Raccoon Interlude, and my dinner this evening

I usually only make a food post if I have some semblence of a recipe or at least one online I can point you to, but tonight’s post was actually meant to be about the raccoons and I just happened to take a picture of my meal before eating it, so it’s kind of a side-liner here. I’ll get it out of the way first.

The picture is terrible. I lost my gray card and I can’t get the white balance in my dining room right without it. The reason I’m posting the picture even though it’s crap and I’m not even giving you a recipe is because the Cauliflower in Herbed Vinaigrette with Capers is yet another one of many, many reasons why I love Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. It’s just what the name suggests: steamed cauliflower tossed with capers in an herbed vinaigrette, but like all the recipes in that book, it’s totally simple and totally delicious. That cookbook is the one I turn to most often when I have super-fresh and super-delicious produce I want to showcase. I’ve paired the cauliflower here with a farro alle verdure that I got out of a package, a fancy package, and it was really good. It’s rare I’ll buy packaged side dishes, but that one looked interesting and it turns out I’d buy it again. Also, a steamed artichoke. And red wine, bien sur.

Now on to the good stuff: pictures that don’t need any magic from me to turn out well because the subject is so adorable. Baby raccoons! We got another family in at the sanctuary and they are cuuuuute! A couple of people have asked me to share more about my work with the raccoons. I don’t want to overstate what I do; I’m just a volunteer and apprentice rehabber, but I am licensed by the state of Virginia. I help a local raccoon rehabber on the weekends; she does it every day, all day, and honestly I don’t know how she does it all. The bit of help I give her 1 or 2 days a week is a drop in the bucket. At first I was a bit reluctant to go into much detail here about it because it seems like talking about myself too much. But I’ve thought about it and if I care so much about the raccoons, I owe it to them to educate people as much as I can about them. So I’ll try to talk a little bit more about them when I post pictures. Not so much that this becomes a raccoon blog, but enough to explain why I love them!

April and May is the primary baby season, so mostly what you’ll be seeing from me this time of year is pictures of pretty tiny babies. Young babies are bottle-fed, starting at 4 times a day, then down to 3, then 2, etc. Once they are down to two feedings a day, if you give them the right kind of bottle, most of them will actually bottle-feed themselves – I’ll have to get a picture of that later when we have some the right age. The babies we got in the week before last are a few weeks old. They were found in a tree on a construction site and were apparently abandoned by their mother, and one was injured in the tree. At this age, they stay in a cage about the size of one you’d have for a hamster or gerbil. They sleep for a large majority of the day, but they know when it’s feedin’ time! Let me out, I’m hungry!!!

I SAID, I’m hungry!

When the bottles of special raccoon formula have been made up and warmed in the microwave, we’ll move one family (or group of individuals we’ve made into a family) at a time from the cage (so it can be cleaned and the bedding replaced) to an empty aquarium where they wait their turn on the bottle. They typically go a bit crazy at this point, scrambling all around, hoping to be picked first for food.

They are selected one-by-one – or if you’re feeling up to the challenge, two or even three at a time! – for the bottle and are fed sitting in our laps. They have to be stimulated (i.e. made pee and poop) when they are finished feeding, and then they generally fall promptly asleep. These guys could barely keep their little eyes open following their breakfast. One was also extremely camera shy!

Oh my GOSH this family is cute!

This has been a somewhat surprisingly slow-starting season for us. A big reason for that is we’ve been passing the buck on some of our work! Because our sanctuary is located in a large wooded area, we’re able to release our animals right onto the property when they are old enough to survive on their own. Many of the animals come back year after year to visit and bear young in the many nest boxes we provide them. One such raccoon is Emmie, who returns every year to give birth on one of the porches. Soon after Emmie gave birth this spring, we received a family of two and one individual, very young babies. Because the three babies we received were just about the same age as Emmie’s babies, and because we know Emmie to be a great mother, the rehabber offered all three of the babies to her – just put them in her hand and held her hand out to Emmie – and she accepted them, and adopted them as her own! She just grabbed each of them in her mouth, gave it a few quick licks to clean it of any lingering human cooties, and shoved it under herself with her own babies, where they each latched on and began nursing. I think that is just the coolest thing! It’s so much better for a raccoon to be raised by a raccoon, and I think it’s awesome that these three abandoned babies were immediately adopted by another mother…of their own species! This is Emmie with all her babies, biological and adopted:

The moral of THAT story is it is a total myth that animals – including birds – will reject a baby that’s been touched by a human. In general, you should avoid touching a baby animal or bird, even if looks abandoned, because almost always the mother is simply out gathering food and will return for it soon. However, if you do see a baby animal or bird that is alone and in imminent danger – from other animals or whatever – its mother will NOT reject it if you touch it and move it to safety. I kinda think that myth was made up by someone that wanted to keep humans from unnecessarily touching baby animals, and I agree with that goal, but it IS a myth. (It’s actually mentioned in Julien Parme, the French version of which I am just finishing up: Julien touches a baby duck and a girl later tells him that its mother will reject it and Julien gets very upset, and even though I was annoyed with Julien for wanting to be Holden Caulfield really badly, I felt like telling him, “SHE’S WRONG@!” – although you shouldn’t have touched him!)

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Lima Bean Risotto

One of my favorite commenters, Josiane, managed to correctly identify and inquire about the lima bean risotto I made last week to accompany the “ricotta” butternut squash I mentioned in my last post. So I figured I’d make it again and post a recipe for her.

I thought I was lightly adapting the recipe for Risotto with Vegetables du Jour in Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, but when I looked it up, I was pretty much making it exactly as specified, other than adding some wine to the broth. In a side note she even suggests lima beans, which I thought was my own idea, as one of the vegetables “du jour”. I wish I had actually adapted it so I wasn’t posting an exact recipe, but honestly, it’s a very basic recipe and there’s not much to change. Another thing: I used a pressure cooker, as you can probably tell from the name of the cookbook I got the recipe from. If you haven’t made risotto in a pressure cooker, you have no idea how EASY it is. I highly recommend investing in a pressure cooker – or putting one on your wish list. And as soon as you have the pressure cooker, get Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure because it’s excellent. Because I’m always looking up pressure-cook times for various beans and grains, it’s probably my most-referred-to cookbook.

You can also make this the hard way, by standing over the stove, stirring constantly and slowly adding the the broth as it is absorbed. It’s up to you!

Lima Bean Risotto
very lightly adapted from Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

1 large shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
large pinch saffron (Trader Joe’s sells this for a reasonable price, although that’s not very helpful for Josiane, who is in Canada!)
salt to taste (the recipe calls for 1 tsp; I find the perfect amount depends on the broth you choose)
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup cooked lima beans (I had some leftover from another dish in the freezer)
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
something green: thinly sliced scallions, chopped parsley or other herb, etc.

Mince the shallot.

Prep and measure the rest of the ingredients.

My broth is homemade and fairly concentrated, so I watered it down a bit so not to overwhelm the risotto. Here it is combined with the wine.

Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat in a pressure cooker (or medium-large pot if you are doing things the hard way). Add the shallots and cook until soft, then add the rice, salt, and saffron and stir to coat with the oil.

Add the broth and wine, put the lid on, take the heat up to high, and bring up to pressure. Then reduce the heat to low or medium-low (the lowest at which you can keep it at pressure) and cook for 5 minutes. Release pressure using a “quick-release” method.
(If you aren’t using a pressure cooker, get a book to read and a chair to sit on, and add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until it is absorbed to add the next dose. This will take about 30-40 minutes, if I remember correctly, but it’s been a very long time.)

There are three possibilities when you remove the lid of the pressure cooker: 1) the risotto will be a little dry, 2) the risotto will be a little runny, or 3) the risotto will be done perfectly. In the case of #1, add a little broth, as well as the lima beans and green stuff and return to medium heat just until the lima beans are heated through, stirring. In the case of #2, return to medium to medium-high heat to boil off the extra liquid, stirring and adding the lima beans and green stuff 2 or 3 minutes before it’s ready. If #3, just add the lima beans and green stuff and heat a couple of minutes until the lima beans are warm. Mine was a little liquidy.

I’ve added the limas in this picture.

After removing from the heat, add the lemon juice, adjusting the amount to taste. Adjust the salt if necessary.

And serve. This was accompanied by vegan “fish” in a garlic-tarragon sauce.

Josiane, I hope that helps – I’m sure you’ll add your own touches; let me know how it goes! As for the rest of you, any other requests?!

And now, Torticia.

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Blender Lasagna

Want to hear something I personally find completely crazy? Ten years ago today Mark and I went on our first date. It was an epic date, too: he picked me up at noon and I didn’t get home until well after midnight. We’ve been together nearly every day since. Anyway, like most of the country, Northern Virginia is laboring through 100-degree-plus days, with heat indexes as high as 115. Most people probably don’t think “lasagna!” when it’s 110 degrees out, but I do think “lasagna!” when it’s time to make a special meal for Mark. I’ve posted a few lasagna recipes before, but since I hardly ever make things the same way twice, here’s another one. I called it Blender Lasagna because I realized while I was assembling it that I had used the blender for every layer.

Blender Lasagna

no-boil lasagna noodles (I can only recommend Trader Joe’s brand), or regular lasagna noodles, cooked
1 1/2 cup vegan protein, chopped or shredded (like Italian sausage, etc. I used chick’n breasts because I had them to use up)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
vegan mozzarella, shredded

Tomato Sauce
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
dried oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Garlic Stem Pesto
enough garlic stems (scapes), chopped, to make a cup (I’ve been looking all over for garlic scapes, and finally discovered the Asian grocery store has had garlic stems all along)
6 Tbsp olive oil
6 Tbsp water
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt

Cheezy Sauce
1 package silken tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
dried basil, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt, to taste
fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then fire up that blender or food processor! Place the tomatoes and tomato sauce in the blender and puree. Heat a little olive oil in a sauce pot, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and cook for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes, stir, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Rinse out the blender. Put all of the pesto ingredients in it and process until smooth, adding additional water if necessary. Set pesto aside. This makes way more pesto than you probably need for the lasagna. You can halve the recipe or freeze the extra. Or save it for another recipe later in the week.

Rinse out the blender. Put all of the cheezy sauce ingredients in it and process until smooth, adding the lemon juice last. I like mine fairly tangy so I didn’t give an amount for the lemon juice because some people may not like that much. I never measure stuff like this; just taste it and adjust the seasonings until you like it. Set cheezy sauce aside.

Chop onions and zucchini. If you’re using a food processor you could even use that to roughly chop the vegetables. Saute the onion and zucchini in a little olive oil with salt and pepper.

Place a thin layer of tomato sauce in an 8×8 pan and put down a layer of noodles. Smear with pesto. Top with the protein and add some tomato sauce. Put down another layer of noodles, add some tomato sauce, then top with the onion and zucchini mixture. Put down another layer of noodles and cover with the cheezy sauce. Put down the final layer of noodles and cover with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover pan with aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, add the mozzarella, and return to the oven. Bake for 15 more minutes then remove from oven and let sit for another 15 minutes.

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I consider pizza one of the greatest foods in the world, and I can happily eat it the same way week after week. I consider myself very good at making pizza. Sometimes, though, I like to try something different. Today I thought I would use the dough I’d set aside for this week to make calzones instead of pizza. Calzones use the same ingredients as pizza, just wrapped up inside instead of spread on top, except the sauce: there is no sauce inside a calzone. Instead, you top it with the sauce, or serve the sauce on the side for dipping. Here is what I did:

First, I removed two containers of frozen pizza dough from the freezer (I made this batch with half white whole wheat flour) and let them rise in the refrigerator for a couple of days (overnight is fine). Then, a couple of hours (at least one hour) before bake time, I removed them from the refrigerator.

I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and chopped half a head of broccoli into small florets and put them in a baking dish. Then I chopped about 1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes in half and put them in another baking dish, to which I also added several cloves of smashed garlic. I sprinkled both with flaked salt then drizzled with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. The broccoli I roasted for about 15 minutes …

… and the tomatoes 45 minutes.

I removed them from the oven and increased the oven temperature to 500.

I made a tofu ricotta by putting about half a pound of firm tofu in a bowl and adding about 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, some flaked salt, one frozen basil cube, and the juice of half a lemon, then I squeezed all of that together until it was an even consistency. Then I mixed in a hand-full of Daiya mozzarella and a little bit of Daiya cheddar.

I made a marinara by pureeing a 14.5 oz can of whole tomatoes. I heated some olive oil in a small saucepan, added several pressed cloves of garlic, some chili flakes, flaked salt, and freshly ground pepper, and after sauteing for a minute or two, I added the tomatoes, some dried oregano, and a frozen basil cube. I brought that to a boil, then reduced the heat, covered, and simmered for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next I formed the pizza doughs into circles, though not as thin as I make them for pizza, maybe 1/4″ thick. I placed some of the broccoli, roasted tomatoes, and “cheese” mixture in the middle of each, …

… then I folded each over in half and sealed the crusts closed. (You can brush the edges with water to make them stick if you need to.) I poked some holes on top and brushed them with some garlic oil.

They both got transferred to the oven and baked for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned.

Serve with a tossed salad, with the sauce on the side (or spoon the sauce over the calzones).

I tried to get a picture of the inside of the calzone, but we’d gone downstairs – where it is quite dark – and all I had was my phone. I’d probably be better off just not having any picture at all, but I went through the trouble, so here you go:

This was an interesting change of pace but will never replace good old regular pizza in my book.

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Sicilian Baked Tomatoes and Onions

Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen is probably my favorite cookbook to turn to when I want something simple but amazing, when I have fresh produce that I want to showcase. I love tofu and seitan as much as the next vegan – don’t get me wrong – but there is something very refreshing about a vegan cookbook with not a single mention of either one: it’s all “naturally vegan” recipes from the Mediterranean. When I needed to use up two tomatoes I got at the farmers market on Saturday, I thought immediately of the baked tomato recipes from this book. There are two baked tomato recipes; I made the Sicilian. I was in a quandary because I wanted to share the recipe, but didn’t want to alter its simplicity to make it enough my own. But then I found that it’s on food.com, so I guess I’ll go ahead and post it. But not without urging you strongly to check out this cookbook. It’s really good. As the author suggests in the book, I made the baked onions at the same time. The two recipes are nearly identical, so I’ve just combined them.

Sicilian Baked Tomatoes and Onions
slightly adapted from Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

2 large tomatoes
2 medium yellow onions, peeled
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp smoked salt, or other flaked, kosher, or sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the onions.

Place onions in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside until cool enough to touch.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, and use your finger to poke all the seeds out. Drain them as well as possible.

I also cored mine.

When the onions are cool enough to touch, cut them in half.

In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Put the tomatoes and onions into a baking dish into which they just fit.

Fill the holes of the tomatoes up with the bread crumb mixture and sprinkle some more on top. Also sprinkle the onions with the bread crumb mixture.

Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and onions.

Bake for an hour and a half (yes, really!). Let sit for a few minutes, or allow to come to room temperature, before eating.

Donna Klein suggest serving both of them together over rice or couscous (quinoa would also be good), which I’ve done before and it’s great. Tonight, though I was also having white beans and a salad, so I just served them on their own. The beans are pressure-cooked Great Northern beans, with sauted spring onions, a lot of garlic, imitation bacon bits, and sage, and a generous addition of Bryanna’s bacon salt.

This is the sort of thing I like eating when I want to feel particularly healthy! I served it all with Italian wine, and while it was cooking read some of a funny and very enjoyable Italian book.

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Italian Bread Soup

In her years of extensive research into our family history, I don’t think my mother has found a single Italian ancestor for me (nor does Mark have any, despite his father’s spurious claim that he had “hot Italian blood coursing through [his] veins.”) Nonetheless, I believe I’d make a good honorary Italian for this recipe. Essentially, I had about a third of a loaf of bread leftover from last week’s bake, the crust of which was rock hard, but the inside of which (thanks to my latest invention the “long life” bread bag, and yes, I’ll be making a second one soon for your benefit and doing a tutorial) was still soft. So basically I could get a knife through it, but the crust would have broken your teeth. Like many Italians, I didn’t want it to go to waste, though, so I decided to make bread soup. In fact, practically this entire soup was made from leftovers of one sort of another. I am thrifty!

Italian Bread Soup

1/2 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups vegan broth (I used the broth leftover from making Smoked Seitan Butt last night)
1 14.5 oz can Roman or white beans
1 cup diced or crushed tomatoes (I used leftover homemade tomato sauce from Friday night’s dinner)
3 cups baby spinach (I had some that was a bit past its prime and thought it would be great for soup)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
stale white bread, like sourdough, cut or torn into medium-large pieces (you’ll often see “day-old” bread called for, but mine was a full week old)

Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onions, celery, and carrots. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the broth, beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and cook for another minute or two, then add the bread and let it become soaked through.

It’s a beautiful day here in Northern Virginia! I’m about to go run some errands, with the top down on my car, it’s so nice! The only downside is the kittens are starting to once again think maybe they should be going outside.

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Mexican Pizza; Lentil Orzo Soup

I’m just going to skip having a Thanksgiving post, because my Thanksgiving was nearly identical to last year, and although Mark has been happily gorging himself on leftovers, I didn’t do anything particularly creative or unusual. I hope everyone – even you non-Americans – had a great Thanksgiving, however!

As per my usual routine, I moved two pizza doughs from the freezer to the refrigerator before the weekend. We usually end up having pizza at some point during the weekend, but what with the Thanksgiving leftovers and various social obligations, it didn’t happen this weekend. Which left me with pizza dough that I needed to use tonight. But I wanted to try a different approach from my usual, pretty traditional pizza, so tonight I made Mexican pizza:

Here’s what I did:

Mexican Pizza

up to 4 batches individual-sized pizza doughs
12-16 oz vegan ground “beef” (“mince” for you non-Americans)
1 packet taco seasoning (I found some taco seasoning for yuppies packet at Wegmans)
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Mexican oregano
canned or fresh jalapeno, sliced
vegan mozzarella, grated (I used Cheezley)
vegan cheddar, grated (I used Daiya)

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 550 Fahrenheit (or as high as it will go).

In a heavy sauce pot, heat some olive oil, then add the ground “beef”, saute the ground beef, add the taco seasoning, and saute another minute. Add the tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, and oregano. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Shape the pizza dough for each pizza and place on a peel. Spread the sauce mixture evenly on each pizza, then top with jalapeno slices and mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Bake until done, about 5 minutes.

Next up is just a quick soup I threw together last week when I wasn’t feeling that great. I didn’t take pictures of the process or write it up earlier, because at the time I just wanted something soothing in my belly, but I did snap a photo of the finished product and it was very simple and really tasty, so, if I remember correctly, here’s what I did:

Lentil Orzo Soup

2-4 shallots (depending on size), or 1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
red pepper flakes, if you are so inclined (to taste)
4 cups vegan stock or broth
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup orzo (or other small pasta)
2 cups baby spinach
salt, to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring some olive oil up to temperature in a heavy soup pot, then add the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and saute another couple of minutes. Add the stock or broth, tomato paste, lentils, and red pepper flakes if using. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the orzo and simmer another 15 minutes. Add the spinach and taste for salt, then simmer two or three more minutes. Add the lemon juice, then serve.

In not-at-all-food-related news, I went to see Jeff Vandermeer read in Baltimore last night. I’ve been a fan of his since I read City of Saints and Madmen, and I’m currently reading his latest, Finch (which he signed for me). In fact, I have only a few more pages left and as soon as I finish this post, I’ll finish it up.

I liked this picture because from reading his blog I feel as if he and I have a similar sense of humour, so I like that I caught him laughing:

In other book news, but more food-related, I forgot to urge you all earlier to buy Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day! I was a tester for this book (my name is in it! Mark’s so impressed!) – if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve seen photos of some of the breads – and I can assure you that even the non-vegan breads veganized beautifully. I tested all but just one or two recipes from the book; Peter was gracious enough to at least pretend he cared about my vegan input even on non-vegan-sounding breads like Crusty Cheese Bread. They were all amazing, even the Crusty (Non-Dairy) Cheese Bread and the Babka. It’s a great book for novice bread bakers as well as the more experienced. My favourite thing about it was how easy it makes it to create a bread-baking schedule that works for people who work late hours but want fresh bread during the week. Most of the recipes are scaled for two loaves of bread, so I’d mix it up and bake one loaf during the weekend, then bake the second mid-week. The recipes and techniques are clear, the bread is great, and if any of you buy it (or any of his other books) and have any questions about veganizing the recipes, I’d be happy to help you. The recipes actually call for “any kind” of milk, which he makes clear includes non-dairy milks, so mostly it’s just eggs you need to substitute. Of course, many of the recipes are vegan as written. I know I don’t do many bread recipes on this blog, although bread baking is a particular passion of mine, but the reason is I pretty much just slavishly follow Peter Reinhart’s (and Jeffrey Hamelman’s) recipes. Although I do my own thing when cooking, I’m more shy about making things up when it comes to baking, and between Reinhart and Hamelman, I figure my bases are covered. If you are at all interested in baking your own bread, Artisan Breads Every Day is a great place to start. No, I’m not making commission on the book even though I was a tester – I just think Peter Reinhart’s books are really, really good!

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Spaghetti Bolognese

Ever since Kylie mentioned her spaghetti bolognese in passing the other day, I’ve been thinking about making a vegan version, and when I wanted something pretty hearty for dinner tonight, I decided to try it. I’ve never actually had real spaghetti bolognese, which is a pretty meat-tastic meal, and this in no way approaches tasting like real meat, however, it was made in the spirit of a thick, rich spaghetti sauce, and was easy, tasty, and just what I wanted for dinner.

Spaghetti Bolognese

[I didn’t take an ingredients photo because I wasn’t sure I was going to post it.]

1 cup TVP crumbles (textured vegetable protein)
1/2 cup bulgur
2 cups water
2-4 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes (enough to make 2 cups worth of double-strength broth)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp Marmite
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

I didn’t take a picture of this step, but bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, then whisk in the bouillon cubes, making a double-strength broth. Add the TVP and bulgur, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in the saucepan and add the onions and celery, cooking until soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the Marmite and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

Add the TVP/bulgur mixture and the rest of the ingredients. If it seems too dry, add a bit of water, broth, or wine.

Simmer, partially covered, for at least half an hour or until thickened.

Serve over spaghetti …

… to your very silly husband.

I also made soup but it was kind of boring and Mark advised it was not blog-worthy. But you can look at it anyway:

Fortinbras was here last night, with his friend from “back home” in Louisiana, Nikki. He made a curry for us (in a mere four hours!) and I took a gazillion photos, so now he’s got to write up a post for you. Y’all might have to help me nag him considering it took him 4 months to make his Christmas cookie post. Here’s a preview:

(Nikki brought me that apron as a gift, isn’t she sweet?!)

Brachtune: not as into being picked up and flung around as Tigger used to be…
Me and Nikki: drinking way too much champers…

What happens to me when I set Fortinbras loose in my kitchen:

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