Busyness has kept me away from this site for about six weeks! The holidays, plus a new kitten, plus the desire to clear out a great deal of clutter from my space – internal, as well as external – have me focused on other things. In early December, we decided to go to the cat adoption shelter and get a new kitty. Welcome Oliver!
We thought getting a kitten would be best for our six-year-old cat, Mister, so that Mister could establish who’s boss. Not to be…. Ollie is one of the most fearless, and most loving kitties I have ever known! I have been spending quite a bit of time simply protecting Mister from Ollie’s zealous approach to life! I’m sure a lot of it is kitten energy, and he’ll calm down a bit with age (she says hopefully.)
At this time, all the lights and decorations are down, the tree is being composted, and I’ve gone through the entire furnace room full of boxes of memorabilia, old files, and miscellaneous stuff with the mantra…..if I’m not using it, and/or I don’t absolutely love it, it’s time to circulate it to those who will use it and/or love it!
I’m also reading the book, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, by Wayne Muller. Muller says in the first paragraph of his book, “We have forgotten what enough feels like. We live in a world seduced by its own unlimited potential. We are driven by a presumptive grandiosity that any economic, social, or political limitations can seemingly be overcome with more speed or technology. But for us, as human beings, our limitations remain constant, eternal, fully intact. Rather than feeling large and omnipotent, our own very limited, human days are likely to feel more cramped, overgrown, and choked by impossible responsibilities. At worst, we feel powerless; no matter how strong our hearts, or how good or kind our intentions. Each day the finish line seems farther away, the bar keeps rising, nothing is ever finished, nothing ever good enough. So we work and add and never stop, never back away, never feel complete, and we despair of ever finding comfort, relief, or sanctuary.”
Sound familiar? It certainly struck a chord in me. I am recognizing a deep calling within to simplify and slow down the pace of my life. I realize that I can’t be the Joyful Eater or the Joyful Anything if I’m rushing through my days, trying to accomplish more than there are hours in the day to get it done.
I’m recognizing that I am losing track of things. I simply can’t remember where I put my keys, my glasses, my cup of tea, because my mind is chock full of thoughts about what I should have done an hour ago, and what I need to do an hour from now, tomorrow, next week. I am just not fully here, not fully present to the precious moments of my day. How can I experience joy if I’m not fully present to my life?
You may be asking…..what does this have to do with plant-based eating? One of the things I’m aware of is that there are many people who have an interest in eating a more plant-based diet, but they don’t see how to make it happen because they barely have enough time and energy to get a decent, familiar, and relatively easy meal on the table. How can they possibly do the research about nutrition, find all the necessary ingredients, and spend more time in the kitchen?
One of my new year’s intentions is to simplify my vegan lifestyle, and to help others if they wish to do the same. I’d like to share recipes that save time and energy, and yet are delicious and nutritious. While this yummy “nut loaf” takes a bit of effort, initially, it makes enough to have several delicious meals for the busy week!
For our Christmas dinner, we enjoyed this Cashew and Quinoa Loaf smothered in mushroom gravy. It compliments traditional holiday side dishes such as dressing, sweet potatoes, and roasted vegetables. With the leftovers, you can boil some small potatoes, or cook some rice, couscous, or quinoa, add some steamed broccoli or a green salad, and you have a delicious, super nutritious, plant-based meal with very little effort! For the next meal, put a slice of it on some bread, cover with hot mushroom gravy, add a salad, and you’ve got another meal! Depending on the number of diners, you can have anywhere from 3-5 additional meals on hand and ready to go! And…there’s no soy. It’s all nut and grain protein.
Another great thing about this dish… it slices best if you cook it the day before, refrigerate overnight, and then slice it when it’s cold. Then, simply warm the slices (I did this in a pan on the stove, but it can also be done in the oven, or simply slice it and then allow the slices to come to room temperature, and pour hot gravy over the top.) This makes for a very easy cooking day for your holiday celebration! And…you have a very delicious, and elegant entree!
Here is the recipe for Cashew and Quinoa Loaf, followed by Mushroom Gravy.
Cashew and Quinoa Loaf (8-10 slices)
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- 1 cup whole grain breadcrumbs (I used quinoa for a gluten-free loaf)
- 4 tablespoons wheat germ, plus more as needed (I used quinoa flakes)
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons vegetable broth, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1/2 cup almond or cashew milk, plus more as needed
- zest of one large lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Fresh pepper
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced sweet red pepper
- 2 tablespoons water or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional; I did not include this)
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with unbleached parchment paper, allowing 2-3 inch overhang on each side of the pan.
Place the cashews in a blender or food processor and process until they become coarse crumbs.
To make the loaf, stir together the cashews, breadcrumbs, quinoa and wheat germ in a medium mixing bowl until combined.
Place the onion, olive oil, tamari and vegetable broth into a medium saute pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute one minute more. Add the onion mixture to the cashew mixture and stir until combined.
Place the almond milk, lemon zest, marjoram, salt and pepper into a medium bowl and stir until combined. Stir the almond milk mixture into the cashew mixture. If the cashew mixture seems dry, add more almond milk one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is slightly wet, but holds together easily. Or, if the cashew mixture seems too wet, add more wheat germ one tablespoon at a time until the mixture holds together. Set the cashew mixture aside.
For the filling, place the onion, sweet pepper, olive oil and broth into a medium saute pan and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and place in a medium mixing bowl. Cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the optional vegan cheese, if using.
Firmly press half of the cashew mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Top with the filling. Using a rubber spatula or back of a spoon, spread the filling over the cashew mixture in an even layer. Top with the remaining cashew mixture, spreading it into an even layer with a spoon or spatula.
Fold the excess parchment paper over the top of the loaf and press down. This will keep the loaf moist while baking. Press down again to make the loaf more compact. This will help the loaf hold together.
Bake the loaf for 20 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and peel back the parchment paper that is covering the top of the loaf. Place the loaf back in the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the loaf is slightly golden in color, firm to the touch, and heated through. Remove the loaf from the oven and cool for 20-30 minutes.
If you’re not concerned about nice uniform slices that hold together, turn the loaf onto a serving platter and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Cut the loaf into very thick slices, using a serrated bread knife. (I have found that the loaf does not hold together well unless chilled well and sliced. That is why I recommend you make the loaf the day before, refrigerate overnight, slice, and then reheat or serve at room temp with hot mushroom gravy).
Note: To cook quinoa: Thoroughly rinse 1/2 cup quinoa under cold running water. Place in saucepan with 1 cup of vegetable broth or water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid absorbed.
Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy (double or triple this if you like lots of gravy!)
- 3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
- 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
- 1/4 cup vegan margarine
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme, marjoram)
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, melt the margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Saute for just a minute or two over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.
Experiment with this dish, and let me know how it goes! I’m always interested in what people like, don’t like, want more or less of!
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU, AND….JOYFUL EATING!
- Warning – cute cat photos (tinkerbelllives.wordpress.com)