Seitan Gyros! 🥙


Seitan isn’t for the faint of heart; nor the gluten-intolerant. It’s made from wheat gluten, the endosperm of the wheat berry, to be precise. Wheat gluten is chock full of protein and, when cooked, makes a really nice meaty substitute. You can also use it as a binder for vegetarian meatballs or meatloaf. Maybe I’ll put that on the “To Make” list.

My favorite seitan recipe comes from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day. I made quite a few modifications, both because I wanted to be able to publish the recipe and because it’s not gyro-specific.

The one thing I miss from eating four-legged-meats 100 years ago is a Zorba’s gyro (they were waaaay better than Parthenon’s). The peppery meat constantly turning and dripping and shaved to order onto an olive-oily pita, topped with onions that were too big, lots of tomatoes, and dripping with tzatziki sauce. Of course, the fries were required to soak up the drips. One barely needed any ketchup.

Anyhoo. Seitan! It’s some wheat gluten, nooch, a little bitta chickpea flour and lots of yummy seasonings. I didn’t take pictures of this process because, well, it’s not very photogenic.

Once the seitan is done and cooled (a process that takes 8 hours to cook and about the same to cool), you slice it up and grill it in a pan. I ended up squirting it with Bragg’s Aminos, which provides the saltiness that soy sauce has, but it’s “better for you”.

While that’s cooking or even the day before, the tzatziki sauce can be prepped (most things are better after sitting around in the fridge for a while). I used a small container of fat-free Fage Greek yogurt, a little bit of cucumber, dried and minced garlic, and some lemon juice.

Chop an onion and a tomato and heat the pitas over the burner and you’ve got yourself a delicious facsimile of a Zorba’s gyro. Minus the yelling and grease.

Waiting for seitan.
All set!
Om nom nom.

Seitan Gyros

YEE-ROHS
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time25 mins
Seitan Cook and Cool Time14 hrs
Course: Main Course
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Slow cooker
  • Food processor

Ingredients

Seitan

  • 2 c vital wheat gluten
  • 3 Tbsp chickpea flour
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 c onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 drop liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 1/4 c vegetable broth chilled
  • 6 c vegetable broth chilled

Tzatziki

  • 6 oz plain, fat-free, Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp cucumber seeded and diced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Gyro

  • pitas
  • white onion sliced
  • tomato diced

Instructions

Seitan

  • In a large bowl, combine the flours and nutritional yeast.
  • Put everything else (except the broth) into a food processor and combine.
  • Mix the spices into the dry ingredients and add the 1 1/4 cus of broth to mix everything together. If it's too wet, add more gluten, if it's too dry, add more broth.
    When it's all combined, make it into a loaf-shape and wrap with cheesecloth to keep it that way. Place into a slow cooker and cover with the remaining 6 cups of broth. Cook on low for 8 hours. Let it cool in the broth.

Tzatziki

  • Mix everything together. Let it rest.

Gyros

  • Slice the seitan into meatly shapes and cook in a grill pan over medium until it's crispy on the edges. Spritz with Bragg's Aminos for color and salt.
  • Heat the pitas in a toaster oven or on the stovetop. Assemble with seitan first, sauce, onions, tomatoes. Serve with extra napkins.

How-to Pesto 🌱


My neighbor just got a bunch of really nice landscaping done on the side of her house that I can’t see. The other night, she brought me over to show me all the basil and mint and thyme and wonderfulness that she had put in. It’s not all edible, but most of it is.

Anyway, she said, “take all the basil you want!” referring to a holy basil bush that was roughly the size of a kitchen table. I said that I would because I was seeing my mom for brunch the next day and she loves holy basil. Well, apparently, mom has enough of it, too.

This morning, I got a text that neighbor had left some on the back porch. I replied that I looked forward to turning it into pesto.

That bottom board is 14″x11″.

After 136 years of picking leaves off stems, I ended up filling the 2 qt. Pampered Chef mixing bowl.

Lotsa basil!

I cleaned up a bit and assessed the pesto ingredient needs, pulling the lemon juice, pine nuts, and parm out of the fridge. I decided to use EVOO instead of another fancy oil. I popped three garlic cloves off the head and peeled them.

Since the food processor will be busy making swift work of the basil and pine nuts, it’s best if you use the smaller side of the cheese grater for the parm.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any action shots because I was mostly worried about how I was going to get all of this pesto made without it taking another 136 years.

I scooped two loose handfuls into the Hamilton Beach 8 Cup Food Processor, sprinkled some lemon juice, tossed in a garlic clove, poured in about 1/8th of a cup of pine nuts, and did a swoosh of oil. These steps were repeated three times until I ran out of basil and did one last spin with salt and pepper added.

Tame and perfect.

I haven’t made pesto in a long time, and don’t care at all for the jarred variety (it’s too oily and salty). This turned out, if I may say so, perfect.

Cubes for freezing.

Added bonus: it was exactly enough to fill one of my silicone ice cube trays.

Before I cleaned off the cutting boards, I harvested enough basil seeds to plant next year with our bucket tomatoes.

Basil Pesto

Prep Time45 mins
Mix Time10 mins
Servings: 15 recipes

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients

  • 2 qt basil leaves
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c pine nuts
  • 1/2 c Parmesan grated, small
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In batches, combine a third of everything in an 8-cup food processor three times until all the basil is incorporated.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste (remembering that you're probably going to put this into a dish with more salt and pepper).
  • Scoop into a freezer-safe container of your choice.

Cheesy Tortellini & Asparagus


This is based primarily on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Make-Ahead Cookbook, which my mom gifted me for Christmas one year. It’s full of wonderful ideas for preparing dinner, lunch, and dinner and ways to get more meals out of your shopping list. It also gives ideas for freezer meals and slow cooker meals (good ideas for summertime—save the delicious Wisconsin sweet corn and don’t turn on the oven).

This is a fairly simple put-together dish; the only thing that gives it a second eggplant is that you need to blanch the asparagus. The bonus here is that you use the same water to boil the asparagus as the tortellini!

Speaking of, it’s time to start the water boiling. Whoever discovered heat+water=cooked food should be lauded for their curiosity and intuition.

With asparagus, I usually do the bend-til-it-breaks trick, but this time I decided to simply cut enough off the bottom, letting the knife tell me where the woody part starts. I think I didn’t want to be disappointed in how much I paid for it (this veggie is usually priced per pound), and I already have two baggies of ends in the freezer waiting for me to decide to make cream of asparagus soup.

Cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.

When the water bubbles, pop the greens in and set a timer for two minutes. Grab your trusty stainless steel bowl and put in some ice cubes; then, I usually keep the bowl in the freezer until the last second.

When the timer says so (in my case, it’s Alexa beepity-beeping at me), pull the bowl, fill mostly with cold water, and start slotted-spooning the asparagus into it to stop the cooking process. Let the pot on the stove come back to a boil.

Now it’s dressing time. I’ve mentioned before that making your own dressing is cheaper, better, and faster than buying bottled, and there’s no HFCS hiding at the top of the list, or Yellow #5 and Maltodextrin hiding at the bottom.

The dressing contains a delicious amount of minced shallot and garlic.

I’ve long known I’m never going to be a vampire. I like garlic way too much for that noise.

In a two-cup bowl, I squirt some lemon juice and realize I’ve run out, so I finish off the acidic liquid with some white wine vinegar. Because I’ve opted to use Lighthouse Farms freeze-dried Italian spices (do not buy this from Amazon, it’s too expensive—I’m sure your local Penzey’s store has a suitable alternative), I pour it in to let it rehydrate for a minute, then add the alliums. Whisk in the olive oil and let sit until everything else is assembled.

This is the magic sauce.

Slice up enough cherry tomatoes and put the asparagus into a medium bowl and add salt and pepper.

The multi-colored tomatoes make this dish pop.

To add a little bit of smooth crunch (I get the opposition, but pine nuts do that), roast a handful of pine nuts.

Since the tortellini is “fresh” (from Costco), it only takes about two minutes to boil (did I mention this dish comes together so quickly it’s almost silly?) so it’s the last thing to cook.

While it’s boiling, grate some parm and try to contain yourself.

Strain the pasta and rinse with cold water so it doesn’t melt the Parmesan. Pour into the bowl, add the dressing and shredded cheese. Stir carefully so as not to break the little pockets of cheesy amazingness.

Enjoy!

Cheese Tortellini and Asparagus

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs asparagus ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1.5 lbs cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1/4 c white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Italian herb mix
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 shallots minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 c pine nuts
  • 2 c cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 c grated Parmesan not that Kraft s#!t, either

Instructions

Salad

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus bits to boiling water with a little salt.
  • Prepare blanching vessel with ice cubes and cold water. After two minutes, remove asparagus from the pot with a slotted spoon into the ice-cold water. Strain and set aside. Return pot to a boil.
  • Stir together lemon juice, vinegar, and herb mix, then add diced garlic and shallots. Whisk in the olive oil and let rest.
  • Heat a small pan over medium and toast pine nuts until slightly darker than raw.
  • Slice tomatoes. Grate Parmesan.
  • Add tortellini to boiling water. After two minutes, straing and rinse with cold water.
  • Mix everything together carefully.

My mom’s boyfriend calls asparagus “spare grass” because he says horses eat it when they run out of real grass.

Three-Ingredient* Tomato Soup 🥫


This is a quick side, a lifesaver on a cold winter day, and we can’t be friends if you don’t have the ingredients available in your pantry (actually, I don’t care for it when folks make that exclamation, so we can still be friends, regardless).

Butter, onion, tomatoes.

That’s it, have a great day!


JUST KIDDING!

Grab your 3- or 4-quart Dutch oven (even if you’re only making a small amount, I’ll explain later) and put some butter in there over medium heat.

Slice an onion into very large pieces and sauté for five minutes or until soft.

Dump in one can of diced tomatoes for every two people who will end up with a serving. For each pair of folks, fill up one can with water, veggie, or chicken broth and pour into the vessel (*this is where the three-ingredient-claim kinda falls down, but I would contend that the recipe is great, even if it’s four ingredients).

Bring to a simmer, cover, and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Grab your immersion blender and zip it into a smooth soup. This is where using the smallest Dutch oven isn’t the best idea. Immersion-blending it in a 2-quart will result in splattered shirts and faces.

Serve with a side of grilled cheese or tuna melts.

Three-Ingredient Tomato Soup

A throw-together soup with ingredients you hopefully have.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2

Equipment

  • Dutch oven
  • Immersion blender

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp butter unsalted
  • 1/2 medium white onion sliced large
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz. can can-full of broth or water

Instructions

  • Heat Dutch oven over medium-high and add butter.
  • Place sliced onion and stir to coat.
  • Dump in the tomatoes, fill can with water (or broth of your choice) and empty into Dutch oven.
  • Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Use immersion blender to mix to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

How-to Corn 🌽

Sweet corn stands on back highways are the epitome of summertime in Wisconsin. Ears and ears stuffed in a brown paper bag for $6. You’d be silly not to get some, cook, and freeze it for January when the mere thought of wearing shorts gives ya chills.

Woodman’s has three-for-$1 right now, so we’ve been enjoying the treat each Sunday night with chicken on the grill.

Put all three ears (why are they called ‘ears‘ anyway?) in the microwave and set it for six minutes. When it beeps, grab the ears with a hot pad and lay on a cutting board with the business end ready to cut.

The “business end” is opposite the strands at the top.

More about those strands, or “hairs”: there’s one strand for every kernel on the cob, so that’s a bit of an indication of how many healthy kernels there are, hiding in there.

After you slice the end off, grab the other end (with a hot pad), and slowly squeeze the ear out of the husk.

Squeeeeeeeze.
Keep on keepin’ on!

Pushing the cob out keeps the hairs from sticking around, which makes it so much easier to eat.

Mostly strand-free.

Butter and salt (if you’re like the fella), plate. Crunch.

Easy-Peasy Cheesy-Quichey


We’d been having migas each weekend day for breakfast for a while, so I thought we could mix it up for the long weekend (also, I had only thought to buy two poblanos instead of three).

I scoured the blueprint of the fridge in my brain to come up with suitable ingredients, wishing there was a button with which to dispense asparagus. Alas, this is not Star Trek, so I landed on a simple tomato-basil mix as the featured stars.

I whipped up a quick crust and pressed it into a Pyrex pie pan.

Don’t worry! If it looks rough, I call it ‘rustic’.

Chop up the tomatoes (these are from Costco) and sprinkle with basil (I threw in some Italian seasoning, too) and salt. Right about now is when I would remember that I should have turned the oven on to 400°.

Tomatoes and basil smell so good.

Place the tomatoes on the crust and crack four eggs into the bowl (don’t bother rinsing it out, it’s all going to end up in the same place) and whisk with a fork or, the fella’s favorite, a French whisk.

Pretty little tomatoes.
Eggs and cheese.

Mix the shredded Asiago into the eggs and pour over the tomatoes in the pie pan. Top with a few sliced tomatoes to make it look nice.

It even looks good raw!
Into the oven.

Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes. When the timer beeps, grab a wooden toothpick and poke it into the middle of the egg. If it comes out clean(ish), it’s done enough to take out (it will keep cooking a little while it rests). Leave it on the counter for five minutes and then slice and serve!

Easy, cheesy, quichey.

Mary Berry would have been proud that there was no soggy bottom, but I didn’t press it into the pan evenly enough, so it was thicker in the corners. It will come out and taste just as well without the crust if you want to skip that part. That would qualify this as a one-eggplant recipe, then.

Tomato-Basil-Asiago Quiche

This is a quick, throw-together for breakfast or lunch. It takes mere minutes to prepare and you can use any compatible ingredients that you have hanging out in the fridge.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Rest Time5 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2

Ingredients

Quick Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Yummy Quiche

  • 1 1/2 cups tomatoes cherry or grape, sliced
  • 2 tsp basil dried or chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese shredded

Instructions

For the crust:

  • Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Whisk together oil and water to thicken a bit and pour into dry ingredients.
  • Mix with a fork until well combined, use your fingers to spread the crust into an ungreased 9" pie plate.

For the quiche:

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Clean out the bowl from making the crust and put the chopped tomatoes in there. Mix well with basil and salt. Spread them as evenly as you can over the crust.
  • Beat the eggs in the same bowl. When sufficiently mixed up, add the cheese and pour gently over the tomatoes and crust. Top with some halved tomatoes for looks.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Test the middle with a wooden toothpick, and if it comes out mostly clean, it's ready. Let rest for about 5 minutes, slice and serve.