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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Menu 2: Herbed Lasagna, Hummus Wraps, Arugula Salad, Wild Mushroom Pasta...

What’s new:

Last week’s menu
(Menu 1) is now edited to include all of the changes that I made as I was cooking. So, if you’re following the blog a week behind, that menu is all set with tips and suggestions.

This week, I’m making herbed lasagna, hummus wraps (with homemade hummus!), an arugula-based salad with apples and marinated tofu, and wild mushroom pasta. The menu, recipes, and grocery list are all available below. I will edit this with my “lessons learned” on Thursday evening.

This week’s menu:
Remember how, in elementary school, you would get that calendar every month telling you what would be served for lunch each day? Well, here’s my version for this week, telling me what I need to cook and eat each day, (except the food is a lot better…and vegan/vegetarian).

Dinner: Lasagna
Cook: Lasagna

Lunch: Lasagna
Dinner: Mushroom pasta and Salad
Cook: Mushroom pasta and Salad

Lunch: Lasagna
Dinner: Hummus wrap
Cook: Hummus, assemble wraps

Lunch: Lasagna
Dinner: Mushroom pasta and Salad
Cook: Assemble hummus wrap

Lunch: Hummus wrap
Dinner: Mushroom pasta and Salad
Cook: Salad, Assemble wrap for Friday’s lunch

Lunch: Hummus Wrap

This week’s recipes:

Herbed Lasagna with Zucchini:
This lasagna recipe uses tofu and pine nuts to create a ricotta-like “cheese” which is delicious – as confirmed by my non-vegan family and roommate. (I didn’t tell my brother that it wasn’t ricotta, and he didn’t know the difference!) The use of tofu also makes the dish much healthier than traditional lasagna. And, as a large tray of food, it lasts for days.
Click here for Lasagna recipe
So, the recipes I use from Vegetarian Times always need more flavor. So, instead of the amounts in the recipe for the lasagna, I recommend using:
1 cup of basil,
1/2 cup of parsley,
1/2 cup of pine nuts,
3-4 cloves of garlic,
2 teaspoons of salt,
1 teaspoon of pepper,
Juice from one lemon.
Also, I find that three zucchini, not four, is enough.
Cooking with tofu can be a challenge - in this recipe, it's important to try and get as much of the water out of the tofu as possible; it makes the "ricotta" more cheese-like. So, while I'm still looking for the best way to cook with tofu in general, here's what I did for the lasagna:
I cut each tofu block in half lengthwise, and microwaved the halves for four minutes. This removed some water. Then, I put the tofu on a cookie sheet, covered it with a cutting board, and placed a heavy pot on top of the cutting board. I pressed down a few times to squeeze water out, and then left the pot on top of the cutting board for about ten minutes. This got a fair amount of water out, and from there, I put the tofu in the food processor and took it from there with the seasonings.

Hummus wraps
If you have a food processor, hummus is super easy to make, because you just have to throw everything in and pulse it until it’s all blended. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make hummus in a blender, but you should add the chickpeas in ½ can increments to make sure they get completely blended with the oil before adding more. Through this process, with either the food processor or the blender, take breaks from pulsing to stir the mixture with a rubber spatula. Also, be sure to taste the hummus before you take it out of the food processor or blender, and add more seasonings or lemon juice, as desired.

You can make the hummus wrap sandwiches in whatever kind of bread suits you best – pita pockets, flatbreads, tortilla-style wraps, or whole-wheat naan. I like to use naan because of the thickness of the bread.

Julie’s recipe for hummus:
2, 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of olive oil (yes, a separate one)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp of tahini
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
1 tbsp of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put ½ of the chickpeas and ½ of the oil in the food processor and blend until creamy. (You may need to add a few tablespoons of water to get it to smooth out.) Add the rest of the chickpeas and oil and pulse until creamy, (again, adding a little bit of water, if necessary).
2. Add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, and parsley, and pulse until all ingredients are evenly mixed in the creamy hummus.
3. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Blend. Drizzle with the additional tablespoon of olive oil before serving or storing.

Julie’s recipe for hummus wraps:
1 naan (or pita bread, flatbread, etc.)
Hummus (from recipe above)
½ cup of green leaf lettuce, chopped
¼ cup of sprouts
¼ cup of tomato, diced
¼ cup of cucumber, peeled and diced
¼ cup of red onion, diced
4- 5 Kalamata olives, sliced

1. Spray pan with cooking oil spray, and heat naan on medium heat for 2 minutes.
2. Spread hummus on heated bread.
3. Layer lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion and olives on bread, or inside pita pocket
4. Roll up (if using naan or flatbread), and serve.

Arugula Salad
At lunch last weekend at Blossom Café, I saw this salad on the menu, and decided to try making it this week. When I saw that it was dressed with an “herbed tahini dressing”, I used Google to figure out what ingredients might go into it. At Whole Foods, I found a WestSoy brand baked marinated tofu (Garlic and Herb flavor) that worked well in this salad.

Here’s my version of Blossom Café’s salad:
2 cups of arugula
1 green apple, diced
½ pint of cherry tomatoes
1 handful of clover sprouts
½ package of baked marinated tofu, diced

I used this recipe for the herbed tahini dressing, minus the umeboshi vinegar.

1. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl.
2. Drizzle salad with 2 tbsp. of tahini dressing. Toss.
3. Serve.

Note: This recipe will make 2 servings of the salad, (or 1 serving if you like big salads). If you have extra salad, refrigerate the salad for the next serving separately from the dressing to keep the ingredients crisp and non-soggy. Also, the herbed tahini dressing will thicken when you refrigerate it. So, when it's time to use it again, just add a teaspoon of water (a bit more if you see fit), and stir. The dressing will return back to the right consistency for your salad.

Wild Mushroom Pasta
My friend Allison shared Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn site with me, which has a section of vegetarian and vegan friendly recipes. I found this recipe there, and while some of the ingredients seem more expensive than I would normally like, the dish looks too good to not try (at least once). The recipe calls for a cup of white wine – you can use wine that you might happen to have at home, or buy an inexpensive bottle of cooking wine at the grocery store. Also, for vegans, substitute the butter with an oil-based “buttery spread” like this one.

Click here for the Wild Mushroom Pasta recipe.
Note: The whisking was key to making the mushroom pasta sauce thicken up at the end. I also let it cook for a few extra minutes on medium heat. Also, a hint - I thought I had flour, and didn't, so I cheated - I used three tablespoons of buckwheat pancake mix. It worked. And, my pasta (thankfully) didn't taste like pancakes.

This week’s grocery list:

If you cook regularly, you shouldn’t have to buy all of these things – for example, this week, I don’t need to buy any of the ingredients in the “Oils, Spices, and Condiments” category. In “Bottled and Canned Goods”, I only need one can of chickpeas and the marinara sauce. And, I don’t need to buy flour or butter. Just things to consider when you’re thinking about the overall cost of a week’s worth of cooking – if you’re in the habit, you shouldn’t have to buy every ingredient listed.

1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bunch scallions
1, 4 oz. pkg. pine nuts
2 bulbs of garlic (1 if you have at least 3 cloves leftover from last week)
2 lemons
4 medium size zucchini
4 cups of arugula (bagged or loose)
2 green apples
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1, 4 oz. package of clover sprouts
1 bunch of green leaf lettuce
2 tomatoes
2 small cucumbers
2 small red onions
¾ cup of Kalamata olives (from the olive bar)
1, ½ oz. package wild mushrooms
3, 8 oz. packages of white button or portobello mushrooms, washed and chopped
4 large shallots, minced
1 pkg. sage

Oils, Spices, Condiments:
Black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Cumin powder
Vegetable bullion cubes
Olive oil

Canned and Bottled Goods:
2 bottles of marinara sauce
1 bottle of sesame tahini (smallest bottle available)
2, 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
1 bottle white wine, or cooking white wine

Dry Goods:
1, 9 oz. package of no-cook lasagna noodles
1 pkg. of 4-6 pita breads or naans.
1, 12 – 16 oz. package of whole wheat rotini pasta

2, 14 oz. packages of firm tofu
1 package of baked marinated tofu (WestSoy brand, Garlic and Herb flavor, or something similar)

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