1/25/2016

vegan whole wheat red lasagna

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Sometimes you never really know what you have until it's gone. And when you decide to generally consume less cheese, what you can pretty much count on eliminating is any sort of baked pasta dish. Usually filled with and/or topped with cheese, this isn't exactly vegan-friendly territory. But having recently had some pretty convincing (and surprisingly easy) vegan mac and cheese plus a very convincing vegan tzatziki sauce, I knew there were ways around the nearly dairy-free life without sacrificing traditional recipes and flavors.

I've tried my hand at making almond "feta" and figured that this basic recipe could also work out well as a vegan ricotta substitute. And I was right. This lasagna is perfect, satisfying and without a shred of cheese in sight.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 box whole wheat lasagna noodles (you could also use gluten free pasta sheets if you prefer)
3-4 cups of traditional marinara sauce, prepared

For the almond ricotta:

1 cup whole roasted almonds
1/4 cup of lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened

For the kidney bean filling:

1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of very fine bread crumbs OR cooked quinoa
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast, divided
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Salt & pepper


The first thing to do is begin by making your almond ricotta. This should really be made up to two days in advance to achieve the proper texture, but 24-28 hours may also be enough if you're pressed for time. Place your almonds in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak overnight or up to 24 hours (longer is better and will result in a creamier "cheese"!) When you're done soaking, drain and rinse well until the water runs almost clear.

Transfer your almonds to a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Add your lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cold water and pulse until smooth. I find that it works best when you pulse 5-10 times to get the mixture going and then just let the food processor run for several minutes. A little remaining texture is okay, so don't feel like you have to wait until it's completely smooth.


Line a large strainer with a double layer cheesecloth and place strainer over a bowl. Spoon your almond mixture into the cheesecloth. Bring the corners and sides of the cloth together, twisting closed. Secure with a rubber band or kitchen twine and let chill for 10-12 hours or overnight.
On the day you're ready to make your lasagna (because the cheese is finally ready), preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you haven't just made your sauce, get it simmering over medium-low heat so that it's warmed through when you're ready to assemble your lasagna.

Scrape your almond mixture out of the cheese cloth into a small bowl. Fold together with the almond milk and add your parsley, if using. Set aside.


In a large bowl, mash up your kidney beans until they become pasty. You can used the back of a fork to get this started, but feel free to use your hands if it seems easier. Add in your chopped onion, garlic and bread crumbs/quinoa and mix together. Next add 1 tablespoon of your nutritional yeast, half the olive oil, lemon zest and seasonings. Mix it all up (again, hands work) and get everything evenly distributed. If it feels a little dry or the mixture isn't sticking together, add a touch more olive oil.

Now the fun part: assembly! Beginning with a layer of tomato sauce in a lightly oiled square 9"x9" pan, alternate between noodles, ricotta and the kidney bean mixture. End with a final layer of lasagna noodles (overlapping if totally fine if necessary) and top with the remainder of your tomato sauce. Sprinkle the last two tablespoons of nutritional yeast on top and transfer to the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes.*

*As you check on your lasagna, if you start to notice that the top is becoming dark or getting too crunchy-looking (though who's to say?), simply cover with foil for the remainder of the cook time. 


And you thought vegan lasagna couldn't be done! I don't know if this is the stuff that a certain orange cat dreams about, but it definitely worked for me.

Living the pasta life?


1/18/2016

vegan lemon-pistachio olive oil cake with raspberry-lemon coulis

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To compliment all of the Middle Eastern flavors we enjoyed during Christmas dinner, I wanted to keep dessert in the same flavor spectrum: enter pistachios, lemon and olive oil, all in one cake. Olive oil cake is definitely one of my favorite, versatile desserts. While some people have wrinkled their noses at using olive oil in anything non-savory, I'm here to tell you that it really does change the quality of your cake into something more elegant. The flavors get a little deeper but you will not by any means feel like you're eating a salad.

Bonus, this cake could not be easier. The cake can be made up to a day in advance and have one less thing to worry about in the kitchen.*


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup high quality maple syrup
3/4 cup of water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup apricot jam (or whatever flavor you prefer)
1/3 cup unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar, optional

For the coulis

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 6-inch cake pans by lightly greasing and lining the bottoms with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together your flours, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together your olive oil, maple syrup, water, lemon juice, zest and vanilla extract until well combined. Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and fold together without over-mixing.


Transfer to your prepared cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. You'll know your cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean and the batter has begun to pull away from the sides of the pans. Move to cool on a wire rack (still in the pans). After about twenty minutes, flip out of the pans onto the rack until completely cooled.

*At this stage is when you are able to refrigerate your cakes, well wrapped in plastic.



When you're getting ready to serve your cake, it's time to prepare your coulis. Coulis is really just a fancy word for a puréed fruit sauce, by the way. In a small saucepan, add your raspberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar. Cook down over medium heat until the berries are broken down and glossy. Taste for sweetness. It should definitely have a pop of lemon without being too sour. Add more sugar or lemon to taste. From here you can either purée your sauce using a handheld blender or strain it to remove the seeds. Traditionally, coulis is strained but I'm one of those weirdos who likes their raspberry stuff seeded.


Assemble your cake by using your jam and a sprinkling of pistachios between the two layers. Slice and drizzle (or smear) with your sauce, a final sprinkling of pistachios and a festive dusting of powdered sugar. So simple, so good.

Craving all kinds of cake?

Try this other take on olive oil cake: vegan chocolate-chocolate cake.
Cake-for-breakfast person? Aren't we all. Try this vegan cinnamon peach coffee cake.
Love lemon? Try this Meyer lemon loaf cake with ginger glaze.



1/11/2016

vegan orange oatmeal trail mix cookies

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It's pretty hard to think about the holidays without thinking about cookies. It's just one of those things that goes hand in hand and would feel sort of weird without - you know what I mean, those tins or tray of a variety of baked goods that somehow all end up tasting like peppermint extract because of these guys?

As nostalgic as that thought makes me, the 29-year-old version of me (that's right) could do without the red food coloring and toothpaste taste. What I found myself craving around December 20th (or always) was a cookie I've had many time from a favorite small grocer back in New Jersey. These cookies were trail mix-y with oats, a hint of orange, chewy cherries and some sort of toasted nuts. What stuck out in my mind were pecan or almonds or maybe both. So I set out to see if I could replicate this recipe.

And if I'm allowed to jump the cookie gun here, I'd say: well done, Helen. Well done.


For this recipe, you'll need:

2 tablespoon ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons warm water
2 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup vegan butter, softened (organic Earth Balance is my go-to)
Zest of 1 large organic orange
1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice (it will make more, so drink the rest!)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup whole rolled oats
1/2 cup combination dried cherries and cranberries (unsweetened, if you can find them: good luck!)
1/2 cup combination toasted pecans and almonds 


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the flaxseed and water. Whisk until well emulsified and allow to thicken while you get to some other stuff.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside.
To your mixer's bowl, add your vegan butter, orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, granulated syrup, and vanilla. Mix on medium-high speed until combined.


Gradually add in your dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Mix on high until the dough comes together. Remove your bowl from the mixer and fold in your oats, dried fruit and nuts. This will take some doing but about ten to twelve solid folds will get you there.

Scoop teaspoon sized balls of dough onto your prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let them cool on wire racks. 


I mean, I'll be honest here: I don't usually hit it out of the park on the first attempt. And I did try another time or two before I got the texture and flavor I was looking for. But this version really did make me feel like I was wandering the streets of Princeton, cookie in hand, browsing the book store on Nassau Street. Or, you know, like it was starting to feel like Christmas.


So you've got the cookie fever?




1/04/2016

classic spaghetti marinara with vegan kidney bean meatless meatballs

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Here is a piece of information about me: I don't like when people call things that aren't meat, well, "meat." And I don't mean that this bothers me as a vegetarian. It bothers me as a human, on a level that we can all relate to. It's just incorrect. What is not meat can not also be meat, am I right? When I walk into a vegetarian or vegan or both restaurant and find things like "chicken" on the menu, I don't want to have to read the fine print just to find out that faux poultry is actually a mix of various glutens, vegetable proteins and a pinch of magic.

And I judged these dish-namers pretty much always. I tsk-tsk-ed them profusely. What, I would think to myself, they couldn't think of another word for bacon here? They couldn't just call it what it is, a piece of crispy, pan-fried, smoke-flavored seitan?


Well, I guess not, because when I prepared this dish and then had to name it, I froze. They aren't meatballs and yet they stand in the place of where meatballs would usually be. And they aren't just balls, because that's just as problematic for another reason. And kidney bean balls just didn't quite roll of the tongue. Just as "vegan-kidney-bean-meatless-meatballs" also does not, but at least it gets it all out there.

For this recipe, you will need:

1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of very fine bread crumbs (in a pinch, I have also found that 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa is also a great binder)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Salt & pepper
1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti (or any pasta shape you like)
2-4 cups of marinara sauce, prepared

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prep one large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, mash up your beans until they become pasty. You can used the back of a fork to get this started, but feel free to use your hands if it seems easier. Add in your chopped onion, garlic and bread crumbs and mix together. Next add the nutritional yeast, half the olive oil, lemon zest and seasonings. Mix it all up (again, hands work) and get everything evenly distributed. If it feels a little dry or the mixture isn't sticking together, add a touch more olive oil.


Form your bean paste mixture into balls (about golfball-sized) and place them on your prepared baking sheet. Bake them for about 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through, until they're slightly browned and crispy on the outside.

Get a large pot of salted water boil on high heat. Prepare your pasta according to the package instructions. Once al dente (about 9 minutes for our whole wheat spaghetti), drain your pasta and return to your pot. Immediately toss with your marinara sauce (warmed through) and top with as many meatless kidney bean balls as you want. I couldn't think of a better name for them, so you might as well go big.


Feel like every night should be pasta night?