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.

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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 40: It ain’t over ’til the fat lady makes chili.

“Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, didn’t you know that you’re not supposed to count Sundays in the 40 days of Lent?”

I did, actually.

“Then why are you calling today your 40th Day of Lent when Lent isn’t over yet.”

Oh, my dear reader, read more carefully. It’s the 40th day of the Lent 2013 Challenge. We are counting not days of Lent, but days of budgeting meatless meals for a family of five on $90/week. So, I am perfectly comfortable calling this Day 40. Tomorrow will be Day 41. Etcetera.

I do have a seedless English cucumber in the fridge that I had hoped to turn into tzatziki and make some “suddenly pita” along the lines of the recent delicious Suddenly Naan. However, here is it, Monday of Holy Week and we have had snow all day long. Pita and cold food just wasn’t gonna cut it. We need hot comfort food.

Slowcooker Vegan Chili (prep time: 5 minutes)

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1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 c chopped celery
1 onion, finely diced
1/4 c red wine, beer or vegetable stock
2 T minced garlic
2 tsp chili powder (use something spicier for more kick, but we’re feeding kids here)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves

Dump it all in your slow cooker, turn to low, then walk away for at least 4 hours, as many as 10. Remove bay leaves before serving with some of these lovelies:

Microwave Vegan Corn Muffins (prep time: 5 mintues; cook time: 10-12 minutes)

1 T ground flaxseed + 3 T water, whisked together and set aside
2/3 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
2 T white sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c rice milk
1 T oil

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Pour milk and oil into the bowl where you’ve premixed your flaxseed and water. Add wet to dry, stirring just until all ingredients are moistened. Spray a microwave-safe muffin pan (ours is silicone) with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup half full and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a rack IMMEDIATELY (or else you end up with gummy muffins, speaking from experience). Repeat until all batter is used.

This recipe usually makes about 18 muffins. If you only have one micr0-safe muffin pan, you’ll be wiping the cups clean with a dry cloth and re-spraying them between batches. If you’re anti-cooking spray, I don’t know if rubbing the cups with oil will work. Get back to me if it does?

This usually makes about 18 muffins. What we don’t eat I freeze and use with breakfasts.

 

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 36-37: Nothing to see here, people.

Really, there isn’t.  Late Thursday afternoon I had all the kids out for haircuts, so Mr. M made pizzas for us using the par-baked crusts spoken of in last weekend’s food prep post.

Last night, I had to use up the rest of that monster bag of bargain kale before it went south, so I made sauteed kale with mushrooms (bought on sale last week, also going south) and garlic.  I deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine, having forgotten to take out a container of vegetable stock to thaw.  Meanwhile I had angel hair cooking in our microwave pasta cooker… and I’m starting to give up on that thing.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but all but the first two batches of pasta I’ve made in that thing have been just this side of inedible.  They’re gummy and mushy and gross.  So, we had food last night, and it was all by the book, but it wasn’t very tasty.  Alas.  There wasn’t enough Parmesan cheese in the world to save it.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 35: Veggie Curry with Suddenly Naan

A very dear FB friend shared a recipe with me for a microwave curry made with potatoes.  I was all geared up to make that… and then… um, no potatoes left.  Alas.  I had to improvise. So, this is based on her recipe and is not an entirely original idea.  Also, I freely admit this one went over the 20 minute time limit. However, I am confident that with more careful planning, this could all be whipped out within 20.

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I’ll start with the Suddenly Naan, because the main dish is prepared during the dough’s resting time.

Suddenly Naan (total time: 20 minutes)

1 c whole wheat flour
1 ½ c unbleached bread flour
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t sugar
½ t cumin
½ t garlic powder
½ c milk
½ c yogurt
1 T oil
1 beaten egg
Oil for frying

Combine dry ingredients and seasonings in a mixer bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, yogurt, oil and egg. Using dough hook, mix wet ingredients into dry and keep mixing until dough pulls away from pan. With floured hands, form dough into four equal balls and let rest, covered, for 10-45 minutes.

[Disclaimer: During this time is when I put together the rest of the meal. We may have gone over our 20 minutes by about 5… but for homemade naan, I regret nothing.]

After resting time, heat a heavy skillet with lid over medium-high heat. On a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin, roll out each dough ball as thin as you can get it. Pour a splash of oil into the skillet. Place one dough disc in heated, oiled skillet and COVER IMMEDIATELY. Cook for 2-4 minutes per side, covering during cooking. Repeat with remaining discs. Keep warm and covered with a cloth until ready to serve.

Now, what’s this for?

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That, my friends, is a “silly band” around the one cup mark on a measuring cup.  First I poured in 1/2 c milk, then I told my  toddler to add scoops of yogurt until it all reached the green band.  Then we added the egg, oil, and mixed it together.  Just an idea on how even someone who can’t read yet can help in the kitchen.

Note: This really could have used some salt. I’ll add about 1 t next time fo sho. To veganize, I would like to try making this with veggie stock and vinegar for the milk/yogurt plus ground flaxseed with water for the egg.

Vegetable Curry* (prep time: 15 minutes)

3 carrots, chopped
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
2 c cauliflower florets, cut into small, bite-sized pieces
1 ½ c shredded cabbage
2 T fresh cilantro
1 T minced garlic (we used more than this, as usual)
1 t curry powder
½ t powdered ginger
½ t coriander powder
½ c vegetable stock
1 cup cooked rice

Combine all ingredients except rice in a microwave-safe bowl with cover. Microwave, covered, on high power for 10-12 minutes or until vegetables have reached desired tenderness. Stir in rice. This is particularly good with a dollop of plain yogurt.

*Feel free to substitute any other vegetables: I’d like to try zucchini, yellow squash, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

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Lent 2013 Challenge Day 34: Inaugural Feast

Yesterday was the inauguration of Pope Francis, on the Feast of St. Joseph, which is my husband’s feast day as well. We usually have some sort of meat on St. Joseph’s Day, because traditionally in our diocese, the bishops lift the Lenten restrictions so we, especially our area’s large Italian community, can feast instead of fast. I had a moment of thinking we’d be justified in breaking the rules on this very special day and getting some actual steak. I mean, Pope Francis is from Argentina, the Land of Beef. What better way to celebrate, right? However, given that the man asked his countrypeople to stay home and give the money they would’ve spent on plane tickets to the poor, buying a steak didn’t really fit the spirit of the day.

So, vegetarian recipes from a country of cattle farmers? We made baked cheese empanadas to go with a slow cooker of pasta fagioli.

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Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli (prep time: 10 minutes; cook time 4-8 hours)

1 small onion, finely diced
3 c chopped kale (I’ve seen recipes calling for swiss chard or baby spinach in place of the kale)
2 t olive oil
1/4 c red wine
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 c vegetable stock
1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained
3/4 c small pasta (we used orzo, but ditalini is traditional)
1 generous tablespoon of minced garlic
1 tsp each of dried parsley, orgeano, basil and thyme leaves
1/4 t ground black pepper
2 bay leaves

Sautee onion and kale in olive oil over medium-high heat until onions just start to brown and kale turns bright green. Add red wine to pan, cover and reduce heat to medium-low for 3-5 minutes. Add pan contents plus remaining ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on high 4 hours, low 8 hours. Top with Parmesan cheese, reminding us of the sawdust on the floor of St. Joseph’s carpentry shop.

Baked Cheese Empanadas (time: 20 minutes)

1 package of prepared pie crust, just below room temperature
Parmesan and shredded cheddar cheese

Roll out the crust and cut into triangular quarters. Place about a tablespoon of cheese in the center of each triangle. With a finger dipped in water, trace around the outside of each triangle, then fold in half to seal. Crimp edges with a fork as shown and pierce the top of each empanada with a knife 2-5 times to avoid explosion. Bake at 425F for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

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Many thanks to the older member of First Shift for doing the hand modeling.

Strictly speaking, the empanada recipe breaks the time limit rule as well as the “no processed foods” rule, but it was to educate the kids on Pope Francis’ home country as well as his vow of poverty.

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…

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…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!

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(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 23: The “..it Just Got Real” Post

I was wondering when this would happen: when the food would run out, now that we no longer have the budget to stockpile. It happened today. Corn oil and olive oil: all gone. Cous cous: one serving left. Potatoes? Gone. Instant brown rice? Thin pasta that cooks quickly? Fresh vegetables? Gone, gone and gone. Well, we still had enough rice to make a decent dinner… but we didn’t have enough time.

Here’s what we did to stretch out what we have left:

  1. Placed our last three sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced, into the slow cooker. As I was making the rest of the dinner, scooped out the insides and let the preschooler mash in some butter and cinnamon sugar.
  2. Found two thin tilapia fillets in the freezer. Took them out to thaw this morning. Sprinkled them with salt, pepper and curry powder, then steamed these in the microwave over one cup of vegetable stock and about half a cup of mead we had in the fridge, waiting for a reason to be gone from this earthly plane. (6 min on high power)
  3. Took the remaining half of a bag of frozen broccoli and the handful of carrot sticks leftover from lunch. Chopped up the carrots and mixed them with the broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl. Took the remaining cup of vegetable stock, poured that into the nearly dead jar of minced garlic. Swished it all around and then poured it all on top of the veggies. Covered and microwaved on high for 8 minutes.
  4. Spread some freezer-burnt bread with butter and garlic powder and pan-toasted it.

Was it luxurious? Was it clever? Was it creative? No. Was it food? Yes. It was also an opportunity to talk to the kids about how many families in our own town have to eat like this all the time, and not by choice: no leftovers, and the grown-ups gave much of their tilapia to the kids.

I was able to get groceries after dinner, so that’s a relief (yay cous cous!), but it was a real eye-opening dinner.

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