Grilled Vegetables Over Creamy Polenta

Not every meal or week has a lot of prep or thought put into it.  Some weeks, it’s a quick stop to the grocery for a random assortment of vegetables and I figure it out later.  When I first became plant based this wasn’t a good idea; I needed to sit down and plan out my meals if I wanted to be successful and avoid unhealthy old habits.  Over time, it’s become much easier to quickly throw something together that is healthy, fast and delicious.

This weekend it was a quick stop to the produce aisle – zucchini, squash, bell pepper, red onion, portobello, and eggplant.  I only marinate the portobello (my usual soy, garlic, ginger) and leave the rest just as they are.  Grill up the bounty.   Quick cooking polenta is hiding under all the veggies.  It cooks in less than five minutes; I tossed in a grilled jalapeño to add some interest.  Dinner is served.

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Sunday Dinner: Whole Food Plant Based Stuffed Shells

This recipe started out as a thought and a wonder.  Last weekend was quite busy with family affairs and come Sunday night I hadn’t prepped any food, or done my grocery shopping for that matter.  I had some cauliflower and a few potatoes and frozen peas so decided it would be a homemade Indian Buffet kind of week.  A quick stop for some eggplant and tomatoes and I was all set to add a favorite, Baingan Bharta, to the mix.  Baingan Bharta is a simple yet flavorful Indian dish that uses roasted (or grilled) eggplant layered with flavors from onions, tomato, jalapeño, spices.  By mid-week I was still thoroughly enjoying leftovers and happened upon a stuffed shells recipe on Pinterest.  Hmmm…what if instead of Indian spices I add Italian herbs and use an eggplant mixture to replace the cheeses of stuffed shells.  I couldn’t wait to try it and am glad I did!  This recipe turned out wonderfully.  I would consider it a Sunday Dinner as it is more involved than I would venture after work but there are certainly steps where you could stop and continue another day.

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Ingredients:

2 eggplant
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and small diced
1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
oz of baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of fresh basil

Tomato Sauce
Faux Parmesan (recipe here)
Jumbo Shells

  1. Grill or Roast the eggplant.  I chose to grill the eggplant.  Pierce the eggplant a few times with a knife and grill over medium/high heat for about 20-30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so.  I grilled it on foil.  The skin will char and the eggplant will collapse a bit when it is done.  Set the eggplant aside until it is cool enough to handle.  Peel the skin off and dice it a bit so it’s easier to incorporate into the filling.
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  2. Cook the shells according to the package instructions, drain, and set aside.  This recipe makes about 5 servings, which was not quite a full box of shells.
  3. Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat, add the onion and sauté about 10 minutes; add water a few tablespoons at a time as needed to keep from sticking to the pan.
  4. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for another minute or two.
  5. Add the mushrooms
  6. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Cook another 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  7. Add the grilled eggplant and olives.  Mix well and allow to simmer another 2-3 minutes.
  8. I used an immersion blender to make a thick, creamy mixture that would be easy to stuff the shells.
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  9. Layer a 9 x 11 pan (I used an 8 x 8 and it was not big enough so ended up with two; 9 x 11 would be better) with a bit of tomato sauce.  Stuff the shells with the prepared filling.  Top with more tomato sauce and faux parmesan.
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  10. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
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I should disclose that I have never been a lover of cheese in my life.  So, I cannot compare this dish to a traditional stuffed shells dish as I’ve never had the “real” thing.  I did thoroughly enjoy this version though and imagine the creaminess of the eggplant mixture would be reminiscent in texture to a cheese stuffing.  The spice of the jalapeño is very subtle but you do get the warmth at the end of each bite.  The olives, fennel and garlic are all prominent but balanced.  Of course, I had to serve with roasted broccoli as it’s become an addiction at this point.

Roasted (Grilled) Vegetable Romesco Sandwiches

Olive-Lentil Burgers weren’t the only thing I made last week.  I was looking for a simple lunch to last the work-week and decided to grill a batch of veggies for sandwiches and salads.  While flipping through the handheld section of Isa Does It for a burger to try I saw the Roasted Vegetable Romesco Sandwiches.  The recipe called for zucchini and cauliflower roasted in the oven, but I chose to grill rather than roast and picked an assortment of zucchini, squash, eggplant, asparagus, red onion and bell peppers.

IMG_6164My grill is on the small side so I work in batches.

IMG_6165The veggies only take about four minutes per side so you can prepare quite a large quantity of food fairly quickly.

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I prepared the romesco spread between grill runs.  Romesco is a nut and roasted red pepper based sauce.  In this version toasted sliced almonds, garlic and roasted red peppers are processed with paprika.  The spread, along with a hefty handful of fresh basil, amped up the flavor of my grilled vegetable sandwich.

IMG_6168It also paired wonderfully with my Olive-Lentil Burgers!

Isa Does It Recipes: 18

 

Olive Lentil Burgers

Things slow down a bit food-wise in the summertime as my cravings sway from casseroles and soups to simple salads and grilled veggies.  Burgers and sandwiches are also go-to summertime fare.  Rather than stick to my same old veggie burger I thought I’d peruse the Isa Does It Handheld section and try something new…enter Olive-Lentil Burgers.  Since transitioning to a primarily whole-foods plant based low-fat diet I find myself craving natural fats more than I ever did as an omnivore; kalamata olives and avocado have become a staple of my diet.  I always enjoyed olives and guac (not together but hmmm) but they are craved, eaten and enjoyed on a regular basis these days.  So, olive-lentil burgers were calling me.

The base of these babies is, as the name suggests, kalamata olives and green lentils.  Cremini mushrooms, onion and bread crumbs pull it all together, while liquid smoke and herbs add a punch of flavor.  These were an easy sell to try (what was I waiting for).  I have already made the Falafel Burgers and the Bistro Beet Burger from Isa Does It with great success.  These live up to their cookbook-mates.  They are simple to prepare…cooked lentils, cooked mushrooms (bad blogger forgot to get a pretty pick of mushrooms and onions in progress), a toss in the food processor, and a stir of the chopped olives.  Why did I ever buy veggie burgers?!

The mixture appears crumbly.

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However, they form burgers easily and stay together well.

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These are baked in the oven and cook nicely.

IMG_6163These burgers are awesome.  The kalamata olive is the predominant flavor (which I love) and they are visually and texturally appealing.  I topped with grilled onion, fresh tomato, romaine lettuce, banana peppers and romesco spread (stay tuned;).

IMG_6170I would rank these better than the beet burger, though my love of olives may leave me slightly biased.  The falafel burger stands alone as it’s more falafel than burger and will remain a go-to lunch to top my salads.

Isa Does It Recipes: 17

 

Vegan BBQ – Jackfruit Edition

IMG_6135I became intrigued by jackfruit after seeing a post from Susan Voison at Fat Free Vegan awhile back.  I couldn’t believe how much jackfruit looked like shredded meat and made mental note to give it a try.  It was difficult to find but I finally made my way to the local Asian market and was able to get canned young green jackfruit in brine, and was ready to experiment.

 

Before transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet I would make BBQ pulled pork (the only way I ever liked pork) or chicken about once or twice a year.  It was one of those meals that signified the changing of seasons – around Memorial Day and Labor Day there had to be a pulled meat sandwich with coleslaw and fries to welcome and bid adieu to summer.  Since becoming plant based I’ve found most dishes are remarkably easy to reinvent for a meatless lifestyle, but pulled meat has a very specific texture that I had yet to try to recreate, until now.  With my newly obtained cans of jackfruit I decided the best way to give it a try would be to simply use my old favorite recipe and see how it worked.

 

My go-to recipe is an Emeril Pulled Pork recipe that can be found here.  The reinvented version starts with…well, opening the can and seeing what this stuff looks like (I feel like I’m on chopped).

IMG_6138Some time ago I had modified this recipe to make the dish in the crockpot by using the Wet Mop Basting Sauce as the liquid in the crockpot.  The basting sauce consists of vinegar with black and crushed red pepper, it adds a nice tang and some heat to the dish.  I added the jackfruit to the basting liquid and set the crockpot on low for about six hours.

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Simply remove the jackfruit with tongs or a slotted spoon and discard the liquid from the crockpot.  It seemed to keep its texture for the most part though some was already shredding a bit.

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I found that putting pressure on the jackfruit with a fork made it shred easier than trying to shred it with two forks.

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After rinsing the crockpot, I added the shredded jackfruit back to the crockpot and poured on homemade BBQ sauce (also part of the Emeril recipe) to taste.

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I left the crockpot on low for another hour or so until I was ready to eat.

IMG_6151To accompany my pulled jackfruit sandwich I went with my latest obsession, roasted broccoli.  I toss the broccoli in a bit of cooking spray, salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes at 425.  I also made baked cajun french fries prepared by tossing yukon gold potatoes with homemade seasoning (see the Emeril Essence recipe; I leave the salt out and salt to taste when serving) and baking 10-12 minutes on each side at 450 on a parchment lined cookie tray.  I typically make the broccoli first then turn up the oven temp and throw the potatoes in; most days the broccoli is gone before the meal starts, but there are worse things to snack on before dinner 😉 some actually made it to the plate tonight.

IMG_6148I also made coleslaw to top my sandwich; I did not follow the recipe that accompanies the Emeril Pulled Pork recipe as I prefer a tangy coleslaw to a creamy coleslaw and Emeril’s recipe did not have nearly enough vinegar.  I searched around and wasn’t seeing any recipes that really struck me so I decided to wing it and made a dressing of apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, celery seed and a little sugar.  I ended up adding some Veganaise mayo to make it a tad bit creamy – just enough to help the dressing coat the slaw.

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I think I’ve conquered BBQ with great success!  The sandwich had all of the flavors and textures reminiscent of my old recipes.  The jackfruit soaked up the tangy, spicy goodness wonderfully and maintained a nice texture.  I think I’ll be making more trips to the Asian Market.