Belated Birthday Celebration!

My dad’s birthday was Valentine’s Day but I didn’t get to celebrate with him that night. Our schedules are so conflicting! So I made a deal. I would cook him a feast in celebration! And it would be one that I could partake in as well!

I created another menu, much like I did for my Annivalentinese New Year celebration. This time the theme was Italian! I desperately wanted to use Ashley’s kale pesto recipe, so I based the whole rest of the meal off of that.

The menu went:
Throw-together salad of yummy veggies from the parents’ fridge (this was a last minute addition)
Pesto Lasagna with shitake mushrooms and artichoke hearts
Meat(less)balls topped with roasted red pepper sauce
Spearmint Chocolate Chip ice cream

Since the salad was a last minute addition and I didn’t measure, so I’ll start with the lasagna!

Influenced by the kale pesto I mentioned earlier, I created this unique lasagna. I whipped up the recipe for tofu ricotta I found over at (never home)maker and was blown away by the result. My mom couldn’t stop raving about how much she loved it (despite being a self proclaimed tofu hater) and how she could taste all the flavors in the pesto!

I altered Ashley’s pesto recipe the slightest bit, using only walnuts and reducing the nutritional yeast to 3 tablespoons. I also found that the consistency I wanted used 10 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. I followed the ricotta recipe to the letter.

Pesto Lasagna
1 batch pesto
1 batch tofu ricotta
1/2 package lasagna noodles
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed well, diced
1 ounce dried oyster mushrooms, rehydrated, towel dried (reserving liquid) and diced
1/4 cup mushroom soaking water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, boil some water for the lasagna noodles. Now, the idea to do roll ups came to me AFTER I had already broken the noodles in half and cooked them until they were extremely al dente. So if you aren’t going for the miniature lasagna look and want something really fancy, leave them whole and roll them individually instead of making it casserole style!

Anyhow once the noodles are cooked, strain, rinse and lay them out on paper towels to await their next stage. In the same pot you cooked the noodles in, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, toss in mushrooms and artichoke hearts, seasoning with a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook until the mushrooms and artichokes get a nice beginning caramelization on them and become really fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Grease a 8×8 inch casserole dish with olive oil. Start with a layer of noodles and spread about 1/3 of the pesto on top. Using your hands, crumble about 1/3 of the tofu mixture on top of the pesto and cover that with 1/3 of the mushroom mixture. Repeat these layers until you’re out of either space or mixtures! Slowly pour mushroom water into the dish, being careful not to disturb your beautiful layers.

Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake 40-45 minutes. The edges will start to brown just a bit before it’s completely done!

Onto the meat(less)balls and sauce!

I was SO proud of both meat(less)balls and sauce! I roasted my own red pepper over the stovetop, even! I’ll be making this sauce again and again.. it was that scrumptious! I couldn’t stop eating it with a spoon..

Roasted Red Pepper Marinara
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
10 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped (reserve soaking liquid)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 141/2 oz can diced tomatoes in sauce (unseasoned)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pomegranate balsalmic vinegar
pinch salt
cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large pot, cover and cook over medium/low heat for about 30 minutes or until the onions start to break down. Cool completely and refrigerate overnight. Pulse sauce in a food processor a few times to break down the sauce a bit more and stick it back in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. I ended up pouring mine over the meat(less)balls and baking them, uncovered, about 40-45 minutes alongside the lasagna.

Meat(less)balls
2 cups TVP
1 1/3 cup boiling water (I used the sun-dried tomato soaking water heated to boiling)
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 teaspoons italian herb blend
2 flax eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I baked these beforehand and re-baked them under the sauce since I made them ahead of time. Alternatively you could just serve these straight out of the oven and heat the sauce on the stove.

Rehydrate the TVP with the boiling water and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Add in onion, garlic, nutritional yeast, herbs, flax eggs and olive oil. Combine well and stir in oats, wheat gluten, salt and pepper. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and form mixture into balls slightly smaller than the size of ping pong balls. Bake 20 minutes or until the balls feel firm to the touch. At this point they should be a bit brown on the bottom as well. Serve immediately or cool and store until you’re ready to dine!

My dad enjoyed his meal, too, after getting past the (understandably) strange idea of meatballs sans meat. We all had a second helping, even!

Dinner was followed by ice cream!

Sorry for the blurriness, I was too excited!

I was inspired by Koko’s Kitchen. On a whim I decided to use the dried spearmint leaves I had in my cabinet instead of the peppermint leaves, giving it a whole different flavor. It went over very well!

Spearmint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (adapted from Koko’s Kitchen)
Scant 1/4 cup dried spearmint leaves
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup PACKED kale, destemmed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch salt
1 ounce bittersweet vegan chocolate

Heat 1/2 cup water, spearmint leaves and brown rice syrup until the mixture boils. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.

In a blender, puree milk, 1/3 cup water, kale, vanilla bean paste and salt. Add in spearmint syrup and puree again. Strain mixture into a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. The next day, strain the mixture again before pouring into the ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Just before the mixture finishes, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Pour half of the ice cream into storage container and pour half the chocolate on top of that. Mix these together until the chocolate is well mixed and starting to be.. chocolate bitty. Top with remaining ice cream and remaining chocolate, stirring again. Lid that bad boy and freeze until ready to serve.

I was very happy with how this meal came out. If you’ve got some time on your hands and are up for experimentation, give these meatballs a shot! The texture really is great for having no meat in them! Next time I think I’ll go with a hefty dose of crushed red pepper and cayenne!

Enjoy your evening! It’s off to bed with me!

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10 thoughts on “Belated Birthday Celebration!

  1. Yum- this looks like some die- hard nourishing and whole italian grub! You don’t mess around when it comes to italian fare, do you? 🙂
    I just made Ashley’s kale pesto, too! Loved it and use it on everything.

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  4. Wooooowwww! I want to eat everything here!
    It all looks so good; page bookmarked, especially as I’ve just found some of that vegetable protein in my cupboard and was wondering what to do with it 🙂

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