Another Week

It’s been a week since superstorm Sandy touched down in the greater tri-state area and wreaked havoc. A week of working from home, running as much as possible, and trying to keep up with the news while simultaneously trying to keep my tears at bay. It’s hard to believe that places I grew up and know so well have been forever changed; and more importantly than that, the friends and family that have had their lives changed as well. As I mentioned last week, I was lucky enough to retain power through the storm and not to suffer any damages myself. My office, as well as my parents, however, haven’t had power since late Sunday, with reports of it not coming back until the end of this week. While it’s easy to get angry at a lack of heat and power, in the grand scheme of things, it could be much worse.

That being said, even though our oven isn’t working, I’ve been cooking up a storm. My most recent creation was vegan buffalo lasagna. All my GI woes have gotten a little better, and while going gluten-free didn’t seem to make a difference, my doctor has suggested I lay low on dairy. I’m still eating dairy, just a lot less. At my last appointment when trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting much better, I just so happened to mention that I loved cheese, and I watched my doctor immediately scribble that information on his legal pad, with exclamation points to follow the statement. Things have been going better, but I’ve also upped my medicine, so we’ll see what happens when I start to dial the medicine back. So, to cater to my new reduced dairy diet and vegetarianism, this particular recipe is dairy and meat free! You can use regular cheese and dressing (and of course add in chicken), but you should give this version a try!

Vegan Buffalo Lasagna
– Serves 4 –  

1 block firm tofu
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 cup Frank’s red hot
1 cup vegan Ranch dressing (i.e. Follow Your Heart)
8 oz. vegan shredded mozzarella cheese (i.e. Daiya)
9 “no boil” lasagna noodles

1. Press the tofu to get out as much water as possible.
2. Meanwhile, combine the Frank’s and ranch dressing together in a bowl.
3. In a separate large bowl, break up the tofu using a fork until it resembles ricotta cheese.
4. Add in the nutritional yeast and 1/2 cup of the dressing mixture, stirring to combine.
5. Take 4-6 tbsp of the dressing mixture to generously coat the bottom of your slow cooker.
6. Layer 3 no boil noodles, followed by 1/3 cup of the tofu mixture, and a 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat.
7. After adding the last 3 noodles, pour the remainder of the dressing mixture, being sure to coat everything. Top with the remaining cheese.
8. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 2 hours.

Cupcakes for Dinner

I’ve baked my fair share of cupcakes on the blog, but until Tuesday night, I hadn’t tried my hand at a savory cupcake. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to try, but when I stumbled upon Can You Stay For Dinner’s version, which is actually inspired by a HungryGirl recipe, I knew I wanted to make my own version.

Using what I already had in my pantry and refrigerator (with the addition of the wonton wrappers), I made 12 “cupcakes” which was enough for dinner on Tuesday as well as lunch on Wednesday for both myself and my fiancé. It was fun telling people I had cupcakes for dinner and seeing the shock on their face, especially after I explained what I actually made. I think the great thing about these little guys is how you can really put whatever you want in them, and completely control how much you want to have… since I usually cut myself a giant piece of lasagna from a tray of it and never finish it, this is much more efficient. And more importantly, I think they honestly taste just like lasagna.

These would be awesome at a party – perfect little portable meals! I’ve been a big fan of wonton wrappers ever since I made my own eggrolls, and a few different variations, and now I’m just trying to think of other ways I can use them. I’m really looking forward to making some more savory cupcakes, and also discovering more ways to use wonton wrappers!

Lasagna Cupcakes inspired by Can You Stay for Dinner
– makes 12 cupcakes –

2 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz soy crumbles (I used Bocca)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion diced
1/2 green pepper diced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp oregano
1 cup chunky tomato sauce
12 wonton wrappers
1 cup light ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cupcake or muffin pan with non-stick spray, and place a wonton wrapper in each cup, making sure to mold to the shape.
2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat, adding onion, pepper, and garlic, followed by 1/2 tsp of oregano and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
3. Using the same skillet, add the soy crumbles and additional 1/2 tsp of oregano and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Sautee about 5-10 minutes.
4. Add onion and pepper mixture to soy crumbles. Add tomato sauce, stirring to combine and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl combine ricotta cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.
6. Distribute each cup with some of the ricotta mixture, followed by some of the sauce mixture, and top it off with a sprinkle of the mozzarella cheese. Fold over the excess wonton wrapper into the filled cup.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until wrappers begin to turn a golden brown and crisp.

An Early November Fiesta

Similar to Tuesday’s dinner, Thursday was another long prep meal. It actually required to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours, so I prepared everything on Wednesday post-run then threw it in the oven after work on Thursday. Thankfully I read the directions way before I planned to make it, giving me enough time to figure out which day of the week would be best to have it.

I’ve somehow been subscribed to Betty Crocker’s weekly e-mails that come Sunday nights. Often times I don’t really find anything I’m interested in (they’re your typical family styled meal), but every so often I find a gem. Enter the Fiesta Taco Chicken Lasagna (that’s a mouthful!). I decided to omit the chicken just to make things a little easier on myself as well as the black olives because the fiancé isn’t a big fan, and instead of taco sauce I used salsa to give it more texture.

These big bakes with a fiesta, Mexican, or Southwestern label seem to be some of my favorite meals (like this one, or this one). They take some time to prepare because of all the ingredients, but in the end it’s so worth it. I imagine you could throw some eggs into this bad boy to make it a great brunch item. Of course the mention of brunch brings up thoughts of booze (is that normal?), and this would probably go quite nicely with a giant margarita… yes please!

While it wasn’t the most photogenic meal I’ve made, it was delicious. The fiancé was extremely impressed at how great it was, despite it being “a big bunch of mush.”

Since the recipe makes enough to feed a family, I’ll be enjoying this for days.

Taco Fiesta Chicken Lasagna
– Serves 4 –

2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chiles, undrained
1/4 cup taco sauce
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 (16-oz.) can Old El Paso® Refried Beans
1/2 cup sour cream
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
12 oz. (3 cups) shredded colby-Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives, if desired
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Spray 15×12-inch sheet of foil and 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine tomatoes and taco sauce; mix well. Stir in chicken. In medium bowl, combine refried beans and sour cream; mix well.
Spread about 1 cup chicken mixture in bottom of sprayed baking dish. Top with 4 uncooked noodles, breaking to fit if necessary. Spread with half of bean mixture and 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the cheese, half of the onions and half of the olives.
2. Layer 4 more noodles, remaining bean mixture, 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture and 1 cup cheese. Top with remaining 4 noodles, chicken mixture, onions, olives and cheese. (Be sure top noodles are covered.) Cover with foil, sprayed side down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
3. Heat oven to 350°F. Bake covered lasagna for 50 minutes. Uncover baking dish; bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until bubbly and thoroughly heated. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with cilantro. If desired, garnish each serving with dollop of sour cream, chopped tomato and shredded lettuce.