An Announcement Plus Vegan Quick & Easy Italian Dressing

I have a little announcement for y’all but first a little background.

Ever since I was a teenager, long before I ever went vegan, I’ve had to deal with a multitude of chronic medical issues. The main concern being severe female issues. Over the years I’ve tried a variety of treatment methods, meds, etc., but found little to no relief. In recent years especially, my medical issues have really been causing havoc in my life. Tired of it all, I decided to check in with my doctor once more and see what, if anything at this point, could possibly be done or changed to help remedy these issues once and for all. I knew that I needed something new, something we (my doctor and myself) hadn’t thought to try before, and that’s exactly what I got.

There’s an old saying, “let food be thy medicine,” and my doctor and myself have decided to put this old saying into immediate action. For an undetermined amount of time I will be on a very strict, yet still vegan, diet which my doctor believes will do wonders for my chronic medical issues. With that said, I’ve decided to take a little time off from my blog to get my new diet kickstarted -and to figure out some new recipes that work with my dietary restrictions and are still so damn delicious and worthy of sharing with y’all! I will be returning to my little ol’ blog on May 31st and I hope you’ll be as excited for my return as I will be!

 


 

And now, a recipe…

A few weeks ago I promised to share 2 recipes because I missed a week. Well, I never did that. #SadFace

Earlier this week I made the statement that this would be the week that I would share 2 recipes and that they would both be sweets of some kind. Well… about that… the 1st one was indeed sweet but in between that one and this one I had that doctor’s appointment I spoke of in my announcement above. With new dietary restrictions in place I had no choice but to scrap the 2nd recipe that I had planned for this week as I couldn’t eat it and therefore couldn’t make sure the flavors were spot on before sharing it with y’all. So I had to reach deep within my recipe box to figure out what I could make that would be in line with my new diet yet good to share, and that brings me to the subject of salad dressings.

I love me a good salad and I’m not necessarily talking about a salad that’s loaded with toppings or anything like that. Sometimes all I need is a plate full of crisp greens and a fantastic dressing. My favorite dressing is ranch and I’ve shared my recipe for d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s ranch dressing with y’all in the past but every now and then I want something else. One such “something else” is Italian dressing.

Of course, just like with ranch dressing, you can go to any store and buy yourself a bottle of the stuff, but homemade is always going to be the better option. So today I’m sharing my recipe for quick and easy Italian dressing. This recipe is great because it uses things that I, and probably you, always have in stock -unlike the ingredients needed to make my ranch dressing which very rarely do I ever just happen to have in stock.

To get started on my Italian dressing, you’re going to grab a jar (or other seal-able container) and pour in some oil, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice.

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Next you’re going to add in a little spicy brown mustard and the generously measured seasonings -Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.

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Screw the lid on tight and then shake the mixture vigorously for 1 minute to create an emulsion. What’s an emulsion? An emulsion is the bringing together of 2 liquids, who don’t normally like to be together, into one fine little mixture. In this case, we’re bringing together oil and vinegar. #FromFormerFoesToBestHoes

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You can use this dressing immediately or put it in the fridge and let the flavors meld until you’re ready to use it. The longer it sits, the bolder the flavors will be. If the mixture separates while sitting in the fridge just give it another good shake before you use it.

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Vegan Quick & Easy Italian Dressing

  • Servings: makes a little less than 2/3 cup
  • Time: 5 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oil (not olive oil but rather canola or vegetable)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend (I like the kind which also has salt and pepper in it but if yours doesn’t have salt and pepper then you’ll need to add a little salt and pepper, to taste, to your dressing.)
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. In a jar or other seal-able container, combine all ingredients.
  2. Close jar or container and then shake mixture vigorously for 1 minute. Serve immediately or keep in fridge for up to 1 week. Flavor will develop (intensify) the longer it sits in the fridge for. If mixture separates while sitting in fridge simply shake again before serving.

Vegan Tomato Tart

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I love my best friend, Angel. She’s the bestest best friend a girl could ask for! We’ve known each other for (I think) nearly 15 years and if there is one thing that I have learned about her in those 15 years it’s that she loves food. Any food.

Now this is both a good thing and a bad thing though. It’s a good thing because it means that she will eat whatever I make for her (and her hubby and baby boy). I always get to test out new recipes and she gets free, yummy vegan food -most of the time. That’s where this can be a bad thing. I’m not a professional chef or culinary wiz by no means so there are times when, despite my best efforts, something just doesn’t turn out as I had hoped it would. But there’s my soul sister, eating it anyways. I’ll critic my work with every bite but she doesn’t say a peep. When I mention how I can make it better next time she often lovingly says that it was great this time. (Did I mention that I love her??)

One such occasion where we didn’t agree on how a recipe turned out was when I made my very first tomato tart. It looked amazing but it was troublesome to eat and missing something. I rattled off the changes I wanted to make to the recipe and what did my best friend do? She asked me for the recipe. As it was. Well me being the perfectionist that I am, I straight up refused to give it to her. Instead I said that when I had finished tweaking it I would then, and only then, share it with her -and all of you. Fast forward a few months later, to today, and I am proud to say that my tomato tart recipe has been perfected and is finally ready to share.

This one’s for you, Angel! #LoveYou

This easy to make tart is a thing of beauty and I’ve definitely improved on its eatability and flavor. The sweet little cherry tomatoes which have been cooked down in a balsamic vinegar reduction are everything -they are bursting with flavor. Below them there is a creamy, garlic-flavored tofu cream and below that is light and crispy puff pastry. Top it all of with some fresh basil and this recipe is perfect for a light lunch or dinner, or as an appetizer at your next get-together.

The first thing that we need to do is prepare some egg substitute for use a little later. I used Ener-G egg substitute and I prepared it in accordance with the instructions on the box for 1 egg. Set this mixture aside until it’s needed.

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Next, the creamy tofu filling needs to be made by first draining and pressing some firm tofu. Put the tofu in a blender and add in almond milk, lemon juice, a whole bunch of garlic, a little onion powder, salt, and some sugar. Blend until perfectly smooth then set aside for a moment until we need it.

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Okay, now for the puff pastry portion -say that 10 times fast! For this recipe you will need 1 sheet of puff pastry that you’ve thawed according to the instructions on the packaging. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut a 1/2 inch wide strip off of the left side and the right side of the pastry sheet. Now cut 1/2 inch wide strips from both the top and the bottom of the pastry sheet.

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Grab your egg substitute and, using your finger or a small pastry brush, paint on a 1/2 inch wide strip of egg substitute onto the bottom edge of the final pastry square. Once you’ve got a strip of egg substitute on the edge, place the bottom strip of puff pastry that you cut off over top of the egg substitute to create the bottom side of what will be a frame of puff pastry. Repeat the egg substitute and puff pastry strip application on the opposite side of the pastry square.

With the top and bottom of the frame done now we must put on the sides. Before you “glue down” the left and right sides of our puff pastry strips with egg substitute, trim the length of the strips down to fit between the top and bottom puff pastry strips without overlap. Once all of the puff pastry frames edges have been attached with egg substitute, carefully transfer the whole thing to a parchment-lined sheet pan.

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Pour the creamy tofu goodness that we made earlier in the center of your puff pastry frame then carefully spread it out into an even layer. Try not to get it onto the frame itself but if some does accidentally spill over just push it back towards the the center of the pastry square.

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Get that into your preheated oven and bake it off until the puff pastry is golden brown and the tofu cream has set. While that’s baking, we will need to make the tomato mixture that will top off the tart after it comes out of the oven and we will also need to cut up some fresh basil.

For the tomato mixture, halve a generous cup of cherry (aka cherub) tomatoes. Put them into a pan with a little balsamic vinegar and cook them over low-med. heat for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have become soft and darker in color, and the balsamic vinegar has reduced to a thicker consistency.

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Once the puff pastry and tofu cream are done in the oven, it’s time to add the tomato mixture to our tart to transform it into the hella good tomato tart it was destined to be.

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As you can see, I just use a spoon to get the tomato mixture onto the tart. After all of the tomatoes are on there I then use the back of the spoon to gently press the tomatoes down a little which helps them fill out the tart a little better.

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Add the fresh basil and enjoy!

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Vegan Tomato Tart

  • Servings: 3-4 as a light lunch or dinner, 4-9 as an appetizer
  • Time: 60 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • Egg substitute for 1 egg (I used Ener-G -it’s my favorite!)
  • Flour for cutting board or pastry board
  • 1 sheet of vegan puff pastry, thawed according to directions on packaging (Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan!)
  • 7 ounces of firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 generous cup of cherry (aka cherub) tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil, finely chopped or cut into little ribbons (chiffonade)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. In a small dish, prepare egg substitute for 1 egg according to package instructions. Set aside.
  2. Put the drained and pressed tofu into a blender and add in the almond milk, lemon juice, whole garlic cloves, onion powder, salt, and sugar. Blend until perfectly smooth then set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, lay out the puff pastry sheet. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut a 1/2 inch wide strip off of the left side and the right side of the puff pastry sheet. Now cut 1/2 inch wide strips from both the top and the bottom of the puff pastry sheet.
  4. Using your finger or a small pastry brush, paint on a 1/2 inch wide strip of egg substitute onto the bottom edge of the final puff pastry square. Place the bottom strip of puff pastry that you cut off over top of the egg substitute to create the bottom side of what will be a frame of puff pastry. Repeat the egg substitute and puff pastry strip application on the opposite side of the puff pastry square. With the top and bottom of the frame done now put on the sides but before you “glue down” the left and right strips of puff pastry with egg substitute, trim the length of the strips down to fit between the top and bottom puff pastry strips without overlap. Once all of the puff pastry frames edges have been attached with egg substitute, carefully transfer the whole thing to a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  5. Pour the tofu mixture in the center of the puff pastry frame then carefully spread it out into an even layer. Try not to get it onto the frame itself but if some does accidentally spill over just push it back towards the the center of the puff pastry square. Bake for 35 minutes.
  6. While the puff pastry and tofu cream are baking, make the tomato mixture that will top off the tart after it comes out of the oven. Cut each tomato in half. Put halved tomatoes into a shallow pan with the balsamic vinegar. Cook uncovered over low-med. heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have become soft and darker in color, and the balsamic vinegar has reduced to a thicker consistency. Set aside until tart is out of the oven.
  7. After 35 minutes is up, remove tart from oven and top with the tomato mixture. Use the back of a spoon to gently press over top of the tomato mixture to help it fill out the tart a little better. Finish with fresh basil and enjoy! Will keep in an airtight container in fridge for 1-2 days but is better when served and eaten immediately.

Vegan Southern-Style Biscuits

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In case you weren’t aware, honey, I’m from the south. Albeit the southwest but still, the south. I’ve always wished that I was from the actual south where me saying “y’all” all the time wouldn’t garner funny looks but that just wasn’t the case -I was born in Phoenix. Despite this, I’d like to think that I’ve still got a little southern blood in me because some lucky ducks who lived long before I ever came along did actually live in the south. #FamilyTreeForTheWin

With my love for nearly all things southern and my desire to have been born a southern belle, surely I had to perfect the art of biscuit making because ain’t no southerner a proud one unless they can make a biscuit worth a damn. At least, that’s my belief anyway. So I set out to make the best vegan southern-style biscuits ever and you know what? After numerous attempts, recipe tweaks, and botched batches I think I have indeed come up with the best recipe for southern-style biscuits.

My biscuits are so good they’ll make you wanna slap yo’ mama -but please don’t be slappin’ yo’ mama. They’ll make you wanna sit on a front porch. Don’t have a front porch? Borrow your neighbors. These biscuits will make you say, “Lord, have mercy,” as you reach for another. And why will they make you do all of this?? Because they’re that good. They’re lightly flavored which means that they are perfect all by themselves or paired with say, gravy, or a jam, or vegan fried “chicken.” They’re not dry and crumbly like some biscuits can be and best of all they’re pretty easy to make, too.

To get started, first we are going to prepare the 2 liquid ingredients so that when we are ready to use them they are ready to be used. To prepare the ice cold water you’ll simply add ice to water -I mean, did I even need to explain that? To prepare our “buttermilk” you’re going to combine unsweetened almond milk with a little bit of vinegar and then give it a stir.

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The next step is to get the dry ingredients whisked together.

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Once the dry ingredients have been thoroughly combined you’re going to add in the “buttermilk” mixture, vegan butter, a little coconut oil, and some sugar. Using either 2 knives or what I have, a pastry cutter, you’re going to bring the biscuit dough together. As you’re doing this you’re going to add in a few tablespoons of the ice cold water we prepared earlier to help with this process.

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When the dough has come together it should look a little like the picture below. If you have some flour that didn’t quite work in don’t worry about it -just get the dough as combined as possible without A) overworking it, and B) adding too much water.

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You should be able to grab the dough, pinch it or press it, and see it hold together nicely.

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Turn out your biscuit dough onto a very lightly floured surface and work it a little, gently pressing the dough flat then folding it over onto itself and repeating the process. In doing this we’re creating layers in our biscuits and we are working in just a little more of the loose flour. Be sure to only do this for about a minute and no more than that because we don’t want to melt the butter and warm the dough with our hands.

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Press the dough out into a circle a little over an inch thick (I go for about an inch and a third or an inch and a half) then, using a round 3″ cookie cutter, cut out your biscuits. Be sure to not twist your cookie cutter as you press down because this action might result in biscuits that don’t rise as much as they should. You’ll likely need to re-form the dough once or twice in order to cut out all of your biscuits and that’s okay.

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Place your biscuits (you should have 7 of them) on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake ’em for 9 minutes.

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After they’ve baked for 9 minutes, take them out of the oven, flip each one over, and then brush them generously with some melted vegan butter. Now slide them back in the oven for a final 9 minutes.

At this point, you’re so close to having some south in your mouth that you’ll probably be drooling but try to contain yourself, darlin’, cause they’re almost done!

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When they’re done they’ll have tops that are the softest shade of golden brown. Enjoy ’em while they’re still warm or enjoy ’em a day or two later -either way you will enjoy ’em.

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Vegan Southern-Style Biscuits

  • Servings: about 7 biscuits
  • Time: 30 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • Ice water
  • 1/2 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 cups self-rising flour, plus a little extra for your board
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter, slightly room temperature just to make it a little easier to work with, plus 2 additional separate tablespoons, melted, for brushing on the biscuits
  • 1 teaspoon refined coconut oil, solid
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. Prepare the liquids needed by adding ice to water in one dish or cup, and by adding the vinegar to the almond milk to create a “buttermilk” substitute in another dish or cup. Stir the “buttermilk” mixture to combine then set aside both it and the ice water until needed.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder, and whisk to break apart any lumps that you may have. Add in the “buttermilk” mixture, slightly room temperature vegan butter, coconut oil, and sugar. Using 2 knives or a pastry cutter, start to blend the dough together. As you’re bringing the dough together, add in about 4 tablespoons of ice water. If you have some flour that doesn’t quite work in don’t worry about it -just get the dough as combined as possible without overworking it or adding too much water. You’ll know the dough is ready when you can grab the dough, pinch it or press it, and see it hold together nicely.
  3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and work it a little, gently pressing the dough flat then folding it over onto itself and repeating the process to create layers in our biscuits and to work in just a little more of any loose flour you may have. Be sure to only do this for about a minute so that you don’t melt the butter and warm the dough with your hands.
  4. Press the dough out into a circle a little over an inch thick then, using a round 3″ cookie cutter, cut out your biscuits. Be sure to not twist your cookie cutter as you press down because this action might result in biscuits that don’t rise as much as they should. You’ll likely need to re-form the dough once or twice in order to cut out all of your biscuits and that’s okay. Place the biscuits onto your prepared sheet pan and bake them for 9 minutes.
  5. Remove the biscuits from the oven, flip each one over, then brush each generously with melted vegan butter. Put them back in the oven for an additional 9 minutes. When done, biscuits will keep on the counter in an airtight container for about 2-3 days.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

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I l-o-v-e ranch dressing. I dip everything in it from vegan pizza, to carrots, to french fries, and hell if I could I would even dip my ranch in ranch. Are you starting to see the depth of my love for this dressing?? It’s pretty damn deep, y’all, pretty damn deep.

Now of course you can pop in your local WF and buy some vegan ranch there but making it from scratch is really easy and the end result is so much better than store bought. Once you’ve had my fresh, homemade ranch dressing I promise you that you’ll never want to have anything else. It’s lusciously creamy and dare I say it’s so good that one might just drink it? Oh, I dare.

To begin, you’re going to prepare the fresh herbs (parsley, chives, and dill) by getting them all chopped up very fine.

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Once your fresh herbs are all chopped up you’re then going to prepare the garlic clove by peeling it and giving it a rough chop. Then you’re going to sprinkle some salt on it and, using a fork, mash it into a paste.

There is something about doing this step that I find to be so therapeutic so I tend to get a little zen with it and really get that paste good and mushy, but don’t feel like you need to obliterate the garlic or anything. (Unless you’re in need of a zen moment then by all means, give that garlic clove hell.) We’re just looking to help break it down a little and the blender will do the rest.

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Now it’s time for the blender I speak of. You’re going to blend until smooth the garlic paste with all of the other ingredients except the fresh herbs.

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After the mixture is nice and creamy you’re going to pour it into the seal-able storage container of your choice, I like using a large mason jar, and then you’re going to toss in the fresh herbs and give the whole thing a good shake.

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Now give yourself a pat on the back because you just made ranch from scratch! I’m like legit proud of you, you ranch making fool, you.

You can use the ranch right away if you’re in dyer need of ranch dressing (#StoryOfMyLife) but it tastes even better if you let the flavors get to know each other a little better in the fridge for say, 4 hours or so.

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Vegan Ranch Dressing

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Time: 15 minutes (plus preferably about 4 hours in the fridge before using)
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. Finely chop the fresh herbs if you haven’t done so already then set aside. Roughly chop garlic clove if you haven’t done so already then sprinkle garlic with salt and, using a fork, mash the garlic and salt together until a paste forms.
  2. In a blender combine the garlic paste with the remaining ingredients, except the fresh herbs, and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into a seal-able storage container (like a large mason jar) then toss in the fresh herbs, close the lid tightly, and shake to combine. Can be used right away but tastes even better, and will thicken slightly, if it’s allowed to rest in the fridge for about 4 hours. Ranch dressing will keep in fridge for 4-5 days.