Vegan Jello

As some of you who know me in real life know, I’m home right now, recuperating from major surgery. So I decided to take advantage of my homebodiness and experiment with some stuff. Hubby has been making chia seed pudding with chocolate soy milk, so I hit upon the idea of making chia jello with juice. He encouraged me to google whether it was even possible, which I did, and I found a few recipes, including some that added gelatin to make it more jello-like. I based my experiment on this recipe. What I ended up with is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus troublesome fiber, minus gluten, and minus high smartpoints.

Vegan Grape Chia “Jello”

2 cups grape juice

6 Tbsp chia seeds (the original recipe calls for 8, but I only had 6)

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Put the juice and the chia seeds in a bowl and whisk well. Keep whisking at 2-3 minute intervals for about 20 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for about an hour. Then, take it out and divide it into individual servings, cover those and put those in the refrigerator. I made 9 individual servings, each slightly more than 1/4 cup, and each one ended up being 3 smartpoints (the whole recipe is 27 smartpoints, so you can do your own math depending on the number of servings you create).

I let my individual servings sit in the fridge overnight, and the result is something thicker than juice and thinner than jello, kind of about the consistency of an aloe beverage. They taste very grapey, just like the juice.

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Here, Chicky, Chicky

We were invited to a barbecue today, and the hosts were open to everyone bringing some sort of appetizer or side dish, so I decided it was a great chance to try this unusual recipe that I found in, of all things, the Costco magazine. When I showed the recipe to hubby, his reaction was, “Why would you make something that people won’t like?” But I figured that was because he doesn’t like coconut, and he can’t each chickpeas, so he’s a bit biased. As it turned out, it went over quite well with with the folks at the barbecue, so I feel vindicated, and I wanted to share this unusual recipe with you. The coconut doesn’t end up being a strong flavor in this, and adds texture more than anything. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus high smartpoints, and minus gluten. Due to the the chickpeas, it’s really not recommended for people with fiber issues.

Chickpea Coconut Pesto Salad

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)

3 cups canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans (about 2 American cans), drained and rinsed

2 tsp ground cumin (the original recipe says roasted ground cumin, I have no idea if mine was roasted or not)

1 cup dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut (the original recipe calls for fresh, frozen, or dried flaked coconut, but try finding flaked coconut–I’ve never even seen it fresh or frozen, I think I’ve found it once dried)

2 cups fresh basil leaves (I used ones from my Aerogarden) IMG_3219

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 small, or half large, spicy chile (the original calls for a small serrano chile, but somehow that stayed in my grocery cart, and didn’t make it into my grocery bag, so I had to compensate with the 1/2 fresno chile–I think it was–that I had in the refrigerator)

1 tsp cumin seeds (the original recipe says you can also substitute ground cumin)

salt and pepper to taste

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Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add chickpeas and ground cumin. Saute for about 2 minutes. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until it’s the texture of coarse crumbs. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt/pepper if needed. Combine cooked chickpeas and pesto mixture in a bowl and mix well. Let sit at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Can be served warm, cold, or room temperature. The original recipe says it makes 4 servings, but we got a lot more servings out of it as a side dish. It’s 5 smartpoints for 1/4 cup (57 smartpoints for the whole dish).

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Let Us Eat Cake!

This past weekend, we had a friend over for a late lunch. Hubby made steak for the two of them, and I thought this was a perfect time to try out a recipe that I found fascinating, but that I was worried might turn out really weird. I’ll eat just about anything I make, no matter how bad it is, but hubby can be a bit more picky, so I wanted to make it when he had something else to eat, just in case. Turns out, as odd of a concept as this is, this savory cake is delicious (all three of us loved it). The recipe comes from Rose Eliot’s Vegetarian Cookery, which is a book I’ve had for probably decades. It’s British, so sometimes things take a little bit of interpretation and tweaking, as you’ll see below. The recipe says it serves 4, but the three of us had generous servings, and then there were leftovers for the next day, so I’d say it serves 4-5 as a main meal or more as a side dish. This recipe is minus meat, minus troublesome fiber, and minus lactose.

Savory Olive Mushroom Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour (the original recipe calls for “300g/10 oz self-raising 85% wholewheat flour,” but I don’t even know what 85% wholewheat flour is, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen wholewheat self-rising flour in an American supermarket, and I don’t tend to keep self-rising flour on hand, thus the next 3 ingredients to convert regular flour into self-rising)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt (this is in the original recipe, so I kept it in)

4 eggs

5 fluid oz. (150 ml) white wine (I used chardonnay)

4 Tbsp olive oil

8 oz garlic stuffed green olives, sliced (the original recipe calls for just pitted green olives, sliced, but we had a couple jars of garlic stuffed in the fridge–I think the garlic adds a nice touch)

6 oz mixed mushrooms, sliced (the original recipe doesn’t specify the type of mushroom, I used the pre-sliced mixed mushrooms from the grocery store)

6 slices Trader Joe’s yogurt cheese, cut into thin strips (this comes pre-sliced, and it’s lactose free, but still real cheese, so a great option for hubby; the original recipe calls for 6 oz grated cheese, not specifying the type of cheese)

(the original recipe also calls for butter for greasing the pan, but I used cooking spray, and for chicory [Belgian endive] and watercress for garnish, but my local grocery store had neither of those, so I didn’t garnish, and I don’t think it’s necessary.)

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Ignore all the other stuff behind the ingredients–the house we now live in has very little counter space. Also, the picture was an afterthought–I was just gathering the ingredients to make the dish.

Preheat the oven. The recipe says to do it to 250C/500F, but when I did the conversion from 250C, I got 482F, and my oven has digital controls, so I preheated to 482F. Grease your pan. The recipe calls for a 20 cm/8 inch cake tin or a 900 g/2 lb loaf tin. But once I mixed up all the ingredients, I realized that British cake pans must be deeper than American ones, because there is no way the 8″ cake pan (typical 8″ diameter circle about 1″ deep) would fit all that. Also, Americans don’t tend to measure their loaf pans in pounds, but rather in inches. I ended up using a 9 1/4″ x 5 1/4″ loaf pan, and that worked well. I think also an 8″ brownie pan would work well (I don’t have one at the moment, but I think it would be better than the loaf pan, because you would end up with more crust, and the crust is really awesome).

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and oil and mix until smooth. Stir in the olives, mushrooms, and cheese, and mix until everything is incorporated. Put it in your greased baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Then turn down the oven. The recipe says to turn it down to 190C/375F (that conversion is just about right), and bake for 40-50 minutes. My lovely digital oven, however, does not have a functioning number 3, so I turned it down to 400F, and baked it for 35 minutes (I checked after 30). You’re looking for it to be firm, golden brown, and pulling away from the edges of the pan.

The recipe stops there, telling you to garnish, so I took it upon myself to use my previous cake baking experience, and assume I shouldn’t let it cool in the pan, but rather turn it onto a rack to cool. In order to do this, I had to use a knife to loosen the sides from the edges of the pan in some places, as the cheese was making it stick. It also made it stick a bit on the bottom, so maybe it needs parchment paper.

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You can serve it warm or room temperature, and it stores well wrapped in the refrigerator, and is good cold, as well. The whole cake came to 73 Freestyle smartpoints, so points per piece depend on how many pieces you cut it into. This really is a cake–it has the texture of a cake, rather than a bread, but it’s just totally not sweet.

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The Magic of Leftovers

One of the main reasons I haven’t been posting much lately is that hubby and I are subscribed to Purple Carrot, which is one of those meal kit services. This one does vegan meals (if you want to try it out, you can use my referral link: http://fbuy.me/fr-7u and get $25 off your first order). Sometimes, though, our busy schedule doesn’t allow us to make all the meals, so we’ll store the things we can store and try to eat the produce in a speedier fashion (such as in an omelette, a salad, or a sandwich). A few weeks ago, that happened with a grain bowl recipe, so as my mom and I were rooting around to figure out what to make for dinner, we ran across the little bag of fregola rustica. I had to google it to find out what it is (apparently, it’s a mix of wild rice, quinoa, and a small, toasted pasta). So we used the fregola rustica as the base of our dish, which turned out surprisingly delicious. I would totally make this again, though I would have to find some fregola rustica first. My vision was sort of a patty, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of frying, so I put it all in a casserole dish. The result is something that holds together well. This recipe is minus a lot of lactose, minus meat, minus troublesome fiber, and minus high smartpoints. Mom, hubby, and I all agreed it was delicious and very filling.

Broccoli & Fregola Rustica Patty/Casserole

3/4 cup fregola rustica, uncooked

~ 1 1/2 cups leftover roasted broccoli (we used the extra broccoli that we roasted for super upsetting veggie burgers the night before–this quantity really isn’t critical, use whatever amount of broccoli you want), chopped into smallish pieces

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic, minced (my garlic press was in the dishwasher–pressed would be fine, too)

1 cup egg whites

1 1/2 ounces shredded parmesan

pepper and Maggi seasoning to taste (those aren’t in the original picture because I didn’t think of them until I tasted and decided it needed something else)

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(I know you know what pepper looks like, but I thought some folks out there might be unfamiliar with Maggi seasoning, since it’s mainly used in northern Europe and southeast Asia)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cook the fregola rustica according to package directions (basically, put it in a small pot with 1 1/4 cups water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed, the quinoa has done its tail-bursty thing, and everything is tender). Put the cooked fregola rustica in a bowl, and mix in the broccoli, nutritional yeast, garlic, and pepper and Maggi.  Make sure it’s mixed well. Mix in the egg whites.  They probably won’t mix super well.  Pour into a greased 9″x13″ casserole dish, and flatten out.  Sprinkle with parmesan.  Put in the oven for 30 minutes, until the egg whites are set (everything is firm) and the parmesan is somewhat melted.  1/4 of the dish (a very satisfactory serving) is 5 smartpoints.  Hubby says it’s also really good with the vegetarian bacon mayo on top.

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Fakin’ Bacon Mayo

A while back I posted about super upsetting veggie burgers. The same cookbook includes an intriguing recipe for a vegetarian bacon mayonnaise (which can easily be made vegan if you use Veganaise, but I used Hellman’s Light because I come from a loyal Hellmann’s family). So, I figured, what the heck, I’ll make the upsetting veggie burgers and a condiment to go with them.  The worst thing that can happen is it’s terrible.  Turns out, it’s really good (as attested to by my mother (who is visiting) and I, who don’t eat bacon, and hubby, who does eat bacon)!  And now I’m trying to think of other places to use it (I’m not a big mayo eater, so this is a tough one). The hardest part about this recipe is finding the tea.  I had to go to a specialty tea shop (Teaism), so make sure you can find the tea before you start trying to make this. This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, minus fiber and minus meat (make it minus animal products by using Veganaise and make it minus gluten by using tamari).

Vegetarian Bacon Mayo

2 teaspoons Lapsang Souchong tea leaves (don’t use another tea, just hunt hard for this one)

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (I used Hellmann’s Light, the author uses a homemade mayo)

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground black pepper (use finely ground)

1 garlic clove, pushed through a garlic press (the cookbook says to mince it)

1 tsp grape jelly

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

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Preheat the oven to 250F.  Put the tea leaves on a small baking sheet and put in the oven for 10 minutes until completely dry and crumbly.  Your kitchen will start smelling suspiciously bacony.  Crush the tea leaves into a powder with a mortar and pestle (which I no longer have) or the back of a spoon in a bowl (my method of choice). Put the tea powder and all the other ingredients into a bowl and whisk well.  It may take a while to get it all completely mixed, especially the grape jelly, but get it all mixed.  If you taste it, it won’t taste very bacony at this point.  Cover it and refrigerate it for at least an hour, up to 4 days, and now it tastes bacony!  The smartpoints equal the number of smartpoints for whatever mayo you’re using, so with Hellmann’s Light, it’s one sp per tablespoon.

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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.