Lent 2013 Challenge Day 42: Slowcooker Falafel. Seriously.

We had a perfect cucumber for making tzatziki. Oldest kid is a huge falafel fan. Alas, our 20 minute rule could not possibly permit for falafel… or could it? On a whim, I googled “crock pot falafel,” and God bless Stephanie at Crockpot365. She has a recipe for falafel! That was the feature of our meal last night.


See how golden brown those falafel got, all without deep frying?  I’m not going to kid us both and tell you they’re better than fried:  they’re not.  Seriously, these were just as good as baked and a million times faster.  All kinds of yum.

However, the meal as a whole is best made in installments. Because of the timing, I’m going to start you off with our…

Tzatziki Cous Cous (prep time: 3 min +5 min + 6 min)

1 1/2 c plain yogurt
1 whole seedless/English cucumber, ends trimmed off
juice of 1 lemon
1 T chopped oregano (we were out, so we used cilantro)
1 T chopped mint
1 T minced garlic (as usual, we used more–shocking)
1 t salt
1 1/2 c vegetable stock or water
1 c whole wheat cous cous
1 t butter or oil

Line a strainer with coffee filters and place yogurt over filters. Place strainer over a bowl and then place the whole contraption in a refrigerator, allowing the yogurt to strain for 4-10 hours. (If you have Greek yogurt, use that without straining, but on our budget, we are using just regular American, non-drinking, spoon-only yogurt).

Shortly before serving, cut your cucumber into thumb-length chunks and chop it in a food processor until finely diced. Add lemon juice, herbs, garlic and salt, and pulse to process. Add strained yogurt (discard whey in the bottom bowl).

Just before serving, boil stock/water and oil (in microwave for 5 minutes should do the trick. Add cous cous, stir, then cover immediately. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir in tzatziki.

Top this lovely dish with Crockpot365’s Falafel. And feta crumbles if you have them.  I whipped our falafel together in less than five minutes, using the food processor. Some day, I’ll make these vegan with ground flaxseed as an egg substitute.

I did make what was supposed to be “suddenly pita,” but due to circumstances beyond my control (a. k. a. needy preschooler), I was not able to fit those into the 20 minute time frame, so they weren’t part of our “official” meal and instead became part of lunch earlier in the day.

Y’all know by now that if you’re looking for prayers and reflections on Holy Thursday, you probably need to look elsewhere on the #catholic tag.

If you’ve gotten this far, please pray for several special intentions for several friends and family members of mine, all going through tough, tough times.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 33: Curried Rice by the Dashboard Light

Last night’s adventures included a visit to a homeschoolers’ used curriculum sale. It was early enough in the evening that I could not have made it if I had waited until Mr. M’s train returned him home. Thus, we had to pick up Mr. M at a train station along the way and go to the sale as a family. That ended up being a good thing, because the rest of the family found better goodies than I could have done on my own. Had we not been playing by the Lent 2013 Rules, however, we would’ve just picked up something for dinner along the way. That was not an option last night.

Instead I made Chickpea Curry In A Hurry, a nutritious one-dish meal. Erm, one Thermos meal. We packed this up in our Thermoses and threw in a few tall, lidded cups of lemonade. It wasn’t paradise, but it was certainly satisfying.


So here we go!

Chickpea Curry in a Hurry (prep time: 20 minutes as long as you’ve made your rice ahead of time)

1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 sm onion, finely diced
1 tsp salt, divided
2 T oil, divided
1 1/2 c plain yogurt
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 1/2 c cauliflower florets, chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 c vegetable stock
1 c prepared rice

In a small bowl, toss chickpeas with paprika and black pepper and set aside (this will help the flavors and colors get all melded and pretty).

Sautee onion and 1/2 tsp salt in 1 T oil over medium-high heat until golden brown. Combine browned onion with yogurt, mayonnaise, curry and ginger (again with the melding and the pretty). Set aside.

In the same skillet, sautee seasoned chickpeas, diced pepper and cauliflower over medium-high heat for about 3-5 minutes. Pour remaining 1/2 tsp salt and vegetable stock over all. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, simmering for 3-5 minutes. Remove lid and stir in yogurt sauce and rice.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. This is one of the easiest recipes ever. We usually make this with chicken or eggplant, but it’s just as awesome with chickpeas. If yours is another busy family that can’t seem to find a way to avoid picking up fast food on your way to choir practice or soccer games or contortionist class, Thermoses are a really good investment.


Lent 2013 Challenge Day 30-31: Kale-o-rama! And I may be turning into a pizza crust.

Not a whole pizza, mind you. Just the crust.

Yesterday our Little Flowers Girls Club, in lieu of having a meeting, celebrated the birthday of one of our original members. I helped out the hosting family by making par-baked pizza crusts. In other words, I made one double-batch of dough cut into sixteen equal pieces, baked for 10 min at 425F then stored in an empty bread bag. When it was party time, we let the kids top their crusts as they like and bake 8-10 min at 425F or until browned to your liking.

While I was with First Shift at said party, Mr. Mackerelsnapper made us a pan of kale with onions and garlic (pretty much the link there but without the sweet potatoes), served with some bread on the side. Because only three of us were eating, as First Shift had been fed at the party, we had about two servings left over. What to do, what to do…

Well, today is Saturday: Lenten Food Prep Day. So far I’ve emptied the stock bag and made a pot of rice, which is an activity that takes more than 20 minutes, thus breaking the Lent 2013 Challenge Rules. All of that work totaled up to about 45 minutes. That still gives me an hour and fifteen minutes. With any luck I’ll make either some bagels or some pita.

With the rest of my time I made ANOTHER double-batch of pizza dough, separated those into a total of four crusts, and par-baked them as above. While those were baking, I used this awesome find from the produce bargain bin…


…and made another batch of kale with onions and garlic, this time without adding beans. When the pizza crusts were finished their first bake, I set two aside to cool and be frozen for use next week. The other two I topped with last night’s kale leftovers and today’s newly cooked batch. I sprinkled some mozzarella (frozen in bulk, of course) on those and baked them the rest of the way (10 more minutes at 425F). Voila—lunch!


(Somebody took us out to dinner tonight, so dinner wasn’t our “by the rules” meal for the day.) Vegans:  skip the cheese.  Gluten-free?  Use one of those fancy cauliflower crusts, which, btw, I’ve been meaning to try.  Any reviews?

Two weeks of Lent remain. Usually Easter means ham… but this year, I could really use a big, thick steak….



Lenten Challenge 2013 Day 22: “Mommy’s Fennel Delight”

It’s going to be really hard to write this one down. First of all, tomorrow is grocery shopping day, so I had some leftover stuff to use up; this means that your version of this recipe may will vary. Then there’s the other issue: this was ready in about, well, let’s say 22 minutes, so by the strictest terms, it was a failure under the Lent 2013 Challenge Rules. However, the family had opportunity to eat well before 20 minutes were up. More on that during the recipe itself.

Don’t you love the title, by the way? First Shift picked it.

Mommy’s Fennel Delight (prep time: just over 20 minutes)

1 c pasta shells
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 T each of olive oil and butter
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin (put your fennel tops in your stock bag)
3 carrots, sliced as thin as you can get them (I peel mine because we don’t buy organic; also, save some carrot nubs for the kids to gnaw while you cook)
1 onion, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 T crushed dried sage leaves (more or less to taste)
Sea salt & black pepper to taste
1 c leftover rice (we had instant brown rice leftover from Vegetable Fried Rice)
Grated Parmesan or bleu cheese crumbles to taste

Heat a large (not stock pot size, but the next size down) pot of water to boiling, add some salt, and boil pasta and potatoes 7-9 minutes or until desired tenderness. Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add fennel, carrots and onion, stirring frequently. When vegetables are crisp-tender, add garlic, sage and salt, and keep stirring. Add leftover rice. When pasta/potatoes are ready to drain, spoon about 1/2 cup of the pasta/potato water into the skillet; reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Finish draining pasta/potatoes (over a sink this time) and add pasta/potatoes to skillet. Serve immediately. Top with cheeses to your liking.

I’ve only recently started using the pasta water. Growing up, I’d heard that you’re “supposed” to use the pasta/potato water, but for what? A friend lent me a copy of Ginny’s Gems recently, and there was a bit in there about thickening sauces with your pasta water. Oh, so that’s it! Now I know. Knowing is half the battle. What’s the other half? I don’t know.

Gluten-free folks could probably just boil up more potatoes in lieu of any pasta.

Vegans could take a note from Cutting the Cheese, who recommended to me elsewhere to try this recipe here but with cannellini beans. I’m a recent convert to cannellinis, as youse all saw with kale-stuffed sweet potatoes, but I’m inclined to agree that cannellinis would be great in Fennel Delight.

Ahem. Mommy’s Fennel Delight.



Lenten Challenge 2013 Day 21: Fiesta Stuffed Potatoes

Fiesta Stuffed Potatoes (morning prep time <5 minutes; evening prep time about 15 minutes)

6 baking potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
1 15oz can refried beans
2 T sour cream
1 package of Ranch seasoning (optional)
1 t cumin
1 t garlic powder
1 t paprika
1/2 t chili powder (to taste)
1/2 t salt
pinch of black pepper
1 c shredded cheddar, divided

First thing in the morning, place baking potatoes in your slow cooker and cook on low 6-12 hours, depending on how long you need to be away (note: you can microwave or bake the potatoes, but the slow cooker kept the total prep time under 20 minutes). Fifteen minutes before serving, preheat your broiler, with rack at second highest position. Remove potatoes from slow cooker and slice in half lengthwise. To form potato “cups,” gently scoop out insides of potatoes, leaving about 1/4 inch of skin. Place potato “innards” in a large bowl and mash together with remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 c of cheese. Fill potato skins with mashed filling. Place on a broiler-safe pan and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Broil 3-5 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Vegans can skip the cheese and sour cream, maybe adding a little vegan milk to make the mashing easier.



Lent 2013 Challenge Day 17: Teeny Tiny Tacos

We just made these, with the addition of a diced cucumber that would not have survived another day of not being eaten.  We splurged for a bag of “scoops” corn chips with which to eat them. The only problem was that Mr. Mackerelsnapper came home late and the children had already eaten his dinner!

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 15: “It’s better than it sounds!”

The above was the sentence a local Scots-Irish tavern used on Facebook to advertise their haggis special. I kid you not. It was also the essence of the reactions to last night’s dinner. I based it on this recipe here.

Kale-stuffed Sweet Potatoes (prep time: 5 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes before serving)

4 medium-large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
1 T each of butter and olive oil
about 3-4 cups of kale, stems removed and sliced into ribbons
2 shallot “cloves”, finely diced
1 T minced garlic
1 c vegetable stock
1 15oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste

Before you start your day, place prepared sweet potatoes in your slow cooker and set on low for a minimum of 6 hours. I’ve left sweet potatoes in the slow cooker on low for up to 12 hours, so be not afraid.

Fifteen minutes before you’re scheduled to eat, sautee kale and shallots in oil and butter over medium-high until shallots are starting to brown and kale becomes very bright green. Add garlic, stock and beans, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 7 minutes, longer if you’d like softer kale. While pot is simmering, remove sweet potatoes from slow cooker and place on your serving plates. Cut a slice in the top of each sweet potato and sort of squeeze it open. Ladle contents of pot evenly across all four sweet potatoes. Serve immediately.

I will be the first to admit, I was ready to find this disgusting and serve the family cheese, crackers and cucumber slices as an apology. However, I was pleasantly surprised–and this is coming from someone who isn’t fond of sweet potatoes as a savory. It was quick, easy, cheap… and sophisticated?


At last, a black bean burger worth blogging about!

You may have wondered (probably not, but maybe you have) why I have been blogging meatless Fridays (not to mention a nearly meatless Lent) for over a year now, and yet I still have not shared a recipe for that vegan/vegetarian staple, the black bean burger.  That is because every black bean burger recipe I’ve tried has tasted more like a breadcrumb burger with the token bean thrown in for legal purposes.  Alas, wonder no more.  We have, somewhat accidentally, discovered black bean millet burgers .

This coming Monday, we are hosting an International Lunch in celebration of International Education Week.  Middle dumpling wanted to make something with millet–not because of a country that fascinates her, mind you, but because our pet cockatiel’s favorite snack is millet.  So she picked Egypt based on our bird’s version of crack cocaine.  So now I have this five pound sack of millet sitting around my kitchen.  Thus we had slow cooker millet porridge for breakfast (meh–it’s okay).  I’ll be making food processor millet flour this weekend, which will then become millet bread on Monday.  So that leaves us with about 4.5 pounds of millet remaining, hurrah.  Google came through again this morning with the recipe linked above, couretsy of No Meat Athlete.

The only changes I made to the recipe was using a blend of olive and corn oil because, come on, grapeseed oil?  I’m not made of money here.  Also, I used less oil than the recipe seems to suggest.  Shocking, I know.  I’m like a Catholic Paula Deen over here.  I fried the patties on a cast iron skillet and I think that got them crispy enough without the extra oil.  Next time I make them, I’ll actually do them the same way I make our baked falafel.

We served these with a recipe for baked sweet potato fries that I found on Pinterest a few weeks ago.  This is the second time we made this recipe, and it’s the first time I pre-soaked the sweet potato slices for ten hours, changing the water once.  I think that made a good difference. The first time, with a soak of about 2 hours, they were crisp and tasty.  This time, with the longer soak and the changing of the water, they were “ohmygoodness, I have to sit down, oh wait, I’m already sitting down” good.

Overall, this was one of the more wonderful Friday night meals we’ve had in a very, very, very long time.  The one drawback:  this was very, very, very labor intensive.  There was a lot more slicing and mixing and mashing and shaking and standing and standing and standing and flipping things than I will usually subject myself to.  The only reason this worked for us tonight is that Second Shift took a later nap than usual and Mr. Mackerelsnapper came home about an hour early.  I’d like to make the burgers again, but I do think next time I’ll bake up the first half of the batch then freeze the second half for another, busier day.

Because of all the work involved in dinner, we did not get to make a dessert in honor of The Feast of St. John Lateran.  So, go make yourself some Golden City Marshmallows, appreciate the Church as people and value the beauty of the churches we share as people.

Vegan September Soup… and Lent? Already?

It’s never too early to start thinking about Lent 2013. Okay, maybe for you it’s too early, but when one’s blogging mission is impelled by the gravity of Lenten cuisine, it’s not too early. Your thoughts?

I have my preference, but I’m curious as to what others would want to see… or do themselves. If they were, you know, as delightfully kooky as I am.

And now, for last Friday’s dinner. It was our first Little Flowers Girls Club meeting of the year, which is our annual “Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother” party. It was also stinking hot and humid on Friday. On top of that, Mr. Mackerelsnapper had to get the lawn mowed after work, so dinner was going to have to be ready at a moment’s notice. This was a job for… SLOW COOKER! (dat da da daaaaaaa!)

It's a pot!  It's an oven!  It's...

Slow Cooker, you’re my hero!

I researched some recipes, looking for something new to do with black beans. In that process, I realized… I’ve never made a plain old, humble black bean soup! My research and this epiphany, therefore, joined hands to bring you:

September Soup

3 c vegetable stock
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c celery, chopped
2 lb tomatoes, trimmed & pureed (I did not remove seeds or skins)
1 14.5oz can whole kernel corn
1 15 oz can black beans
1/4 c quick grits
1 T minced garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 T chili powder
1 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 T smoked paprika
1 T ground cumin
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

Stir everything together in your slow cooker and cook on high 2-3 hours, low 4-6 hours.

Feel free to add more chili powder or other heat if you’re not cooking for toddler tastebuds. The grits as the grain make it gluten-free but still add a bit of body. The tomatoes were from our garden, but I am sure you could use a large can of crushed tomatoes, if that’s what you have on hand. It’s as vegan as we get around here, but the Mr. and I still added some pepper cheese on top.

This week is our first week back to Wednesday Desserts. Check out the tag if you’re interested in those.


Summer Fridays: I even cooked for one of them!

Anybody miss me? As I reach the fullness of one year of meatless Friday blogging, I am coming to the realization that I should have given myself off for the summer instead of the Easter season. That’s not as faith-related of an approach, but it is the more practical. This summer has been too hot and too busy with weekend travel to allow much time for trying new recipes. We’ve either had to eat on the road (pizza, Long John Silver’s) or grill (fishes, foiled again). I even got two vegetarian cookbooks out of the library and searched them for summer-friendly recipes; all were heavy on the tofu, which, you know, makes me not breathe.

At last, this past Friday, the schedule permitted for eating at home, and the garden has produced enough tomatoes and cucumbers to allow us to whip up the following:


Mediterranean Black Bean Salad

2 c dry couscous (plus 3 c water)
1 15.5oz can of black beans, undrained (use the equivalent of dried and cooked if you can tolerate them)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, chopped
1/2 feta cheese crumbles (optional)

1 c olive oil
1/2 c lemon juice
1 T minced garlic (or more to taste)
1 T dried oregano leaves
1 t dried parsley leaves
1 t Kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
2 t Dijon mustard

Boil 3 c water and add dried couscous. Remove from heat, put a lid on the pot, and let sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients (at least five minutes). In a 3 qt container, combine beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. In a large salad shaker jar, combine dressing ingredients and shake well to combine. Pour dressing over the vegetable mixture. Fluff couscous with a fork , then fold into the dressed vegetables. Allow to chill at least two hours before serving. Serve with feta crumbles, if desired.

This was a great meal for making in the morning while the house was still relatively cool (and even then, boiling three cups of water doesn’t heat the kitchen all that much). My whole family liked it. It even got my husband to emote, which is saying something. This was made to feed six of us (BFF visiting for the weekend), and we still had plenty of leftovers for lunches and snacks. Next time we’re going to a potluck with vegetarians in attendance, I think I’ll bring this. Gluten-free peoples, I would make this with quinoa if I’d had better luck with quinoa of late (which is humbling, to be sure); brown rice would work, I bet.