Fast feta that’s salty, creamy and VEGAN!

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I used to eat Greek salad all the time until I went vegan, but I just couldn’t find anything to replace feta cheese. ‘Til now that is.

This recipe is the bastard child of a far more superior recipe developed by friends of mine – Katie and Christine. Their feta cheese actually gets firm and will crumble. BUT it also takes more time to make and needs lactic acid (that’s what creatBowl of fetaes the great, firm texture).

My version, lazy vegan that I am, provides immediate gratification with very straightforward ingredients.

Having said all that, I bow to Katie and Christine and their incredible culinary skill!

You will need a food processor to make this recipe.

 

Ingredients

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½ block (7 ounces) of extra firm tofu.

¼ cup olive oil

4 tsp fresh lemon juice (about ¼ of a lemon)

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp onion powder

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

½ tsp dried oregano

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Directions

Slice the tofu lengthwise and press slices in a lint-free towel to remove much of the moisture.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until thoroughly blended. You can store the feta in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

The feta cheese will firm up a bit in the fridge but it will remain creamy and spreadable. If you didn’t press the tofu well, a small amount of white liquid may separate out, which you can just drain off.

I use this cheese in wraps, as a spread, tossed with tomatoes, pasta and basil, and of course, in Greek Salad!

 

 

 

Vegan pumpkin risotto

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Oh, this dish just oozes comfort and joy for the fall and winter season. It’s creamy, sweet, satisfying and impresses the heck out of people you serve it to.

So, think your risotto won’t be any good without cheese or butter? Try this!

If you have 30 to 90 minutes you have time to make this dish and wow yourself and a friend. The risotto takes just 30 minutes to make, but you do need about 40 minutes to roast the pumpkin or squash, which you can do the day before.

Making risotto is a bit of an exercise in faith. You just have to believe it’s going to work because halfway through the process, the pan will look like a messy failure. But it always turns out.

This recipe makes 2 generous servings or 3 appetizer size servings.

Ingredients

1 cup Arborio rice (must be Arborio rice)

3 cups vegetable broth

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp vegan margarine

1 large shallot finely minced (or 1 clove garlic minced and ½ onion minced)

1/3 cup (or so) of dry white wine (optional – but it’s an excuse to crack open the wine!)

½ tsp cumin

I small pumpkin or squash. I love thin-skinned heirloom squashes that don’t need to be peeled. For this recipe I used a honeynut squash.

3 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 to 1 tsp ground black pepper

1 -2 cups fresh spinach chopped finely.

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Directions

Prepare your squash. Heat your oven to 400F. Wash the squash and cut it in half. Remove the seeds and place the squash halves on a cookie sheet cut side up. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast the squash for 40 minutes until it’s fork tender and golden brown in spots. Remove from the oven and let the squash cool. If you’re using a thin-skinned squash, just cube the squash. If you are using any other type of squash, remove the skin and then cube the vegetable.

Heat the broth in a saucepan so it’s at a low simmer.

In a large frying pan or skillet, heat the olive oil and margarine.

Add the shallot (or onion and garlic, if that’s what you’re using) and sauté until translucent.

Add the rice and stir until it’s coated with the margarine and shallots and turning a light golden colour.

Add the cumin and the white wine (if using) and stir together.

Now the magic. This step will take about 20 minutes.

One ladle at a time (about ½ cup), add broth to the pan of rice.

Stir the rice until the broth is all absorbed by the rice. At first the rice will quickly absorb the broth and at the same time it will release its starch, creating a creamy base. As the rice cooks, the broth will absorb more and more slowly. Patience. Listen to music. Ladle. Stir. Ladle. Stir.

In about 20 minutes your rice will be done and all your broth should be used up. The rice will be al dente. Stir in the nutritional yeast.

Stir in the chopped spinach and the cubed, cooked squash and stir together. Serve up and enjoy!

 

A creamy, beany Southwest-style salad

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Sometimes I just need salad. Not often, but it happens (I have to consciously choose to eat my leafy greens). This salad is colourful, crunchy, hearty enough to eat as a meal or fun to serve as a side with Mexican food.

Ingredients

The salad

1 head of lettuce, chopped. Use a sturdier lettuce such as romaine or even kale

1 green, red or yellow pepper, chopped

15 ounces (1 ½ cups ) black beans – drained except reserve 1 tablespoon of the brine for the salad dressing

½ a small red onion, chopped

1 cup corn niblets (I use frozen corn and just let it defrost).

2 tomatoes chopped

 The dressing

1 avocado

1 clove garlic

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp brine from the canned black beans

2 Tbsp pickled jalapenos

1 Tbsp brine from the pickled jalapenos

2 -3 Tbsp cilantro

The juice from one lime

Directions

Add all dressing ingredients to a blender, blend until smooth.

Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Toss with the salad dressing and enjoy.

If you do not dress the salad or add the tomatoes, this salad will last covered in the fridge for 2-3 days. Just add the dressing and tomatoes before serving.

Omit the lettuce and this salad makes an amazing creamy, beany salsa to eat with natchos.

My recipes is closely based on one I read on Buzzfeed, but I modified it to lower the fat in the dressing and turn up the heat.

 

Buffalo “wing” salad

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Buffalo wings are one of those things that people go gaga over. I don’t think folks are actually that excited about the sad, bony, cartilaginous bits of chicken death, but rather they love the hot and spicy wing coating and the creamy and crunchy blend of dip with celery and carrot sticks.

I’ve recreated all the goodness of Buffalo wings with hot sauce, ranch dressing, celery and carrots and added fibre, minerals, micronutrients and a big old dose of compassion. Try this!

Ingredients

For the salad

5 -6 cups of kale washed and torn into bite-sized pieces (that’s one big bunch of kale)

2-3 carrots sliced into coins

2-3 ribs of celery sliced

 

For the buffalo chickpeas

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (that’s one 15 oz can), rinsed and dried

½ cup Frank’s hot sauce

1 Tbsp neutral tasting oil (I use peanut oil since it can take high heat)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp garlic powder

 

For the ranch dressing

1 cup vegan mayonnaise

1 Tbsp plant milk

2 tsp cider vinegar

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill*

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley*

Optional garnish – slices of avocado

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Directions

Turn the oven on to 400F. Mix the hot sauce, garlic powder, oil and salt in a bowl and toss the chickpeas in the dressing until they are coated. Turn them out onto a cookie sheet. Do NOT pour any remaining dressing that’s in the bowl onto the chickpeas, but just set it aside.

Bake the chickpeas for 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven, give them a stir, pour the remaining hot sauce dressing on them and then return them to the oven for another 40 minutes.

When they are done, just let the chickpeas cool on the cookie sheet.

You can make the roasted chickpeas ahead of time and store them in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 days.

While the chickpeas are baking, mix the kale, carrots and celery in a large salad bowl. Add the roasted chickpeas.

In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Taste. Swoon. Add all or some of the dressing to the salad (depending on how creamy you want it). Toss everything together and serve up your Buffalo wing salad. Enjoy!

*Here’s how I always have “fresh” herbs on hand. Store your fresh, clean herbs by the bunch in the freezer in freezer bags. Whenever you want fresh herbs for soups, sauces, stews, dips or dressings, just take some from your frozen supply. You won’t even need to chop – just crumble the frozen herbs. Frozen herbs do not work well as garnishes.

 

Linguini with lentils and fresh vegetables in a creamy lemon-garlic sauce

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Ahhhh… I’ve been on a bit of vacation and it was so nice to get back into the kitchen and creating. This recipe for linguini with a creamy lemon-garlic sauce is fast, easy, fresh and tangy. Use whatever blend of veggies you like. I used what arrived in my weekly organic farm box, but broccoli, zucchini, chard, corn kernels, even water chestnuts, would all make excellent additions or substitutions.

Next post, I’ll include a variation of this recipe that leaves out the almond butter. It’s ideal for people who have nut allergies but still want the zing of lemon-garlic dressing.

Ingredients

10 oz uncooked linguini

½ cup uncooked black (a/k/a beluga) lentils

1 red pepper diced

2 cups snow peas cleaned and cut in half

½ cup slivered almonds toasted (optional)

For the sauce

Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)

2 Tbsp almond butter

3 cloves garlic – minced

2 Tbsp olive oil or other light-tasting oil

1 Tbsp soya sauce

1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

1 tsp hot chili paste (I use sambal oelek)

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Place the lentils in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes until the lentils are cooked and the water is absorbed. When cooked, add to the bowl with the pasta. Add the snow peas and red pepper and any other vegetables you’re using.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small glass or bowl and mix well. Pour over the pasta, lentils and vegetables and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds if using.

Serve up and enjoy. This dish makes 3-4 large servings and is equally delicious hot, cold or at room temperatures. Do store it in the fridge though!

A stack o’ quesadillas with black beans and sweet potato

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So this happened in my kitchen the other night. Someone had told me, quite definitively, that quesadillas must have cheese and could not have beans. “Oh yeah,” I thought to myself. Let’s see about that.

I created a stack of beany, cheesy, creamy quesadillas and baked them all together. Black beans and sweet potato give the dish an incredible creaminess. The result is , if not authentically Mexican, still a fiesta in your mouth!

Ingredients

3 large tortillas or even flat bread

1 cup of shredded vegan cheese – I used Daiya pepperjack flavour cheese

1 cup of bottled salsa

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavoured plant-based milk

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cups cooked black beans (a 15 oz can drained and rinsed)

1 red pepper diced

1 clove garlic minced

1 onion diced

1 sweet potato

1-2 Tbsp chipotle adobo sauce (optional but mmm… the spice!) or a jalapeno, deseeded and minced

1 Tbsp chili powder

1-2 Tbsp fresh cilantro (optional)

1 cup fresh spinach finely chopped (optional)

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

Directions

Wash but do not peel the sweet potato. Dice it and either microwave it or bake it until it’s soft. If you’re baking it – 350F for about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Mix the milk and the salsa together and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper and saute until the onion is softened. Add the chili powder, cumin, basil and oregano and heat through. Add the chipotle adobo sauce or jalapeno if using and heat through. Switch off heat. Add the beans, sweet potato, spinach and cilantro and mix together.

Oil a 9” pie plate or other casserole dish. If you’re not using a round dish, you will have to cut the tortillas to fit the dish. Line the bottom with one of the tortillas. Add half of the black bean mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Spoon 1/3 of the salsa/milk mixture over top. Repeat with another tortilla, the remaining bean mixture, 1/3 cup of the cheese and 1/3 of the salsa/milk mixture. Place the last tortilla on top. Pour the remaining salsa/milk mixture over then the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Let the dish stand for a few minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy mac and cheese – finally!

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It finally happened. After testing quite a few vegan mac and cheese recipes, I have found one that I like. Hooray! This recipe is straightforward (like Grade 8 Home Ec straightforward), uses only inexpensive pantry/fridge staples, and can be ready in the time it takes to cook pasta.

The result is a creamy, satisfying and filling meal that will keep you revved for hours.

My coworker refers to this as mac and yeast and you’ll soon see why.

Ingredients

12 oz of macaroni, fusilli or other firm, short pasta

½ onion minced finely (or even whizzed in the blender)

4 Tbsp vegan margarine

4 Tbsp flour

3 cups unflavoured plant-based milk

1½ cups nutritional yeast

1-2 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

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Directions

Cook the pasta in a large pot according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the margarine on medium heat in a 1 quart pot. Sauté the onion in the margarine until the onion is softened. Add the flour and stir until you have a roux (a thick paste of flour and margarine/onion). Add half the milk and whisk constantly until the roux is incorporated into the milk and you have a smooth sauce. Add the rest of the milk, the mustard and all the seasonings. Stir to incorporate everything together and simmer stirring regularly. This will make the sauce thickens slightly. Add the nutritional yeast and stir in to combine.

Once you have a sauce that’s the consistency of a thin pancake batter you are good to go since the sauce will thicken slightly as it cools. Pour over your pasta and enjoy.

This dish is great with hot sauce or chili sauce and a side of green peas and broccoli.

I want to add that I have heavily based this recipe on an existing Internet recipe that I printed off months ago with no attribution showing. So…. if you come across a similar recipe elsewhere on the ‘net, they, not me, are the originator!