Friday, May 18, 2007

Vegan Gluten-free Butternut-squash Lasanga Rolls

Okay, this is not a normal Simple Veggie recipe.

Friday night I went to a Vegan potluck with catgirl, who is also gluten-free. So, I had a challenge, to make a yummy vegan, gluten-free recipe.

On Valentines day, my present to my physicist was a house plant (his old one which he loved had not survived winter break), and an elaborately cooked dinner - which was also way fun for me! I made Blissinis, Tuscan Salad, Rolls, Asparagus Al Forni (a recipe from a cookbook I have), Butternut Squash Tortellini, and Chocolate Bundles. Okay - so I went a bit overboard for 2 people. But the butternut squash tortellinis were amazing (I used fresh pasta sheets instead of wanton wrappers). Sometime since then I was watching an Everyday Italian where Giada made Lasagna rolls. And I realized that the squash tortellini filling would be interesting in lasagna, and specifically lasagna rolls.

And this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I know you may be thinking - how on earth is lasagna perfect for a gluten-free, vegan dish? I can answer easily - gluten free lasagna sheets, and tofu. Tofu, crumbled and seasoned properly works well for a ricotta substitute.

So Thursday, the day before the potluck, I go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to get my ingredients. Except there is a problem. No butternut squash. A mildly crucial ingredient. So I call my physicist and ask him to run by Meijer on his way home from work. He does, but - no such luck. Buttercup squash? Yes. Butternut? No.

So today I go to more grocery stores to try and find it. 1 Meijer and 3 Krogers later - success! Oy.

It is at this point I start cooking. I was a little nervous. I had bought DeBoles brown Rice Lasagna, which is a no-boil lasagna noodle. Yet, in order to be able to make lasagna rolls, you have to roll the filling in the noodles, requiring it to be at least partially cooked.

So, as I made the filling, I painstakingly boiled the noodles, 1-2 at a time, in a large pan and a large pot. I made sure to salt the water. I even put olive oil in the first few, but it didn't seem to make a different, so I stopped. After every 3 or four lasagna noodles, I changed the water because it started to get a starchy-cloudy look, and I was afraid that that would make a difference some how. When I took each noodle out, I rinsed them with cold water, and laid them out on a cutting board lined with paper towel.

I would let each rest noodle for a minute or two (or longer if I got distracted with something else, it didn't seem to matter) before spooning filling down the center in a thin spread, and rolling the noodle length wise. I then set them seam side down in a clean baking dish (really just to hold them until they were all made and I could make the sauce) and put a damp paper towel over them to keep them moist.

When I had rolled all of the lasanga sheets, I made the 2 sacuses. The first was a Béchamel sauce. To make a Béchamel sauce you melt butter in a pan (I used Earth Balence) and then add flour (I used Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour) and wisk it together I let it brown slightly, and then stirred in the Soy milk, and other ingrediants. by this time, Catgirl had come over and was helping. Or, eating the dried cranberries as the case may be. In anycase, it was good to have company.

Ingredients

Filling
1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, cubed (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pkg Silken Tofu (I used soft, but I think firm would work even better)
Nutritional yeast
2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Noodles
2 boxes rice lasagna noodles
2 pots water
salt
olive oil
paper towel

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Sticks
4 teaspoons Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1 1/4 cups Soy Milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg



Brown Butter Sauce
3/4 cup butter Earth Balance Natural Buttery Sticks
2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries, or mixture of both
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Instructions

Toss the the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper together, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes until squash is soft.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.

Break up the tofu with a rubber scraper, and stir salt, and nutritional yeast.

In a food processor, combine the butternut squash mixture, the shallot mixture, and tofu mixture and pulse a few times to blend. , the nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth.

Boil 2 large pots of water, and add salt and Olive oil. Put Lasagna sheets in boiling water 1 or 2 at a time, wait until they are nearly al dente, and take them out and dry them off with paper towel.

As you are doing this, you can start filling and rolling the lasagna sheets. Lay out lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of squash mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Place seam side down in a holding tray, and lay a damp paper towel over them to keep them moist. Repeat until all Lasagna sheets are rolled and filling is gone.

Melt the Earth Balance in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the Gluten Free flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the soy milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.

Spread the sauce at the bottom of a glass baking dish, and place lasagna rolls, not touching, seam side down atop the sauce.

Brown Butter Sauce
Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sage, walnuts and cranberries and let cook until the butter starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Pour evenly over Lasagna rolls.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20-35 minutes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cooking challenge!

I love a good challenge. At least when it comes to food. And earlier this week, one presented itself.

On Friday, I am going to a vegan potluck (^_^) with cat girl and my physicist. So I have to figure out a good potluck dish to make. The requirements are:
  • It must be vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey)
  • It must be gluten free (I want cat girl to be able to eat it too)
  • It must not have mushrooms (I just don't like them)
  • It must be tasty! (enough that my omnivorous boyfriend doesn't miss non-vegan stuff)
Cat girl and I are getting together this afternoon and brainstorming. It should be fun. If the two of us can come up with a vegan, gluten free meal for her and her omnivorous atkins-stupid boyfriend - there's nothing we can't do!

I'm considering Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheddar Cheese from 101 Cookbooks...

Friday, May 11, 2007

How I got here.

A year ago today I fell. And in someways, it was the best thing that ever happened. I had been falling for awhile. That year I had fallen apart in more ways than one. I was falling apart with school, relationships, with me. I was getting to the point where I wasn't recognizing myself anymore. I was going out almost every night. Getting drunk, not sleeping, not going to class, not thinking. That was the most important part. Not thinking. I did anything I could not to be alone, so I wouldn't have to think. In part, about being alone, or that I was falling apart. I was falling apart, and showing no signs of coming up for air.

But then I fell - literally.

I was doing laundry in my apartment, and I fell down the stairs, and my life got better. Not immediately. No, true to form, I went upstairs, ace-wrapped my wrist, and went to the bar. It wasn't until the next day at work when everything was painful, and driving home hurt so bad I could barely stay on the road that I let my friends, whom I had been neglecting, talk me into going to the hospital. A few hours of waiting, x-rays and poking and prodding later, we discovered that I had 2 cracked ribs (one on each side in back, right where a bra strap goes across - ouch!) and had done something funky to my wrist. Even after casts, months of physical therapy, and surgery, we're not really sure what.

After I fell, I couldn't do a lot of things. I was a mess. But, I had to find something new. I couldn't go to the bar, I couldn't stay out all night, I couldn't even really drive. But I rediscovered what I loved. My friends, including my best friend catgirl, a crazy vegan (two separate thoughts, she is crazy, and she's vegan, not crazy because she's vegan - and I love that she's both - hi K ^_~) who helped keep me sane, and my love who took care of me and put me back together in every way possible. We had broken up 6 months before the fall, which was not a cause of the falling apart, but probably a result. And, given the lots of time I had on my hands, I also took up cooking, which I had long loved, but hadn't really had time for. My cooking was also helped by moving out of my tiny apartment, into one with a much nicer kitchen, including dishwasher. This led to my squash enchilada's, and this blog.

You'd think today I'd celebrate with cooking up a storm, but I did something to my shoulder, and it hurts like hell. I tried to lift a frying pan with that hand earlier, and ick. The boy and I made nachos, and I have been cooking a bunch lately.

Recently I discovered quinoa, in all it's yummy goodness. But that's a story for another day.

Really what I was thinking with this was that I'm a completely different person than I was a year ago. And part of that major change had been this. Rather than going out, rather than wallow, I discovered cooking. The joy of making something myself, either for myself, or for others. It's productive, it's healthy, and it allows me to do something for me, and, by not using any animal products, I can do something for them, and hopefully convince more people that being vegetarian is completely normal healthy, and tasty. And that's really what this is all about.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tempeh Pasta with Asperagus and Peas in Wine Sauce



Or... Proof that there doesn't have to be a plan!

A few weeks ago, I bought tempeh to make tempeh fajitas with the boy from Vegan Vittles: Recipes Inspired by the Critters of Farm Sanctuary cookbook that catgirl gave me. But one thing led to another (including a wonderful vegetarian Mexican dinner at his parents ^_^), and we never got around to it.

Yet I had tempeh sitting in my fridge. And other random things, such as asparagus that was meant for another meal that never happened, small sea shell noodles, leftover from when the boy and i over estimated how much it would be when cooked, and some white wine, left over from . . . awhile ago.

I was hungry, and this food begged to be eaten, so I just started cooking. I had never made tempeh before, but I started slicing in into thin strips width-wise. Snapped the asparagus, and steamed them both. They then got chopped into bite-sized pieces, and thrown in a pan with some garlic, olive oil, nutritional yeast, dry thyme, and parsley. On a whim, I added some frozen peas, and white wine. After letting the wine cook away a bit, I tossed in the already-cooked noodles, and cracked some pepper in. Once the noodles were heated through, I tossed in in a bowl, threw some Parmesan cheese (from Trader Joe's - yay no animal rennet!) and yum!

Ingredients:
1 pkg Tempeh
A few handfuls frozen peas
1/2 cup white wine
1lb asparagus (or a little less)
olive oil
1 clove garlic
dried parsley
dried thyme
pasta of whatever type you like.
Parmesan.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Whole wheat pasta with cauliflower sauce, red chard, roasted carrots and chick peas


Last Friday at work I was doing the boring job of reoragnizinging and moving aroung the files in our 17 file cabinets at work. This mindless activity gave me ample time to envision new recipies in my mind, extra inspired, because I knew the boyfriend was coming down for the weekend. I knew I had at home a full head of cauliflower that I had bought earlier in the week with the intention of making Rachel Ray's califlower pasta sauce, but I wanted to do something different with it. Take it to a new level some how. I took inspiration from a variety of places. On my break yesterday I was browsing food blogs, and found the exciting Mashed Potatos with Kale and Olive Oil from 101 cookbooks.

This inspired me to try adding some sort of sauted leafy green to my otherwise brown whole wheate penne and califlower sauce. I've been intreagued by Chard for awhile, and decided that this was the time, Red Chard it was. Next, I decieded this meal needed some protein. My first htought was some sort of Quorn, or other fake-meat product, but I've been trying to stear clear of those lately, and come up with more natural ways to get protein. Listing through the protein sources I had on hand, chick peas, whcih I have an over abundence of, seemed the best fit. After that, the rule of threes just seemed to demand carrots.

Indrediants:
1 head cauliflower
6-8 stems rosemary
1 lb. whole wheat penne (or other pasta)
1 can (2 cups) veggie broth
1 bunch chard (I used red chard)
1 cup baby carrots, cut into 1/4 inch chunks
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
a few handfuls parmesean
3 cloves garlic
1 red onion, chopped
Olive oil

Recipe:
Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, prep and chop garlic and onion. Heat a deep nonstick pot, and coat bottom with Olive Oil. Saute garlic for 3-5 minutes, then add onion, and continue sauteing - more minutes. While garlic and onils are cooking, core, and remove the leaves from the cauliflower, and chop. Also take the rosemary leaves off of the stem and chop, reserving 1/3 of rosemary. Add cauliflower, 2/3 of rosemary, and veggie broth to pot, cover, and cook 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Rinse and chop red chard. cut off and discard the very ends of the stems, and remove, and reserve the rest of stem.

Chop red chard stems into 1/inch pieces, and add to drianed chickpeas, and chopped carrots, and reserved rosemary. Coat with olive oil in a baking dish, and bake 20 miuntes.

Wilt chard in a covered pot on low to medium heat. Mash cauliflower sauce with a potato masher in pot. Slowly stir in small amounts of cheese at a time, so that it incoporates. Drain chard, and add chard, baked veggies, and pasta to sauce in the sauce pot. Top with parmesean


Monday, February 26, 2007

Thai Peanut Pasta

This week, I'm on break, and my boyfriend is in midterms. (Ah - the joys of going to different colleges!) So, I'm relaxing, catching up, and trying to get ahead on homework, papers, and projects. He's frantically doing homework and studying for his break. This lends itself to long involved meals that I make by myself without help, and quick meals, well, that maybe I get a little help with (peeling carrots or something). Cooking is relaxing to me, and cooking together is just heaven. (Even, if I do take over in the kitchen, and all others can do are little things that I ask them. Many a friend has learned that trying to help without asking in the kitchen can lead to a very cranky cook. ^_^) Tonight, I reached back to a good, quick standby recipe that my mother used to make, with a bit of a twist.

Originally this recipe was for a cold pasta salad, but one night when I was little, my mom and I were really hungry, and didn't bother to wait for the noodles to chill. In doing so, we realized - hey - this is pretty good warm too! Now I make it that way more often than not, and I save the chilled version for the scorching heat of summer.

My mom used to make this recipe with chicken, marinated in some reserved sauce, but since becoming vegetarian, that has either been left out entirely, or left on the side (when someone besides me is making it!) However, I've been trying to incorporate more protein into my diet lately, and to convince my boyfriend that going veggie is easy, and protein isn't a concern. We're also both decent fans of tofu as long as it's prepared correctly, so I substituted it for the chicken. I think steamed Tempeh would probably work as well.

The recipe is based around a pre-made dry salad dressing packet, so if you have a moral objection to those, sorry!

Ingredients
Good seasons Asian Sesame dressing - made to packet instructions (oil, water, and vinegar added)
3 tbsp. chunky peanut butter
1 tsp-tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbsp honey (agave necter can be substituted for vegans)
1 cup shredded carrot
1 package super-firm tofu cubed
1 cup chopped red pepper (other colors would work, I just like the visual red creates)
1/2 cup chopped green onion or chives to taste
1 lb cooked angel hair

Combine made dressing with peanut butter, honey, and crushed red pepper. Drain the tofu (chop if not pre-cubed) and stir into the sauce to marinate while you get the rest of the ingredients together. (Over-night if you think about it, though while the pasta is cooking is time enough.) Start the pasta cooking. Peel and grate the carrot. Chop red pepper and green onion/chives. When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pot. Stir in the Sauce and Tofu, and recover for about 2-3 minutes, or until the tofu is warm (unless you're doing the cold salad version.) Then stir in the carrot, red pepper, and green onion/chives, dish up, and enjoy!

p.s For those who are still afraid of tofu, yet still wanting to cook vegetarian, chickpeas also work well as a replacement protein source ^_^

Frittata and Super Quick Garlic Toast

Frittata
My newest cooking love has become the frittata. paired with a really nice salad, and a slice of whole wheat garlic toast is my favorite. I never make a frittata the same way twice. i often use it not only as a protein supplement, but as a way to clean produce out of my fridge. I have a basic plan, but in general, if i wan to use it up, it goes in.

Ingredients
I start with the eggs (of course) usually 4-6-8 depending on how many people i'm feeding, and what scale of leftovers i want. (I''m a big fan of leftovers)
After the eggs come a splash of milk of some sort- anything from heavy cream, to rice dream - and a bit of ground salt and pepper.
Next comes the ingredients that vary.
The first category of ingredients are the fresh herbs, I often have some on hand for other recipes, but i consider them so crucial that i will occasionally by them just for this if i'm out. a poultry rub pack of fresh herbs works great, since for under $2, you generally get a variety such as sage, rosemary, thyme, etc. I've vary partial to fresh parsley, basil, and green onion/chives as well.
next the dry herbs to make up for whatever fresh i didn't have. I always have basil, parsley and thyme, so if i don't have them fresh, they go in now.
Next come the veggies . . . lets see what i have. last night it was some leftover broccoli from making stuffed green peppers, and some french green beans, and some red onion left over from a salad. yum. i've also used peppers, leftover thawed frozen spinach, etc.
Cheese! i don't always use it, but i often do. Parmesan seems to be my favorite, though with some veggie/herb combinations i might try cheddar. or Gruyere if i had it left on hand.

once these are all mixed together (and nope, i don't cook the veggies first, not even the broccoli!) i put it in a pan w/olive oil on medium heat, and ignore it for 3-5 minutes. Then, if the pan has a non-oven-safe handle, i wrap it in a double layer of foil, and stick it in a 350 degree over for 10-15 minutes, or until it's firm and puffy and a little brown on top. then slide a spatuala around the edges, and dumping onto a plate. cut in to slices and enjoy with a salad (Giada's Tuscan Salad is my current favorite) and some toast.

Whole Wheat Vegan Garlic Toast
1-? slices whole wheat (vegan) bread.
soy garden vegan butter
garlic powder
dried parsley
nutritional yeast flakes

spread the "butter" on, sprinkle the garlic, nutritional yeast, and the parsley on, and stick it in the toaster oven on whatever setting you like!