Creamy Cashew Cheese Dip

Cashew Cream Cheese BagelI purchased a Vitamix blender with some Amazon points and a gift certificate that I received from work, and have now tried several plant-based cheese recipes. So far, this one is my favorite.

It starts with 2 cups of raw cashews, soaked overnight in water.

After draining, the cashews go into the blender for about 45 seconds with these ingredients.

  • 1/2 C Cold Filtered Water
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Diced
  • 2 T Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 T Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 t Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 t Thyme
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Ground Black Pepper

This is another recipe from Deli Devi. I’ve also tried their Vegan Mozzarella and their Veggie Nacho Sauce. All great recipes, and this is not a paid endorsement. 🙂

This Cashew recipe is good as a dip for crackers or chips, and also serves as a decent substitute for cream cheese on a toasted bagel.

Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Bowl of Vegan Mac 'n' CheeseI’ve been experimenting with nutritional yeast lately, and found this recipe from Deli Devi.

Cook 12 ounces of macaroni.

Steam:
2 C chopped carrots
1 C cauliflower florets
1 C potato cubes

Add to a blender with:
3 C of plant based milk (I used oat)
1 T olive oil
1 T maple syrup
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 C of nutritional yeast
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t ground turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

Maybe add a little bit of the pasta water to the blender if you’d like.

Once the mixture is blended smooth, heat it in a sauce pan on medium for five minutes or so until it thickens, and then combine well with the cooked, drained pasta.

I added a little hot sauce and soy sauce for flavor and umami.

This turned out super tasty, ooey gooey, and is a lot healthier and more nutritious than a Kraft box.

Plant-Based Albondigas Sandwiches

Beyond Beef Albondigas SandwichesI love to cook outdoors. Before I quit eating meat, I was obsessed with learning to prepare new recipes on the Weber Kettle and Genesis grills.

I still get emails from Weber, and my first reaction when I received the one with this recipe for Grilled Albondigas with Charred Salsa was “this looks really interesting, too bad it has meat.” I sometimes still forget that there are decent plant-based ground beef alternatives available nowadays.

Meier’s happened to have Beyond Beef on sale for a little over $5 a pound, so we picked up two pounds and adapted the recipe. The meatballs turned out really well. I used a little olive oil in place of the egg. I did use sour cream for the crema, since we haven’t left off dairy yet, but I imagine that you could easily substitute a little nut or oat milk for that.

For the salsa, I used two cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes and seven or eight slices of pickled Jalapeños along with the onion and garlic in the recipe. It turned out great as well.

I’ll have to work on the queso. I followed the recipe pretty much as is, and it came out thick and globby. I really would like to find decent alternatives to dairy cheese, but haven’t experimented enough with the products available to find things that we like yet.

The family, including the carnivores, seemed to like this recipe a lot. Along with a nice green salad, it fed four of us for Sunday Dinner, and there were leftovers enough for one evening meal for Kid this week, and snacks as well.

If I make this again, I’ll probably try it with Impossible Burger, as I like the texture of that product a bit better. Otherwise, the recipe is “a keeper” and something that the entire family can enjoy together, regardless of whether they are meat-eaters or not.

Quick Weeknight Curried Chickpeas

Chickpea CurryClaudia makes an incredibly delicious curried chickpea dish with spinach and all sort of other goodies, so I was a little hesitant to even try this simple recipe, but it seemed like an easy weeknight meal, so I finally decided to give it a go.

I took a few liberties, but kept it simple.

I sautéed a chopped onion, some diced fresh ginger and a few minced cloves of garlic in some olive oil.

Then I squeezed in some tubed tomato paste, and added my standard curry spices, stirring everything together until it all was toasted and fragrant.

  • 2 t Garam Masala
  • 2 t Curry Powder
  • 1 t Mustard Seed
  • 1 t Coriander
  • 1/2 t Chili Powder
  • 1/2 t Paprika
  • 1/2 t Turmeric
  • Some Red Pepper Flakes

Finally, in went two cans of diced tomatoes, two cans of chickpeas (drained), and a can of coconut milk. Then it was just a matter of letting it combine and heat up well while making the rice to go under it.

From start to finish, this took a little more than half an hour to prepare. It fed three of us, and there was plenty left over.

It certainly didn’t measure up to Claudia’s recipe, but it wasn’t half bad.

First Run at Tofu Scramble

I had picked up some tofu to try it out when I made Pho awhile back, mostly out of curiosity. I don’t miss the protein portion on my plate when it’s absent from a meal, and I get plenty of protein in my diet from the grains and legumes that I eat (and I also still consume dairy from time to time).

But shortly after that, Claudia ran across tofu at Aldi’s and picked up a block for me, figuring that I’d find some use for it. I searched for something along the lines of “best way to prepare tofu” and got several returns for scrambles. It seemed like a fairly simple, almost elegant way to use the product, so I narrowed down the search and came up with three iterations that informed this meal.

I grabbed a potato masher and was ready to go, except for one odd thing that was not in our pantry. More than one article listed a spice called Kala Namak as an essential ingredient to get an “eggy” flavor. At $4 for 3 1/2 ounces, I figured it was worth picking some up to try and have on hand. It is a pinkish salt from the Himalayas, but despite its hue it is generally referred to as “black salt.” It has a slightly sulfurous aroma, as one might expect.

I used the spices and proportions from this recipe at Loving It Vegan. We didn’t have soy milk so I substituted almond. I also started with a sautĂ© of Portobello Mushrooms and spinach in the pan before adding the tofu, and used olive oil instead of vegan butter.

Here’s the sauce, the way I made it.

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black Salt (Kala Namak)
1/4 tsp Onion Powder
1/3 cup Almond Milk

I whisked that together in a measuring cup while the mashed tofu and veggies were heating. Once I added it to the pan and tasted, it still seemed just a bit bland to me, so I added another 1/4 tsp of the Kala Namak, some fresh ground black pepper and a little bit of my favorite barbecue spice mix.

This turned out to be a decent meal. It’s not something that I would go out of my way for, but if someone served it to me and I didn’t know better, I would think it was eggs. The main difference is that in our household scrambled eggs get loaded with cheese, and although the nutritional yeast adds some cheesy flavor, the gooey texture isn’t there. I suppose we could use some vegan cheese if we wanted, but it’s not something we keep on hand.

The nice thing about preparing a meal like this is knowing that if someone I love had a dietary restriction that precluded eggs, whether for ethical or health reasons (albumen allergy or cholesterol limits, etc.) I could still turn out a satisfying, flavorful, traditional breakfast dish for them. This makes me happy.

Yogi Tea

Good for grounding, energy, digestion and detox, “Yogi Tea” is one of our favorite beverages.

Our friend (and Kundalini Yoga teacher) Warren Armstrong introduced us to this marvelous tea. It was popularized in America by followers of Yogi Bhajan. Warren serves it after Gong Healing sessions to help restore balance and equilibrium. It is also excellent for reducing inflammation. I sometimes drink it to help with joint pain or muscle soreness.

I researched recipes online and brewed several batches before arriving at our variation on the process. We brew two quarts at a time, and keep it in the refrigerator to drink either cold (diluted with a little water) or hot (warmed in the microwave with almond milk and honey or raw sugar).

  • 15 whole cloves
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 3 sticks of cinnamon
  • 20 green cardamom pods
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 bags black tea

Get two quarts of water boiling while preparing the ingredients.

Crack open the cardamom pods with the flat of a chef’s knife, and cube up a five or six inch piece of ginger. There’s no need to peel the ginger first.

Once the water is boiling, add the cloves and let them boil for a minute or so before adding the other ingredients. Add everything else except the black tea, return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for thirty minutes. Remove from heat, add the tea bags, and cover to steep overnight (or at least six hours). Strain into a container, and add water to replace what has evaporated to make two quarts.

If serving cold, I dilute about half and half with water. For hot tea, the ratio is 2/3rds tea and 1/3rd milk. You may sweeten either, if you’d like. I prefer it without sweetener when cold, but with just a taste of honey or raw sugar when hot.

Potato Curry and Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages

Potato Curry, Puri, Field Roast Apple SageI’ve just begun to learn to cook Indian fare. Spicy, plant-based dishes seem to give my body what it craves, and I’m enjoying exploring a cuisine that I’d not spent much time with in the past.

I had made potato curry for a weeknight meal on the spur of the moment awhile back, and it turned out right, so I decided to make it this week for Sunday Dinner. Also, I wanted to try out some Field Roast sausages on the recommendation of my friend, Eban Crawford. I picked up a package of their Frankfurters (saving those for tomorrow’s Labor Day cookout), some Brats, and the Smoked Apple Sage Sausages at Kankakee Natural Foods Friday in anticipation.

I also wanted to try making puri, which is an Indian whole wheat bread that has been rolled thin and then deep fried to puff up. The potatoes and puri combination would have been standard prasad at Kainchi Temple in India where an entire generation of Westerners went to learn from the great Indian Saint Maharaj-ji Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s and 70s. The vegan sausages would not have been served, but I figured they would make a nice accompaniment, and add a little protein to the meal.

Everything turned out right. The curry could have used a little more kick, as far as I’m concerned. The puri bread was good, though I think for the bother, I would just opt for store bought naan from here forward. Maybe it’s one of those things you get a knack for and can speed the process up with experience. At least I’m no longer afraid to deep fry things.

The sausages were outstanding. Texture was amazing – so very much better than TVP products, and no soy involved for folks who are watching their intake. They delivered on a beautifully balanced sage and smoke flavor. They were just a tiny bit sweet to my taste, but I think that’s because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m really looking forward to cooking the franks on the grill tomorrow.

Recipes

Potato and Vegetable Curry

Sauté two big onions, rough chopped, in olive oil with salt and pepper.

Add several cloves of garlic and a couple pieces of fresh ginger, minced, and cook until fragrant.

Add these spices and toast until fragrant and well distributed.

  • 2 t Garam Masala
  • 2 t Curry Powder
  • 1 t Mustard Seed
  • 1 t Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 t Chili Powder
  • 1/2 t Turmeric
  • 1/2 t Paprika

Add 1 Can diced tomatoes.

Add 1 package frozen mixed vegetables.

Add 3 pounds of potatoes, cubed.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock.

Cover and cook on low simmer until potatoes are tender.

Make a slurry with one can of coconut milk and 3 T cornstarch, add it to the pot and cook uncovered until the curry thickens.

I think next time I would add some red pepper flakes at table to kick up the heat a bit.

Puri

I followed Swasthi’s recipe for these, as shown in the video below.

The frying was easy once I got the oil hot enough, and after the first two or three, the rest of the batch puffed up fine. It was pretty time consuming to prep and roll the dough out, though. As I mentioned above, maybe that’s a matter of experience. I’m glad that I tried them, but not sure I would invest the time again.

Vegetarian Pho

Vegan PhoI love Pho. It’s one of those foods that is not only tasty, but also soothing and comforting.

I learned to make it using beef bones and round roast. Since we have several folks in our family who do not eat meat, I had considered trying to make a vegan version, but since I thought there was no way that I’d be able to duplicate the satisfying richness of the “real thing” I didn’t attempt it until recently.

Lately, though, I’ve been moving more and more to a plant based diet myself. So I reviewed as many recipes as I could, and ultimately realized that I might be able to adapt the beef-based recipe that I already knew and loved.

Once the broth was done, here are the first impressions that I posted on Facebook:

I tried a plain cup as I doled it out into quart jars. Tastes pretty much exactly like the classic version, but lacks a teeny bit of the richness. Thinking that a little ghee or olive oil at table would fix that, if anybody notices. Maybe a little soy to kick up the umami. By the time I load my bowl up with scallions, hot peppers and sriracha, I don’t think it will matter to me.

This turned out to be true, but I really wanted to get it to the point where I could say “this is every bit as delicious as the original, and I don’t miss the beef at all.”

So I added a little more soy, some MSG and a teeny bit of olive oil to the broth, and it was perfect!

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 teapoons whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 3 whole star anise (or 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed and 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed)
  • 3 red onions, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, rough chopped
  • 1 (4-inch) piece ginger, cut in 8ths
  • 7 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons fine sea salt (not iodized)
  • 1 1/2 Gallons Veggie Stock (I used the organic version from Aldi)
  • Soy Sauce
  • MSG

To Cook

Step 1:
Char onion, carrots and ginger either under the broiler or on the grill.

Step 2:
Toast cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, coriander, and star anise in a dry skillet over moderately high heat, shaking pan occasionally, until spices are aromatic, about 1 minute.

Step 3:
Bring stock to a boil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, ginger, and Turbinao sugar. Simmer for half an hour.
Add spices, and 2 1/2 tablespoons salt; simmer until spices are infused, about 1 hour.

Step 4:
Pour broth through a fine wire-mesh strainer. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 T salt, a little MSG and soy sauce.

This makes a lot of broth. I think next time unless I was serving a huge crowd, I would cut the stock down to a gallon. The good news is that it stores well, in quart jars in the fridge, or even frozen.

To Serve

Prepare dried thin rice noodles (banh pho) per package directions.

Place noodles in the bowl with sautéed mushrooms, tofu, or whatever else you would like, and add hot broth.

Top with:

  • julienne of  Napa Cabbage, bok choy, broccoli or such
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • basil leaves or small basil sprigs
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • sliced scallions
  • Fresno Chiles or Jalapeños, thinly sliced into rings
  • bean sprouts
  • lime quarters
  • sriracha

I’d love to hear back from you if you try this recipe, and any ideas you have for improvement. It definitely goes to the top on my “favorite recipes” list right off the bat, and I can’t wait to cook it again for the folks in our family who weren’t here during this first attempt.

I also look forward to sharing more plant-based fare on this weblog. As someone who has loved flesh-centric cooking for decades, it is both a challenge and a pleasure to work on alternative dishes which are just as satisfying, but fit a little better with a life devoted to health, spirituality and environmental concerns.

I’d always told folks that if I ever post “I’m enjoying this tofu” on social media, it’s code for “Help! I’ve been kidnapped!” But after trying it in this dish, I’m looking forward to what else I can do with it. 🙂

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Sunday Brunch and Dinner – 18 March 2018

Green Flowers

Aunt Pat’s Lovely Bouquet

We had the folks and Aunt Pat over early this Sunday so we could work in a late breakfast as well as dinner. Claudia was up before 7 AM putting together her white chocolate and raspberry scones, which involved a very labor intensive process of grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients mixture. We tried using a food processor for this bit, but that didn’t work out, so she went back to the box grater, painstakingly dispensing two pounds of Irish butter. Once the dough was resting in the fridge, she headed out to Yoga while I started preparing a huge pot of veggies and corned beef.

We had Pandora’s St. Patrick’s Day station streaming as the family arrived, and Claudia baked the scones. I had some sausages and Potatoes O’Brien ready, and a fresh pot of coffee on. Claudia, Pat and Mom added a wee nip o’ Tullamore Dew to their mugs. Aunt Pat brought a lovely, festive bouquet.

Claudia had also made Shamrock Bark on Saturday evening as an additional treat.

After breakfast, the folks and Pat settled in for some games of cribbage while dinner continued to simmer. In past years, we had always cooked the corned beef in a crock pot, but this year I decided to try a recipe we’d seen in Sunset Magazine for Patrick’s Corned Beef and Cabbage. I honestly don’t know how we survived before we got a 12 quart stock pot, and toward the end of the cook, it was almost too small.

We used two point cut briskets, over seven pounds together, along with five medium onions, 2 pounds of carrots, 2 1/2 pounds of red potatoes and two full heads of cabbage. The addition of malt vinegar, Guinness and lots of whole spices to the pot added something special, but what was most notable about the recipe was that the cabbage was cooked perfectly. Instead of the limp, slimy mess that usually comes out of the crock, this still had a little firmness to it, since it was added late in the cooking.

I also tried a new soda bread recipe from BTE this year. The other recipe I’ve always used includes caraway seeds and raisins, and is a little sweeter, almost like a thick scone. This one turned out to be a much better compliment to the meal, with a dense, fluffy crumb and nice crunchy crust.

Claudia also served three varieties of Irish cheeses with the meal. The wine was a very nice Matt Iaconis Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Some Guinness Stout, Smithwick’s Red Ale and Tullamore Dew were also consumed, and after dinner one round of Grasshoppers with mint chocolate ice cream for dessert. 🙂

Sláinte Mhaith!

Asian Inspiration

Sunday Dinner – 11 March 2018

From Mrs. Noe’s Facebook:

Lest anyone think we starved today, this Sunday’s culinary adventure was Asian food!

Asian inspired salad, egg rolls, rangoons & potstickers, beef with broccoli, vegetable lo mein and Hong Kong style egg custard.

Salad was butter lettuce, julienned carrots, mandarins and snow peas with a homemade ginger garlic dressing and topped with chow mein noodles.

Appetizers were all from the store, so I can’t take any credit there.

Crockpot beef with broccoli and brown rice.

Vegetable lo mein with peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, water chestnuts and garlic.

Egg custard was supposed to be tarts. Note to self: you can’t substitute phyllo tart shells…really needs to be pie crust. Live and learn, at least I salvaged it.

And of course, no Chinese meal is complete without fortune cookies!

Recipes to come. The Lo Mein was especially delicious. We made Grasshoppers for Grampy and Aunt Pat, while Claudia and her niece, Emily, enjoyed Pink Squirrels.