Sunday, February 27, 2011

An 'A' for Effort

I've been hunched over my laptop all day.  Our school has parent-teacher conferences this week and I've been trying to get the third quarter closed.  This includes finding and organizing all my data, trying to judge objectively about behavior, and reading 1,000 stories I've already read once, but don't remember. You can only read so many stories about birthdays, Mario Kart and grandma visiting before they all start running together.  I really don't know how secondary teachers keep it all straight. I could also include the amount of effort I spent silencing the profanities coursing through my mind as I tried to navigate our online grading program.  Thank goodness we don't have a $&*#@$ swear jar.  

Amidst all this to-do, I admit that I would rather be in the kitchen.  I can hear Mr. B saying, "Where women belong."  (He's such a old-fashioned conservative, you know.)  It's become a very comforting and stress-relieving place for me, so I often feel the need to bake, saute or create some vegan concoction. However, I don't know how well it would go over if I sat down at my conferences and told my students' families...

ME: "Wow, Billy Bob is doing so well. I realize his report card is incomplete and I don't have any work to show you, but would you like to try a vegan blueberry oatmeal bar?"

I'm sure they'd be all smiles.

Needless to say, like so many other teachers, here I sit, on my own time, trying to be well organized and prepared to drop the bomb talk to my kids' parents. 

"But Jennifer," you say while shaking your finger in an admonishing way, "I notice you are slaving away at your laptop, but you can't be doing school work, or you wouldn't have a blog to post today."

Yes, you are correct and I hang my head in shame...sort of.  

And although I did no vegan voodoo today (unless you call phoning Papa John's magic), I knocked one out of the park on Friday night.  The cashew portion is based on Cashew Ricotta from Veganomicon by Moskowitz & Romero.  It is simply delicious.  ou must try this at least once, or bribe me into cooking it for you. I prefer large bills, gift certificates to Whole Foods or tofu t-shirts. 
Cashew Lasagna Bake 
1 c. cashews (soaked in water overnight)
12 oz. firm tofu, drained
1/4 c. lemon juice
3-4 T. olive oil (plus more for spinach)
3 cloves crushed garlic, divided
3 t. dried basil
1 t. salt
2 jars Marinara Sauce, bought or homemade
1/2 lb. pasta of your choice (I used corkscrew)
1 lb spinach
1/2 c. black olives, sliced or crushed
1/4 c. Daiya Mozarella Shreds

In a food processor blend drained cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic until creamy, scraping the bowl often.  It takes several minutes, so be patient.  Crumble the tofu and feed it down the shute and blend.  After all the tofu has been well incorporated, add the basil and salt.  Set aside.  Oh, and try not to spoon little dollups on to a spinach leaf, dip into red sauce then eat until half the spinach is gone.  Just a friendly warning. 

Cook the pasta according to the directions. While the pasta is cooking, saute 1 clove of garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the spinach.  Toss in the pan to cover with garlic and oil; cook until wilted.  Add the marinara sauce and olives. Stir to combine and turn heat to low.  Drain the pasta. Set aside 1 cup.

Spray a lasagna or casserole dish with cooking spray.  Pour 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom.  spread half of the pasta on the bottom.  Then, using a spoon, drop half of the cashew mixture in dollups over the pasta.  Add a layer of the sauce mixture.  Repeat those layers.  Add your reserved cup of pasta on the top and whatever sauce you have remaining.  Sprinkle with Daiya shreds.

Bake at 350* for 25 minutes.  It is really tasty if you mix it all up in the dish before you serve it.  It will look like something collected after a food fight, but in our house it only matters how it tastes (Thank God).  I serve it with extra sauce and homemade bread slathered in Earth Balance. 
I wish I could say that most of my work is done, but it's not.  I wish I could say I'm going to finish up my work tonight, but I'm not.  But I want to, I reeeealy want shouldn't I get a 'A' for effort? 

I think someone needs to drop the bomb on me.

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