Friday, May 27, 2011

Vegan Pizza with Homemade Cashew Cheese

This pizza's crust was made with my quinoa bread recipe (see Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day), chunky tomato sauce, shredded cashew cheese, and some sun dried tomatoes. It was the day before shopping and I did not have any fresh vegetables. This pizza was still delicious. Add the cheese during the last 5 minutes or so of baking the pizza.

I'm such a pizza hound. Can't get enough. However, just try and get a decent vegan pizza at a restaurant – you can't. That's why it's so empowering to cook. I have my crust down. I'm happy with my basic tomato sauce. Toppings are not problem. It's the cheese thing. You need something to hold it together. If you like the fake cheeses on the market, that's great. But the one I really liked I discovered that it had casein in the ingredients. Casein is a milk ingredient. People rave wildly about Daiya cheese but really, I just don't care for it. So I've gone back to basics and I'm am going through cookbooks and blogs trying out vegan cheese recipes. I made one a couple of weeks ago that was very promising and I shredded it on my pizza. It was GOOD! I made a quesadilla with it, and it was GOOD! There was nothing fake or weird tasting about it. Didn't taste like nuts either. Now it doesn't melt but it does get soft when heated. So here is the cashew cheese recipe. Expect more cheese recipes in the future. But this one turned out quite nicely.

Cashew Cheese

1/2 oz agar flakes
1-1/2 C water
1 C raw cashews, finely ground
1-1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB sesame oil
2 TB nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Spray a couple of ramekins with oil and set aside.

Place the agar flakes in the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Watch to make sure it doesn't boil over.

Mix in processor bowl the cashew powder, lemon juice, oil, nutritional yeast and spices and process until smooth. It's going to be thick.

Scoop this mixture into the pan with water-agar and stir until creamy and smooth. Take off of heat and pour into ramekins, smoothing over top. Let cool, then cover and chill.

Yield: 2 small round disks of cheese suitable for cheese and cracker, pizza, whatever!

Here is the cheese, sliced. It grates very nicely, too. I pulsed some chopped jalapenos in the food processor just before adding to the water-agar mixture.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alfalfa Sprouts and Food Recalls

I have a real problem with food recalls. Happens all the time and I get ever so worked up when it's vegetables and what I consider to be healthy food! Do you remember when the cookie dough was recalled? My first reaction was it was the fault of the eggs. Well no, it wasn't! It was the flour! If you think you are safe because you don't eat meat or dairy, guess again. You can only do so much – stay informed*, buy organic, grow and cook what you can, and hope for the best. Since it seems alfalfa sprouts have had more than one recall and the "solution" is to boil the damn things, I've been growing my own. If you buy organic sprouting seeds and keep it clean, you should be okay. I start a batch of sprouts every week and they take 5 days. After each cycle, I run the sprouting trays through the top rack in the dishwasher and that way everything stays clean and sanitary.

My favorite sprouting trays are plastic and they can go up to 3 levels. I usually use only one tray. You can get them from Amazon for $24.50 Sprout Garden 3 Tray Family Sprouting Kit - Includes: Sprouter, Drainboard, Covers, 3 Sprouting Trays, 2 Oz of Certified Organic Alfalfa Seed, Instructions. Grow Healthy Fresh Sprouts in Your Own Kitchen!

Ingredients for 1 pint of sprouts
1 heaping TB organic Alfalfa sprouting seeds or organic sprouting seed mix (my favorite is 3 seed mix)

Put seeds in sprouting container and soak overnight. Drain the next morning. Rinse every morning and every evening. I do this when I get up and when I get home from work. It's automatic, I just DO it. That way the sprouts are happy and everything stays nice and sweet! If you live in a warm climate you probably ought to rinse them at noon too! But here in Alaska in my 63-67 degree kitchen, twice a day is just dandy. On the fifth day, rinse in the morning, drain and place in the sunshine. At the end of the day, I lift them from their little tops in clumps and place in a salad spinner, rinse under water to get rid of the seed hulls and then spin, baby, spin. I have a nice little plastic container with a bottom rack that I keep them in, in the fridge where they stay perfectly fresh without additional rinsing.

*Stay Informed! On April 15th, I went to
(you really need to put this in your bookmark tools) and the first two recalled items were: RAW Organic Food Bar and Archer Farms ground turmeric. For crying out loud, recalls on a raw health bar, and a spice?! Oh, oh, and on April 5th, "Fresh Express Announces Precautionary Recall of a Limited Number of Cases of 9 oz. Bag Spinach Due to Possible Health Risk from Salmonella." It makes me INSANE! The moral of the story is, stay on top of food recalls (and please, if you have a pet watch their backs too!) and grow and prepare as much food at home that you can.

One final thought, some of the recalls for the month of April 2011 (and this was only through the 22nd): 8 different dates for grape tomatoes (may be contaminated with Salmonella); Goodness Garden Chives (possible listeria contamination); and Mountain Pure Drinking WATER (mold contamination). If you eat grape tomatoes, PLEASE check the website to be sure your favorite brand is safe to eat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Strawberry Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Ice cream – I always feel better about eating the stuff if I'm the one making it. It's that old control issue, you make it, you know what's going in to the ingredients. I bought a 2-pint package of organic strawberries at the grocery store last week, and after a smoothie there was still half a package left and I needed to use them before they went bad. This recipe really does require a VitaMix blender. If you have a powerful blender you could probably use it and this would be just as delicious. It's just that the VitaMix really mixes it all up smooth. Even the strawberry seeds were totally mixed in.

This recipe is slightly tart, but oh so creamy. It does get hard after it's been frozen but 10-15 seconds in the nuker will take care of that – or you can leave it on the counter for 10-20 minutes. I really liked the consistency of this ice cream. Makes about 1/2 quart, feel free to double it.

12 ounces fresh organic strawberries, cleaned and hulled
3/4 cups raw cashew pieces
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put in your VitaMix and blend until nice and smooth. It should be on the thick side. Scoop or pour into a container and let set for 2-24 hours before processing in your ice cream maker.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tarragon Mustard Spice Dressing

Dressing on the left; chickpea broth on the right.

This recipe comes from another blog, Melomeals: $3.33 A Day, that I quite enjoy. The author/cook dispels the fallacy that vegan meals are expensive and she spends $3.33 a day on food (that's about $100 a month). She's quite clever and this recipe uses an ingredient that you would probably pour down the drain – the cooking broth from garbanzo beans. Since I cook a batch of garbanzo beans every week for my lunch-time hummus, it only takes another 5 minutes to make this dressing.

It's very tasty and uses ingredients normally on hand: the chickpea cooking liquid, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, garlic clove (now I cheat here and just use powdered garlic), salt, nutritional yeast, tarragon, coriander, nutmeg, pepper and olive oil. It really does mix up fast and then you have home-made dressing. I double the batch so it lasts several days. The only other remark I have about this dressing, is that it may be thinner than you're used to seeing, especially if you buy dressing from the store. But then those dressings have lots of other ingredients that you may not want to consume!

Here is the link.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bran Muffins

Sometimes you want a muffin. Nothing fancy, just a plain, healthy muffin. I was perusing one of my cookbooks, Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish and the Raisin-Bran Muffins called out to me. Dr. Ornish promotes a low fat, vegetarian diet. It was easy to veganize. I added some vanilla extract and omitted the raisins. If you like raisins in your muffins, you can add 1/2 cup. These were moist and tasty. I will be making them again.

2 TB ground flax seed
3 TB filtered water
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup or 6 oz. container of plain soy yougurt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 TB molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with papers. Mix ground flax seed and water together and let sit while you prepare rest of recipe.

In medium bowl add all the dry ingredients and mix together. In another bowl add wet ingredients and whisk together until well blended. Add flax mixture and blend. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix until just blended. Do not over mix.

Scoop into paper cups with ice cream scoop. Bake 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and tops are lightly browned.

Makes 9-12 muffins depending on how much you scoop into the muffin tin!