Not Yo’ Cheez

Hubby was craving nachos, and asked if I could make a nacho cheese he could eat (i.e., lactose-free).  I found this recipe, and really had to twist his arm to get him to try it, because he really wanted “real cheese,” but I explained that wasn’t really possible with his dietary restrictions and the flavor that one is aiming for in nacho cheese, so he grudgingly okayed this idea, and after tasting it, is a total convert.  I found this recipe by googling vegan nacho cheese (it’s from hotforfoodblog.com), and I have to say, it’s pretty awesome, though it seems like it wouldn’t work at all.  It reminds me, in fact, a lot of the nacho cheese at Spiral Diner, my favorite vegan restaurant ever, in the heart of Cow Town (Fort Worth, Texas).  This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, minus animal products, minus troublesome fiber, minus gluten.

Vegan Nacho Cheese

1 cup peeled, cubed white potato (I used Russet, in fact, only about 3/4 of the potato pictured, cut into dice-sized pieces)

1/2 cup peeled, cubed carrot (I only used 3 of the carrots pictured, and “cubing” a skinny carrot is sort of silly–I just chopped horizontal chunks)

1/4 cup vegetable oil (the original calls for sunflower, I think the idea is a neutral-flavored oil)

1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk (the original calls for non-dairy milk or water)

2 tsp lemon juice

6 pickled jalapeno slices (I used small ones so it wouldn’t be too hot)

3 Tbsp jalapeno pickling liquid

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch (the original calls for arrowroot starch, but I had cornstarch)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp sea salt

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Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add the potatoes and carrots and boil for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Meanwhile, put all the other ingredients in your Vitamix (or probably a regular blender or food processor would work, but a Vitamix is great for this).  Add the drained veggies, and blend until it’s smooth.  Done.

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Looks like nacho cheese, doesn’t it?!  It’s a little on the sweet side, but really quite passable for nacho cheese.  Hubby was in seventh heaven.  I would say it beats the nacho cheese you usually get at movies, baseball games, etc.  And it’s so much healthier!  Mine made about 1 cup, though the original recipe claims it makes 1 1/2 cups.  At 1 cup, it’s 1 smartpoint per tablespoon, which is nice.  And this is what it looks like on nachos–totally authentic looking:

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Neither Macaroni Nor Cheese

I think while I was still in college I got my mother’s macaroni and cheese recipe, which I believe she adapted from the back of a Mueller’s elbow noodles box.  Over the years, I have tweaked it and tried a number of variations based on ingredients on hand, inspirations, and dietary restrictions.  I promised hubby I would make macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight, and tonight’s version turns out to technically be neither macaroni (because I used rotini) nor cheese (because I used Daiya), but it’s still pretty good (he hasn’t come home yet to give a thumbs up or thumbs down, but I liked it, though it’s not as good as when I use real cheese).  This recipe is minus lactose, minus meat, minus high smartpoints, and minus troublesome fiber (the artichokes seem to be OK for hubby).

Mac & Cheese That Isn’t

12 oz rotini

1 bag (12 oz) Quorn Chik’n Tenders

2 cans (each 8.5 oz drained weight) quartered artichoke hearts, chopped

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp dried mustard

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

3/8 tsp pepper

3 Tbsp I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter light

3 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soymilk

4 oz Daiya cheddar (I used slices, so cut I cut them into strips to mimic shreds)

4 oz Daiya mozzarella (I used shreds)

4 oz Daiya jalapeno havarti (I used a block, so I shredded it)

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Cook the rotini according to the package directions, drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. Spread the Quorn out in the casserole dish. Spread the artichokes out among the Quorn. In a medium pot, put the cornstarch, salt, dried mustard, nutritional yeast, pepper, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and soymilk. Put the pot on the stove on medium-high heat, and stir constantly. When the mixture comes to a boil, let it boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and making sure it doesn’t boil over. Turn the stove down to low, and add the Daiya, a little at a time, stirring after each addition until it is melted and incorporated into the mixture. Once all the Daiya is melted, add the rotini, and mix well. Scoop/pour the rotini mixture evenly over the Quorn and artichoke mixture. Put the casserole in the oven, and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

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I calculated the smartpoints at 98 for the whole recipe, so I ate 1/12 of the recipe (a decent, but not huge portion), for 8 smartpoints.

Toast Shmoast

For a while now, I’ve been seeing recipes for avocado toast.  It’s apparently all the rage.  And from what I can tell, it’s basically a piece of toast with mushed-up avocado and some other stuff on it.  Well, I had an avocado, and a desire to experiment, so toast shmoast, let’s squish some avocado on tortillas!  This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus troublesome fiber, and minus gluten.  Using the particular ingredients I did, it was 11 smartpoints, so not so minus on the high points.

Avocado Tortillas

2 small corn tortillas

3/4 small avocado (I had to cut out a bunch of bad spots, so I ended up with less than a whole avocado)

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

pepper and shallot salt to taste

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Mush up the avocado in a bowl.  Add the nutritional yeast, shallot salt, and pepper, and mix/mush it all together well.  Spread on the tortillas, and enjoy.  I think this would also work well as a dip for corn chips.

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Pump Up the Banana

One of my favorite baking recipe sites is Chocolate Covered Katie.  So when I saw she had a new recipe for a pumpkin-banana bread, I had to try it (especially since I’m married to someone who is obsessed with banana bread and quite fond of pumpkin bread at this time of year).  The results made me realize that Katie and I don’t have entirely the same taste in sweet breads, but I think with some tweaks, it could improve.  First of all, it doesn’t really have much pumpkin flavor.  I think it should maybe be half pumpkin, half banana, rather than 3/4 banana.  Hubby said it basically tasted like banana bread.  Also, neither of us liked the chocolate chips, which shocked the heck out of me.  I love chocolate.  But it doesn’t belong in this recipe (and removing the chips saved 1 sp per slice).  Also, Katie mentions how she likes her bread a bit undercooked, and likes eating the raw dough.  I enjoy licking the spoon, but I want my bread done, so I think it needs to bake longer.  This recipe is minus animal products, minus troublesome fiber, minus lactose, and minus high smartpoints.  If you want the original recipe, you can find it here.

Banana Bread with a Hint of Pumpkin

2 cups flour (Katie prefers oat flour, I used AP, use what you like)

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon (I think this could be upped to help enhance the pumpkin)

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I think this could be upped to help enhance the pumpkin)

1 packet splenda (Katie says to use 1/16 tsp uncut stevia or 2 Tbsp sweetener of choice, I decided to just go with the splenda packet, since it seemed like it would be enough, and I had it on hand)

2 cups total pumpkin puree and mashed, overripe banana (Katie calls for 1 1/2 cups banana and 1/2 cup pumpkin, but I think it should be more like 1 cup and 1 cup)

1/2 cup agave nectar (Katie says or honey or maple syrup, but hubby chose agave; now that I’ve looked them all up, I’d say maple syrup is the best bet points-wise–24, vs. 29 for agave or 32 for honey)

1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (Katie says use your milk of choice, or use oil, but why would you use oil?)

2 tsp vanilla extract

optional (leave them off!): 1/2 cup chocolate chips

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Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.  Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and splenda in a big bowl and mix them with a whisk (best way to incorporate dry ingredients).  In another bowl, put all the rest of the ingredients (except the chocolate chips), and mix well with a whisk.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until its incorporated.  Pour it all into the prepared pan, smooth it out, and if you must have the chocolate chips, sprinkle them over the top, and press them in lightly.

Katie is actually not very clear on what to do with the chocolate chips–she mentions combining all the dry ingredients in one bowl and all the wet in another, but usually in these situations, things like chocolate chips get added in last.  Then she says you can press “extra” chocolate chips into the top before putting the pan in the oven.  So I took that to mean that’s what I should do with all the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips I had.  Now I know I just shouldn’t have included them.

Put the pan in the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes (Katie says 30, but she likes things raw in the middle–I did 30 and wish I’d let it go longer).  Don’t open the oven door, but turn off the oven and let the bread hang out for another 10 minutes (maybe more?), then take it out.  Once again, Katie is sketchy here.  She then says to let it cool completely, but doesn’t say whether it should be removed from the pan first.  So, I let it cool in the pan for a few minutes, then we had a slice each (since I realized that with chocolate chips over the top, I would have a mess flipping this out of the pan onto a cooling rack).

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So-so.  Once it was cool, I used 2 forks like tongs to lift it up and out of the pan (surprisingly, that worked).  Store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.  And take off the chocolate chips, so yours starts looking like a moon scene, too:

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At 12 slices, it’s 5 sp per slice without the chocolate chips, or 6 sp per slice with the chocolate chips (the chocolate chips are worth 20 sp total; the whole recipe is either 55 or 75 sp using agave and splenda–you’ll have to adjust for your sweetener choices)

Stewing in My Own Juices

I’ve been sick for over a week now–viral bronchitis, apparently.  I spent a few days unable to taste anything and many days without enough energy to do anything more than heat up something frozen to eat.  But today I actually had enough energy to make dinner, so I made a vegan stew that is called African Peanut Stew in the original recipe (it’s from Relay Foods).  I’m not really an expert on African cuisine, so I don’t know if it’s anything close to authentic, but it turned out delicious, so I’m using my last little bit of energy today to share it with you.  This recipe is minus animal products, minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, and minus gluten.

Vegan Stew with Peanuts, Sweet Potato, and Collard Greens

2 Tbsp olive oil (could you do this with less oil? Maybe, but the oil helps with the sauteeing, carries flavor, and isn’t that major of a contributor to the final points tally)

1 large onion, chopped (the original doesn’t specify the size of onion, and says finely chopped, but I was too lazy to chop finely)

3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (the original says minced; I used 2 large cloves and one small clove, because that’s what I had)

chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (the original says 1″ piece, but I always have a hard time with those measurements, because do you count all the knobs?  Mine ended up being 2 Tbsp once I minced it)

28 1/2 oz fresh sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (the original says 2 sweet potatoes, which is what I used, but I weighed them out after peeling just so I’d know what I’d actually used)

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper (the original calls for crushed red pepper, but I like Aleppo better)

1 can (28 oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes (the original doesn’t specify fire roasted)

2 cups water

2 tsp vegetable bouillon goo (the original calls for 2 cups vegetable broth)

3 cups packed raw collard greens, ribs removed, chopped (the original doesn’t specify packed or ribs removed, but you don’t want to eat a collard rib)

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used creamy)

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

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Use a big pot.  Put in the olive oil and heat it over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent (like the original recipe suggested), or for 5 minutes (like I did).  Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (and the original recipe says also brown, but I just went for fragrant/4 minutes).  Add the sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened (like the original recipe suggested) or 8 minutes (like I did).  Add the spices, and stir them in thoroughly, and cook for 2 minutes, during which time, the spices will stick to the bottom of the pan, but that’s all part of the plan.  Add about 1/3 of the tomatoes and use them to deglaze the pan (get the spices unstuck from the bottom).  When that seems to be working, add the rest of the tomatoes, the water, and the bouillon goo, and stir it all together.  Turn up the heat (the original doesn’t say this, but I wasn’t going to wait for a boil on medium heat) and bring it to a boil.  Add the collards, and mix them in well.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and collards are done to your liking (like the original recipe suggested) or 20 minutes (like I did).  Stir in the peanut butter thoroughly.  Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.  The original recipe says to garnish with the cilantro and peanuts, which is what I did before taking the picture below, but then I mixed them in, since I’m not serving for company.  The original recipe says this makes 4 servings, but I measured it out, and it’s 10 generous cups, so those would be some big servings.  Each cup is 6 smartpoints.  I had 2 cups for dinner, and I was stuffed (after having been quite hungry).  I’ll be eating it in one-cup servings in the future, probably with a side of something like rice or cornbread.  This is great food for being sick, because the spices are warming, and there’s all sorts of healthy veggies in it.

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Christmas (in September) Couscous

We were invited for dinner, and when we asked what we could bring, we were told, “a side dish.”  I wanted something good, but healthy and easy, so I decided to page through my Weight Watchers The Little Big Book of Fruits & Veggies cookbook.  And I found a recipe for flank steak with pomegranate couscous.  Luckily for me, that’s literally what it is, a recipe for flank steak and a recipe for pomegranate couscous, they just put them on the same page and suggest serving them together.  I’m calling it Christmas Couscous because it looks like Christmas, with the red berries (really pomegranate arils) and green leaves of the cilantro, and it has a Christmasy vibe–don’t you think of pomegranates as a Christmas-related fruit?  And oranges, too?  Anyway, here it is, minus the flank steak.  In addition to being minus flank steak, this recipe is minus lactose, minus high smartpoints, minus troublesome fiber, and could very easily be made minus animal products if you used vegetable broth.  But I served it to omnivores, and a little chicken broth doesn’t irk me, so I didn’t make it vegan.  I also doubled the recipe, so that’s what’s reflected below.  It makes a LOT, and the doubled version is supposed to serve 8, at 1 1/4 cups each serving.  But really, as a side dish when there are multiple other things being served, it can stretch a lot farther.

Christmas Couscous

2 cups water

2 tsp Better than Bouillon chicken (the original calls for 2 cups chicken broth in place of the water + bouillon; you could also use vegetable broth/bouillon here and you’d be fine)

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups couscous (the original calls for whole wheat couscous, but the grocery store only had regular)

1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (the original doesn’t say whether or not to peel and seed, but for hubby’s sake, I decided to do this)

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 cups pomegranate seeds/arils (this was about 2 1/3 small pomegranates worth)

1/3 tsp Penzey’s orange peel (the original calls for 1 tsp finely grated orange zest)

1/4 cup orange juice

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Get everything prepped (wash and cut the cilantro, pull the pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranates, chop up the cucumber, and put the orange peel in the orange juice to rehydrate a bit).  Put the Better than Bouillon, salt, and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Stir in the couscous, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff the couscous with a fork (I put it in a bowl first, so I wouldn’t scratch my non-stick pot), then mix everything else in.  This recipe is 4 smartpoints per serving, and was well-liked by me and my dining companions, some of whom even requested leftovers for lunch.

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Not So Upsetting

Not long ago I read a review of A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches by Tyler Kord, which prompted me to go look it up on Amazon.  The reviews I read there made me buy it.  I bought it more as an interesting read than as a cookbook, but as I read it, I started wanting to try some of the recipes, and tonight I tried my first one (well, technically two), and it was really good!  His veggie burger recipe is quite simple, so I figured I’d start with that, but in order to make it, you have to make roasted broccoli, which is something I do quite regularly, but I decided I’d make it Tyler’s way.

When I make roasted broccoli, I cut up a stalk of broccoli into chunks, peeling the tougher parts of the stalk, and making sure the florets are bite-sized.  I spray a cookie sheet with oil, put the broccoli on it, spray the broccoli, then sprinkle it with whatever strikes my fancy, either salt and pepper (if I’m feeling basic), or garlic powder, or an interesting spice mixture from Penzey’s.  Then I put it in a 400F oven for 10 minutes, open the oven, stir it around a bit, and put it back in for 5-10 minutes longer, depending on how it looked when I stirred it.  Tyler is a bit more precise (but then again, he’s obsessed with broccoli).  This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus gluten, and minus high smartpoints (as written it’s 8 smartpoints for the entire thing).

Super Upsetting Roasted Broccoli

2 heads of broccoli (I actually don’t like this–how big is a head?  I used 2 crowns, and assumed I was making 1/2 recipe, because at the store, a “head” or “stalk” of broccoli is a lot more broccoli–and has a lot more stalk–than a crown)

FullSizeRender 62 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil (I used 1 Tbsp olive oil, since I didn’t have a ton of broccoli)

1 tsp kosher salt (I used 1/2 tsp, but I will use less in the future; my one problem with this recipe is that it’s too salty)

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See, it’s not a lot of broccoli when you cut it up.

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Peel the tough skin of the stalk with a vegetable peeler, and discard, then slice the stalk into 1/4 inch disks, starting at the bottom, and stopping when there are about 2″ of broccoli left, then split the florets, and cut any that are more than 2″ wide at their widest point. Toss the broccoli with the oil and salt in a bowl, then put on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  You want caramelized edges and firm doneness.  It took my broccoli 15 minutes, and it came out looking like this:

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Which, honestly, is pretty much the way my broccoli comes out when I roast it my way.  This was saltier, and maybe a little tastier due to all the oil.  A tablespoon of oil has 4 smartpoints, so you can figure out how many points you’re eating depending on how much of the broccoli you have.

But now we can make the star of the show.  This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus high smartpoints, and minus troublesome fiber (because it’s cooked and ground and cooked again).  But this is seriously glutenful–you gluten avoiders beware!

Super Upsetting Veggie Burgers

2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp water (not pictured)

1 1/2 cups of 1/2-inch chunks of seitan ( I used seitan strips and cut them, I ended up using a full 8 oz. package)

1 cup chopped roasted broccoli (I chopped it to about the same size as the seitan, and ended up using about half of the broccoli I made) (the broccoli isn’t in the picture, because I took it while the broccoli was roasting)

6 Tbsp bread crumbs (he says dried bread crumbs, is there a wet kind I’m not aware of?)

1 tsp kosher salt (once again, this ended up too salty, I think I will cut the salt in half next time)

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In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Put everything (including the cornstarch slurry) in a food processor, and process until it’s all a uniform glop (he says “a strange green oatmeal”).  My advice would be to put the cornstarch slurry in last.  I put it in first, and some of it stuck to the bottom of the food processor, so I had to pry it up and mix it in by hand.  I think poured over the top of the other ingredients before processing would probably ensure it incorporates more easily.  Transfer the glop to a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate it 1/2 hour to 4 days.  I went with slightly more than 1/2 hour (enough time to change my clothes and walk the dog).  When you’re ready for burgers, take the glop out of the fridge and divide it into sixths.  Roll each portion into a ball in your hands, then flatten into a patty.  Spray a large frying pan (I used non-stick, he doesn’t specify, but he also doesn’t spray, he says to use enough vegetable oil to slick the pan), and heat it over medium heat.  When it’s hot, put in the patties, with space between them.  Cook them until the edges start to brown just a little (he says caramelize and suggests 3 minutes, I saw a hint of browning in about 7 minutes, but when I looked at the bottoms, they were nicely browned), then gently flip and cook 2 more minutes.  Each burger is only 3 smartpoints (if you were to use more oil for roasting, your points might go up a bit), and hubby declared them very tasty, but too salty, and I concurred.  We just ate them on potato rolls with ketchup and stuff–you don’t even need to really dress these up with all sorts of accessories to have a good meal.

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