The first and still the best vegan cheese I ever made

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In the first week of my vegan journey, I craved some creamy cheese. I bought a store-made brand and after one taste, dumped the whole tub. That chemically, chalky glop tasted like something that had been made by people who had never had cream cheese.

A quick google search didn’t bring me much luck either – I wanted cream cheese NOW not after eight hours of soaking cashews.

This is what I came up with and it’s still one of the best vegan cheeses ever. It’s so popular with my tribe that my friend, Cathy, specifically requests it for her birthday gift.  This recipe is nearly instant, easy and simple. And best of all, it’s delicious.

Let’s get started.

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Ingredients

¾ cup raw cashews

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic

2 tablepoons nutritional yeast

2-4 tablespoons water (I used 4 today for a very spreadable cheese).

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Directions

Put everything in a blender and whiz until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the blender a couple times.

Serve with crackers, rye toast, slices of apple or tomato.

 

 

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Sham or scam – it’s a pigless ham

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Here’s one of the most ridiculously easy and delicious seitan recipes you’re ever going to find. With the investment of just a couple dollars for ingredients and a little more than 2 hours of your time (most of which will be spent watching Netflix while the sham/scam bakes), you’ll end up with a beauty of a faux ham that easily serves 4-5 people.

I had my sham/scam for dinner with sauerkraut and potatoes because I was feeling exuberantly German one night. The next night, still feeling all Teutonic, the sham/scam accompanied a pea soup (recipe to follow).

This recipe, created by Courtney Oliverez, is pretty forgiving and flexible. If you want to substitute in different spices or sweeteners go for it. Just do not play around with the cooking time or temperature or the amount of vital wheat gluten.

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Ingredients

Mix in a blender

14 oz can beets, juice and all (not pickled beets)

½ cup water

3-4 Tbsp brown sugar (I find 3 tablespoons is plenty but if you think you want it sweeter, go for the full 4 tablespoons). You could also try maple syrup for a deeper flavour. I haven’t done this yet.

¼ cup olive oil (or peanut oil)

3 Tbsp liquid smoke (yes, that seems like a lot but trust me on this).

2 Tbsp onion powder

2 Tbsp garlic powder (or as I discovered, 1 Tbsp garlic powder and one clove garlic work too)

3 Tbsp miso (either red or white)

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp sea or kosher salt (Measure this. With the amount of miso already in this recipe, your sham/scam can end up pretty salty very quickly if you over do the salt)

½ to 1 tsp pepper (preferrably white)

Mix in a large bowl

2 cups vital wheat gluten

¼ cup chickpea flour, almond flour or regular flour

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Directions

Pour the blender ingredients into the bowl of flour. Combine everything with a spoon or your hands (I use my hands). You will end up with a very unappetizing pink and brain-like bowl of goop. Oh boy!

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The unappetizing brain-like dough. 

Let this mix stand for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325F.

After 15 minutes, lay a large sheet of heavy duty tin foil out on your counter. Place the dough mix on the foil and shape into an oval loaf. Wrap the dough thoroughly and tightly but leaving a bit of room for the dough to expand. I like to double wrap my seitan, and if you’re not using heavy duty foil, I strongly recommend you double wrap, making sure all the seams are sealed.**

At this point I like to “burp the baby”. Pat and smack the dough to help spank out air bubbles because you do not want an airy, bready loaf.

Place the wrapped dough on a sheet and bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool. Seitan is always best if it’s allowed to cool for a minimum of 8 hours in the fridge, but I have to be honest, I almost always eat a slice of sham/scam as soon as it’s cool enough to handle because it’s that good

Out of the oven

Here’s my sham/scam right out of the oven and unwrapped — a fragrant thing of dubious beauty!

** What’s with all the security?? Seitan can explode in the oven if it’s not wrapped well. By the way, that is not my photo; I haven’t experienced the seitanic explosion yet.

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A seitanic explosion caused by poorly wrapped dough. Don’t let this happen to you.

 

 

Esther’s Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

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Here’s a recipe from Esther’s Kitchen (Esther being none other than media phenomena and fashionista Esther the Wonder Pig) that is so easy, versatile and forgiving, I have to share it.

Esther’s chef, Linda, tried these brownies 11 different ways – each way being equally delicious I’m sure.

Then I tried the recipe two more ways. Again, all fabulously delicious!

The best part – you just bung everything into a food processor or mixing bowl and hand mix, then pour the batter into a parchment-lined pan and bake. You end up with dense, moist, chocolatey and spicy brownies that satisfy.

Here’s Esther’s Kitchen’s original recipe post:

This recipe has been tested using the following choices: almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, dairy-free butter, coconut oil, almond flour, all purpose flour and gluten-free baking flour blend. Each one tasted great and had unique flavors. All of the ingredients resulted in a moist brownie that held together well. The brown rice syrup had the least amount of sweetness. This batch was baked with almond butter, almond flour, coconut oil and agave.

Esther’s Pumpkin Brownies

Cuisine: Esther Approved Dessert, Baked Good, Gluten-free and Nut-free options

Prep Time: 10 minutes Bake Time: 25 minutes Cool Time: 15 minutes Yields: 12 (3”x3”) brownies

By: Chef Linda | Esther’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin from a 15 oz can or homemade and excess water drained
  • 1/2 cup creamy almond, peanut or seed butter (almond was used)
  • 2 Tablespoons softened coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar, maple syrup or brown rice syrup (agave was used)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cacao/cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup flour of choice: almond, gluten free baking blend or all purpose (almond was used)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar Instructions

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Line an 8“ x 8“ baking dish with parchment paper. Press the paper alond the bottom edge and all 4 corners; set aside.

3. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl or food processor. Use an electric hand mixer or process in the food process until the batter is smooth.

4. Pour all of the batter in the center of the parchment lined baking dish. Scrape out remaining batter from the bowl or food processor. Spread the batter into the corners until you have a level surface.

5. Bake the brownies for 25 minutes. Cool the brownies on a metal rack for 15 minutes.

6. Pull up two sides of paper and lift the brownie out of the pan. Place the paper and brownie on a cutting board. Slice the brownie into 9 pieces or as desired.

Here’s what Chef Linda’s brownies look like.

Esther brownies

I hope you give this amazingly versatile recipe a try and make it your own! The key is to know where you can make swaps:

  • the type of flour
  • the type of oil
  • the type of nut/seed butter
  • the types of sweetener, and
  • the spices.

You can also try add ins such as chocolate chips, walnuts or pecans, even diced candied fruit.

Just do not mess with the proportions of ingredients because that’s where the chemistry is.

Here’s one of my versions:

I used, pumpkin, regular flour, a mix of maple syrup and agave, coconut oil, tahini paste instead of a nut butter, and added a cup of chocolate chips and a big pinch of cayenne pepper. This batch was made in the food processor.

Esthers Browniew mine

For my next batch, I diverged and used: mashed banana and no pumpkin, regular flour, the full amount of coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup only 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spices, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon cardamon. I also added a cup of chocolate chips because it’s chocolate and more is more.

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Why are you still reading? Go make some brownies!!

 

 

 

Effortless, eggless salad – kind comfort food

Egg salad far (2)For me, sandwiches are the ultimate easy, comfort food. They remind me of school day lunches, picnics and road trips. Egg salad was one of my favourites and I missed it terribly as a vegan. But no more. This egg salad sandwich tastes just as good as one made using chicken eggs and is actually faster and easier to make since there’s no egg boiling-cooling-peeling activity required.

Ingredients

7 oz tofu, sliced in half and pressed dry in a lint-free towel

2 – 3 Tbsp vegan mayo (I’m a Vegenaise fan) depending on how creamy you like your salad

1 green onion chopped

1 stalk of celery chopped

1 tsp prepared yellow mustard

1 tsp green pickle relish (optional – I like it but leave it out if it’s not your thing)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

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Directions

Put everything EXCEPT the tofu in a bowl and mix well. Crumble in the dried tofu and combine. Eat and enjoy!

Some notes about storage:  You can eat the eggless salad right away, but it’s even more delicious if it has an hour or two to sit in the fridge so the flavours can blend. This egg salad will last covered for up to 3 days in your fridge. You may find that some water escapes from the tofu if it sits – you can either stir that liquid back into the salad or drain it off.

Makes 2 very generous servings.

Creamy coconut rice with lentils and greens

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This is one of those oh-so-easy and fast, inexpensive, satisfying dishes that also has the “Wow!” factor to it. By “Wow!”  I mean a) you’re never going to find this pre-packaged in a bag on a store shelf, b) there’s a touch of the exotic and different, and c) your taste buds will be happy.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice

1 (13 oz) can coconut milk

1 ½ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

¾ cup cooked brown lentils (about ½ can)

½ cup fresh or frozen and thawed green peas

1 – 1 ½  cup chopped leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard etc.)

¼ cup toasted cashews and/or unsweetened coconut (Optional but delicious and why deny yourself deliciousness when life is so short?) *

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Directions

Put the rice in a small pot. Add 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk (save the rest of the milk for later in the recipe), the chili powder, nutmeg and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the rice is fully cooked.  Don’t lift the lid on the pot. Just let the rice simmer. When the rice is cooked, add the rest of the coconut milk and stir together.

Mix the cooked and now creamy rice in a large bowl with the lentils, green peas and greens.

Serve immediately sprinkled with the toasted cashews and coconut.

Enjoy!

*To toast cashews and coconut, heat your oven (I use my toaster oven) to 425. Spread the cashews and coconut in an even layer on a baking sheet or even a piece of foil and toast for 4 minutes. Watch that the mix doesn’t burn, which can happen in a flash! Know thy oven and do NOT leave the kitchen while the nuts and coconut are toasting.

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!

 

 

 

Sweet and easy lemon cookies

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My lemon-loving friend, Michela, came for a visit this weekend so I tried a new recipe out for lemon cookies. These cookies are fast and easy to make, lightly lemony and incredibly addictive.

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Ingredients

2 ½ cups flour

1 cup sugar (or 1 ½ cups sugar if you’re not using agave syrup)

¼ cup agave syrup

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 lemons – from these you will get:

  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest (you will use all 3 lemons)*
  • ½ cup lemon juice (from 1 ½ lemons)

¾ cup canola or peanut oil

1 tsp vanilla

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Directions

Heat your oven to 360F.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest and baking powder. Sift in the baking powder so you don’t have tiny lumps of it.

In a smaller bowl or even a mug, combine the wet ingredients – the lemon juice, oil, agave if using, and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix with a spoon until combined. You’ll have an almost fluffy dough (that tastes really great even raw).

Drop the dough out by the teaspoon spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. This is important because the cookies really flatten and spread. You should end up with 2 dozen cookies.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are golden. Let cool completely. The cookies will firm up as they cool.

These cookies would be delicious as part of a cookie sandwich with lemon sorbet!

*So this recipe will leave you with 1 ½ lemons that are sorely lacking most of their protective rind. Wrap the lemons in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge. You can use the lemons for juice for dishes such as linguini in lemon-garlic sauce, lemon tahini sauce, or chili sauce for spicy crispy tofu.