An Announcement Plus Vegan Quick & Easy Italian Dressing

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

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

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

 


 

And now, a recipe…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vegan Quick & Easy Italian Dressing

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Vegan Tomato Tart

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

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

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

This one’s for you, Angel! #LoveYou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Add the fresh basil and enjoy!

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Vegan Tomato Tart

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Vegan 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.