The “Oh No My Produce is Expiring My Nearest Store is ALDI” Lasagna (It’s also vegan, yay)

I think the title explains this one y’all. I’m going to Cleveland this weekend and I had a bunch of sad leftover produce in my fridge and NOTHING, I tell you, NOTHING freezes better than a “lasagna.”

IMG_3910

Ingredients

  • 1 $1.49 Box Lasagna Noodles (About 15 Noodles)
  • 1/5 leftover Box of Spaghetti Noodles? (Whatever extra noodles you have really, to replace the extra lasagna noodles you didn’t buy)
  • 2 Blocks of Tofu (They don’t sell this at ALDI sorry 😥 )
  • 1 Lemon (Juiced by Boyfriend, available in ENTIRE BAGS at ALDI)
  • 1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast (also not sold at ALDI)
  • 3 tsp sea salt (to taste) (please have this in your house already geez)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 $1.89 Jars “Priano” Vegetable Primavera Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 $1.59 package of of basil
  • 2 $0.69 (heh) packages (heh) of whole (heh) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 $1.49 bag of flat leaf spinach
  • Grape tomatoes, slightly wilted by the crisper drawer
  • 2 2-day-away-from-molding jalapenos
  • 1 onion, Chopped
  • 1 giant garlic clove from your downstairs Neighbor’s CSA
  • Some olive oil

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400˚ because this takes long enough to bake and you’re HUNGRY!

Make the fake Ricotta:

Have your boyfriend blend together 2 blocks of firm tofu with 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1/3 cup nutritional yeast until ricotta-like.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IS TOFU WTF

Chop some of the basil and add it to the ricotta. if you want. you don’t have to. You probably should…

Drink some damn wine, you’ve been working hard.

IMG_3900

Make Filling

In a pan over medium heat heat some olive oil and add chopped onions, chopped garlic and sauté for a couple minutes until soft, add mushrooms and sauté anther 2 minutes, add spinach and put a lid on top.

Cook spinach until it’s basically not there.

IMG_3901

Cook entire mixture for another couple minutes until most of the juice is cooked out. Drain the juice.

IMG_3902

Mix the Cooked vegetables with the “ricotta” in a large bowl. Set aside. (Cue Action shot)

IMG_3903

Assemble the Lasagna (Or whatever it is)

In a 13 x 9 baking dish (Mine is from IKEA and bigger than that I think) put a thing layer of sauce in the pan. Add a layer of lasagna noodles.

IMG_3896

Add a layer of ricotta mixture and spread out. Alternate layers of ricotta mixture, sauce, and noodles until you run out of lasagna noodles.

img_3905.jpgOn the top of this lasagna I added spaghetti noodles and crossed them to cover a full noodle layer. Finish with a layer of pasta sauce.

SPaghetti?! in a LASAGNA?!

On top of the lasagna add whatever you want really. I put on the rest of my grape tomatoes and sliced up 2 old jalapenos. I also scattered the remainder of the basil leaves.

img_3908.jpg

Cover with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes.

Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

IMG_3909

Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Preferably with some wine. Or if wine isn’t your thing… no… definitely wine. (ALDI Wine, Winking Owl Pinot Grigio $2.89 plus $0.12 excise tax… Thanks Rahm)

Pass out. It’s a Wednesday, you’re full of pasta and you’re EXHAUSTED…

 

 

 

Advertisements

Plant-Based Stuffed Shells with Tofu Ricotta

IMG_3750

If you follow me on any other social media you’ll know that almost 3 months ago I jumped into plant-based eating (essentially vegan-ism but more accurate to my diet rather than lifestyle). One of my goals while learning how to cook with only plant proteins is to recreate some of my favorite dishes from my childhood.  This is the first of hopefully many recipes that will help me and you think about how we can eat within any dietary scheme and still carry on our nostalgia of home cooked meals and the memories we have surrounding them.

 

Ingredients

Ricotta:

2 x 12oz packaged extra firm tofu

Juice of 1 Lemon

Olive oil, to consistency (about 3 tbsp)

2 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 Tbsp dried oregano

2 Tbsp onion powder

3 Large handfuls of fresh spinach

Pasta Bake:

1 Box Enriched Macaroni Product Pasta Shells (The big ones)

2 jars of your favorite pasta vegan pasta sauce, or homemade (about 6 cups)

13″ x 9″ Baking Pan

Instructions

Preheat Oven to 400˚F.

In large stock pot, begin boiling 3 quarts of water, seasoned with salt and olive oil.

IMG_3739.jpg

In food processor, Mix on high tofu (broken into chunks), lemon juice, sea salt, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, black pepper, oregano, onion powder, and olive oil.

img_3741.jpg

Adjust olive oil amount to get consistency of traditional ricotta. Taste and adjust spices to match your taste or a family recipe.

IMG_3740.jpg

Push handfuls of spinach in to the ricotta-like paste, cover, and blend until all spinach is incorporated. Set aside to allow spices and flavors to soak into the tofu.

Once the water is boiling add pasta shells and boil for 9 minutes or until just undercooked. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.

Pour one jar, or about half of the total sauce you have into the  baking pan.

IMG_3744.jpg

Fill a gallon zip-loc bag (what I call the poor-man’s piping bag) with the tofu ricotta, pushing as much air out as you can before resealing the top. Squeeze the mixture into one non-zip corner of the bag and twist the opposite end. Carefully cut off one corner making a piping hole about 1/2 inch wide.

Pipe the mixture into each shell until it is very full. Place the filled shells into the pan on the sauce, open side up. Fill the pan with one layer of shells and if you have more shells, fill them and gently push them in between the ones in the pan already (they tend to reconfigure so that they can all fit (it’s like VSEPR theory if you’ve ever studied chemistry). Once all shells are in place in one layer, pour the remainder of the sauce over the shells and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula.

Cover the dish with tinfoil and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

After removing the shells from the oven be careful pulling back the tinfoil due to built up steam. Test one shell to see if the ricotta has setup nicely and serve hot.

Marvel in your creation and be amazed that you just made something so comforting and delicious purely from plants.

Happy eating!

 

 

Poblano and Garlic Stuffed Crock Pot Chicken Breasts in Lime Chile Salsa

12552626_10156617869915713_5388313824122459399_n

Before being cooked in the crock pot. I’ll add another pic

Ingredients

4 poblano peppers, Fire roasted, skin, seeds, stems removed

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin lengthwise

1 bag colorful sweet peppers from Aldi, stems removed

1 bag jalapeño peppers from Aldi, seeds and stems removed

Juice of 8 limes

2 medium white or yellow onions (depending on how sweet you want the salsa)

Sea Salt (about 2 tablespoons)

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive oil (1 tablespoon for pan, 2 tablespoons for salsa)

Optional:

Sour Cream

Mexican Spiced Shredded Cheddar

Instructions

There are 3 mains steps in making this recipe: roasting the poblano peppers (they have a thick waxy cuticle that is unpleasant if you don’t roast them), making the salsa for the crock pot, and searing and stuffing the chicken breasts.

Fire Roast the Poblano Peppers: To fire roast the peppers first get a bowl large enough to fit all the peppers with some sort of covering. Turn on a gas stove burner on high after removing the grate from above it. With a pair of long tongs hold the pepper over the flames and be careful as it pops and turns black. Try to get the entire green skin blackened. After it is fully blackened toss it into the bowl and over it with the lid. Repeat for the remaining poblano peppers, burning each fully and placing it in the covered bowl. Let the peppers sit in the bowl until they cool fully. They should get steamed but not cooked to the point that they fall apart. If you don’t have an open flame they can be roasted under the oven broiler on a pan, but I’ve found this to be much more difficult. After the peppers cool, fill the bowl with cold water and rub off the blackened skin until the majority of the skin is removed. Remove the stems and scrape out the seeds. Roughly chop up the poblano flesh and set aside.

To make salsa first skin and quarter 2 medium onions, juice 8 limes, remove the stems from all the sweet peppers, and halve and remove seeds and stems from the jalapeños. Toss all the peppers, onions, and lime juice into a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons or so of sea salt and about 20 grinds of black pepper. Process on high until the mixture is fully combined and salsa-like.

While processing the salsa, heat up a pan with some olive oil over medium heat. When fully heated sear each chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes just enough to make the meat opaque then flip over to do the same on the other side. Remove from the pan and let cool slightly while all chicken breasts are seared. with a small sharp knife cut open the chicken breasts along one side forming a pocket. Mix together the garlic slices and chopped poblano, then divide into equal quantities, one for each breast. Fill the pockets with each quantity and place them in a clean crock pot. Pour the salsa over the chicken breasts so they are mostly covered.

Set the crock pot for 4 hours on low and let it sit, the lid may rattle a bit because there is a lot of liquid in the mix, but DON’T TOUCH IT IT’S A CROCK POT.

Optionally serve with melted cheese and sour cream on top. Also spoon the salsa over the chicken breast or put each breast in a tupperware for meal-prepping. When reheating I did 2 minutes in the microwave, took it out and topped with cheese and then microwaved another 45 seconds.

Any Questions? Comment on Facebook or Below!

Yin & Tang Bacon Salad

FullSizeRender

6 simple ingredients come together in this recipe to balance the health of bacon and greens; the sweetness of agave nectar with the perfect sour of balsamic; and the spice of freshly ground pepper with the earthy-green of a fresh olive oil. This is an original recipe that came to mind not out of flavor-thought-experiments, but because I’m leaving for the weekend and needed to rid myself of 2 foods most likely to spoil before I return. In the end we get a light salad that is both sweet, sour, meaty, spicy and relatively healthy. As long as you can quickly fry up some bacon and chop up some romaine hearts you’re good to go!

Ingredients

– 1 romaine heart (to make 1 dinner salad or 2 side salads)

– 5-10 strips of bacon (depending on cardiac health)

– Coarse ground black pepper

– Agave Nectar (Tequila’s straight-edge nephew)

– Balsamic vinegar

– Good Olive Oil (should taste very green, have a spicy bite, I always recommend a Coratina)

Instructions

Wash and cut up the romaine heart. I usually do this by copping transversely from the tip of the leaves to the stem in 1 inch cuts. Then slicing laterally 3 times. This usually gives a solid mix of variably sized small pieces. Toss these in a large bowl to wait until your bacon is done.

Lay the slices of bacon in a large pan over medium-high heat. drizzle about a tablespoon of agave nectar as evenly as you can over the bacon strips. Then heavily pepper the pan. When the fat starts to turn clear you can flip the slices over. Cook until you’ve reached the crispiness you want. I opted for chew over crisp, but I’m sure either would be great. Remove them from the pan and let the fat drain off on a paper towel-covered plate.

Chop up all but 2 slices of the bacon, because let’s face it, you already ate those while you were waiting for the rest to cool. Over the bed of greens, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil followed by as much balsamic as you like! Now, add your bacon bits to the top, and sprinkle more pepper over it to taste. Toss the whole thing after you take a nice picture for your Instagram and then dig in.

If you want to pair a wine, I always suggest a red, but in this case I think you definitely want one that is dry to mild. I’ve been drinking a lot of the limited release Apothic Dark because last winter I thought they stopped making it, but it magically reappeared on Target shelves a couple weeks ago. But given the salad’s spicy sweetness and smoky bacon I think a dry red is perfect! Happy eating!

Delicious Fiberful Fruit Smoothie

IMG_1499.JPG

Since moving to Chicago I’ve taken to morning smoothies, probably out of yuppified eating pressures, but nonetheless, they’re filling and a perfect nutritious start to the morning. Per the suggestion of a neighbor back home I started off easily with frozen berries and almond milk. First, because almonds are a huge component of my diet, second, because I don’t buy cows milk, and third, because if I want to travel with the smoothie I have to worry a lot less about temperatures and curdling (yes it’s gross to think about, but it’s important to have safe food). Thus, for about a week this was my morning delight, along with a good coffee pour over and a cliff bar.

However, I can never leave something alone for very long, so I experimented. A couple days ago I picked up a bunch of kale for 99 cents at the local Mariano’s. Tossing in 1 leaf made the smoothie a bit thicker, but integrated a ton of fiber and vitamins. It also brought in a nice fresh green flavor that commercial smoothies normally have, from wheatgrass or spirulina. But I knew I could do one better.

I had also picked up a bag of chia seeds from the grocery when I first moved up. They had been sitting on my shelf in the pantry, screaming, “use us! Use us!” So that’s what I did. Two tablespoons of chia later I had probably put about as much fiber as I could into this smoothie, save for adding Metamucil.

There is one downside to adding chia seeds. When added to water they have a sticky polysaccharide membrane that expands and protects the seed in the environment. But it also makes it harder to clean your blender. Therefore, the addition of chia seeds is optional, you could just as easily substitute more kale. There’s also some debate as to whether the nutrients in chia seeds are even absorbed by the body because of its high phosphorous content. So depending on your camp, think about your chia! Recipe below:

Ingredients
– 1 cup frozen berry medley
– 1 – 1&1/4 cup almond milk, plain (or vanilla I guess, but that’s more sugar)
– 1 kale leaf
– 2 Tablespoons chia seeds

Instructions
Rip up kale leaf, leaving the tough middle stalk out of the mix (ideally, compost this). Put leaf pieces in a blender. Pour almond milk over this mix. Measure and add 1 cup of frozen berries. Add chia seeds. This setup helps have enough liquid to get to the berries so they don’t clog the machine. If they do blend while using the back end of a wooden spoon through the lid hole to mix the top chunks into the vortex. When mixed fully serve in a 12 oz or more cup. I recommend a mason jar for if you want portability you can easily screw on a lid and throw it in your bag. Enjoy cold!

Paleo Power Breakfast: The Baked Egg in an Avocado

IMG_1624

So I know I’m probably a little late to the party on this one. America loves eggs. America loves the avocado. And food places all over the internet have already talked about this. But I still think what I made for breakfast this morning is noteworthy.

The general concept of finding a food-hole and cooking an egg in it is simple, and honestly probably a little overdone. However, I had no idea how long I would need to bake my egg in an avocado, so I turned to the good people over at White on Rice to get some background. Their recipe has toast, bacon, and optional chopped tomatoes. This morning, I had only one of those options, unless I was going to toast a pita (which actually would have been delicious).

I walked out to the garden and picked a beautiful heirloom tomato that has mottled green and red all along the top with a simple skin break forming a neat little spiral around the bud end.

IMG_1605

It was so beautiful on the outside I just had to eat it. Two slices of it found their way onto the top of the avocados, which brightened up the dish a lot.

Another change, that I didn’t initially plan on changed the presentation, helped the avocados stay a lot more stable on the plate, and make the breakfast a lot prettier. Because of how simple it is, I think this recipe would be perfect for serving a lot of people brunch, or even just an intimate morning for two. Recipe below.

Baked Egg in an Avocado

Ingredients

– 1 avocado

– 2 small eggs

– Tomato

– Salt

– Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Instructions

IMG_1598

Preheat Oven to 425˚ F.  Cut avocado in half lengthwise around the pit. Pull out the pit and either discard or grow your own avocado tree (Instructions Here!). Crack two eggs into a small dish being careful to not break the yolks. Lay the avocados individually in small baking ramekins to hold them upright. Spoon one yolk of each egg into an avocado half being careful again to not break the yolk. The n fill the remaining space in each hole with the remaining whites of the eggs. If you have leftover egg whites save them in the fridge for later meringues! (Don’t worry, there will be meringue based recipes on this blog soon!). Salt and pepper the Avocados to taste.

IMG_1606

Put the Ramekins on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven. Bake them until the whites of the eggs actually turn white. This took about 20 minutes for me. While the baking is happening slice 2 1/8th inch thick slices of tomato. Place these on top of each avocado half after the whites have set up. Bake at least another 5 minutes to warm the tomatoes.

IMG_1609

Remove the avocados and let them cool slightly so that you can remove them from the ramekins. Cut each half again vertically to end up with 4 quarters of avocado. Position these on the plate in a square with either tomato side in or tomato side out. I chose to eat mine with a spoon and fork. The avocado should scrape out of the quarters very easily.

Squid Ink Pasta and Fried Garlic Eggplant

IMG_1576

While I was moving into my apartment in Chicago my parents were very kind to stick around for a couple days and help with unpacking, drinking local beer, and going to fun food venues. One of those was a place downtown called “Eataly.” If there was something Italian that existed, you could find it at this store. Although I honestly try to stay away from pasta as much as possible (grains!) I can never resist the perfectly portioned packages of freshly made pasta. Especially the beautiful black of squid ink tagliatelle.

IMG_1571

So I picked one up of squid ink and another of spinach, I cant resist the colors they come in! Again, because I had so much produce on hand (this is becoming a theme in the last week, and really all Summer) I decided to make a pasta-toss of sorts with the tagliatelle, olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, and my leftover asparagus from lunch the same day. Tossing leftover vegetables into pasta is a great way to actually want to eat your veggies! I’m sure I’ll have a frittata on here soon in which I do the same thing.

IMG_1561

I also noticed that my eggplant that I brought form home was looking a little sad (lumpy, not firm, but still useable) so I cooked it the way every person should cook eggplant, battered and fried. I substituted regular flour for almond flour and added a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder then fried them in olive oil. Not until I hit presentation time did I realize that the dark purple sheen of a fried eggplant medallion responds beautifully to the pile of black ribbons that squid ink tagliatelle makes on a plate.

The entire recipe that follows is as I remember making it, so it’s not really measured, just estimated.

Squid Ink Tagliatelle Toss

Ingredients

– 1 package of squid ink tagliatelle, fresh

– Leftover roasted asparagus, about 10 stalks

– 1-3 Roma tomatoes depending on size, mine were garden grown so they were a little smaller

– 1 lemon

– Red chili pepper

– Sea Salt

– Freshly ground pepper

– Extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Chop all the vegetables together. The asparagus is already roasted so it really just needs warmed. I threw the tomatoes, asparagus, and pepper into one pan with a little bit of olive oil to cook and warm them up.

IMG_1569

While the veggies are cooking bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fresh pasta 3-4 minutes, it doesn’t need the same amount of time as dry pasta if you haven’t worked with fresh before.

Strain the noodles and coat them lightly with olive oil. In a medium bowl combine pasta and contents of vegetable pan and toss it all together. Squid ink pasta sometimes has a fishy or general sea-life smell to it, so I Cut a lemon in half and juiced it over the pasta once I was done tossing it. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Grain-free Fried Eggplant

Ingredients

– 1 Eggplant, cut into 3/8″ rounds. I got about 7 rounds from mine

– Almond flour

– Garlic powder

– Freshly ground pepper

– Salt

– Olive oil

Instructions

Salt Eggplant rounds in a bowl for about 10 minutes to get some moisture out and also help breading adhere to their puffy flesh.

IMG_1563

Heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Combine almond flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl. 

Once the eggplant rounds have sweated toss them a few times to make sure they’re coated in their juice. Pour the breading over the eggplant rounds and toss together until the rounds are fully coated.

Prepare a plate with paper towels for placing the rounds to cool after being fried. When the oil is hot enough (test this by dropping in a little almond mix to see if it bubbles) place all the rounds in the oil. cook about 2-4 minutes on either side depending on how tender you want your eggplant. Nothing in the mix needs cooked to a specific temperature because there is no egg wash or meat involved so its really up to you. 

When they are adequately fried place them on the paper towel to soak up excess grease. I plated them with the eggplant rounds in a semicircle with the pasta next to that, but mixing them together would also be great. Pour yourself a drink and dig in!