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The secret to mag-nificent vegan ricotta

5 Jan

1) Cook with a friend in her totally rad pad!

2) Use a food processor – honest to goodness, it helps.

3) Cashews

Yesterday being the first day after my two week vacation of being back at work, I didn’t particularly feel like cooking, but knew that the extra effort on my part, would make the transition back to the hum-drum 8-5 life-style a tad less painful. The decision was sealed when C called, also not in the mood to cook. Two tired and cranky vegans make one awesome delicious meal – don’t ask me how it works – we defy the laws of physics.  I cooked up a most delightful, aromatic and oooooh so yummy ratatouille with the eggplant, teeny baby zucchini, yellow summer squash, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, roma tomatoes and fresh thyme that I had been hoarding in my fridge. (Recipe to come, I promise!) I packed it in my handy reusable cloth bag and walked (yes – you heard me, walked!) over to C’s apartment. (C. is now my neighbor and it fills me with glee, despite the fact that the reasons for her being my neighbor are bittersweet, with a heavy dose of bitter.)

C has a new gadget – a fine specimen of a food processor. My does this make a huge difference! Blenders, being by nature oblong and wielding a puny (by comparison) blade, tend to get clogged when prepping thicker pate-like substances. Food processors are like a blender on spinach! Yay! In any case, I have recently discovered the secret to successful “cheesy” and “creamy” vegan sauces, cheeses, etc. – CASHEWS! I came upon them while experimenting with mac’n’cheezy, but only recently attempted them in several recipes (also coming soon – I need to remake them and take pictures!) Ricotta is another recipe made phenomenal through the help of that humble little cashew.

On a side note, did you know that cashews are not a nut? They’re not! Cashews are little pods that hang off the bottom of apple-like tropical evergreen plants. They are encased in a shell that is abrasive to us people, much like poison ivy, and so they need to be processed mechanically to remove them, before they are safe to eat by us! But once we get them, boy oh boy are they tasty!

Anyway, C and I used cashew to make our ricotta, and the texture and taste was spot on! Mixed with the flavorful ratatouille, it was fantastic! Hope you give it a shot! (Oh and by the by, I am sure that you can totally use a blender. I don’t own a food processor, so most of my work gets done in the blender. The effect might be a tad more creamy, that’s all. It’ll still taste ah-mazing!)

Mag-nificent Ricotta

1 package Trader Joe’s Tofu (the high protein firm kind)

1/2 C raw cashews (you could even go to 3/4 C)

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs nutritional yeast

1 tsp lemon garlic salt

a dash of chili flakes (less than 1/8 tsp)

1/4 tsp black pepper

Throw the ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and mix until the consistency is a big grainy but creamy, like ricotta! Serve with your favorite veggies, ratatouille or sauce on pasta, spread on a lasagna, stuff into manicotti or try something new!

Cheers to all and a Happy New Year!

– Mags

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GF Pizza, Take 2

13 Nov

C. and I made gluten free, vegan pizza this Veteran’s Day.

I have been hoarding a bag of Chëbë GF flour that I got for a dollar at Sunflower Market months ago. I had reservations about using it, see. GF products are usually dense and can be very dry due to the lack of gluten (duh). It’s sad, really. What makes them even worse, is making them vegan. Oddly enough, where adding apple sauce, flax meal, banana, or other vegan egg replacers to wheat flour makes the product almost too moist, in GF mixes, the result can be, well, horrendous. I made a batch of GF Cinnamon Apple muffins from a mix (who’s producer I have half a mind to boycott). I added apple sauce. You would think it would have been delicious, right? NO – it tasted like poop – poop on a bitter awful stick. I was pissed (mainly because I spent money on this thing that tasted worse than poison) and highly disappointed (and depressed).

Since then, I have found two GF mixes that I really like: Trader Joe’s Pancake/Waffle Mix and Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Dough Mix. The former, I have used for pancakes and in a breakfast cookie recipe (which I will post soon – it still needs some work). The later, I used in the first GF Pizza recipe I did here on EVA.

This time, C. and I jazzed up the dough and it came out fantastic! The crust tasted just like a thin crust pizza crust. The problem was the mild chewy/rubbery texture of the dough that was in contact with the topping. This, we think, can be averted in the future, by pre-baking the pizzas before topping them. Other than that, the pizza night was a success! We topped our pizzas (that were supposed to be calzones, but due to the unexpected small yield of dough were reassigned to pizzas) with vegan ricotta (option 1 and option 2), veggie caviar and marinara sauce.

Here is the recipe we used to make the pizza dough:

Gluten Free Chëbë Pizza Dough

1 bag of Chëbë Original Flavored All-Purpose Dough

2 Tbs flax meal

6 Tbs + 5 Tbs unsweetened soymilk

2 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

corn meal for dusting pizza stone

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flax meal and 6 Tbs soymilk until thickens. Add to flour. Add olive oil and remaining 5 Tbs soymilk to flour. Mix well. Add spices and more soymilk until mixture is well incorporated and elastic. Divide into two portions and roll out into 1/8″ thick. Sprinkle pizza stone with corn meal, bake pizza for 10-15 minutes. Take out and coat with toppings and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Peace and enjoy!

– Mags

Eggplant Lasagna

21 Oct

Hello hello hello! It’s Vegan MoFo (still) and although I don’t possess either the time, stomach capacity or financial means to try something new every day of this month, I am trying to post something new every week. Here is what came into my head yesterday. I was initially planning to just do a ratatouille, but then decided that I haven’t done a baked dish in a long time, and it being all autumn-like in the Old Pueblo of late, I decided to make a lasagna. That and the fact that vegan ricotta is fantastic!! Trust me. If you don’t believe me, try this recipe. I believe ricotta was meant to be made with tofu – and this coming from a person who used to eat ricotta straight out of the container!!

What makes this lasagna special, is that it’s also gluten-free! Although technically, it’s more of a layered pasta bake, than a lasagna in terms of construction, it stills hit’s the same spot, is delicious and healthy.

Enjoy!

– Mags

Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant lasagna

Eggplant lasagna

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, sliced into 1/4 slices

4 Tbs rice or soy flour

4 Tbs flax meal

1/2 tsp salt + more for “sweating” eggplant

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 C unsweetened soymilk

2 Tbs olive oil

***

1 package firm tofu, pressed

2 tsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic minced

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 C nutritional yeast

15 fresh basil leaves

black pepper to taste

(Recipe for Vegan Basil Ricotta adapted from recipe posted by Isa on www.theppk.com. Thank you!)

***

1/4 package Brown rice pasta, cooked al dente

***

tomato sauce for serving (I used D’s Delightful Tomato Sauce.)

Preparation:

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and them sit until you notice beads of moisture on their surface. Pat the moisture off with a paper towel, flip over to the other side and repeat the process. If you let the eggplant “sweat” around 30 minutes total, the cooked slices will be soft and almost sweet. This is great, especially when using larger eggplant, as they can be rather bitter. After you have patted off all the “sweated” juice, rinse the eggplant slices on each side with water, to remove excess salt. If you forget to do this, the end result might not be palatable.

While you are waiting for the eggplant slices to do their thing, prepare the “breading”. I have found it very difficult to “bread” things in a vegan and gluten-free fashion as, from my experience, the most successful breadings happen with the use of a beaten egg and/or milk and bread crumbs/flour. Since all of those things are omitted in my diet, I have suffered through many a soggy or detached breading.  The one I have used in this recipe had fantastic results, and the flax meal adds a nutty and rich flavor that greatly compliments the eggplant.

The preparations of the breading is simple – simply place all the dry ingredients (soy/rice flour, flax meal, spices) in a Ziploc baggie and shake – in the style of good old fashioned shake’n’bake. Pour the soymilk into a saucer or into a bowl. Dip the eggplant slice first in the soymilk to coat, then shake it around in the Ziploc breading baggie until it’s coated. Set aside and continue until all the pieces are covered.

Heat a cast-iron skillet with 2 Tbs of olive oil. Saute the eggplant on each side until nicely browned. Set aside.

Prepare the tofu ricotta. Crumble the pressed firm tofu into a bowl. Add the vinegar, olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, basil and spices and mix.

Fold in the drained al dente brown rice pasta.

Assemble the lasagna, by layering the bottom on a square casserole dish with eggplant. Cover than with the tofu ricotta and pasta filling and cover with another layer of eggplant. If you have enough eggplant slices, do another layer of eggplant in the middle.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Serve with tomato sauce on top.

*** Note: In the future, I would like to try to bake the lasagna with the tomato sauce inside and to try using gluten-free lasagna noodles. But no worries – I will be sure to post the results!!!

D’s Delightful Tomato Sauce

21 Oct

For the longest time, in our household, we purchased all of our tomato sauce ready-made. One glorious day, D. decided to try making his own. “After all it’s cheaper,” he said. Well, not only is it cheaper, but it’s bright, aromatic and absolutely delicious. It beats any other sauce out there. I guarantee it!

I have asked him, and he generously agreed  to share his recipe with EVA followers. (Actually, he got very serious to make sure we got it JUST RIGHT – it was adorable.)

Try it on a home made pizza, in a lasagna, or over your favorite pasta concoction.

Peace and good eating,

Mags


D’s Delightful Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

28 oz can diced tomatoes

6 oz can tomato paste

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 Tbs olive oil

8 cremini or button mushrooms, chopped

8 leaves fresh basil, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/4 tsp cayenne

Preparation:

Pour can of diced tomatoes and tomato paste into a non-stick saucepan. Add 1/4 tsp dried basil and oregano, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer.

In the meantime, dry cook the onions on a cast-iron skillet until browned (note from D: It’s OK, even better if they are slightly burned, they add more flavor.) Add 1 Tbs olive oil to de-glaze the onions. Add in this order, mushrooms, fresh basil, 1/8 tsp dried oregano, garlic and cayenne. Saute for ~ 10 seconds, until the garlic just gets aromatic (don’t burn it) and add to the simmering tomato sauce.

Reduce sauce for about 45 min-1 hour on low-medium heat covered. If you want it to go faster, keep the lid off. Reduce it more if you are planning on using it for a pizza sauce.

Keeps well in the fridge in a jar for about a week (that’s the longest we’ve ever been able to keep it without eating it, so that’s all we can vouch for) and gets even more intense in flavor.

Raving Risotto!!!

14 Oct

Many people fear making risotto, but it’s really ridiculously simple to make and may perhaps be one of the easiest ways to make your dinner feel like you’re eating at a 5-star restaurant. That and dressing your boyfriend up in a tux, lighting some candles whilst surrounded by red roses, elevator music piano and Chef Ramsey screaming in the background, but who has time to do all that? Last night, I made a delightful little risotto and in light of it being Vegan MoFo, I have decided to post about it, especially seeing as I have made several risottos and never once posted about them. Qu’elle domage!!!


Mushroom risotto is always a fantastic way to go. Last night, I decided to stir things up a bit and added marinated shiitake mushrooms along with the button mushrooms. For some added greens, I threw some kale into the pot as well. Nutritional yeast more than makes up for the Parmesan used in traditional risottos. Oh, and I don’t use white white, or red white or sherry. I don’t drink, and most of my friends don’t drink alcohol either, so I don’t put it in. I have experimented with different vinegars instead, but I find it unnecessary. It tends to overpower all the other flavors.


So here it is, a risotto that you will be bound to rave about!


Mixed Mushroom and Kale Risotto

Ingredients:

3-1/4 C vegetable broth or stock

2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs Earth Balance

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 C Arborio rice

about 1/2 C  roughly chopped marinated shiitake mushrooms

about 1/2 C sliced button or cremini mushrooms

2-3 C kale, shredded

pinch of salt and pepper

1 Tbs nutritional yeast

Preparation:

Heat vegetable stock in pot to boiling. Turn off once boils. In the meantime, heat 2 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs Earth Balance in a sauce pan and saute onion until translucent. Turn the heat down to medium and add Arborio rice. Saute until the white rice kernels start becoming clear or about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and kale and saute for about 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock 1/4-1/2 C at a time stirring pretty frequently. When liquid becomes absorbed add another 1/4-1/2C until all the vegetable stock is used up. Taste the rice. If it is still crunchy (the end result should be al dente, like a good pasta, not mushy or crunchy) add more stock until the rice is al dente. Stir in 1 Tbs nutritional yeast, add salt and pepper to taste and dig in!

Buon Appetito!

-Mags

Pizza Palooza!

6 Aug

D. (my better half) and I decided to have a cooking night together yesterday. After brainstorming during the drive home (and enjoying the phenomenal light displays of Tucson monsoon lightning) we both decided on home-made pizza. To expedite the process, we decided to buy some things pre-made:

Our local Sunflower Market had pizza dough on sale – so we got one for D. However, there were no pre-made gluten free pizza doughs or crusts (asides from ones that were not only expensive, frost-bitten but also contained eggs, which I chose not to eat for ethical reasons.) After scouring the store, refusing to give up and have to either spend an exorbitant amount of money on a gluten-free Amy’s Organics frozen pizza or be reduced to making my pizza on corn tortillas, I finally came upon Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Dough Mix (hallelujah- Thank YOU BOB!) AND, joy of joys, although my heart sunk when I saw eggs in the recipe list, I also noticed a little asterix with the recommended amount of flax seed to add instead of eggs. I could have done a little jig right there and there! 🙂

D. and I decided to make the remaining additions from scratch – well, semi-scratch. We bought organic tomato sauce – OK here is a hint to all of you. Sunflower Market has a section, in the back, were all the discards (usually banged up, bent cans, dirty, scratched or torn cardboard boxes, abandoned bulk goods, etc.) live. These are usually marked down to “steal” prices! For instance, yesterday, D discovered a banged up organic tomato sauce can (normally costing around $3,80) for $0.79! Add this along with some more canned tomato puree, tomato paste, fresh basil (from our basil plant), to some chopped onions, garlic sauted to golden in a saucepan. Add more basil (dried) and salt and pepper and simmer until thickens. There you have your sauce.

While D. was making this, I got to putting together the gluten-free pizza dough. I followed the instructions on the bag; I am still learning how to bake gluten-free, and decided to freeze half of the ball. While my dough was rising, we prepared D.’s pizza.

We made D.’s pizza deep-dish style, seeing as we had forgotten to get aluminum foil and do not (yet) own a pizza stone, by spraying a glass casserole dish with cooking spray and lining it with the dough. D. made his own pizza by layering sauted button mushrooms with left over chicken, cooked ground beef, tomato sauce and lots of grated cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan (all in that order). We baked it at 425F until it was starting to golden. It rose to fill the casserole dish past half way, and D. (being the carnivore that he is 🙂 ) enjoyed it tremendously.

I assembled my pizza in much the same way, also in the casserole dish (after thoroughly washing it out) – spray the dish, spread dough out with wet hands (to prevent sticking to fingers and not the dish). Bake in 425F oven for 7 minutes, as outlined in instructions. I lined my pizza with tomato sauce, then layered it with dry-sauted button mushrooms, olive oil-sauted sliced okra and kale (seasoned with salt, pepper and basil), then topped it off with grated cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan. Into the oven for 17 minutes and it was ready to eat!

The best part of this evening? Cooking with my hunny – well, and tasting my first gluten-free pizza!!!

Peace to all!

– Mags

Oh and by the way, that entire dinner cost probably (rough estimate here) around $10-12 TOTAL – plus we both had left overs. And we got to spend some great time together. Just FYI 🙂

(side note (May 2010) – Summer of 2009 I discovered I had a gluten intolerance, and took back dairy for a couple of weeks being concerned that I couldn’t get enough protein. After those couple weeks, I was miserable and took up to the challenge of being gluten-free AND vegan. Recently, I have taken back most wheat products and some gluten containing products, still eschewing others. I think it could have been a side effect of all the damage I did to my digestive system while acting out in my eating disorder, and now that I am taking better care of myself, I can handle it better. Who knows?)

Oh so bella! polenta lasagna

28 Mar

I love spinach lasagna. It’s one of my favorite dishes. I recently noticed another vegan blogger post a recipe for a polenta kale and portobella lasagna. I was intrigued, but decided to make it my own. I love a lasagna to be creamy, cheesy and ricotta-y. This brought up the question of making a tofu ricotta. A vegan recipe book I got from the library has a recipe for tofu feta made by marinating tofu. A shortly marinated “feta” mixed with a cheeze sauce, did the trick. Amazingly.

I also love mushrooms. A lot. I have tried numerous vegetarian mushroom lasagnas, including a severly intense wild mushroom lasagna, and always like to experiment with new ways to add that seriously earthy flavor they add to dishes.

So here was the set up for tonight’s “to-die-for” recipe. A love affair with lasagne and mushrooms. Add to that a new exciting journey with greens other than spinach, and polenta – intriguing and delicious yet, until today, eluding ingredient, and you’ve got Oh so bella polenta lasagna – a polenta lasagna, with a cheesy, creamy tofu ricotta sauce, collards, portobella mushroom, an oniony mushroom gravy all topped with homemade “cheesy” sourdough breadcrumbs. It is time-consuming but totally worth it.

Enjoy!

– Mags

Photo by D.

Photo by D.


Oh so bella! polenta lasagna

Photo by D.

Photo by D.

1 portobella mushroom cap, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 bunch collard greens, de-veined and sliced into strips

1 Tbs sunflower oil

2 large garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 C water

Saute collards in oil for about 3 minutes. Add portobella mushroom, salt and pepper and saute until collards begin to look wilty. Add garlic and stir. Add water and cover for 2 minutes then uncover and cook until all the water is gone.

Tofu Cheezy Ricotta

8 oz firm tofu

3 Tbs sunflower oil

3 Tbs water

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

1 tsp garlic (powder)

1/2 tsp salt

Crumble tofu into tupper-ware container. Place all marinade ingredients into a 1 C tupper-ware container and shake to combine. Pour over tofu and shake. Marinate in refrigerator for 30 min.

4 oz firm tofu

1/4 C unsweetened soymilk

1/2 C vegetable broth (1/2 C water + 1/4 tsp vegetarian broth powder)

2 Tbs tahini

1 tsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp onion powder

1-1/2 Tbs nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp thyme

1/8 tsp pepper

2 tsp corn starch

Blend all ingredients in blender.

Add drained marinated tofu to collards, portobella mix in the pan and stir. Pour in cheeze sauce and mix. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Turn off and let sit while you make the mushroom onion gravy.

Mushroom Onion Gravy

1 Tbs sunflower oil

1/3 medium onion, chopped fine

2 C mushrooms, sliced very thin

1 C vegetable broth

1/4 tsp thyme

1 Tbs sherry vinegar

3 Tbs flour

Saute onions until translucent. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute until onion is golden and mushrooms are soft and fragrant. Place in blender with 1 C vegetable stock. Blend. The resulting mixture should be slightly lumpy. Place in pan. Add thyme and sherry and stir. Add flour and stir over low heat until mixture thickens.

Assemble the lasagna. Evenly coat a baking dish of your choice with cooking spray.(I ended up choosing 11″X7″ but if you prefer thicker polenta slices, choose a smaller surface area.) Cut one-18 oz pre-cooked tube of plain polenta in half. Slice into thin slices and use it to line the bottom of the pan. Cover the polenta with 1/2 of the mushroom-onion gravy. Next place all of the portobella,collard, “ricotta” mix over the gravy. Spread evenly. Slice up the remaining polenta and cover lasagna filling. Spread the remaining mushroom-onion gravy.

Home-made sourdough cheezy breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 325F. Cover pan with aluminum foil and coat with a light coat of cooking spray. Cut off three pieces of a loaf of sourdough bread (slightly stale works better) and cut into small cubes. Bake until light brown and crunchy. Cool.

When the lasagna is ready to place in oven, melt 3 Tbs Earth Balance in a pan and add bread crumbs (crush with your hands if you prefer smaller, less crouton-like crumbs). Saute until coated. Add 1 heaping Tbs nutritional yeast and stir. Spread evenly over lasagna.

Place lasagna covered with aluminum foil into a preheated 375F oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for another 15 minutes or until bubbly and the edges are golden brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Photo by D.

Photo by D.