I Made Tahini (And You Can, Too!)

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I’m free! Free from the tyranny of the ten dollar jar of organic tahini when all I need is a spoonful or two at a time! What took me so long?

This quick, easy recipe produces fresh, tasty, toasty sesame tahini for a fraction of the cost!

Easy Tahini

Ingredients:

1 cup raw sesame seeds

2 tbsp. mild flavored oil (I used sesame oil)

Method:

Toast sesame seeds lightly in a dry skillet, over medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly, just until slightly brown. Immediately transfer to a small food processor or blender.

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Grind until seeds resemble small crumbs. Add a tablespoon of oil and keep grinding, scraping down the sides as needed. Add another tablespoon of oil, if needed to create a creamy consistency. Keep grinding until smooth. That’s it!!

Makes about 1/2 cup of tahini. Store covered, in the fridge.

 

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Vegan Mushroom Gravy

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Low-fat gravy?? How could that be? How about no-fat gravy? This gravy is so smooth and savory, but also light, therefore you can really feel good about pouring it over your favorite loaf or patty, mashers, biscuits or rice.

I am a firm believer in simplicity. I don’t get too fussy with small details and have little patience for long-winded recipes. So, I love The Happy Herbivore cookbook by Lindsay Nixon. The recipes are quick and easy, vegan and low-fat. Best of all, I downloaded the book to my Kindle for only five bucks!

Everyday Gravy

from “The Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon

1 cup water

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided

1/4 teaspoon of each: garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered

1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/2 cup soy milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a non-stick skillet and bring to a boil. Add the garlic, mushrooms and Italian seasoning and saute until mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes.

Shrooms

Easy Mozzarella Cheeze Sauce

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So, you reach a point when you stop trying to replace cheese with processed substitutes like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. Your palate can finally appreciate the pure flavors of the tomatoes, the onions, the garlic against the sprinkling of herbs simmered into the sauce.

And yet, there is that missing element. You are looking for a light, creamy counterpoint to the tangy, savory marinara in your lasagna or pasta bake or fresh vegan pizza. This quick and easy recipe is just the solution.

Made with basic pantry staples, this no-cook, tofu-based cheesy sauce comes together lickety-split, faster than the time it takes to boil pasta.

 

Easy Mozzarella Cheeze Sauce

From VegNews magazine

 

1 pkg Tofu, firm silken, 12.3 ounce (shelf-stable type, like Mori-Nu, not water-packed)
¼ cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1 ½ tbsp. Miso, white
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Lemon juice
1 tsp. Cornstarch
½ tsp. Onion powder
¾ tsp. Salt

 

Puree all ingredients in a blender. Store refrigerated up to 5 days.

 

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Hemp Seed Parmesan

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Here’s a simple three-ingredient addition to pizza, pasta, salads, veggies and anywhere else you want a  sprinkle of savory flavor.

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Hemp Seed Parmesan

¼ cup Hemp seeds (or hearts)
2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
¼ tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt

 

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Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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Restaurant-Style Marinara

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The secret for marinara sauce that tastes like it’s been simmering all day? Tomato paste. The savory-sweet intensity adds depth and richness without the hours of slow-cooking.

What I like best about this recipe? It’s simple and quick to prepare. Oh, and no chopping, except for a little clove of garlic, for which you can substitute 1/4 tsp of granulated garlic if you choose.

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Best Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Oregano, dried
¼ teaspoon Thyme, dried
½ teaspoon Salt
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon Tomato paste

1. Saute garlic in oil over medium-low heat about 2 minutes.

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Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt and pepper all at once stirring together until tomato paste is incorporated.

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2. Increase the heat a bit and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and crushing the tomatoes as you go.

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If you like a smoother sauce, just scoop out about half, run it through the blender then return to the pot. Easy!

Two-Ingredient Chocolate Sauce

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Here’s a recipe I almost forgot I had in my collection. This one is from way back in my culinary school days. A smooth as silk, ultra-fast to prepare sauce that turns a plain slice of cake into a work of art!

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or morsels)

2 1/2 ounces boiling water

Method:

Place chopped chocolate in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over chocolate, just until you can see the water seeps through from underneath. Do not cover completely with water or it will be too runny. Whisk until all chocolate is melted and smooth, adding a bit more water if needed.

Use immediately or store covered in refrigerator. Reheat gently in a stainless steel bowl over a small pot of simmering water or on low in microwave until pourable consistency.

Note:

Add a dash of vanilla and a pinch of sea salt for a little flavor counterpoint. You won’t regret it.

Easy Enchilada Sauce

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In my experience, you can stuff a burrito with just about anything. But the sauce…now, the sauce can make it or break it for me.

Here’s one of my essential recipes. It’s quick and easy and tasty. I pour this rich, tomato-garlic-cumin sauce  over enchiladas, burritos, tacos–even drizzle it over nachos.  I hope you give it a try!

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour ( all-purpose flour works fine, too)
¼ cup Canola oil
3 tbsp. Chili powder
3 tsp. Cumin, ground
1 ¼ tsp. Salt
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups Hot water
14.5 ounces Tomato sauce

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

Brown flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent over-browning.  Carefully add spices and oil, stirring to avoid lumps. Slowly add water and tomato sauce. Stir until smooth. Simmer to desired consistency. Check for salt and add a bit of ground cayenne pepper if you want to make it spicy.

Yield: A whole lotta sauce, about 4 cups, so unless you’re making a big ole mess of enchiladas, you may wish to cut the ingredients in half.

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Jam Session

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Here’s an easy recipe for blueberry preserves I found this morning in a sudden rush of inspiration http://www.marthastewart.com/355053/blueberry-jam

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Wash the berries

Warm the sugar in the oven

Bring blueberries and sugar to boil with water

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Cook for about 45 minutes, until thick

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Vegan Gorgonzola: A Passion Project

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In between all the professional cooking I do, there is also all the household cooking I do, which includes, of course, food I like to eat. Once in awhile I embark on a very special veganizing project as shown here.  I ain’t gonna lie. As long as I have been vegan (about six years now) I have not forgotten the flavor of fine, aged cheese.

I chose THIS RECIPE for its simplicity. It’s not a science project like some I have read. It is straightforward and the wait time was only overnight. The result is very much like the real deal…which led me to veganize another old favorite of mine: blackened Gorgonzola steak with jalapeños. I know, what a crazy combo, but it was oh, so delicious back in the day.

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I picked up a package of Field Roast Hand-Formed Burgers (the absolute best vegan burger, in my opinion) and pressed it out as flat as I could. Dusted it with blackening spice and seared it in a hot pan. Then I topped it with thick slices of this lovely vegan Gorg and a sprinkle of jalapeños. Heaven!

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House Vinaigrette

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Sometimes I just want a simple, yet tasty vinegar and oil dressing for my salad. This is the classic recipe we were taught at culinary school. You can dress it up or keep it basic. The variations are endless.

House Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 tsp dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and crush garlic clove and add to vinegar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then remove the garlic and discard. Whisk in the mustard and then slowly whisk in the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Basil-Spinach Pesto

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Yes, of course vegans can enjoy pesto!! I think it tastes even better without the cheese usually present in most traditional recipes. This recipe is pretty great because it stays green longer, due to the addition of fresh spinach! Great flavor and awesome with pasta and on pizza as well!

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Basil-Spinach Pesto

½ cup Olive oil
3 ounces Basil, fresh
½ bunch Spinach, fresh, Large handful
½ cup Walnuts, toasted
1 tsp. Lemon juice
3 cloves Garlic
¼ tsp. Sea salt
¼ tsp. Black pepper

Method:

Pulse basil, spinach, nuts and garlic until well chopped, but still with texture. With machine running, drizzle olive oil slowly to emulsify, scraping down the bowl as needed to blend well.

Stop the machine as soon as olive oil is incorporated. Add lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Run another second just until blended.

Serve immediately or store in airtight container, refrigerated. Adding a thin layer of olive oil on top, keeps the pesto green longer.

Servings/Yield: Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Source: avocadopest.com

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Quick and Easy Soba Noodle Salad

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My favorite go-to lunch! Soba noodle salad is so quick and easy to prepare and a perfect way to clean out my refrigerator’s produce drawer!

Here’s my new discovery on the grocery shelf: San-J Tamari Sesame Dressing. You want to kick up your flavor? This is it!

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Whereas I usually gather my own fresh ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar and tamari…I can save a few steps with this dressing.

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The basic ratio is 1 tablespoon peanut butter or tahini to 2 tablespoons dressing. Add sriracha sauce as desired and a bit of warm water to adjust the consistency.

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Toss the drained, rinsed noodles with fresh veggies: shredded carrots, cabbage, scallions, celery, lettuce, tomatoes…basically anything raw and crunchy. Enjoy!

Peanut Dragon Sauce

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It’s been a super busy week! When I crave a quick comforting meal, soba noodles are often my go-to food. Here’s an easy sauce to pour over your noodles, steamed veggies or to dip your spring roll into.

Peanut Dragon Dressing

from “Isa Does It” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1/2 cup Peanut butter, creamy
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/3 cup Water
3 tablespoons Rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon Sesame oil, toasted
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Blend ingredients together in food processor until smooth. Enjoy!

Ultimate Cheezy Sauce

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As many vegans will tell you, one the hardest foods to give up, in the beginning, is cheese. I have read that cheese actually contains addictive opiate substances, so that might explain its magnetic appeal.

As for me, I have learned to live without cheese and appreciate the flavors of the food underneath–where cheese would have been. At the same time, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect cheesy sauce for macaroni, nachos, broccoli, and general dipping of crusty bread.

I have posted cheezy sauce recipes before–but this one is the mother of all cheezy sauces. It’s a adaptation of a modern vegan recipe with classical method. I am in love with the umami flavor and the smooth velvety “pour” of this sauce. I think you will agree that it is both delicious and easy to make with ingredients found in most vegan pantries.

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Cheezy Sauce III

by Melanie daPonte

1 1/2 tbsp. non-dairy margarine

1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour

1 cup Soy milk ( can use almond milk, but I prefer the higher fat content in soy for creamier sauce)

¼ cup Nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Paprika

Method:

Melt the margarine in a  saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux (classical sauce thickening combo).

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Add all remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined and smooth. Stir until mixture begins to thicken and lightly bubble. Reduce heat to low and check for consistency and seasoning.

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At this point you may wish to add more paprika depending on the level of orange-ness you like your cheezy sauce to have. You may also want to play with the consistency a bit depending on how you plan to use the sauce. Just add a little more milk if you like more pour-ability. Add salt if desired, or more tamari or lemon juice as desired. It’s YOUR sauce now, so enjoy it!

 

 

Buffalo Tempeh Caesar Wrap

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Way back when before I went vegan (BV) my favorite lunchtime meal was a big Caesar salad with grilled or blackened chicken or fish. Later on, it was the Buffalo Chicken Caesar Wrap, sometimes found as a lunch special on menus. I love the contrast of the creamy tangy dressing and crunchy Romaine lettuce against the spicy cayenne pepper sauce.

Now I have finally found an excellent vegan Caesar salad dressing, courtesy of Roberto Martin, Ellen DeGeneres’ personal chef,  and an excellent vegan Buffalo sauce recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen that tastes EXACTLY like restaurant-style, the two worlds have come together in my NEW favorite lunch!

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Tempeh is one of the very best plant-based sources of protein. I find WestSoy brand very mild, without the bitterness sometimes associated with tempeh. It also helps to steam tempeh before combining with sauces and marinades to improve texture and flavor.

Caesar Dressing

From Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

Note: This recipe makes alot of dressing (2 1/2 cups). A tablespoon of this intensely flavorful dressing goes a long way, so I cut the recipe in half when I make it.

Ingredients:

Juice of 2 lemons

3 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tablespoons capers, packed in brine

Dash of caper brine from the jar

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (preferably Annie’s)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

1 1/2 cups vegan mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces good-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Method:

Place all the ingredients in the jar of a blender and puree until smooth. Use immediately, or store the dressing in a squeeze bottle or glass container with an airtight lid and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Here’s a link to the Post Punk Kitchen’s Buffalo Tempeh recipe http://www.theppk.com/2013/07/ranch-salad-with-buffalo-tempeh/

Cashew Queso

ChipsThink you have to give up nachos on a vegan diet? Think again.

There are so many creative and healthy ways to dress up the basic corn chip. Since going vegan I am always on the lookout for a new version of cheezy sauce. I think I found my new favorite.

Isa Chandra Moscowitz is one of my very favorite cookbook authors. Her recipes are straightforward and easy to execute–no weird exotic ingredients to hunt for at the health food store. Just real foods, real simple, real tasty.

The recipe can be found here on the Post Punk Kitchen website. This site offers a wealth of varied recipes, all vegan.

Sauce

This queso starts with soaked cashews, blended smooth with sautéed onions, peppers, garlic and Mexican spices. The sauce is then cooked on the stove for 20 minutes. Trust me, the deep flavor is worth the stir-time. I found it rather relaxing.

Nachos

I like to spread out a layer of refried beans mixed with whole pintos and salsa, then heat it up, adding the sauce and whatever toppings I have on hand. This works great for dipping, rather than pouring over all the chips, which tends to make them soggy.

Smoky Cheddar Sauce

nachos

The next recipe in my “Turning on to Tofu” series, this deceptively simple cheese sauce. I used soft silken tofu combined with cashews, to add a smooth, creamy consistency that pours easily over nachos, veggies, baked potatoes, burgers–you name it!

prep

I love that I always have these staple ingredients in my pantry and fridge. Tofu stores well, so I try to keep a couple packages handy for whipping up a batch of quick scramble or a cheese spread. Maybe even a chocolate mousse. I’ll get to those recipes later.

“Smoky Cheddar Cheeze Sauce” (from “The Sexy Vegan” by Brian Patton)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole, raw cashews

1 12 oz. package soft, silken tofu

1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder and turmeric

1/2 teaspoon yellow miso

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon liquid smoke, to taste

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2/3 cup water

Method:

Place the cashews in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook for 8 minutes, to soften them up a bit. While the cashews are cooking, measure the dry spices, combine and set aside.

Drain tofu of any extra liquid. Measure wet ingredients, combine and set aside. By this time the cashews should be done cooking. Drain them well and allow to cool. This is a good time to prepare the nacho toppings.snip

Here’s a little tip I learned from Martha Stewart back in the day: snip scallions with a sharp pair of kitchen shears. I found this also works great with herbs and olives. One of many great timesavers I learned from Ms. Stewart, including how to say, “Marin-ah-de”.

Grind the cashews in a food processor until fine. Add the tofu and half of the wet ingredients. Process until well blended. Add the remaining wet ingredients and process until very smooth. Add the desired amount to a small pot and heat very gently stirring often, until warmed. Do not boil. The sauce will thicken a bit as it heats and turn a lovely shade of cheese.

While sauce is heating, preheat the oven to 275 degrees and warm the tortilla chips for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour sauce over chips with desired toppings and enjoy! Store leftover sauce in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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Sexy Cheezy Sauce

This is a rich, velvety cheez sauce that is simple to create and uses whole food ingredients. No science experiments here, just straightforward steps in an easy to follow recipe.

I picked up a copy of “The Sexy Vegan” and I am impressed with this first recipe I tried. I like the tone of the book–tongue in cheek, with funny recipe titles like

“The Girlfriend’s Favorite Salad That She Constantly Asks Me to Make and Won’t Shut the Hell up About”. Although the vibe is lighthearted, these are solid, real world vegan recipes for the health conscious and the hedonist alike.

There are lots of recipe makeovers for classic American favorites such as New England Clam Chowder, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Buffalo Wings, Jalapeno Poppers and Macaroni and Cheese, just to name a few.

There are also several upscale “dinner party” style dishes like Oyster Mushroom Risotto, Grilled Seitan Caponata with Lemon Pilaf, and Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Fennel.

Brian L. Patton, an L.A.-based professional chef, clearly knows what he is doing. He had me at Hello and I can’t wait to dig in!

“Not Yo Mama’s Cheeze Sauce”

Ingredients:

1 cup whole, raw cashews

1 12 oz. package soft, silken tofu

1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder and turmeric

1/2 teaspoon yellow miso

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch ground chipotle powder

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons canned diced mild green chiles

Method:

In small pot, cover cashews with water and boil about 8 minutes to soften them up. Drain and let cool. In food processor or blender, process until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until very smooth.

Heat gently over low heat and apply liberally anywhere you want to cheez it up!

Cheezy Sauce

You don’t have to give up nachos for a vegan diet, most of us know that now. With all the “faux” cheeses available, there’s no excuse not to give up that one dairy food that keeps many of us on the fence between vegetarian and vegan.

That being said– I have a real problem with processed fake cheese products. Number one, the fat content is super high. The sodium is often very high as well. I try to stick pretty close to nature in my dishes, and I found a really great all-purpose cheezy sauce recipe in “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

I took their already wonderful recipe and tweaked it just a bit,  removing the oil, thus creating a fat-free sauce that tastes great! Pour it over baked nacho chips with all the fixins’ and I promise you will never miss that extra fat and calories.

Cheezy Sauce

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon water

3 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch of dried thyme (crumbled in your fingers)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

Method:

Combine the broth and flour in a measuring cup and whisk with a fork until dissolved ( a couple of lumps are okay). Preheat a non-stick saucepan over medium-low heat. Place the water and garlic in the pan and gently cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often.

Add the thyme, salt and pepper to taste and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the broth, turmeric, and yeast flakes, and raise the heat to medium. Use a plastic coated whisk to stir constantly. The mixture should start bubbling and thickening in about 3 minutes; if it doesn’t, turn the heat a bit higher.

Once the mixture is bubbling and thickening, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and mustard. Taste for salt, turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep warm until ready to use. Serve warm.

Cilantro Lime Salsa

 

 

Tonight was nacho night and we made the grocery run for the usual ingredients:  black beans, corn, serrano peppers, tortilla chips. When we got to the salsa aisle, though, the labels stopped me dead in my tracks.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy jarred salsa, knowing what I know now, about the acceptable ratio of sodium to calories per serving. The healthy ratio is 1:1. For example if the salsa contains 10 calories per serving, it should contain no more than 10 milligrams of sodium per serving. Pace brand salsa, has 230 milligrams per 10 calorie serving (2 Tbsp.). Who eats only 2 tablespoons of salsa?

So, I decided to create my own salsa, using salt-free canned tomatoes. It was actually very easy and quick. And tasted way better than salsa from a jar!

Cilantro Lime Salsa

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice, no salt added

1/4 onion, red or white, finely diced

1-2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

1/2 fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely minced (optional)

Handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Juice of one fresh lime

Sea salt to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients well and taste for seasoning. Add sea salt as desired.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator at least 1/2 hour to allow flavors to blend. Keeps about 1 week, refrigerated. Happy, healthy munching!

Creamy Pasta Salad

Here’s a delicious reworking of traditional macaroni salad. Prepared with whole-grain pasta and  lots of crunchy fresh veggies, this one is  so nutritious, it can stand alone as a main dish! A refreshing change from the same old salad routine.

Since we went vegan and oil-free, we have given up mayonnaise, even egg-free mayo substitutes, because of the high fat content. So, we have to be a little more creative in how we come up with creamy textures. One indispensable ingredient is raw cashews. The natural fat lends itself well to sauces and toppings both savory and sweet.  Continue reading “Creamy Pasta Salad”

Marsala Mushroom Gravy

Monday is typically my take it easy night in the kitchen. Back to work after the weekend, and I stayed up later than usual last night. Mashers are my go-to comfort food on days like this. Back in the day these would have been full of butter and milk. And gravy? I could whisk up a roux like nobody’s business.

It may seem too good to be true, but today’s dish contains only a tiny amount of fat (from the soy milk) and absolutely no animal products. And it is even more flavorful and satisfying than the traditional preparation. Continue reading “Marsala Mushroom Gravy”

Everyday Vinaigrette

I’ve been on a bit of hiatus the past few weeks, from my usual healthy eating and exercise plan. Sometimes my best intentions get sidetracked by this thing called life.

Finding my way back, a fresh, colorful salad is a perfect start, with my good ole’ go-to vinaigrette. I drizzle it on everything: sandwiches, pizza, pasta, even mashed potatoes! You won’t miss the oil–I promise!

Everyday Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, finely minced (optional)

1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced  (or red onion)

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Fresh ground black pepper

Agave nectar to taste

Method: Whisk ingredients together. Taste for tartness, adding agave nectar as desired.

 

Recipe adapted from The Happy Herbivore Everyday Cookbook by Lindsay Nixon