Monthly Archives: February 2010

Red Lentil and Vegetable Lasagna

Lentils and fresh basil.  What a great idea!

I found this recipe on Eat This – a gluten-free recipe blog – and I thought it looked delicious.

Actually, let me rephrase that. I thought it looked and sounded fantastically delicious!  So much so, that I couldn’t wait to make it.  And for whatever reason ( I have no good excuse) I had not yet made lasagna this winter.  I guess I was just waiting for the right one to come along.

When I make lasagna, I will often throw some veggie ground round in, but it does seem a little boring, changing what could be an imaginative vegetarian lasagna into a “meat” lasagna.  Furthermore,  having a dish with canned tomatoes, cheese and veggie ground round can make the meal a bit too salty,  and as the dish was intended, the lentils make this a wonderful protein-rich gluten-free meal for those who need it.  In case there are any lentils haters out there, you do not even notice that they are there; this nutritious addition hides easily from picky eaters or self-proclaimed lasagna traditionalists.

The other thing that is so wonderful about this lasagna is the addition of torn leaves of fresh basil to every layer.  As I write this, the lasagna is baking in the oven and the smell of basil is appetizer enough for EPC and I.

This next point may not win me any fans, but this lasagna goes easy on the cheese.   Oh sure, there is a 1 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese in the mix, but with 15 % of your daily calcium and only 5 grams of fat per half cup, it doesn’t really count.  I am sure you could tell from the photo that cheese topping is sparse, but that way you can see the flecks of green basil and, best of all, you won’t feel bad about having seconds.

Red Lentil and Vegetable Lasagna
(I changed this a bit from the original post at Eat This due to my lack of an 8 x 8 pan)

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1/3 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 can 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
10-12 whole wheat or brown rice lasagna noodles
1 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese
10 basil leaves, torn (or more to taste)
1/2 cup of grated old cheddar, monterey jack, or mozarella cheese

  • Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until softened.
  • Add celery, carrot, and zucchini and stir.
  • Add lentils, crushed tomatoes, water, tomato paste, and spices and simmer for 40 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the balsamic vinegar
  • While the sauce simmers, cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions
  • Place a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.  Add a layer of noodles and half of the ricotta cheese, 1/3 of the basil, and a 1/3 of the sauce.  Repeat
  • Top with the remaining pasta, sauce and basil.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.
  • Bake at 350° C for 30-40 minutes

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Prelude to Lorna Sass Month – Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Oh, the self-control.

I have been in possession of Lorna Sass’s Short Cut Vegan and Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure for over a month now without cooking a single thing from either book.

Until tonight that is.

Although I  plan to devote the month of March to Lorna Sass and wanted to “save” the cookbooks until then, I really could not wait any longer.  So, I decided to give you a preview of the type of speedy delicious dishes you will be privy to next month.  Since EPC was away this week, I wanted to make something quick, hearty and nutritious.  Pretty hard not to use a cookbook with a title like Short Cut Vegan, don’t you think?

After flipping through the cookbook, I decided on the Caribbean Black Bean Soup and no word of a lie the soup was ready in 15 minutes.  It seems to me it takes the same time to heat up a can of Campbell’s soup as it does to make this hearty satisfying soup.  So, why would you eat canned soup?

Really, why?

I admit I use to rely on canned soup a few times a month.  I even tried some of those new tetra-pac soups from Knorr and Campbell’s.  I found that they were either good, or not very good at all.  In fact, when EPC and I first met one of his favorite suppers was grilled cheese and Fiesta Vegetable canned soup.  I got  tired of that meal pretty quickly.

Now everything has changed.

Neither of us can eat canned soup now.  I asked EPC a few months ago if he wanted me to pick up some canned soup for the cupboard, you know, just in case.

“No thanks,” he said.  “I can’t eat that stuff anymore.”

Well, now you don’t have to either.

Quick and Easy Caribbean Black Bean Soup

2 1/2 cups of water
1 400ml can of light coconut milk
1 398ml can of diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno, diced (to reduce the “spiciness” remove the ribs and seeds)
2 1/2 cups of instant black beans (I found these in the bulk section at a natural foods store)
Salt, to taste
Sambal Oelek or your favorite hot sauce, to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

  • In a large pot bring the water or stock, coconut milk, tomatoes and diced jalapeno to a boil
  • Stir in the beans.
  • Turn off the heat and cover for 5-7 minutes.
  • Add Sambal Oelek and salt to taste
  • Garnish with cilantro

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I love cookies, especially peanut butter ones.

I had some time on Sunday afternoon, so I thought why not whip up a batch of chewy cookies.

Why not, indeed!

I really enjoy having cookies around the house.  I use to be terrible and gobble almost all of them up within a day or two of my baking them, terrible only because I would quickly be out of cookies.  Now that I am older and, I hope, wiser I tuck the cookies into a tin and stick them in the freezer.  That way I can grab a couple on my way out the door in the morning and they will be perfectly defrosted when I am looking for something sweet after lunch.

The nice thing about these cookies, and with all the baking I do out of my Uprisings cookbook, is that you get a satisfying treat that is not half bad for you.  These cookies boast butter, honey, natural peanut butter, whole wheat flour, oatmeal and raisins.  I have made these once before and substituted carob chips for the raisins, but chocolate chips would work too.

How can you go wrong with ingredients like that?

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – makes 15-20 cookies

1/3 cup softened butter
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup milk powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup large flake rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup raisins

  • Preheat oven to 325°C (not 350°C)
  • In a large bowl cream butter, peanut butter, honey and vanilla until blended
  • In a small bowl stir together flour, milk powder, baking powder, baking soda and oats.
  • Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  • Spoon on an oiled, or parchment paper lined, cookie sheet and flatten with a fork.
  • Bake at 325°C for 15-20 minutes.  These cookies brown quickly, so check after 15 minutes.

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Vegetarian Shepherdess’s Pie by night and cheese tasting by day

We had a busy day Saturday: a cheese tasting and talk in the afternoon (more about that later) and an evening at the symphony.  Even though we were pressed for time, EPC was reluctant to eat out. He had been away on business last week and eaten out for every meal (and will have more of the same this week).

To treat him to a home-cooked meal, I flipped through my cookbooks and decided to tackle the Shepherd’s Pie from The Planet Organic Market Cookbook.  The recipe looked easy enough and it had the perfect mix of protein and vegetables. An important consideration, because I am convinced that he does not eat enough vegetables when he is out-of-town.

The yams mashed up nicely and were quite moist as I slathered them on top of the filling. They retained some of their moisture after baking, providing a firm and colourful topping to the veggie ground round and vegetables below. Although the seasoning is minimal – a dash of salt and some pepper, the dish is quite satisfying. We both ate two helpings and if I can keep the leftovers out of sight for the day I may get to take them to work for lunch!

By the way, I figure that replacing the traditional mashed potatoes with mashed yams makes this a shepherdess’ pie, in case you were wondering.

Now on to the cheese tasting.

EPC loves cheese.  Lucky for him the local cheese shop is a few blocks from our house and makes for a lovely walk on a Saturday afternoon.  So, when we heard that our favourite kitchen/ restaurant supply store was hosting a cheese tasting and information session with our neighborhood cheese shop owner in attendance, we immediately marked it down on our calendar.

Prior to the talk and taste, EPC and I made a pact to try every cheese that was offered, even if that included a mould-ridden blue.  I will confess I got a bit queasy learning about how the rind is cultured on brie cheese, but in the end, pact or no pact, I was brave enough to try the Penicillium-filled blue cheese.  In fact, the woman giving the session remarked on how impressed she was that we all tried the blue selection.  She confessed that she was not a fan of blue cheese – even though she owns a cheese shop.  It made me feel better for not always enjoying the more “seasoned” varieties of cheese.

I am not going to go into all that was discussed in the 1.5 hour session, but I thought that I would mention a couple of the more interesting (and delicious) cheeses that we tried.

Number one on my list was the French Morbier, an uncooked pressed cheese made from the curds leftover from Compté cheese production. The cheese comes in two layers with a layer of vegetable ash between the two. Traditionaly, the curds from the evening’s cheese production are pressed down and topped with ash to prevent drying until the next day’s remains are placed on top to finish off the wheel.  Nowadays, the production is much more streamlined and the ash is added for appearances. This is a tasty soft, yet firm cheese.

Another one that I loved was the Maréchal. This raw unpasteurized cow milk cheese hails from Switzerland.  One of the interesting things about this particular cheese is that the rind is composed of a mixture of herbs rubbed into the cheese as it ages.  This cheese is seasonally available after the spring and summer alpine grazing season.  As a rule, you can only get this cheese in November, December and January. If you miss it, you have to wait until next year.  Maréchal is a hard stronger tasting cheese.

I imagine next weekend we will head down to our neighbourhood cheese shop and try to purloin the last hunk of Maréchal before it is gone.

Vegetarian Shepherdess’s Pie

1.5 kg of yams
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup of skim milk
1/4 cup of plain yogourt
a dash or two of salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups of fresh or frozen vegetables – I used a mix of green beans, corn and peas
2 packages of original Veggie Ground Round
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2-3/4 cups of water

  • Preheat the oven to 350°C
  • Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan
  • Boil sweet potatoes for 15 – 20 minutes, until fork tender
  • Drain and mash with butter, milk, yogurt, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  • Heat oil in large skillet and add onions and garlic.  Cook over medium heat for abut 5 minutes until the onions are tender.
  • Add Veggie Ground Round and stir.
  • Add flour and stir to mix.  Increase the heat to medium high and add water.  Cook for about 3 minutes until the sauce boils and thickens.
  • Pour mixture into pan and top with vegetables.
  • Spread the mashed yams on top and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and hot.

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