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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Plant-Based: On The Cheap

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“I would try the plant-based diet, but I can’t afford it!” A phrase I have heard often. But, it’s a myth that a plant-based lifestyle has to blow your grocery budget. And it doesn’t have to include strange ingredients you’ve never heard of. A healthy, whole food diet can actually be totally the opposite. A simplification.

Keeping in mind the basic foods your body needs  makes shopping so much easier:

  1. Protein (beans, peas and lentils, nuts, nut butters). Remember that one type of bean, legume or nut choice in combination with a grain or healthful vegetables provides enough protein in a meal. There’s no need to overdo it.
  2. Complex Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains).
  3. Fats. The health benefits of processed oils is still a controversial subject in the science of nutrition, so I will simply offer that many foods contain naturally occurring fats such as nuts, coconuts and avocado. Choose oils conscientiously and use  sparingly if you are concerned about calories.

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Here’s a list of healthy and inexpensive foods to get you started:

  1. Apples
  2. Bananas
  3. Brown rice
  4. Creamy natural peanut butter (multi-purpose protein for toast, sandwiches and sauces)
  5. Dried black or other beans (easier to cook than you think. Google it)
  6. Dried lentils (even easier and quicker than beans)
  7. Frozen fruit
  8. Frozen mixed vegetables
  9. Hummus (homemade tastes best and is cheaper if you sub peanut butter for tahini)
  10. Rolled Oats (they micro cook in two minutes)
  11. Russet Potatoes (let me count the ways to prepare this cheap and filling vegetable)

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Although a constantly rotating variety of produce (eating the rainbow, as they say) is ideal, it is not within everyone’s budget. It’s okay to eat apples and bananas all week. The point is, you are eating fruit! You are getting vitamins and fiber, water and minerals. All good stuff!  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Sometimes you will splurge on the raspberries or juicy peaches in season. And it will actually be a treat, because your flavor palate is now accustomed to the natural sweetness of fruit sugar, as opposed to all the jacked-up laboratory produced sweeteners in processed snacks. It actually prefers it.

IMG_0852.jpgThe food industry is always coming out with new products. And that’s just what they are. Products, that are processed. Not whole and healthy foods in their natural state. There’s nothing wrong with these products as long as they are kept in perspective–as only the smallest part of our overall caloric intake.

Upcoming posts will feature recipes and ideas for simple and delicious meals that make going plant-based a sustainable choice without breaking the bank!

 

 

Vegan Barbecue Ribz

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Fire up the grill this weekend and prepare your favorite barbecue sauce for these super-easy and super-tasty seitan ribz!

This recipe, direct from my archive, comes together faster than a batch of brownies. You can double up and freeze for later and also to slice  thin and fry up like bacon. Yum!

BARBECUE RIBZ

recipe courtesy Brian McCarthy

4 cups VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN
¼ cup PAPRIKA
2 tablespoons GRANULATED GARLIC
2 tablespoons GRANULATED ONION
2 tablespoons KOSHER SALT
3 cups ROOM TEMPERATURE WATER
¾ cups CANOLA OIL
2 teaspoons LIQUID SMOKE

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix all wet ingredients in a pourable container. Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour wet into dry and mix well. Press into 13 x 9 greased pan. Bake 350 for 45-55 minutes, until no longer soft in center and has a dry appearance.
2. Slice into 1.5 ounce servings. Grill slices for marks if desired. Serve with barbecue sauce.
Servings/Yield: 14 servings

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“Meaty” Grilled Tofu

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Through much trial and error over the years– I have come to a great appreciation and respect for the humble soybean curd with its versatility and its ability to absorb flavors and even change texture with the right method of preparation.

Start Here:

  1. Buy the right tofu. This seems like a no-brainer, but  it can be confusing, with all the brands and styles: silken, firm, extra-firm, etc. For this recipe, we need to start with the firmest tofu we can find, packed in water, found in the refrigerator section. If you stumble upon the Woodstock brand, extra-firm, know that you have found the holy grail of tofu. This brand is available only in select stores in my area and in limited quantity, so when I find it I buy it up!

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2. Dry, dry, dry! The secret to good texture with grilled tofu is to press out as much water as possible. Either press it with a pressing apparatus, or wrap it in paper towels and lay a cutting board on top, then add some weight to it. I have used heavy books, canned goods, even hand-weights. Let the tofu press for a good 20 minutes or so.

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3. Fabricate! Cut the tofu in the shape that fits the dish you are making. For grilling, obviously, you want nice strips that fit on the grill and not too thick, so as to absorb the flavorings. I cut the block in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half again and so on, until I have 8 planks

4. Marinate! This step is crucial. If you want flavor in your tofu, you have to apply it yourself. My go-to marinade for grilling is 3 tbsp. tamari sauce to 1 tbsp. sesame oil. Simple and delicious! When you press the tofu well, it will be thirsty for the marinade, so you won’t need to soak it too long. Twenty minutes is plenty of time for this one, although, you can marinate longer or overnight if you like.

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5. Grill! Get your grill searing hot and you will have a nice, brown sealed outside on your tofu. You can also fry in a dry non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, for a crisp, brown exterior.

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6. Optional step. Another way to alter the texture of tofu is to wrap it after pressing and freeze it until solid, then thaw it out. Press the liquid out again, then marinate and grill or pan-fry. This gives the tofu more of a chewy and porous texture. It’s worth a try. I like it both ways.

Tofu Curry

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This recipe is a client favorite! It’s a north Indian style curry, filled with aromatic spices and baked tofu.

The recipe comes from the cookbook “Vegan Indian Cooking” by Anupy Singla. Ms. Singla generously provides the recipe on her website as well. You can find it here.

With authentic Indian cooking, it’s all about the spices. Once you gather them together, the process runs pretty smooth and simple.

grindThe recipe starts with the grinding of the aromatics which will be folded into soy yogurt and a few spices then added to fried spices in the saucepan.

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The scent is heavenly as the spices and flavors blend together. The big flavor comes from the mingling of these many aromatics and spices as they simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes. As with most curries it will taste better the next day, but even fresh from the stove it is delicious!

Summer Tempeh Sammies

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Okay, everyone knows tempeh is good for you. At first, I didn’t know what to do with it. I cut it up and slapped it in a skillet. And guess what? Yuck!

My dilemma in the beginning was how to make it taste good.  That is never a problem nowadays. First: You’ve gotta get with a good brand. Westsoy is the only brand I buy. Why? Because it is never bitter. If you can’t get ahold of Westsoy, no worries, simply fabricate your tempeh into slices or chunks or whatever size you need for your recipe and steam it for 20 minutes. That should do the trick.

Secondly: Marinate, marinate, marinate. If you really want good flavor, I think it’s the best way. Here is an awesome marinade from our good friends at Thug Kitchen. What? You’ve never heard of Thug Kitchen? You’re welcome.

Here’s the recipe (which for some reason has been removed from the site, but you should visit anyway. I forgive you, Michelle.  www.thugkitchen.com 

This marinade is zippy! That’s the best word to describe the tangy, garlicky, savory punch in the taste buds it delivers. One word of caution, though–if you are serving more than two people, double the recipe because it goes fast!
Thug Kitchen’s (Secret) Summer Tempeh Sammies
Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces of tempeh
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Marinade:
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar (chill out, that shit isn’t expensive but you can use apple cider vinegar if you already have that at home)
  • 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite smoky hot sauce (something with chipotle pepper is fucking delicious)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Method:

Cut tempeh width wise into about 1/3-1/2 inch pieces (16 pieces). Marinate in shallow container for at least 30 minutes, no longer than 60 minutes. :

Brown tempeh in oil for 4-6 minutes each side. Moisten pan with marinade.

Serve on sandwiches with sundried tomato spread or your favorite mayo 🙂

Here are the pics:

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Falafel Burgers with Tahini Sauce

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Here’s a light and easy summer meal idea:

Falafel Burgers (from Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

(4 servings)

½ cup Chickpeas, dried
1 cloves Garlic
½ cup Yellow onion, coarsely chopped
¼ cup Parsley, fresh, loosely packed
¼ cup Cilantro, loosely packed
2 tablespoons Water
¼ cup Bread crumbs, fine
¼ teaspoon Baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons Cumin
½ teaspoon Paprika, sweet
⅝ teaspoon Salt
Black pepper

1.Plan ahead. Boil the chickpeas night before.

2.Partially cook chickpeas. Place in small pot and submerge in water by about 2 inches. Cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.:

3.Turn the heat off and and let chickpeas soak at room temperature overnight or for 8 hours.:

4.Should be tender and edible, but still very firm, with texture similar to edamame.: Drain before using.

5.Pulse garlic in processor until finely chopped. Add onion, parsley and cilantro, and pulse until onion is very finely chopped and herbs are in flecks. Don’t puree. You still want coarse texture.:

6.Transfer mixture to large bowl. Now place the chickpeas in food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Add water and pulse again until thick and mushy. Again, you still want texture, so don’t puree. Transfer chickpeas to bowl with onions.:

7.Add bread crumbs, baking powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper to bowl and mix very well.:

8.Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Preheat large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Form burgers into patties using about 1/4 of the mixture per patty. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into the pan. It should be enough to cover the bottom of the pan with some excess.:

9.Cook patties four at a time for about 7 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Drizzle in a little extra oil if necessary.

Tahini Sauce

½ cup Tahini
½ cup Water
1 clove Garlic
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
½ tsp. Sea salt

Puree all ingredients. Season to taste.

 

Hearty Vegan Lasagna: Step by Step

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If you break it down, lasagna is a really simple, yet really impressive dish. This recipe combines everything I love about veggie lasagna, namely the abundance of vegetables, and pairs it with the richness of a creamy tofu cheese and a fair sprinkling of vegan mozzarella.

The cheeses are optional, but truly elevate this dish to the “hearty” category, and will have them coming back for leftovers tomorrow–maybe even before.

Prep:

Make a nice, rich marinara sauce or use your favorite store-bought sauce. Just make sure it tastes really good and you have at least 2 cups.

Gather your favorite vegetables (about 4 cups) and cut them in small pieces, either diced or shredded. This will help ensure even layers. I choose broccoli florets, sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced onions, chopped kale and shredded carrot.

Make a rich, creamy vegan ricotta (about 1 cup). I like the recipe from Ann Gentry’s Real Food Daily Cookbook, but there are any number of recipe variations online.


Tofu Ricotta

Source: Real Food Daily

Ingredients:
14 ounces Tofu, firm, drained
4 cloves Minced garlic
⅔ cup Water, scant
⅔ cup Miso, dark
½ cup Tahini
1 ½ tsp. Basil, dried
1 ½ tsp. Oregano, dried
½ tsp. Crushed red pepper

Method:
Combine all in food processor until smooth.


Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, rinse with cold water and pat dry. I used whole wheat.

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Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbsp. olive oil

Saute vegetables with a sprinkle of salt, until colors brighten and vegetables are slightly softened. Add your favorite Italian seasonings and a bit of black pepper here. Just make sure the veggies taste good…good enough to sit down to a bowlful of them.

vegSpread marinara sauce on bottom of 9 x 13 inch pan

Arrange a layer of noodles, slightly overlapping

Spread noodles with creamy vegan cheese (if using) then sprinkle a bit of vegan mozzarella (if using)

assembleTop with a thick layer of vegetables and press down lightly to make layers even

Ladle marinara over the vegetables

Repeat layering procedure, ending with noodles

Finish with remaining sauce and shredded cheese

ovenreadyBake 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is melted

Enjoy!

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Raw Lasagna Rolls

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Tasty, easy and healthy—these rolls are an exciting twist on a classic Italian dish. Having just recently begun my exploration of raw foods, I admit I was skeptical at first. However, I am so pleased with the intense flavors of foods in their natural state when you have the right mix of ingredients! Now, it would seem a shame to cook this dish and wash out the flavor and texture.

This raw marinara sauce is so flavorful–it just pops! With the creamy smooth nut ricotta filling and the thin wrapper of zucchini these rolls make a perfectly delicious snack or light meal.

RAW LASAGNA ROLLS

from www.nakedavocado.com

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

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What can I say? I grew up like most American kids. Hot dogs were most definitely on the menu. Nowadays, they are definitely not. The conventional version anyway. Every once in awhile I get a hankering for that good old-fashioned frank on a bun experience. There are various brands of vegan dogs on the market, but I thought I would try this recipe because it is quite simple and natural and uses pantry items I have on hand.

These are quite good and easy to make, with a pleasant background flavor of cornmeal, reminiscent of corn dogs (another old favorite). We both actually like them better than any brand I’ve tried. Definitely cheaper than store-bought and you can adjust the sodium and flavorings to your liking.

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

recipe courtesy Heather Bell and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods

as published in Veg News magazine, July-August 2017

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce) package extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled

1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour

1 tbsp arrowroot powder

2 tbsp safflower oil ( I used canola)

3/4 tsp liquid smoke

1 1/2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground mace

1/2 tsp mustard powder

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Method:

In large food processor add all ingredients and process until a dough forms.

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Cut eight 4 x 6 inch pieces or parchment paper and eight pieces of aluminum foil the same size.

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Roll the dough into a ball on a clean surface and flatten slightly. Cut into 8 equal pieces then form each piece into a hot dog shape.

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Roll each dog in parchment and twist ends. Then roll each piece in foil, twist and trim ends if necessary.

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Place rolls in an electric steamer or a colander over a simmering pot of water on the stove to create a steamer (covered). Steam 45 minutes.

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Don’t forget the buns!

 

 

 

Two Bean and Bulgar Chili

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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.

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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.

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

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Key Lime Icebox Pie with Mango-Ginger Coulis

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Here’s a little something different for you, dear readers. A delicious creamy, no-bake dessert that is sweet, but not overly so–with the tangy influence of key lime juice and a hint of ginger.

Key Lime Icebox Pie 

3 ½ cups cashews, raw, soaked
¾ cups key lime juice
¾ cups agave nectar
1 cup coconut oil
½ cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 recipe gingersnap cookie crust

Method:

Blend all together and freeze overnight. Move to fridge for at least an hour. Serve chilled.

Gingersnap Cookie Crust

2 cups ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted

Method:

Blend all together and press into 9-inch pan

Mango-Ginger Coulis

8 ounces mango puree
1 tsp. ginger, fresh, grated
1 ounce sugar, powdered, sifted
1 tbsp. non-dairy creamer, vanilla

Method:

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate 1 day ahead.

 

 

Banana Oat Pancakes

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This recipe from our fellow blogger Spencer, has so much going for it!

#1 Whole Foods

#2 No oil or sugar

# Very, very little flour

# Simple mix and pour from the blender!

My pancake consumption has gone down dramatically over the years because they feel so heavy in my tummy and tend to drag down my energy. But when I read Spencer’s recipe I was intrigued, and I had to give it a try.

I’m happy to say I’m back in the pancake game! These are so light and tasty with a yummy banana flavor. They left me feeling satisfied without feeling too full. This recipe is definitely staying in the permanent rotation!

 

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Check out the original recipe here at spencersgapyear.wordpress.com

 

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Here’s a super-simple yet super- impressive side dish that practically cooks itself–leaving the stovetop free for the rest of your culinary exploits. I always get raves on anything sweet potato and I’ll bet you do too.

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Recipe courtesy Chloe Coscarelli

(4 servings)

16 ounces Sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Rosemary, fresh, chopped
1 tsp. Sea salt
Black pepper

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes in oil to coat.
2.Add rosemary and salt and toss again.. Season with pepper
3.Spread on large-rimmed baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender, stirring frequently to promote even browning. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

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Lentil-Walnut Loaf with Sweet Tomato Glaze

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This is a client favorite and a recipe I swear by, having grown up eating traditional meatloaf. This version has a firm slice without being dry or being soggy. It bakes up perfect, time after time. The glaze really makes it taste just like my mom made back in the day.

Lentil-Walnut Loaf 

adapted from a recipe by Jenna Weber (eatliverun.com)

1 cup Lentils, green or brown
3 cups Vegetable stock
1 large Onion, yellow
1 large Carrot
1 stalk Celery
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tsp. Minced garlic
1 cup Bread crumbs
¾ cup Walnuts
3 tbsp. Flax meal, mixed with 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black pepper
2 tbsp. Ketchup
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tbsp. Vinegar, balsamic
1 parchment paper

1.Heat oven to 350. In small bowl, combine flax and water. Set aside. Simmer together lentils, broth and pinch of salt for about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender and have absorbed all the broth.

2.Chop onion, grate carrot and dice celery. Saute onion and celery in olive oil over medium high heat for six minutes or until tender, not caramelized.

3.Add onion, carrot, garlic mixture on stove and stir well. Add oregano, salt and pepper, then transfer to large bowl.

4.Add breadcrumbs, flax egg and lentils and toss well. Press mixture into a greased loaf pan and set aside while you make topping.

5.Combine ketchup, maple syrup and vinegar. Spread on top of loaf. Bake for 40 minutes then invert onto plate.

 

 

 

Vegan French Toast

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As a lifelong  pancake girl, I never thought I’d get around to writing this post. But my husband’s a French toast guy, and last weekend I wanted to make him a special brunch treat, so here we have it.

I’ve tried vegan French toast recipes before and they just seemed too soggy or blah in the flavor department. But this recipe gets the dipping mixture right, with the addition of a bit of starch and garbanzo bean flour (besan) for a thicker consistency. The trick is a quick run through the blender to well incorporate the ingredients. Also, making sure the baguette is at least a day old helps ensure a crisp result.

Vegan French Toast

recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

Loaf of Italian or French bread, baguette shaped, preferably stale
1/2 cup soy creamer (soy or coconut milk would make a good substitute)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup chickpea flour (this is key)

Dash of vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Several tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

Powered sugar for finishing (optional)

Method:

Slice the baguette into rounds about 1-inch thick and set aside. Combine all remaining ingredients (except oil and powdered sugar) in a blender and mix for a few seconds until fully incorporated. Pour into a shallow dish ( I use a pie plate).

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Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high with a thin layer of oil. Dip rounds of bread (don’t soak, you just want the mixture to cling to the outside) and place immediately in hot skillet and brown on both sides. Serve hot with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, vegan butter and maple syrup.

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How To Make Lentils Taste Good

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If you hate lentils, chances are you have eaten them from a can. The first time I tried them was long before becoming vegan. The lentils were floating in a dirty, brown broth labeled by the Progresso company as soup. I was unimpressed, to say the least.

Since then, however, I have come to appreciate home cooked lentils for the clean, lean, whole food protein powerhouses they are, boasting 18 grams per cup. Not too shabby!

Through experience, I have learned the tastiest lentils are always cooked fresh.  By controlling the cooking and flavoring process can you truly have the best lentil experience.

Here is a simple, flavorful recipe  for  lentils you can dish over a steaming bowl of rice and announce that dinner is done.

 Lentils For Dinner

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup Celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup Carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Minced garlic
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh–grated or finely chopped

1 cup Lentils, brown–rinsed, removing any stones or foreign matter

1 Bay leaf
2 cups Water
1 tsp. Salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

Heat large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat and sauté onion, carrots and celery in olive oil with a pinch of salt until onion is translucent and carrots are crisp-tender (about 7 minutes).

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Add ginger and garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.

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Pour 2 cups of water into the vegetable mixture along with the rinsed lentils, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until lentils are tender, but not mushy *(about 20-25 minutes), with most or all of the water absorbed. You want them to simmer–bubbling nicely,  not to boil like crazy. This will make them break apart and get mushy.

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Taste for salt and add more if needed, along with a generous grind of fresh, black pepper.

*Note: Cooking time can vary slightly from brand to brand, so it’s a good idea to check in periodically and see how the lentils are coming along, giving them a little stir. Pull one out and bite into it at about the 20 minute mark. The last thing you want is to overcook them. Al dente (firm to the bite) is my goal, so I can toss any leftovers into a cold salad the next day.

 

The Plant-Based Meal Builder

Whether for my clients or for my family, I hear the same question almost every day: “What’s for dinner?”

A plant-based diet offers so many choices and  possible combinations, answering this query can leave my head spinning. So, I’ve come up with a method for putting together delicious,  creative, nutritionally balanced vegan meals with enough variety to please everyone!

I think of the meal as a construction project and I visualize it from the ground up. Consulting my menu builder blueprint, I start with the foundation.

  1. The base. I like to include grains, pasta, potatoes, steamed greens, raw or roasted veggies in this group.
  1. The protein. I choose a hearty bean or pulse, a soy product such as edamame, tofu or tempeh; seitan (a product made from wheat gluten) or a pea protein-based meat analog such as Gardein.

Grilled Sesame Tofu with Forbidden Rice and Grilled Baby Bok Choy https://veganflavorista.org/2016/09/22/meaty-grilled-tofu/

  1. The sauce. This category can make the difference between a boring meal and an amazing one. This component should not be overlooked. Here is where the real creativity happens. I decide whether  I want a light or hearty sauce, whether I am looking for spicy, sweet, savory and/or zesty flavors. The variety is endless.

Broccoli Stuffed Potato with Cheesy Sauce and Greek Chopped Salad https://veganflavorista.org/2014/05/22/ultimate-cheezy-sauce/

 

4.  The veggies. This category speaks for itself and basically I choose those that go best with the sauce and flavors I am introducing (example: for an Italian-inspired dish I would choose mushrooms, onion, peppers, tomatoes).

Pasta Primavera

https://veganflavorista.org/2012/09/20/pasta-primavera/

This structure serves as a guideline-a jumping off point for inspiration to create recipe variations as limitless as the imagination!

In upcoming posts, I will share my tried and true components and techniques for creating the meals  I serve to my clients and my family throughout the week.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Thai Curry in a Hurry

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I just love when a dinner idea sparks my imagination and I happen to have everything on hand to create exactly what I envision. Inspired by my favorite Thai restaurant, I set out to make a sweet, spicy, creamy curry filled with fresh, delicious veggies.

This dish is quick and easy to prepare and works great with green or red curry pastes.  And it only takes a few minutes if you cook the rice ahead to warm at service time.

Thai Coconut Curry with Vegetables

¼ cup Thai green or red curry paste
4 ounces Mushrooms
4 ounces Carrot, sliced thinly
8 ounces Broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Red bell pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 cup frozen peas

Note:  Substitute any vegetables for those listed.

13 ounces Coconut milk
1 tbsp. sweetener (optional, but tasty)
¾ cup Vegetable broth
2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce

Squeeze of fresh lime juice (optional)
¼ cup Cilantro, for garnish
2 cups brown rice, cooked

Method:

Take your hard vegetables, like carrots, celery, onions, peppers, broccoli and gently simmer them in the broth until crisp-tender. Now add all the other sauce ingredients and the soft veggies like mushrooms and peas. Bring it up to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce for salty-ness if desired, a squeeze of lime for a mild sour influence or more sweetener, if desired. Balance the flavors. Finish with chopped cilantro.

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Note: If you have an Asian grocery in your town, check out their curry pastes. The one on the left costs $1.49 and tasted better than the one on the right from my local Whole Foods Market at $4.00! A little spicier, but hey, I like it that way!

Top Ten Vegan Mains

 

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When making the transition to a plant-based diet, most of us do really well with breakfast and lunch, but when it comes to dinner, find ourselves in a quandary. The question I have heard most often over the years is “So, what do you eat?”

Here are a few creative recipe ideas for your next meal. Enjoy!

  1.  Classic Meatloaf

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     2.  Stuffed Portobellos

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3.  Macaroni and Cheeze

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4.  All-American Barbecue

BBQ

5.  Sesame Grilled Tofu

saute

6.  Peanut Noodles

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7.  Vegetable Lasagnaovenready

8.  Coconut Curried Tofu and Spinach

dish

9.  Thai Red Lentil Chili

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10.  Quinoa Nachos

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Vegan Frangipane-Raspberry Strudel

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I got to thinking about frangipane and how I hadn’t enjoyed it since way back in my culinary school days. I remembered fondly the rich, creamy sweetness wrapped in a crisp pastry pillow encrusted with sugared almond slices.

I was inspired by this memory to try my hand at a vegan pastry with all the flavor but none of the dairy contained in the classical French preparation.

I was in a hurry to put my theory into action, so I picked up ready-made (accidentally vegan) puff pastry sheets from my grocer’s freezer and set to work.

I let the sheets thaw at room temperature (about 75 degrees) for 45 minutes, until they could be handled easily, but not completely soft. I set my oven to 400 degrees and started making my filling.

I just needed a creamy ingredient to loosen up the almond paste and make it  spreadable, so I chunked the paste  into my food processor with a bit of cashew cream I happened to have leftover in the fridge.

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I processed the two ingredients until very creamy, the consistency of soft frosting.

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I spread a nice thick layer of the frangipane then topped it with raspberry pie filling. I made a second pastry, for good measure– topping the filling with chocolate chips.

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My pastry forming skills are more than a little rusty but I managed it into a shape that looked right, then dabbed a bit of soy milk on top, followed by sliced almonds and sugar. The most important goal, for me, was getting it into the oven 🙂

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I allowed the pastry to bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and crispy on top and bottom.

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It turned out every bit as good as I had imagined.

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Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry sheets, although not exactly a health food, are one of those accidentally vegan products that comes in handy for creating a special treat on the fly.

The frangipane filling was tasty and sweet, but not overly so due to the addition of the unsweetened cashew cream (about 1/2 cup altogether). If I had it in the cabinet I might have bumped up the almond flavor just a bit with some extract, but all in all this quick and easy pastry was a great success!

 

 

Soup Magic: Homestyle Split Pea

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Okay, I know ’tis the season, but we can’t live on vegan holiday cookies and peppermint bark! Put something warm and nourishing in your belly with this super-easy soup recipe.

When I think of split pea soup, I think simplicity. A  savory stew of peas, tender chunks of carrots and celery with just a hint of onion and garlic.

This recipe is simple as simple can be. I load the ingredients in the crockpot on my way out the door in the morning, and a few hours later I have a thick, hearty soup. That’s magic.

Magic Split Pea Soup

1 pound green split peas, rinsed

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

6 cups vegetable broth

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 Method:

Just pour everything into the crockpot, cover and cook on low for 3 ½ – 4 hours. Check for salt and add seasonings to taste. Yield: 6 – 8 servings.

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Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

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These are the best gingerbread cookies I have ever baked, vegan or not! The flavor and spices are perfectly balanced, the cookie is soft and slightly chewy, and the dough is easy to work with. Did I say the best?? Yes, absolutely. There’s still time to try this wonderful recipe and impress family and friends this holiday!

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

(Recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Makes about 16 cookies (depending on the size of your cutters)

1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup plain soymilk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a mix of both)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

spice blend:
1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Directions
In a large bowl whisk together oil and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add molasses and soymilk. The molasses and soymilk won’t really blend with the oil but that’s ok.

Sift in all of the other dry ingredients, mixing about half way through. When all of the dry ingredients are added, mix until a stiff dough is formed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or up to 3 days in advance. If you chill longer than an hour you may want to let it sit for 10 minutes to warm up a bit before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters and use a thin spatula to gently place on cookie sheets. If you are using them to decorate a tree or something, remember to punch a hole in their heads (!) before baking. Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet then move to a cooling rack. Wait until they are completely cool before icing.

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Vegan Apple Crisp

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I remember when I first became aware there was such a thing called apple crisp. And it wasn’t at home. It was in my elementary school lunchroom. This exotic dessert was warm and sweet and cinnamon-y, with this outrageously crispy topping…so way over and above apple pie. It made an impact on me!

I am sure the recipe originated in somebody’s grandma’s kitchen. Most warm apple desserts do 😉 But, I was ever after held captive by that crispy sweet crust of oats and pecans and brown sugar atop those sweet-tart warm apples.

I hope you enjoy this version, from America’s Test Kitchen, slightly modified by the substitution of vegan margarine for the butter called for in the original recipe:

Apple Crisp

Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup pecans, chopped fine
¾ cup oats, rolled
½ cup brown sugar, light
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick, melted and cooled

Filling:
1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 pounds apples, golden delicious, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
⅓ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit . Set oven rack in middle position. Mix together topping with margarine until moistened and crumbly.

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2.Bring cider to simmer in 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Transfer to liquid measuring cup and stir in lemon juice.

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3.Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in bowl. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apples and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften and become translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. (do not fully cook apples). Off heat, gently stir in cider mixture.

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4.Transfer apple mixture to 13 x 9 inch casserole dish (or individual dishes as shown), sprinkle evenly with topping, breaking up any large chunks.

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Bake until fruit is tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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5.Reheat in 425 degree oven until slightly warm, about 5 minutes.

Serving suggestion:  Top with vanilla non-dairy ice cream and this fantastic

vegan caramel sauce

from our fellow blogger, Larice at feedingyourbeauty.com.

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Oh, yeah!!!

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Simple Italian Sausage

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Going vegan doesn’t mean giving up comfort foods, oh no! No way. Although I have tried various vegan sausage brands such as Tofurky and Field Roast, and I especially like Field Roast, I have a client who doesn’t like spicy. So, I learned to make my own!

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I like this simple recipe and having the control over the spices. I particularly like lots of fennel seed and garlic in mine.

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Vegan Italian sausage has so many versatile uses AND best of all it freezes well, so you can just grab and thaw when you need it.

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Click HERE for the recipe:  Simple Italian Sausage

from Isa Chandra Moskowitz

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Roasted Pumpkin Mousse

 

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Here’s a little something special to spice up your next vegan feast!

Roasted Pumpkin Mousse

15 ounces PUMPKIN PUREE
1 tbsp. SUGAR,CANE
⅔ cup BROWN SUGAR, LIGHT, packed
1 tbsp. ARROWROOT POWDER
1 tsp. CINNAMON, GROUND
½ tsp. AGAR-AGAR POWDER
⅛ tsp. GINGER, GROUND
⅛ tsp. SALT, KOSHER
⅛ tsp. BLACK PEPPER, GROUND
¼ tsp. LEMON ZEST, FINE
pinch NUTMEG
pinch CLOVES
pinch CARDOMOM
15 ounces COCONUT MILK
½ tsp. VANILLA

1.Preheat oven to 325. Spread pumpkin on parchment-lined sheet tray. Sprinkle cane sugar over top and bake 15-20 minutes or until pumpkin has dried on surface and has cracked appearance.:

2.Spoon pumpkin into food processor. Let cool to room temperature.:

3.Combine brown sugar, arrowroot, cinnamon, agar-agar, ginger, salt, pepper, lemon zest, nutmeg, cloves, and cardomom in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Stir in the coconut milk and vanilla.:

4. Set pan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook to thicken, until the mixture is thick and gel-like, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to bowl of food processor with pumpkin. Scoop into large bowl and chill.:

5. Serve with whipped cream and candied pecans (optional)

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Vegan Baked Ziti

 

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This recipe is more about method than it is about the ingredients. You could simply layer sauce, pasta and and some kind of dairy-free cheesy substance and bake. Or you could kick it up a notch like I have done in this particular version.

First, start with your favorite marinara. Then find a good cheesy sauce or vegan cheese substance you like. Here’s the special part:

Cook your pasta in nice sea-salted water. The water should taste salty. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet at medium-high heat and add a generous quantity of olive oil.

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Thinly slice or chop several cloves of fresh garlic and add them to the hot oil, letting them sizzle until they just start to turn golden. Don’t let them burn.

When the garlic turns golden, add a couple ladles of pasta water and let it boil with the garlic and oil until reduced by half. The starch in the pasta water will help add body to your sauce. Next, add a couple ladles of marinara and let that simmer 2 minutes or so.

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Now add the drained pasta, cooked at a firm al dente, not quite done. The pasta will finish cooking over the next few minutes of simmering in the sauce and absorb all that fantastic flavor!

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Now that your pasta has picked up all this tasty garlic broth and sauce,  you are ready to layer and bake.

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Baked, uncovered at 375 degrees, until heated through and whatever cheese substance you use is melted and/or picking up a bit of color to let you know it is ready.

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Finish with a bit of hemp seed parmesan and serve immediately to adoring dining companion(s)! You won’t regret taking this little extra step that works like magic for any pasta dish.

Depression-Era Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Buttercream

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During the Great Depression, a time of severe worldwide economic struggle–which took place in the 1930’s and lasted almost a decade– many couldn’t afford milk, eggs or butter, so recipes abound from this period that are accidentally vegan.

I came across this recipe for chocolate cake and just had to give it a try. I made a couple  small tweaks, adding a tablespoon of crushed espresso powder to bump up the cocoa flavor and spread raspberry jam between the layers for that little extra something special.

I also chose the classic Hershey’s Cocoa One-Bowl Frosting Recipe from the side of the cocoa can, handed down by my grandmother when I was a little girl learning to bake in her kitchen. I simply substituted Earth Balance buttery baking sticks for the butter to veganize.

Depression-Era Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
10 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa (or 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp)
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 cups cold water

Instructions:
Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl then add the wet and combine until completely mixed. Pour into two 8 or 9 inch greased and floured cake pans and bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes.

 

 

Notes: Careful not to over-bake. Check cake for doneness at around 25 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the center.

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Don’t skimp on the jam!!

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Also, this cake freezes really well. Cut into individual portions and freeze on a sheet tray, then transfer to covered container or ziplock bags. Easy!

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Thai Red Lentil Chili

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This is my new favorite stew! Imagine spicy smoky chili flavor mingled with sweet creamy coconut milk, hearty kidney beans, lentils and sweet potatoes. This dish is tasty, nutritious and filling. Oh, and did I mention…it’s super quick and easy to make!

This is one that I think most non-vegans can enjoy as well. Veggie stews and chili are a great introduction to vegan cuisine. Today’s chili was just one of the five entrees I cooked for my client’s weekly meals.

IMG_1938 I enjoy cooking vegan and sharing wholesome food with others. I love my job!

Thai Red Lentil Chili

Recipe courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced medium

1/2 red bell pepper, diced medium

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. chili powder

3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks

1/2 cup red lentils

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups vegetable broth

14.5 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste

8 ounces coconut milk

14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Method:

Saute onions and pepper in oil with a pinch of salt, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute more. Add chili powder, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil

Let boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. When lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are tender, add the remaining ingredients and heat through.

Taste for seasoning, top with cilantro and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

French Onion Soup

Macro

They said it couldn’t be done…but here it is, a veganized version of the classic French onion soup!

This recipe comes from Allison Rivers Samson, owner and operator of Allison’s Gourmet Online Vegan Bakery and Confectionary. She is famous for her ultra-decadent gourmet vegan chocolates and other sweets, but it doesn’t end there.

Allison is also the author of the “Veganize It” column for VegNews magazine.  Her recipes feature veganized versions of many comfort food favorites, like macaroni and cheese, lasagna, burgers–even Caesar salad! These recipes and so much more can be found here on her blog. I am a big fan of Allison’s work, both sweet and savory!

 Here’s a basic rundown of this deceptively simple, yet impressively elegant recipe:

Slice

Slice onions very thinly and sweat them in a large stock pot with a bit of salt.

Prep

The most critical step in this recipe is the caramelization of the onions. It is important to allow the onions to really cook down nice and brown. This is going to provide a very rich flavor to the soup.


Carmelize

Once the onions are done, the pan gets deglazed with a bit of white wine then vegetable stock and seasonings are added and the soup simmers for a few minutes.

Soup

Top with a toasted vegan cheese French bread slice and serve immediately!

Plate

Cajun Potato Cake with Horseradish Cream

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Doesn’t this look delish? It’s really simple to make.

CAJUN POTATO CAKES

1 CUP LEFTOVER MASHED POTATOES
¼ CUP FLOUR, ALL PURPOSE
1 TBSP SCALLIONS, Diced
½ TBSP CAJUN SEASONING, or to taste
1 CUP PANKO BREAD CRUMBS
¼ TSP SALT
1 TBSP FLAX MEAL
3 TBSP WATER
OIL FOR FRYING
1-2 TBSP PREPARED HORSERADISH
¼ CUP VEGANAISE
1  LEEK, WHITE AND PALE GREEN PARTS ONLY (OPTIONAL)

METHOD:
PREPARE FLAX EGG: MIX FLAX MEAL WITH WATER AND SET ASIDE.:

PREPARE HORSERADISH CREAM: MIX VEGANAISE AND HORSERADISH TO DESIRED STRENGTH, ADDING WATER AS NEEDED FOR POURABLE CONSISTENCY.:

PREPARE FRIED LEEKS, IF USING: SPLIT LEEK LENGTHWISE, WHITE AND PALE GREEN PART ONLY, THEN RINSE AND DRY LEEK WELL. JULIENNE INTO THIN STRIPS (ABOUT 3 INCHES IN LENGTH). DROP STRIPS INTO HOT OIL AND FRY UNTIL LIGHTLY BROWN. REMOVE AND DRAIN ON PAPER TOWELS. SPRINKLE LIGHTLY WITH SALT. SET ASIDE.:

MIX MASHED POTATOES TOGETHER WITH FLOUR, GREEN ONIONS AND SEASONING.

FORM INTO CAKES, ADDING MORE FLOUR IF DOUGH IS TOO SOFT, OR LESS IF DOUGH IS TOO STIFF.

BRUSH WITH MIXTURE OF FLAX MEAL AND WATER, THEN ROLL IN SALTED PANKO BREAD CRUMBS.

PAN- FRY (OR DEEP FRY) CAKES UNTIL CRISP AND GOLDEN BROWN. SERVE IMMEDIATELY WITH HORSERADISH CREAM AND GARNISH WITH LEEKS (IF USING).

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Farro (soy free, gluten-free option)

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This is a fun, easy, delicious whole foods meal–elegant enough for guests, but simple enough to whip up on a weeknight. Feel free to substitute rice for the farro, but you don’t know what you’re missing!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Farro (or brown rice for gf option)

adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine recipe

6 4-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms, stemmed
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 leeks, white and pale green parts thinly sliced (2 cups)
6 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbs.)
1 ½ Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1 lb. fresh baby spinach
4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese substitute, shredded ( I use Daiya)
2 Tbs. pine nuts
1 cup farro
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with cooking spray. Spray mushroom caps with cooking spray, and sprinkle gill sides with salt and pepper, if desired. Arrange mushrooms gill-sides down on prepared baking sheet. Roast 10 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to soften. Turn mushrooms over.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic, and thyme, and sauté 4 minutes, or until leeks are tender. Add 2 large handfuls spinach at a time, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until spinach is wilted and most liquid has evaporated, stirring often.

IMG_1614Stir in cheese and pine nuts. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Fill mushrooms with spinach mixture, mounding on top and packing filling down with hands. Bake 25 minutes, or until filling browns on top and mushrooms are fork-tender.

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3. Cook farro in large saucepan of boiling salted water 20 minutes, or until just tender, stirring occasionally. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. To serve, spoon 1/2 cup farro mixture onto each plate; top with 1 stuffed mushroom.

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Tempeh Picatta

Tempeh Picatta

Tangy lemon and capers in a savory butter garlic sauce over pan-seared tempeh. A very easy, enlightened version of the restaurant classic!

Tempeh has been a staple in Indonesia for over 2000 years. It is a highly nutritious fermented food traditionally made from soybeans and its high protein content makes it a wonderful substitute for meat. It is found next to the tofu in the grocery store. I like to use it in recipes that call for a “meatier” texture like for loaves and faux meatballs.

This recipe makes plenty of sauce, so it goes great with pasta or rice on the side.

Tempeh Picatta

from “Chloe’s Kitchen” by Chloe Coscarelli

1 8-ounce package tempeh, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons vegan margarine

2 tablespoons drained capers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

*In a large pot, place the tempeh in a steamer basket over enough water to reach the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam for 20 minutes, checking the water level periodically and adding more if needed.

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In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat and cook tempeh on each side for 5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Transfer to a plate.

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In the same skillet, heat remaining oil and saute onions until soft. Add garlic and let cook a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly add broth to skillet so the oil doesn’t spatter. Reduce heat to medium and let the broth bubble down for 1 to 2 minutes.

Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl and slowly drizzle it into the skillet, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Reduce the heat to low. Add lemon juice and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the tempeh back into the pan and turn over to coat and heat through. Turn off the heat and stir in margarine, capers and parsley until margarine is melted and well incorporated. Check for seasoning and serve immediately.

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*Note: Use this steaming method to remove any bitterness from the tempeh. If you use West Soy Brand tempeh, however, bitterness will not be an issue and you can skip this step!

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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15 Minute Farro

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When it comes to choosing a whole grain foundation for plant-based meals, I like to mix it up for variety’s sake, but I also like to get the most nutritional bang for my buck.

Farro is a type of wheat often referred to an “ancient grain” and nutritionally, it outperforms even brown rice and whole-grain pasta. Per ½-cup serving, farro delivers more protein (about 3.5 g) and fiber (about 3.5 g) than brown rice.

But the main reason I add farro to meals is because it is EASY,  QUICK to prepare and it tastes great!

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15 Minute Farro

1 cup farro

3 cups water

1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Rinse grains in cold water and place in saucepan with water (and salt, if using).

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Cover and bring to low boil for fifteen minutes or until al dente or chewy.

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Drain off any remaining water if necessary and serve as is or toss with sautéed aromatics or veggies such as onion, celery and carrots and fresh chopped parsley–pilaf style.

 

Rajma Masala (Red Kidney Bean Curry)

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I couldn’t wait to try this recipe I stumbled upon at SpiceyAndSugaryBites. I’ve never made an Indian curry with kidney beans before. It turned out great. I hope you will give it a try as well!

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I pre-cooked the dried kidney beans after soaking overnight.

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Meanwhile I gathered my spices and chopped my aromatics.

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The saute’ smells amazing!

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I love that final stage where everything comes together and all that’s left is the simmer and check for seasoning. My husband walked in and said, “Oh, we are having chili!” And I said, “You’ve never had chili like this before!”

 

Mixed Indian Dal with Savory Aromatics

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I have an abiding admiration for and a bit of an obsession with Indian cuisine. I find the complexity of the spices and the aromatics absolutely intoxicating. On any given day I would happily choose a hearty, fragrant bowl of Indian spiced dal for any meal, including breakfast!

Dal, or dhal is a dried pulse (lentil, pea or various types of bean) which has been split. Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t realize just how many varieties and types of these pulses there are–each with its own characteristic texture and flavor.

At the store’s freezer section one day, I read the ingredients on a box of  Amy’s Vegetable Korma and was stunned to find listed several different types of dal I have never heard of. I just had to make a visit to my local Indian grocery to investigate. I brought home several bags of different colors and types of lentils and split peas and beans.

Next stop, the library. I gathered as many Indian cookbooks as I could manage and dove right into the lentils and beans chapters. One book that stands out as offering the most accessible, easy-to-prepare dal recipes turned out to be

“The Indian Vegan Kitchen” by Madhu Gadia, M.S., R.D.

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Here is one of several recipes I have prepared from this book (with slight modification) and the journey continues!

Black Gram and Bengal Gram Dal (derived from a recipe by Madhu Gadia)

*3/4 cup urad dal (split, hulled)

*1/4 cup chana dal (split, hulled)

7 cups water (I used only 5 cups, for a more stew-like consistency)

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. salt

Seasoning (chunk)

3 tbsp. coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)

*1/4 tsp. asafetida powder (hing)

1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 cup onion, finely chopped

2 tsp. garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp. ginger, peeled and grated

2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste

Lemon wedges

*These items may be hard (or impossible) to find at your local grocery, so if you don’t have an Indian grocer nearby you can find everything you need on amazon.com. However, it will be way less expensive if you can find a local resource.

Method:

I prepared on the stove, but the original recipe gives directions for either stovetop or pressure cooker.

First, wash the lentils in 3 to 4 changes of water. Really wash them well, until the water is clear if possible. Drain and cover with water and allow to soak for at least 2 hours.

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Drain lentils and add with water and salt to saucepan and bring to boil, skimming off any foam that collects on the top. Add turmeric, then cover and cook on low, until soft, about 30-45 minutes.

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Meanwhile, gather the aromatics and seasonings.

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Heat the oil on medium high and add asafetida followed by the cumin seeds.  Allow to sizzle, stirring for a few seconds, then add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, coriander and cayenne then fry for a few seconds until soft.

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Combine the seasonings and the cooked dal in the same pot and stir gently until well combined. Heat through to serving temperature. Continue to cook, uncovered on low heat for a thicker consistency. Check for salt before serving. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

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This dal has a hearty, yet creamy texture. The flavor is rich and savory. Just delicious!

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Shopping at India Bazaar, West Palm Beach, FL 🙂

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Top Ten Vegan Dessert Recipes

 

Chocolate Ganache Cake

You asked for it and here it is! The Monster List of Vegan Desserts! Enjoy!

 

ganache  Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake

IMG_4153 Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dutch Apple Pie Dutch Apple Pie

IMG_4164 Key Lime Pie

IMG_3330 Chocolate Brownies

IMG_4841 Vanilla Cake

IMG_0860 Chocolate Mousse Pie

IMG_3989 Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

cake Carrot Cake (reduced fat, sugar)

brownies Dark Chocolate Brownies (reduced fat, sugar)

 

 

Indian Besan Omelet with Chickpeas,Tomato and Shallots

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Tender and tasty, spiced with garam masala and speckled with fresh tomato and green chiles, these delicious, high-protein Indian pancakes provide the perfect accompaniment to a meal with a smear of good green chutney or they can provide the base for the meal itself!  Way beyond roti or naan bread, these are full of flavor– soft and pliable, great for folding over and stuffing with even more Indian goodness.

I am finally digging into Madhur Jaffrey’s gorgeous cookbook, Vegetarian India: A Journey Through The Best of Indian Home Cooking, and last night I prepared Chickpeas in  Cilantro Sauce and Chickpea Flour (aka besan) and Tomato Pancakes. The meal itself was okay, not quite as intensely flavorful as other dishes I have tried, but I had a whole mess of chickpeas already cooked and ready to go, so I gave the recipe a try. The real star of the show, however, were the pancakes!

This morning I had batter left over and cooked up one for breakfast, omelet style. I reheated chickpeas from last night and mashed them a bit, rolling them up with fresh  sliced tomato and then used that hot skillet to char up a few slices of shallot hanging around in the fridge. Brilliant!!

I can see this versatile bread becoming part of my regular meal rotation. I hope you give it  a try!

Chickpea Flour and Tomato Pancakes (by Madhur Jaffrey)

Note: The method is briefly and loosely translated here and not written true to the original. In other words, this is how I did it and it came out great.

1 cup chickpea flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground turmeric

1/4 tsp. nice red chili powder

*Generous pinch of ground asafetida (hing powder)

1/4 tsp. garam masala

1 cup tomato, finely diced

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

1 fresh hot green chili, finely chopped

About 3 tbsp. olive of peanut oil

Method:

Mix all dry ingredients together with a whisk, removing lumps. Pulse fresh tomato, onion and chile to fine dice. Blend dry ingredients along with enough water to make a thin, crepe-like batter, about 1 1/4 cups. Press out any lumps.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 1/2 tsp. oil. Measure 1/3 cup batter and pour on hot oiled pan, spreading thinly, as in making crepes. The cake will puff a little as it cooks. When dry-looking on the surface, carefully run a thin metal spatula around the edges, then turn and cook on the other side, about 1-2 minutes.

Serve with a meal or stuff with flavorful fillings and fold over, omelet-style.

Yield: 6 servings

*Asafetida, also known as Hing powder is available at Indian Grocery stores and online.  Some Oriental markets may carry it as well. However, it is often way over-priced online. I bought a nice little jar for under $3 at the Indian Grocery.

 

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!

Chana Masala

Image courtesy Chef Melanie daPonte

Image courtesy Chef Melanie daPonte

There will always be Indian food in my weekly meal rotation. Why? Because it’s delicious and nutritious, and need not be spicy to be enjoyed, although I do like a little fire myself!

This is a perfect transitional dish for those curious to try Indian flavors. It’s a simple, yet flavorful tomato sauce with chickpeas and warm Indian spices, brightened by a splash of lemon juice and fresh cilantro. What’s not to love?

Here’s the recipe generously shared by fellow blogger, Greenbeekitchen:

Chana Masala

Sesame Grilled Tofu with Spicy Green Beans

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I am all about a quick and easy dinner idea and here’s one of my favorites. Especially with a couple of pieces of timesaving equipment: microwave steamer and pasta cooker, this dish goes really fast from stove to table.

Sesame Grilled Tofu

3 Tablespoons Tamari or Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon Sesame oil

14 ounce pkg. Extra firm tofu, pressed

Preheat grill or grill pan to sear setting. Slice tofu width-wise in eight equal slices. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil. Marinate tofu while grill is heating. Remove tofu slices and reserve marinade. Grill tofu slices for approximately 6-8 minutes, until brown and nicely marked.

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Meanwhile, boil up your favorite asian noodle: ramen, soba and udon and micro-cook a couple servings of green beans. Heat about 1 tablespoon of light oil on low in a non-stick pan and add 1 tablespoon Tom Yum Paste or Spicy Black Bean Paste. Toss green beans lightly.

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Drain noodles and toss with remaining marinade. Divide into two bowls. Slice tofu and top noodles. Add green beans on top and serve immediately.

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Soup Magic: Spicy Black Bean

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Another weeknight meal I pulled off with minimal work! This soup didn’t even require any vegetable chopping! Can it get any easier?

I fired up the crockpot and added a few ingredients and let it cook on low for four hours. Dinner. Done.

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Spicy Black Bean Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked black beans

3 cups vegetable broth

16 ounces of your favorite tomato salsa

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Method:

Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook, covered, on low for 4 hours. Feel free to add a cup or so of frozen corn or other vegetables near the end of the cook time. Make it your own!

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Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Five Minute Asian Peanut Noodles

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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

 

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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