Wednesday, December 1, 2010

meatless Monday #5: El Fin

On Monday, I got a bit distracted by the food safety news of the day, but that by no means translates into me abandoning my November challenge. The final Monday of November, World Vegan Month, was meatless in the Rivera house, just like all of the others. Mission: Accomplished.

The Morning and Afternoon On My Own

As soon as I woke up I found out that Monday was the day that the Food Safety bill would finally be making it to the Senate, so I was immediately distracted. I spent most of the morning and afternoon, reading, commenting and, ultimately blogging all about the latest news. I was enthralled, and not feeling too much like spending time in the kitchen on myself.

So what's a girl to do? I had to nourish myself. I couldn't not eat. Then I remembered: I have fruit! Apples are in season. My plan was just to grab an apple to nosh on for breakfast and then have a normal lunch, but by lunchtime I was still immersed. Therefore, I went for a clementine and a banana.

In the past, eating just fruit like this, with nothing besides water to accompany it, would have been a nightmarish suggestion for me. I would have, instead reached for something packed with gluten - a bagel, an English muffin, cereal - swearing that, "Eating just fruit makes me sick!"...and it really did, it is not that I was making this up. In the past, if I only ate raw fruit, my tummy would be tumblin' for the rest of the day, but it doesn't anymore. I don't know if it was reacting to whatever crazy inflammation was already going on inside of me or what, but now, when I eat fresh, raw fruit, it is calming to my tummy, nourishing, and surprisingly filling.


I started off the meatless Mondays dinners with my husband's favorite meatless meal: pasta with marinara sauce. I decided to end the meatless Monday dinners off with one of mine: lentils and macaroni. I realized that without this opportunity, my husband will always vote down this meal and never have the chance to try it. I have made them before for myself, for a take-to-work lunch, but I wanted to see if there were any interesting recipes around to use to really knock my husband's socks off. I found a basic recipe on from Lidia Bastianich (another trusted chef name around this home). Here is the recipe (posted by DrGaellon):
Lentils and gluten-free pasta


    • 2 cups lentils
    • water
    • 2 celery ribs, cut in 1/2-inch dice
    • 2 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch dice
    • 1 small onions, cut in 1/2-inch dice
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
    • 2 cups whole canned tomatoes, crushed by hand
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
    • 1 lb rigatoni pasta ( or other chunky tubular pasta)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • chopped parsley


  1. Place lentils in a large pot. Add enough water to just cover. Add celery, carrot, onion and bay, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until it just begins to turn golden. Add the lentils (vegetables, liquid and all) and tomatoes, salt and red pepper flake. If it seems thick, add a splash of water from the pasta pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until reduced by about a third, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add the rigatoni to the boiling water and cook until ALMOST al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the lentils to finish cooking for the last 1-2 minutes. Finish with a drizzle of raw olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley.
I made one substitution, of course. Instead of using rigatoni, I used the gluten-free penne pasta I had on hand. Everything else was followed to the tee! One major difference in this recipe and the one I have used in the past was the addition of the crushed tomatoes - that added a really nice melody of flavors, whereas when I typically have lentils and macaroni the flavor is all lentil with a little bit of veggie mixed in! The lentils really soaked up the tomato - you can see the difference by looking at the picture below which was taken shortly after I added the tomatoes:
Lots of tomato juice, almost soup or stew-like. The juice was almost all gone by the time the pasta was added! (I did have to add pasta water.)
 My husband really liked it. He even said at one point, "This gives carrots a really good flavor," (he is constantly battling over how to make carrots appealing somehow). Admittedly, while I was cooking he was pacing the kitchen muttering things like, "Lentil. What the heck is a lentil? I don't know about this..." (confirming my suspicions that if I did not take this meatless Monday opportunity I never would have sold them on this), finally erupting into, "How many more meatless Mondays are there?"
My response, "Well... I wanted to talk to you about that -"
"Nicole. How many more?"
"Today is 'officially' the last one of our challenge."
He erupted. FIELD GOAL! Both arms shot into the air, a smile from ear to ear. I swear, you would think he just won the Super Bowl. My heart broke, but was then filled again, realizing this was more of a sacrifice for him than me and he did it all for me. With that spark of happiness, I decided I would hold off my request for extending meatless Mondays for just a little bit.
When I served the meal to my husband, I knew what he was thinking, "I am going to be so hungry after this!" so I told him - you watch, those lentils are going to fill you up faster than a meat serving that size ever would. I was right. He barely made it through his bowl and was surprised by that. He enjoyed it, was satisfied by it and surprised by it - all in all I think it was a good way to end off the meatless Mondays challenge.
While I don't normally post about desserts (because we don't have them that frequently), this was the Monday after Thanksgiving, so there were still remnant sweets all around us. One of which being a Mrs. Smith's Apple pie that was never heated up. I decided, in a "thank you" to my husband, to surprise him with some late night apple pie. I knew this was dangerous since I couldn't share it with him, so I was essentially making one pie for one man, but I was hoping the late hour would at least encourage him to spread it out over the week.
I did not expect to be so enamored with the aromas myself. By the time the pie was out of the oven and cooling, I was in agony - I wanted some of that deliciousness for myself. I was so upset with my gluten-free, dairy-free restrictions and, to be honest, what was weird, is that I never even liked pie before. Something had to give.

**Divine Inspiration**

(All apologies, it never occurred to me in my sweet-tooth desperation to photograph this silly masterpiece!)

I took an apple, washed it and cut it into chunks and put them all in a very small pot (if I had a small ramekin it would have been cooler). I sprinkled cinnamon all over the apple chunks and then sprinkled a little brown sugar (I was going to do honey, I was debating - I don't know why I ultimately went with the sugar). I put the pot in the oven at 350ยบ for 30 minutes (that's how long my husband's pie had to cool). When I took it out, I mashed it once with my masher (I might skip this next time). Then, I mixed it all up and put it in a bowl. IT WAS DELICIOUS! ...And it was gluten-free and dairy-free so HA! to my insides!! I can still have dessert.


I would like to spend some time reflecting on the entirety of the meatless Mondays for World Vegan Month challenge, but for now I will say that this past Monday, the last of the five I went to bed a very happy girl. 
Interested in how the other meatless Mondays turned out? Here they are:


  1. Oh this does look really good. I haven't had lentils in ages. I also loved the story of it came to be! :)

  2. Thanks, I often wish there was some media that could capture the food experience better than just my camera - I don't do it enough justice. I am working on it, though ;)


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