Vegan Eggplant & Zucchini Gratin

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Oh how I love me a good tater. However, since I’ve been on my new diet, the humble potato and I just haven’t been spending a whole lot of time together. Don’t get me wrong, I still love ’em and allow myself one every now and then, but I just can’t eat them day in and day out like I used to. #SadFace

When I’m craving a potato-based dish but really can’t do it with potatoes, I start to get creative -that’s how this recipe was born. A couple weeks ago I randomly started thinking about gratin potatoes and how much I had hated them as a kid. That led into me realizing that I actually hadn’t had them since I was a kid and that perhaps I should give them a try with my now fully grown palate. After convincing myself that this needed to happen, I then worked out which other veggies I could substitute in place of the potatoes. I ended up using eggplant and zucchini and do you know what happened when I ate some of my eggplant and zucchini gratin? I struggled to figure out why I didn’t like that shit as a kid because it’s really good -even without my most beloved vegetable in it.

It all gets started with the making of a Mornay sauce -that’s just the technical name for a roux-based sauce that has cheese (in this case vegan “cheese) added to it. Vegan “butter” gets melted down over low-med. heat and then flour gets added. Once the “butter” and flour start to look a little foamy, unsweetened almond milk is added and the mixture is brought to a boil. After a few minutes, the heat gets turned down and the seasonings go in. Then comes the “cheese” -Daiya “Mozzarella” shreds this time. You’ll whisk until smooth then set your Mornay sauce aside until we’re ready for it.

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Okay, time to prep the eggplant and zucchini! Each gets washed and then, using the 3.5mm blade on a mandoline slicer, each gets cut up into slices. Just a quick word of advice about this step: I like to cut the stem ends off of the eggplant and the zucchini and then cut each veg in half before I put them on the mandoline. This works out much better because then I’m working with more manageable chunks and not big long wibbly-wobbly pieces.

After you’ve sliced the eggplant, take a knife and cut the circles into 3 even wedge-shaped sections so that the eggplant slices are closer to the size of the zucchini slices.

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Finally, it’s time to assemble our gratin. Generously “butter” a medium sized, circular or oval, shallow baking dish (mine was an oval roughly 10 inches by 8 inches). Alternating the eggplant and zucchini, lay the pieces in the dish so that they’re at about a 60-degree angle from the bottom of the baking dish. (For those of you who are angle challenged, all this means is don’t be layin’ the pieces flat in the dish but don’t have them sticking straight up and down either.) You’ll be working the pieces around the edge of the dish and then creating concentric circles inward until you reach the center where you’ll just fill the middle however is best for your dish.

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Next, pour the Mornay sauce over the vegetable slices being sure to make your way around the dish as you’re pouring rather than dumping it all into the center. Grab a spoon or a spatula and push the sauce around, where needed, so that the vegetable slices are nearly completely covered with the sauce. Wrap the dish tightly with foil then pop it into a preheated oven for 50 minutes.

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After 50 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and, using tongs or an oven mitt, remove the foil from the dish. Generously sprinkle the top of the gratin with some vegan shaker-style “Parmesan” and then put it back in the oven, uncovered, and broil until gloriously golden brown.

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When done, let the gratin sit for about 15 minutes before you serve it.

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Vegan Eggplant & Zucchini Gratin

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 80 minutes
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegan “butter” + more for greasing dish
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2-3 garlic cloves + 1/2 teaspoon salt, mashed together to create a paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 cup Daiya “Mozzarella” shreds
  • 3-4 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2-3/4 cup vegan shaker-style “Parmesan”

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepareĀ a medium sized, circular or oval, shallow baking dish by greasing it generously with “butter.” In a medium sized saucepan over low-med. heat, melt 2 tablespoons “butter.” Once melted, add in flour and stir to combine. When the mixture starts to look foamy and light brown, add in almond milk and increase the heat to bring it all to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. After 3 minutes, reduce the heat to low and add in the garlic cloves you mashed into a paste with salt. Also add in the dried thyme, paprika, sugar, white pepper, nutmeg, and celery seed. Stir to combine. Next, dump in the “Mozzarella” and whisk until smooth. Turn off the heat and let the sauce rest for a moment until we’re ready for it.
  3. Using the 3.5mm blade on a mandoline slicer, cut the eggplant and the zucchini into slices. (Just a quick word of advice about this step: I like to cut the stem ends off of the eggplant and the zucchini and then cut each veg in half before I put them on the mandoline. This works out much better because then I’m working with more manageable chunks and not big long wibbly-wobbly pieces.) After you’ve sliced the eggplant, take a knife and cut the circles into 3 even wedge-shaped sections so that the eggplant slices are closer to the size of the zucchini slices.
  4. Alternating the eggplant and zucchini, lay the pieces into your prepared dish so that they’re at about a 60-degree angle from the bottom of the dish. (For those of you who are angle challenged, all this means is don’t be layin’ the pieces flat in the dish but don’t have them sticking straight up and down either.) Work the pieces around the edge of the dish and then repeat to create concentric circles inward until you reach the center where you’ll just fill the middle however is best for your dish. (For my dish, I just did a straight line in the the center.)
  5. Pour the sauce you made earlier over the vegetable slices being sure to make your way around the dish as you’re pouring rather than dumping it all into the center. Grab a spoon or a spatula and push the sauce around, where needed, so that the vegetable slices are nearly completely covered with the sauce. Wrap the dish tightly with foil then bake it for 50 minutes.
  6. After 50 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and, using tongs or an oven mitt, carefully remove the foil from the dish. Generously sprinkle the top of the gratin with vegan shaker-style “Parmesan” then put it back in the oven, uncovered, and broil until golden brown -about 2 or 3 minutes. When done, allow gratin to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Gratin will keep in an airtight container in 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 andĀ  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 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.