Hosting non-veg friends

Photo: Minimalist Baker
Photo: Minimalist Baker

Earlier this month I posted about being hosted by non-vegans. This post is about being the host.

I’ve been really slacking lately on having people over. In the first few years of eating plant-based, all my standard “go to” recipes no longer could be used. My previously popular seafood stew was always so delicious and easy, but definitely not going to be in the new rotation. Even brunches were a challenge at first without my hash brown/sausage/egg/cottage cheese casserole. In the beginning my cooking skills weren’t the best, and I am not sure I even represented vegan meals very well. I particularly remember a lasagne that used tofu instead of ricotta that I made for the very first time when we had company… it was not that great.

Now, I’ve had several years practice, and have found that not emulating meat, or making something dependent on animal products is usually best. There are plenty of great options found globally that are naturally vegan- such as Lebanese, Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese and of course Indian.

Last night we invited around 24 people at our house for an Indian dinner party. It was a big deal for me since I am intimidated apparently by inviting more than one or two families to our house at a time. I wanted to make it a vegan meal, but also appealing to everyone coming since none of them are vegan.

I chose an Indian theme, since that is my personal favorite. Also, because I am fortunate to know a talented Indian friend who loves to cook.

Everyone replied so enthusiastically to the idea, it was very gratifying. Most people brought their own dish: chana masala, red lentil dal, beets, and mini samosas. My friend and I had made; an Indian stew using white sweet potatoes, asparagus, carrots and coconut milk; a rice pulau with a delicious creamy cashew base, walnuts, raisins, and other fruits and vegetables; and my favorite: aloo palak. Similar to palak paneer, but used baked baby potatoes instead of paneer, and an almond base instead of cream.

Everything was so delicious, very flavorful, and healthy (so much garlic, ginger, onion and vegetables). I’m not sure I am confident enough to cook these dishes on my own yet, although I plan to experiment on my family to see if I can come close. The secret ingredients, besides an experienced native chef, were all the spices.

I am very excited about building my skills around this naturally vegetarian (easily made vegan) and delicious cuisine. It uses so many vegetables, and even the kids love it.

If you know me, and wish you had been part of this event, let me know so that I can invite you to the next one!

I’m not going to share Rajesh’s secret recipes here (sorry)… but, I will post this delicious Chana Masala recipe from Minimalist Baker that my friend brought and was very popular. I also recommend Holy Cow Vegan, featuring many authentic Indian dishes.

Please let me know your best recipes that everyone loves!

 

 


Jonathan’s favorite pancakes

Image from Cookie and Kate
Image from Cookie and Kate
My husband resisted a bit when we cut out eggs and milk, mostly because he needs them to make pancakes for the kids.
He created this recipe based on one from Cookie and Kate that makes about 6 pancakes (about perfect for 2 kids). There may be many options out there, but he likes this one and is sticking to it! (Our photo to be added next time we make these)
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (or regular)
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 cup soy milk (or almond)
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • More oil to grease your pan/skillet, if necessary
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, maple syrup and vanilla.
  2. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until combined, so only a few lumps remain (don’t over-mix or your pancakes will be tough!). If you’d like to mix in any totally optional add-ins (like chocolate chips or blueberries), gently fold them in now. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes so your pancakes will be nice and fluffy.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a heavy cast iron skillet or nonstick griddle over medium-low heat.
  4. If necessary, lightly oil the cooking surface with additional oil or cooking spray.
  5. Using about ¼-cup of batter at a time, cook for 2 to 3 minutes until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes, and flip. Cook on the opposite sides for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point. Serve the pancakes immediately.

Cheese: the final frontier

I don’t think about wanting, or eating meat anymore. Could not care less about milk. Eggs kind of gross me out.

But cheese, that was probably the hardest hurdle for me to overcome when eating a plant-based diet. Usually, I just need to think of the baby calves who are not getting their mother’s milk, in order to stay strong. But I can’t deny that I used to love eating cheese.

I’ve given up on buying the standard soy vegan cheeses at the grocery store, most of them taste like plastic or wood a little. It’s just strange. Although recently the high-end nut-based ones are pretty delicious, but not cheap! Michikyo’s cheese and Vtopian cheese in particular as a semi hard French-style. Heidi Ho makes some yummy cheeses too.

I can skip cheese on most things like tacos, and I can make a decent mac n’ cheese or cauliflower alfredo myself.

The one dish that really benefits the most from cheese is pizza.

I’ve tried pizzas with different bases like butternut, spinach, or pesto, and that works pretty well. But, let’s face it they are just a different kind of delicacy.

In my search for making my own cheese I have two recipes by the same author. They are similar and have almost a velveeta quality (which I secretly love). Works perfectly on pizza or with nachos. I think it is best fresh and warm since it can gel up a bit as it cools.

nachocheese_4194  cheeseonburrito_4195

Serves: 3
Ingredients
  • ¼ Cup Raw Cashews
  • 1 Cup Hot Water
  • 3 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch (also known as Tapioca Flour)
  • 3 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1½ teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Onion Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1½ teaspoon White Miso Paste (or other light miso such as chickpea miso)
  • 1 teaspoon Maple Syrup or Agave
Instructions
  1. Soak the cashews for four hours or overnight. Or if you are impatient like me, just boil them for 10 minutes until soft. Drain before using.
  2. Add the cashews the hot water, and all the remaining ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth. It will be very watery.
  3. Pour into a small sauce pan and heat over medium high heat, while stirring. If you don’t have a high powered blender, you may want to pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth into the pot, to remove any cashew bits that didn’t grind up. This will ensure a smooth cheese texture.
  4. As you stir it will start forming clumps, and then all of a sudden it will become a cheesy gooey mass of yumminess. This takes about 5 minutes. Continue to cook and stir for an additional 2 minutes to make sure it has firmed up completely.
  5. Use for anything you like! Make a big plate of nachos, load up a baked potato, make a grilled cheese sandwich, a vegan cheese burger, stir into pasta for a quick mac and cheese, or whatever your heart desires. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Best of all, these are easy to make, they take 5 minutes and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. And they are healthier than cheese.

mozzarella_4205

Melty Stretchy Gooey Vegan Mozarella

Author: It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 Inspired by Vedged Out.
Ingredients
  • ¼ Cup Raw Cashews
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 3 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons Tapioca Starch (also known as Tapioca Flour). I have used corn starch but tapioca is better.
  • 1 Tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
Directions
  1. First boil or soak the cashews. To Soak the Cashews: cover with water and soak for 4 hours or overnight. To Boil the Cashews: Cover with water and bring to a boil for 10 to 15 minutes until tender.
  2. Drain the cashews and add them along with the water, and all the remaining ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth. It will be very watery.
  3. Pour into a small sauce pan and heat over medium high heat, while stirring. If you don’t have a high powered blender, you may want to pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth into the pot, to remove any cashew bits that didn’t grind up. This will ensure a smooth cheese texture. As you stir it will start forming clumps, and then all of a sudden it will become a cheesy gooey mass of yumminess. This takes about 5 minutes. Continue to cook and stir for an additional 2 minutes to make sure it has firmed up completely. Use for anything you like! Scoop up with tortilla chips, dollop onto pizza before baking, make a grilled cheese sandwich, or whatever your hearts desire. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Notes
*If you want to return the cold mozzarella back to dipping consistency, reheat over medium heat while stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Once it is hot and bubbling it might have thickened up too much. You can thin it out by adding a tablespoon of water at a time, stirring it in until desired consistency is reached.

Take a look at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken‘s delightful website for more inspiration and reasons to kick the dairy. Please let me know if you try one of her other 16 recipes!


The tools to make veg cooking easy

I have two kitchen items that I rely on consistently. I would hesitate to call them gadgets, they are more like my mainstay appliances, especially for all the fruits and vegetables we eat.

vitamix

The first is my Vitamix. At first I thought it seemed silly to spend hundreds of dollars on a blender. But, I use it almost every single day, and sometimes twice a day. I can pulverize nuts into milk or butter, make soups, sauces, ice cream and smoothies so easily and quickly. I bought mine refurbished at a Whole Foods demo for much less than a brand new one. It looks brand new and has a warranty, recipe book, etc. It can be a little intimidating with it’s power- but I find that is a good thing since it keeps other people from using it! The clean up is so easy- just blend some dish soap and water to clean it.

It is awesome, and everyone who has it swears by it. Only downside is also why it is amazing- it is so powerful! I may need a food processor as well for some recipes. It is easy to over-process food in there and start making peanut butter when you just need to grind up nuts, or turn salsa into soup. That may also just be user error, hmmm. I thought I had broken it once when it turned off suddenly, but fortunately, it was the built-in feature that will shut the machine down rather than let it overheat. After it cooled down, it was fine.

The other tool I use the most is a recent purchase: the Instant Pot. I don’t remember how I heard about this. It is an electric pressure cooker that allows me to make beans, rice, lentils, soup, slow cooker recipes, steel cut oats, vegetables in record time. It also seals in their flavors while cooking in a way that makes everything taste better. I’m still earning to use it, but I have been using it almost every day as well. Apparently, you can even make yogurt in the model that I chose. It speeds cooking time by 2-10 times, and reduces energy use by 70%. I chose the DUO60, 7 in 1, 6 Qt model. I think if you don’t need the yogurt function and make smaller quantities, you could get a less expensive one.

instantpot

It wasn’t cheap- but much less than the blender- around $100. I am really enjoying it, and how much easier it makes cooking. My mother-in-law gave us a stove top pressure cooker years ago but I never used it. I was afraid of the metal thing that was shaking, and stuff whistling, all the different movable parts, and fear of a giant explosion (which does happen). The electric one has safeguards in place to ensure that you can’t remove the lid while it is under pressure. There is an Instant Pot Vegan Facebook page with recipes, and a lot of Indian cooking uses this method (my favorite).

I’ll probably start posting some recipes from my Instant Pot. Basically, the only drawback I have seen so far is that you have to learn how long things take (always refer to a book). Since you can’t just peek in while it is cooking, you can under cook or overcook vegetables. It has the sauté feature at the beginning, which allows you just to cook onions or something with the lid off first. One of the best features is that it is very easy to clean- just one stainless steel pot.

I hope to get some vegan pressure cookbooks to try next month and will update this post with my favorites. My mom is the Queen of Kitchen Gadgets. Many have been very helpful, like the Vidalia Chop Wizard. She has a pasta maker, mandolin, juicer, everything… Her latest recommendation is the spiralizer to make raw noodles, curly fries, etc.

I will find out what brand, but it is a way to make eating vegetables very attractive.

spiralizer

What is your favorite gadget/tool that makes your life easier?

 

 


Make it Earth Day, every day!

kids-future-quote

I celebrate Earth Day every day in some way, and it feels great. The more people join forces together, will make it even easier. From saving water to battling climate change, making your diet “greener” is something everyone can do! Click on the graphic below to learn 7 ways your food choices can help the planet for people and animals.

EarthDay-01


Potato Deviled Eggs

EGGS3-IMG_4427
I tried to take a good photo… oh well!
Mom's turned out nicely, even without turmeric.
Mom’s turned out nicely, even without turmeric.

Devilish Potatoes

There are many variations, this was nspired by Post Punk Kitchen
Makes 20 servings
  • 1 1/2 pounds small thin-skinned potatoes, like yukon gold (about 10)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cashews or almonds, soaked in boiling water for half an hour. If using almonds, remove skins.
  • 3/4 cup water (or veg broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kala namak Indian black salt (or 3/4 teaspoon regular salt)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

For garnish:

  • Sweet paprika

1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Slice potatoes in half the long way and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Rub potatoes to coat, and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

3. In the meantime, drain the nuts and place them in the blender with water, turmeric, salt, lemon juice and pepper. Blend until completely smooth, scraping the sides of the food processor with a spatula occasionally to make sure you get everything. This could take 1 to 5 minutes depending on the strength of your blender.

4. When potatoes are tender, remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, but still hot, scoop the centers out with a melon baller or rounded teaspoon, leaving about 1/4-inch lining of potato inside.

5. Place the scooped out potato into a mixing bowl and mash until smooth. It’s important that they’re still warm so that they mash well. Add the “yolk” cream mixture, and continue to mash until well incorporated. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that the mixture stiffens up.

6. Once cool, scoop back into potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika.

The special salt, and the paprika garnish really added to this. Everyone really liked it, and it was much more delicious than my photo represents! Would be fun to bring to a party, or serve as an appetizer. We ate them as a side course.


Newest cookie recipe: omni-approved!

We have a new winner for cookies! Although I still love my Lunchbox cookies, I don’t have almond butter on hand usually, and the recipe only makes a very small amount. Also, my daughter can’t take anything with nuts to her school. In my ongoing quest for cookie recipes, there were two miserable fails on other recipes I tried. Think I am kidding?  Making it to the blog requires that it works for non-technical, bumbling cooks like myself!

This is NOT from a picture of the new recipe
This is NOT from a picture of the new recipe, will not be posting this recipe!

This recipe can make 3 1/2 dozen, and is more of a basic cookie recipe. I used this recipe as the base and made a few changes.

Everyone liked them a lot, and even though they made more cookies, they still didn’t last 24 hours!

More Tasty Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 6 tablespoons vanilla soy milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T ground flax seeds in 1/4 cup warm water (OR 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour (OR all-purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips 
  • (1/2 cup walnuts optional)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the first six ingredients until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to sugar mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto un-greased cookie sheets Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.

Eggless Quiche with kala namak

salt

I have been searching for a specific Indian black salt called kala namak for awhile. Not so hard that I would actually drive to Beaverton, or even NW Portland, but I do look in all the spice areas of stores. I’ve been looking for so long, I forgot which recipe I needed it for! Finally, a spice store from the coast opened a brand new location in our neighborhood and they had it in stock.

It is a very interesting salt with it’s sulfuric smell and taste.

I decided to start my experiments with this quiche from the One Green Planet’s list, simply because I had all the ingredients.

This was very healthy, although I ate way too much of it. No crust makes this gluten free too. After all this, I almost forgot to use my special new salt instead of regular when making this recipe!

quiche

Easy Spinach and Pepper Quiche [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp salt (black salt if you have it!)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease a shallow 9″ pie dish and set aside.
  3. Combine all ingredients, except spinach and pepper, in a Vitamix or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy, stopping to break up chunks and scrape the sides as necessary.
  4. In a bowl, mix chopped spinach and pepper.
  5. Add the batter and mix well.
  6. Transfer batter to pie dish.
  7. Using a spatula, spread the mixture around so it’s even and tight.
  8. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden and the center is not still mushy.
  9. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before slicing (luke warm or room temperature is best for slicing).

 


Girls’ veg weekend at the coast!

I’m finally writing about a reunion last month with my two best friends from University. I have known these women since we were about 19 years old (more or less), and well- we’re gaining on our 3rd decade of friendship. But we all look exactly the same (at least that is what we think). I am now older than my PARENTS were when I graduated from college, that is so bizarre. I feel lucky to have these forever friends, and even if we all live in different states, our states are adjoining ones. Since moving to Portland in 1999, there aren’t a lot of people in my daily life who knew me before I was married with kids, and all my “old” friends have a special place in my heart.

We’ve made it a point to get together at least once a year. Sometimes with families, sometimes just us. I found photos of the three of us in shoulder pads, stone-washed denim and big permed hair from the late 80s, and photos of all of us at each others weddings. Through marriage, kids, deaths, job changes, and other life changes, I know we all support each other. We had a lot of laughs trying to take a decent selfie for this trip, we just don’t practice enough I guess!

friends
Yep, seriously, this was one of our better attempts.

For this February weekend, we took over my parent’s home on the Oregon coast. And they were kind enough to leave town so that we could have it all to ourselves to talk freely (and without my mom seeing how many wine bottles we went through). Since my two friends both had some travel costs, I offered to plan and pay for the food and of course be the driver.

My friends are not vegan, and when we were planning the trip, they were really kind about saying I could make whatever I wanted.

I challenged myself to come up with food that they would hopefully enjoy, always trying to present an easy and delicious view of vegan food using whole foods. Making things that are supposed to emulate meat doesn’t really measure up to those who eat meat regularly (I’ve found). They are more satisfying for those of us who haven’t had the real thing for awhile!

My menu plan for the weekend was…

General Tso’s Cauliflower  A Chinese dish using breaded cauliflower that is baked. So good! I have written about this before.

Indian Vegetarian Korma Substituted coconut milk for the heavy cream to make it vegan. I also made some chickpea cutlets for the first time from Veganomicon, but those weren’t my favorite. However, people love those, and so I might try again and see if there was something that went awry. My friends said they liked them, but they are kind people, so what else would they say?

Korma

Vegetable Thai Red Curry I make this at least once a month, everyone loves it.

ThaiCurry

I ended up talking to them more about my vegan ideas and philosophy than I usually do. Later, I thought about that. I try to be careful with all my friends not to cause any alarm… or maybe to appear “normal enough” so they will continue to invite me over for dinner. (-; With these friends, I am not worried that they will abandon me, even if they don’t agree with me. Because it has become a very important part of my life, it was nice to be able to share that side.

We ended up eating out only a few times over those three days. On the way to the coast, we ate at Laughing Planet. Lazy Susan at the coast, where I was personally disappointed about the lack of even a non-dairy creamer for the coffee. It is charming, but not vegan-friendly… but the other options were Pig n’ Pancake or Scoop n’ Grill which definitely weren’t better. Sweet Basil’s Cafe is the most vegan-friendly option in Cannon Beach, but they open at lunch. For dinner back in Portland, we went to Pizzeria Otto, and tried their vegan pizza- cashew “ricotta”, lemon and pumpkin seed pesto. It was really good!

Pizza

We had a pretty rainy weekend, but honestly, it didn’t matter that much. What a gift to be able to catch up on all the new developments in each others’ lives, talk about anything and everything, and reminisce. We may not talk often, but when we see each other it is like no time has passed.

I love you girls! Thank you for your friendship as we change through the years, but always remain the same at heart.

P.S. How did we forget to discuss TIM?

 


Happy Leap Year and my 4th Veganniversary!

Photograph by Bianca Lavies
Photograph by Bianca Lavies

We’re updating the blog, and as I reorganized some old posts, I realized that I missed celebrating my Veganniversary. February 1, 2012 I started this journey and have consistently stayed true to this commitment. And yes, I still count myself as vegan even if I slipped up sometimes.

I really didn’t know if I would relapse, but at this point, I feel even more strongly about the movement than before. It has made a huge impact in my life, and changed how I view the world. I’m now advocating every day for the animals, the earth and my kid’s future. Not to mention, our health. In the past 4 years I have read so much, and learned even more than when I started. I now have experience in cooking plant-based meals and there are more products even then when I started.

Besides trying a new vegan restaurant to celebrate, I have a new goal to start for March. While we feel positive about veganism from a standpoint of animals, environment and health, I think our family can make improvements to our meals and cut back on processed foods and oil. If you are just beginning, meatless chicken patties and prepackaged meals can help make the transition easier. Since I have had time to fall back on that, I want to delve deeper into making our meals to include even more whole foods and less sugar.

Mostly, I just get lazy sometimes and don’t feel like planning ahead. However, I want to help some people in my community who also struggle with meal planning, so I am going to put in the effort and make healthier meals that everyone will eat. I’m pretty sure that this is one of the major stumbling blocks for a lot of people. Once you remove cheese- how do you make quesadillas, grilled cheese, and other easy items? I’m not a fan of soy-based cheeses, so this means being more creative so the recipe doesn’t NEED the cheese. I love this easy, delicious cauliflower alfredo dish for example:

Cauliflower Alfredo

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • Fettuccine pasta of choice
Directions:
  1. Put cauliflower in a large pot and cover with water or steam it until fork tender, around 5-7 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the minced garlic in oil over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.
  3. In a high speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sauteed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until really smooth sauce, let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.
  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the empty pot and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste.
  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Add in sautéed peas, spinach, or broccoli if you like.

 

or using butternut squash on pizza.

I finally joined Instagram @eat4thefuture, and will be posting my illustrations over there as well. And I have made commenting easier, so if you have any suggestions, or resources… let me know!

Thanks for the comments, I love hearing from you.

I really want to insert a corny leap joke here!