First things first… I’m here to tell you, Cracklin’ Oat Bran is basically like crack in a box… Sorry brother, for consuming large quantities of your COB after work…and more importantly, sorry stomach for consuming large quantities of COB after work.
I met the two Veg girls (Meredith and Aspen) during my stint in Public Accounting. Meredith was working there when I started, and Aspen started shortly before I left. We are all extremely sarcastic, and don’t take life too seriously…and I think that is why we all hit it off! Meredith would help me out at work when basically no one else there cared, and Aspen…well, we bonded over “the calculator” incident…which deserves a post all in itself…in due time my friends, in due time. She is also pretty “Awesome At Life” as well!
The VGCC concept:
A couple months ago, we were all talking about what a nuisance cooking a big meal was for one person (or in the case of Aspen, two people) and how much goes to waste. Meredith had the great idea to do weekly/bi-weekly cooking get togethers, where we each pitch in a little, cook a meal together, and then divvy up the leftovers! We love hanging out, saving money and good food, so this seemed like the perfect idea! I joked that “once I get a blog, i’ll feature our cooking sessions on there!”, and thus VGCC was born! I hope you enjoy reading VGCC as much as we enjoy making it happen! =0)
All of the recipes we will feature on VGCC (Veggie Girls Can Cook) will likely be vegan. One of us (Meredith) is full vegan, I am vegetarian, and the other (Aspen) is a “flexitarian”….and the husband (Aspen’s), well he is a full-fledged meat eater… but tries anything we make, and compliments with a smile (even the disaster of a lentil loaf that was served to him a few weeks ago!).
All of our cooking takes place at Aspen’s…because she has a kitchen large enough for 3 girls (and occasionally the living room furniture, when we choose to do “Yoga Night” in the living room of her house!). Plus she has the most adorable dogs ever (besides TOBY)! Win!
Whiskey is a Vizsla, and I’m pretty sure could be Sadie over at Peanut Butter Finger’s twin! Diesel is a Yorkie Rat Terrier cross.. She calls him a “Rat-yo”.
Yesterday, after some doggie time, we got to work in the kitchen. I’m not going to lie, I was NOT a huge contributor in last night’s cooking extravaganza. I basically stirred some onions, and took pictures…but I was cooking in spirit!.
Last night, we cooked “Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream” from Meredith’s new vegan cookbook, “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook”. The recipe was very involved, but like I said…I was basically just a “stand there and look tore up and like I spent the whole day doing exciting accounting all daypretty” contributor. ***am i the only 26 y/o that found the name of this recipe giggle-worthy? ok, moving on….
2 lbs. eggplant
1 lb. zucchini
3 lbs. russet or baking potatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. vegetable broth or red wine
Two 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
Pine Nut Cream
1 lb. silken tofu
1/2 c. pine nuts, plus additional for garnish
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. arrowroot powder
1 clove garlic
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste
1/2 c. dry, fine white breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.
Prepare the vegetables: Wash the eggplant and zucchini, and trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. (Make sure the potatoes in particular are sliced thin enough, otherwise they will either take a long time to cook through or be hard.)
Rub the eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/4 c. of oil among the three and sprinkle the vegetables with salt (except eggplant). Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Drizzle a little extra oil on the eggplant, as it has a slight tendency to stick. Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is okay. Roast the pans of zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes, or until tender.
Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.
***During this time, we (we meaning they) chopped garlic and shallots for our appetizer pasta dishs sauce, and for the main courses’ base. I learned what a shallot was, and after i proclaimed with such excitement “they look like mini onions!!!” i was shot down with a harsh…”kind of”. Anyone else with me here? they resemble small onions on the inside, right???***
Take vegetables out of the oven, and allow to cool.
While the vegetables are cooling (and potatoes are still cooking), prepare the tomato sauce:
Combine the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil and minced garlic in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine/broth and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt.
Make the pine nut cream:
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. Add the tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.
Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan and preheat the oven again to 400F, if necessary. Spread 1/4 c of sauce on the pan, then add successive layers in order of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and half the bread crumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer each of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and bread crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping.
*** like i described on the VGCC tab, VGCC nights have lots-o-laughs. I’ll note a few of the laugh worthy topics, while our dish bakes….
Aspen had just returned from an across the country road trip with her good friend the day before, so she was full of stories of magical places like the “Worlds Largest Truckstop” and gas station’s with hoodlum boys known as the “Harvest Boys”… which the gas station attendant informed Aspen were boys who traveled here from Australia for work and harrassing travelers, apparently.
Discussion of the preparation of our desert shed light on the fact that Aspen used a “mortar and pestal” to grind the cloves used in our “vegan pumpkin custard” (because she likes to pretend she is an indian), which we later found out did not work out very well….pretty sure i’m still picking chunks of cloves from my teeth! i kid, i kid…