Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baked Veggies in Red Sauce topped with “Melted Mozzarella Topping”

Don’t you just love Saturday? I think it is my favorite day of the week. It is wonderful to sleep in until your body wants to get up. Saturday is my only day to sleep in which makes me appreciate it all the more. A girl could get used to this but someone needs to feed my hubby. Even though Dan knew how to cook when we met has forgotten how to do anything in the kitchen. I guess that should be expected since I have done all the cooking for the last 20+ years. Dan will tell anyone that there are two types of people in the world cooks and eaters and we all know which one he is. ;-)

When I asked Dan what he wanted for breakfast he choose a green smoothie again. Like always this one contained: kale, frozen banana, cinnamon, powdered ginger, freshly ground flaxseed, walnuts, a pinch of stevia and fresh soymilk. I processed it in the Vitamix until it was completely smooth. Since the machine was already green I made myself the same thing only with less banana and walnuts and I used water instead of soymilk.

Every weekend not long after breakfast we start to discuss what I am going to make for the 3pm meal with my parents. We both decided I have been making soup and beans too often lately and that I needed to do something different. We talked about a few options but decided that I would bake veggies in red sauce and top it with “cheeze”. I thought about adding beans to the dish which meant I also needed to make some of those since the freezer inventory of home cooked beans was empty.

First I made a pound of pressure cooked garbanzo beans. To 1 pound of dried beans I added 9 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, 4 cloves of peeled cloves of garlic and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I cooked them on high pressure for 32 minutes and allowed the pressure to reduce naturally. In the end I didn’t use them in the meal so they went straight into the refrigerator. If I don’t use them Sunday or Monday they will be frozen in 2 cup containers for future meals. Beans freeze well and are great to have on hand since I don’t like canned beans. It seems to me that canned beans taste metallic plus I don’t like the sodium and other additives they typically include.

Next I knew I needed some red sauce for the next meal. Instead of making a small amount I made a large pot so I would have more intentional leftovers. Why make a little when I can always freeze the extras? This is part of my philosophy of cooking once and eating many times. Every time you do this you are saving yourself a step later. Having items like this in the freezer is a huge help when you are short on time or cooking ambition.

Next I steamed veggies to add to the sauce. In this case I used crimini mushrooms which I cut in quarters, carrots cut into bite-sized chunks and broccoli florets. I stored them in the refrigerator until I was read to put together the dishes to be baked and broiled quickly before dinner.

The last step was making the “mozzarella” to go on top. This literally comes together in 5 minutes. I got the basic recipe from my friend Courtney who always has tasty and healthy recipes to share.  Thanks again for sharing this Courtney.  I made very minimal changes to the recipe, here is what I did:

Melty Mozzarella Cheeze
Serves 8


2 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds or tahini if not using a high powered blender
4 tablespoons arrowroot (you could use cornstarch too)
3 or 4 tablespoons lemon juice (I used 1 Meyer lemon)
1 tablespoon dried onion granules
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
white pepper, to taste
salt, to taste


Combine all the ingredients in your blender and process until completely smooth. The mixture will be very thin when you pour it out of the blender. Don’t worry it gets much thicker when it cooks.

Pour into a sauce pan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until very thick and smooth (it will get very very thick--just keep whisking/stirring).

I made it right before using it and poured it warm over the prepared dishes.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 91.01
Calories From Fat (35%) - 31.82

Total Fat - 2.34g
Saturated Fat - 0.33g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 2.77mg
Potassium - 56.25mg
Total Carbohydrates - 8.3g
Fiber - 1.16g
Sugar - 0.41g
Protein - 1.32g


Much to my surprise my parents cleaned their plates. No one asked what the white topping was, though I am sure they know it wasn’t cheese. They did however eat it all which I thought was great. I guess you can say this recipe is omni approved. 

To make the entire veggie dish place the par cooked veggies in small casserole dishes, top with red sauce and then the melty mozzarella. I baked them until they began to bubble and finished them with dehydrated leeks when they came out of the oven.

I tried to keep the 3pm meal with my parents light because we were thinking of going out to dinner on Saturday. Even though we hadn’t decided I had a feeling we would end up going out. Dan and I both like to relax and chat with everyone at the restaurant so it was a good bet we would end up going which we did. Not to mention when we went tea shopping last weekend we picked up a couple of bags for “the kids” so we had to drop that off. Since we were going to be at the restaurant we might as well go to eat right? ;-)

To accompany the veggie dish I made a side salad of shredded romaine, pineapple, strawberry, dried apricots and sliced almonds. I made a quick dressing of white miso, reduced-fat almond butter and apple cider.

At 5pm we called the restaurant and made a 6:30 reservation. Since we didn’t give them any notice we told them we would make something up from what they had and not to go to any trouble. Did they listen? Of course they didn’t. I felt very guilty because the restaurant was packed and there were people waiting when we got there. Much to our surprise they had our dinner all planned so we went with it. We both love not knowing what is coming to the table other than it is vegan. Are we the only people that like to eat that way? ;-)

When we walked in Jeannine was behind the bar and had to give me a kiss. On the way to the table I got a hug from Corey. I guess you can see why Dan and both feel like part of the family every time we are there. Of course we sat in Aimee’s section where else would we go when she is working? She had our pot of tea waiting for us. Can you tell we are spoiled? I guess you are all starting to understand why we almost always end up at the same place for dinner when we go out to eat.

Our first course was a tofu Caprese salad. Will had skinned the little tomatoes which I thought was a great touch. The tofu was either baked or broiled I didn’t ask which and it had a touch of sesame oil and I think I could detect rice wine. The dish was finished with fresh basil. It was definitely a twist on a Caprese salad but we both really liked it.

The second course was a curried chickpea and spinach dish. The dish was flavored with curried powder, habanero and a touch of red sauce. It had really nice flavor and I appreciated that the spinach was just lightly wilted. This was an extremely filling dish.

The last course was an Asian veggie dish with broccoli, shitakes, edamame, red bell pepper, carrot, snow peas and onions. The sauce included sriracha, rice wine vinegar, agave, habanero, ginger, garlic, and I thought I could detect a hint of five spice. Dan liked the sauce so much he was dipping whole wheat pita into it long after he said he was full.

We like to take our time and talk while we eat so we prefer to have our courses come to the table very spread out which everyone knows. We also have to talk to everyone and find out how they are doing while we are there. I imagine other customers wondered who we are since we hug and chat with everyone at the restaurant all evening long.

Like usual we were still there talking when everyone was cleaning and setting up for brunch. By then we had moved to the bar and were catching up with Jonathan, Will, Jeannine and Jen. We always have to chat and find out how things are going with them and what they have going on. Will has some fun stuff going on with his Master’s thesis that I can’t wait to hear more about, Jen’s boyfriend has almost finished his first month as a commercial flight instructor, Jeannine has her other job as a realtor moving along and we just learned that Jonathan is almost finished with his finance degree. I love talking to people and getting to know them since they are all so unique and interesting.

On the Aimee and Michael front things are going very well. They are both enjoying their classes this semester and Michael is doing extremely well in his MCAT prep class but we knew he would. He is taking it near us at Hopkins and has developed a good relationship with the instructor. He is going to make a wonderful doctor.

We ended up talking to everyone until Michael arrived to pick Aimee up a little after 11 and then walked out with her to say hello to Michael. We are trying to plan our trip to DC with them over spring break since he is very busy with school and MCAT prep.

When we got home we were both wide awake and needed time to wind down before bed. Somehow we were still up at 1:30 in the morning. It will be hard to get up Monday morning at 5am for the gym since we have gotten back to our old night owl ways. I hope we can make that happen since I would like to get back into the routine. I like having my workout finished earlier in the day.

Happy thoughts:

As you have probably guessed we had a good Saturday so I have many things to be thankful for. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• I am very thankful to have such a great neighborhood restaurant where we can go to get a great vegan meal even though it isn’t a vegan restaurant. As you must have noticed by now we always have a great evening when we go there. Both Dan and I are looking forward to the weather change which means we can start enjoying dinner under the trees on the patio again. When the weather is nice we are there quite often relaxing, talking to everyone and enjoying the weather. ;-) We both love having dinner al fresco. There is just something incredibly relaxing about a leisurely dinner outside.

• It was great that my parents ate dinner this weekend both days without complaint. Who knows maybe eventually I will get through to them. Nah, what was I thinking? *shakes head* LOL

• Dan didn’t work at all on Saturday or Sunday which was wonderful. It was nice to spend an entire weekend with Dan where both of us had a chance to relax.

• It was also nice to have our temperatures get over 40 on Sunday. We needed some of this snow to melt. It is time to start warming up now. ;-) I am looking forward to the return of spring.

• I am also grateful that we are both happy and healthy today. That is something that we both used to take for granted. When you are at risk of losing your health it becomes much more precious to you, at least that is what happened to us.

Signing out:

We had a great weekend but it is coming to an end. We spent a relaxing day at home on Sunday we had my parents over for dinner and then we went back to catching up on season 6 of Criminal Minds. It looks like we aren’t going to be finished for a few more days. I am not sure why but I love this show. As my girlfriend Deirdre says it may have something to do with "that fine piece of man candy" on the show. LOL, she does have a way with words doesn’t she? I wonder which actor she could be referring to. ;-)

I hope you had a great weekend and found time to recharge your batteries for the week. Talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. Glad to hear you had a great weekend, although I agree, it is a little sad to see it end. I hope you can enjoy what's left of it. :) BTW, that melty "cheese" sounds yummy - thanks for sharing!

  2. Ali,
    This Italian dish sounds sooo good to me right now. I can't wait to try the "mozzarella cheese!"

  3. I've been reading your posts about using your pressure cooker. Do you have a favourite pressure cooker cookbook? I haven't used one before, but just bought one, so I'm looking for basic cooking times etc. I've saved some of your recipes/methods to try out also.

  4. Oh wow, I must try that "cheese" recipe out. Perfect. And I love the idea of the tofu salad in lieu of buffalo mozz. Great idea. Glad you had a nice weekend!

  5. Tiffany,

    Thanks it was a good weekend and we had a lot of time to relax which was particularly nice. :-)

    It was nice of Courtney to share with me so I could share with everyone. I think the cheese would be good on top of pizza. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


  6. Aimee,

    I have always loved veggies with red sauce and the "cheese" took it over the top. If you try it please let me know you think or any tweaks you make to the recipe.


  7. Tomato Jam,

    I tend to use the times in the booklet that came with my cooker. However I also checked out a few books from the library to try out and you might want to do that too. There was one book I got from the library with many charts of cooking times in the back of the book. I will try to figure out which one that was. If I do I will mention it in a future post.

    I use my pressure cooker mostly for cooking beans, brown rice, and making seitan sausage. I am trying to make more things in it now. You should try the sweet and sour cabbage recipe. I really liked that one. ;-)

    have fun with your pressure cooker,

  8. Heather,

    Since you like the queso I think you will like this cheese. The texture is very similar but a little more "stringy". I was thinking of making this next time with cashews instead of sesame to see how that changed the flavor.

    They used a soft tofu in the caprese and it worked well. That is why I love to go out to eat. I always get good ideas that I can adapt.

    I hope you had a good weekend too. I still can't get over your 73 degree weather.

    hope you have a great week,

  9. Man candy...? LOL
    Yes started with that! LOL
    Well I think your while Saturday sounded lovely and your food at Ian's.....wonderful!
    I am really digging that caprese salad! What a cool way yo present. Were the tomatoes canned or fresh?
    The weather has been strange lately, it got up to 63 degrees on Saturday, weird right!
    I am so glad that you had so much fun at the restaurant with the "kids"

  10. Brandi,

    I loved Deirdre's comment about "man candy". That cracked me up. She is very funny. LOL

    The tomatoes on the salad were fresh. They got a quick blanch to skin them. They used the little ones that are about the size of a golf ball and round they weren't roma tomatoes.

    You had 63 degree weather on Saturday? Wow that must have been amazing! We reached 44 yesterday and thought it was a heat wave. I hope you aren't getting the ice they are predicting for most of the country. We are expecting that tomorrow. Yippee skippy, NOT! *rolls eyes*

    talk to you later,

  11. Sounds like a great weekend all around. I'm jealous of your above freezing temps, it seems like there has been snow on the ground FOREVER around here. We are expecting a blizzard tomorrow, 18 inches or something crazy like that. I can only hope I will at least get out of work because of it ;). Snow is in the forecast all week actually, and so my main concern lies with my Friday night flight. Heading to Las Vegas for some wedding planning, HOPEFULLY!

    I am making a mental note of your garbanzo prep. Great idea on the added spices right into the pressure cooker. Glad you are getting back acquainted with the pressure cooker since finding out no added oil is needed :)

    Your mozzarella would have come in handy this weekend when I made Pizza Stuffed Portobellos. Filing that away for next time. Yours is actually very similar to an instant cheesy sauce that I came up with to serve over steamed veggies. I plan on getting that recipe posted soon. Hope you have a nice week!

  12. Sarah,

    It was a good weekend for us. We actually reached 44 degrees yesterday which was amazing. It was nice to see a little of the snow melt. We are supposed to be involved in the ice storm tomorrow. I hope you miss that one.

    Good luck getting to Vegas for wedding planning. I can only image how excited you are. Have you selected a date? :-)

    The crazy thing about the pressure was that even the book that came with mine said to use oil with beans to keep them from foaming. Thank goodness my electronic friends came to the rescue. Otherwise my pressure cooker wouldn't be making beans and that is my favorite way to use it at the moment.

    I can't wait to hear more about your instant cheezy sauce. Sometimes veggies just need a little something to make them feel more substantial.

    I hope you have a good week and make it to Vegas!


  13. Thanks Alicia, I am very excited! So long as all of our favorite places are available then Oct 8 is the date!

  14. Sarah,

    How fun that you have a date. October will be here before you know it. I am very excited for you. :-)


  15. Alicia

    I am so happy to hear you tried the cheese sauce recipe and that you liked it--and Dan and your parents too! That is great news :-)

    I am glad you were able to go to the restaurant and that you had such a nice visit and time to catch up with all of your friends. It sounds like you had an excellent weekend!



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