own.

Since I’m creating and generously doling out recipes today, I’ll share my foolproof recipe for roasted Brussels, in case you haven’t had the pleasure. If you grew up hating Brussels sprouts like me and most children, this will change your mind, and is so easy you’ll wonder how you ever got on without ’em.

Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Yield: 4 servings


4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks
1/2 c. almond milk
1 garlic clove, minced
Few pinches salt and pepper
1 T. Earth Balance (optional)


Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, like so.

Cover and cook on low heat. Stir every few minutes then cover again.

Once the potatoes are soft (this took a little less than 20 minutes for me), shut off the heat, and proceed with smashing potatoes. Add the Earth Balance and mix well. Serve immediately.

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Yield: probably 4 servings, but we eat this in one night. Oops.


1 lb. bag of Brussels sprouts
1 T. olive oil
1/8 tsp. salt (I don’t add a ton of salt to things, so feel free to add more to yours if you like)
Red pepper flakes
2 cloves minced garlic, (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut Brussels sprouts in half, and cut off stems.

Place on baking sheet, and add the olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic if using. Mix together and ensure the sprouts are evenly coated.

Place sheet in oven and cook for 25 minutes, or until the sprouts are as cooked as you’d like them to be. Eat immediately!

Here’s a shot of the entire meal, new mashed sweets and all. We usually top our cutlets with a vegan BBQ sauce, but a mustard sauce or gravy make perfect additions as well. White wine rounds out my meal.

How do you like to cook your sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts? Do you find yourself needing to switch up the way you traditionally cook your sides, or are you all about routine when it comes to weeknight dinners?

Go-to green smoothie

I’m not sure what the weather’s like where you are, but today I woke up and read that it was going to be 80 degrees. Now, here in the Pacific Northwest that’s strange for the first day of fall, but as someone who loves summer, I’m soaking it up as much as I can.

This morning I did have a more fall-like breakfast (pumpkin oats – that recipe will come soon, too), but I almost always have a green smoothie for breakfast. I know, they’re the “thing” these days, but I’ve started to realize why. Nutrient-dense, tasty, customizable, easy to transport and refreshing, this drink is a meal that is perfect for warmer days, but also something that you can switch up to suit your tastes and the seasons as they both change.

Green smoothies aren't always green! One ingredient change in this recipe can turn the smoothies from a purplish brown to...

more of a proper green smoothie. The first included blueberries and for this second one I switched them out for raspberries. Smoothies are like snowflakes, guys!

I’ve made a few smoothies in my day, but for breakfast, I like one that has protein, fruit, greens and a little caffeine in the form of chocolate, so I came up with my own standard. I know that some of you may think greens in a drink sounds scary, but trust me, you won’t even taste them. It’s not just good for breakfast, but also serves as a good anytime meal or post-workout snack. In the morning I love to have it with sprouted grain toast with peanut butter and a cup of coffee, but it also keeps me satisfied and full on its own for hours. I’ve mentioned it on Twitter and have gotten a few requests for it, so here it is:

Green chocolate smoothie

Yield: 1 serving


2 ice cubes
2 green leaves, chopped (You can feel free to use spinach, kale, lettuce, whatever. It doesn’t matter which kind, but certain ones will give a different texture. If using spinach, the amount is a handful. I’ve been loving Lacinato kale lately.)
1 scoop/serving of chocolate protein powder  (I use Sunwarrior raw vegan brown rice protein in chocolate flavor, but any will do. If you don’t have protein powder or a chocolate flavored one, substitute 1 Tbsp cocoa powder.)
1 Tbsp chia seeds or flaxseed meal
Half a banana
1/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c. almond milk
1/2 c. water
Few drops of stevia or agave, if not accustomed to the flavor of greens


Toss everything in a blender (I use a Vita-Mix but if you don’t have one, you may have to chop things up a bit more first) on high speed and serve in a glass.

Notes: This recipe doubles/quadruples perfectly. The smoothie comes out pretty smooth, but if you like a thicker smoothie, leave out the water, and use your tamper to make sure everything gets blended evenly.

What are your favorite smoothie recipes?

Cookbooking: Chickpea Picatta + Caulipots from Appetite For Reduction

A few weeks back I was feeling stuck in a major food rut. We are generally pretty content rotating through the same few, tried and true meals throughout the week, but sometimes we feel the need to break out one of my many (many) vegan cookbooks to shake things up. And sometimes we end up making something that lands a spot in our recipe repertoire.

Enter Appetite For Reduction, vegan cookbook goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s newest book, highlighting low-fat and healthy lunch and dinner recipes broken up by categories such as Full-On Salads, Totally Stuffed Sides, Comfort Chilis, Curries and Stews and more. While I’m not trying to eat strictly low-fat meals, I will pretty much buy any book this woman pens and was lucky enough to receive it this past Christmas. But if you are looking to watch your intake of fat, calories and more, this book will definitely help you do so all while still ensuring that you’re getting adequate nutrition as well as flavor in spades. We’ve made a few recipes so far, (Classic Black Bean and Veggie Chili, Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Greens, Curried Chickpeas and Greens, and many more) and all of them have been absolutely ace, which is what I’ve come to expect from any and all Isa recipes.

Recently we tried our hand at creating the book’s Chickpea Picatta and Caulipots recipes. I’d never had a picatta dish prior to going vegan, so I didn’t know that it means a caper-lemon-garlic sauce. I love all of those things, so I knew that this was going to be a match made in heaven. Caulipots is a word Moskowitz made up that means exactly what it sounds/reads like: half cauliflower, half potatoes, mashed together into tasty, slimmer oblivion. It’s genius, actually. No more, ugh, my tummy hurts because I ate too many mashed potatoes feeling. The cauliflower definitely lightens this side dish a great deal. The following is a photographic journey through our first time making this meal.

One of the first steps: sauté shallots, garlic and bread crumbs.

Third-ish step: add vegetable broth, white wine and spices. Look at it boil away!

Looking at this combination just makes me happy.

We made the caulipots concurrently with the picatta. Here's a sweet mashing action shot.

The picatta and caulipots are served over arugula, and it’d make the perfect romantic or special occasion meal when plated nicely, (or an everyday meal combined into a bowl).

Both recipes combine to form the finished, most delicious product, which we promptly scarfed before heading to a party.

Needless to say, this recipe delighted our tastebuds and is one that will be made regularly in this apartment. Here’s the picatta recipe if you’d like to try making it yourself, though I honestly suggesting going out and getting the book if you haven’t yet. Locally, King’s Books definitely has them in stock.

On the horizon: recap of Caffe Dei’s one year anniversary party, replete with photos of giant, homemade veggie burgers!

Foods of late + a Mexican recipe

As promised, here’s a post filled strictly with photos of food I’ve been eating and enjoying lately and another Mexican-style recipe that I’ve been touting on the Twitterverse. I won’t let so much time pass before posting the next recipe, I promise.


You like nachos? You like getting in tons of raw veggies and nuts and flavor in your meals, too? Look no further than Caffe Dei and their amazing raw nachos and optional raw nacho salad (same dish, without the raw "chips," add in lots of greens). Their depth of flavor, variety of ingredients and the sheer fact that each dish is completely, 100% raw will blow your mind. Trust me on this, you want to try these! Your body will thank you.

After I tried the raw nachos, owner Shuanna gave me a sample of their sweet homemade raw chocolate almond mylk. So creamy and rich, it's like a dessert in itself.

A few friends and I went to Wayward Vegan Cafe in the U District in Seattle together a few weeks ago after an event. This is their breakfast burrito that I chose, and it's a monster. I believe I ended up eating half and for that I was proud. So delicious, so carby.

My friends Joy, Dan, Lisa and I attended the annual NARN (Northwest Animal Rights Network)'s annual meeting and birthday party, as we've all been getting a little more involved in their great educational demos and events. At this particular meeting, Lisa was nominated to their board (Tacoma represent!) and we got to meet so many great activists who've been around for decades and those who are also newer to the cause. This cake was handmade by NARN volunteer Bethany Ionta/her husband Andy Himberger, and it was as delicious as it was adorable.

Just some bounty from the downtown Broadway Farmers Market all oiled/seasoned and ready to be roasted, no big deal.

I'm not sure, but maybe you've heard something about a little event up north that happened a few weeks ago called the Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off? Well, I baked up some cornbread for said event, and it came out wonderfully, especially since I haven't made it since pre-veganism. This recipe was modified from Colleen Patrick Goudreau's "The Joy of Vegan Baking" cornbread recipe, with the most notable change being the addition of jalapenos. Next time I'll add some more spices for a bit more kick. (Also, this photo is inexplicably upside down. Apologies).

A generously foamy almond milk latte from the new-ish Bluebeard Coffee Roasters on 6th Ave. in Tacoma. As of now I believe they're the only coffee shop in the city that offers almond milk for drinks, so get in there and enjoy it. They also serve vegan/gluten-free cookies from Corina, and I'm pretty partial to the peanut butter variety. The space is large, open and modern, and I get a little feeling of being in a Portland coffee shop while in there. A great place to chat with friends, read or just grab some excellent locally-roasted coffee.

I FINALLY made it to Seattle's mostly raw restaurant Thrive last weekend, and I loved it. In its cozy space there are very talented people whipping up some amazing raw (and a bit of cooked) food, along with some fresh juices, smoothies and decadent desserts. I had the Juggernaut, a salad composed of kale, nut-based "bella" meat, mushrooms, cabbage, avocado, lemon-tahini red rice, spiralized zucchini noodles and their "Juggernaut" sauce, along with an Alive juice (apple, carrot, parsley, spinach). I can't wait to go back and try more.

More eats photos coming soon, including Georgetown Liquor Company and more brunch at Quickie Too after today’s event, Letter Writing to Vegans in the Prison System and Brunch, hosted by the Tacoma Animal Rights Book Club. I should probably eat another non-brunch meal there again soon, too.

And now, here’s my recipe for…nachos! By popular demand, I’ve decided to share my nachos recipe with you. They’re usually made once a week in our apartment and I never get tired of them. Some things are just that dependable. And I’m also generally not one to toot my own horn, but I’m sorry, my silly name for these could be justified!

Dawn’s Best of the West Nachos™, (or any other arbitrary name you want to give them)

This photo captures the second layer (veggies and soyrizo) in action.

These nachos have gone through a few changes, but the essentials remain the same. These nachos are composed of 4 parts (don’t be scared!):

-base: chips

– first layer: refried beans

– second layer: veggie/chorizo mix

– third layer: fixins’

Here’s how to get them from your dreams to your plate. Note that lots of the veggies don’t have specific measurements. I generally just eyeball it so that there’s an equal amount of all veggies in the second layer.


For refried beans:
– 1 can refried beans, (Duh! Or if particularly industrious, make your own! Equivalent to one can)
– Chopped jalapenos (if you like things spicy. Look below for measurements)
– Chopped garlic (optional)

For veggie/soy chorizo mixture:
– Olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
– A quarter of an onion, (any kind), diced
– 1 chopped zucchini
– 1 jalapeno, chopped into 3 piles (I usually put some in my refried beans, guacamole and in the veggie/chorizo mix. Omit or add as you see fit)
– Half a bell pepper, chopped
– Chopped cauliflower
– 1/4 of a package of soy chorizo (Any will do, but I’m partial to Trader Joe’s)
– Lemon juice and Mexican-ish spices (I use red pepper flakes, black pepper, cumin, cilantro, cayenne and chili powder when making this)
– A fistful of baby spinach or kale, chopped broccoli, diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) and olives if I have them on-hand
– Tortilla chips (we use blue corn)
– Shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole and Daiya cheese to top everything off (or whichever cheese you’re partial to)

Steps to delicious nachos:

1) Prep your toppings of shredded lettuce and guac. Leave the lettuce to the side and put the guac in the fridge to cool.
2) Chop up all your veggies, but keep broccoli, spinach or kale, tomatoes and olives off to the side as they go in next to last.
3) Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and add chopped garlic/onion and cook on low-medium heat. Once translucent and stirred around, add in the zucchini, bell pepper, jalapeno, cauliflower and soyrizo and heat through at medium. Add a splash of lemon juice and the spices now and stir. While that is cooking, begin cooking your refried beans in a small sauce pan and add the jalapeno and garlic to them if using. Heat on low as the other pan will take a bit longer. Stir those beans on occasion to make sure they don’t stick too much.
4) Once the veggie/soyrizo mix is fully cooked through, add in the broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and olives and turn the heat a bit lower. This will need some mixing as the pan should be quite full now! When that heats up (make sure to watch so that you don’t wilt your greens), turn off the heat on both the veggie/chorizo mix and the beans.
5) Bring out all the toppings and put your chips on a plate. Then add some spoonfuls of beans and a couple scoops of the veggie/chorizo mix. Lastly add the toppings! I usually put the Daiya on before the other toppings and heat it up for a minute in the microwave to melt the cheese. Then add the salsa, lettuce and guacamole.
6) Grab your plate and a beer, and relax with the tastiest thing you’ve created all week.

Next post: My write-up of the Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off!

I’m off to head to brunch, hang with friends and have a lovely Sunday. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend with some excellent vegan food!

Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale in the 253

So, you know that awesome event that I’ve been hinting at both here and on the VM Twitter/Facebook pages? Well folks, the title of this post gives away the secret: Two other Tacoma vegan ladies that I met through the Tacoma Animal Rights Book Club, (Lisa and Joy) and I separately got the idea of planning a vegan bake sale as a part of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, found out of our separate plans and decided to join forces in order to take over our little vegan world. Thus, the idea for this event was born.

(Isn’t the flier image awesome? We all have Joy’s bf Dan to thank for this beaut).

Here’s more info that will appear on our flier, which you will hopefully see soon while about the town:

Please join us as for a bake sale being held as a part of Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale (April 23-May, 2011) here in Tacoma at King’s Books!

The event takes place May 1 from 12-4 p.m. All proceeds raised will benefit Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Edmonds. We will have information on the sanctuary as well as other local vegan groups available at the sale. If you want to volunteer to work tables or bake, let Joy know at: We’ll e-mail you some more info on what you can bring, how to label the goods, what time to show up if volunteering and more.

We also want to put together a printed, cookbook style collection of the recipes being made for the event, (which will be for sale to benefit the sanctuary), so please e-mail the recipe of the baked good you’ll be bringing in advance to the email address above. If coming to buy goodies, please make sure to bring your own Tupperware and/reusable bags. Thanks for coming, spreading the word and supporting the sanctuary!

sweet pea of King’s Books was kind enough to allow us to hold the event at the bookstore and we’re excited to be there. We definitely do need more bakers and volunteers to help us with the preparing and selling the goods and setting up/clean up, so please e-mail me at dawn [at] or Joy, whose info is above if you have any interest in either. We want to make this event a success and donate as much as we can to Precious Life, and volunteers and bakers will be a huge part of that. We’re also excited about the baked good cookbook we’ll be putting together to sell! I know I’ve gone to a few bake sales and thought, “Wow, this brownie’s amazing! Wonder how I can replicate it at home?” Well, wonder no more, because you’ll have all the recipes at the event in your hands as you leave if you pick one up.

Also, please know that you don’t have to be vegan to bake or come! This is event is open to all, and all we ask is that if you plan to bake, please make all of your goods vegan, as the event is composed of vegan baked goods only. For more info on vegan baking, how to wrap your baked goods for sale and Worldwide Vegan Bake sale in general, check out their wonderful and informative website here. You can also RSVP to the event on Facebook here.

Please come out if you can. I can’t wait to be swimming in a sea of baked goods in TACOMA!

A scramble recipe

If you’re already a vegan and are reading this post, I bet you’re wincing at the sight of the title, and to you I apologize. I know that there are approximately one zillion tofu scramble recipes floating around in cyberspace and I’m just adding to the clutter in your opinion. To you all, I promise that I’ll have more challenging/interesting recipes posted here one day soon. But to you vegetarians, non, veg-curious and vegans who could always use a new take on breakfast-styled tofu, I’d like to introduce you to my now classic tofu scramble recipe.

A pretty perfect scramble, from Jam in the Hawthorne District in Portland.

Scrambles are one of the easiest things to make and something new and long-time vegans alike make often. They’re simple, tasty and dependable. This particular recipe originated from one I found online, but I’ve changed and added to it so many times, it doesn’t resemble the original in the slightest. Thus I feel safe calling it mine.

Vegan Moxie’s tofu scramble recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
one block extra firm tofu, pressed
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ an onion, chopped
½ a green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1/3 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s
dash of lemon juice
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. turmeric
dashes of basil, oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, black pepper, cumin
½ cup crushed tomatoes (I usually use canned but fresh are better)
15 Kalamata olives (This is an arbitrary number that I’ve chosen for this recipe but really, go to town and thrown in as many as you’d like! They’re so good.)
a few handfuls of chopped kale

Heat a large (really large!) skillet at low-medium heat and add the olive oil, then crumble (or cube on a cutting board and put in the pan, whichever you prefer) your tofu into the pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent.

Add the vegetables, the spices and lemon juice and soy sauce and let them take over and cook down with the vegetables, about 10-20 minutes.

Once your vegetables are softer, add the tomatoes, olives and kale and mix them. Lower the heat to low and cook until the kale is slightly wilted.

Serve on a plate with roasted potatoes, a sweet potato or toast and a side of sauteed green beans, (trust me on this, it’s delicious). If you don’t have some of the vegetables called for, feel free to swap out with whatever you have, and that goes for the kale, too. Spinach, collards or any other green you have on hand would work well, I’m just on a major kale kick right now.

Topped with avocado, hot sauce and cheddar Daiya, with sauteed green beans and tater tots.

Some friends have asked me for this recipe in the past and now here it is. Everyone I’ve ever served this to has loved it and it’s pretty much the main scramble recipe used in our house, suitable for brunches with family or dinner on nights when you want to be crazy. Enjoy!