Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thunderstorm Blues

It's been raining in Chicago for the past decade.  OK, not the past decade, only the past 5 years or so it seems.  I heard recently that this April may be the cloudiest on record.  It's been crazy.  It's rained every day for the past week, at least, and will rain again tomorrow.  Everything is starting to turn green and flowers are starting to bloom, but all of these clouds and rain are damn depressing.

On top of the rain, it's my week to work late.  That means that I am working until at least 6 PM or 7 PM depending on how much of the staff wants to work overtime.  Monday and Tuesday, I worked until 6 PM.  Tonight, I worked until 7 PM.  One of the best things about my late week is that I can accomplish a bit more during the morning before I go to work.
Yesterday morning, I made Butternut Tofu Stuffed Shells.  I knew I would be working until 6 PM and wouldn't get home until at least 7 PM.  The Bulls game started at about 7:10 PM.  There was no way that I wanted to be cooking out in the kitchen when the game was on.  I love the playoffs and am particularly happy about the Bulls being in them.
I had roasted a butternut squash over the weekend specifically to make the shells.  I mixed it with the tofu, lemon juice, and spices.  While I was combining the tofu mixture, I cooked the shells and rinsed them in cool water.  Then, I just left them in the colander until it was time to stuff them.
I read all of the reviews on for the shells recipe.  I decided to dice two links of Tofurky Italian Sausage made with Sun Dried Tomatoes and brown it in a tablespoon of olive oil.
I added it to the tofu mixture before stuffing the shells.  I ended up making 24 shells.  The recipe calls for 16 to 20 shells.  I only had 24 in the box, so I cooked all of them.  I think my butternut squash may have been a little bigger and the sausage gave the filling a little more volume.  I used about a jar and a half of sauce (32 oz. total).  After all of the shells were stuffed, I put the casserole in the fridge until it was time to bake it.  I kept 18 shells at home and took 6 shells to work in a small pyrex dish and baked them at work for lunch.
My son put the casserole in the oven at about 6:15 PM, which gave me time to stop and buy some bread to go with it.  I got home at about 6:55 PM and the meal was ready to eat at about 7:10 PM.  It was perfect timing.  I didn't tell my sons that it was vegan shells and they couldn't tell the difference.  At some point, I will tell them, but it's nice that my sons liked it and ate it the same as they would have if it had been filled with fat laden dairy.
This morning, I wanted something for breakfast, but I didn't want anything I had in the house.  I had enough high fiber bread with peanut butter, enough oatmeal, enough high fiber cereal, and enough steel cut oats.  I had 4 ripe bananas that I needed to use, so I pulled out a few vegan cookbooks and went searching for a recipe.  I ended up choosing Lower Fat Banana Bread from Veganomicon
One of the ingredients in the recipe is molasses.  I have only recently started baking with molasses.  As you can see from the picture above, the wet ingredients were a dark chocolate brown from the molasses.  I did make one alteration, which was that I added cinnamon flavored applesauce instead of regular applesauce.  It added a tad more cinnamon flavor and a tad more sweetness since it was sweetened applesauce.  I had regular unsweetened applesauce, but the recipe only needed half of an individual portion of applesauce and I didn't feel like eating unsweetened.  :::grin:::
The batter wasn't quite as dark once the dry ingredients were incorporated into the wet.  I used a whisk to mix the wet ingredients and then used a wooden spoon to stir the flour mixture into the molasses/banana mixture.  I was careful not to over mix the batter.  Instead of making bread or 12 regular sized muffins, I made 6 jumbo muffins.  My sons prefer the bigger "deli" sized muffins, so I usually make them.
I sprinkled some large decorator sugar on the muffins before baking.  I think it's made by Wilton.  It took me a long time to find it.  It was another request by my older son so my homemade muffins would be more like deli muffins, which always come with the large sugar sprinkles.  The muffins turned out fabulous!  The sugar sprinkles added just the right amount of sweet.  This recipe rocks.  I love the flavor the molasses added to the muffin.  This was the perfect morning breakfast for me today.  It was a perfect match to my cuppa joe.  This is definitely a repeat recipe!

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