Smashing Grain Casserole (It’s got red wine in it!) & PIF Update!

Oh the glory of casseroles! I love them because they mean : less dishes to do, left-overs to eat (or freeze), and let’s not forget the fact that they are oh-so-low maintenance, which is vital when you’re busy, or hobbly, or both! This one is particularly fun because it calls for wine. Now, you can totally use that fond de bouteille (last of the bottle) that’s been hanging out in your fridge for an embarrassingly long time (promise, it’ll be ok), or you can seize the occasion to go buy some wine and just pour a little into your dinner! How fun!

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Gratuitous Wine Shot

I know I’m spoiled because we can get quite fab wine for cheapo – like 3E a bottle, but if you’re not concerned about drinking the wine, just buy a cheapy bottle for cooking!

I tend to make hearty casseroles as my post-long run fuel because of their perfect protein/carb ratio, and because of how easy they are to prepare. After a long Sunday run I can throw everything (gently) into the roasting pan, and have time to shower, dress, stretch and rehydrate. Without rushing or much effort, I can have a warm, hearty meal for lunch. A crunchy, fresh green salad would be so perfect with this, too!

Granted, my long Sunday runs have been temporarily transformed into long Sunday sits, but that doesn’t negate the ease and practicality of the casserole!

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Blurry Close Up…Must Be The Wine

This combo is one of my favourites for the autumn and winter months because it’s “earthy” (in a good way) and satisfying. And it has wine in it. I love wine. Don’t you? Have a little glass as you prepare your casserole…red is good for your health as well as your soul. It also has fonio, an African super-grain which is so good for you, and good for communities on the African continent who are trying to build up a sustainable economy (difficult to do after hundreds of years of colonization, when will we learn?). Some people are turned off by its strongish taste, which is why I don’t use much here. If you don’t have any fonio, or are reluctant to use it, just skip it or replace with bulgur or cracked spelt or whatever makes you smile!

Smashing Grain Casserole

*In an effort to make this accessible to Imperial and Metric users alike, I carefully noted the conversions in cups…and totally forgot to write down the Metric measures. Sorry guys.

Set your oven for 350F and put all of the following except the veg broth in a large roasting pan or casserole dish with a lid:

  • 1 cup brown rice (dry)
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup fonio (or bulgur or just skip) – dry
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 red pepper, peeled & roasted
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • approx. 2.5 cups veggie broth or bouillon & water (possibly more, it will depend on how much is absorbed)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper

Give it all a good stir and add about 1/2 cup of the veg broth. Put it in the oven for about 45 minutes or so. Take it out, stir, and add more broth. Basically, this will need to stay in the oven four about 90 minutes, so I just take it out & check it every half hour or so, it’s pretty forgiving. You just don’t want it to dry out too much.

Great add-ins are sautéed mushrooms or chopped tomatoes, anything goes, really!

Check it out! People are Paying It Forward!

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Go visit Tacha and Natalia for more chances to win some handmade love! I would just be so excited to have something from them…I may have to re-enter myself!

Vegan MoFo Day 18 – Vegan Food That Sticks To Your Ribs…

Veganizing traditional French cuisine has become a fairly routine thing for me. Some dishes are rather obvious such as a tofu quiche or not using beef anything in my onion soup, etc. Because we tend to eat so many foods from varying culinary traditions such as Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, etc., it’s generally pretty easy to make things that are naturally vegan, but sometimes we find ourselves faced with an envie for something truly français.

Enter the “Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits” from Veganomicon. This is one of those recipes of which I took mental note when I obtained this cookbook early last spring, but it never went further than that.

Cassoulet is a traditional dish born in the warm sunshine of Southwestern France, an area well-known for their specialities using duck : duck sausage, duck lard, duck livers, duck tape…oops, sorry… You can often see jars of prepared cassoulet dressing the windows of butchers or gourmets shoppes, a thick paste of lard hovering at the surface. I knew it was a duck-laden meal, but I wanted a little more information, so rather than do a google search (which is what I would normally do), I decided to ask my sweet and adorable local bakery owner who is aimeable and chatty and loves talking about food. A pretty typical recipe for this thick bean stew is 1 kg. (2.2lbs) of white beans, a ham hock, hunks of “Toulouse” or other spicy sausages, and many, many duck thighs (at least 8). Oh, and a carrot, an onion, some garlic, maybe some thyme and bay leaf. I’d like to thank my boulangère, as well as the three other women who were waiting in line with me at the boulangerie when I went to buy my bread a few days ago for this “rough” recipe.

Obviously the Vcon recipe is sans sausage and duck, but it is still full of flavour. When I informed M. Fish that I was preparing a cassoulet he replied with incredulous smarmyness “ah bon, puisque tu as réussi à faire du faux canard maintenant?” (Really? Because you’ve managed to create fake duck now?). In lieu of duck I used some seitan I made earlier in the month using Kittee’s Basic Gluten Log recipe (this stuff freezes really well which is so nice). I also upped the veggies adding way more carrots & peas than the recipe called for…

This was absolutely delicious. It reminded me much more of a pot pie than anything else, but because I am a huge fan of the pot pie, this was not a problem. M. Fish was rather confused about the addition of the biscuit topping, and to be honest I don’t think it’s necessary at all. This is already a very heavy, satisfying Autumn/Winter dish, and the biscuits just add to the heaviness – this is coming from a self-proclaimed biscuit lover, just for the record. Next time I make this, because I will indeed be making this again, I will omit the biscuit topping and just cover with foil until the last 15 minutes, add some green beans and mushrooms and omit the seitan because I don’t think it adds anything to the dish. Some people love their meat analogues however, so they would probably really like the addition to some vegan sausage or seitan

Thanks for all the kind comments about the apron I made for my sis. You guys are the bestest!

Super-Delicious Fonio Casserole!

Have you ever heard of fonio? Well, I hadn’t up until a few years ago. It is this fabulous, beautiful little gluten-free grain that is wonderful to cook with and it’s addition to your kitchen is a great way to mix it up with some of your traditional dishes (I sounded hip, right? I’m such a nerd.) Nutritionally speaking, it’s similar to whole wheat, and taste-wise it blends well with whatever you’re making, like pasta or couscous would.

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The following is from Wikipedia (I love wikipedia! Can you imagine growing up with this type of free resource at your disposal! Lucky punk kids…):

Fonio is the smallest of all species of millet. It is one of the primary cereals of southern Sudan and Ethiopia in Africa. Fonio has continued to be important locally because it is both nutritious and one of the world’s fastest growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as six to eight weeks. It is a crop that can be relied on in semi-arid areas with poor soils, where rains are brief and unreliable. The grains are used in porridge and couscous, for bread, and for beer.

Couscous, bread and beer…que des bonnes choses! All yummy things in my book! You can find tons of info on fonio with google. I personally found more in French than in English. You can also find some great info at the Food Lorists blog. The entry is in English, plus Chef Yann has added nutrition info and some great pictures : informative indeed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love one-pot meals and casseroles because they save time and I am the only dish-washer the Fish household has! I think I’ll have to officially change the name of my blog to “Musings From The Casserole”- what do you think? This is another post-long-Sunday-run dish because it’s a great mix of protein and carbs, and because of the parsley and garbanzo beans, has a great iron count to boot! This dish definitely has a Maghrebish feel, reminiscent of a veggie couscous. You can easily play with the spices, and jack up the heat with some cayenne or some harisa.

Please note :While Fonio seems relatively easy to purchase or order in most health food stores here in France, I’m not sure where it can be found elsewhere in the world. I’m sorry!

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Super-Delicious Fonio Casserole

  • 1 cup Fonio
  • 5 cups veggie broth (or again, just water or H2O + bouillon powder)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 450g/1lb cooked garbanzo beans, well rinsed if canned
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • chopped garlic (I added 5 cloves, but we are garlic people)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, mixed in just before serving

Mix everything in a casserole dish, cover, and bake at about 350f/180c for 35mins or so. Take it out and give it a stir, add some water if it’s looking dry, and put it back in until the carrots are tender, probably about a half an hour depending on the size of your carrot chunks. Let it sit a few mintues (like, while you’re chopping & rinsing your parsley), and add the parsley. I served this with a soy yougert and fresh cilantro sauce (soy yogert, chopped cilantro, a little salt, a little lemon juice in blender, whizz, et voila).

I think I’ll have to officially change the name of my blog to “Musings From The Casserole”- what do you think?

Couldn’t Be Easier Quinoa Casserole

I’m crazy about quinoa! It’s like a super-food as it’s considered a complete protein, is high in iron, and cooks up very quickly. Even NASA thinks it’s groovy! Here’s a blurb from wikipedia:

“its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. This means it takes less quinoa protein to meet one’s needs than wheat protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosporous and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Quotes are good. Pictures are sometimes better:

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This is one of my “go-to” recipes after my long Sunday runs because it’s warm and hearty and I can stretch and shower while it’s in the oven. It is so simplistic, but really good. Even Mr. Fish – who wrinkles his nose if it looks too healthy – really likes it.

Couldn’t Be Easier Quinoa Casserole

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup yellow or green lentils
  • 1 cup dried split peas
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-6 cups veggie stock (or if you’re me, vegan bouillon powder & water)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (or real ones in the summer!)
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary (crumble it up between your fingers, first)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (same)
  • salt & pepper to taste.
  • 1 tablespoon wet mustard (optional)

Put everything in a roasting pan or baking dish, stir, and put in your oven at about 350f or 175c for say 40 minutes. Take it out, give it a stir, add some water if it is looking dry to you (I often do), cover and return to oven for another 20 minutes or so. Take it out and give it a little stir, add a little water if you think you should, and put it back in for about 10 minutes, or until everything is done. If it seems dry to you, just add more water or stock and let it sit with the cover on.

This is the basic recipe, but you can add mushrooms, chopped celery or finely chopped carrots…pretty much anything you want. The spices are also easy to adjust.

Hope you like it!

Christina’s Tofu-Noodle Bake

Healthy comfort food! Casseroles and one-pot meals rock when you are in a hurry but want to resist the urge to cave and get take-out. The convenience of just mixing random ingredients in a pot or pan or whatever and tossing it (gently) in the oven is not to be over-looked. When you can manage to use healthy ingredients in said pan, well, bravo to you!
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I was really curious about Macrobiotics about a year ago. I was aware of its existence and knew vaguely what it was all about, but I started digging around on the net and invested in a few books to find out for myself. I think there is a great deal that I can glean from the philosophy behind Macrobiotics, though a hard-core Macro lifestyle doesn’t really work for me. What does work for me is eating whole (locally-grown) foods whenever possible and avoiding processed and pre-packaged fare.
One of the Macro cookbooks I picked up along the way is Christina Pirello’s Cooking the Whole Foods Way- and I love it. This book is extremely user-friendly, and with 500 vegan recipes- has lots to offer everyone, Macrobiotic or not. There are some ingredients which may seem unfamiliar to some such as mochi or umeboshi paste (pictured above), but she’s got a great glossary section explaining everything, and really, many of the recipes can be made with substitutions.
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This noodle bake is very, very easy to make, and I have added and substituted various veggies depending on what I had on hand. It’s rich and creamy and comforting, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy (in a good way). The mochi, a sort of pounded sweet brown rice cake, and thinly sliced on top it becomes very melty and cheese-like and adds a richness to the casserole, but it is also very good without it, so don’t let that hold you back!

Tofu-Noodle Bake, adapted from Cooking The Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello:

  • package firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon white miso (I use more like a tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (you may want to use a little more)
  • 1 teaspoon brown rice syrup (I use more like a tablespoon. Agave works, too.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (again, I use more, it’s to your taste, really)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups cooked small noodles (use whole-wheat, for your health! Then you can splurge on cookies or cupcakes or something for dessert…balance, baby, balance!)
  • 2 shallots, diced (I skip this)
  • 1 carrot, diced (I use at least 2, usually more)
  • 1 stalk broccoli (including stem), diced
  • 4oz package brown rice mochi, very thinly sliced
I add to that 1 diced onion, a cup of frozen peas or green beans, courgette slices, whatevah.
Oven heated to about 400F/200C, put the tofu, miso, umeboshi paste, tahini, rice syrup, soy sauce and water in food processor and add enough water so you have a creamy paste.
Toss noodles and veggies together and add the paste, being sure that everything is coated nicely. If you’re skipping the mochi, just cover and pop in oven for around 40 minutes or so, taking off cover (foil works well here) for last maybe 10 mins so it’s a bit crunchy on the top.
If you’re going mochi here, just cover the casserole with the mochi and lightly sprinkle with water, then cover with foil being careful it’s not touching the top because it will stick and you’ll be sad. Check after about 40 minutes and if the mochi isn’t melted add a little more water and put it back in for another 5. If it’s still not melted you probably didn’t slice it thin enough, but it’s not the end of the world, you can probably still enjoy it.
With a little pepper sprinkled on top it is almost as good as the mac & cheese casserole I loved growing up as a kid. It’s very good with just a simple green salad, but, I doubt I need to tell you what to eat with it!

 

Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners? Lentil Casserole & “Wanna Be” Twinkiesque Cupcakes

Ever since drooling over Jennifer McCann’s veganized Twinkie(r) recipe, I have been able to think of nothing else (sorry, just had to laugh at the absurdity of that sentence- can you imagine only thinking about spongecake & creme filling? No dwelling on worrying about stressing over thinking about things like paying the bills, what to feed your 2 year-old, grading papers for students who really don’t care anyway, your checking account’s current negative balance, et all.) Let’s say that the vegan Twinkies(r) have been on my mind. A lot.

I went to a few stores in town and none of them carried anything even close to the cakelette tins one needs to build the perfect vegan Twinkie(r). While ordering them on-line is a possibility, the shipping is more than the tins…so, I surrendered to the idea of just making cupcakes, but that is so not the same thing.

 

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The other little snag in my devious plot for vegan Twinkie(r) perfection was that the recipe for the creme filling calls for barley malt powder. Now, if you think finding the cakelette tins is a problem here, you can forget about finding something as obscure as barley malt powder.

Not prepared to renounce a chance at tasting the sweet nostalgia of my youth, I decided to improvise (as usual) and used the “Fluffy White Icing” recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance. I’ve made Isa’s (Can I call you Isa? I think I can. Or would you prefer Ms. Isa? How about Vegan Cupcake Goddess?) “Fauxstess Cupcakes” before (they are délicioso), though I’d not gone the extra caloric-mile with the cream filling. It was a mile well worth taking, because it was perfect. The recipe calls for non-hydrogenated shortening which is also impossible to find in ma ville, but doubling up on the non-hydrogenated margarine worked perfectly much to my delight!

The Twinkie-cupcake experience was all rather exciting for me as I’d never used a pastry bag to fill anything before- how fun! I actually exploded a few cupcakes in the process (which was also kinda fun), but it was no problem, I just decided to cover up the damage with some swirly-cream! (I felt so Martha Stewart).

 

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Before…

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after!

Mr. Fish had never before tasted the goodness that we call Twinkie(r), and he was converted instantly. I’d planned on bringing some to work with me today to make up for the Valentine’s cupcakes which never made it…and he persuaded me that it was better to keep them here, with us. For Us.

I was so busy being productive yesterday with the cupcakes and my long run and putting the finishing touches on my Pointy Kitty (which I’ll blog more on later), that the dinner part of Sunday just sort of slipped away from me.

Being that it’s the end of the month (we’re paid monthly here in France) and the cupboards are beginning to be a wee bit bare, and I was rather short on time (and energy, licking all that cream filling off my fingers was exhausting!), I wanted to find a nutritious and delicious casserole recipe, but where? how? Who would help me through this dilemma?

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Didn’t actually get a photo of the casserole, so here’s another cupcake!

Casseroles make me think of the 1950′s, which make me think retro, which logically make me think of looking in a Sarah Kramer cookbook. Makes sense, right? See, here’s the deal, I have a love/hate relationship with La Dolce Vegan!. You know, like the colleague you seem to always be sort of harping about, so much so that someone finally tells you “hey, you have a crush on them!”- Ha! and all the incredulous “No I don’t, whatever!”s in the world can’t change the fact that you spend an awful lot of time talking about said person.

 

That’s me. I totally think Kramer is a righteous fish and her books are hip, but I just can’t figure out how to effectively use LDV. I can’t find things easily. Take yesterday for example. I wanted I casserole recipe, so I look under casseroles in the index. I find just a few. Nothing that would work with my kitchen stock. I continue to flip through and accidentally happen upon “Wendy’s Lentil & Brown Rice Casserole” (which was not with the casseroles, go figure). Cool. I put down book, the Guppy picks up book and starts reading it and of course page is lost. I can’t find it. I know C for casserole won’t help, I then look under W for Wendy but that doesn’t work… luckily for me I found it under “lentils” because it was yummy. I amped up the spices adding more basil and oregano, adding turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, and four carrots. Very tasty, very easy. One pot meals rule! Yes you have to take it out to stir a few times, but since I had dishes to do and papers to grade at the kitchen table, it wasn’t terribly difficult.

I would like to say we enjoyed the casserole with a fresh, green salad with mustard vinaigrette (that was the plan) and homemade rolls (also the plan), but we were so full from noshing on the cupcakes that, well, we just left those out.