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Vegetable gratin loaded with good, healthy veggies

Simply Food

September 11, 2012
By Wendy Monro , The Journal

For months now I have been hinting to my mom and encouraging her to get my stepfather onto a plant-based diet. He is on a daily heart medication.

A few months ago, I discovered through a routine check up that I have high blood pressure too. I never had a problem with blood pressure before. I always had high cholesterol and finally got that under control and now I have high blood pressure. Geesh, what's a girl have to do to stay healthy around here?

Pretty much all of my research on lowering blood pressure leads me to eating a plant-based diet. Every time I come across an interesting article or hear of a new famous person who has made the change to eating this way, I send the information to my mom. I usually start it off by writing, "I thought you might pass this on to someone you know who is on heart medication," and I leave the link to the article.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
A delicioius dinner of vegetable gratin, caramelized onion and pepper pizza, salad and edamame.

I read that eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains while cutting out oil and increasing physical activity is the best way to keep your heart healthy. It makes sense. Still, every time I talk to my mom on the phone and ask what she is cooking for dinner it would be some sort of meat or have a layer of cheese in it. I gave my mom The China Study to read. She hasn't read it. I have been sending her links on how to download or buy the DVD of a great documentary called, "Forks Over Knives." She hasn't watched it yet.

Last week the doctor told Doug he needed to go on a plant-based diet. He should eliminate all meats and dairy from his diet. I was so excited. I knew it! I asked how he took this news. Did my mom think he was going to do it?

"Of course," she said. "He was excited about making the change. He wants to lose ten pounds." Well, I wasn't the one who got him to make the change but I am excited he is doing it. Then, my mom asked me to help her come up with tons of delicious recipes for food that would be good for Doug's heart. I have been bombarding her with information ever since, with pleasure.

Fact Box

Vegetable Gratin

Serves: 10

Time: 1 hour

1 cup cashews

1 tablespoon pesto (no parmesan cheese)

cup soymilk (or more if needed to reach

desired consistency)

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 eggplant, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

5 medium new potatoes, thinly sliced

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced

cup basil, cut into ribbons

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 cup kale

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, blend the cashews into a powder. Add pesto, garlic salt and pepper. Mix well. Add soymilk slowly until you have a creamy sauce. Set aside. Place eggplant onto a baking dish. You can drizzle on some olive oil (optional). Add salt and pepper. Place eggplant into the oven for 15 minutes. Add soy sauce and garlic to a wok or skillet over medium high heat. Saut mushrooms in the soy sauce for ten minutes. In a casserole dish, layer some of the sauce onto the bottom. Add a layer of potatoes. Then, add a layer of eggplant, mushrooms, kale, basil, and sauce. Repeat this process until you have a layer of potatoes on the top. Cover with a sheet of foil. Place into the oven for 40 minutes.

This weekend, they drove to our house in Las Vegas to see Daphne perform in a concert at the Hard Rock Hotel. Daphne is in a band and sings Beatles covers. They arrived on Friday night and I had dinner prepared for them. I wanted to make a few things that were tasty and plant based for Doug and my mom to enjoy.

I know my mom and Doug enjoy making homemade pizzas. You wouldn't believe how delicious pizza could be without cheese. I am pretty sure I have written about my caramelized onion and mushroom pizza, topped with arrugula. I also make an herb crust pizza topped with grilled vegetables. For my mom and Doug, I whipped up some caramelized red peppers and red onions with pizza sauce and placed this all on an herb crust. I drizzled some balsamic vinegar onto arrugula as a side. Then, I cooked up some edamame with a sprinkle of sea salt.

I didn't stop there though. I made a potato gratin and tried to make it creamy and delicious without using regular milk. Usually, I make this potato dish with onions and garlic. I wanted to add a lot more in the way of vegetables to this new variety of gratin. I incorporated onions, garlic, eggplant, mushrooms, basil and kale. Now, that is a vegetable laden gratin. It could be a meal in itself. Instead of cream and butter, I made a sauce of cashews, soymilk, cheese free pesto, and garlic.

I was nervous about the vegetable gratin. I am always trying out new dishes on guests. I get very nervous serving food when I have no idea how it will taste until we are all seated and trying it together. I figured I made enough different things that if something were horrible there would be enough food to still fill us up.

Luckily, everyone loved the gratin. Claud even made a few comments about how good it tasted. He never mentioned the fact that meat was missing from our dinner. That is probably because I had several bottles of wine on the table too and the conversation was flowing. I knew the food was good because all of the plates were clean at the end. I know my mom is going to enjoy cooking like this. There are so many recipes out there, which make eating this way a treat.



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