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!

Pilothouse and The Argonaut Cafe

A few weekends ago, Michael and I went on our babymoon in California’s Gold Country. Check out my pregnancy blog for a full review of the trip and money saving travel tips. We had both been dying for a Gold Country trip for over a year now, so this was the perfect way for us to have some quality time before the baby comes. We ate at two restaurants that really impressed me, so I thought I would share.

Old Town Sacramento at night.

We went on our babymoon starting the Saturday of Presidents’ Day weekend, so we decided to save our fancy Valentine’s Day dinner for that night. We both wanted a nice dinner in Old Town Sacramento, so I did some online research and found Pilothouse.

source

The restaurant is located inside the Delta King Hotel, a retired riverboat docked along the Sacramento River. I made reservations online, but we probably did not need them. We came later in the evening so we missed the rush, and the hostess told me that the day after Valentines Day is never that busy. She suggested that in the future we always make a reservation just in case.

The staff was very friendly, though our specific waiter was kinda slow (Michael’s beer and our bread came about 15 minutes later). The atmosphere was very nice, the whole dinning room restored to it’s 1930’s charm. And the view of the river all lit up at night was lovely.

I ordered the beet salad (Michael just ate the cheese for me). It was sooo good. The beets were perfectly cooked and very juicy.

For my entree, I had to order the only vegan thing on the menu, Grilled Vegetable Tagine. I was a little annoyed at first there was only one choice, but it was tasted good so I have no complaints. Lovely crisp veggies served over rice, seasoned with a sweet but savory spice blend. I am sorry I don’t have a photo of my entree, I know I took one and somehow it vanished off my phone….

Michael ordered the Saturday Night Steak Dinner Special—nothing besides his starter salad was vegan. He always wants steak for Valentines Day. I can’t complain because I didn’t have to cook it for once. He loved his organic and antibiotic free prime rib. And was in heaven with his buttery mashed potatoes. Meh, I will stick to my still delicious healthier food 🙂

Aren’t we cute all dressed up?

This place is expensive, but it was a lovely treat. We got to dress up and snuggle up next to each other. It would have been even better if I could have sampled the wine selection…..

On Monday while visiting the Marshall Gold Discovery Park, we had a lunch at this adorable little cafe across the street from the Visitor’s Center. The Argonaut Cafe is an organic, farm-to-fork style restaurant. It’s a tiny little building, and even at 2:30 PM when we entered, it was pretty busy.

The cafe is decorated like an old Gold Rush era store, mostly wood and metal. There are a lot of picnic tables out back with a great view of the American River.

The menu is basic cafe foods, like soups, sandwiches, salad, and a few desserts. I ordered the Fresh Veggie Sandwich (without the cheese) on Sourdough and Michael got the Organic Smoked Turkey on Sourdough. My sandwich was heavenly. Fresh, crispy veggies with a creamy hummus. And I love buttery California avocados. I was so happy to find fresh organic food in such a small town at reasonable price (both sandwiches were $8 each).  The soup of the day was vegan chili, but I didn’t want to be too full and set off my acid reflux. It looked really good though, maybe next time.

We want to do a bigger Gold Country trip when Jack is old enough and I totally plan on coming to both these restaurants again. Though, Jack might stay the night with his Auntie who lives nearby when we go back to Pilothouse so momma can enjoy some wine in peace.

And see, it’s not that hard to go on a vacation and eat vegan. Just do some research and be prepared that your food will be delicious, just not a mound of buttery mashed potatoes. Or who knows, maybe you will luck out and find an awesome organic cafe!

Deep Dish Pizza

Do you know how to make a food blogger very happy? Buy her a new stove!!!!

As you can see from the rust ring, the old
stove hadn’t been moved in over 60 years.

As I mentioned before, we moved into Michael’s grandparent’s old house and inherited all the old stuff that came with it. Including the original stove from the the 50s. It’s a nice stove and still works, but as Michael put it, “People have landed on the moon since this stove was made.” There was a good sale on end of the year clearance stuff at a local appliance store so we checked it out.

We got a GE 30″ Free-Standing Gas Convection Range, for around 45% off. It was delivered Friday and I was so excited! Finally burners that don’t need a lighter to light! A stove with a digital display and a working timer!

So for our inaugural meal, I decided to make a vegan deep dish pizza. I used a lot Daiya mozzarella, Tofurky Italian sausage, and lot of veggies. I made it in a 9×9 casserole pan since I don’t have a deep dish pan (and couldn’t find my cake pan). I like the square shape, the corner pieces had a crunchier crust.

Deep Dish Pizza
1 red onion, diced
1 cup white mushrooms, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 meatless Italian sausage, diced (I used Tofurky)
1 ball of pizza dough (try my recipe)
1 cup of pizza sauce
1/4 cup cilantro leafs optional
1 cup fresh Spinach
1 cup dairy-free mozzarella cheese ( I used Daiya)
Red pepper flakes, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree.

Saute the red onions in a little olive oil until they soften.

Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to release their water.

Add the bell peppers. Cook until all the veggies are soft and slightly golden. Set the veggies aside.

Lightly brown the diced Italian sausage, set aside when done.

Lightly oil your baking pan.

Roll the pizza dough the shape of our pan (big enough to have it go at least half way up the sides too) and about 1/8 inch thick.

Place the dough in the pan and work it in gentle so it covers the bottom and the sides.

Spoon half the pizza sauce on to the dough.

Sprinkle on the cilantro, if using (it’s Michael loves it on everything).

Place the spinach in an even layer on top.

Now evenly spread the veggie mixture.

Then the diced sausage.

Pour on the rest of the sauce.

Lastly, sprinkle on the cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until the sauce starts to bubble.

Turn the oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes or so, until the cheese starts to get slightly golden (remember that vegan cheese does not get all bubbly, it will just burn).

Let this cool for a few minutes before you cut, it will be so much easier and stay in one piece.

Sprinkle with a little more cilantro and red peppers flakes if desired.

It’s not quite like an authentic Chicago deep dish, but that is probably for the best. As good as they are, they are insanely unhealthy. Michael pretty much inhaled this pizza, didn’t care that it was vegan at all. He was sad when I told him we finished the whole pan!

This was a great inaugural dish for my new stove. Can’t wait to make more delicious vegan food with it!

Thai Pumpkin Curry

I have professed my love for Fall and pumpkins before (check out my pumpkin carving and Pumpkin Waffles posts).  This past weekend Michael and I went back to the Half Moon Bay area to pick pumpkins. We decided to skip the Pumpkin Festival and all the traffic/chaos this year.

We went Arata’s Pumpkin patch, a cute little place just south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. It was pretty busy, but not as crowded as the Pumpkin Festival would have been. We picked our pumpkins and smiled at all the cute babies running in the patch and climbing the hay bails. It got us excited to take our little pumpkin next year.

The bump has started to appear

We each got a pumpkin to carve. Plus, we bought an extra little pumpkin and butternut squash to cook with later. I am not sure what to do with the butternut yet, but I knew the little pumpkin was destined for Thai curry. Roasted pumpkin adds another layer of flavor to a creamy and spicy curry. This is variation of my Yellow Vegetable Curry, trying to make it more authentic tasting.  I decided to make it in the crockpot so it could have plenty of time for all the flavors to mend.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Thai Pumpkin Curry
1 small pumpkin
1/2 tbs coconut oil
1 small white onion, chopped
1 half inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves of garlic
1 eggplant, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of broccolini (normal broccoli is fine), cut into half inch pieces
1 large carrot (or 15 baby carrots), chopped
1/2 cup snap peas
1 can of coconut milk
4 cups water
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbs Sriracha
1/2 tbs tamarind chutney (or paste)
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
1 bundle of lemongrass
3 cardamom pods
10 large basil leaves, chopped
6 mint leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Carefully cut the crown off the top of your pumpkin (see my pumpkin carving post for more details).

Now carefully cut the pumpkin in half.

Scoop out all the seeds and membranes.

Lightly spray the insides of the pumpkin halves with cooking spray.

Place skin side down into a baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until soft and tender.

Set aside to cool.

Once cool, remove the meat from the skin (I suggest a small knife and just cut away the skin and rind).

Cut it into cubes.

Plug in your crockpot and set to low.

Add the coconut oil.

Once it is melted, add the onions, garlic, ginger. Let is cook for a minute.

Add the chopped eggplant, bell pepper, broccilini, carrots, and snap peas.

Pour in the coconut milk and water. Mix well.

Add all remaining ingredients, except the salt and pepper. Mix well.

Cover and cook until the veggies are soft, about 2 hours. You may need to adjust temperature and time for your crockpot.

Serve over jasmine rice. Garnish with basil, mint, and/or cilantro.

Tons of vitamins and flavor! I lovely fall dish.

One Pot Pasta

I kept seeing all the pins on Pintrest for One Pot Pasta. Pretty much throw everything into one pot, let it cook for awhile, and you have prefect pasta in a light tomato sauce. Sounded too good not to try! There are a ton of variations of the recipe, but it appears that the “original recipe” (the one that made it popular) is from Martha Stewart. I kept it simple and pretty true to the originally. But I wanted it creamier, so I added some arrow root powder (or starch) to thicken it up without adding a lot of calories.

Arrow root powder is a natural thickener that comes from South America. It’s is similar to corn starch and can substitute for it. I like it better because it is finer and blends better (plus you know, the whole Monsanto King of the Corn thing…) You may notice in the photos that I used spaghetti and fettuccine. I had a half box of each and wanted to use them up. I am big believer is using what you have on hand in order to save money.  I also used organic cherry tomatoes from the veggie box delivery (they are so good, I could eat them by themselves!).

This recipe makes 4 servings.

One Pot Pasta
1/2 small white onion, sliced fine
1 small carton of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and greens removed
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 sprigs of basil, leafs removed and roughly chopped
12 oz  (just shy of one box) of pasta
1 tps red chili flakes
5 cups of water
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbs Arrow Root Powder or Corn Starch

In a large, shallow pot, add all the ingredients except the olive oil, arrow root powder, salt, and pepper.

Cook for 5 minutes, just until the tomatoes bring to break. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Cook for another 5 minutes or so (it will vary based on the directions for the pasta), until  the pasta is cooked.
Remove from the heat. About about 1/4 cup of liquid will remain.

Add the arrow root powder and toss together well. The sauce will get slightly thicker and creamier.

Taste for seasoning, mine need a little more salt.

Now serve it up with some extra basil and enjoy!

A light sauce that is just a tad creamy without all the fat! Filling without being over the top. I am so going to make this again.

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.