♥ Comfort Food Extravaganza (a.k.a. ‘Cleaning Out The Freezer’ Meals)

The pre-move panic is beginning to set in. Luckily for me, professional  movers will be doing the grunt work. Hey, maybe they will actually grunt while they do the work! The fact that I am totally anti-clutter (I am willing to concede that I might be a touch anal-retentive with regard to my organization skills!) should make the pack-out relatively easy for all of us. But, the pantry is the one exception to my anti-clutter rule. I have kept it well-stocked so that I always have the essentials on hand for cooking and baking. Perhaps a bit too well stocked: the pantry has taken over the two car garage (that has never actually had a car parked inside of it). I have a feeling that during the next few weeks the meals around here will get more interesting as we attempt to reduce the pantry items on hand!

First up, though, are the cram-packed freezers and the odds and ends that are stored within them. We stopped buying frozen foods several weeks ago, but what to do with the multiple bags of pre-cooked rice and lentils that we stashed away for later use? At J’s request, more “classics” from his carnivorous childhood . . . and enough food to last a week!

♥     ♥     ♥

Not Meat Loaf

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked brown rice

2 cups cooked lentils

1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped mushrooms

1 onion, chopped fine

1 green bell pepper, chopped fine

1 carrot, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 to 1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 package Mori-Nu firm or extra-firm tofu

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

3 Tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

2 Tablespoons raw wheat germ (or flax meal)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce Ingredients:

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup mild chili sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground chili paste (Sambal Oelek)

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 Tablespoon dry ground mustard

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two loaf pans with non stick cooking spray; set aside.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet, sprayed with a bit of olive oil, over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, carrot and garlic; cook until soft. Let cool and then place in a large mixing bowl with the oats (I never measured the oats before, except by handful, but this last batch I measured out 1/2 cup of oats).

Meanwhile, pulse the walnuts in the food processor until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients, except the sauce ingredients, and combine thoroughly. Add this mixture to the mixing bowl with the vegetables and the oats; stir well.

Divide the loaf mixture between the 2 prepared loaf pans, pressing it down into the pans evenly.

Mix together the sauce ingredients and spread evenly over the top of both loaves (or double the sauce recipe and pass the extra sauce when serving and/or use as a spread on meat loaf sandwiches the next day).

Bake 1 hour, 15 minutes.  Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving. It’s easiest (and neatest) to slice the loaf directly from the pan to the plate. We serve our “meat” loaf with mashed potatoes: unpeeled and cooked with several cloves of whole garlic and then mashed with non-dairy butter, soy milk and ground pepper. Yummy!

Even better: Not Meat Loaf sandwiches, because the loaf is even better the next day!

♥     ♥     ♥

And then we made cabbage rolls. J loves them, but I just cannot get excited about them. Cabbage rolls are another food (remember the Sloppy Joe story?) from my childhood that I detested: greasy ground beef rolled up in cabbage leaves with tomato sauce poured over the top. Not much flavor and not very good, either. If you are beginning to suspect that my mother was not a  very good cook, you are absolutely right!

I like my version of cabbage rolls better because I added plenty of flavor, from top to bottom. Anyway, here they are: it looks like a lot of work, but this recipe makes at least 2 meals and a few lunches, too.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Makes about 16 rolls

Ingredients:

Cabbage leaves:

1 large head green cabbage

2 quarts water

Filling:

1 large onion, finely chopped (I used red onion, because I had it)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 large stalks celery with leaves, finely chopped

2 carrots, grated

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1/4 cup dried)

3/4 cup Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) mixed with 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons  boiling vegetable broth (or water)

1 cup cooked lentils

1 cup cooked brown rice

Filling Sauce:

2 Tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons Bubbies Horseradish (I used beet horseradish because I had an open jar of it in the fridge)

1 Tablespoon ginger root, grated

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon celery seed

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon ground savory

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Topping Sauce:

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 (14.5 oz.) can tomato purée

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

3/4 cup red wine

2 Tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon yellow or brown mustard seeds

Topping:

1 large (or 2 small) Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

Leftover cabbage core/leaves, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Non-dairy sour cream, optional

Directions:

In a large stockpot, bring the 2 quarts of water to a boil. Carefully remove the center core of the cabbage. Add the head of cabbage to the water and cook for about 3 minutes (the outer leaves will turn bright green and tender). Lift the cabbage from the water (this is where pronged roast/turkey lifters come in handy) to a plate and remove the outer leaves to paper towels on a plate to drain. Return the cabbage to the boiling water and repeat the cooking-and-removing-the-leaves process until you have about 20 good leaves for rolling and the entire head of cabbage is steamed.

Meanwhile, spray a large cast-iron skillet with olive oil and warm over medium to medium high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, carrot and the mushrooms until tender. Set aside to cool while you assemble the rest of the filling.

Place the TVP in a large mixing bowl and reconstitute it with the vegetable broth (or water) heated to the boiling point. Let it stand about 10 minutes, then fluff the TVP with a fork. Add the lentils, rice, chopped parsley and the cooled vegetables. Whisk together the filling sauce in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and stir into the TVP/vegetable mixture.

In large (2-quart) measuring cup, whisk together the topping sauce ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an extra-large (11 x 15) glass baking dish (or 2 smaller glass dishes) with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.

Trim the center vein from the bottom of each cabbage leaf and fill the center with the TVP/vegetable mixture (1/3 to 1/2 cup, depending on the size of the cabbage leaf). Fold both sides of the cabbage leaf over the filling and roll the leaf  up and place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat the process until the dish is filled. Pour the remaining sauce mixture over the stuffed cabbage rolls to completely cover them, using a knife to move the sauce down the sides of the dish and between the rolls. Sprinkle any leftover filling, along with the apple/cabbage/parsley topping, over the top of the sauce.

Place the baking dish in the oven with a large cookie sheet on the rack below it  to catch drips and bake for 90 minutes, uncovered. Let the dish stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream on the side (optional).

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3 responses to “♥ Comfort Food Extravaganza (a.k.a. ‘Cleaning Out The Freezer’ Meals)

  1. Beautiful food! Funny thing, growing up (omni) I hated meatloaf. Vegan meatloaf, I love! Yours looks great (love the brown rice element) and the sandwich looks particularly delish!

  2. I am sooooooo making the “not meat loaf” for dinner tonight!! Yummy looking, I am going to be thinking about this all day…. Yay!!

  3. @ JL: f it weren’t for the man (and the man/boy) of the house, I probably wouldn’t even be trying to veganize the “classics” (Sloppy Joes, Meatloaf, Cabbage Rolls, etc.) because I didn’t like them growing up omni, either. I never considered doing without those dishes any sort of a deprivation! Vegan meatloaf is awesome (and even better the next day) . . . who knew?!

    @ Nfroio: leftover Not Meat Loaf sandwiches with avocado – nothing better! 🙂

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