Hurry Up Vegan: Zucchini Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Potato, Basil, and Hemp “Parmesan”; Thoughts on Exercising “Responsibility to Yourself”


Yesterday, my friend Catherine commented on my Facebook page to say that she loves that I’m featuring so many “hurry up vegan” recipes lately. That’s good! The majority of food you see on my blog between now and May 10th, which is when my last final takes place, will be simple and speedy. The recipes will be snapshots of dishes I throw together on the go, rather than artful meals I plan and execute laboriously on a weekend.

While I do love leisurely, creative cooking—and look forward to its return on my blog—I started Choosing Raw with the intention of showing people how healthy, high raw food could fit into a busy, professional lifestyle. I’m not a person who sits down to perfect place sittings and antique Limoges on a weeknight, and proceeds to feast on a magazine-ready meal; I eat in between work, often on my own, and frequently at my desk. What you see here on the blog is what you get: my meals, as they fit into an often hectic lifestyle. Thanks for allowing me to write this blog while also prioritizing my life as a student, and for assuring me that you’re all looking for quick, easy recipes, too!

Tonight’s dinner was just about as simple as they come, and it featured a lot of Choosing Raw “standards”—zucchini pasta, sweet potatoes, hempesan. It also features balsamic vinegar, which is also a personal favorite. When I first “went raw,” I was introduced to apple cider vinegar, and for over a year I was so infatuated with it that I forgot about good, old-fashioned balsamic. But balsamic vinegar is really pretty wonderful, and I must be craving it more than usual lately, as Sunday’s lentil recipe also featured it!

One of my favorite salads is romaine, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, basil, avocado, balsamic, and fresh summer corn. So this raw pasta dish is a spin on that salad, with the addition of bell pepper, and with hempesan in place of avocado to stay true to the pasta theme (though adding avocado would be delicious). The sweet potato is cooked, of course, but if you want the dish to be warmer (especially in colder climates) you could roast or sauté the tomatoes and peppers. Yum!


Zucchini Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Potato, Basil, and Hemp “Parmesan” (high raw, vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Serves 1 (you can easily double it!)

1 Large zucchini
1/2 bell pepper, chopped finely
5-10 cherry tomatoes, halved (depends on how many you want in the dish!)
3 large basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 small baked or steamed sweet potato, cubed
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 tbsp hempesan topping

1) Spiralize zucchini. If you’re looking for a spiralizer recommendation, my faves are the Paderno Spirooli, and the Joyce Chen saladacco slicer, both on Amazon. If you don’t have a spiralizer, simply use a box grater or a mandolin to slice the zucchini instead!

2) Toss zucchini with all remaining ingredients, and serve.



This dish is bursting with color! What a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds both.


Hempesan, by the way, is simply my version of a vegan “parmesan” topping—a really easy blend of essentially half and half proportions of hemp seeds and nutritional yeast. It’s full of protein from the nooch and hemp, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and also a great source of extra B-12. I put it on tons of my dishes, and love the taste!

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Wondering what you’d pair this dish with? I’d serve it with a side salad of any steamed or raw vegetables you like, along with 1/2 cup legumes and a simple dressing. Avocado slices would be a nice touch! Hope you guys enjoy this simple dish.

Before I go, I wanted to mention that the wonderful feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich passed away today at 82. I enjoy Rich’s poetry, but her essays move me even more, and I have always been inspired by how she devoted her life to championing women’s rights, racial equality, gay rights, and economic justice. I thought I’d share a quote or two that I like, in case you’re all feeling contemplative and eager to be inspired:

Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work. It means that you do not treat your body as a commodity with which to purchase superficial intimacy or economic security; for our bodies to be treated as objects, our minds are in mortal danger. It means insisting that those to whom you give your friendship and love are able to respect your mind. It means being able to say, with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: “I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withheld or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.’”

Responsibility to yourself means that you don’t fall for shallow and easy solutions…marrying early as an escape from real decisions, getting pregnant as an evasion of already existing problems. It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short…and this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be “different.” The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way.”

Tonight, if you wish, try to think about one way in which you exercise “responsibility to yourself,” as Rich so aptly puts it.

This may mean that you make one or two choices that allow you to treat your body with respect and care. It may mean that you act responsibly to your own ideals, and do something active for a cause that means something to you. It may mean that you stand up for yourself in a relationship—romantic, sexual, professional, platonic, familial—in which you’ve historically been unable to find your voice. It may mean you take one step closer toward developing a professional life that is meaningful and fulfilling to you. Whatever “responsibility to yourself” means to you, exercise it.

And have a great night Smile


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  1. Thanks for noticing my comment! I definitely love the Hurry Up Vegan series, as sometimes I am unspired to create unique combinations when pressed for time. These are great ideas.

    And I love the quote from Adrienne Rich. It’s the sort of quote I would love for all teenage girls to read, as well, to be inspired to lead the sort of life that is inspiring to themselves and others. Mostly, the theme of remaining true to oneself is so important for all.

  2. This passage couldn’t have come at a better time.
    Dealing with big, difficult decisions right now, I am reminded to stay true to my morals and to remain compassionate even when it seems so, so hard to do. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Thank you for another yummy recipe – I can’t wait to try the hempesan. Just had my third meal of the lentil-cucumber-mint salad, gets better each time and can’t wait to finish off the rest tomorrow! Delish!

    I was wondering if you could clarify the spiralizers that you mentioned in this post. I can’t seem to find the exact ones on Amazon, and various forms of the names you mentioned range from $15 to over $500! I’ve been wanting to try one and am wondering if the less expensive ones are adequate, or does it take a heavy duty one to do the job properly…? Thanks again for sharing so much wonderful information – I love pinning your recipes on Pinterest and hope that others can get excited about how great vegan food can be!

  4. I love when you weave in your musings about feminism, writing, etc, on this blog. It’s not just the recipes I come here to gaze at, but the holistic thoughts and perspectives you bring to the blogworld.

  5. Not sure if it’s just on my computer but at the end of your article there is an add for egg recipes from getcracking.. Not sure if it’s random, just thought I’d
    make you aware…

  6. Responsibility to yourself means that you don’t fall for shallow and easy solutions…
    It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short
    It means, therefore, the courage to be “different.”

    Gosh, those few things really ring true for me right now and I honestly struggle with them on a daily basis, especially this semester. I tend to let my excitement about things dampen under what I feel others expect of me. It takes a lot of courage to do what you really want, despite real or phantom expectations. Thanks for the reminder.

    Wonderful piece on Ms. Rich on the NPR website. About a 5 minute audio.

  7. I love the “Responsibility to Yourself” excerpt. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the importance of remaining true to ourselves, exploring our passions, and taking risks. Thanks for the reminder here!

  8. I’m loving the balanced plate addition lately – this really helps me a lot to better understand a fully composed nutrient dense meal. Thank you!

  9. Thankyou for another beautiful post. 🙂 I wish I’d known about Adrienne Rich before she passed–what an amazing woman.

    On another note, very much looking forward to trying hempesan and this is one of my favorite recipes you have posted so far. I love zucchini, I love tomatoes, and I love sweet potatoes…nut free and I’ve got a nut intolerance… love <3

  10. i’m digging the speedy meals as well since i adapt and incorporate some of them in my work week dinners. no one wants to go home and spend an hour making something before they can sit down and eat it! some nights i’m so tired on the way home i could go to bed!

    i find if i don’t ‘treat myself’ to some exercise in the morning then it doesn’t get done at all! so i make an effort to do that 3-4 mornings each week. in an ideal world i’d do it everyday but i love my sleep 🙂

  11. Your recipe looks wonderful (per usual) but the ending of the post is what literally moved me to tears, Gena. My positive attitude and outlook has been dampened recently, due to haters in the blog world and the never-ending weight of school on my shoulders. I know you can relate to this! In short, it’s been a mentally shitty week. Adrienne’s words are a much-needed reminder that I need to appreciate and love all the good in my life and treat myself to a good old fashioned episode of House Hunters. 😉 xoxo

    • Heather, dear, you know I understand! School has really beaten me down this year, and injured my spirit. I’m always here if you need to vent. Right now, please remain the strong, savvy, fearless woman that you are!

  12. Thank you for this thoughtful post and nod to the great Adrienne Rich. I am currently journeying through a part of my life that has me deeply examining who I am, how I got here, and how I want to responsibly and lovingly move forward. This was a helpful piece to read today. And the recipe looks fab. Can’t wait to try your hempasan. Great idea!

  13. What a beatiful message! That should be plastered in every woman’s magazine across the country.

    • Oh, and this dish looks great…somehow I missed your hemp/nooch concoction. Excited to try it!

  14. Another inspiring post! I too am loving the hurry-up vegan! (sort of describes my culinary life – and most of us out there trying to stay “responsible to ourselves” while keeping up with a busy lifestyle!)
    (Yet another nutritional) question for you: I keep hearing such mixed things about nutritional yeast – some say it’s the best thing on the planet and others say I should avoid it like the plague, that it’s bad for digestion, etcetc… Wondering your wise expert thoughts on this? This looks absolutely delicious and, minus the steamed sweet potato, would make a great meal on-the-go! It’s coming to Cannes with me so pack its bags! 🙂
    I’ll stay tuned for your next series “Hurry Up, Traveling Vegan” ! (sorry, couldn’t “hemp” myself 😉
    Take care and thanks for bringing so much light and inspiration to so many people!!

    • I think nooch is perfectly healthy, Rebecca! Great for B-vitamins. And I am pondering the travel bit 🙂

  15. Love the speedy dishes! <3

    Balsamic vinegar goes great with beets and arugula aswell. But I'm sure you know that already 🙂

    Was wondering what kind of balsamic vinegar you use, what are your thoughts about the product. Some kinds contain a lot of suggar for example.

    Thank you for sharing love and care.


    • Linda, I’m not too discerning; I typically just get what’s cheapest at Whole Foods. I realize that there’s some sugar in it, but frankly, a little balsamic goes a long way! So I don’t fret too much. Good question, though.

  16. What a lovely post. I think it’s awesome that you present such beautiful food in the midst of being so busy–today’s dish looks especially vibrant and almost summery.

    I love the quotes from Rich that you shared–it’s interesting, a poet friend of mine here in town also posted that she prefers Rich’s prose even to her poetry. My sad confession is that I haven’t yet read a lot of her work, but I’ll make sure to do so. The guidance toward exercising responsibility was right on my current theme.


  17. Responsibility to one’s self. What a big topic. I wish more people (women) embraced this and towed the hard line with others when they are knowingly getting walked over, set their own bar higher, don’t let others think for them or get away with things that are just not okay; basically standing up for yourself on all levels is something I think most of us need to be mindful of. I could ponder those passages for a long time; thanks for posting those, Gena.

    And your food pics today are especially green and cheery and bright and pretty!

  18. What a beautifully written piece of work. I’m 37 years old and realize that it took me almost that long to find my voice and my responsibility to myself. I didn’t grow up in a household where my voice was heard or respected so I am that much more grateful that I have found it now and I live in a time and place where it is valued. I believe each and every woman (and person and animal) is special and unique and am working toward the goal of helping others realize their potential and value. Thanks for sharing this, Gena!

    • I am so glad to read this, Carrie. I know a lot of women who had similar growing up experiences, and have transformed their identities in their thirties and forties (my seems to have “found her voice” as an independent woman in the last two decades).

      Being healthy and nourishing one’s body with quality food is certainly one form or responsibility to the self, so you should feel proud of your professional track and passions right now!

  19. Beautiful words (yours and Ms. Rich’s). For so long I equated being responsible to myself as selfishness and wrote it off altogether because I was so busy pleasing others. I’m so glad I feel differently now. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

  20. I love the combination of a really awesome recipe with some thought-provoking quotes! Your non-food posts always make me think, and I admire you for addressing topics that can be controversial.

  21. Ha ha ha I read that as “exercise responsibility” which I took to mean letting your body recover after injury, which is one way I actually have been exercising responsibility to my body. It was a good laugh.

    • I had to take a good chunk of time off (or modified) for a hip injury a few years ago. Tough, but humbling.

  22. Thank you so much for adding those passages from Rich. They truly speak to the heart of the matter, so to speak, and are a great reminder in those moments we forget we can take an active role in our happiness.

    Plus, avocadoes = happiness 😉

  23. Gena, thank you for another thoughtful post. Sweet potatoes and balsamic vinegar is one combination I have yet to explore. I hadn’t heard of Adrienne Rich previously, but the excerpt you posted means a lot to me at this time in my life! It’s really been quite an adventure making a career change from music to food, and I know that in spite of all the troubles that entails, I will be much more fulfilled having finally taken the steps to start following my dream!

  24. Gena, I keep returning to your recipes because I want to simplify my cooking… and I have yet to be disappointed (OK, I will admit that I didn’t really like your sauce with the Middle Eastern cauliflower rice collard wraps). Please continue to share speedy recipes that excite the taste buds! Can’t wait to try this. 🙂

    • I hope you LOVE it! I went heavy on the hempesan, and I’m now also thinking the addition of corn in summertime will be a must 🙂