31 Days of Menus: More menu plans

This is along the same lines as the start with what you already have post. Currently what we have is garden produce; tomatoes, corn, potatoes, etc. That combined with a desire for fairly quick meals that don’t require a babysitter in the kitchen while they cook resulted in our menus for this week.

Actually, the week started off with a bang, as I realized Monday afternoon that I had no idea what we would be eating that day. So, I put together Creamy Comfort Casserole because it was fast and easy.

We’ve also enjoyed Haystacks with Sweet & Sour Sauce followed by Tomato-Rice Soup (adapted from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen).

What I like about Haystacks is you can serve whatever you want/have around the house on top of the rice. In fact, usually they are served with some type of gravy (I like the Chicken Style Gravy from Passionate Vegetarian), so our use of sweet and sour sauce is a variation on the standard theme.

I slipped one of our favorite pizzas, potato-sage, in between the Minestrone and Ribolitta. It utilized the potatoes and the sage that we currently have an abundance of. And, other than olive oil, salt, and pepper, that’s about all that tops this pizza.

We had Minestrone on Friday, since I discovered Ribolitta I am even fonder of Minestrone than ever. For Ribolitta you layer day old bread, toasted if you prefer, in a casserole dish, pour the reheated soup (Minestrone of course) over the top and serve. What’s not to love? If the ease of preparation is not enough, it’s also remarkably filling and perfect for a Sunday dinner.

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Creamy Comfort Casserole

Cook 8 ounces of macaroni style pasta until it’s just short of being done, don’t worry if you miss that window, it’ll still taste fine.

In a blender combine:
2 slices whole wheat or Ezekiel bread
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use the blend by Mountain Rose Herbs)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Blend until a fine crumb is achieved, empty the blender and set the crumb topping aside.

In the same blender combine:
1 large roasted red pepper (jarred is fine)
1/4 cup cashews
3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
juice from 1/2 Lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt
a pinch each of nutmeg and cloves
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1/8 th of an onion (I read the recipe wrong last time, and it turns out some onion powder works fine too 😉 )
1 1/4 cups of water, rice milk, or soy milk

Blend until well mixed, no lumps, you should have a smooth, runny sauce.

Now place the drained pasta in a casserole dish, this fills a 1 1/2 quart pan quite well, and pour the sauce over the top. It should completely cover the pasta. Then top with the seasoned bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes. The sauce will thicken nicely as it cooks.

And there you have it. A fairly bland (except for the topping), creamy, smooth and comforting casserole dish.

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How to Change Your Diet – Part 4

Review the things you’re used to cooking. Probably quite a few of them will still work for you, especially if you look at the side dishes. Start to use some of the more substantial sides as your main courses.

Salads and soups tend to be especially promising. It’s easy to replace the meat in a soup with beans. Remember you have several options, you may want to consider white beans, black beans or garbanzo beans to name a few. As for salads, think about all of the options at a really great salad bar, minus any meat or dairy. Dressing can be slightly trickier, we have several recipes on this blog – click on the link at the top of the page – and there are a lot more out there if you just look around. Often people find they don’t miss the dressing if the lettuce is chopped fairly finely and some type for fruit is included in the salad, mango, pineapple, berries, etc. Currently one of my favorite ways to dress a salad is with a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt – courtesy of cousin Pam.

A ratio I’ve been happy with is:
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
and Salt to taste, start with about 1/2 teaspoon
This amount works well with about 5 cups of salad/greens

Most of us have a few favorite dishes or comfort foods that it seems we just can’t live without. I would suggest living without them for a short time before you try to find a substitute. This is because the substitute is bound to taste slightly different. In fact I think it’s worth spending some time thinking about what it is about the dish that you really enjoy, maybe it’s largely the texture, or the flavor of a sauce, in which case it might be better to focus on finding a new dish that is similar in that aspect rather than trying to duplicate the recipe exactly.