Adventures with Nutritional Yeast: Meatless Tomato Sauce & Stupid Simple Popcorn

Three amazing things happened to me in the past week.

1. I managed to avoid a major meltdown on the first day back to work post-Sandy. Thanks, wise Yogi tea sayings, for getting me through everything in life.

2. I took an awesome Monday morning run to check out the remnants of the New York City Marathon set-up, both strange and beautiful.

3. And finally, the shooting pain in my leg has been nowhere to be found.

Of course, for those of you who don’t follow WRFG on the reg, I should briefly explain the difference between the two forms of pain I experienced simultaneously.

1. Strange shin pain. Neither shin splint nor stress fracture, the front of both my right and left legs began to hurt after six years of nearly pain-free running. So far, I’ve remedied this by testing out several different kinds of sneakers, some of which have actually offered marked relief. Right now, I am obsessed with the Saucony Triumph 10’s. Typically, I hate namedropping so blatantly, especially when different kinds of sneakers work for different kinds of runners. But the Saucony Triumph 10’s have been a real game changer. The pain isn’t totally gone, but it’s certainly less obvious.

2. Strange shooting pain. This was even worse, because if you try typing that extremely targeted and specific description in to a search engine, you come up with a host of could-be diseases. But as one blogger conjectured, and as my new doctor confirmed, there’s a good chance that the shooting pains were simply the cause of a vitamin b12 deficiency.

After learning about this, I had nothing to lose by taking vitamin b12 supplements. Unfortunately, however, after several weeks, it wasn’t really working and I found myself still experiencing the widespread discomfort which, often, was localized in my leg.

Fast forward to the eve of Hurricane Sandy. Not long ago — last week to be exact — I welcomed a little ingredient into my life known as nutritional yeast.

To be honest, I was incredibly apprehensive about cooking with this b12-rich product. It’s amazing what persistent pain can do to you though; as of this past weekend, right before Hurricane Sandy hit, I decided to finally purchase and cook with the fish food-esque flakes.

Here’s what’s been happening in my tiny Manhattan kitchen.

Recipe No. 1: Quinoa Pasta + Meatless Tomato Sauce

Noah and I decided to check out a local health food store located just a few blocks from our apartment on the night before the storm. Why? Because nutritional yeast is at the top of everyone’s hurricane preparation list, right? Right.

Fortunately, at the risk of losing power (which we eventually did), I determined that I would cook up a bunch of leftover ingredients that were in my fridge and create what turned out to be a meatless tomato sauce that was incredibly rich in flavor, texture and, yes, vitamin b12. Naturally, I didn’t tell Noah about the faux fish flakes until after he tested the sauce and confirmed that it was ohmygod so good. I suggest that, if you’re serving this to others — especially non-vegans or anyone less than adventurous — you do the same.

What You Need

1 jar of tomato sauce (I prefer Raos; it’s pricy, but well worth the splurge)

3/4 can of chickpeas (I suppose you could soak your own, but I’m lazy like that)

1 ripe tomato (any kind is fine)

1 pepper (red or yellow is best)

Arugula or spinach

White wine

Fresh basil

Paprika

Cayenne pepper

Garlic powder

Black pepper

Grated Pecorino cheese

Pam or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Special Ingredient: 1-2 tbsp of nutritional yeast

Pasta (I cooked up quinoa corkscrews for myself and whole-wheat spaghetti for Noah)

What To Do

1. Heat a sauce pan using Pam or EVOO.

2. Slice your tomato and pepper to size. Add to the heated sauce pan.

3. Saute the tomatoes and peppers until they’re nice and brown. Once the natural water has cooked out, hit the pan with a splash of white wine. Let that cook out, and then hit it again. Swig from bottle stealthily.

4. Once the tomatoes are cooked down and the peppers are nice and soft, add your chickpeas, fresh chopped basil and seasoning (garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper). I don’t measure seasoning, so you’ll have to use your judgment here. Note that each jar of tomato sauce will be seasoned differently as well, so you’ll need to adjust your herbs using your own taste. My suggestion is to start small, and you can always add more from there.

5. Stir all this together, then add your jar of tomato sauce and 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast. Bring the heat down to a low flame, and allow to simmer. Throw in your arugula or spinach once simmering.

6. Bring a pot of water to a boil with a little splash of salt. Add your pasta of choice, and cook according to the instructions. Quinoa pasta takes between 5 and 9 minutes, depending on your stove and how much you’re cooking.

7. When the pasta is done, your sauce should be too.

8. In a bowl, combine your pasta and sauce, and top with grated cheese.

Recipe No. 2: Stupid Simple Popcorn

I know what you’re thinking: Where did she ever come up with such an original name? Well, folks, the recipe is as silly as the title. Simply throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave. When it’s done, add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and some black pepper to the bag while it’s still piping hot. Be sure you add while it’s steamy, or you’ll end up with clumps of yeast.

For those of you who prefer the authentic method — and have the time to experiment with making — cheesy, nutritional yeast popcorn, I recommend doing a search for Scott Jurek’s more involved version from his book, Eat & Run (he calls it Buttery Omega Popcorn). Either way, it’s a great way to squeeze in an ingredient that, for vegetarians, is otherwise quite difficult to consume. Really, it wasn’t so bad after all. Kind of tasty, even.

Enjoy!

  • Have you ever cooked with nutritional yeast? What other ideas do you have besides popcorn and tomato sauce? 
  • I’m newly obsessed with quinoa pasta. What other non-wheat kinds of pasta are out there that I’ve yet to discover? (So far, I know of Shiritaki noodles too.)
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4 thoughts on “Adventures with Nutritional Yeast: Meatless Tomato Sauce & Stupid Simple Popcorn

  1. You should try black bean pasta. It’s a little different in texture (slightly chewy), but it’s SO high in protein and the only ingredients are black beans and water!

  2. So, interesting! My boyfriend is vegetarian and we’ve been exploring B12 options…but he’s cut back on Nutritional Yeast because of some info his mom got in childhood (apparently there is such a thing as too much of at least this good thing). But maybe it would be good to add it back in a little more. Glad to hear you’re feeling better!

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