Week 39: Culinary Efficiencies & My Love of Beetballs

I had a marathon of a food prep day last Sunday.  I try to be as efficient as possible in the kitchen (operative word being try).  Taking a few moments to consider what  I want to have for my meals for the week and reading through the chosen recipes before I start cooking really helps focus the prep and get a lot done in a short amount of time.  I started on Sunday afternoon with my lunches for the week, Quinoa Veggie “Fried Rice”, a Pinterest find.  This was fairly simple to throw together with the majority of time spent on prepping the veggies rather than actually cooking them.  I made a few substitutions – I left out the zucchini (zucchini in fried rice just didn’t make sense to me) and the peas but added water chesnuts and edemame.  I also left out the olive oil and simply cooked the veggies with water to keep them from sticking to the pan, though I did add a tiny bit of sesame oil in the end for flavor

IMG_4881This was a great dish and I ate it all week long without boring of it.  It wasn’t exactly what I would call a fried rice as I’m accustomed to given the different texture of the quinoa but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I would say it definitely needed that hint of sesame oil and I liked the suggestion of sriracha to serve (everything is better with sriracha!); I think it would have been a bit bland without.

After I had the lunches packed up and ready for the week, I moved to dinner.  With the grocery store full of fall squash displays I decided this week would be a spaghetti squash week.  Perusing pinterest for some cooking options I settled on Susan Voison’s (aka Fat Free Vegan) Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Chickpeas.  I made no adjustments to the recipe itself but did adjust the cooking process simply for my own efficiencies (and to cut down on pans to wash!).  I thought beetballs would pair well with the squash dish, since they pair well with just about everything and my grocery finally had my preferred golden beets.

The beetballs cook at 350 while the squash needed to roast at 400 and rest til cool enough to handle.  I roasted the squash at 400 and prepped the beetballs while it was cooking.  Once the squash was finished I lowered the temperature and put the beetballs in.  I also put the brussel sprouts in the oven at this time, using a 9×11 dish instead of a baking sheet.  After 15 minutes I added the onion and garlic to the brussel sprouts directly and put them back in the oven another 15 minutes.  Rather than finish the dish off stovetop, after 30 minutes of roasting I added the chickpeas, herbs and lemon juice to the roasting pan with the brussel sprouts and returned it to the oven while I cut the squash.  Finally, I added the spaghetti squash to the pan and tossed with the sprout mixture before serving with a couple of beetballs.

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The dish was lovely.  It was very light with subtle lemon and garlic coming through.  I think adding the beetballs turned more into a full meal than it stood on its own.  While I enjoyed this I did get bored of it after a day or two of leftovers.  I think next time I roast a squash I will try to serve it two ways to keep it interesting while maintaining my efficiencies.

IMG_4883When I made the beetballs I decided to experiment a bit with an idea I have brewing for some time but have not gotten around to trying it as of yet.  I have thought the beetball mixture would make an excellent lasagna filling so when I made the beetball mixture last  week I decided I’d finally give it a go.  I used half the mix to make 10 beetballs as usual and took the other half of the beet mixture and made it into crumbles on the pan.  I baked as usual (30 minutes at 350 no turning or stirring).   I waited until completely cool and stored in a tupperware in the refrigerator until ready to assemble my lasagna.  Since this was really just a test kitchen attempt I decided to make a roll-up rather than a full pan of lasagna and see how it went.  It was perfect!  The beet mixture has a similar look and texture to the ground beef and the sage, fennel, garlic yumminess still come through in the lasagna.  Not the prettiest but not bad for a first attempt.

After this success, and with a golden beet leftover, I thought I’d try to make a Mexican version.  To do this I left out the fennel, sage and oregano and added 1 Tablespoon of taco seasoning instead.  Out of the oven I took some of the beat meat and added a few spoonfuls of salsa and some more taco seasoning to get it a little saucier.  I made mine into burritos since I had no taco shells on hand (and let’s be honest, you can stuff more into a burrito).  While this is the most authentic looking and texturally appealing whole food meat alternative I’ve made it was quite time consuming for a meal I typically consider my go-to when in a rush dinner.  That said I’ve got the leftover (out of the oven no sauce) in the freezer to see how it would be reheated.

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I should add that I really don’t like beets. I’ve tried them various ways and think they taste like dirt no matter how hard I try to like them.  Susan’s beetballs are one of my top five favorite recipes I’ve made since giving up meat and I make them very often.  It is also proving to be quite a versatile recipe (I also used some of the standard recipe crumbles on a pizza for lunch yesterday to finish out that batch).  Definitely, give it a try if you are looking for a good meatball replacement.

New Recipes Made This Week: 2 (not counting my test kitchen experiments)

New Recipe Tally 2013: 107

Week 38: The Great Pumpkin

Happy Fall!  It’s officially my favorite season and I am enjoying the cooler weather and lovely fall flowers.  My mums and black eyed susan are in full bloom and I even have a couple (literally) of early leaves changing into their beautiful reds.  Somehow I made it this far into September without making something pumpkin and this needed to be rectified.  The weekend began with Pumpkin Pancakes.  I normally just add a few spoonfuls of pumpkin puree to any pancake recipe with a few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and call it a day but decided to try a more formal approach this time around.  Happy Herbivore was including a new recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes from her forthcoming Light & Lean Cookbook in this week’s Happy Herbivore newsletter but by early Saturday the newsletter hadn’t arrived yet so that recipe will have to wait for another week.  My friend at the Pink Ticket had posted a Pumpkin Pancake recipe the other week so that’s where I started.  These are awesome!  The recipe calls for more pumpkin than I usually add to my makeshift recipe and you can taste the difference. I added some allspice and cloves for a spicier pancake.

IMG_4862IMG_4867I still had some pumpkin puree left so I decided to make Oh She Glows’ Lightened Up Raw Pecan Pumpkin Butter.  This was super easy to throw together (I left out the coconut oil and do not miss it at all) in the food processor.  My apple never tasted so good with this yummy dip.  As written this recipe is not very spiced so if you like things spiced up like me increase the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  As good as this was with my apple, I had an idea for a wonderful sweet treat.  Happy Herbivore had posted a Cinnamon Bun Minis recipe on her facebook page not too long ago.  The recipe provides a cheat for the time consuming cinnamon bun process of making your own dough by using pizza dough to make the cinnamon buns; you can also make smaller portions to serve.  I decided to take this concept and use the Pumpkin Butter in place of the brown sugar/applesauce mixture in the cinnamon minis.

To make the glaze I also added a small spoonful of the pumpkin butter to the confectionary sugar to boost the flavors even more.  I am quite pleased to say these came out as good as I’d hoped!  I need some practice working with the pizza dough to get it rolled out a bit thinner so the minis roll nicer but these were an excellent treat for fall.  They are not overly sweet but you can use the glaze to add more sweetness if you like.  I loved them just as they were.

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New Recipes Made This Week: 3

New Recipe Tally 2013: 105

 

Week 37: Revisiting Fall Favorites

Summer and Fall have been in a battle to take claim of September over the past week or so.  Last week started off cool and breezy before a resurrected humid heat settled upon us only to be stormed away as Fall reclaimed its territory.  Fall happens to be my favorite season and as the early signs of its return start to show my cravings adjust to foods I haven’t had all summer.  Pictured above was Week 37’s comfort food creation.  Happy Herbivore Hippie Loaf with Kathy Patalsky’s Acorn Squash Alfredo and steamed broccoli.  These are not new recipes but so good I had to share!

IMG_4796I’m a bit late with my post this week so food prep for the week is already well underway. Dinner this week isn’t new either, rather my favorite chili recipe. Emeril’s Vegetarian Chili is loaded with veggies, using portobellos as the meat of the dish, and perfect for a fall evening.  I use pinto beans instead of the recommended black beans simply because that is how I typically prepare my chili.

There was one new recipe for Week 37.  Since I enjoyed Week 36’s Curry Roasted Cauliflower lunches so much, and the head of cauliflower I had bought  was so large I used only half, I went in search of another cauliflower recipe.  I ended up choosing Forks Over Knives Aloo Gobi.  Aloo Gobi is a potato and cauliflower curry in a spiced fresh tomato base. This recipe was a bit more bland than I typically think of Indian dishes.  I liked the dish but prefer Vegetable Korma, which seems saucier and spicier. To boost the flavor profile of the Aloo Gobi I took the Happy Herbivore Vegetable Korma sauce as inspiration and added a little bit of almond milk, more cumin and coriander; I also added some peas and carrots for color.  These additions made the dish more enticing to my palette; served over brown rice, this was quite a satisfying lunch.

IMG_4794I haven’t made a new recipe for Week 38 yet.  With a busy week at work and a giant vat of chili to work my way through I think this week will be a sweet treat or a pancake.  There’s so much pumpk-inspiration out there and apple season is upon too!  Hmmm…decisions, decisions.

New Recipes Made This Week: 1

New Recipe Tally 2013: 102

Week 36: Back in the Swing of things – Healthy Lunches and Snacks

Lately all of my favorite blogs have been focused on back-to-school with lunch options and healthy snacks.  I don’t have children but am still welcome the reminder that it really is not that time consuming or expensive to plan ahead and keep lunches and snacking in check.  By mid-summer I was becoming bored with meal-planning and lunches probably suffer the most since, at this point, I can throw together a dinner fairly quickly with staples on hand.  Grilling helps in that regard as well; grilled vegetables are a versatile start to a full meal.  My former manager ate the same (at least it appeared the same) large salad every day for lunch and never seemed to bore of it.  Sadly, that is not me.  Summer is probably the most difficult because I don’t feel like soups or stews, which are perfect lunches the other three seasons.  This a long preamble to my welcoming fall with open arms.  I know it’s not here yet but the signs of it are abundant and the weather has cooled enough for the oven to get some action.

Lunches for the week consisted of a Roasted Curry  Cauliflower I found on Pinterest, served over Israeli Couscous.  This was perfect and filling.  I ate it all week and didn’t get tired of it at all.  For the couscous I cheated a bit and bought Pereg Israeli couscous with vegetables.  It has dehydrated vegetables and seasoning in it already but is very low salt (according to the nutritional info it contains 10 mg of salt, which is still 0% of intake).  I’ve enjoyed this brand.  You can make it without any oil but if you plan on having leftovers I would add a touch of oil so it doesn’t all stick together when refrigerated.  The cauliflower is delicious!  The spice level will depend on the curry level you use, mine was a subtle warm spice.  I added peas for color and because I love them in Indian dishes.  Cauliflower is actually probably one of my least favorite vegetables.  I don’t dislike it but I rarely choose it either.  Since going plant based I’ve realized there are more uses of it than I’d thought. Mashed, pureed, roasted…it’s quite agreeable to work with.  If you haven’t liked in the past I’d give it a go in another preparation as I’m finding I enjoy it more than I’d thought.

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For an afternoon snack I tried a new hummus (another Pinterest find), Garam Marsala Hummus.  I was going to try a jalapeño hummus but was in a hurry and didn’t feel like roasting the peppers so went with this one…add all ingredients to food processor and go.  Quite good and saved me from Philly Pretzel addiction (most days;)

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The other two dishes this week were breakfasts.  Vegan Buttermilk Pancakes were OK.  A bit too airy for my liking, almost sponge cake like.  I left the melted butter out and added blueberries, so not a fair  judgment perhaps.

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Finally, there was Forks Over Knives Cookbook‘s Sweet Potato Pie Oatmeal (pictured left).  This is the first recipe I’ve made that I couldn’t eat at all.  A small taste and it was far too rich and creamy for my breakfast taste and was thrown away.  It may be me though.  The recipe calls for date molasses and I only had blackstrap molasses.  Attempts to find the difference and sweetness levels were unsuccessful, and well it was breakfast and I hadn’t had my coffee yet.  I cut back on the quantity but still found this too sweet.  After discarding, I made my own thrown together recipe that involved making the oats in strongly brewed chai tea and adding a few spoonfuls of the sweet potato.  Perfect!

New Recipes Made This Week: 4

New Recipe Tally 2013: 101 (woo-hoo! Past the 100 mark)

Week 35: Low-Fat Plant Based Baking

Alas, the long weekend is coming to a close and it’s time to start preparing for back-to-work. I hadn’t made any treats to share at the office in awhile so last weekend I decided Week 35 would be a zucchini bread week. It’s actually a lot easier than one would think to make sweet treats vegan. There are a variety of non-dairy milk options widely available. Non-dairy butters, such as Earth Balance, are also commonly accessible. Eggs substitutes can be less obvious if you’re new to vegan baking, but are also fairly easy to replace. Flaxseed meal mixed with water is the most common replacement I’ve seen, but you can also use fruit puree, silken tofu, or non-dairy yogurt. If you’re looking for an adorable go-to guide for vegan replacements The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions is a good resource. It’s a cute little cookbook with chapters based on different substitutions (dairy, cheese, eggs, meat, gluten, soy, etc) with multiple recommendations.

I’ve found replacing fat, especially in baked goods, to be the most difficult. In savory dishes I hardly miss the fat and was surprised how easy it was to sauté with water or broth and save the calories olive oil adds. Generally, you don’t even miss the olive oil. The most common plant-based low-fat/fat-free substitute for oils and butter in muffins and breads is applesauce or some other fruit/vegetable puree.

I started off Week 35 with the Happy Herbivore Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook. These muffins have mashed banana, unsweetened applesauce and, of course, shredded zucchini. Don’t get me wrong, these were yummy. However, Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins may be a misnomer since my ripe banana made these more Chocolate-Banana Muffins that happen to have zucchini as well. When I brought them into the office they were gobbled up, but I labeled the post-it Chocolate-Banana-Zucchini muffins so folks knew what they were in for.

IMG_4682I love banana, but when I want a chocolate, blueberry or zucchini muffin I don’t want to taste banana. So, I went in search of another zucchini recipe and was intrigued by the Forks Over Knives Cookbook Zecret Zucchini Bread (their name, not mine). This recipe used mashed avocado; I was intrigued because I have never baked with avocado before. This one hit the spot, in terms of craving that moist, spiced, zucchini bread I was used to without the oil.

IMG_4688If you’re looking for a yummy, moist chocolate-y banana muffin go to the Happy Herbivore Cookbook recipe. If you’re looking for a more traditional zucchini bread that is vegan and plant-based, avocado is a great substitute and does not impact the flavor profile of your bread like banana does.

New Recipes Made This Week: 2

New Recipe Tally 2013: 97