Unbelievably Easy Baked Polenta Sticks

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Baked Polenta Sticks, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

I was raised eating polenta with milk and sugar for breakfast. As I grew up and started experimenting with my food, I would add sour cream and even ajvar, the roasted red pepper and eggplant spread many associated with Bulgaria and the South East Balkans. But even with these add-ons, polenta remained a breakfast food.

So, I was quite surprised to discover that fancy Italian restaurants include polenta on their dinner menus. Of course I had to try it, and I liked it! I actually never met a polenta I did not like. And as a cook it’s something that you can whip together in minutes!

Polenta is basically boiled coarse corn meal, so it is in the same food family as grits. And, practically speaking it is as easy as it sounds – you bring a pot of water to boil and you add some corn meal to it while stirring constantly and furiously to prevent clumping. You let the pot boil for five minutes with constant stirring and the polenta is done.

The recipe here is two steps removed from the basic polenta. First, after you make the polenta according to the instructions on the box, you will need to pour it into a deep baking dish which is either lined with some parchment paper or well sprayed with the cooking spray. Spread the polenta into one even and smooth layer and let it set for at least an hour.

Once the polenta has set and hardened you will be able to slide it out of the dish and onto the cutting board. Slice polenta into 1 x 2 in (2.5 x 5 cm) sticks and arrange them on a baking sheet. Spray the tops with a cooking spray.

From here you can take your polenta in any direction you like. You can add fresh or dry spices, nutritional yeast, small bits of cheese or vegan butter that melt well, or sprinkle sugar and cinnamon if you want to make the baked polenta sticks into a dessert. Here, I decided to go two ways and top one set of polenta sticks with some cumin powder, dry basil and oregano. The second batch I spiced up a bit with freshly ground black pepper as well as smokey red pepper flakes. The topped polenta stick are then baked until their surface is nicely browned.

I served the Baked Polenta Sticks with vegan bolognese sauce but you can eat them as is, or serve them with a wide range of dishes. The flavor of polenta sticks is mild, slightly nutty, and depends on the spice combination you used. In general, Baked Polenta Sticks are great with any dish you would serve with corn bread, like chili, Jackfruit Barbacoa, or Bean and Leek Soup. They can also be used as an appetizer, served along side simple marinara dipping sauce and some olives.

 

Baked Polenta Sticks

What you’ll need:

2 cups polenta (or corn meal)

4 cups water

1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust salt to taste)

Cooking spray

Dried basil

Dried oregano

Cumin powder

Crushed red pepper flakes

(Onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, freshly ground black pepper, lemon zest,… quite a few toppings will work so feel free to experiment)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil.
  2. Add the salt and polenta to the boiling water while stirring rapidly to prevent clumps from forming. Decrease the heat to medium/medium low, and keep stirring the polenta for about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the polenta out into a baking dish that you previously sprayed with cooking spray. I recommend using 9 x 13 in (22 x 33 cm) dish for this amount of polenta – this will give you 1/2 in (1 cm or so) thick sticks – but you can use any other flat bottom container you have on hand. Just note that the thickness of the sticks will vary depending on what you use.
  4. Let the polenta cool and set for at least an hour. The thicker your polenta layer, the longer it will take.
  5. Slide the polenta slab out onto a cutting board. Cut into sticks of regular size.
  6. Arrange your polenta sticks on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Do leave some space between the stick so they can bake evenly, which means you may need to use two baking sheets or bake in two batches.
  7. Spray the top with some cooking spray and sprinkle the toppings/spices of your choice liberally.
  8. Place into the oven that was preheated to 400 F (205 C). Bake for 15 minutes or until the sticks are golden brown.
  9. Serve as a side dish with a soup, or as an appetizer with marinara sauce, or simply munch on these any time. They are best served fresh from the proven, but couple of minutes in a toaster oven will help the next day!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

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Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart

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Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Savory tarts are a great source of comfort during long, and cold, winter months, so fall seems like a perfect time to stock pile great savory tart recipes. One of the favorite topping combinations for this type of tart is onions and bacon. There can be little mystery about why this is so. Caramelized onions are sweet and juicy, and browned bacon is crispy and salty. Putting those two together makes for a sweet, salty, juicy yet crispy topping. Add to that a thin tart crust – and you get the picture!

In this recipe I wanted to recreate a bit of that onion-bacon dichotomy, by combining thinly sliced onions caramelized to perfection with marinated, thinly sliced, tempeh that has been browned until crispy on the outside. The trick with onions is to slice them into thin strips and then let them caramelize for a long time over medium heat. If you are counting calories and trying to stay as oil-free as possible, you can use just a bit of cooking spray to get your onions going – I did it, and it works just fine! But if you regularly use oil, starting with a tablespoon of olive oil will work well here. I recommend using a well-seasoned cast iron skillet here – not only will it help caramelize the onions and brown the tempeh bacon, it will also go straight from the cooktop to the oven, making this a one pot dish.

To prep the tempeh, first boil it for couple of minutes, pat dry it, cut into thin strips, and let it marinate for couple of hours. I used the same basic marinade that The Buddhist Chef used for his Tofu Bacon. It’s made of oil, maple syrup (I did skip maple syrup in this case since caramelized onions are plenty sweet), soy sauce,  liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast. I prepped the tempeh ahead of the onions, so when the onions were done I could remove them from the skillet and cook the “bacon” immediately afterwards.

My version of the tart is crustless, so there is no fancy pastry making required. What holds the tart together is the mix of almond milk and corn starch that comes in last, as the veggies are finishing cooking. And speaking of veggies, one other ingredient here is jackfruit. I use canned jackfruit and for this tart you will want to rinse it out well, drain it, then shred with your fingers, and remove any tough core bits. I can’t comment on using raw jackfruit since I’ve never done it, but I am guessing that it would be better since canned food does come with a bit of that canned taste/flavor.

The tart will spend some time in the oven, and to finish it off I recommend turning on the broiler at the end for five minutes or so to crisp up and brown the top. Let the tart cool for about ten to fifteen minutes before serving, and enjoy as is, or with some yogurt – I used a drizzle of cashew yogurt and a sprinkle of thyme. The tart is rich, fragrant and fantastic!

Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart

What you’ll need:

2 large onions

8 oz (225 g) tempeh

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or more, depending on your taste)

2 20 oz (570 g) can young green jackfruit in brine

3/4 cup almond milk (plain, unsweetened)

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Cooking spray


What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to gentle boil in a pan that’s large enough to hold the entire piece of tempeh flat without cutting. Lower the tempeh into the boiling water and let it boil for couple of minutes.
  2. While the tempeh is boiling mix together the marinade by combining oil, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Take the tempeh out and pat dry. Let it cool for a moment, until it feels ok to handle. My heat tolerance is pretty high so I usually wait only a few minutes, but depending on your comfort zone when it comes to handling hot things you may want to wait longer before slicing the tempeh into relatively thin slices. Lower the slices down into the marinade and let it stand for an hour or two.
  4. While tempeh is marinating, prepare the jackfruit. Rinse the canned jackfruit well and let the excess water drain. Using a fork or fingers, pull the jackfruit into shreds. Discard the hard core, if present. Set aside.
  5. Slice the onions thinly into fine strips.
  6. Turn the oven to 400 F (200 C).
  7. Heat a heavy skillet, like a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray (or add a tablespoon of olive oil if using), and add the onions. After about 5 minutes at medium high heat, reduce the heat to medium to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes, until onions are soft and golden brown. Transfer the onions into a separate dish.
  8. Increase the heat to high and add tempeh “bacon” strips. Let the side brown then turn over and brown on the other side.
  9. Add back the onions, and jackfruit, mix the “bacon”, onions and jackfruit well, and continue to brown.
  10. In a small mixing bowl combine almond milk and corn starch. Whisk them together so that there are no clumps. Pour over the rest of the ingredients and let it start to bubble.
  11. Sprinkle the thyme and nutmeg, mix again and place the skillet into the oven for 20 minutes.
  12. To brown the top, turn the broiler on and broil for 5 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy.
  13. Take the tart out of the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a side of salad, or drizzle some yogurt over the top for a delicious meal.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Vegan Zucchini Fruitcake

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Vegan Fruitcake with Zucchini, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Fruitcake has a bad reputation. Nobody loves it, yet puts up with it because of the tradition and whatnot. And although some of you may find it hard to believe, fruitcake can be really delicious!

In this veganized version of the milenia-old (oh, yes – fruitcake dates back to Ancient Rome) tradition, I skip the butter, extra sugar, and eggs and go really wild with dried fruits. I combined everything I could get my hands on – figs, dates, cranberries, apricots, prunes, and pineapple – with a nice selection of spices featuring orange and lime zest, as well as almond extract, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I also used some finely grated, almost sauced, zucchini as a binder, and roughly chopped walnuts and red maraschino cherries for some added texture.

The key to this cake is soaking the fruit and although you could soak the fruit in rum, as is the custom, I soaked mine in water to avoid being too over the top with the flavors and the kick to the system this cake delivers. Although most of the alcohol would evaporate as the cake bakes, I wanted to keep this one rated G so that both kids and adults can enjoy as much of it as they like and decided to skip the rum altogether. At the end, the most important thing is to let the fruit soak in liquid (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) because that will help keep the cake moist and soft.

This fruitcake is pretty rich and filling. It makes for a lovely treat, as well as an excellent breakfast choice. It is definitely one more thing to add to your list of vegan Holiday treats and traditions, like the Peppermint Bark and the Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes. If you are wondering whether this cake can be made gluten-free, the answer is yes, absolutely! Just use your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour and go for it.

 

 

Vegan Fruitcake with Zucchini

What you’ll need:

1 zucchini, small (1 1/2 cup grated)

5 medjool dates

15 dried apricots

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2/3 cup dried pineapple

5 dried figs

1/3 cup prunes

1 cup maraschino cherries, drained and roughly chopped

1 cup flour

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 tablespoon almond extract

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lime

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine all the dried fruits in a large bowl, cover with warm to hot water, and let soak for 30-60 minutes. Drain the fruit, pat dry to remove excess water, and chop to bits and pieces of different size. Place into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  3. Grate the zucchini using a fine grater or a food processor. The finer the grating the better!
  4. Add the zucchini and the rest of the ingredients to the chopped fruit and mix well until everything is combined.
  5. Line the bread pan, or any other baking pan (I used a spring form pan because it makes getting the cake out a breeze), with some parchment paper. Pour in the fruitcake batter and spread around to form a 1.5 in (3-4 cm) thick layer. The cake will not rise much, and it will be quite moist, so don’t make it too thick as your surface will burn while you wait for your center to bake.
  6. Bake for 35 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake stand for at least 15 minutes, ideally an hour, before cutting and serving. Serve with some vegan whip cream, ice cream, or with a glass of eggnog, and enjoy the season!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese – Deluxe Edition

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Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese – Deluxe Edition, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Hooray – a plant-based cheese success story!!! Believe me, the three exclamation points are not for nothing as I’ve had my fair share of plant-based cheese disasters. But, let us not dwell on failure and talk about this latest, greatest treasure I discovered. Like my vegan fresh mozzarella experiment that was out of this world delicious, this Baked Sunflower Cheese is fully based on a lovely recipe created by another person. Credit for today’s recipe goes to Sweet Potato Soul, a lovely and so bright and cheerful vegan food blog by Jenné (you can also follow her on Twitter @SweetPotatoSoul).

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Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese topped with slivered almond, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

I was looking for something to do with sunflower seeds and this recipe popped up. The recipe is simple and follows the same logic of plant-based cheese making – you soak in this case the seeds but more often the nuts overnight, and then you process them with flavor and umami agents of your choice. Jenné’s recipe uses a nice combination of ingredients that all play well together with the raw sunflower seeds, so other than adjusting the amount of lemon juice and miso paste, I increased both, and dialing down the nutritional yeast, I followed all the rest.

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Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese on a cutting board, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

My main point of departure was at the end. Once I’ve chopped and blended everything in the food processor I used my muffin tin to form small individual cheeses. I sprayed the muffin tins with some olive oil cooking spray, and packed the cheese mix into the molds tightly. I let it firm up in the fridge overnight and the next day I inverted the individual cheeses out, topped them with couple of different toppings (capers, slivered almonds, sun dried tomatoes, and hot sauce), placed them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and baked them at 350 F (175 C) for 10-15 minutes, just enough for the individual cheeses to warm up and the topping to caramelize.

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Slivered Almonds topped Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

I served the cheeses at a party, with some crackers (and couple of other goodies), and it was amazing!!! Pictures here tell only half a story, so make thus cheese and see for yourself how the story ends.

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Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese topped with capers, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Note: I stored the leftover cheese in the fridge and used it the next day to make wonderful sandwiches with roasted red pepper hummus and the cold Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese. Yummy!

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Simple Harvest Roast

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Harvest Roast, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Roasting is one of my favorite ways of making food. Preparing vegetables and fruits at high temperature brings out the natural sugars and flavors they have and releases all sorts of aromas that make your entire home feel more inviting and cozy.

This Harvest Roast was my centerpiece for the Thanksgiving feast and it could not be simpler to make! Basically all you need to do is get the oven nice and hot, cut up some yummy vegetables, toss everything with a bit of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil, and roast it away. Actually, I recommend adding a cup of water to the bottom of your roasting pan and keeping the veggies covered with foil for the first twenty minutes, then removing the cover for the last fifteen minutes.

The vegetable selection is entirely up to you. Because this is my Thanksgiving roast, the vegetables I used are earthy and hearty, mostly root vegetables that in many ways symbolize the season. I combined sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, corn on the cob, and some apples to create a real comfort food medley.

Simple Harvest Roast

What you’ll need:

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

3 purple head turnips, peeled and cubed

3 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

10-15 baby carrots (or 3 large carrots, peeled and roughly sliced)

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 tart apples, roughly chopped

3 ears of corn, cut into 4-5 pieces each

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Sage leaves

Thyme sprigs

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
  2. Add all the vegetables and fruit to a large roasting pan and mix with oil, salt and pepper if using. You can roast without oil, salt and pepper as well.
  3. Add water to the very bottom of the pan. Best is to pour in the four corners and then move the pan around to spread.
  4. Arrange sage leaves and thyme sprigs on top.
  5. Cover the pan with foil and roast covered for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove the foil and roast for another 20-25 minutes.
  7. Take the roast out, let it rest for 10 minutes and serve!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup

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Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A bite of baklava is a shock to the system, but once you have recovered from that first bite you won’t be able to stop eating, usually until your teeth start feeling like they may just fall out from all the sugar. Baklava is a dessert from Middle East that has made its way to Greece and beyond. It is made with thin sheets of dough, the phyllo dough, and it is usually layered, although some recipes do ask that you roll up the sheets into a strudel.

The most commonly used filling for baklava are ground walnuts. And the signature feature of baklava is the super sweet syrup that is poured over the hot baklava immediately after it comes out the oven. The baklava is then allowed to soak up all the syrup, which usually takes a day or so. At the end of that process you end up with a super sweet and very rich piece of dessert on your plate that is very often an acquired taste.

I personally have a bit of love/hate relationship with baklava. It’s been on my mother’s holiday dessert list for as long as I can remember, and I was not a huge fan until she started using apples to break up the heaviness of walnuts and the syrup, and lighten things up.

In this recipe I wanted to combine that insight into what makes a perfect baklava with what makes a great pecan pie, the apple in the eye of every Southern cook, the amazing creaminess combined with the crunch of pecans.

Neither baklava nor pecan pie is actually good for you. They are both full of high amounts of sugar and fat, so my challenge for this Pecan Apple Baklava was to flip the dessert into something much healthier without sacrificing any flavor. I used lots of apples, some pecans, and to sweeten things up a good amount of maple syrup. But, instead of drowning your baklava in pure maple syrup I recommend combining maple syrup with some orange juice, cooking it down a bit, and pouring it over your baked baklava while both the syrup and the baklava are still hot.

There’s not much in putting baklava together. Traditionally, you would use melted butter on each sheet of phyllo dough but you can achieve the same thing with spreading just a bit of water or water mixed with a drop of lemon juice, or a a bit of oil. It’s up to you to decide how much oil you want to use. Here, I use only some cooking spray on my dish, to make sure the baklava slices come out smoothly at the end. For the rest I use plain water. So you will layer a sheet of phyllo dough, brush very lightly with water, layer another one, put your ground pecans on, layer a sheet of phyllo dough, brush lightly with water, lay another sheet, pour pecans, another layer of phyllo dough, then apples, and so on and so forth until you run out of things to layer. One trick for getting the perfect baklava is to slice before you bake. And don’t forget that a bit of oil mist will help brown the top!

Final touch? Make baklava one day ahead. It will be rich, delicious and ready to serve, and you can feel good about serving your friends and family a dessert that is actually full of good for them stuff!!!

Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup

What you’ll need:

8 oz (225 g) pecans, ground into a rough meal

4 apples, grated and drained of excess liquid

1 lbs (450 g) phyllo dough

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 cup orange juice

Cooking spray or oil

Fresh orange slices, for decoration and presentation

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Using a food processor grind the pecans into a rough meal. You want the pecans to be almost a meal but having few bigger pieces would add some interesting texture, so keep that in mind. Place pecans into a bowl, mix in cinnamon, allspice and ground nutmeg, and set aside.
  3. Using the same food processor with a grater blade, grate the apples. You don’t need to peel them unless you really want to. But you to have to squeeze the excess moisture out using your hands, and set aside. (Keep the squeezed out juice – it’s delicious as a freshly pressed cider which you can enjoy as you are making you baklava!)
  4. Spray the bottom of 9 x 13 in (22 x 33 cm) baking pan with cooking spray and start layering the baklava. Place one sheet of phyllo dough at the bottom, and brush couple of water drops across. Layer the next sheet, sprinkle pecans, layer another two sheets one at a time spreading a drop or two of water in between, sprinkle pecans, then repeat with two more phyllo sheets, spread a batch of apples, 1/2 cup or so, then continue layering following the same pattern until you use up all the ingredients.
  5. Cut the baklava into pieces, spray the top with a bit of oil, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. You want the baklava to be nicely golden brown.
  6. While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup by combining maple syrup and orange juice into a saucepan and reducing the volume down to about 1 1/2 cup or so.
  7. Once the syrup and baklava are ready and still hot, pour the syrup over the pastry one 1/2 cup at the time, starting with pouring along the cut sites so that the syrup can penetrate to the bottom of the baklava, and then what ever you have leftover you can pour right over the top. Place the cut orange pieces over the top, cover with foil and let the baklava sit for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
  8. Serve with a cup of strong coffee – and get ready to dance the night away!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Coconut Bread Pudding: So Yummy, Good for the Tummy

Easy Coconut Bread Pudding
Easy (and Vegan) Coconut Bread Pudding, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A lovely dessert is always a welcome ending for a great meal. I have a major sweet tooth, but I am not a great baker and cake maker. So, my desserts are usually no-bake, like the Chocolate Bon Bons and the Blueberry Cheesecake, or simple cookies, muffins and crumbles that are full of fruit and really forgiving when it comes to exact measurements.

Still, none of those come even close to the simplicity and versility of my Coconut Bread Pudding. This bread pudding requires no prior knowledge of baking techniques, and uses plant-based ingredients. The final product is deliciously sweet, comforting and satisfying, so you can eat it as a dessert, as well as breakfast or brunch.

In terms of the skills required to make this wonder bread pudding happen, you only need how to mix and soak. The recipe starts with a super easy wet mix which you can whisk in a flash. Then comes bread which you can cut up or break into chunks by hand. The best type of bread to use here is a spongy one, because the main thing the bread needs to do is soak up the wet ingredients. One trick people sometimes use is to leave a loaf of bread on the kitchen counter for a day or so, and use this, slightly stale bread, to make the bread pudding. In my opinion there’s no reason to do this on purpose, but if you have stale bread on your hands then transforming it into a bread pudding is the way to go! Regardless whether you use fresh or stale bread, you should give your bread chunks time to soak up all the juices before taking the next step, so leave them in the wet mix for at least fifteen minutes.

Once the bread is ready, add raisins and shredded coconut, mix gently, pour into a baking dish and about half an hour later you will have a kitchen that smells like heaven and a bread pudding that tastes like paradise!

Coconut Bread Pudding

What you’ll need:

6 slices of bread, cubed (or about 1/2 of a large bread loaf)

1 cup almond milk

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened

1/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cooking spray


What you’ll do:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F (205 C).
  2. Chop the bread into 1 x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm). Note that these are approximate measures and you don’t have to go crazy here. The point is to have bread chunks that can hold their shape yet have enough surface area to soak up all the liquid. If you are using stale bread you can go smaller. If you like your bread pudding to maintain more of your bread dough texture go bigger! Place the bread chunks into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl (or a large soup plate, which is my preferred way) mix the wet ingredients, everything except raisins and coconut flakes.
  4. Pour over the bread chunks and gently fold everything together. Be gentle here if your bread is very soft because you don’t want to end up with a mushy mess. Larger bread chunks and more rustic bread can take a bit more beating but do proceed with caution. Let the mix rest for at least 15 minutes.
  5. When the bread has soaked up (almost all) the liquid, add raisins and coconut flakes and mix gently. At this point your bread chunks will be fragile and mushy so you want to preserve their structural integrity as much as possible so give your pudding a more interesting texture.
  6. Spray a bottom of a deep 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) baking dish with cooking spray and pour the bread mix in.
  7. Put in the oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Keep an eye on your oven, as you want the top of your bread pudding to be nice and brown. Let it cool for a moment or two and dig in. You can sprinkle powdered sugar on top of you like, or add some fresh fruit if you are feeling adventurous!

Enjoy for breakfast, brunch, snack, dessert… Sky is the limit!

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

A “Thank You” Cake, for All of You!

Dark Chocolate Brownie “Thank You” Cake, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

10000 views… I can’t believe that my tiny,  homemade, low key, experimental, and very much just for fun blog recently hit a phenomenal milestone: 10000 views!

I am still in a bit of disbelief about it all, to be quite honest and totally humbled, yet thrilled.

Although I can’t explain how I went from my very first posted to 10000 views in less than 6 months, I’m guessing that this is a sign that there are many of you out there who are looking for guidance, inspiration and help in transitioning to 100% plant-based eating and cooking, while at the same time staying within a reasonable budget.

I can only hope that at least some of you have found my recipes to be yummy, homey, inviting, creative, entertaining and pure fun, which is what this entire transition to vegan cooking has been for me. Thank you for joining me on this journey and for helping me along the way with your kind comments, suggestions and many, many engagements.

And… this being a vegan, plant-based, healthy cooking type of a blog I thought that it would be cool to say a huge “Thank You, All” with some cake. So, thanks everyone – I hope you enjoy this Dark Chocolate Brownie “Thank you!” Cake, and come back again for seconds!!!

The recipe is super simple and uses ripe bananas as an egg replacement, and lots of dark, Dutch process cocoa. It also uses a simple trick to transform almond milk into almond butter milk by adding a tiny amount of cider vinegar to almond milk and letting it stand for fifteen minutes at room temperature before using. Finally, to help the dark cocoa release its color you will need to use some hot water.

Putting all this together, you will start by mixing dry ingredients in a large mixer bowl separately from wet ingredients (all except water), combine them together and then add the hot water gradually as you mix, keeping a close eye on consistency. You want your batter to be smooth and fluid, but not completely liquid. The recipe below makes two 8 in (20 cm) round brownie cakes, or one 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) rectangular cake. I recommend lining the bottom of your baking pan with some parchment paper, as this helps get the cake out. In principle you could bake this cake in a springform pan, and it should pop right out.

The cake tastes rich and decadent, yet it’s relatively light in terms of the ingredients and especially in terms of added sugar. The bananas help not only hold the cake together, but add natural sweetness to it, so you can use 1/3 amount of sugar that a cake of this size would normally use. Of course, you are not limited to sugar and can use a sweetener of your choice, including artificial sweeteners if that’s what you like or need to use.

Dark Chocolate Brownie “Thank You” Cake

What you’ll need:

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa, Dutch-processed

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened

3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup canola oil

2 bananas

1/2 cup powdered sugar, vegan (+ 1 tablespoon for dusting)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup hot water

2 tablespoons coconut flakes, unsweetened (optional)

Zest of one orange (optional)

What you you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Mix the almond milk with apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. This will be your almond buttermilk.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your standing mixer, combine all your dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder).
  4. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients except the hot water. Note that powdered sugar and the bananas count as a wet ingredients. I recommend that you use a blender to cream your bananas, although you could simply mush them with a fork. Either way, make sure that your wet ingredients are fully mixed together and as smooth as possible.
  5. Next, slowly add your wet ingredients into the dry ones. For this, I keep my standing mixer runing on low, and pour the wet ingredients in, bit by bit.
  6. Let everything combine before adding the hot water. I recommend adding 1/4 cup water at a time, slowly so that you are in full control over the consistency of your batter. It should be smooth and pour out with ease.
  7. Line two 8 in (20 cm) round cake pans with parchment paper and pour the batter in.
  8. Put in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Take the cake out, flip it out of the pan, and leave it to cool for 1-2 hours.
  10. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with powdered sugar, coconut flakes and orange zest. Serve and enjoy!!!
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Saying “Thank You!” with a Cake, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Spicy and Cheesy Corn Muffins

 

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Spicy and Cheesy Corn Muffins, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Corn bread and corn muffins are a great way to enjoy freshly baked bread but without the agony of waiting for dough to rise and wondering whether the yeast is still alive. Corn bread and corn muffins are also very customizable – you can make them into a sweet tasting treat or you can add savory ingredients and make them into a complex tasting appetizers or breakfast items.These corn muffins are spicy, thanks to a good amount of fire roasted green chili peppers and vegan pepper Jack cheese. They also include a secret ingredient- pickles! Pickles add a bit of acidity and crunch to the muffins, pushing them over the edge of plain and into the area of edgy and fabulous.

What can you serve these with? Well, they go really well with a chili or a soup like the Bean & Leek Soup with Soy Chorizo, or Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew. The muffins are somewhat similar to Balkan Style Cornbread but they do use green chilis and pickles whit gives them a very specific and spicy flavor. This means that they work well as appetizers, especially when paired with some guacamole. They are great for breakfast or a quick snack, and would complete any salad. They are best fresh from the oven, but should keep well for couple of days.

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Spicy, and oh, so cheesy, Corn Muffins, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Spicy and Cheesy Corn Muffins

What you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal

1/2 cup corn starch

1 cup rice flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 pickles, finely chopped

4 oz (113 g) fire roasted diced green chiles

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, vegan

1 1/4 cup seltzer water

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (205 C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except seltzer water and mix well.
  3. Add 1 cup of water and mix. Keep adding the last 1/4 cup gradually to make sure your batter is smooth but not runny. Let stand for 10 min.
  4. Spray the muffin tin with cooking spray and divide the batter into 12 even amounts.
  5. Place the muffins in the oven for 10 min, then lower the heat to 350 F (180 C) and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. These corn muffins come out bright yellow and are ready to eat after you let stand and cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Puffy Popovers of the Vegan Kind

Puffy Popovers of the Vegan Kind
Puffy Popovers of the Vegan Kind, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

If you never had a popover before let me try to describe it to you: it is light as a feather and hollow, not actually fried dough but tasting as if the fried dough has decided to leave the deep frier and take a yoga breathing class to fill itself with air and become almost weightless. Popovers are a special breakfast treat to rejoice and enjoy, sprinkled with powdered sugar, with a spoonful of jam, or a handful of sliced fruit. Anyway you cut it they are amazing!

Popovers get their fluffy structure from lots of eggs, milk and butter, and their final elevated shape from a specially designed popover pan. Although popover pan may remind you of a muffin pan, which may lead you to believe that you can just your muffin pan to make popover, it’s best not to go there. I tried it, and it did not end well. So, you will need to get a real popover pan if you want to make the puffiest of popovers and there is not substitution for it!

But, is there a substitution for eggs, milk and butter? Of course there is! At first I was very skeptical that I can make popovers work by replacing basically the three quarters of ingredients that make popovers with vegan alternatives, but I did and it does!!!

My vegan, plant-based version is also very simple, with three main ingredients only: silken tofu, white wheat flour and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. To that you can add things like maple syrup, agave nectar or sugar, a bit more vanilla extract, a sprinkle of lemon, lime or orange zest, or cinnamon, for a sweet version, or stick with plain almond milk, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of dry basil and oregano for a more savory version. The basic batter is flexible and customizable, so feel free to make these popovers your own. Of course, you can always stick with the basic batter and add layers of flavors with condiments like jam, nuts, fruit, cashew sour cream, or macadamia nut queso fresco.

The main trick to making perfect, puffy popovers is to preheat the popover pan by itself before pouring in the batter, and then add the batter when pan is scorching hot and sizzling. Then bake the popovers at high temperature for a short period of time, lower it down and leave them to make for a while. I add an extra step where I decrease the temperature gradually so my popovers spend fifteen minutes at 425 F (220 C), then 20 minutes at 375 F (190 C) and finally another 10 minutes at 350 F (175 C). This helps them puff up and then cook through to their final glorious heights.

Puffy Popovers all in the row
Puffy Popovers all in the Row, Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Puffy Popovers

What you’ll need:

16 oz (454 g) silken tofu

1 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon turmeric (optional; for color only)

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Once preheated, place the popover pan in for 15 minutes to get sizzling hot.
  2. Drain excess liquid from tofu but don’t press. Place the tofu, almond milk and vanilla extract into a blender and blend on high until smooth.
  3. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and blend well. Add turmeric if you like to give your batter a bit of a yellow tint and make it visually more egg-like. Mix everything well. The batter consistency should be similar to American pancakes (a bit denser than crapes).
  4. Wearing good oven mittens, take the popover pan out, spray with cooking spray, and pour the batter in, about 2/3 of the way. Place the popover pan on the baking sheet (to minimize splatter) and put it in the oven.
  5. Bake at 425 F (220 C) for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 F (190 C) for 20 minutes and finish at 350 F (175 C) for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Take out the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. The finished popovers should slide out the pan with ease.
  7. Enjoy warm as is, or with any topping you like!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Today is a double whammy of a day. It’s the National Oatmeal Cookie Day and at the same time the National Raisin Day. So I just had to join in the celebrations by putting those two together into these lovely, healthy and chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that use couple of very simple ingredients and take no time to make.

I decided to start with some naturally sweet ingredients in order to completely omit using added sugar. So I went for a combination of carrots and raisins, both with an amazing amount of sweetness that baking brings out to an amazing extent.

For my oatmeal, I decided to toast some of it to add extra dimensions of nuttiness to the flavor of these cookies without the need to use any nuts. Additional trick I used is to grind most of the oats which made it easy to skip using flour. Still, I did add a bit of corn starch to help the cookies along, and “flax egg” to bind everything together.

Of course, you can’t have a good batch of moist cookies without adding a bit of fat and in this case I decide to use solids out of the can of coconut cream. I used all the liquid and couple of tablespoons of solids for my Bread Fruit Curry, so I had some solids leftover. You can also use coconut oil in this application as well. The oil does not need to be fully melted but it does need to be softened so that can mix well with the rest of the ingredients.

So without any further ado I give to you on this special day gluten-free and dairy-free, no sugar added Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, No Sugar Added Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Gluten-free, Dairy-free, No Sugar Added Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

What you’ll need (for 24, 2 in (5 cm) diameter cookies):

3 large carrots

1 cup raisins

2 cups oatmeal

1/4 cup flax meal

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup corn starch

1/4 cup coconut solids

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Place raisins into a large cup and cover with hot water. Let them soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Add flax meal to a large cup and mix well with 3/4 cups of hot water. Let stand for 15-30 minutes.
  4. Toast 1/2 cup of oat meal in a toaster oven until they begin to slightly brown and start smelling lovely and deliciously toasty, which should take about 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on the toaster oven though as the oats will burn quickly. You can toast the oatmeal on the stove top, using a frying pan. I recommend dry toasting them, although you can use a drop of oil or cooking spray to help the toasting along.
  5. Add the toasted oats to a food processor and grind to a fine meal. Pour the toasted oatmeal into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add another 1 cup of oatmeal to the food processor and grind as finely as the previous batch. Combine with the ground toasted oatmeal.
  7. Add reminder of the oatmeal (1/2 cup) into the mixing bowl without grinding for added texture.
  8. Grind carrots finely using the food processor and add to the oatmeal mix.
  9. Drain the raisins well and add to the oatmeal and carrots.
  10. Add “flax egg” and mix well. The mixture should be moist but not runny.
  11. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. If your coconut oil needs a but of melting, put it in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep an eye on it because you don’t want it to be completely melted, just soft enough to be able to mix well.
  12. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spoon out the cookies with a tablespoon. This should yield 24 cookies, 12 per baking sheet. Use your fingers to shape the cookies into nice, flat rounds or any shape you like. Their final thickness is about 1/2 in (1 cm) and they will not spread or rise much so make sure that you do actually flat them out before baking.
  13. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes. The cookies will be soft to touch but will firm up a bit as they cool.
  14. You can frost them with simple sugar frosting if you like, but I did want to keep this recipe “added sugar” free and they are delicious as is. Enjoy!!!
  15. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Quick Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Tofu

Quick Quiche with Tofu and Mushrooms
Quick Quiche with Tofu and Mushrooms, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Eating pie for lunch sounds so decadent, doesn’t it? And that’s what makes quiche so appealing. I usually stay away from making quiche because I can’t deal with making my own crust. The crust takes time and effort that is beyond my capacity. Luckily for me, and I am guessing many of you, stores carry pre-made pie crusts that are ready to use.

My quiche recipe uses one of those and that really makes it come together relatively quickly. One tip when using the store bought frozen pie crust is to bake the crust by itself first for ten to fifteen minutes while you are mixing and preparing the other ingredients. This pre-baking will help make the crust nice and crunchy and help it hold the filling.

Filling is definitely the star of any quiche and it is traditionally made of eggs and cheese, often with mushrooms, ham, spinach, artichokes or other meat and vegetable components thrown into it. So, the result is usually light in texture but heavy on your stomach and very calorie dense.

In my first attempt to veganize quiche I decided to keep it simple and start with mushrooms, red onions and tofu as main ingredients. Most of the cooking actually takes place in a pan on the stove top as both red onions and mushrooms need to be fully cooked before they hit the pie crust. I recommend taking the time to caramelize the onions nice and slow, as well as let the mushrooms cook most of the way before adding tofu. In this case, the tofu needs to be drained and crumbled but you can skip the “pressing tofu” step that almost all tofu recipes have making this a really quick dish!

Quick Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Tofu

What you’ll need:

1 store bought pie crust, vegan

1 red onion

10 oz (300 g) white mushrooms

14 oz (400 g) extra firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 teaspoon dry basil leaves

1 teaspoon dry oregano leaves

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Once ready, put the pie crust in to pre-bake for 15 minutes.
    2. Cut the onion into fine, thin slices.
    3. Spray the bottom and sides of a frying pan with cooking spray and place it over medium high heat. Add the onion and let caramelize for 5 to 10 minutes. The onion should be nicely browned and soft.
    4. While the onion is caramelizing, clean and slice the mushrooms, or you can always buy sliced mushrooms and skip this step.
    5. Add sliced mushrooms to the onion mix and cook until mushrooms soften, which will take another 5 minutes or so.
    6. Drain tofu and crumble it into small crumbles with a fork or with your hand. The size of the crumbles should be similar to scrambled egg.
    7. Add crumbled tofu, nutritional yeast, corn starch, basil and oregano. Stir well the quiche filling, let brown for another 1 to 2 minutes, then turn the heat off and let sit until your pie crust is done pre-baking.
    8. Pour the filling into the crust, spray the top with some cooking spray and return to oven for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
    9. Take the quiche out, let stand for 5 minutes then serve with your favorite salad or top with some sun dried tomato shreds like I did on this occasion.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017