I learned how to cook lentils last year from a girl who was born and raised in Ethiopia, Africa. She made the most delicious garlicy tomato infused lentils I had ever eaten with this flatbread made of Teff. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was at a vegan cooking demonstration on a Friday night in the hall of a church in the Fenway area of Boston that we all call “The Fens”. I had somehow persuaded my otherwise unwilling husband to attend. I knew he would probably want to skip the whole thing but luckily he was loving me enough that night to suck it up and attend. He ended up leaving happy because he liked most of the food and met another omnivore there dragged by his wife as well. After that I decided I must learn to cook lentils and incorporate them in my diet. They have so many good qualities and I am a sucker for a bean of any sort. So In my steamer I dumped water, salt, garlic, and tomato paste and started cooking my lentils. They take a while and I have learned to pick through them for stones and soak them in water to soften them. But my new favorite thing to do is take them and layer them in pasta or lasagna or any sort of casserole. It adds protein and heartiness without any strange new flavors or weird textures. Even the kids like them and the youngest is pretty much against all bean varieties except canned green beans. So this was the biggest hit of the summer in terms of my use of lentils: Vegan Cheesy, Tomato, Pasta, and Lentil Bake. I think even the mixture over rice would go well but I will try that at Christmas break 🙂
Cheesy Tomato, Pasta, and Lentil Bake
- 1 Bag of Lentils (Green French Lentils or Plain Lentils Work Well)
- 1-2 cans of Tomato Paste
- Granulated Garlic Powder
- (2) lbs of Rotini Pasta (I use the vegetable kind)
Cheesy Tomato Sauce Layers:
- 4 cans diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup of Daiya Mozzarella
- 1/8 cup of Galaxy Foods Parmesan
- 1/2 block Daiya Havarti
- Ground Pepper
- Granulated Garlic Powder
- Preheat Oven to 425 degrees.
- Boil Salted Water for Pasta. Add pasta at rapid boil. Cook until Al dente, Drain and set aside.
- Open all Tomato cans.
- Fill Steamer with lentils after rinsed and picked through. You can presoak them for 30minutes to aid in the cooking process.
- Add water, a healthy amount of salt, and several shakes of garlic to the mixture. Place on Brown Rice setting and begin steaming. You may need to add additional time so check on the lentils for softness and mix 2-3 times during steaming. It may start to get thick so add extra water if needed.
Layering the Pasta Bake!
- Once your lentils are prepared and pasta is cooked. Spray a casserole pan with Pam or Olive Oil Spray.
- Sprinkle bottom with salt and layer with pasta, 2 cans of diced tomatoes*, sprinkle on a layer of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic, then lentils.
- Top with Havarti broken into small crumbled pieces like a feta cheese would be.
- Then repeat but top with mozarella.
- Bake at 425 degrees for at least 30 minutes but no more than 45 minutes. The top should brown slightly.
- The layers will have meted together and form a yummy cheesy sauce.
- Serve hot! Feeds 8-12.
*Optional: Add chopped zucchini or Beyond Meat Chicken Strips to the layers before or after the tomatoes.
Food is Love.
The Hippie Gypsy
The leaves have fallen here in Boston and Thanksgiving is seemingly right around the corner. In a month or so we vegans will be all gorging ourselves on root veggies and Tofurky. I love Thanksgiving. It is one of those days that you can remember just by smell. It has its own foods and own seasonings. I relate Sage and Thyme to Thanksgiving. As soon as I smell them I am like “mmmmmm”. It brings my 10-year-old self back to sneaking stuffing and scoops of mashed potatoes before the Turkey cooled. In my family I am in charge of Thanksgiving. Which I love. I love cooking everything (except the Turkey because the husband does that although I do try to help prep it). I make my own stuffing from scratch and then some bagged for extra and to stuff the turkey which I don’t eat obviously. However who doesn’t have leftovers? I only know one family. My aunt and uncle because they have 11 kids over the age of 16 and many have their own kids. So I was informed there are no leftovers and 20lbs of potatoes involved. It gave me flashes of a catering company trying to work out of my own kitchen. Insanity!
So back to leftovers. We usually have stuffing, roasted veggies, and potatoes. Why not make these leftovers into something you can eat later in the week. It doesn’t have to be thanksgiving everyday for the next month. You may (or may not) get sick of it but transforming it is something that will make it that much better. Or heck just make this casserole as a side dish or a meal anytime in teh fall or winter as it is definitely a hearty and yummy one that my husband gladly eats out of a mixing bowl. Here is my adaptation to a Whole Foods Recipe I noted last thanksgiving that I love for a Butternut Squash Macaroni Casserole.
Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole with a Stuffing Topping
- (1) package of dry bagged herb stuffing
- Water or Veggie Broth
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- (1) Can Coconut Milk
- 2lbs of Butternut Squash Diced into Small Cubes (I buy it already cubed, frozen cubes, or use leftover roasted squash)
- 2tbsp Olive Oil
- (1) White or Yellow Onion Diced
- 3/4-1lb of Pasta (do not use noodles like spaghetti or angel hair)
- 1cup toasted Walnuts or Pecans
- Pam or Olive Oil Spray
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a muffin tin with oil and place nuts in it. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Bake for 10-15minutes to toast them.
- Spray a large casserole dish and place to the side for the casserole.
- In a mixing bowl add broth or water to the dry stuffing and salt, pepper, thyme, and sage and a little bit of melted butter or olive oil helps. When welll combined and wet place to the side. This will be your topping.
- Use a large sauce pan to boil salted water for the pasta. Cover and place on high.
- In a smaller sauce pan place 2tbsp olive oil, salt, and peper over medium until warm adding diced onion into it until soft and golden.
- Take onions and puree them with a mixer or blender and dump back in sauce pan.
- Add coconut milk (I use Goya or 365) and squash to onion pan mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook down.
- When water comes to a boil add pasta and cook until al dente.
- Drain pasta. Spray bottom of pasta sauce pan with olive oil so the pasta does not stick.
- Return pasta to pot.
- When the squash is soft and the mixture has thickened add to the pasta and stir until well combined.
- Then add toasted nuts and 1-2 tablespoons of chopped sage.
- Place mixture in oiled casserole dish and press flat. Sprinkle with salt.
- Top with stuffing mixture.
- Bake for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve immediately. Serves 8.
Food is Love.
The Hippie Gypsy