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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
Baked Sunflower Seed Cheese on a cutting board, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
There is nothing better than freshly picked fruit. I love PYO – Pick Your Own – events at our local farms. They are a perfect activity for friends and family that gets everyone outside and into the nature. These PYO activities support local farms, and provide a cheaper access to perfectly ripe fresh fruit. I also love them for one selfish reason – I am shameless when it comes to taste tasting as I pick and can’t resist biting into an amazing piece of fruit I just picked. Honestly, who could?
The last PYO days are slowly unfolding around me, and I grabbed an opportunity to go pick some apples. The loot included six different varieties, Granny Smith, Jonagold, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Fuji and Empire, and was destined for couple of different things, including a huge batch of apple butter. For the apple butter I used couple of Granny Smith’s, Fuji’s, and Jonagolds. I used my slowcooker (crockpot) to cook the butter since it is really totally hands of – you plug it and forget it for about 10-12 hours. The best time to start cooking is the evening, because your butter can cook overnight and you will wake up to a house that is full of rich aromas.
Those aromas are mostly due to a nice mix of spices that’s make the flavor of this butter. I combined lots of ground cinnamon, some allspice and a bit of nutmeg. There are a lot of apples in this recipe so they drop need lots of spice to make the flavors rich and deep. You could change the spice makeup if you like. Alternative spices to try would be ground ginger, ground cloves, vanilla beans, and/or orange peel.
If you are reading this and wondering to yourself “What is apple butter?”, first of all thank you for being patient, and second, apple butter is sort of apple marmalade or apple jam. It’s thick – thicker than apple sauce – and smooth. It is a perfect breakfast item, for toast, pancakes or waffles, and although I have not tried it I bet it can work great as an ice cream topping! It can be made much sweeter depending on the variety of apples you use, and by adding sugar to it. This recipe does not use any sugar and adding Granny Smith to the mix of apples I used makes the final product just slightly tart.
Spice Infused Apple Butter
What you’ll need:
(If using a 6 QT (5.7 L) crockpot – adjust the amount depending on the size of your crock!!!)
6 lbs (2.5-3 kg) apples
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
What you’ll do:
Wash, dry, peel and core your apples. This will be quite a project so arm yourself with patience, enlist help of your friends and family, or get a peeler/corer/slicer device. I can recommend the KitchenAid standing mixer attachment that does all this for you, but it comes with a high price tag. It’s not essential, but it does help a great deal. Whether you peel the apples it is actually up to you. I wanted a really smooth butter texture so decided to peel them this time around.
Slice the apples and put them a really large mixing bowl. Add the spices and mix well, so that the spices are evenly distributed all over your apples.
Line the crockpot with the crockpot liner (if using – I use it becasue it make cleanup a breeze, but it is not essential). Arrange the apples, put the lid on and turn your slow cooker to 10 to 12 hours. If you have a slow cooker that allows you to select the level of heat, I recommend cooking the apple butter on high.
Let the apples cool before handling further. Transfer the cooked apples into a large bowl and use a stick (immersion) blender to purée the apples into a smooth apple butter. If you don’t have an immersion blender, your regular blender will work but you will have to blend in batches.
Since I am not an expert in canning, I packed my apple butter in two nice big jars, one to give away one to keep. I store my apple butter in the fridge but if you do know how to can things I bet you can make the apple butter, can it and keep it for months.
I am a bit on the roasted beets kick these days. I just shared how I used them in a salad, this post is all about a hummus I put together, and, believe it or not, I have a pile of roasted beets in the fridge that are waiting for me to figure out what to do with them.
The batch in the fridge was roasted in the oven, and that method – cranking the heat to 425 F (220 C) and roasting them for about 30 to 45 minutes – will work here as well. But the beets that I used for this hummus were roasted on a grill. I recommend you try this next time you grill your veggies, tofu or try my Portobello Mushroom Steaks. Your grill will already be on so it’s perfect time to wrap your bits in some foil and toss them on!
The rest of this hummus recipe is super easy. You will need a large mixing bowl, two cans of chickpeas, rinsed and pat dried, some lemon juice, and a spoonful or two of almond butter, and all the lovely roasted beets, cooled and peeled. You will also need a hand-held, stick blender, and let it rip until everything is well blended and smooth. You can always use a good processor if you have one or a powerful blender. I have neither so hand-held, stick blender is my tool of choice.
What you’ll end up with is a nice pile of lovely and bright magenta hummus that will keep well in a plastic container with a tight lid for a week in the refrigerator.
Roast the beets, let them cool and peel. You can roast them in the oven or on the grill. Either way I recommend wrapping them in foil. This will minimize the mess and speed up the roasting. Regardless of where you roast them, it will take about 30 to 45 minutes to get the beets roasted all the way through. Please note that you can eat beets raw, so you can actually skip the roasting all together. Roasting does help bring the natural sweetness of beets out more, so in my opinion it’s worth an effort.
Cut the roasted beets into cubes, and place into a food processor or the large mixing bowl.
Place the chickpeas into a strainer, rinse them well and pat dry.
Add chickpeas to the bits, add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve any way you like. For me hummus is one of the best sandwich spreads ever, and this one works like a dream when paired with avocados!!!
“Waste not, want not” is how the saying goes, encouraging us to not to waste what we have and conserve resources. Well, I may be extrapolating here, but it is not a bad maxim to cook by, if not live by. I’ve been struggling for number of years now to find use for mushroom stems, especially the big, almost woody stems of large white button mushrooms. The caps are fabulous for stuffing, and I’ve already shared my Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream recipe, but stems are a bit trickier. I usually chop them up and combine them into the stuffing, or don’t even bother removing them if I use mushrooms in a soup or stew that will simmer for a while. However, big stems just don’t work well in some of the quicker recipes.
That’s why I got really excited when I found out that mushroom stems can be used as a sort of replacement for large scallops. For example, Cara, the person behind a fabulous blog called Fork & Beans, used king oyster mushrooms to make a “scallop” pasta. That got me thinking: why not use the large stems I got to create a vegan “scallop” dish?
There is one major trick to transforming mushroom stems into scallops – you have to soak them in hot water 1-2 hours to overnight. I soaked my batch overnight, actually for almost 24 hours, which is totally an overkill but I just had other things to do the mushroom stems had to wait happily soaking in the refrigerator. The mushroom stems I had were pretty long so I had to cut each in half, so my scallops were about 1 in (2.5 cm) thick. That worked well in terms of cooking too! Before using, drain and dry your mushroom scallops.
Another advice I can share is to make mushroom scallops the same way you would make scallops, which in my case means simply browning them on both sides, using a bit of oil or cooking spray and sprinkling with Old Bay Seasoning on one side as the first side is finishing cooking. The cooking itself takes no time at all: three to five minutes per side should do the trick!
If you are serving the mushroom “scallops” as is, I suggest you sprinkle them with some lemon juice. I decided to serve them with a Cilantro Yogurt Sauce which I made from homemade soy yogurt, fresh cilantro, crushed garlic and lime juice. The homemade soy yogurt was simple to make and I recommend you try making your own, but if pressed for time store bought plain soy yogurt will do the trick. Here, the tangier the yogurt, the better the yogurt sauce so choose the brand with more tang – I can’t recommend any here because none of the store bought yogurts I tried were really all that good (thus the decision to make my own!). You can adjust the tang with adding a drop of apple cider vinegar or a bit more lime juice.
You can serve these mushroom “scallops”, and the sauce, with pasta or polenta, but I plated them as an appetizer over some fresh baby spinach leaves. The “scallops” were hot when plated, and their heat wilted the spinach a bit as well. I let them sit for few minutes before layering on cold yogurt sauce and serving immediately!!!
In case you were wondering, these don’t really taste like scallops but they are delicious and I love the idea so I will definitely be trying to get the flavor closer to the original, perhaps by trying a different mushroom variety.
Cut large white button mushroom stems into 1 in (2.5 cm) pieces. Soak in water overnight, or in hot water for 1-2 hours.
Prepare plain soy yogurt according to the instructions on VegCharlotte site. The method I used takes advantage of a crock pot, slow cooker, but it does take at least 14 hours to make so give yourself enough time, or get a tub of store bought soy yogurt. So this recipe is a bit of an overnight flight and you’ll need to get the mushroom “scallops” and the yogurt going one day ahead.
In a food processor, mix yogurt, cilantro, garlic and lime juice. Your yogurt might be more or less solid, mine was more of a kefir than yogurt, but that really does not matter much in this application. At the end you will have a beautiful, aromatic, vibrant sauce regardless of your yogurt consistency. Put your sauce to the side and proceed to deal with the mushroom “scallops”.
When ready to cook the mushrooms, first drain the liquid and pat the mushroom “scallops” dry with a kitchen towel.
Spray the bottom of a large frying pan with cooking spray and place it over the high heat. Brown the mushroom “scallops” on one side for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with Old Bay Seasoning then turn over for another 3-5 minutes. Plate on the bed of baby spinach that has been generously topped with cilantro yogurt sauce. Serve and enjoy immediately!
I am a huge sandwich lover – give me some bread, a tasty spread, and a pile of veggies on top any day of the week and at any time of the day, and I’ll be a happy, and a well fed, camper! One of my favorite sandwich spreads of all time is mayo, and I’m not ashamed to admit that in my college days I used to put mayo not only on French fries – I am a European after all – but on spaghetti as well. Although my love of mayo did not waver over the years, my use of it did.
No doubt about it, mayo is delicious. Also no doubt about it, it is not really good for you. Unfortunately, available mayo alternatives, like the light versions or even some of the vegan versions I tried, have not been very good at hitting my taste buds the same way real mayonnaise does. So, I decided to develop my own recipe and I think I am getting close to the ideal.
My Vegan Herb Mayo uses cashews and tofu to build the consistency and body, and Dijon mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest and basil to give this mayo a bit of je ne sais quoi. The result is a lighter and healthier spread that I use on my sandwiches and Sweet Potato & White Potato Medallions. It also makes an excellent Tartar Sauce that you can use on vegan seafood or vegan chicken. Yummy!
Vegan Herb Mayo
What you’ll need:
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup almond milk
14 oz (400 g) extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
What you’ll do:
Cover the cashews with water and leave them in refrigerator to soak overnight. Then throw the water out and pat dry the cashews
Place tofu in a strainer and let it drain in refrigerator overnight. Next, pat dry the tofu and crumble it into a smaller chunks.
Place all the ingredients into a food processor or a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy your Vegan Herb Mayo! This mayo stores well in the fridge for up to a week.
Note: If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have leftover Cashew Cream, like for example while making Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, I suggest taking an extra step and transforming it into this delightful mayo-like spread.
Growing up sweet potatoes never crossed my plate or my palate. My first encounter with this vegetable, and the American love of it, came in the form of a Thanksgiving staple: the sweet potato casserole with pecans and marshmallow topping. Unfortunately, for both me and sweet potatoes, this first encounter was far from a success. I liked the taste of the casserole, but not as a side dish – it was too sweet and too rich. So, I walked away thinking that sweet potatoes have no purpose other than making people who like to overindulge for holidays feel like they ate healthy because they just had some vegetables.
Luckily for me, over the years I slowly introduced myself to sweet potatoes, and I stand before you today, a complete sweet potato convert! My conversion was inspired not only by the fact that sweet potatoes are full of fiber and vitamin A, but my decision to break away from the social norms and expectations. I still can’t stand them on my dinner plate, but I do eat sweet potatoes for breakfast, snack and dessert. If you haven’t tried roasted sweet potato as a grab-and-go snack, straight from the fridge and cold, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. I know it sounds weird, but do try it – cold roasted sweet potato snack will not disappoint you, I guarantee!
Over the last month I started experimenting with vegan cooking, and few days ago I ended up in the sweet potato heaven, better known as the Roasted Sweet Potato Butter (see recipe below). I was looking for something my family can use instead of butter and maple syrup on their favorite breakfast food, the pancakes. In the past I’ve come across apple butter and pumpkin butter, and the latter got me thinking that So far we discovered that the Roasted Sweet Potato Butter works on pancakes, and toast, and chocolate mousse, and… It turns out, this simple spread is IT – 50% Thanksgiving, 50% Christmas, and 100% fabulously satisfying. I hope you enjoy it!
Roasted Sweet Potato Butter
What you’ll need:
3 large sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
What you’ll do:
Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Wash sweet potatoes under warm water, scrubbing them with the food brush and put them aside. Line a baking sheet with foil – I find that using foils saves time when it comes to clean-up – and place your potatoes on, nicely spaced out. Once the oven is ready, put it in and forget it for about 30 min. You can check if your potatoes are done by poking them with a fork – if it goes in without resistance your potatoes are done. Take them out and let them cool for at least 4 hours, best overnight.
Once the potatoes are completely cold, peel them and cut them into smaller chunks, about 1 in x 1 in (2.5 cm x 2.5 cm). The size of the chunks depends on the power of your blender, and for the one I have this is as big as the chunks can get to ensure smooth blending. Put your sweet potato in a food processor or a blender.
Add cinnamon and nutmeg.
Add zest of one orange – please remember to wash your orange before zesting!
Add juice of one orange or about 1/2 cup of orange juice.
Blend until smooth.
Store in the glass jar or another type of air-tight container for up to a week, but believe me, this Roasted Sweet Potato Butter will not stand a chance.
Note: Final consistency should be smooth, yet the butter should not be runny. You can adjust consistency to taste by adding more orange juice if needed so I recommend you start with 1/4 cup at first and add as you go, so you don’t end up with a sweet potato smoothie. There is nothing wrong with a sweet potato smoothie, of course, but that is a culinary story for another day!