Caesar Salad To Die For…And It’s Vegan!

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Oh. My. Goodness.

I’ve never actually made Caesar Salad before although I love it, and I used to order it all the time before going vegan.  The creamy dressing, the croutons, the cheese, and I didn’t even mind a few hidden anchovies.  Frankly, the idea of making Caesar Salad at home always seemed too daunting.  But when Angela at “Oh She Glows” shared her recipe here I knew I had to give it a try.

Well, the results were amazing!  There are three parts to this recipe, not including the greens (romaine and a bit of kale).  These include:

Roasted chickpeas:

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Well these babies were a revelation!  Canned chickpeas roasted with a touch of olive oil, salt and garlic powder.  After about 35 minutes they become crunchy–a perfect substitute for croutons.  Come to think of it, there’s nothing particularly non-vegan about croutons but these were so much better and of course, better for you!  They reminded me of corn nuts.  So delicious.  I’m looking forward to roasting some just for snacking.  After I had my first taste I was surprised I was able to leave some for the salad!

Next up is the vegan dressing:

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This blended dressing begins with a raw cashew cream. The other ingredients include garlic, lemon juice, dijon mustard, capers, vegan worcestershire sauce and spices.  The combination is so like a traditional Caesar dressing, I really couldn’t believe there were no eggs.  But nope, not a one.   Fabulous.

The last ingredient is the parmesan cheese substitute:

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This is a ground-up mix of raw cashews and sesame seeds (oops, just realized I used sunflower seeds..worked anyway!) , hulled hemp seeds (had to track those down in Whole Foods) and nutritional yeast (that cheesy flavor).  I guess the sesame (not sunflower)  seeds would have created a different texture , but this mix still provided the cheesy flavor I expect in a good Caesar salad.

This salad went beautifully with our mushroom buckwheat soup and will be a regular in our rotation.  Here’s a look at the salad dished up and ready to be devoured:

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I actually halved the recipe, and this was plenty for me and David for dinner, but I think I went a little light on the dressing.  Next time I plan to load it up.  I figure that given these healthy ingredients, you really can’t have too much of a good thing.

Another reason why I love being vegan 🙂

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How We’ll Be Eating Our Sweet Potatoes This Year

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In soup! So bright and seasonal. So delicious.

I’ve been looking for a recipe for a sweet potato soup to serve at Thanksgiving.  My original plan was to trot out my mushroom barley soup which is an absolute no-fail, but it’s just so brown.  My Thanksgiving menu was needing some vivid color to round out the other loaves, casseroles and green vegetables.  And the old sweet potato and marshmallow dish is just not for me.

Since going vegan I’ve had to acknowledge that I just don’t care much for roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash.   David makes a sweet and spicy butternut squash soup that the family loves.  I’m not a fan of that either, and I finally figured out that I prefer a more savory soup.  I recently tried both squash soup and sweet potato soup at our favorite vegan restaurant here in Tucson and they were both delicious.  So I set out to find a similar recipe.

Well tis the season for orange soups so there was no shortage of possible recipes.  The recipe I decided to go with is here.  The soup is supposed to be served with some wild rice spooned on top, but since this was a trial run I sprinkled some toasted pine nuts and cinnamon on top instead.

This recipe is crazy easy to prepare– I used one pot and a blender.  For two servings, the ingredients include one baked sweet potato, half an onion, garlic, vegetable broth, unsweetened almond milk,  curry powder (mine has a kick) and garam masala.  While I’m used to sautéing my onions and garlic before making just about anything I was surprised to learn that I could create a similar effect by simmering them in the vegetable broth.  This means that there’s not a drop of oil in the dish.  While I don’t worry much about oil when I cook I know that some folks prefer to leave it out.  This approach worked beautifully and once pureed, the onions still added their signature sweet flavor.  Good to know.  A less wonderful part of the recipe is that it doesn’t include any salt, perhaps also for those on a more restricted diet.  Oh, I think soup really needs salt!  I added some sea salt a bit at a time to bring out the other flavors.  It seemed like a pretty important addition.

This creamy and spicy soup is a winner.  It’s definitely “savory” but the natural sweetness is still there.  I think it will make a beautiful addition to our meal, and I can prepare it on Wednesday.  Score and score.

Anne, here it is, as promised 🙂

What Price Tradition?

David and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the third year in a row, and three of our five children and our grandson will be there.  As new vegans, we had a few discussions about how we wanted to handle the meal.  We decided that wanted to be true to our convictions as ethical vegans and have a vegan Thanksgiving.  And I admit that I had some trepidation about sharing the news with my son, Sam, who I thought might feel disappointed to not have his favorite “traditional” foods (cheesy au gratin potatoes for example) at the meal.

Through a text message (giving me the space to deal with my and his reactions) I shared the news.  He responded predictably–“what no cheesy potatoes?!” although he did add “lol”.  After a bit of back and forth chatting peppered with “lol’s” (mine and his) I assured him that he would be served a delicious meal and be healthier for it.  He agreed to keep an open mind as long as I didn’t tell him the specifics about exactly what he was eating.  Well, okay, I can live with that.  I am incredibly excited to see the kids and share the best my vegan culinary skills have to offer.  It’s going to be a great time.

And that brings me to a feature article I read in the Huffington Post this morning entitled, “I’ll Take Turkey Over Tofu, Thank you” and you can read it for yourself here.  The premise of the article (I think) is that tradition matters–and tradition (for this family) seems to be eating the turkey, the stuffing made with gobs of butter, and the pecan pie a la mode.  And the author emphatically (defiantly?) states that she and her family “will enjoy every bite”.  WOW.  Now I know that most people this Thanksgiving will be eating some version of the aforementioned meal (and enjoying it) but I couldn’t help but wonder about her defensive tone.  Perhaps she doth protest too much??

The author states that she is happy to eat vegan or gluten-free concoctions but others shouldn’t judge her for wanting to keep her traditions.  I agree that no one likes to be judged, and vegans, like people passionate about any cause, can ruffle plenty of feathers.  But this is not simply a matter of tit for tat or about our cooking skills or palate.  It is a matter of conscience.  I doubt I’m exaggerating when I say that millions of turkeys will be inhumanely fattened up and slaughtered so that American families can keep up this tradition.  I can work my way down the Thanksgiving menu but I won’t bother.  It’s all so very sad that as a country this is where we are at.  On some level, I wonder if the author of this article, who is making her assertions with some pretty intense energy doesn’t deep-down have her own concerns about the animals, the environment, her health and the health of her family.   I think it’s hard to live in our culture without there being some uneasiness about our values and how we live.

Regarding traditions, I do understand that family rituals can keep us feeling connected to one another, and this author alluded to an”empty chair” at her table.  I could feel the sadness in her words. The rituals around holidays (and food) are some of the most powerful we experience in our families and culture.  And one way we connect one generation to another is through rituals like these.  But even so, I believe that some traditions and rituals are worth rethinking even if the transitions feel uncomfortable.  As we all know, at one time, “being true to one’s heritage” meant owning slaves.

On a slightly lighter note (but still on the subject of tradition and ritual) I barely got my own mini-ritual started when I had to change it.  Remember this?

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That wool yarn was not animal-friendly and the macaron is full of butter.  Here is my updated spread:

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This is acrylic yarn from my stash that I am using to crochet a “snuggle blanket” for an animal shelter.  I got wind of this idea from an internet pal (thanks Barb!) who was wondering what to do with her (non-animal friendly) merino wool and she was considering making blankets for animal shelters.  I like the idea of making some mini reparations in this way as well.  The wool from the sweater above (if it’s washable) will probably be slated for shelter blankets as well.  If you want to know more about this wonderful effort you can check it out here.

As for the cookie:

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This delectable oat jam thumbprint cookie came with me from home.  I made a batch yesterday and you can find the recipe here.

While I made some changes to my mini-ritual, I still chatted with other folks at Whole Foods and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.  And here’s the thing–traditional foods are nice but they are nice because of the meaning we assign to them.  Turkey on Thanksgiving means connection and love and family.  While we can swap out one food for another, the people sitting around our tables are and will always be the main event.

New traditions await.

Get Out Those Soup Bowls!

When I moved to Arizona from the east coast over twelve years ago many people asked me if I missed the “seasons”.  Back then my defensive self might have said, “you mean the frigid, icy endless winter?  Or the sticky humid summer?”  But the truth is I don’t miss the seasons because we actually do have seasons although they are different than east coast seasons.  And right now we are entering our version of “fall/winter”.  That means that it’s cool in the early morning (42 degrees right now) and likely to be sunny and in the low seventies later on.  Perfect for late morning hikes, jeans and sweaters and this for dinner:

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This mushroom buckwheat soup was actually dinner on Friday, Sunday and Monday and I wouldn’t mind having it again tonight but we finally finished it.  This delicious variation of mushroom barley soup is gluten-free which is why I decided to give it a try.  The recipe is here.  This was the first time I made a dish with these:

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In fact I’m pretty sure that the last time I had buckwheat or the more familiar “kasha” it was in frozen Manischewitz kasha varnishkes (kasha and bow tie pasta).  But as soon as I added the groats to the bubbling mushroom broth and sautéed veggies the strong smell of kasha permeated the house.  I like that smell, but if it’s not your bag (and you’re not gluten-free) you can make the traditional version with barley.

This soup has a great layering of flavors and some unexpected ingredients like the juice of a lemon and fennel seeds.  For our soup I used a large onion instead of leeks.  I also recommend using salt liberally and adding lots of freshly ground black pepper. Like with many soups, the flavor and texture of this soup got even better as we worked our way through the pot over the four days.  I’m sure it would also freeze really well (Manischewitz has been doing it for years!)

So I’m now officially on the hunt for more hearty vegan soup recipes, and I have no time to lose because here in the desert winter doesn’t last very long.

Oh, and by the way, I do kind of miss that bit about the leaves changing 🙂

Vegan Quickies: When You Need A…

…cheap meal for a crowd.

Try this three bean and tempeh chili:

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David is a chili lover and he was not disappointed with this recipe served over brown rice.  This one is all about cracking open the cans (pinto, kidney, and black beans, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, mild green chilis) and popping open a bottle of your favorite vegan dark beer (we used a local variety).   Aside from sautéing up some onions and garlic the rest is about dumping in the ingredients and letting it all simmer.  We made it a day in advance so that the tempeh (which is crumbled in directly from the package) had more time to absorb the flavors of the chili.  We calculated that the entire meal could not have cost more than fifteen dollars and it’s good for at least six healthy servings.

… side dish to bring to a pot luck:

Try this tangy cole slaw:

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I love most kinds of cole slaw and I was surprised and delighted with this vegan variety  (recipe here).  The dressing on the the slaw is made from tahini and dijon mustard and the addition of lots of sliced pepperoncinis give it a unique and delicious flavor.  I bought the cabbage in a bag and julienned the carrots myself.  A sprinkling of black sesame seeds adds a professional touch.  Easy, yummy and portable.

a seasonal sweet:

Try these chewy ginger molasses cookies:

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I baked these to use as an ingredient in a pumpkin chia pudding parfait (very ambitious!).  I didn’t love the pumpkin chia part but I am thrilled with these beautiful cookies (recipe here).  Their texture is chewy and soft and with the ginger and molasses flavors you don’t miss the butter.  The sprinkling of raw sugar on top makes them pretty enough for company.  With a cup of tea it’s all the treat I need.

As much as I love spending time digging into complicated recipes, these flavorful, inexpensive and convenient dishes are becoming an important part of our vegan repertoire.  Hope you enjoy them!

Lovely Lentils

The other night I cooked lentils for the very first time.   Lentils and other legumes are a vegan staple because they are versatile, easy to cook (no soaking like beans), tasty (well I just found that out) and nutritionally packed.   I have only eaten lentils a handful of times in a dal makhani dish at our favorite Indian place.   In my household growing up I never laid eyes on a bean or legume.  Salads and cooked green vegetables were routinely part of family dinners but never beans or lentils.  And in my adult life I wasn’t drawn to try them although I’m not sure why.  A visual thing I think.

So with plans to make a Vegan Lentil Curry (recipe here)  I went over to Whole Foods to buy some lentils.  The recipe didn’t specify what kind of lentils to buy so I decided on some French green ones.  I think I remember Ina Garten serving those up to Jeffrey at some point.  If they’re good enough for the Barefoot Contessa they’re good enough for me.

This recipe is very simple to make.  The cooked and drained lentils are added to an aromatic sauce full of spices including ginger, garam masala and curry powder.  Tomato sauce ( I used a jar of organic pureed San Marzano tomatoes) and coconut milk create a creamy texture.  Here’s a look at the sauce simmering away:

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Since I’m a lentil newbie, I don’t know how easy it is to achieve a cooked-through texture without having the lentils get mushy but these held up beautifully and I was pleased with the texture overall.  We served them over brown rice:

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This dish was absolutely delicious with complex flavors and just enough heat from the curry powder.  Wow, lentils are filling!  I tend to be more generous with serving size for my vegan dishes because I want to be sure to get enough calories (a good problem to have) but this hefty serving was way too much.  More leftovers for tonight’s dinner.

So I am officially a lentil convert.  My world just keeps getting bigger.  I like it.

 

One Meal- Six Tastes

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I was recently introduced to the concept of Ayurveda nutrition in Victoria Moran’s book “Main Street Vegan”.  Ayurveda is an ancient tradition of holistic health that incorporates all aspects of lifestyle.  According to this tradition our tastebuds provide us with a road map of our nutritional needs.  These “six tastes” include  sweet, salty, bitter, astringent, sour and pungent.  When these tastes are all incorporated into a meal we are naturally meeting our nutritional needs, and our bodies will feel satisfied.  For a very basic overview of Ayurveda  you can read more here.

As I ate last night’s dinner, spaghetti squash with chickpeas and kale, I was reminded of the principles of Ayurveda nutrition because I found this dish surprisingly satisfying and filling although there were no grains to be found.  In fact, even as I was preparing this I suspected that I wouldn’t like it much and it wouldn’t be “enough”.  I was wrong on both counts.

This was my first experience cooking and eating spaghetti squash and I couldn’t imagine that it would “really” be like spaghetti.  Wrong again!  A wonderful aspect of this recipe is that the ingredients are all very light so the squash retains its subtle crunch.  And yes, you can twirl it around on your fork! The eclectic-sounding ingredient list includes, shallots, garlic, red chili flakes, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, kale, chickpeas, capers and toasted pine nuts.  Except for the “sweet” taste, all six tastes are included in the dish.  The amazing layering of flavors elevated this to “craveable” status, and David and I oohed and aahed as we devoured almost all of it.  And while we munched on apple slices later in the evening (the sweet taste) neither of us felt hungry.   I am intrigued, and I definitely plan to learn more about Ayurveda nutrition.

This recipe is from the Love and Lemons blog and you can find it here.  If you have an hour to roast your squash, the rest comes together very quickly.  We made the vegan version and omitted the parmesan cheese. We didn’t miss it.  We also used capers instead of the sun-dried tomatoes because neither of us likes them.

Try this recipe.  Your tastebuds and your body will thank you.

 

 

 

Lunch Salad Vegan Style

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Curried Chickpea Salad!

I am so glad I found this recipe.  I love creamy salads for lunch.  I’ve been missing some of my pre-vegan recipes–sweet chicken salad, dilled shrimp salad and basic tuna with celery.  I’ve been eating black bean burgers and leftover falafel and enjoying them thoroughly, but both require night-before prep.  I did try one old chicken salad recipe using Gardein Chickn strips:

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Doesn’t look bad but way lacking in texture and without the Hellman’s, well, not a score.  I tried this a month ago when I hoped that veganized dishes would taste a lot like the original.  Overblown expectations.  Plus, I’m not sure if the “fake meat” thing will be for me.  We’ll see.

So the curried chickpea salad seemed promising, not only because I like all the ingredients but because I had no pre-vegan equivalent in my repertoire.   Plus I really like creamy curry dressings (and you don’t need the Hellmans!).

This recipe requires no actual cooking and you can even get away without getting out the food processor.  The ingredients of the salad include two cans of chickpeas (partially mashed up), chopped carrots, scallions, raisins and toasted cashews:

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For the dressing I used a blend of tahini (thinned with water), lemon juice, curry powder (I used Trader Joe’s which has a nice kick) and garlic powder.  The result is a very tasty salad made from ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  A perfect replacement for the tuna on toast.  If you’re a chickpea fan I think you will really enjoy the mix of textures and creamy curry dressing.  Give it a try!

Vegan Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

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I had no idea.  I mean, I really had no idea.  I wonder how many yummy dishes I will have to make before I stop being surprised by the vegan recipes that are out there.  While I might have to change some of my go-to online sites for slam dunk dishes (sorry smitten kitchen!) the possibilities are virtually endless.  It’s very exciting and I’m so appreciative of the vegan bloggers out there for helping us transition (deliciously!) to a plant-based diet.

Pictured above was Friday night’s dinner-vegan mac and cheese.  It was such a treat (isn’t mac and cheese always a treat?).  And when I found this recipe I also found a wonderful website called “The Simple Veganista” and you can find the blog and all the mouth-watering recipes here.  A new go-to site for sure.

This mac and cheese contains a combination of almond milk, water, white miso, lemon juice and nutritional yeast flakes that create its creamy texture and cheesy taste.  I have never used miso before and wasn’t even sure where to find it in Whole Foods.  It turned out to be in the refrigerated section with the other vegan foods and it looks like this:

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Miso is made from fermented soybeans.  Only one tablespoon of the paste goes into this dish but it adds something very special to the flavor.  In fact, I found the layered flavors in this dish to be more interesting and “adult” than the non-vegan varieties of mac and cheese I used to make.

The pasta I used for this dish is gluten-free, and I have to say that since I gave up gluten nearly three years ago the quality and variety of gluten-free pasta has vastly improved.  I ate very little pasta for the first few years because the likelihood of boiling up grayish mush was pretty good.  Not any more.  This is currently my favorite brand of gluten-free pasta:

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It cooks up al dente every time, and since it’s corn-based, it looks like pasta I want to eat.  In this dish it held up beautifully even after being baked in the casserole.  I also made the breadcrumbs from my favorite grainy toasted gluten-free bread from Trader Joe’s.  It made a perfect crispy topping.  Unfortunately, I just discovered that this bread lists egg whites as an ingredient so I will be searching for a replacement pronto. And here’s the finished dish served up with greens from our garden:

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This was so good.  It was also terrific the next day (as any good mac and cheese must be!) Admittedly, this is not likely to be a weekly staple for us;  the corn-based pasta, while delicious, is not one of the nutritionally hard-working whole grains like quinoa or brown rice.  That’s okay though.  I only occasionally made mac and cheese before.  Mostly, I just wanted to know that it was possible.

On another note, David and I are both reading a book entitled “Main Street Vegan” by Victoria Moran.  It’s an excellent resource that includes practical advice for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle as well as important nutritional information.   The author’s enthusiasm and commitment are inspiring, and if you are interested in learning more about veganism she really covers all the bases.  Her website is here if you want to check her out.

Have a great and healthy Monday.

 

Vegan Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

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YUM.

So here’s what I’m learning about vegan desserts.  The more dairy and egg-laden the dessert you are trying to replicate or “veganize” the more ways that dessert can go horribly wrong.  I learned this one the hard way over the weekend when I bought a delectable-looking slice of vegan, gluten-free (really, it is??) carrot cake from a very lovely lady at a local farmers’ market.  It looked pretty much like the one I make (or made in my not-so-distant past life).  I figured it might not be hard to get a good carrot cake going but I was skeptical about that creamy-looking icing.  Well, this dessert was both gummy and oddly “off” tasting.  Very different and not in a good way.  I was feeling a little underwhelmed about the prospects for mouthwatering vegan desserts, either bought or homemade.

Enter this recipe from Tori Avey.  I’ve made several of her recipes, and I like how she balances flavors.  Since it’s apple season, I was immediately drawn to this recipe for Apple Crisp.  I was delighted to see that the only veganizing that needed to be done was to substitute Earth Balance for butter in the crumble.  Since this recipe has such strong flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove I didn’t think I’d miss the butter.  I didn’t.  The combination of tart granny smith apples with the sugar and spices was perfect.  The crumble, made primarily with walnuts and rolled (GF) oats, was crunchy and very satisfying. The only new ingredient for me was minute tapioca which I added to the fruit to bring out the juices and help them set up just a bit.

Here’s a look at the apples:

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Layered with a nice thick layer of crumble:

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And after an hour of baking:

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And the house smelled amazing.  While we are enjoying sunny warm weather here in Arizona, the smells of autumn are still very welcome. Any fruit pie can be made this way, and I’m sure that peach and blueberry crumble would be terrific.

Well now, this is all very encouraging.  Perhaps they have room for me over at the farmers’ market 🙂