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 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
  • Time: 20 minutes
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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 Broccoli Coleslaw

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Coleslaw is so gross. Coleslaw was so gross.

If you’re anything like me then you’re not a fan of cabbage and the only coleslaw’s that have ever come my way in life were cabbage based. #Ew

However, a new grocery store opened up by my house a couple months ago and, while browsing the produce section, I stumbled upon a little thing called broccoli slaw. (I’m sure this stuff has been around for a while but I’ve never once seen it and let me tell you, I spend a lot of time in the produce section!) Inside the clear clamshell package I saw a mixture of shredded broccoli stems, carrots, and the teeniest bit of purple cabbage. I got excited because I knew this was it, my chance to enjoy (nearly) cabbage-less coleslaw. I’m sure I looked strange as I stared into the chilled case with a smile on my face and excitement in my eyes but hey, we vegans can be a little strange sometimes. I snagged the last 2 packages in stock and, upon getting them home, immediately began the process of recipe making, tweaking, and perfecting.

My coleslaw is creamy, light, and full-flavored without being overpowering. It also has some interesting ingredients that not every coleslaw has -you’ll find out about those in a minute. Once made, you let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour to let the flavor to really come together, but letting it rest overnight is preferable.

It all gets started with some prep. Since we’re using a store bought broccoli slaw mixture there are really only 3 elements that require you to bust out your favorite knife and cutting board: the green bell pepper (green for its mild, not too sweet flavor), the onion, and the fresh parsley. Not every coleslaw recipe features these ingredients but mine does and it’s more fabulous because of them. You’re going to mince the bell pepper, finely mince the onion, and then rough chop the parsley. After you’ve done all of this, set this stuff aside for a moment to get the liquid for our coleslaw ready.

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For the liquid part of our coleslaw, in a large bowl combine the vegan mayo with the white wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and mustard. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy looking.

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To the liquid mixture you’re going to toss in the broccoli slaw along with the bell pepper, onion, and parsley you prepared a moment ago. You’re also going to add in some salt, black pepper, and celery seed then mix everything together to coat the added ingredients with the liquid.

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Cover the mixture tightly with some plastic wrap and then place the whole thing into your fridge for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop and meld. If time allows, keep the mixture in the fridge overnight (as in prepare it the day before you need it) for the best final product. Stir once more before serving.

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Vegan Broccoli Coleslaw

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 10 minutes to prepare + minimum 1 hour in fridge (overnight is best)
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 generous tablespoon white onion, finely minced
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 (12-ounce) package of broccoli slaw (preferably one which also contains carrots and purple cabbage)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

  1. Mince the bell pepper, finely mince the onion, and rough chop the parsley, if you haven’t already prepped these ingredients. Set these aside for a moment.
  2. In a large bowl, combine vegan mayo with white wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and mustard. Whisk vigorously until smooth and creamy. Add in broccoli slaw mixture, the bell pepper, onion, and parsley you prepped a moment ago, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Stir/fold the ingredients together to evenly coat the added ingredients with the liquid.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop and meld. If time allows, keep the mixture in the fridge overnight (as in prepare it the day before you need it) for the best final product. Stir once more before serving. Coleslaw will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Vegan Easy Black Bean Burgers

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While it isn’t officially summer just yet, it’s summer in my book. Summer starts for me the moment we here in Phoenix hit the 100-degree mark. From that day forward, until we start to dip back below that temperature, it’s full swing summer, baby! I’m talking about the flip-flop wearin’, pool dippin’, family and friend gatherin’ kind of summer that causes time to slow way down. #AhhYeahh

Food is a big part of summer for most of us and there’s one meal in particular that is the poster child for all summer food -the humble hamburger. Of course, being vegan, you know that my burger recipe is going to be a little less… shall we say, barbaric? Made of mostly black beans and quinoa, it’s a nutritious and delicious cruelty-free alternative to the traditional non-vegan burger found on grills across America.

Just how delicious are my burgers? They’re so delicious that my non-vegan, meat loving brother actually prefers them over burgers made from animal protein. He asked me for the recipe shortly after he took his first bite and then proceeded to discuss the recipe with me for 2 days afterwards until he made them in his own home for his roommates (none of whom are vegan) and himself. #BestEndorsementEver

Now while most black bean burger recipes out there get a little crazy with the add-in’s and flavor combinations, I wanted to keep mine super simple. I did this so that you could go all out with your favorite burger toppings and not have too many competing flavors in your mouth. #YoureWelcome

This insanely easy recipe begins with you whipping out your food processor -I used a mini one and I found it to be the perfect size for this recipe. In said food processor, you’re going to dump in the black beans, quinoa, onion, flax meal, water, and hamburger seasoning (store bought), then pulse to combine. You’re looking for the mixture to have a little texture still but for the most part be nicely blended together.

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Once you have the burger mixture all made up then it’s time to actually make up the burgers. Carefully remove the blades from your food processor then, using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop out a slightly mounded amount of mixture and plop it down onto a parchment lined sheet pan. You should have enough mixture to scoop out 4 burgers. Divide any remaining mixture evenly among the 4 burgers. Make sure to leave some space between each burger because in a moment we’ll be flattening them out.

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To get the burgers flat, I like to grab another sheet of parchment paper, lay it over the mounds of mixture, then gently press each out until they reach the desired level of thickness -about 1/3-1/2 of an inch thick.

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Pop your burgers into a preheated oven to bake for 35 minutes, flipping each over at the halfway point. When they’re done, serve ’em on hamburger buns with all of your favorite burger toppings and enjoy! (I told you this recipe was insanely easy!)

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Vegan Easy Black Bean Burgers

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 45 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) can of black beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup cooked plain quinoa (I like to use the quinoa from the freezer section that gets cooked in it’s bag in the microwave then, once it’s cooked, I just scoop out the 1/2 cup I need for this recipe.)
  • 1/3 of an onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons flax meal
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 tablespoon hamburger seasoning (I like Emeril’s because it has salt and pepper already in it but if yours doesn’t have those included then you’ll need to add salt and pepper to taste.)
  • Hamburger buns
  • Hamburger toppings

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. In a food processor toss in the first 6 ingredients and pulse to combine. You’re looking for mixture to be smoothed out a little but still have some texture to it.
  2. Remove the blades from the food processor then, using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop out a slightly rounded mound of mixture and plop onto the prepared sheet pan. Repeat to create 4 mounds being sure to leave some space between each for when they get pressed out. Divide any remaining mixture up evenly among the 4 mounds. Lay another sheet of parchment over the mounds then gently press each flat to reach desired level of thickness -about 1/3-1/2 of an inch thick.
  3. Place burgers into preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes, flipping each over at the halfway point. When done, serve on hamburger buns with your favorite burger toppings. Cooked burgers will keep in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days but are best when eaten right away.

 

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
  • Time: 30 minutes
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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.

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.