The Veggie Mother-load: Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

As I noted in an earlier post, we are trying to eat less meat in our house. Which is fine with me, I love veggies, all kinds. However, I am finding that a lot of the vegetarian dishes just aren’t as filling as the good old meat and potato dinners. I also don’t want to just add a ton of other fats or bread just to compensate. So I was looking for some new ideas and a friend let me borrow her Forks Over Knives Cookbook. I loved it so much, I bought my own. The recipes in the book are no fat, vegan strict, uber healthy which is great and all but I feel like our baby steps are at least in the right direction and I know me (and my family) and there is no way I could stay on that strict of a diet. However, I love the ideas in the Forks Over Knives cookbook so I have been using their recipes and then tweaking them a little to fit my families needs and tastes. I am a sucker for cream sauces so when I saw their recipe for the much healthier Cauliflower Béchamel I was sold. I made a filling and delicious Vegetable Lasagna with it. Ok I may have cheated a little with some cheese on top but like I said baby steps.

Cauliflower Bechamel ( adapted from Forks Over Knives by Del Sroufe)

3c Cauliflower florets

Unsweetened plain almond milk

1 med yellow onion chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic

2 t minced thyme

1/4c chopped fresh basil

1/4 t nutmeg

salt and pepper

Add Cauliflower to a large sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until super tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile sauté the chopped onion in a small pan until soft with a little olive oil, add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. 

Add cauliflower, onion mixture, thyme, basil, nutmeg and salt and pepper to a food processor or blender. Pulse until Cauliflower is broken up, add Almond milk about 1-2 T at a time, pureeing in between until it has a smooth and creamy texture, about that same as a ricotta mixture. Taste and season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

 

Use this sauce for stuffed shells, lasagna, or even as a base for macaroni and cheese. 

To make the Lasagna, start with a layer of the Cauliflower Bechamel sauce, then layer cooked Lasagna Noodles, Sauce, Vegetables ( I used thinly sliced zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, shredded carrots, spinach and halved grape tomatoes), and continue finishing with the sauce on top, and here is where I also added some shredded cheese. Cook at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes and then serve.

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce

 

Advertisements

Lebanese Please: My New Favorite Food

Lebanese Please:Herb Tossed Salad with Lemon Coriander Dressing and Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

 

On a recent trip to London I was amazed by all the great food. It is not just the land of Fish and Chips and Bangers and Mash. They are utilizing fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients creatively. Also there are many ethnic restaurants that span the globe. I was intrigued by the amount of Lebanese restaurants we found around Kensington. So being the foodie I am we had to try one. After reading about the 5 freshly squeezed lemonades on the menu I was hooked and had to try Comptoir Libanais. I think it might have even been a chain restaurant but it still was delicious. My friend and I shared a Falafel Wrap and Salad, Baba Ghanouj, and a dish called Lebanese Fries. I also had the fresh squeezed Apple, Ginger, and Mint Lemonade. (It is the glass full of green stuff) It was all delicious and so fresh and tasty. The potatoes and the salad were my favorite, though the pickled turnip on the falafel wrap was pretty darn good too. So I came back inspired and wanted my husband to be able to get a hint at the taste and feel of the food.

Comptoir Libanais in South Kensington

I gave it a try and even if it was totally wrong it had the same fresh feel with the emphasis on fresh herbs and citrus which is what I was looking for. Perfect for Summer, I will be making these again and again.

Lebanese Style Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

4-5 cups diced potatoes, I used Yukon Gold

1/2 stick butter

1 lemon juiced

1 t red pepper flakes

2 T fresh cilantro chopped

1 t salt

Melt butter in a large pan over med high heat. Add potatoes and cover and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir and cook 15 minutes more or until golden and crunchy on the outside.

Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

 

Add lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss to coat, cook about 5 minutes more over med heat. Then toss with cilantro and serve.

Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

 

Tossed Salad with Herbs and Lemon Coriander Dressing

Lemon Coriander Dressing

2 T lemon Juice

1 T olive oil

1 t ground coriander

1/4 t black pepper

1/4 t salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl, serve over salad.

Tossed Salad with Herbs

4-6 cups of fresh crisp torn greens ( I used hearts of romaine and spring mix)

1/2 c thinly sliced radishes ( Soak the radishes in ice water after slicing that will remove some of the bitterness and make them crisp)

1/2 c grape tomatoes

1 cucumber peeled and sliced

2 T chopped fresh parsley

2 T chopped fresh mint

 

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately, I topped with grilled chicken and served with warm pita bread.

Herb Tossed Salad with Lemon Coriander Dressing

Herb Tossed Salad with Lemon Coriander Dressing

Book Club: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

Let's Pretend This Never Happened- Jenny Lawson

 

This month’s book was a real hoot, laugh out loud funny in fact. A refreshing change from our woman in peril books we often read. This is the memoir of blogger Jenny Lawson, daughter of a taxidermist who lived a bizarre childhood that you could only laugh about. she definitely puts the fun in dysfunctional as she tries to make a life for herself as a mother, wife, friend and now blogger. You can check out her blog here. We had fun with this book club with one of our member even setting a giant chicken (its in the book) on the hostesses doorstep and ringing the bell and hiding. I still don’t know how she found the chicken.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Giant Chicken

As for food this was a hard one because Jenny can’t cook except for the microwave and that just wouldn’t cut it at our all foodie book club. I decided to make a chocolate chip “loaf” because she tells the story of when she was trying to sell the house she stuck a whole roll of chocolate chip cookie dough in the oven for the smell, and it started on fire. It was good and even better the next day as all crumb cakes are.

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

 

Cake

1 1/4 c flour

1/2 c cake flour

1 stick butter

3/4 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1 c chocolate chips

3/4 c sugar

1/2 c buttermilk

2 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 T lemon zest

Topping

1 c flour

1 c sugar

1/2 stick hard butter

chocolate chips

powdered sugar

 

Pre heat oven to 350. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Cream softened butter in a mixer, add zest, and slowly add sugar. add in eggs and vanilla  and beat until just combined. Add 1/3 flour mixture to mixer, then 1/2 buttermilk, then 1/3 flour, 1/2 buttermilk, and finally lat 1/3 of flour. mix until combined scraping down the sides. Stir in chocolate chips and pour into a greased loaf pan.

Combine the butter flour and sugar for the topping mixing with a fork or your hand until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the batter and then sprinkle with Chocolate chips. Bake for 40 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar if desired.

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

 

 

The Monsters of Templeton: Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

The Monsters of Templeton

This month’s book club selection was the Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. I admit this was an ambitious piece of literature, family secrets, ghosts, sea monsters, a complete family lineage going back several generations, a student’s affair with her professor, a best friend dealing with a terrible disease, an unwanted pregnancy, and a girl’s search for her father. However this was just way too much information for one book. the main idea was so watered down by the enormous cast of characters that I ended up just not caring about any of  them.It made it a difficult book to read but that also made it a great book for book club. There were many things to discuss and dissect. I think the discussions are always better when everyone doesn’t love the book. (usually I am the everyone, I can be a bit critical)

Some of us even dressed as “The Running Buds, a group of friends that have run together for years and who may or may not be important characters in the book. They were just the easiest costume, headbands, running shorts etc… Unfortunately I don’t have a sea monster outfit in my costume box. The food didn’t jump right out at you in this book but there was a lot of it if you paid attention ( I didn’t really ) I chose to make my version of Tomatoes Farci, Willie mentions this is her favorite dish when her mother makes it for her. We have quite a few vegetarians so I stuffed my tomatoes with goat cheese and mushrooms instead of meat. Another great one was a Huevos Rancheros casserole, Willie’s mom also makes this during an eventful breakfast in the book.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

10 Campari Tomatoes ( or 4 large for a meal)

1 T olive oil

1 cup finely chopped mushrooms, (I used baby bellas and porcini)

2 T chopped shallot

2 cloves garlic chopped

1/4 c chopped tomato

2 T chopped parsley

1/4 c white wine ( I used Pinot Grigio)

1 T balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

1 3 1/2 oz log goat cheese

Core tomatoes and remove seeds and pulp, leaving just a shell.( if using a large tomato, cut top off and scoop out insides, leaving a bowl) In a large pan. Add oil and saute mushrooms, shallot and garlic, until mushrooms are soft and shallot is translucent. add tomato, wine, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add bread crumb, cheese and parsley. Let cool.

IMG_7416 IMG_7418

Stuff tomatoes with the cheese and mushroom mixture , place in an oven safe dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cheese slightly browns on top.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

(oops, so excited for book club I didn’t take a picture of the final product, but they looked the same with a slightly brown top)

Tasting Party: Frush Yogurt and Fruit Shake

 

** Though not paid to write this review I was given free product to sample and promotional materials. 

Drinkable yogurt, the concept is not new, and I admit I thought of it as somewhat of a toddler drink.  I was proven wrong, I tried the new Frush Yogurt and Fruit Shake at my little tasting party. They were delicious and tasted like a milk shake. Each 8.4 oz bottle contains about 200 calories but they were very filling and would be a great meal substitute. My favorite was strawberry banana but the overall favorite was peach. They also come in blueberry and strawberry flavors.

 

They contain real fruit, have 9 grams of protein and 50% of your daily calcium requirement per serving. They are portable and have a cap so it was easy for my husband to add his daily helping of Chia and mix it with the yogurt. Trust me he usually makes a big mess, and can’t usually take his breakfast with him so he loved this new product. Even though some guests were worried about the amount of sugar, I liked the fact that they contain real sugar instead of scary chemical substitutes. I would have no problem with my two teenage boys making this their go to breakfast or after school snack. The yogurt and fruit shake was also delicious on apples and strawberries.  If you missed my tasting party but want to try this new drink click here for a coupon or check them out on facebook at www.facebook.com/gofrush

 

 

WaZoo 2012: A beer festival to benefit Lowry Park Zoo

You should always use your skills to help charity, mine happen to be eating and drinking beer. So a perfect way for me to help out is Lowry Park Zoo’s Annual WaZoo. A beer festival to help raise money for the zoo. Sponsored by our local beer distributor, J. J. Taylor distributing, among others, this is one of the largest beer festivals in our area, with more than 250 varieties to try as well as food from local restaurants. Sounds perfect right?, Well add summer tropical weather to an outdoor event and the outcome can be dicey. I still don’t know why Florida based organizations try to put events on here in the summer, it’s hot, and it rains, a lot. We had a similar problem a couple of weeks ago at the Back to the 80’s Pub Crawl for The Family Network for Disabilities, another monsoon and no back up rain plan. Oh well it’s for charity, and there is beer, life goes on.

The doors opened at 6:45 for VIP tickets, the line was in a word, long. Check in went smoothly but at about 6:55 the skies opened up. So just as everyone was entering, there was lightning, thunder and torrential rain. The beer booths were abandoned, people were huddling under any shelter they could find, and tents were being blown over.

A smart patron opened up a garbage can and pulled out a roll of garbage bags, we followed his lead and made home made rain ponchos from the clear bags, beer drinkers are crafty. By the way mine was much more fashionable and even had a matching hat.

We had VIP passes which meant there was an air conditioned shelter filled with food and beer waiting for us, we just had to get there, too bad it was the furthest point from the entrance. We weaved through the crowd in our homemade rain gear, clutching our tiny tasting mugs. But wait did I see a sign for Dogfish Head 120 min IPA on tap, Whats a little more rain?, I can wait in that line. We did, and savored our baby mug of the rare and delicious brew, I have only had it once before on tap, and it was probably good that a little rain got in my mug because this beer comes in at almost 20% ABV. We ducked and covered in kiddy land to finish it and it was a lucky break for us, one of the volunteers for Unibroue Brewery was giving out rain ponchos, which were much more fashionable and practical than our garbage bag tunics. Also he was having trouble opening the bottle of Terrible, it had a cork like a champagne bottle. Champagne is my specialty, I can open those in my sleep. So after several strong men tried, I easily popped the cork, and was fortunate enough to get a sample of this specialty brew. Normally I am not a fan of these types of Belgium styled Abby beers, but I had never had this one before, it was dark and delicious and 10.5 % ABV. So now the rain isn’t bothering me so much.

We decided to check out a few more beers in the kiddy section, stopped at Beef O’ Brady’s booth and shared a mini cheeseburger under a small hand-held umbrella, very romantic. We finally made our way to the covered shelter in the Beastly Beverage Club sponsored by Blue Moon. There was food and Blue Moon beer, as well as a band, air conditioning and bathrooms. The highlight was Datz’s homemade chips with blue cheese dressing. This is a local restaurant with amazing food and beer selections.

We had also gotten wristbands into the J. J. Taylor Distributing’s private room which was sponsored by Sierra Nevada. This was at the back of the Beastly Beverage Club and had views of giraffes, elephants and other wildlife. We each had a full pour of Torpedo IPA enjoyed it with the giraffes, I also tried their Kellerweiss and Summerfest. Sierra Nevada will always have a special place in my heart, their pale ale was my first foray into hoppy beer. Before that I would drink beer, but never really enjoyed it, after I tasted their pale ale, I wanted more and more hops, sought out craft beers, and turned into the hop head I am today.

The rain had let up so back to the main festival, it was crowded but not too bad and all the volunteers and vendors were back at their stations. We tried a home-brewed Pale Ale from Special Hoperations a local home-brew club, it was fantastic, they promised their IPA would be on in 15 minutes and would be even better, unfortunately that was not true.I found the IPA flat and disappointing, but the Pale Ale was one of the most memorable beers of the night. Also at the event was our hometown brewery, Seventh Sun, always great and creative with their beers. The owners/brewers we there pouring the beers themselves.

As it started to get dark I noticed there were no lights towards the front of the park, what I found out later was that the storm had caused the area to lose power and they were running on back up power and generators. Not so good with crowds of people drinking lots of beer and slippery surfaces. We sampled a couple more like Cigar City and Victory but then decided to call it a night. We made it to the entrance and got a free cab ride home from United Cab service, they offered a ride for free to any lodging or residence in Hillsborough county, very smart. There was a fantastic turn out, and hopefully they raised tons of money. All in all a fun night even with the minor glitches, but please let’s reschedule this for the spring or fall next year.

Pliny the Elder = Hoppy Deliciousness

I had the pleasure of trying this beer for the first time last night. Thanks to a friend’s gallant efforts, he brought this to Florida all the way from Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, California, I now have a new brew to put in my top 10. I am not an expert on beer but I am kind of a enthusiast and I know what I like. So I won’t bore you with my tasting notes, just know if you are a hop head and enjoy IPA’s you need to try this. It is a Double IPA (8%) , not to dry, and a delicious pine taste that stays with you but not in an overpowering way. It was named after the man who gave the botanical name to hops, so naturally hops are the real star of this beer. Thanks again Dave, hopefully we will figure out a way to bring this delicious brew to our neck of the woods on a regular basis.