Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend. I know that – as well as Loverboy knew that when they wrote that cheesy 80s dance track – because it’s Monday and I’m already excited for Friday. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love my work weeks; they’re productive and absolutely insane enough to make the serenity of a few days off that much more appreciated. But that being said, TGIF is certainly one of my favourite acronyms, and one of my many favourite things to do on a weekend is to take a break from the quick fix meals, salads and grabs on the go and actually cook a decent few dishes for myself and friends. I wouldn’t say that anything in my cookbook is extravagant or difficult – but we all know that an extra few ingredients, and the extra few minutes to actually enjoy the cooking process, are truly wonderful things.
I usually start my Saturday morning with a quick jaunt to the grocery store for the week’s grocery essentials, some vino for any upcoming occasion (naturally), as well as a few other new ingredients for whatever fun things I plan to make. The two dishes I chose to whip up this weekend, which resulted in a little scour of my neighbourhood Herb and Spice shop and grocery store aisles, were fabulous. They’re also evidence that the five days of boring lunches and quick dinners are worth it, if it means the light at the end of the tunnel are little treats like these.
SAVOURY SATURDAY: Zucchini Lasagna with Quinoa and Herbed “Cheesy” Marinara Sauce
Note: This is, of course, a vegan dish – but you could absolutely make it with real butter, cream cheese and cheese. I chose the vegan substitutes and it was one of the more delicious things I’ve ever tasted. As well, it’s the kind of healthy lasagna you could eat a whole quarter of and not feel overly bad about!
Time: Approx. 1.5 hours or less
How?: Preheat your oven to 400. Thinly slice two zucchinis the long way into “noodles” – which should amount to 12 noodles. Layer noodles between pieces of paper towel, sprinkling each layer with salt, and set aside to absorb moisture. Combine 1 cup of quinoa, 1.5 cups of vegetable broth, 1/2 cup of passada or tomato sauce, 1/4 of an onion chopped and a little oregano in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the saucepan and lower heat, simmering for 20 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. When it has, add in 2 tbsp of cream cheese (I used Toffuti “Better than Cream Cheese”), 1/4 cup of basil and 1/4 cup fresh parsley, both finely chopped. Stir, adding salt and pepper to taste. This WILL be the most delicious thing you’ve ever made in a pot. Set aside before you eat it all, and layer the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish with the organic marinara sauce. I had to use a quiche dish because I had fresh baking cooling in my 8×8 (poor planning on my part). Blot the remaining moisture from the zucchini noodles and add four noodle strips to the top of the marinara sauce, before spreading on a layer of the quinoa sauce and then a 1/3 cup of the marinara sauce on top of that. Add another layer of noodles, quinoa and marinara. Repeat with the final layer before sprinkling on shredded cheese. I used Daiya soy “cheese,” which is equally as delicious and gooey when baked! Put in the oven for 40 minutes or until crispy and golden. Be prepared to faint after savouring your first bite. This one was a hit and I will be making it again, and again, for many years.
SAVOURY SUNDAY: Sweet Ginger Glazed Potatoes, Parsnip and Carrot served with Smoked Tofu in an Eggplant and Bok Choy Stirfry
Time: 1 Hour
How?: Preheat the oven to 230 degrees. Slice your veggies in 5 cm long sticks. Brush a baking sheet with a little oil and layer in the veggies so they are all flat. Brush them with a little oil as well. Put the tray in the oven for 45 minutes, or until your veggies look golden. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt three tablespoons of butter (I used Earth Balance soy “butter”) on medium heat. Fold in 1 tbsp of Stevia or sugar while stirring, before adding in 2 tbsp of freshly grated ginger and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until glaze thickens. When veggies are done, remove them from the oven and toss with the glaze to coat, before returning them to the oven for 5 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of the veggies baking, squeeze a few slices of smoked tofu (a friend gave me a delicious supply from Vancouver) in a paper towel to remove moisture. Toss into your frying pan on medium heat and throw in any veggies you’d like; I chose bok choy, eggplant and chive. Add 1 tbsp of reduced sodium soy sauce, a little agave nectar or honey, sea salt to taste and any sriracha or chili sauce you have. Stirfry on low to medium heat for 5 or ten minutes, and add both dishes to a plate with a little chili sauce for extra dipping. Voila! Second night of delicious and hearty vegan meals.
Recipe 1 via