My next birthday blog post is from my best friend Lauren. We were so close growing up that our teachers literally wondered what was going to happen once we graduated and went off to separate colleges. Our high school band teacher was especially concerned. And yes, I just revealed the fact that we both were in band all the way through high school. Photo evidence?
Me & Lauren & our French Horns. Yeahhhh… Well, now that I’ve given away my
deepest darkest nerdiest secret, I will turn the blog over to Lauren…
Elise and I go way back. (Don’t ask)
I like to think we’ve matured a bit since then… she used to be my rather immature friend that would scribble on my homework minutes before I had to turn it in. True story. That was in 7th grade. In the intervening years, she’s introduced me to some pretty great things: *NSYNC, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, the Lair of the Bear, water polo… And thanks to her more recent influences, I may have to add vegan-ish food to that list.
Elaine, Lauren, Elise [November 2010]
To preface this: I am not vegan, or even vegetarian. I don’t eat much meat, but that’s honestly more a product of my laziness in cooking than anything else. That being said, my laziness in cooking is mostly due to my schedule. I actually love baking and cooking – I just have trouble finding the time. When I saw Elise last month, I told her I was trying to push myself to try some new things in the next year (in anticipation of an approaching “big” birthday…), and cooking with some veg-friendly options seemed like a good start.
Like Elise, I spend my days in the hospital (I’m a 4th year medical student). Unlike Elise, I don’t usually do the whole get up a few hours early so you can work out, make coffee, eat breakfast, etc. thing. With the hours I’ve worked this last year, it’s a good day if I get up early enough to dry my hair before heading to the hospital. So here’s my attempt at channeling Elise – kale, oats, seitan, and work eats included!
I’m currently working nights in the Emergency Department. The night schedule’s actually been kind of nice because I’m up by early afternoon and have a few hours before I need to be back at work. Enter: French press coffee (new obsession – it just feels so leisurely!) and banana / strawberry / yogurt / orange juice / KALE smoothie.
I’ve been super skeptical of Elise’s green monsters, but I had kale in the fridge for my dinner recipe and figured I’d try it. Not going to lie – already have it back on my next shopping list… I think it makes the smoothie texture even better.
After a couple hours of studying, I was ready for “breakfast” (at 4 pm). Inspired by Elise’s breakfast concoctions, I made up some oats with apple and pumpkin.
Tastes like fall! Staying true to my Elise impersonation, I packed up some work eats before changing into scrubs and heading out the door.
Salad with kale, quinoa, corn, carrots, and chickpeas. I’d actually never eaten kale before this (besides the morning smoothie) and even though I forgot Elise’s suggestion of blanching or steaming it, I really liked it! I probably could have even put the dressing on before packing it up and it wouldn’t have gotten soggy.
Garlic Expressions salad dressing – shout out to Perrysburg, Ohio! (Gotta find the good things about being stuck in Ohio…)
I’m still a slave to the Diet Coke. (At least I just packed one) Lunchbox stuffed full. And before you ask – I have no explanation for why they thought this was a good idea to give us lunchboxes with this color/design. Or for why we all think it is still a good idea to use them on a daily basis…
The next day, after an ER shift full of chest pain, leg swelling, choking, and not one, but two people that decided to punch walls and break their hands, I got some sleep in preparation for an ambitious dinner endeavor. I saw this recipe on NYT Recipes for Health and thought it fit the bill. Even though it’s not vegan, it combined a few ingredients I’d never used and sounded perfect for the stormy weather we’ve been having out here in the Midwest. I decided to really go big and test out Elise’s claim that making seitan “gets an unnecessarily difficult rap.” I used her tutorial recipe, but couldn’t find nutritional yeast (maybe I didn’t know where to look, but I blame Ohio grocery stores).
Had some trouble with flipping them, but I promise they taste better than they look.
Even Glitch thought so!
I mostly followed the NYT recipe, with the exception of adding seitan into the kale-bulgur mixture.
[see recipe at the end of the post]
I could have eaten that part by itself (and may have had a small bowl – strictly for testing purposes).
The tomato sauce was unusual with the sweetness and spices, but really good. I also have lots of leftover seitan. Suggestions?
It took almost 45 minutes in the oven for the middle to set, but the finished product was worth it!
Now I’m trying to figure out what to take on next – after I find people to help me eat the rest of this casserole. Somehow I don’t think will be much of a problem!
*Oh my gosh Lauren! I am extremely impressed, to say the least! Knowing how insanely busy you are in medical school, the fact that you made seitan from scratch for such a multi-step gourmet meal is really amazing. I am so happy that you enjoyed it – I just wish I lived closer so I could sample it myself!!
For those who are drooling from the above photos, here’s the recipe.
NYT Bulgur and Kale Casserole (with home-made seitan)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
- 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, quartered if you have a food mill, peeled, seeded and chopped if you don’t, or 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice, or crushed tomatoes in purée
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 pound kale, stemmed and washed, or a 10-ounce bag of stemmed, washed kale
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup coarse bulgur (No. 3), cooked
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 ounces (approximately 1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup thick plain low-fat yogurt
- Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
1. Make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute, and add the tomatoes, salt to taste, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, paprika and allspice. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the tomatoes are bubbling. Stir together, turn the heat back to medium-low, partly cover and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sauce is thick and fragrant, 25 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat. If your sauce is chunky, put through a food mill or pulse in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, blanch the kale in salted boiling water for 4 minutes or steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender. Rinse with cold water and squeeze dry. Chop fine (you can do this by pulsing in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.)
3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. When it begins to smell fragrant, in about 30 seconds, stir in the chopped kale. Toss together and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the bulgur and dill, combine well and remove from the heat.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a 3-quart baking or gratin dish. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, and spoon in the bulgur and kale. Spread in an even layer. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan on top and cover with the remaining tomato sauce, spread in an even layer.
5. Beat together the eggs, yogurt and 2 tablespoons of the remaining Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Spoon over the tomato sauce and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. Place in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes or longer before serving.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Options for advance preparation: All of the elements of this casserole will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, as will the assembled casserole, without the egg-yogurt topping. Make the topping right before baking. The casserole can be baked ahead and reheated.
To cook the bulgur, bring 2 cups water with salt to taste to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the bulgur, and when the water comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, place a clean dish towel over the pan and cover with the lid. Let sit 10 minutes.
Nutritional information per serving (8 servings): 220 calories; 3 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 78 milligrams cholesterol; 26 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 178 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 13 grams protein