Vegan Marsala Mushroom Gravy (Oil-Free)

Mashers are my go-to comfort food on cool days like today. Before going plant-based, 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

Warm Apple Crisp (Oil-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to the cooler temperatures,  anticipating the fun of preparing for the upcoming holidays, my birthday, and the food–the glorious food!

I especially love the warm flavors that mark the fall holidays. The smell of pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves, toasted nuts, vanilla. Kitchen aromas can be so evocative, full of fond memories of holidays past.

I am a big fan of warm apple anything: pie, crumble, cobbler, brown betty…you name it. A crisp is an easy, low-fat way to indulge my craving. This one is kicked up with a splash of Calvados, just for fun!

Warm Apple Crisp

Filling:

4 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced ( I use 2 granny smith and 2 golden delicious)

2 tablespoons water or apple juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons sucanat (optional)

1 1/2 oz Calvados  or other apple brandy (optional)

Topping:

5 vegan graham crackers (Nabisco original in the red box is vegan)

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup raisins (soaked for at least 1/2 hour in hot water, covered)

2 tablespoon walnuts, toasted and finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon sucanat (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Filling: Heat water or apple juice in non-stick skillet on medium high heat. When it starts to bubble, add apples and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully, off the heat,  add brandy then return and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and sugar, and reduce heat, stirring and allowing sugar to melt and become syrupy. Add a bit more water or juice if needed.

Transfer apples to a 1 quart casserole or 8 x 8 baking dish, VERY lightly coated with non-stick spray.

Topping:  Crumble crackers into a food processor and pulse a few times to grind into crumbs. Add the oats, cinnamon and sucanat and pulse once more just to combine. Finally, add the drained raisins and process just until mixture comes together to form a streusal-like texture.

Crumble topping evenly over filling and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Suggested accompaniment: Vanilla Hemp Ice Cream

 

Tofu Vindaloo

This is a spicy Indian dish I decided to prepare without any added oil. It turned out  tasty and well balanced, served with a fluffy timbale of fragrant jasmine rice.

Tofu Vindaloo

Recipe adapted from the cookbook,

“Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons water

One 16 oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch-thick half-moons

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced

One 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup water, or more as needed

Method:

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, ginger and spices with 1 tablespoon of water. Process until smooth and set aside. Very lightly spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add the diced tofu and sear until nicely browned. This may take up to 10 minutes. Move the tofu around carefully to brown evenly. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan and heat until bubbly. Add onions and carrot, cover, and cook until softened. About 5 minutes. Add red pepper, cover, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice and 1 cup water and bring to boil.

Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the peas and tofu and heat through. This sauce may be served chunky or smooth. If you prefer a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender before adding the peas and tofu.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Every once in awhile, I am moved to pull out  various appliances and put them to work, such as the waffle iron, pasta machine, ice cream maker. It’s a fun weekend endeavor, when I have time, to enjoy the satisfaction of making something “from scratch” that I usually buy.

With the convenience of every flavor under the sun available at our local Whole Foods Market, making ice cream at home may seem like quite the ambitious undertaking.

vanilla

It is actually as easy as making a smoothie or anything else you might run through the blender, if you have a quality ice cream maker. Nothing else provides that essential smooth, frozen consistency.

I always keep my freezer bowl frozen for those times when an ice cream recipe will catch my attention. This recipe from “Crazy, Sexy Kitchen” by Kris Carr looked so simple, and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I just had to give it a try.

machine

I adapted the recipe slightly by substituting four medjool dates for the agave nectar. In the end, though, I added  a squirt of agave to give it just a bit more sweetness.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 can coconut milk

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

1/3 cup agave nectar (or five medjool dates, pitted and sliced)

1/2 cup water

Pinch sea salt

datesMethod:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and  refrigerate until very cold and to soak the cashews (at least four hours, overnight, if possible). Make sure your ice cream maker’s freezer bowl is completely frozen.

Pour mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth. Taste for sweetness and add more agave to suit your taste, if desired.

start

Before

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

done

After

Two Bean and Bulgar Chili

chili

I came across this recipe, while sifting through a drawer. It was a page torn from one of those little paperback supermarket cookbooks at the register called “Meatless Meals”.

There is a handwritten note beside the recipe, “Steve’s favorite 2005”. This little memory jog took me right back to that year when I first met the man who would become my husband, though neither of us knew it yet.

I am really glad this recipe was Steve’s favorite back in 2005, because that was long before we  became vegan. What an evolution together, over time, to a more compassionate lifestyle, a deeper enjoyment of food and a more humble appreciation for nature.

I am ever grateful for my husband’s love and support on my personal and professional journey, and I can’t imagine a better partner with whom to share the ride.

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Two-Bean and Bulgar Chili

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

1/2 cup uncooked bulgar wheat

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

3 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Method:

Saute in oil over medium-high heat, carrot, bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 4 minutes.

veggies

Stir in remaining ingredients, except beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 minutes, until bulgar is tender and flavors are blended, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

pot

Add drained beans and simmer 5 minutes until heated through. Serve with your favorite cornbread.

cornbread

 

Blueberry Cheezecake

I’ve been reflecting today on where this all began.  I started this blog way back in the Fall of 2012, all fired up as a new vegan, ready to shout from the mountaintop all the new information I was discovering about nutrition and wellness.

This journey is a winding road, but I always come back to my inner compass. Eventually. I’ve decided to revisit and re-post one of my very first recipes from my early days as a newbie blogger. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


 

One of the foods many vegans reluctantly let go of is cream cheese–most eventually finding consolation for the morning bagel in the form of hummus or any one of a dozen different kinds of nut butters available on the market.

One food that’s seemingly impossible to duplicate, however, or find a suitable whole food replacement for,  is cheesecake. It makes me realize how truly decadent that dessert is.

Now, I know there is this substance called “Better than Cream Cheese”. However, it is off the deal, due to it’s high fat content and it is full of additives. I prefer to stick with more natural ingredients. Enter the Golden Cheesecake from fellow blogger, Playful and Hungry

I added a graham cracker walnut crust and a sweet, organic blueberry topping and voila! Of course it tastes nothing like traditional cheesecake, but in my opinion plant-strong recipes always end up tasting better all around. And I get the bonus of knowing that I just ate real food that will fuel my body.

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.

This dressing is creamy and mildly sweet, flavored with a blend of garlic, mustard and lemon. I will quote my husband on his first bite of this salad: “Damn, that’s good!”

Creamy Pasta Salad

2 cups dried whole grain pasta, cooked, drained and chilled

3 ribs celery, sliced

2 carrots, grated

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)

Dressing:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raw cashews

2 dates, pitted and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

Combine cashews, dates and water and set aside while you prepare the vegetables. Place cashew mixture in high-powered blender with remaining dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with vegetables and pasta to coat.

Recipe courtesy of Cathy Fisher:  http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/

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

Five Minute Asian Peanut Noodles

peanutnoodles

Noodles are high on my list of favorite foods. There is something so comforting in the simplicity of just noodles and sauce. And they are fun to eat.

This recipe is quick, quick, quick. You can dress it up or dress it down to its basics. Either way it’s a very simple no-cook sauce with three main ingredients, and easy to remember ratios. That’s my very favorite part.

ingredients

Ingredients:

1/3 of a 10 oz package authentic Chinese dried noodles

1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce ( or liquid aminos)

Dash of garlic powder

Dash of ground ginger

Optional Ingredients:

Shredded cabbage, carrots, scallions or other fresh veggies

Fresh cilantro, torn or chopped

Toasted sesame seeds or Gomasio

Asian Chili Sauce or crushed red pepper

Chopped peanuts

Noodles

Method:

Place noodles in a microwave safe bowl and cover with water. Microwave on high for five minutes. While noodles are working, blend sauce ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Add a bit of water if the sauce is too thick. Drain noodles and add to sauce. Toss noodles to coat and add any optional ingredients, chili sauce (if you like it spicy) or other garnishes.

prepYield:

One large or 2 small servings

 

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!

“Oh, You Beautiful Dal”

I read somewhere…the spices in Indian food can purify and heal the body. I do believe this to be true. I can almost feel it, when I enjoy a warm, fragrant bowl of Indian dal. Maybe it’s the heat of the cayenne and ginger, or the smoky cumin and turmeric that seduces me into a state of near-euphoria. All I know is I crave Indian flavors and enjoy them whenever I can.

Our favorite spot for Indian delights is Bombay Cafe in Fort Lauderdale. We have been known to make the hour drive just to indulge our craving for spice!  Continue reading

Low Fat Hummus

My favorite lunch!

I absolutely love hummus! I also love creating my own, with organic chickpeas, sesame tahini and fresh lemons. I can control the amount of salt and fat–and I really love that! Tahini is quite high in fat actually, but a little goes a long way to adding that distinctive flavor in this recipe and it is the only added fat. Continue reading

Oil-Free Vegan Pasta Primavera

Ok, so I’m back on my healthy eating and exercise plan. Working out, eating plenty of fresh veggies. Pasta is my favorite comfort food, second only to mashed potatoes…yum! But that’s another post for another day.

This primavera has a rich, flavorful sauce made from raw cashews. It’s a great sauce for macaroni and (not) cheese, pizza, nachos, steamed broccoli and it’s crazy good on mashed potatoes. There I go again. Continue reading

Baked Falafel with Quinoa Taboulleh

Chickpeas are a staple in many vegan diets, mine included. I love everything about falafel except for the fact that it is usually served deep-fried. I found a way to enjoy the falafel experience without the fat and calories of added oil. This falafel is baked, then stuffed in a toasted whole wheat pita with organic veggies and lemony quinoa tabloulleh. Topped off with a drizzle of tahini sauce, it’s perfectly delicious!

Baked Falafel

  • 2 cans chickpeas (15 ounces each), drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • A large handful of parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat drained chickpeas with paper towels and place  in food processor. Pulse a few times, then add remaining ingredients. Process until mixture forms into a dough.  Adjust seasonings and add additional flour if dough seems too wet to hold together. Shape dough into eight patties and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve hot on toasted pita with fresh veggies and tahini sauce.

Quinoa Taboulleh

2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dried), cooled to room temperature or chilled

1 cup small-diced fresh tomato

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 cloves garlic, very finely minced

2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (more or less, depending on taste)

Salt and pepper, to taste

This is a very simple side that goes well stuffed in a pita with falafel or on its own, drizzled with a little tahini sauce. Enjoy!

Toss together tomato, parsley and garlic with quinoa then dress with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Yield: 8 servings.

Tahini Sauce

  • 1/3 cup tahini paste (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/2 cup water, or more as needed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cayenne

Method: Blend all ingredients in a high-speed food processor for best results, or whisk by hand. You may need to add a bit more tahini to reach a creamy consistency. Drizzle liberally over falafel and taboulleh. Serve immediately.

–Tahini sauce recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse