Vegan Creamy “Cheddar” Zucchini Cakes

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The other day I was having a serious craving for something fried and “cheesy.” I guess it really should have been expected after I hopped on Pinterest in search of my next hair color but instead ended up getting lost in recipe pins for nearly an hour -most of which were so not diet friendly or healthy in the slightest. #ButDamnDidTheySureLookDelicious

I knew that I had nothing pre-made on hand that would satisfy my craving so I’d have to make something. I had the “cheesy” part covered, thanks to my always stuffed-to-the-brim “cheese” drawer in the fridge, but I needed something more, something that I could snuggle up with the “cheese.” Shredded zucchini, I thought, would be just the ticket. I ended up forming my zucchini mixture into little cakes and, when they were done, I was quite pleased with the results and my craving had been thoroughly satisfied.

The outside of the cakes are ever so slightly crisp, just enough so to hold everything together and give you a little change in texture as you take a bite, but the inside’s where it’s at. Inside you’ll find zesty, creamy, ooey gooey goodness that just might remind you of mac-n-“cheese” or “cheesy” mashed potatoes -either way, it’s yummy for sure. I enjoyed mine as a snack with a little vegan “sour cream” on top but I could totally see making these for breakfast in place of hash browns or serving them up alongside some vegan “chicken” for lunch or dinner. No matter what time of day you choose to enjoy them, the procedure’s the same and it’s a pretty quick and easy one at that!

First things first, 3 medium size zucchini get washed and finely shredded. Once shredded, you then need to squeeze as much water out of the shreds as you can. With as much water out as you can get out, the shreds will then get tossed into a large mixing bowl along with Daiya “Cheddar” shreds (that have been cut into even smaller pieces), some nooch (nutritional yeast), Ener-G egg replacer (just the powder this time -don’t add water to it), and some seasonings. Everything gets mixed together really well and then it’s time to form the cakes!

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To form the cakes, take about 2 tablespoons of the zucchini mixture in the palm of your hand and pat it out into a little puck-like shape. (I opted to wear some food safe gloves while I made the cakes just to keep the process a little cleaner but this, of course, is optional!) Once the cakes are formed they then get dipped in a mixture of whole wheat flour, salt, and pepper, and then they’re ready to be fried.

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In a large skillet, just enough oil to shallow fry gets brought up to about medium heat. When you think the oil is hot enough you can test it by dropping in a piece of leftover zucchini mixture from your mixing bowl -if it sizzles up, you’re good to go. Using a spatula, gently place the cakes into the oil and fry on each side until dark golden brown in color. (The cakes will still be pretty soft and that’s fine -we’re not going for super crunchy fried exterior with these but rather just a very light little crisp shell to hold everything together.) Once the cakes have all been fried up, let them rest for a minute on a paper towel before serving.

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Vegan Creamy 'Cheddar' Zucchini Cakes

  • Servings: 4-6 cakes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 3 medium zucchini, washed, finely shredded, and squeezed/pressed to remove as much excess liquid as possible
  • Generous 1/4 cup of Daiya “Cheddar” Style Shreds, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Ener-G (just the powder -do not add water as per the instructions on the box)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • About 1/4 cup whole wheat flour + 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Oil for pan

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded zucchini with the finely chopped “cheese,” nutritional yeast, Ener-G powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Mix everything together really well then set this mixture aside. In a small bowl or shallow dish, combine the whole wheat flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk flour mixture with a fork then set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, pour in just enough oil to shallow fry and allow that to come up to about medium heat while you’re forming the cakes. To form each cake, take about 2 tablespoons of the zucchini mixture in the palm of your hand and pat it out into a puck-like shape about 3/4 of an inch thick. (Wear food safe gloves, if you wish, to keep this process a little cleaner.) Take the formed cake and gently swirl it around in the flour mixture until evenly coated on all sides. Repeat until you have all of the cakes made.
  3. To ensure that it’s at the right temperature, test the oil by carefully dropping in a piece of leftover zucchini mixture from your mixing bowl -if it sizzles up, you’re good to go. Using a spatula, gently place the cakes into the oil and fry on each side until dark golden brown in color, about 3-5 minutes per side. (The cakes will still be pretty soft when done and that’s fine -we’re not going for super crunchy fried exterior with these but rather just a very light little crisp shell to hold everything together.) Once the cakes have all been fried up, let them rest for a minute on a paper towel before serving. Cakes are best enjoyed fresh but can be kept in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days.

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Vegan Quick & Easy Creamy Tomato Soup

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There are a lot of people in this world who only think of soup as being for the fall and winter, and I totally get that. There is nothing better than being all cozied up on the couch with a chill in the air and a big ol’ bowl of comforting soup in your hands. However, I’m not one of these people who saves soup making just for the colder months. I love soup even in the depths of summer and there’s one soup in particular that I’ve been craving as of late and that’s tomato soup.

When it comes to tomato soup there are a few different ways to make it but my favorite way is creamy. Creamy tomato soup is the best for 3 reasons: 1) it’s generally a little less acidic, 2) it has more flavor and a better texture, and 3) it’s prettier -because who the fuck doesn’t want their food to be pretty? #AmIRight

Now, my creamy tomato soup has an additional reason why you should love it and that is that it’s super quick and easy to make. It all gets started with you dumping a big can of San Marzano tomatoes, along with a few other things, into a medium or large pot over medium-high heat. Why San Marzano’s in particular? San Marzano tomatoes are less seedy and less acidic than other tomato varieties. Plus they sound fancy… should that be something you’re concerned with, I mean.

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You’re going to bring the tomato mixture to a boil then, once boiling, continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After 5 minutes, you’ll add in the rest of the ingredients including the 3 things that make this tomato soup creamy -“mozzarella” shreds, “sour cream,” and almond milk. Give the whole thing a good stir, pop the cover on, and then reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally just as you did before.

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The final step before serving requires an immersion blender (also called a hand blender or stick blender). Carefully, because we’re dealing with hot liquids here, pulse the immersion blender throughout the soup, especially over tomato or garlic clumps, until everything is smooth.

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Once all smoothed out, serve alone or with crusty bread, a grilled cheese (made vegan, of course), or topped with a little more “mozzarella,” fresh basil, or some croutons.

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Vegan Quick & Easy Creamy Tomato Soup

  • Servings: 2-3
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 (28-ounce) can of San Marzano peeled, whole tomatoes with basil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup Daiya “Mozzarella” shreds
  • 1/2 cup vegan “sour cream”
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegan “butter”
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

Directions

  1. In a medium or large pot over medium-high heat, combine tomatoes with tomato paste, olive oil, salt, sugar, black pepper, thyme, and onion powder. Bring to boil then, when boiling, continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients, give the whole thing a good stir, then place a cover on the pot and reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes, again, stirring occasionally.
  3. After 20 minutes and with the heat turned off, use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Carefully pulse the immersion blender throughout the soup, especially over tomato or garlic clumps, until smooth then serve. Soup is best served freshly made but will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

 

Vegan Benevolent Bean Spread

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It’s been said that I’m a bit of a bean fiend but how could anyone not love those wholesome little nuggets of deliciousness?! In fact, I was told to eat even more beans by my nutritionist so hate all you want but I’m gonna be cramming beans in my diet wherever I can! #BeanMeUpScotty

One of my favorite beans to cook with is the white bean but the other day I realized that I’ve only shared one recipe with y’all that features white beans. (I seriously did a recount because I couldn’t believe I had only shared the one.) I knew that I needed to up my white bean game and share not just a recipe with white beans in it but rather a white bean-based recipe so today I’m doing just that.

Now, maybe you’re like, “What the hell is a bean spread?” So before I go any further allow me to explain this for those of you who are a little confused. A bean spread is a super thick and delicious mixture that can be enjoyed by itself, as a side, or smeared on veggies, on a bagel, on a pita, on tiny toasts for a party, on your finger, on the finger of your lover, on a shoe, on a stick… you get the idea. And the “benevolent” part? That’s just a cutesy word taken from one of the ingredients (more on that in a moment) that I chose to add to the title because I can.

So now we know what a bean spread is, let’s talk about what it tastes like. My bean spread is so full flavored it’ll knock your socks off! It’s garlicky, it’s oniony -wait, oniony is not a word but garlicky is? Lame! Anyways… full flavored. There’s a creaminess that you get from the beans and a little vegan “cream cheese,” then you have a meaty, salty element thanks to Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, and the whole thing’s rounded out with some baby spinach. It’s really good and it all gets started with a little prep.

First things first, drain and rinse a can of great northern white beans then plop them into a mini food processor. Add in the vegan “cream cheese,” some salt and pepper, a little extra virgin olive oil, then pulse the mixture until smooth. Set your white bean creaminess aside for a moment and move on the the rest of the prep.

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Wash up some baby spinach (or buy the prewashed stuff) then remove excess stems and  tear remaining leafy bit into smaller pieces until you have 2 cups worth of torn baby spinach leaves. Also, finely dice about 1/8th of a white onion, finely mince a few garlic cloves, and slice up about 5 slices of the “bacon” to get them down to more bite-size pieces.

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Now it’s time to get cookin’! In a medium size skillet over low-med. heat, cook the “bacon” and the onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally to ensure that the “bacon” is cooking up evenly.

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After 5 minutes, add in the torn spinach leaves and the garlic. Stirring occasionally, just as you did before, cook for an additional 5 minutes.

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The last thing that we need to add is the white bean mixture we made earlier. Pour that into your pan then fold everything together and cook for a final 3 minutes. Be sure to stir nearly constantly at this point so that the beans don’t burn to the bottom of the pan.

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Serve your finished bean spread hot or cold -it’s great either way!

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Vegan Benevolent Bean Spread

  • Servings: makes about 1 1/2 cups
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-ounce) can of low-sodium great northern white beans, drained and rinsed + 1 generous tablespoon vegan “cream cheese” + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + pinch of salt and pinch of black pepper
  • 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, torn into bite-size pieces (measured after being torn, not before)
  • 5 pieces of Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon, uncooked and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/6-1/8 of a white onion (about 2 tablespoons), finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Something to smear bean spread onto like a bagel, pita, veggies, mini toasts, etc. (optional)

Directions

  1. In a mini food processor, combine drained and rinsed beans with “cream cheese,” extra virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Pulse until smooth then set aside. Tear up baby spinach leaves and prep “bacon,” onion, and garlic, if you haven’t done so already.
  2. In a medium size skillet over low-med. heat, cook “bacon” and onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add torn spinach leaves and garlic then cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in bean mixture then fold everything together and cook for a final 3 minutes. Be sure to stir almost constantly at this point so that the bean mixture doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. When spread is done, serve it hot or cold. Spread will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Vegan “Cheesy” Black Bean Tofu Scramble

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I’M BACK!!!

(Cue the hysterical screaming!)

I have had quite the little break. If you recall, this whole time away thing started because my doctor put me on a really strict diet for weight loss in an attempt to get my chronic illnesses (mostly female-related issues) under control. Well, as it turned out, that really strict diet was basically controlled starvation and, just so we’re clear, my doctor told me upfront that it would be a challenging diet for a vegan to follow but asked me to give it a try -and try I did. I gave it almost 2 weeks of honest effort but, at that point, I just couldn’t keep up with it any longer so I made an appointment with a vegan nutritionist to remedy the diet to better suit a vegan. Ever since then, I’ve been able to maintain my diet, without starving, and have lost nearly 10 lbs., 4 inches off my hips, and 5 inches off my waistline! And now I’m back in the hot seat and ready to share some new recipes with y’all!

This weeks recipe is a classic vegan breakfast (tofu scramble) made “cheesy.” And black bean-y. (But mostly “cheesy.”) You can find basic tofu scramble recipes all over teh interwebs, and loads of recipes which jazz up said basic recipe too, but I hadn’t come across any like this so I think I’m actually filling 2 voids with this recipe -the 1st void being your empty stomach. #YoureWelcome

It all starts with the star of the show: tofu (although some might argue that the “cheese” is the true star but play along with me here). When it comes to making almost anything with tofu, you must drain and press out as much water from the tofu as you can. Why? Because if you don’t then whatever flavors you’re adding to your tofu won’t really get into the tofu. When people tell me that they didn’t enjoy tofu, I ask if they drained it and pressed out the water before they used it. Their answer 9 times out of 10 is, “No… is that something you’re supposed to do?” Yes, people, this is something that you’re supposed to do if you want your food to come out tasty and also not watery.

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Once you’ve drained and pressed your tofu, it’s time to get cookin’. In a pan over low-med. heat, with a little oil in it to help prevent sticking, you’re going to combine your tofu with the seasonings and the vegetable broth. Stirring occasionally, cook for 10 minutes.

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After 10 minutes has passed, it’s time to add it the black beans (a whole can of ’em) and a little onion. Give that a good stir to combine then continue to cook the mixture for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If your tofu is sticking a little feel free to add a little more oil to the pan.

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Now would be a good time to prep the spinach which will be added in a moment. All you need to do is wash it and then tear the pieces into smaller pieces making sure to toss any bothersome stems. I used baby spinach because that’s what was in my fridge but if you have… grownup? Adult? Big spinach? Whatever. You can use that. Or kale would work too. And fresh either way -frozen just can’t compare in this particular dish.

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When your timer dings, it’s spinach time. Add those little pieces of green goodness right on in there and then get excited because it’s time to get your “cheese” on!

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Top the spinach off with about a generous cup of your favorite vegan “cheddar cheese” shreds along with a splash of water. Pop a lid on your pan and cook for just 5 minutes more or until spinach is wilted and the “cheese” is gooey.

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Serve with a side of fresh fruit, potatoes, or toast, or stuff the mixture into a burrito with a little hot sauce or salsa for breakfast to-go! Either way, enjoy the “cheesy” goodness!

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Vegan 'Cheesy' Black Bean Tofu Scramble

  • Servings: 4
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tablespoons oil + more if needed to prevent sticking as tofu cooks
  • 1 (14 ounce) package of firm tofu, drained and pressed to remove excess water
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 of an onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 cups of fresh spinach, torn into smaller pieces and stems removed
  • 1 generous cup of your favorite vegan “cheddar cheese” shreds
  • water

Directions

  1. In a pan over low-med. heat combine oil, drained and pressed tofu, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, salt, black pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin, and garlic powder together. Stir and then cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, add in the drained and rinsed black beans and the finely diced onion. Stir to combine then cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more oil as needed should your tofu be sticking.
  3. Prep spinach if you haven’t done so already then add it and the “cheese” to the mixture along with just a splash of water. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted and “cheese” is gooey. Stir before serving. Will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up 4 days.

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
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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 Mac-N-“Cheese”

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I grew up, like most children of the 90s, eating that blue box macaroni and cheese sold by a dinosaur -you know the one I’m talking about. I loved that shit but it was indeed shit. Thankfully, I realized this (albeit it took me a little while) and I began to seek out better, tastier, more “grown-up” versions of this comfort food classic. Then, at some point along the way, I got it into my head to start making my very own mac-n-cheese from scratch and, after that, my love for noddley-cheesey goodness knew no bounds. Naturally then, when I went vegan, vegan mac-n-cheese was at the top of my list of foods to try and try I did. I tried the mac-n-cheese at a local vegan restaurant, I tried some frozen varieties, and I even tried the vegan version of the blue box kind but I found that nothing could compare to the homemade stuff that I was enjoying before I went vegan.

Just as I was starting to question if I’d ever find a vegan mac-n-cheese as good as the non-vegan ones, a thought popped into my head: Why am I not trying to make it from scratch? I mean, I had been making it from scratch before I went vegan but then, for some odd reason, when I went vegan I simply wrote off making it from scratch altogether. (Hence my efforts to find one that I liked at a restaurant or grocery store.) I thought about it some more and realized that there was no reason why it couldn’t be done so I decided to give it a go. And now here I am, sharing with all of y’all my recipe for what I’m deeming the best mac-n-cheese I’ve ever had. Why is it the best? Because it is everything a great mac-n-cheese should be. It’s thick, rich, creamy, gooey, cheesy, and flavorful. It’s also super quick (as in just 15 minutes quick) and insanely easy to make despite it being made in a very old-school, traditional way by first making a roux and then transforming said roux into a béchamel sauce. But we’ll get into all of that in a minute.

First, let’s talk pasta. While “mac” (as in macaroni) is in the title of this dish, we’re going to be using cavatappi or cellentani pasta. I find these noodles to be more substantial and easier to eat than traditional macaroni pasta. I also find that they hold more of the “cheese” sauce than traditional macaroni pasta -and who wouldn’t want their noodles to do that?!

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I cook my pasta in accordance with the instructions on the pasta packaging but I make sure to add a little oil and a whole lot of salt to my pasta water. The oil is added to help the pasta not stick together and the salt is added so that the pasta gets a little flavor cooked into it. While the pasta is cooking you can go ahead and make the “cheese” sauce.

For the “cheese” part of my mac-n-“cheese” we are going to first make a roux -a mixture of butter and flour used to thicken gravies and sauces. I toss some vegan butter into my dutch oven and let that melt down. When it’s fully melted I then toss in an equal amount of flour and stir to combine. That mixture gets cooked for a minute or two until it is foamy and very light brown in color.

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Next, some unsweetened almond milk gets added and the heat gets turned up. The addition of almond milk transforms our roux into a Béchamel sauce -one of the 5 “mother sauces.” We want to boil our Béchamel for a few minutes to help it thicken slightly but be sure to stir fairly frequently while it’s boiling.

Once the Béchamel has thickened a little it’s time to reduce the heat and add the “cheese,” or rather the “cheeses,” since we’re using two different kinds. (The addition of the “cheeses” now turns our Béchamel into a Mornay sauce.) The first kind of “cheese” that you’ll be adding is Daiya’s cheddar-style sheds which will give us that classic mac-n-cheese flavor. The other “cheese” you’ll add is Follow Your Heart’s parmesan-style shreds which elevates the flavor a little more and provides a sharper, creamier bite.

Now, I feel like I should just take a moment here to say something to you haters of vegan “cheese” out there. Please, please, please trust me and don’t run from this recipe just yet. I served this recipe to not 1 but 4 non-vegan people who are vegan “cheese” haters (2 were self-proclaimed Daiya haters) and, I kid you not, each one of them said how amazing this mac-n-cheese was. More so than them saying it was good, they showed me that it was good when they came back for 2nd and 3rd servings. So give it a try with the “cheeses” I recommend and I’m sure you too will be comin’ back for more!

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After the “cheeses” are all melted in, in goes the seasonings. We’re adding nutritional yeast (aka nooch) to help boost the cheesy goodness (cause it tastes like cheese in case you didn’t know), and we are also adding salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika.

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Toss those in and then give the whole mixture a good stir.

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The final step is to add in your cooked and drained pasta. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce to help the two become best friends and that’s it -it’s ready to serve!

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Vegan Mac-N-'Cheese'

  • Servings: 6-9
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of cavatappi or cellentani pasta
  • Oil and salt for pasta water
  • 3 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/4 cup Daiya cheddar-style shreds (about half the bag)
  • 3/4 cup Follow Your Heart parmesan-style shreds (about half the tub)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. In a pasta pot, or other large pot, start pasta cooking in accordance with the instructions on the pasta’s packaging for al dente pasta. Be sure to add a little oil to the pasta water (1-2 tablespoons) to help prevent the pasta from sticking together as it cooks and also add a decent amount of salt (2-4 tablespoons) to infuse the pasta with a little flavor as it cooks.
  2. While pasta is cooking make the “cheese” sauce. In a dutch oven, or other large pot, melt vegan butter over medium heat. Once melted, add flour and stir to combine. Continue stirring until mixture is foamy and very light brown in color -about 2 minutes. Add almond milk and turn the heat up to bring to boil. Boil, while stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes to thicken sauce base a little. After 2-3 minutes, reduce heat to low and add in the two “cheeses.” Stir until they have fully melted into the sauce base -about 1 minute. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and paprika and stir to combine. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until pasta is done and ready to be added to the sauce.
  3. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and then add it to the sauce. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce to coat each noodle then serve. Mac-N-“Cheese” will keep fresh in an airtight container in fridge for 3-4 days.

 

Vegan Italian “Chicken” Panini

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While there are some vegans out there who don’t care to eat even fake meats and cheeses, I am not one of them. I appreciate the flavors and textures fake meats and cheeses bring to the table. I also appreciate how these things can make transforming a non-vegan recipe to a vegan one an even easier task. Now, every vegan I know who enjoys these cruelty-free substitutes has their own opinion on which ones are the best -and there are so many options to choose from now! I too have some favorites and for these sandwiches I will be using one of my favorite chicken substitutes and one of my favorite cheese substitutes. (I’ll also be using another favorite vegan cheese o’ mine in the pesto needed for these sandwiches!)

Say hello to one of my favorite chicken substitutes, Tofurky’s Slow Roasted Chick’n, and one of my favorite cheese substitutes, Field Roast’s Chao slices in creamy original flavor -which to me tastes similar to like provolone cheese blended perhaps with white American cheese. (But of course this cheese is 100% vegan which means it’s automatically 100% better than either one of those other cheeses I just mentioned!)

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Those are only 2 of the 5 components that make up these delicious, and insanely easy to make, sandwiches though. The other components are a pesto that is made from scratch, tomatoes, and, of course, the bread -I used ciabatta rolls.

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I find that the ciabatta rolls squish down nicely in your panini pan or panini maker without falling apart, and they get good and crisp on the outside (without the need for oil) which is how the perfect panino (sing. form of panini) should be. #IfItAintCrispyItAintRight

So I mentioned that this recipe is insanely easy but one might prefer to call it shamefully easy. Seriously, I feel silly even calling it a recipe because the only real recipe part is making the pesto -which sounds a whole lot more difficult than it is.

To make the pesto all you have to do is put all of the pesto ingredients (except the olive oil) into a small (mine is called a “mini”) food processor and start processing them. As they are being broken down and combined you are simply going to drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil to help the pesto come together and get to the right consistency.

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The right consistency being kind of liquidy but not runny, and not smoothed out into nothing but rather it should have a little texture still -sort of like grainy mustard.

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Next, you’re going to get the fixin’s ready (laid out) so that you can easily assemble the sandwiches. Here all you’re really doing is taking the “chicken” and the cheese out of their respective packages and then slicing up 2 tomatoes.

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To assemble, first load up one side of the bread (the bottom half preferably) with the “chicken,” a couple slices of cheese, and a couple slices of tomatoes. Smear the opposite side of the bread with a generous bit of pesto and then put the two sides together. Huzzah! We have a sandwich! Repeat this process with the remaining rolls (3 more to go for a total of 4 sandwiches) and then it’s time to cook ’em up.

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To cook my sandwiches I used a cast iron panini pan but if you have a panini maker you can use that if you wish.

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I was able to fit 2 sandwiches in my pan at once. You’ll want to preheat your pan or panini maker before you put the sandwiches in and when cooking them you’ll want to do it low (as in low or low-med. heat) and slow -don’t rush these beauties or the cheese wont have time to get soft. And I know you want soft cheese.

While they’re cooking I do keep the lid on them and I also press firmly straight down on the lid every now and then to help them squish down.

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After 3-5 minutes they should be ready to flip. In the photo below, I have flipped one over and am about to flip the next one over. When flipping them I use flat tongs so that I can get a good grip on the sandwiches and hold them together tightly as I flip them. After they’ve been flipped I then put the lid back on them, press it down firmly, and cook for 3-5 more minutes. When done, remove the sandwiches from the pan (or panini maker) and let them rest for 5-7 minutes before you cut them in half and serve them.

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Vegan Italian 'Chicken' Panini

  • Servings: 4
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

    For the pesto:
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup vegan shredded Parmesan cheese (I used Follow Your Heart brand)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • For the panini:
  • 4 ciabatta rolls
  • 1 (8-ounce) box of Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick’n
  • 1 package of Field Roast Chao slices in creamy original flavor
  • 2 tomatoes, washed and cut into slices
  • Pesto

Directions

    For the pesto:
  1. Combine everything but the olive oil in a small (aka mini) food processor and slowly start to combine them. (You may need to scrape the sides down a couple times throughout this process.) As they combine, slowly drizzle in olive oil until you have reached the desired consistency which is wet but not runny. Set aside when done.
  2. For the panini:
  3. Get your panini pan (or panini maker) preheated to low or low-med. heat and lay out the panini ingredients so that assembly is quick and easy.
  4. Cut a ciabatta roll in half and on the bottom half load on a layer of “chicken,” a couple slices of cheese, and a couple slices of tomato. On the top half, smear on a generous amount of pesto. Flip the top half over onto the bottom half then set aside. Repeat this step until you have all 4 sandwiches made and ready to be grilled.
  5. Place as many sandwiches as you can fit, without crowding them in, into your preheated panini pan (or panini maker). Cover and press down firmly on the cover to squish sandwiches down. Cook for 3-5 minutes then flip each sandwich over and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Continue to press down every so often on the lid to flatten the sandwiches as much as possible. If sandwiches are browning too fast, as in before the cheese has had time to get soft, be sure to turn the heat down a little lower. When sandwiches are done let them rest 5-7 minutes before cutting in half and serving. Best enjoyed right away but can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days.