Holiday Lentil Loaf 

What does a vegan who is nursing a toddler who’s allergic to soy, wheat, and cashews have for Thanksgiving? Lentils! I actually had this last year too before Jack developed his food allergies, because it’s that good!

I posted a lentil loaf recipe before, and I still make that one often. It’s more of a meatloaf than a holiday dinner.

I should have posted this last week, but life got in the way. My apologies! But this is good for any holiday as a poluty substitute. I actually assembled the loaf the night before and baked it the next day. It is very allergy-friendly and tastes great! Even my  meat-loving husband took several bites!

Holiday Lentil Loaf IMG_0439
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups brown lentils
2 carrots, chopped fine
2 stalls of celery, 
chopped fine
1/4 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, 
minced
1/4 tsp fresh rosemary, 
minced
1/4 tsp fresh sage, 
minced
1/4 tsp thyme, minced
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 gluten-free flour
1/4 nutritional yeast
1/2 cup coconut aminos
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste 

Cook lentils according to directions on the package.

Cook lentils according to the directions on the package.

While those are cooking, sautée the carrots, celery, and onions in a little bit of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Then remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, add all remaining ingriedents, expect the salt and pepper, and whisk together.

Drain both the lentils and quinoa, add to a large mixing bowl.

Add the sautée vegetables and mix well.

Add the liquid mixture and also mix well.

Spray a roasting pan or baking sheet with cooking spray. Form a loaf on the pan with the lentil mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until heated through and a light crust forms.

Cut off a slice and top with some vegan gravy. Enjoy a taste of the holiday season everyone can enjoy!

Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce

In last post, I mentioned that I also got a butternut squash at the pumpkin patch. I bought it randomly without a recipe in mind. Thursday morning I woke up and thought pasta with creamy butternut squash sauce would be amazing for dinner. Then my best friend (the maker of the amazing reception cake) and her boyfriend wanted to come over to carve pumpkins. So I decided to make a nice dinner for everyone.

This is recipe is similar to most other squash sauce recipes out there (except that it’s vegan), but it not based on any particular one. I just put in what I thought sounded good.

This recipe makes 6 servings.

Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce
1 large butternut squash
1 tbs vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), divided
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 tps cinnamon
1/2 tps chili powder
1/2 tps smoked paprika
3 cups plain soy milk
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
6 servings of any kind of pasta (I used strozzapreti)
Basil, to garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane, and discard them,

Rub 1/2 tbs of the butter on the inside of both halves.

Roast in the oven until the squash is soft, like when a knife can be inserted without any resistance. This takes about 25-30 minutes.

Set the squash aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sautee the chopped onion in the remaining 1/2 tbs butter. Once soft and translucent, add the garlic. Cook for just a minute.

Now add the cinnamon, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Cook another minute.

Add the soy milk and veggie broth. Stir well.

Now, scoop out all the meat from the cooled squash. It should be soft, like mashed potatoes.

Mix and mash together the squash with the liquid. It’s okay if it is still a little lumpy.

Turn off the heat and let the flavors meld.

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package.

Then add the pasta directly into the sauce.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with some fresh basil and serve.

We paired it with a nice salad and some bread, and it was a lovely meal indeed. Amanda said she could not believe how flavorful it was. Michael said the sauce tasted like Fall. I would just eat the sauce by itself honestly. With flavor like this—plus all fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A—there is no reason not to make this lovely Fall dish!

Pad Thai Fettuccine

I am not quiet sure how or why I came up with this dish, but it was sure tasty! It is like a mix between pad thai and pasta primivera.  Really easy to make too.

Pad Thai Fettuccine 
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
2 tps garlic powder
1 tps onion powder
1 tbs chili powder
1/8 cup jarred jalapenos (less or more to depending on personal heat level)
1/2 box fettuccine (or enough for four servings, most boxes are actually 8)
Assorted veggies, fresh or frozen (I used a bag of stir fry mix but try any veggies you would put in Pad Thai)

Put a large covered pot of water on the stove to boil.


Toss the stewed tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and jalapenos into the blender and blend until smooth. Taste it and adjust seasoning to your tastes. I added a little more chili powder because I like it spicy.

Once your water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the directions. Drain and return to the pot.

Heat up (or cook if you are using fresh) the veggies in a skillet with a bit of cooking spray or oil.

Add the cooked veggies to the pasta pot. Pour in the sauce and mix well.

I topped mine with a few more jalapenos and chili powder. A very lovely and easy dinner!

Lentil Loaf

I must confess, I have a love for infomercials.  My new favorite is that meat loaf pan that supposed to make the perfect loaf every time.  I question if the thing works but it made me want a delicious lentil loaf.  Meat loaf was one of the few meat dishes I actually liked when I was growing up, so I was kind of skeptical to see if a lentil one would compare. And I was surprised that it did! Now I make them often. Savory, a litte “meaty” and if you make them right, they can even be a little juicy.

Lentils are a pulse (don’t worry, I had to look that up too) that is part of the legume family. Their seeds are little lens-shaped pods that are high in protein, vitamin B, and fiber. They were consumed by neolithic Middle Easterners as far back as 13,000 years ago. And, surprisingly Canada is the top producers of lentils today.

Now, don’t judge this dish until you try it. It does not taste like a big pile of bland beans at all. Cooked lentils have a slightly “meaty” texture, which is why I love to put them in pasta sauces to create a heartier dish. The key to making a good lentil loaf, just like a meat loaf, is getting the consistency right. Make sure there is enough liquid and gluten in the mixture so it will stick without being mushy.

Lentil Loaf
1 cup dried green lentils
1/2 tbs vegan butter
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup cooked oatmeal
1 tps Italian seasoning
2 tbs tomato paste (or ketchup works just fine)
1 tbs soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pick through the lentils and throw out the bad ones. Soak the lentils overnight.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the vegan butter.

Drain and rinse the lentils. Add to skillet. Cook until the lentils are slightly golden.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and let cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray (I didn’t use a loaf pan because I think it is a pain to remove the loaf in the end).

In a large bowl, add the cooked lentils, cooked oatmeal (it must be already cooked, it will help the load adhere together) and the onions. Mix together well. Mix in all remaining ingredients.

Shape into a loaf on the sheet pan. Feel free to top with ketchup like a meat loaf before you pop it in the oven if you like. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is a little golden.

I ate mine with some steamed green beans and some ketchup. So delicious. It makes nice leftovers the next day too. I think I will make a simple gravy for it tomorrow night, and maybe some mashed sweet potatoes.

Easy Rice Bake

I hate when it’s almost time to go grocery shopping so you don’t have enough of anything to make a real recipe. For dinner tonight, I decided to follow in the footsteps of generations of housewives and make a baked casserole. Casseroles became household favorites because they were a cheap way to stretch a a few ingredients into a hearty meal.  They really took off when companies like Betty Crocker made prepackaged versions like Hamburger Helper (ha, a Hamburger Helper commercial came on TV as I typed that). But, they aren’t vegan and aren’t the healthiest. I made my own version instead. I had some fresh basil and canned pasta sauce that needed to be used up, so I made an Italian-style rice bake. You can make a pasta bake with this recipe too, just replace the rice with any pasta you like. Besides being tasty, this dish is a good way to clean out the fridge. You can throw in whatever veggies or leftovers you have kicking around.

Italian-Style Rice Bake
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cashews
1/4 of a tub of silken tofu, drained
1 cup pasta sauce
1 cup frozen veggies (carrots, peas–whatever you have in the freezer)
1 cup canned beans (I suggest white or pinto)
Anything else you want to clear out of the fridge or freezer

Everyone claims to have the secret to perfect rice, so cooked the rice according to your own method.

While your rice cooks, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.

To make the “pesto”, add the basil, garlic clove, cashews, and olive oil into a blender. Blend until the cashews are ground up and the mixture is smooth. Next add the tofu and blend until smooth. I suggest adding the tofu separately so the nuts gets thoroughly ground up.

Put the “pesto” into a large bowl. Next add the pasta sauce and mix together.

Now add your veggies, beans, or whatever else you want. I had a few fake chicken strips left over so I threw them in too.

Now add your cooked rice and mix it all together.

Spread evenly into your baking dish. Normally casseroles and other bakes are covered with cheese.  You could cover this with some vegan mozzarella, but I took a little healthier approach by just topping it with some Italian breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven, until the top is golden and crunchy.

This will easily feed a family of four or a college kid for a couple day. It would go lovely with a nice spinach salad too.

Cheesy Fried Tofu

Oh my God. This is one of the best things I’ve ever made. I had Daiya cheddar left from my Mexican Pizza, and couldn’t face another burrito (I’ve been eating them all week for lunch). I already planned on making collard-green-style Swiss chard, so that lead me to thinking about my Southern dinner the other night. Then it hit me, cheesy fried tofu. I couldn’t find a recipe for it online so I decided to just add cheese to my fried tofu batter. This recipe is for one serving, but is so simple it can easily be multiplied to feed more people.

Tastes better than chicken.

Cheesy Fried Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup+2tbs flour, (I used rice, but any kind is fine)
1/2 cup soy milk, unflavored
1 tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tbs soy sauce
1 tps yellow mustard
3-5 shakes of Tabasco sauce
1 tps garlic salt
Pinch of pepper
1/4 cup vegan cheddar cheese (try Daiya)
Oil for frying

Drain the tofu.

Place several sheets of paper towels on a flat, clean surface. Put the tofu on the paper towels, then place some more paper towels on top. Now get something heavy (I use my science textbooks, my mom uses stone bookends) and place it on top. This will squeeze out all the liquid so it will get a denser texture when cooked. Leave this for at least an hour, but the longer the better.

Next, place the tofu in a freezable container and freeze over night.

Drained, frozen, thawed, and marinated.

The next morning, place it on the counter to thaw.

Once fairly thawed, sliced in half lengthwise so it’s like 1/4 inch thick steak. I normally don’t like to cut tofu into steaks, but I figured the cheese would stick better to a bigger piece. Since I am only cooking for me, I put one half back in the fridge for another day. Pour the 2tbs of soy sauce over both sides and let it marinade for at least a half an hour.

Cheesy.

In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tbs of flour with the salt and pepper.

In another bowl,  mix together the remaining ingredients. It should make a chunky batter.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when some water sprinkled in sizzles and bounces right out.

I don’t know why the batter looks more yellow in this one…

Now time to fry. First, coat both sides of the tofu steak in the dry flour mixture.

Pile it on, get a nice thick crust.

Next dip it into the cheese mixture. Make sure it is thoroughly coated in a thick layer.

I had some butter in the pan too, that’s why the oil is a bit brown.

Next place in the hot oil. Cooked on both sides until golden brown and crispy.

I was so eager to try the tofu, I almost forgot to take final pictures! It was crispy and gooey, just like I imagined. I loved it with spicy Southern-style Swiss chard. Best fried tofu ever.

I hurried through the photos because I wanted to try it so bad!

Taste of the South: Collard Greens, Black-eyed Peas, and Fried Tofu.

One of my favorite vendors at the Hilo Farmers Market had a special on greens—kale, Swiss chard and collard greens. I got a bunch of each for only $5 total. Like I said before,  your local farmers market will always have the best deals. I haven’t had collard greens before so I thought I’d make  a whole Southern dinner to have the full experience: collard greens, black-eyed peas, and fried tofu.

Love the deep green color.

Collard greens are amazing. Although kind of bitter raw, they are buttery and rich when cooked. They are also loaded with vitamin C, fiber and can even fight cancer. And it smelled sooooooo good while it was cooking. I looked up a bunch of recipes and decided to stay pretty traditional, just minus the bacon. I based this recipe on the Kickin’ Collard Greens from Allrecipes.com (although Paula Dean’s recipe looked really good too).

However, I am no stranger to black-eyed peas. They are buttery like collard greens but saltier, which is why they are perfect for a salt queen like me. I’ve tried several recipes before, but I came up with my own recently. It’s still fairly traditional, just minus the bacon and add some Tabasco.

Now, do not freak out at the sound of fried tofu. It is amazing. For those people who say they don’t like tofu, I question how they had it prepared. Is plain, unseasoned, undercooked chicken good? No. So why would plain, unseasoned, uncooked tofu be? Tofu will take on the flavor of whatever you cook or marinade it in, so don’t be afraid to experiment and slather it in anything. There are also several preparation techniques that can alter the texture to be more meat-like too.  For fried chicken, I recommend freezing it, which I explain later in this post. There are many fried tofu recipes on VegWeb, but I had trouble with most of them. I came up with this recipe after many trial and errors. The tofu needs to freeze overnight. The other two dishes come together quickly, but you need to plan ahead for the tofu.

My kitchen smelled so good!

Collard Greens
1 large bunch collard greens (sorry I don’t have a precise measurement)
1/2 tbs olive oil
1/2 large white onion
2 cloves of garlic
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop into smaller pieces so it cooks faster and is easier to eat.

Wash and dry the collard greens. Chop off the ends, the stem is edible so only take off the browned parts.  Chop the greens into 2 inch pieces.

Chop the onion and garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Don’t burn the garlic, it gets bitter and nasty.

Add the onions to the pot, cook until tender and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about another 2 minute. Be careful not the burn the garlic, it will ruin the flavor.

Add the collard greens and mix together well. Cooked for another few minutes, just until the leafs start to wilt.

Pour in the vegetable broth then season with the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Try not to open the lid unless absolutely necessary.



Spicy Black-Eyed Peas
1 can black-eyed peas, drained
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup white onion
1/2 tbs chili powder
1/2 cup water
5-10 shake of Tabasco sauce, depending on taste

Put everything into a small pot, mix together well, and cook over medium-low heat until majority of the liquid is gone, about 10 minutes. So easy!

 

Fried Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
Marinade:
1tbs soy sauce
1tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup vegetable broth
Batter:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp Ener-G Egg replacer
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
2 shakes Tabasco sauce
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
Olive oil

Drain the tofu.

This part may sound crazy, but it is very necessary. Place several sheets of paper towels on a flat, clean surface. Put the tofu on the paper towels, then place some more paper towels on top. Now get something heavy (I use my science textbooks, my mom uses stone bookends) and place it on top. This will squeeze out all the liquid so it will get a denser texture when cooked. Leave this for at least an hour, but the longer the better.

Next, place the tofu in a freezable container and freeze over night.

It will have a slightly leathery appearance.

The next morning, place it on the counter to thaw.

Once fairly thawed, combine all the marinade ingredients and marinade the tofu for at least 2 hours. I know it’s weird to put more liquid in when you just spent all that time getting it out, but now you are putting in flavor.

Marinated and dried again.

Pour off the excess liquid and pat the tofu dry.

Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch strips. You can cut it lengthwise so it’s more steak-like, but I find it doesn’t fry as evenly.

Batter tastes pretty good on its own too.

Now, in a small bowl mix together all the ingredients for the batter, except the 1/4 cup flour and second pinches of salt and pepper.  It should make a fairly thick mixture.

In another small bowl, mix together the remaining flour,  and salt and pepper.

1 tbs of olive oil, only 120 calories and gets the job done just fine.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Get the pan good and hot. The pan is ready when a sprinkle of water sizzles and bounces straight off. You really don’t need tons on oil if you have the pan heated properly and are patient.

Now it’s finally time to bread and cook the tofu. It’s best to set-up an assembly line: dry flour bowl, batter bowl, then the your heated skillet.

First, lightly coat the tofu strip on both sides in the flour.

Next dip the the strip in the batter, making sure it is coated in a thick layer on both sides.

Then drop it straight into the hot pan.

Repeat with the remaining strips.

Cook on each side till golden, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Plate up your fried tofu with generous scoops of the collard greens and black-eyed peas. It went lovely with a glass of ice cold lemonade.

The tofu is crunchy on the outside and has the perfect “meaty” texture” on the inside. Some mushroom gravy would be good with the tofu….too bad I didn’t think of that beforehand. However, just like chicken, it also goes wonderfully with ketchup (and a bit more Tabasco).

Tastes like chicken, but even better!

The black-eyed peas are a bit spicy and the buttery collard greens are heavenly. This meal is not only a good balance of flavors, but so good for you too. I am normally not a big leftover fan, but I am more than happy to have this again tomorrow.

Potato Pierogi

Although I am trying to counter-act my terrible family health history, that doesn’t mean I am still not proud of my heritage. I am 3/4 Polish, third generation born in America on both sides of my family. Although my great-grandparents passed away before I was born, I grew up hearing stories about their lives back in Poland and their journeys to America. My mom told me I would have loved my great-grandmother, she was a very sweet and funny woman. I think about her and my own wonderful grandma every time I make something Polish.

Pierogi are pretty much Polish dumplings. They are a basic flour dough filled with either farmers cheese, potatoes, beef or cabbage. They are usually boiled then lightly fried. They are traditionally topped with a little butter, and sour cream. I’ve seen them topped with all sorts of things. My mom saw them topped with tomato sauce once and said her grandmother would have cringed at such a horror, so I stay traditional to honor my Polish blood. I remember the first time I had them, it was pure heaven. My mom made some for my grandparents when the came to visit when I was about 8 or so. She served them with kapusta (similar to sauerkraut), and we were very happy Poles after that dinner.

I researched some vegan recipes, but most of them called for a lot of oil in place of the eggs, which isn’t really good for a family riddled with heart attacks. So I decided I would use Egg Replacer by Ener-G instead. It is made from starch and is wonderful for baking. I based this on a recipe I found on About.com, but veganized it and cut it in half.

You can make a fine pierogi dough without the sour cream, but I like it better. It makes it richer than other simple dumpling doughs. Try Tofutti brand, it’s not as moist as dairy sour cream but tastes just as good (plus has no cholesterol!)

Potato Pierogi
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tps salt
1 and 1/2 tps Egg Replacer
4 tbs water, divided
1/4 vegan sour cream
1 tbs vegan butter
1/8 tps salt
1 large potato, peeled, washed, and quartered
1/2 large white onion
1 tbs soy milk
4 tbs nutritional yeast

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the Egg Replacer with two tablespoon of water. Add to the dry ingredients and mix.

Next add the sour cream, butter, and remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Mix until it forms a soft but not sticky dough. I all the sudden had this flashback of my grandmother scolding me for overworking the dough, so be gentle.

Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least a half an hour.

Everything would have been organic in Poland back then.

In the meantime, peel, wash and quarter your potato. Place in a pot of water and bring to boil on the stove. Cook until the potatoes are soft enough that a fork can easily pierce through.

Organic onion from the Farmers Market.

While those are boiling, fine chop the onion and place it in a skillet with some cooking spray over medium-low heat. Normally they are sauteed in butter, but those are just extra calories that in my opinion do not add much to the flavor in the end. Cook until just translucent.

The filling should cohere but not be overly moist.

Once the potatoes are done, drain and add them back to the pot. Add the onions, soy milk, and nutritional yeast and mash well. “No one likes lumpy pierogi,” my mom told me. You can add some salt and pepper if you like too. Either my mom or grandma, can’t remember which, told me it is a lot easier to work with cooled filling. I let mine cool for about 15 minutes before I filling my dough.

I used a ramekin as a cutter.

Roll out the chilled dough on a well-flour surface to about 1/8 of an inch thickness. My family is from the Polish countryside, and my grandma told me they make them big in country. So I find the biggest cup or small bowl I have and use it as a cutter.

Overstuffed pierogi will break open while boiling.

Fill each circle with about 1 tablespoon of the cooled potato filling. Don’t over-stuff them or they will break open while cooking.

Make sure to do both sides.

Fold the circle in half to make a semi-circle. Go around the edges with a fork to seal properly. Flip over and repeat on the other side. You can use a little water too if you have a hard time getting them to close all the way.

Careful not to smash them when removing.

Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. Add the pierogi. Just like ravioli, they will float to the top when ready.

I like mine just barely golden.

Remove from the pot, but don’t use a strainer, they will just break apart. Scoop them out with a spoon or ladle. Next saute in a pan with some butter until slightly golden brown.

Top with some vegan sour cream and a little salt and pepper. I served mine with some steamed carrots. I am one very happy and proud vegan Polish girl 🙂

I just sent a picture to my mom, she said her grandma would be very proud. And, she said as good as hers all stuffed cheese and slathered in butter were, great-grandma never wore a bikini like I do! Made me laugh.