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” or some croutons. Also try this soup cold from the fridge -it’s quite refreshing that way.

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Vegan Quick & Easy Creamy Tomato Soup

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 30 minutes
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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 will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days.

 

Vegan “Ribs”

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Remember a couple weeks back, when I shared my recipe for coconut cornbread and said that I would be making that for my brother’s birthday along with something else? Well, this was that something else, and this something else stole the whole damn show.

My brother loves all things meaty so I knew that a mock meat would be the perfect thing to pair with my coconut cornbread. I decided to do “ribs” even though I hadn’t eaten a rib a day in my life -nor had I ever cooked ribs (or “ribs”). As I stood in my hot kitchen, working my butt off to give my brother an amazing birthday meal, I started to worry that my mock meat selection may have been a bit of a stretch for me. However, all of my worry turned out to be totally misplaced. #AsUsual

My brother loved these so much that he was literally speechless because he wouldn’t stop shoveling them into his mouth. When he finally took a breather, he told me that this may just be his new favorite dish of mine. That means a lot coming from a man who would probably sell a kidney if he thought it would get him some more of my tofu scramble. My brother wasn’t the only one who loved these though. My mom, who isn’t the biggest fan of vegan “meats,” proclaimed that this was the best vegan “meat” that I had ever made.

So now you’re probably curious what my secret is, right? Because surely there must be some great big secret to these “ribs” that makes them so rant worthy. Well, folks, there is no great big secret. There isn’t even a great little secret. This is really just a basic seitan recipe combined with store-bought barbecue sauce. I kid you not. It all begins with the making of the seitan and, real quickly for those of you who aren’t familiar with what seitan is, seitan is just a fancy name for any mock meat made of vital wheat gluten.

In a large bowl, the vital wheat gluten gets combined with some seasonings. Once that has all been whisked together, water and low-sodium tamari get added and the whole thing gets worked by hand to create a spongy, dough-like mixture. (I like using food-safe gloves for the “worked by hand” part of this operation.)

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The mixture is then plopped down onto a well greased sheet pan and pressed out to create a large, rectangular-ish shape. Next, the pan goes into a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

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When the seitan comes out of the oven it will likely be puffed a little -this is totes normal so don’t panic. Grab another pan and carefully (because we’re dealing with hot stuff here) press the seitan so that the puffed parts go flat. Now let the seitan cool for about 5 minutes so that you can handle it with ease.

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After 5 minutes, cut the whole thing into 6 pieces and get a lightly oiled grill pan preheated to low-medium heat. (If you didn’t want to grill these up inside you could take them outside and use an actual grill but, with an average temperature of over 100 degrees here in Phoenix during this time of year, I opted to stay inside.)

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Using a silicone basting brush, brush some of your favorite store-bought (or homemade) barbecue sauce onto one side of a seitan piece. Place the piece into the preheated grill pan, sauce side down, then repeat this step until your pan is full but not overly crowded -my pan comfortably fit 2 pieces at a time. Cook this first side for 3 minutes then brush barbecue sauce onto the bare tops of the pieces and flip them over with a spatula to cook for another 3 minutes.

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When done, remove the seitan pieces from the pan, cut each piece into strips or “ribs,” and then brush on a final, generous slather of barbecue sauce. Repeat these final steps until all 6 of your seitan pieces are done then enjoy your cruelty-free “ribs.”

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Vegan 'Ribs'

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 50 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the vital wheat gluten together with the salt, smoked paprika, chili powder, black pepper, and ground cloves. Add in the water and tamari then work by hand to create a spongy, dough-like mixture. (I like using food-safe gloves for this part.)
  2. Plop the mixture down onto a well-greased sheet pan and press it out to create a large, rectangular-ish shape. Place the pan into your preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove pan from oven -seitan may be puffed a little and, if it is, just grab another pan and carefully press the seitan so that the puffed parts go flat. Let the seitan rest for 5-10 minutes.
  3. When cool enough to handle, cut seitan into 6 pieces. Preheat a lightly oiled grill pan to low-medium heat then, using a silicone basting brush, brush some of your favorite barbecue sauce onto one side of a seitan piece. Place the piece into grill pan with the sauce side down then repeat this step until your pan is full but not crowded. Cook on first side for 3 minutes then brush barbecue sauce onto the bare tops of the pieces and flip them over with a spatula to cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. When done, remove seitan pieces from pan, cut each piece into about 1 inch wide strips or “ribs,” then brush on a final, generous slather of barbecue sauce. Repeat these final steps until all 6 of your seitan pieces are done. “Ribs” will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Vegan BBQ “Pulled Pork” Sandwiches

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Last week I shared with y’all my recipe for broccoli coleslaw and, upon seeing that post, I’m sure some of your minds instantly thought of barbecue. I mean sure, coleslaw is great with fried chicken (or my vegan version of fried chicken), but let’s face it, it’s most oftentimes paired up with barbecue -namely, pulled pork. So, with coleslaw and pulled pork totally being BFF’s, it was pretty much mandatory that I share my “pulled pork” sandwich recipe this week and that’s just what I’m gonna to do -but first let’s talk about carrots and sauce.

For my “pulled pork” I use shredded carrots. Yes, you read that correctly, shredded carrots. The carrots have a nice tender meaty texture when cooked and they’re the perfect delivery system for my sauce because they soak up some of it making them not just flavorful on the outside but on the inside as well. Speaking of my sauce, it’s a tomato-based sauce that’s thick, sweet, and tangy. From what I know about barbecue sauces, mine is closely related to what they call a Kansas City-style sauce so, if you’re into that style, you’ve come to the right place.

It all gets started with you peeling and washing up some large carrots. Once you’ve got those all prepped and ready to go, it’s time to shred those bad mama jama’s. You can do this in your food processor or by hand on a box grater like I did this time -it was my arm workout for the day! Either way, you’re just going to want to make sure that you do thicker shreds so that they hold up in the cooking process and provide a more meaty bite.

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Place the shredded carrots into a pot of boiling water and boil them for 10 minutes. While the carrots are boiling (and turning the boiling water a lovely shade of orange), we are going to get the sauce started.

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In a dutch oven or other large (and lidded) pot, tomato puree is going to get combined with amber ale, apple cider vinegar, molasses, and a few other things. Whisk everything together to break up any clumps and then bring the mixture to a full boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and then check on your carrots.

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When the carrots are done boiling, use a strainer scoop or fine colander to retrieve them and then toss them into the simmering sauce. Stir to combine it all together.

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Cover the pot and cook the mixture for 20-30 more minutes to thicken the sauce and get the carrots to their final level of tenderness. Be sure to stir the mixture occasionally and, when not stirring it, keep the pot covered to keep the moisture in. When it’s all done, serve the “pulled pork” on a hamburger bun and top it off with some of that delicious coleslaw I linked to at the beginning of this post.

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Vegan BBQ 'Pulled Pork' Sandwiches

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 50 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 7-9 large carrots, peeled, washed, then shredded into large shreds (upon shredding, you should have about 2 generous cups worth of carrot shreds -don’t use less or more than this amount for this recipe or there will likely be too much or too little sauce for the shredded carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup amber ale
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon spicy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • Hamburger buns
  • Broccoli coleslaw (optional)

Directions

  1. Peel, wash, and thickly shred the carrots if you haven’t done so already. Bring a pot of water to boil then put the shredded carrots into the pot and boil for 10 minutes. While the carrot shreds are boiling, follow the next step to get the sauce started.
  2. In a dutch oven or other large (and lidded) pot, whisk the tomato puree with the amber ale, apple cider vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, lemon juice, paprika, spicy mustard, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, black pepper, and chili powder. Bring the sauce to full boil, then reduce to simmer.
  3. When the carrots are done boiling, use a strainer scoop or fine colander to retrieve them and then toss them into the simmering sauce. Stir to combine then cover the pot and cook the mixture for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When done, carrots will be tender and sauce will have thickened. Serve topped with coleslaw (optional) on a hamburger bun. Leftover “pulled pork” mixture will keep in an airtight container in fridge for 3-4 days.

Vegan “Buttermilk” Fried “Chicken”

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In case you weren’t aware, writing recipes is quite the process indeed. Throughout said process, I’ll oftentimes end up with a sheet of paper that frankly looks as though someone who was possessed (and had a pen) got their hands on it. Now, I can only really focus on so many recipes at a time so most of the these chicken scratch papers end up getting tossed into a big ol’ pile waiting for their day to be perfected and shared with all y’all. Well, the other day, one recipe that’s been sitting in that pile since I started my blog finally got it’s day to shine.

When I hit the 10 pounds lost mark last weekend, I decided that I was going to give myself a cheat day and there was only one thing on my mind: fried “chicken.” This recipe, like I said a minute ago, had been in the pile o’ recipes since I started this blog in January. It just kept getting left behind in favor of other recipes which were a little less daunting. I mean, homemade vegan “meats” of any kind are serious business -fake meats have got to deliver. Despite my consternation though, I so desperately wanted to get it done for my cheat day so I got busy tweaking the recipe to perfection. A few batches later I had done it and was able to eat what I was craving for my cheat day. #DeliciousDeliciousSuccess

My fried “chicken” recipe is very traditional. You have your “chicken” pieces (made mostly of textured vegetable protein and vital wheat gluten for comparable protein values to actual chicken), a buttermilk-esque bath, and then a dredge (flour with salt, pepper, and just 2 other seasonings). Once coated, each piece is fried then finished off in the oven. The end result is something that has a nice meaty mouth feel and is perfectly seasoned. I could definitely see (if I wasn’t dieting) pairing up these fried little lovelies with my white gravy, biscuits, and mac-n-cheese for a picnic, or with waffles. #Drooling

It all gets started with some prep. The textured vegetable protein (aka TVP) is going to get plumped up with a little vegetable stock so that it’s ready for us in a moment when we make our “chicken.”

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We also need to prep the buttermilk-esque bath as well as the dredge. The buttermilk-esque bath is simply a combination of unsweetened almond milk and vinegar -use either normal vinegar for this or white wine vinegar. The dredge is all-purpose flour with some salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder mixed in. Whip up the bath and the dredge each in their own bowl then set them aside for a moment so that we can make our “chicken” mixture.

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For the “chicken” mixture, stir the TVP, vital wheat gluten, and seasonings together just until combined. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not overworking this mixture otherwise your “chicken” will be a little tough and chewy and ain’t nobody got time for tough and chewy “chicken.” Let this mixture to rest for a moment to allow the gluten to properly set.

Now would be a great time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prep a small sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. You will also want to get a frying pan (cast iron is best for heat retention) ready by adding enough oil to shallow fry -about a half of an inch. Get the oil heating up to about medium heat (low to mid 300s). While the oil is heating up you can start forming your “chicken” pieces.

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Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out some of your “chicken” mixture and plop it down into your hand. Using your fingers and palms, press and work the piece just for a moment to compact it and form it into a flattened ball about an inch and a half thick. Dip the piece into the almond milk mixture we made earlier, making sure it’s been nicely coated with the liquid, then roll it in the flour dredge to cover the piece entirely. Repeat to make the first 4 (of 8 total) pieces -I’ll explain this in just a second.

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Before you gently place your pieces into the frying pan using a fork, test that the oil is at the correct temperature by dropping in a pinch of of your plain “chicken” mixture. If it begins to bubble and sizzle immediately, without quickly fading, then the oil is ready. If it doesn’t do any of that then you’ll need to turn the heat up just a little.

Once the oil is ready you may begin frying. Place no more than 4 pieces into the oil at a time so as to not crowd the pan. Fry each piece for about 5 minutes on each side then, when done, place onto the sheet pan you prepped earlier. Repeat the scooping, forming, dipping, dredging, and frying process until no “chicken” mixture remains.

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Once all of the pieces have been fried and are on the prepped sheet pan, bake them for 20 minutes, flipping the pieces over at the halfway point. When done, let cool for 5 minutes (off the pan) then serve immediately for the best eating experience.

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Vegan 'Buttermilk' Fried 'Chicken'

  • Servings: 8 pieces (enough for 3-4 people)
  • Time: 65 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) + 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk + 2 teaspoons vinegar (normal or white wine)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • oil for frying (canola oil works great)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine TVP with vegetable broth, stir then set aside. In another small bowl, combine almond milk with vinegar, stir then set aside. In 1 more small bowl, combine flour with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, stir then set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the re-hydrated TVP with the vital wheat gluten and 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder to create the “chicken” mixture. Stir mixture with a fork just until combined. Allow mixture to rest for about 3 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a small sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. Prepare a frying pan (cast iron is best for heat retention) by filling it with enough oil to shallow fry -about half an inch of oil. Get the oil heating up to about medium heat (low to mid 300s). While the oil is heating up you can start forming your “chicken” pieces. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out some of your “chicken” mixture and plop it down into your hand. Using your fingers and palms, press and work the piece just for a moment to compact it and form it into a flattened ball about an inch and a half thick. Dip the piece into the almond milk mixture we made earlier, making sure it’s been nicely coated with the liquid, then roll it in the flour mixture we made earlier to cover the piece entirely. Repeat to make the first 4 pieces -we will only be frying 4 pieces at a time so no need to make all 8 pieces at the moment.
  4. By now the oil in your frying pan should be at the correct temperature but test the oil to be sure by dropping in a pinch of of your plain “chicken” mixture. If it begins to bubble and sizzle immediately, without quickly fading, then it’s ready. If it doesn’t do any of that then you’ll need to turn the heat up just a little before placing your “chicken” pieces in. Once the oil is ready you may begin frying by gently placing your “chicken” pieces down into the oil using a fork or spider skimmer. Place no more than 4 pieces into the oil at a time so as to not crowd the pan. Fry each piece for about 5 minutes on each side then, when done, place onto the sheet pan you prepared earlier. Repeat the scooping, forming, dipping, dredging, and frying process until no “chicken” mixture remains.
  5. When all of your “chicken” pieces have been fried and are on the sheet pan, place the sheet pan into your preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the pieces over at the halfway point. When done, let the pieces cool for 5 minutes (off the pan) and then serve immediately for the best eating experience. Any uneaten pieces can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 3-5 minutes -just until warmed throughout.

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 is what transforms our roux into a béchamel sauce (a white sauce base that is one of the “mother sauces”). We want to boil our sauce base for a few minutes to help it thicken slightly. You’ll want to stir fairly frequently while the mixture is boiling to ensure that the roux is incorporating nicely.

Once the mixture 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 first kind that you’ll be adding is Daiya’s cheddar-style sheds which will give us that classic “cheese” flavor that we’re looking for. The other kind being added is Follow Your Heart’s parmesan-style shreds which will help to elevate the flavor profile a little.

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. Give it a try using the “cheeses” I recommend and I’m sure you too will be a convert.

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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
  • Time: 15 minutes
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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 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 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
  • Time: 30 minutes
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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.