Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Recipe: Hearty Lasagna

This recipe came from Vegetarian Times, one of the best magazines ever, and they originally got it from another blogger who's writing a recipe book. 

I've modified it quite a bit, though, by nixing the tomato sauce, using dairy instead of vegan cheese and adding ricotta as well as sauteed portobello mushrooms to the quinoa mixture. Mine is also onionless because I'm allergic to onions, and I didn't have fresh basil or parsley on hand so I used dried.

Also, there's absolutely no getting a nice picture of lasagna. Even the magazine picture doesn't look very good. Even if it looks like a horror movie prop when it comes out of the oven and you attempt to slice it and fail, I promise it'll be delicious. It's also extremely nutritious, and I think kids would definitely like it.

So, you'll need:

- 2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4" slices (don't attempt to cut them at an angle, just top to bottom)
- 1 portobello mushroom cap
- 1 cup quinoa (I used 1 1/3 cup)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 jar marinara sauce (I managed to find an organic onion-less one)
- 1 15 oz. package of ricotta
- 1 cup or so of any shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend instead of mozerella and it was actually better)
- 1 cup or so of mozzarella cheese (I used the powdered Kraft kind, what I had on hand.. No fancy farm-fresh stuff here :P)
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1/4 cup each chopped fresh basil and parsley if available; if not, add none or dried to taste
- A couple of pinches of salt and oregano

First, chop the mushroom into bite-size pieces and allow them to marinate in some of the marinara in the fridge while you're preparing everything else. You could do this 2 hours ahead or 10 minutes ahead, whatever works.

Once you've cut the zucchini into slices, sprinkle them with salt, put them between paper towels and allow the moisture in them to drain. Then, rinse and drain the quinoa.

The recipe originally called for 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in addition to the vegetable broth for the quinoa to cook in, but even though I used quite a bit of extra quinoa and cooking time, it still couldn't absorb all the liquid. So, just stick with the cup of quinoa and two cups of broth, and if you have a small amount of leftover quinoa, toss it in. Bring them and a couple of pinches of dried oregano to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. 
Preheat the oven to 400.

When the quinoa is about half-done, pull out the mushrooms and sautee them in a little olive oil. This is not just to cook them all the way through but also to reduce their volume and water content. Don't discard the marinara; use it along with the rest in the lasagna itself.

Remove the quinoa from heat when it's done absorbing and stir in the basil and parsley (if using), the cream cheese and the mushrooms.

Now, coat the bottom of an 8" casserole dish in marinara and lay 4 zucchini slices on top of it. Put about half of the quinoa and mushroom mixture on top of that. Add a thin layer of ricotta, and cover than in marinara. Repeat this one more time, and then add the mozzarella, then the shredded cheese, and then more mozzarella on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Test to see if the zucchini has reached the desired consistency by cutting into it with a knife. It should have a little bit of bite for texture; you don't want to cook it until it's mushy. This will should feed 4 - 6 people, or provide you with a week's worth of leftovers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

(a)Musings: The Working Poor

This post won't be as ranty and stream-of-consciousness as the others (and I doubt anyone has actually read those); this time I have a concise, specific point to make. Also, I'll balance it out by making the next post about frozen yogurt :D

When the unemployment rate went back up to 9.1% recently, I took a closer look at the statistics, which you can find here. Predictably, people with less than a high school education have a high rate of unemployment, which gradually decreases as the education level increases. Regardless of how many lazy upper middle class philosophy and general art majors (yep, I went there. I call it like I see it.) who have just graduated and don't want to work for a living in our soulless and nightmarish corporate system whine and complain, the unemployment rate for college graduates is just 4.5%. And this is "the worst job market since the Great Depression", mind you. Well, apparently it wasn't (or was, I guess) all that great if you managed to get a B.A. or B.S.

I'm really fucking sick of the 24/7 conservative media onslaught against the current administration. More than that, I'm sick of the fact that it's worked so well. You can't avoid it, just like any widespread propaganda campaign. People who should be liberals and progressives hate Obama but can't tell you why. It doesn't take a fancy education and an abnormally increased capacity for cognitive reasoning to get past this and spend 5 minutes Googling for the truth.

So, this is what it boils down to:

1. The government intentionally provides us with a substandard education. Most people I talk to are unaware of the fact that their votes do not elect the president. They don't even understand the most basic things about how our system works; let's not get into deductive reasoning, basic math and science.

2. A higher education requires so much investment and dedication that it's unattainable for most. About a third of the population earns at least a bachelor's degree; I have a feeling that, after several more years of Boomer spawn failing to do so, that number will fall to closer to 1/4 of the population.

3. The uneducated masses are the ones who tend toward conservatism, and buy into the propaganda machine. Now their votes go to the conservative politicians, who primarily appeal to the completely irrelevant and outdated moral scruples of simple-minded people to win them over, and are bought off by the top 0.01% of society in order to further their personal agendas. Since I mentioned Googling, starting with something like "Koch brothers Tea Party" is probably a good idea.

4. The bottom 60% or so of society, or the working poor, now supports that top 0.01%, the mega-rich corporate CEO's and heirs. The same CEO's and elites who lay off the workers and ship their jobs overseas to bolster their own bottom line, and then talk about how the current administration isn't doing anything to reduce unemployment. The same people who want to simply dispose of social security, welfare, food stamps, unemployment and disability benefits, etc. The same Republicans who ensure that public education is either sufficiently ignored or insufficient to the point of regression. These people are not going to be happy until everyone who isn't a heterosexual white man is considered subhuman property with no rights and works a vast plantation. That's why capitalism and democracy don't go together and why they're no better than communism.

5. head+desk

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Craft(y) Project: The Undead, Flying, Laser-Shooting Space Unicorn Sunglasses

I daresay this is a rung above a craft(y) project; I'm actually proud of this one.

These sunglasses were about 6 bucks and reminded me of Lady Gaga, so I snagged them. Well, not only did I feel like the biggest dork to ever walk the Earth when I put them on, but in some instances I literally can't walk while wearing them (which remains true in spite of the unicorns); as you can see, the whole bottom part is solid, which makes descending stairs and avoiding dogs and fire hydrants and any other object that could be rolled up by a beach ball-sized katamari challenging at best.

Initially I was going to make a stencil and spray paint a row of dancing skeletons along the bottom, but my attention span doesn't always permit such a degree of fine detail work. So I got some black and white nail polish and started painting unicorns instead. I've never painted a horse or a skull before, and though I did have to use reference pictures, the fact that this came out nicely pleases me to no end. Now I don't feel like a dork, just completely ridiculous.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Room Sweet Room

While I'm aware that I'm making a gross tactical error in my ongoing hipster war with Ale by posting this, I was pretty excited about this contest I noticed in the back of the most recent UO catalog I got in the mail. I save them, sue me. $500 would be enough for me to browse their online clearance section during seasonal transitions for the remainder of my life - or my 20's, whichever comes first. 

My room has always been a ridiculous rainbow explosion of sensory overloaded awesome, so I was like, "I got this".

Well I (thankfully) read the actual contest rules, and you couldn't submit any pictures containing logos, symbols or trademarked images that people could recognise or that would infringe on copyright laws, etc. 

You could also submit only one photo. 

So then I was like, "Bollocks".

Posting pictures of my room is a bit juvenile, but like I said, I was all excited about this at first, and my new room is shaping up to be pretty cool. 
Now, allow me to illustrate why I ended up not having this contest in the bag while simultaneously paying homage to the rainbow disaster I live in.

This is a glimpse of my old room...

...aaaand here's the new one thus far:

This is all the result of cramming two bedrooms, 2 1/2 closets and part of a garage into one space. If you can't tell, the hairbands above the closet door are on a giant inflatable crayon.

Just avoiding Hello Kitty items alone was practically impossible, not to mention all of the Disney and Lady Gaga stuff, plus the art I have up that isn't mine. I tried with all different kinds of lighting and camera settings for about an hour, and this is what I finally came up with that doesn't include anything not allowed, plus goofy Photobucket manipulation: