Today was one of those days filled with blustery movement from one place to another, with little time to relax, with the calender filled from minute to minute, going from one place to another. Sure, some of the schedule was filled with activities (yoga), as opposed to work (in three different places), but regardless, the day went by in a blur.
A couple months ago, I hopped across the border to stock up on some baking supplies and – having recently received a coupon for a discounted Amy’s frozen item, I decided to buy one of the obscure American ones that we Canadians do not have. With their gluten-free AND vegan choices only available over there, I was excited to choose one. Now, I am not one to buy things pre-made in a box, but frankly, the novelty of a gluten-free vegan frozen food piqued my interest.
That day, I ended up investing in Amy’s Baked Ziti Bowl,a mixture of rice flour noodles, green sweet peas, vegan cheeses (or “cheezes”, if you will) and what they dub “Amy’s superb pasta sauce”. Reading the instructions, I saw it was to be oven-baked for 50 to 55 minutes, the option I will choose of microwaving, any day.
I removed the plastic covered, and saw a nice-sized serving of pasta, topped with a smidge of “mozzarella”, covered in sauce, and dotted with green peas. (At this point, I noted the pleasing look of the peas – I love colour in food, and the interspersed green spheres made me pleased). I covered it in foil, popped ‘er in the preheated oven, and counted down 53 minutes.
Meanwhile, I knew that dinner was going to be a pinch tonight, so I opted to prepare in advance the majority of components. The other day, I had a hankering for parsnips, roasted ’til a little crispy in the oven, and remembered them in my fridge, waiting to soften and crisp-up slowly and wonderfully inside my oven. Soon, component A of my dinner was simple and born – oven-roasted parsnips, tossed with olive oil, salt, and fresh ground pepper.
With Amy still baking her ziti in my oven, I began with the component B. Red swiss chard looked vibrant and wilt-free yesterday, so I opted to cook it down in the slow-cooker with yellow onions, fresh garlic, salt, and fresh ground pepper. A splash of water kept it from burning (and, to note later, I reserved the broth (drippings?) from the chard to enjoy the nutrient filled water tomorrow in a soup.
I’m relatively new to cooking with tempeh, but not relatively new to enjoying it. When I was in my undergrad university, one of the places on campus sold tempeh pitas, and I enjoyed them like a religion (until, of course, I was diagnosed with celiac disease). Since then, I’ve been skeptical to buy tempeh because I wasn’t sure what was gluten-free and safe, but then recently found one. I have prepared it only in three ways, this being the third, and so far, my favourite.
Orange Soy Tempeh with a hint of Maple
I’m a little poor at titling things because I want to elaborate on every taste. I feel like “Orange Tempeh” doesn’t do it justice, and the maple isn’t pronounced enough to go at the beginning… And there is soy sauce, enough to taste it, but not the only taste… Sigh… But alas, it’s delicious.
Juice and zest of one large orange
2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari (I use San-J)
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 garlic clove, smushed and chopped
1 (250g) package of tempeh (pre-steamed)
Mix together all ingredients in a shallow bowl, except for tempeh. Cut tempeh in lovely triangles, each in half about 3/4cm thick. Marinate as long as you can – I did for about six hours. Make sure the marinade covers the tempeh, or turn it half-way.
When it’s done, heat a little oil in a non-stick pan, and bring to medium-high heat. Pluck tempeh pieces from bowl, and fry on each side until browned (I like it, perhaps, blacked). Then reduce to low, pour in marinade, and let ‘er soak it up and simmer until it’s near gone.
Delicious, especially alongside parsnips and chard. I will reuse this marinade for tofu and brown rice, I believe, in the near future.
Backing up, before the cooking and assembling of dinner, but after the marinating, Amy served me my lunch. I chopped up a lovely (er, not so lovely hot-house, out of season pepper) because frankly, enjoying a lunch void of vegetables leaves me aghast.
Amy's Baked Ziti Bowl
I must say that Amy did do a good job. The ziti wasn’t mushy, the ricotta “cheeze” dispersed through the bowl was very dairy-like, and the dotted peas were actually abundant, giving a sweet tinge to the dish. The noodles didn’t crisp or mush from the oven. Dipping in a finger, I smiled remembering her earlier claim; the sauce was, as promised, superb (for what it was, in a frozen dinner).
And it was a good sized serving – perhaps not filling for everyone on their own, but definitely a normal serving of what pasta should be. Overall, I definitely thought it was tasty but would never make the effort to buy it from over the river again, and would never pay $5 that would be simple and delicious to make on my own. If it was available here? Probably not.