Friday, October 5, 2012

"Hide The Lentils" Tomato Sauce & Italian Pizza Bread Sticks // Italian Night!

Let me just say, I lost my love for spaghetti a few years ago.

Blame it on store-bought marinara sauce. I have tried SEVERAL different types, and find all of them to be too acidic, and they taste slightly rancid to me.

They all include oils, too much salt, sometimes sugar. Which I REALLY don't like.

Once removing ground beef from spaghetti, the sauce became even less appetizing. I think the fat helped to balance out the acidity. It also doesn't help that without the ground beef, or meatballs, the meal kinda' seems a little out of balance. Not complete.

Which is sad. Spaghetti with Marinara dishes are not only Italian, but have become very much an American food as well. I have thought about how I could revive spaghetti. Plant-based.

Remove the meat -- no brainer.

Then what? Sauce and pasta? Some peas on the side?

Or. Or I could spend an extra hour making bean-based meatless meatballs.

Don't get me wrong, I am not bashing meatless meatballs. My black bean ones are REALLY good. But they take forever. Stresses me out.

SOOOOO. I was so excited when I ran across this recipe in Dreena Burton's cookbook, "Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan!" Called, "Hide The Lentils" Tomato Sauce.

Red lentils. Very good source of plant-based protein, and they don't taste like dirt. Some lentil recipes are known to taste like dirt, I have heard. Of course, I have not yet had that experience in MY kitchen. Just kidding.

Simplicity is beautiful, isn't it?

Chop some garlic. Open some cans. Measure out spices, lentils, agave, and water.

Throw it all together and simmer on the stove for 25 minutes.

This is how it should look when it is done.

To REALLY hide the lentils, I like using my new toy. Immersion blender from Costco.

This is where you get to decide just how chunky or just how smooth you would like to have your sauce. The smoother it is, the less your picky-poos will notice that their sauce has a very healthy ingredient hidden inside.

This sauce is a complete meal when tossed with or poured over a whole grain (quinoa, millet, or brown rice are VERY good options) or some whole grain pasta.

But if you ask my kids, they like using it as a dip for their Italian Pizza Bread Sticks. Made in the bread-maker so that you don't have to. Knead. Rise. Knead. Rise. Not my thing. Bread-makers ARE my thing.

If you are looking for something Gluten Free, look here. I have never tried these before but they look really good. I probably WILL try them someday. They look super-healthy and I like finding alternatives to wheat.

But for now, my kids LOVE (I do that a lot, don't I? Capitalize LOVE!) these bread sticks.


To make this VEGAN FAST FOOD!: Cook whole grain pasta or a fast-cooking grain (quinoa or millet) while the tomato sauce simmers. Instead of bread sticks, serve with toasted, whole grain bread or vegan store-bought bread sticks. While waiting for the sauce to finish cooking, toss some spring mix with cucumbers or broccoli slaw and serve with Ranch Dressing.

We put this all together -- Lentil Tomato Sauce over Millet or Potatoes, Pizza Bread Sticks, and spring mix salad with Ranch Dressing, and had a very enjoyable Italian Night at the Crozier's!

"Hide The Lentils" Tomato (Marinara) Sauce
Modified from Dreena Burton's "Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan!"

Note from Ashlee: If you have guests, or hungry eaters, you may want to double the sauce. We generally use leftovers from dinner for Paul's lunch the next day. This time, there were no leftovers. The sauce is Gluten Free. To make this meal grain free, serve over tender, boiled potatoes with grilled zucchini, chopped or coined, using this method.

Makes 4-5 servings.


1/4 cup water (for water sauteing, use 1 TBSP olive oil to oil saute)
3-4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon)
3/4 cup dry red lentils
1 can (28 oz/796-ml) crushed tomatoes (I didn't have crushed, so I used Italian Stewed, diced tomatoes, and just blended them with my immersion blender)
1 1/2 cup water
2 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)(If you don't have rosemary, can use 1 tsp oregano)
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 fresh or dry bay leaf (I didn't have one, and it still turned out great)
1 TBSP red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I used Balsamic Vinegar because Dreena is always saying her kids love Balsamic with tomato sauce, it gave it a deeper, slightly sweet flavor)


In a large pot on medium-low heat, add water (or oil), garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes (reduce heat and/or add a few drops more water if needed to prevent garlic from burning).

Rinse lentils. (I always skip this step...I am lazy).

Add lentils, tomatoes, water, rosemary, basil, agave nectar, and bay leaf. Increase heat to high to bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 22-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are fully softened.

Uncover and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce liquid (do not skip! or it will be too watery!).

Stir in vinegar and season with additional salt, pepper, and/or agave nectar if desired. Remove bay leaf, and serve sauce as is, or puree (I highly recommend doing this!)it with a hand blender to hide the lentils from picky eaters!

Italian Pizza Bread Sticks
by Ashlee Crozier

Note: I basically took our favorite pizza dough, added Italian seasonings, and then shaped them into bread sticks. Brushed them with non dairy butter to prevent them from drying out, and baked it at a lower temperature for 5 minutes longer. You'll want to shape them a little thin, they rise quite a bit in the oven. When dipped with "Hide the Lentils" Tomato Sauce, these are seriously addicting! This dough also can also be shaped into pizzas, after all, that's what it started out as, and we use it at least once a month for our pizzas.


1 1/2 cups warm water
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2 cups, scantly measured, white whole wheat flour
3 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. yeast

Non-dairy butter, for brushing (optional, you could try to use non-dairy milk, but I haven't tried this, and cannot vouch for the outcome).

Combine all ingredients in your bread-maker, in the order listed. Set the bread-maker to the "Pizza Dough" setting (about 55 minutes) and push start.

Once the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough and cut into 10-15 strips, depending on how big you want your bread sticks to be.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

On a lightly floured, non-stick, or greased surface, roll the strips with your hands, individually, until they resemble bread sticks. Remember that they will rise in the oven, so you may want to roll them just a tad thin.

On a greased baking sheet, or baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread the bread sticks out at least 2-3 inches apart so they don't bake together.

Using a pastry brush, lightly butter each bread-stick with non-dairy butter (I like Earth Balance Buttery Spread). See picture below for example.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown. To bake them faster, you can set the oven to 500 degrees, and bake them for 9-10 minutes. If using the dough to make pizza, it bakes best at 500 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them cool on baking rack or a cold plate. Dip into your plant-powered, high protein marinara sauce! And Enjoy!

P.S. No matter how carefully I measure, the amount of flour to water ratio needed for the bread maker always differs. The moisture in the air seems to even have an effect! So, I recommend that you watch the pizza dough mixing for the first few minutes. If it looks too wet, sprinkle in some more all purpose flour, a little bit at a time. If too dry and crumbly, add WARM water very slowly and intermittently until the bread forms. It should slightly stick to your finger with the right moistness, but not be so wet that it sticks to the sides of your bread maker and won't knead correctly.

No comments:

Post a Comment