I learned many things in college. As is the case with many a college grad, the biggest lessons were learned outside of the classroom (though not to fear, Mom and Dad, your tuition money was well-spent).
I learned that pulling all-nighters will not make you do better on a test or write a better paper. A little sleep, when it’s needed most, can go a long way. I learned how important it was to eat breakfast, and especially to eat breakfast before downing a triple espresso latte to compensate for those aforementioned all-nighters. And finally, in one of the most jarring revelations of my time in college, I learned that not everyone calls the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Paczki day (pronounced POONCH-KEY), nor do they eat Paczkis on this day or even know what a Paczki is. With that revelation, my little metro Detroit bubble had burst, and I realized I was no longer in
Kansas Grosse Pointe anymore.
At first, people thought I was making this weird jelly doughnut holiday up, or that it was a family tradition that I had somehow deluded myself into thinking was a national holiday. It was before the days of the iPhone, so I went home to Google the holiday only to discover that it was, in fact, a holiday confined to the Midwest. And since most of my friends were from the East or West Coasts, I suddenly felt so small in this great big world that had never unitarily celebrated a day with Paczkis.
Now that I look back and know a little bit more about health and the culture of over-consumption in this country, it’s a little funny to me that we even need a holiday to celebrate eating artery-clogging donuts and fatty foods, when these things have have sadly become more like everyday staples than something to indulge in one day a year. Do we really need a special day to honor the foods that are making us a nation with the highest rates of Heart Disease or Type II Diabetes? These days, I’m more concerned about getting the word out about Meatless Mondays than Paczki days; at least no animal or human is harmed by people giving up meat one day a week.
And then there was something else I recently learned. In other parts of the country, people eat pancakes — rather than Paczkis — to celebrate “Fat Tuesday”.
Well, how about we call it Not-So-Fat Tuesday and make pancakes that are a little healthier than what’s being served at the local 24-hour diner. Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-free pancakes that can be eaten on more than just one day of the year…with just a little chocolate thrown in to make them taste and feel as indulgent as you need to be.
A few notes:
- These pancakes are sugar-free, as they are sweetened with stevia. That said, they really do benefit (as most pancakes do) from a drizzle of maple syrup. If you can do maple syrup, I would recommend it (after all, there’s no sugar in the pancakes, so you can have a little leeway there). Otherwise, you may try agave. If you’re on a low-sugar or anti-candida diet, a homemade raspberry sauce might be nice here — you can sweeten the sauce with stevia as well. Another option might be an almond butter sauce or even a chocolate sauce (which would make these triple chocolate pancakes). Play around with it and let me know what works! If you insist on no sauce but like a sweeter pancake, I recommend increasing the stevia by another 5 drops, or to taste.
- Make sure the pan is really, really hot before making the first batch. I heat my cast-iron skillet without any oil for a good 5 minutes before adding a spray of oil and the batter.
- If you don’t have vanilla stevia, you may use plain and add about 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
- I note the brand of the flour and stevia I use because I know that, especially in baking recipes, different brands can yield different tastes and textures. If you do experiment with other brands or types of flour, please leave a comment so others know what worked or didn’t work for you. Thanks!
Gluten-Free, Vegan Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes:
Inspired by the Puffy Pillow Pancakes in Isa Does It; Makes about 11 medium-sized pancakes
1 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or unsweetened dairy-free milk of choice)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flax seed meal
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons mild extra virgin olive oil (plus more for spraying or wiping skillet)
15 drops NuNaturals Liquid Vanilla Stevia
1/2 cup Lily’s Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips (or gluten-free, vegan chocolate chips of choice)
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. To a separate bowl or large liquid measuring cup (like a glass Pyrex measuring cup), add almond milk, cider vinegar and flaxseed meal and whisk them together.
2. Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients (flour-cocoa powder mixture) and then pour in almond milk-vinegar-flax mixture into dry ingredients. Add oil, water and stevia as well and then very gently whisk with a whisk or fork until just combined. Do not over-mix. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Make sure it’s really hot. Spray skillet or add just a tiny bit of oil to coat bottom of skillet. You want a gentle coat of oil, not too much, and you want it to cover the bottom so no batter sticks. Pour batter by 1/3 cup into hot skillet, being careful not to crowd skillet (in my medium cast iron pan, I make two at a time). Cook pancakes over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until bubbles begin to form on top of batter and pancakes easily lift from the bottom of pan. Depending on heat of skillet, you may need a little bit longer for the first batch. Flip pancakes and cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on the other side. If the first batch comes out a little undone in the middle, you may cook for about 30 second to a minute longer on each side, but mine were fine with just the two minutes on each side, if that.
I know I have, like, a bagillion mac and cheese recipes or variations of mac and cheese on this site. Actually, I only have 3 others. But in the food blogging world, that sort of seems to me like a bagillion.
At any rate, despite the fact that I don’t need to post yet another mac and cheese recipe here, it would feel disingenuous to go on with life knowing that there’s a go-to mac and cheese that I pretty much make exclusively these days that I haven’t shared here. It’s quickly become one of my favorite meals, and one that I make at least once every few weeks — especially during this cold winter, when I’ve been craving warm comfort food and carbs.
I know the internet, as well, has no shortage of vegan mac and cheese recipes using cashews as a base. That’s fine. What I like about this particular recipe is that there are very few ingredients, it’s very creamy, and the miso and smoked paprika are secret ingredients that sort of make this a perfect blend of delicious, umami, smoky and decadent goodness — without any oil or processed fat. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that, despite its lack of processed ingredients, this recipe will wow even the most ardent omnivore or self-proclaimed “cheese addict” you may be feeding.
Here are my other Mac and Cheese Variations, in case you’re feeling like experimenting:
My Favorite Mac And Cheese:
Makes 2-4 servings (depending on appetites, and what you’re serving with it)
1. Boil the following according to package directions, then set aside:
8 oz. gluten-free elbow pasta, or pasta of choice
2. Meanwhile, blend in a high-powered blender until very, very smooth:
1 cup raw cashews*
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chickpea miso
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)**
* If not using a high-powered blender such as Vitamix, soak cashews in water for 2 hours, then drain and rinse.
**If you don’t salt pasta water, increase salt in sauce to 3/4 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon.
3. Toss everything together in a large pot and heat over low-medium heat until just heated through. Serve.
I seem to have a tendency to make things harder on myself than they need to be. When I was a kid, I remember school teachers telling me I was “thinking too hard” about math or, well, more math problems that were giving me trouble. They could see it in the way I furrowed my brow — a sure sign I was hyper-analyzing each and every problem, thinking just a bit too hard about something that was probably, to them, quite simple.
In yoga classes, I’m often told by instructors that I make poses harder on myself than they need to be. While everyone else is doing a simple downward dog, I’m stressing over where each hand and foot is placed on the mat, how high my arch is, or where my shoulder blades are placed. And while it’s good to think about these things, somehow I manage to make them consume my practice. It can be problematic when you’re looking to yoga as a means of de-stressing and relaxation.
I do it in the kitchen, too. Countless times I’ve taken the hard way to get dinner on the table, ending up with loads of pots and pans — many of which were probably unnecessary — in the sink when it’s all over.
That’s the background story here, as this recipe was the result of a distinct effort not to make things any harder than they needed to be. I’ve had my pressure cooker for a little over a year now, and I noticed that I’ve rarely, if at all, used it to make a one-pot meal. Maybe I’d cook beans in the past, only to use them later for a separate concoction that required more dishes, time and energy to prepare.
When JL Fields spoke to our Main Street Vegan class, she talked about her upcoming vegan pressure cooking cookbook. I loved the idea of an entire book dedicated to pressure cooker recipes. Further inspiration ensued after I perused JL’s Facebook page to find that she was cooking whole meals in her pressure cooker — not just beans to add to another dish. I guess there wouldn’t be much to a pressure cooker cookbook if the latter were the case.
Here, I made a black lentil dish that is, aside from a small separate bowl for mixing your spices (which, I’d say, is probably not 100% necessary, either), an entirely 1-pot meal. I was so excited that it turned out perfect and delicious the first time.
A few notes:
- I found black lentils at my local Whole Foods Market. I am not sure if other lentils would work here, thought I am guessing they would with the exception of red lentils. If you do make these with any other type of lentil, please leave a comment so I know how it turned out.
- This is great on its own in a bowl, or served over some hearty brown rice (my favorite way to eat it).
- I used Rainbow Chard as my greens of choice, though any heart green (such as kale) will do.
- If you try to adapt this to make on the stove top (i.e. without a pressure cooker) I would also love to hear from you to know cooking times, etc. so that others can try it that way if it would work better for them.
- Because I wanted to make this recipe super simple, I didn’t want to add any more frills or steps than necessary. But I do think a little splash of homemade cashew cream would be lovely here.
Indian-Spiced Pressure Cooker Black Lentils:
Makes about 4 servings if serving over rice
1 cup red onion, finely diced (almost minced)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup black lentils, rinsed well and picked through
4 cups water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
2 cups Rainbow Chard or other study green, tightly packed
Cilantro for serving (optional)
Add first six ingredients to pressure cooker. Mix remaining ingredients except for greens (spices and olive oil) in a small bowl or ramekin, then add to the remaining ingredients in the pressure cooker. Cover cooker with lid and lock lid into place (alternately, put pressure weight into place, depending on type of pressure cooker you’re using). Heat over high heat until pressure develops. Once pressure develops, reduce heat to medium and cook with pressure for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and wait for pressure to release before opening pressure cooker. Add greens (chard or kale) and heat again over medium heat until greens are wilted, which should only be a minute or two. Serve topped with some cilantro, if using.
I mentioned in my last post how inspired I was by Chef Fran, whose book Vegan Chocolate dazzled and delighted me once I got the chance to fully peruse its pages upon my return from New York. I was mesmerized, particularly, but the beautiful photo of chocolate ganache, which was just simply a big bowl of glorious, shiny, deep and rich chocolate. No need to get fancy, there. A bowl of chocolate sauce was enough to pique my curiosity and had me testing things in the kitchen very shortly after my return, as tired as I was feeling… Did I mention that I do not do well on less than 8 hours of sleep?
Anyways, I headed to Whole Foods to see if I could find an unsweetened Bakers Chocolate so that I could start testing recipes for a low-sugar ganache using alternative sweeteners. But once I got to Whole Foods, I found something better: vegan chocolate chips sweetened with…
That’s right, a sugar-free, vegan and certified gluten-free chocolate chip is now available commercially! Finally, someone picked up on the fact that there was a dire need for a product that fit these multiple dietary criteria. Lily’ Dark Chocolate Baking Chips do not disappoint. Big side note: keep reading labels, as most of the Lily’s bars — as opposed to chips — I found are not vegan and contain milk fat.
Ironically, I fear that Chef Fran would not approve of these chips. She does not like stevia because it’s heavily processed and she can taste its bitterness. But if you have a less refined palate like mine — and are looking for lower-sugar alternative due to past struggles with candida after years of being on antibiotics for Lyme disease — then these chips should be a suitable alternative to sugar-filled sweets!
Chef Fran also likes her chocolate to have a higher cocoa percentage, and I do, too, normally. But I kinda liked how these strawberries ended up being reminiscent of a milder milk chocolate, as it may help bridge the gap for chocolate lovers and non-lovers alike.
There are many wonderful things about these strawberries. First of all, they are simple to make, as there is no baking involved. Additionally, you’re getting a low-sugar and lower-calorie sweet that’s naturally portion controlled. One chocolate strawberry might satisfy a sweet tooth, while keeping the added carbs, sugar or fat to a minimum. Plus, strawberries are a naturally low-sugar fruit, keeping them within the confines of many anti-candida diets (including the one my doctor put me on several years ago…from which I’ve admittedly strayed).
I hope you enjoy these sweet little treats. Ideally, while the ganache holds up pretty well after it has set, I would recommend storing these in the refrigerator until ready to serve or eat. Because of the moisture content of the strawberries, chocolate is more prone to melting on these than, say, a cookie.
Thank you, Chef Fran, for your beautiful book, and for inspiring these sugar-free yummies (I’ll pretend I didn’t hear your expressed dislike for stevia…)
Chocolate Ganache Strawberries:
Chocolate sauce makes enough to cover a pint of strawberries, plus a little left over for fun
One pint (preferably organic) strawberries, washed and laid flat to dry completely; keep stems on
3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 cup Lily’s Dark Chocolate Baking Chips
7 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or other nuts (optional)
1. Heat soy milk over low to medium heat in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes, or until warm but NOT boiling.
2. Add chocolate chips to a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Once soy milk is warmed, pour into bowl with chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted. Add stevia drops and continue to stir until combined. Do not whisk or stir too vigorously, but make sure that everything is smooth and combined.
3. Let sauce sit for about 15 minutes. Test with one strawberry by dipping. Sauce should stay on strawberry with minimal dripping. Keep dipping to cover each strawberry about 3/4 with some red flesh still showing at top. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, or lightly roll strawberry over a shallow plate of chopped nuts. Lay flat on parchment paper. Continue with remaining strawberries.
4. Refrigerate Strawberries until chocolate has set, about 15-20 minutes. Can refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.
With fellow student Renee: a yoga teacher and Ayurveda practitioner from Boston.
Would you like to go to the academy in February?
That was how my mom’s email started last summer.
Then you can come back and teach us everything.
That was her sign-off.
Perplexed, I looked at the newsletter that my mom had forwarded to me. It was an update from Victoria Moran on her latest work in the vegan community, starting with the recent graduation of 15 students from her “Vegan Academy”, where she trains students to become Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators.
Victoria talking to us about setting up a good food demo.
At first, I was puzzled. How would I have any use for being a life coach? After all, I already had a career. And what is a coach, anyways? The doubts were initially swirling through my mind. But just as I was about to write my mom back and tell her I wasn’t going to do it, I couldn’t write the words. Something — some small piece of intuition — kept telling me I needed to go. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became about the idea. Although I knew little about what I was getting into, I blindly sent in my application with both excitement and trepidation.
I still had trepidation as the week of the coarse neared. Would I gain anything from it? Would I like the other students? Would I be able to put what I learned into practice? But any doubts or questions I had going in soon dissipated, almost as soon as I walked through the door. As the week went on, I was so amazed and inspired by the things I was learning, the people I was meeting, and the paths all of the fellow students were on. While I will outline some of the amazing speakers throughout the course, one of my favorite things about the experience was meeting so many amazing people from around the world. It was spiritually nourishing to be around so many passionate, funny, knowledgeable and kind people.
A dynamic duo: Victoria and Fran Costigan before Fran’s presentation.
The Main Street Vegan Academy was an intensive, crazy, information-packed crash-course in vegan nutrition, fashion, media, writing, speaking, and animal advocacy. If anyone is interested in helping others adopt a vegan diet or lifestyle, I highly recommend this course! We had wonderful speakers during the course — many whose work I have admired and followed for quite some time. My highlights — and the whole course was a highlight, really! — are outlined below:
- I loved hearing Fran Costigan talk to us about vegan pastries . She is an expert on everything from the art of putting on a food demo, to the pros and cons of different types of vegan sweeteners. I purchased her dazzling book Vegan Chocolate, which has a 5-Star rating on Amazon! I couldn’t help perusing her book and it is as beautiful as it is mouthwatering!
- We visited Vaute Couture and talked to founder Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart about her business and passion for animals. She was inspiring (have I used that word enough yet?) and super cute! I loved learning about how her vision was shaped by her love for animals from a young age. Plus, I bought a gorgeous ethically-made vegan winter coat — perfect for cold Michigan winters! For those curious, I bought the Emily in Insulated Moleskin, pictured at the bottom.
- Speaking of fashion, we had an informative yet bleak look into animal exploitation in the fashion industry from Joshua Katcher of the Discerning Brute and Brave GentleMan. Joshua was a wealth of knowledge and living proof that ethical living and high fashion are not mutually exclusive!
- JL Fields came to speak to us about her life as a vegan blogger and consultant. I have long been a fan of JL and meeting her and hearing her speak at the academy only made me more of a fan. She was hilarious, knowledgeable, and simply lovely!
- LaDiva Dietitian Marty Davey was a wealth of knowledge about vegan nutrition. I loved her truly informed and pragmatic approach to nutrition information.
- Michael Parrish DuDell, author of the book Shark Tank (based on the ABC show), imparted his knowledge about marketing, while also sharing some insight into the environmental implications of eating meat. He was so engaging and shared some secrets into the how of being engaging.
- Sharon, co-founder of Big City Vegan, talked to us about using social media to build a practice. She was a wealth of tips and knowledge.
- Robert Notter is considered a coaching guru and shared his secrets into building a successful business and practice. Plus, he was so down-to-earth, even with his great success.
- And I can’t forget about the main reason we were there, Victoria Moran, who was simply delightful, knowledgeable and just plain awesome!
Vaute Couture’s Leanne telling us her story.
Finally, I am so excited to use all of the information I learned to better serve all of you! As a now *certified* lifestyle coach and educator, I am so excited to use some of those tidbits to be a better blogger and advocate on this forum and out into the world. And now that I’ve gone to Vegan Academy, I can *finally* get my vegan superpowers!!
Rocking my new Vaute Couture coat and feeling great!
There are joys and frustrations that come with being one among many vegan food bloggers. The joy, of course, is witnessing a virtual food revolution — one in which so many amazing vegan home cooks have found a venue for sharing delicious and beautiful vegan recipes with the world — for free! As an advocate for animal welfare and for health, it has been wonderful to witness the explosion of vegan food blogging in recent years. I love that those curious about meatless meals, meat alternatives and healthy eating have such a rich array of options to choose from, and that they don’t have to buy loads of books or do tons of research to find answers.
The downside to this explosion is that at times I think I’ve come up with a killer and unique recipe, only to find that a quick Google search reveals dozens of other versions of the idea — an idea that seemingly every other food blogger already thought of before I did.
Such was the case with these tacos. For too long, I’d been dreaming of creating a lentil taco filling that was both hearty and healthy. I also wanted something that could serve a crowd and that was above all relatively easy to prepare. I Googled lentil tacos to see what sort of ideas were already swarming out there. There were quite a few, so I decided to lay off my idea for the time being.
But curiosity got the best of me, as I was still interested in how a lentil taco filling would compare to its more meaty counterparts. And I figured, if I’m going to make a recipe, I’d rather have it be something with my own twist. Lucky for me, whatever twists I added turned out to be delicious.
How delicious? You’ll have to make them yourself to find out. But I will say that those expecting a perfect replica for meat will be disappointed. They do not taste like meat, they taste like lentils. Still, once you can appreciate the beauty of this taste, you will then be able to enjoy the subtle smokiness of the smoked paprika in this dish, and the savory aroma of onion and garlic. You’ll appreciate the crunch of a hard taco shell against the soft lentil filling. You’ll love how this filling is both delicious on its own, but equally delicious with a wide variety of toppings, such as creamy avocado, spicy salsa, crunchy onion, and aromatic cilantro. And you’ll probably go back for seconds, like I did. Best of all, these are super healthy. Not including any oil from the taco shells, these tacos are oil free (and virtually fat-free), soy free, nut free and, of course, vegan.
And if it’s variety you’re looking for, well, the internet will help out with that. Here are some other lentil taco recipes from bloggers that look quite delicious as well:
Makes enough taco filling for about 4-6 people
Hard taco shells (most are gluten-free but read labels; soft corn tortillas could also work but I like the crunch with this dish)*
Salsa for serving (plus more for recipe below)
Sliced red onion
* For best results, follow directions on package for heating taco shells prior to serving. Soft tortillas will keep this dish low-fat and oil-free.
Ingredients for Filling:
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup small brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup salsa
1. In a saute pan or non-stick skillet, saute onion over medium-high heat in 1/4 cup vegetable broth until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, lentils, 2 cups vegetable broth, spices and sea salt. Reduce heat to medium and cover pan. Simmer over medium heat until liquid is mostly gone, about 25-30 minutes.
2. Uncover pan and add salsa and another 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Over medium heat, simmer, uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid is gone, or until desired consistency is reached. Mixture should not be soupy, but will not be dry, either. Add salt to taste, if desired.
3. Serve taco filling in taco shells with desired toppings.
My first foray into Super Bowl entertainment was in 2007. I remember it because I was a senior in college and decided that I wanted to be the designated caterer for our house’s Super Bowl party. Apparently, though, I didn’t get the memo about Super Bowl parties typically being centered around beer and wings and low-key fare. Instead, the menu ended up being something like paninis and pasta and other comparatively fancy options — a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by my housemates, who commented about whether or not we should be serving wine instead of beer (Liz, if you’re reading this, I think it was you who asked that).
Well, I haven’t catered a Super Bowl party since then — and mostly because things like law school and full-time work have gotten in the way of any sort of Sunday night social life. But that’s not to say I haven’t thought a lot since about what, exactly, I would serve if I were to explore the world of Super Bowl entertaining once again.
The answer, every time, has decidedly been nachos. I love nachos. And I can say that because even though I’m now vegan and gluten-free, nachos are still so doable. After all, there are a plethora of vegan cheese products now on the market, and pure corn tortilla chips, by definition, are gluten-free (though you still have to read labels because, as we all know, hiding gluten in seemingly gluten-free products seems to be a popular food industry pastime).
But with these nachos, I went a step further than just some beans, packaged vegan cheese and chips. For one thing, I do prefer to scale back on my oil and processed food intake when I can — and vegan cheese is both oil-based and heavily processed. Also, my husband doesn’t like most store bought vegan cheese. So there you have it. I didn’t want to be the girl with a huge ‘ol tray of nachos and no one to share them with. Also, I’ve been obsessed with making vegan cashew cheese lately, for anything from macaroni to enchiladas to rice bowls to, you guessed it, nachos. I am in love with the delicate and cheesy taste that’s so, so easy to make with just a few simple ingredients.
Aside from the specific recipes for tempeh crumbles and cashew nacho cheese sauce, this recipe is pretty free-form and amenable to slew of variations.
Other Super Bowl Party Dish Ideas:
Appetizers: Hot Spinach Dip (this recipe has been a favorite for family gatherings since I posted it 3 years ago. Make extra — it tends to get eaten up fast!), Jalapeno Salsa, Caramelized Onion and Shiitake Pizza (can be sliced into smaller pieces and served as an appetizer)
Snacks: Caramel Corn (link is for my updated version; original recipe is linked to in this link), Sweet Cinnamon Crisps.
Salads and Main Courses: Mexican Quinoa Salad, Vegan Chorizo Chili (serve in a slow cooker for a long-lasting party soup), Creamy Almond Butter Noodles.
Clockwise from top left: Vegan Chorizo Chili, Caramelized Onion and Shiitake Pizza, Hot Spinach Dip, Caramel Corn.
Ultimate Vegan Nachos:
Serves a crowd
3/4 bag Corn tortilla chips (I used Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Tortilla Chips)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup or more sliced black olives, drained
sliced grape tomatoes or diced tomatoes
diced red onion (not pictured, optional)
diced avocado (not pictured, optional)
salsa (plus more for recipes below)
1 recipe cashew cheesze sauce
1 recipe tempeh crumbles
Cashew Cheeze Sauce:
1/2 cup raw cashews (if not using a high-powered blender, soak cashews for about 2 hours before using, then drain)
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup salsa
salt to taste
1 package soy tempeh, cubed (make sure it’s gluten-free)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons wheat-free soy sauce (Tamari)
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt to taste
1. To make cashew cheeze: Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until very smooth. You may want to start on low speed and slowly increase speed to high. Set aside.
2. To make tempeh crumbles: Add cubed tofu to a pan or skillet with 1 cup water and tamari. Heat to medium-high and cover with a lid that is fitted to pan. Let steam for 10 minutes with lid on, until most of water is gone. Remove lid and cook until remaining liquid is gone, breaking up tempeh with the back of spoon as it cooks. Add salsa, chili powder and salt to taste and saute for another five minutes over medium-high heat.
3. To assemble: Spread chips over the bottom of a large platter. Sprinkle tempeh crumbles, black beans, olives, tomato and onion on top (amounts can vary depending on how much you want). Drizzle cheeze sauce and more salsa over top. Add lettuce and avocado (if using). Serve!
To say I’m a carb-aholic does not entirely describe my problem. It’s potatoes that are my carb of choice. And I don’t care how you give them to me. Mashed, fried, boiled, baked, roasted or au gratin — I don’t discriminate and love ‘em all (as long as they’re all vegan versions, of course).
But as benign as the potato may seem on the scale of addictions, the danger in my affinity for spuds usually comes in their preparation, as it’s long been a tradition for the potato to be prepared with fat. Oil for frying and roasting. Buttery spreads for mashing and melting over baked. And boiled potatoes, if not soon to be mashed, are often on their way to becoming part of a salad filled with oily and fattening mayo or mayo replacements. I love it, don’t get me wrong. But does it love me back? Doctors Esselstyn and McDougall say “no”.
When I searched the internet for “fat-free potato salad”, I found little in the way of a solution. Many such recipes called for processed “fat-free” mayo blends, which use artificial ingredients and flavors, along with several preservatives. That was simply not an option for me.
My epiphany came when I was looking through Chef AJ’s book Unprocessed for oil-free salad dressing recipes. I came across one using cannellini beans to create a creamy base for a dressing on salad greens. But if it can dress salad greens, I figured it could dress a potato. And so I tweaked and toyed with the idea until I came up with something resembling the flavors I love in potato salad, without any of the fat. I hope you love it as much as we did!
Fat-Free Potato Salad (gluten-free, vegan):
Serves about 4 as a side; dressing recipe requires a blender
1.5 lbs small red potatoes (about 15 small red potatoes)
3 scallions, chopped
pinch sea salt
paprika for sprinkling on top (optional)
1/2 cup Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 tablespoon chickpea or mellow soy miso
1 tablespoon wheat-free soy sauce
Dill (I hate the stuff, so I would never, but figured it might be OK for those who like it)
1. Add potatoes to a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, blend all dressing ingredients in a high-powered blender until very smooth.
3. Cut warm potatoes into quarters or dice if pieces are still too large. Add to a large bowl with scallions and pour dressing over everything. Stir. Add salt to taste. Serve warm or chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with some paprika for serving (optional).
Simple need not be boring. That’s the slogan I would use if I were to bottle this stuff and sell it.
I’ve long had a visceral aversion to boring foods. And by boring, I’m thinking those measly garden salads that are on every average restaurant menu in America. I’m thinking plain white bread. I’m thinking marinara sauce — not every marinara sauce, but the ubiquitous kind that’s plopped out of a jar and poured over spaghetti and called dinner. As long as I’ve been cooking, and as many short-cuts as I like to take at times, I’ve never brought myself to accept a jar of sauce and some noodles as dinner. This may explain why, even when faced with little time and a jar of sauce, I do my best to jazz it up, like I did with this spicy chorizo sauce from a few years ago.
It’s not that I am being a food snob (OK, maybe I am), but that I really just LOVE food so much that I can’t imagine wasting a meal on something that doesn’t really excite me. I guess that’s the difference between someone like me and someone who “forgets” to eat lunch (we all know those people, and no, I don’t understand them one bit).
But as much as I tend to do everything in my power to avoid boring food, and as often as marinara sauce seems to fall in that category, I really do love the flavors of a good marinara. In fact, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so many amazing, non-boring spaghetti marinara dishes (including my mom’s) over the years. There is a consistency to those that I’ve loved: lots of garlic, chunks of fresh vegetables, and subtly spiced yet intensely flavored. These were my primary goals when I set out to create a marinara sauce that would pass the non-boring test — one that I could feel confident sharing here.
In the spirit of being not boring, I encourage anyone making this to give it your own twist, if you’d like. A dash of crushed red pepper flakes would make it spicy, while a few cremini mushrooms sauteed with everything at the beginning would make this even more earthy and hearty. And you don’t just have to serve this over pasta, as I did here. Try it as a more “textured” alternative to pizza sauce, in lasagna, or as a dip for bread or chips.
Note: despite my recent trend toward oil-free cooking, I did decide to use olive oil in this dish. For an oil-free marinara, saute the vegetables with vegetable broth, white wine or water instead of oil.
Hearty Vegetable Marinara:
Makes a little over a quart of sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup celery, diced (about 2 long stalks)
1/2 cup carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 medium carrot)
2 leeks, washed and finely chopped (white and light green parts only)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (whole tomatoes with basil is preferable if you can find it)
1 14-oz. jar or can crushed tomatoes*
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup water
*Note: if using unsalted crushed tomatoes, increase salt to 1 teaspoon, plus more to taste.
1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots and leeks and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
2. Add the whole tomatoes with juice. Using a wooden spoon, break up tomatoes with the spoon until they are more bite-sized (I broke mine up into quarters or thirds). You can break them up more as you continue cooking.
3. Add remaining ingredients and bring sauce to a simmer over low heat. Keep over low heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, until the sauce thickens slightly. If desired, you may add some additional water at the end of cooking to thin sauce out. Taste and add salt to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving.