A “maybe I will or maybe I won’t” vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I’ve had it marked off on my calendar for weeks. From November 28th through December 4th runs a big blue line reading “Personal Retreat?” It has been a really, really busy few months. Since March I’ve been enjoying a level of activity and socializing I hadn’t experienced since getting sick over five years ago. But even though I’ve been having a great time, now I’m in an energy deficit, so I thought it might be nice to take a week off from plans and activities and just hunker down at home.

A variety of vacuum-packed meals from Gobble Green

A few weeks ago I signed up through Groupon to get a heavily-discounted delivery of a week’s worth of vegan, gluten-free meals from a company called Gobble Green. They’re down in my giant second freezer now – seven days worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. One of the things I spend the most energy on each week is planning, shopping, and cooking for meals, so I thought I might take advantage of having this week of prepared food to treat myself to a real break. But here’s the thing… I really like seeing my friends. I don’t have enough time as it is to see everyone I’d like to as often as I’d like. And I’m going on an actual weeklong silent meditation retreat later in December. So now that the time has come I’m finding myself reluctant to stick to this personal retreat plan.

Mostly what I want to catch up on (besides rest, which is the most important thing, obviously) is my darn Project Life. It’s a very cool photo-a-day project that I began back in January and was doing really well on. But then I started to get behind this summer and now I haven’t made it past June! My printer broke, so I couldn’t keep up with printing photos, I got behind on the “journaling” (which is writing a little card to go with each photo) because it takes a good amount of time, and at a certain point I started forgetting or actively putting off taking my photo each day. But I really want to see this project through. I do have photos for a lot of the days between June and now (significantly more than I would have if I hadn’t been doing this project), so I just need a good chunk of time to organize the photos on my computer, have them printed at Walgreen’s, and then write up the sixty million journal cards to go with each picture. This is the kind of project I never finish, so I really want to show myself I can do it. And that means getting caught up before the end of 2010.

All this is a really long way of saying I’m going to make a menu plan for this week. I do have a CSA box coming on Wednesday, for one thing. If I decide to keep running around like a wind-up toy this week, I’ll have the menu to follow. If I decide to do the personal retreat thing, I can just nosh on veggies and stuff from my box but mostly live on my Gobble Green meals and use the menu the following week. Either way I’m a winner, right?

Cranberry sauce cobbler to use up Thanksgiving leftovers

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by our lovely organizer Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness with the theme of sweet potatoes. I have sweet potatoes left from my last box and another two pounds coming in this week’s box, so it is definitely a sweet potato menu this week! I have sweet potatoes on the menu almost every day! Good thing I love them, eh?

For a giant round-up of menu plans from all over the web, check out the Menu Plan Monday compendium over at OrgJunkie!

Monday
Kohlrabi, sweet potato, and celeriac rosti, veganized
Green salad with apple, radish, and carrots

Tuesday (defrost soup!)
Roasted root veggies with carrots, sweet potato, beets, white potato, onion, and garlic
Lentil soup (from the freezer)

Wednesday
Sunrise noodles with gingered greens and tofu, with baby bok choy and chard

Thursday
Sweet potato, pea, and spinach curry
Quinoa

Friday
Pumpkin polenta with avocado salsa
Green salad with pumpkin seeds and pears

Saturday (defrost 3 C. broth!)
Acorn squash, sweet potato and apple soup
GF biscuits

Sunday
Leftovers

Desserts
What Do I Do With My Leftover Cranberry Sauce? Cobbler
Cranberry sorbet

Happiness is…

Happiness is…

…spending Saturday in a coffee shop where the owner and a good chunk of the patrons greet you by name with a hug, playing Diplomacy for 5 1/2 hours with one of your favorite people in the world and five new friends, then going home to cuddle and eat pie.

…spending Sunday on a photo shoot in the park, taking great photos in gorgeous winter sunlight of another one of your favorite people in the world, then coming home, cooking vegan mac and cheese and kale with kale sauce, making berry margaritas, and talking and playing Dominion and Race for the Galaxy until almost midnight.

It was a truly splendid weekend.

The margaritas – first cherry, then blackberry, made with frozen berries – we made following this recipe, which had us first make lime syrup from lime juice and agave nectar. Yum! (Yes, almost all of my drinking glasses are actually Bonne Maman jam jars…) (And, in case you’re wondering why they look different from each other, the drink on the left has a salt rim and the drink on the right has a sugar rim.)

The vegan mac and cheese is a recipe my beloved fellow-vegan friend and I have made at least four times over the last couple of months. He comes over, I ask, “What do we want for dinner?,” and we invariably end up making this mac and cheese. I’ve made Veganomicon’s “Mac Daddy” with all its variations, I’ve made Gluten-Free Goddess’s vegan baked mac and cheese, and tons of other recipes besides. But the one we keep coming back to is a simple recipe my friend found on VegWeb that we have slowly perfected as we make it again and again. It’s not soy-free or particularly healthy in any way. It’s just really, really easy to make and really, really good. Basically, happiness in a casserole dish!

Easy, Delicious Baked Vegan Mac and “Cheese”
Recipe adapted from VegWeb

1 1/2 pounds gluten-free pasta of your choice, preferably macaroni (I like Tinkyada brown rice pasta)

“Cheese” Sauce:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk
1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Earth Balance
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup tamari (or slightly less to start with – you don’t want it to get too salty)
2/3 (12-ounce) block of firm (not silken) tofu
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon paprika
A few dollops of mustard, optional
Salt to taste (you probably won’t need this)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil water in a big pot and cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Add all of the “cheese” sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add more water. Too thin or too overpoweringly salty from the tamari, add more tofu.

3. Once pasta is cooked, drain and put it in the baking pan (about the size of a brownie pan). Pour the “cheese” sauce over the pasta.

4. Bake until the top of the pasta looks slightly browned and crispy, about 25 minutes. (It sometimes takes waaaay longer for me, so use your best judgement!)