Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

Peanut butter and chocolate. Pineapple and coconut. Apple and cinnamon. There are certain foods that work so well together, one wonders why they would ever be eaten alone. I have, for quite some time, included spinach and artichoke on my personal list of such food pairings. What two vegetables are more addictive together than spinach and artichoke, mixed in a creamy, smooth dip? It’s a shame, then, that since giving up dairy, most restaurant offerings of this dip are now off-limits for me. Luckily, I’ve discovered a more than serviceable — an actually addictive — recipe to keep my cravings satisfied.

A while back, I created a recipe for hot spinach artichoke dip using vegenaise and thickened soy milk. I really loved the recipe, but I found that the results were somewhat inconsistent. Sometimes it would be thick and creamy, other times thin. But the days of inconsistency are over. This dip knocks it out of the park every time. For good results, though, I do not recommend heating this one, which will affect the consistency of the beans in the dip. I still use vegenaise in this recipe, which is made using organic ingredients, and unparalleled in the flavor and texture it adds to the dip.

This is also a great option for a low fat, lower-calorie spinach artichoke dip. You’re eating vegetables, after all. Might as well make everything else a little healthier as well. I also noticed, after creating this recipe, that there is a similar Moosewood recipe out there from their low-fat cookbook. I’ve declared my love for Moosewood on this blog before, so I’d be interested to see how their recipe compares.

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip:

1 15-oz. can cannellini beans

1/3 cup vegenaise

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 scallions, roughly chopped, green part removed

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts

3 cups baby spinach, loosely packed

Directions:

1. Using the sharp blade of a food processor, blend beans, vegenaise, lemon juice, scallions and salt until smooth.

2. Add spinach and artichoke and pulse, 10-15 times, or until dip reaches desired consistency.

3. Enjoy. Serve with vegetables or tortillas chips or spread over gluten-free bread.

On a final note, this dip got the seal of approval from Gennaro, who dislikes spinach, let alone spinach blended into a dip. When he said he really liked it, that’s when I knew it was good.

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Gluten Free Banana Nut Bread

I am so happy to finally share this recipe with everyone. I made six versions of this bread. Each was good, but there was always something that needed tweaking. Pinning down the perfect recipe is sort of like working on a puzzle. Inserting the final piece — or finally slicing the perfect piece, in this case — is always as satisfying as the completion of any other seemingly insurmountable task. But there is one thing that I absolutely hate about having to bake over and over again: dishes. I am not one of those people who finds therapeutic solace in doing dishes. And frankly, I don’t believe those people who claim they do. So I was very happy knowing I would no longer being cleaning up after any more messy, havouc-wreaking baking attempts…for now. I know there will be several other trial and error sessions in my future. Today, however, I’m enjoying my banana bread and my clean kitchen. No more baking.

My experimentation did lead me to uncover some very interesting secrets to a moist and flavorful bread: 1) Mashed silken tofu will yeild a very nice texture, and 2) a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar will elevate the banana flavor.

On a final note, I tried using both Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill Brown rice flour in this recipe, since I was curious as to whether the difference would affect to the results. The first loaf was made using all Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour and no white rice. The texture was very nice. But when I used all Arrowhead Mills brown rice flour, it had hints of the signature grittiness people associate with gluten free baking. So, that’s not good. Therefore, in the interest of creating a uniformly good bread, the recipe calls for part brown rice and part white rice flour, which will work no matter what brand you use. However, if you are using Bob’s Red Mill, feel free to use all brown rice flour in the recipe.

Because this bread is made with tofu, it should be kept in the refrigerator. It should keep for several days.

Gluten Free Vegan Banana Bread:

3/4 cup white rice flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour (starch) or potato starch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

2/3 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas

3/4 cup mashed silked tofu

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together agave, oil, and cider vinegar. Add to dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate. Fold in banana and silken tofu. Finally, add hot water and slowly whisk batter until absorbed.

3. Pour batter into a greased, 7x4x3 – inch loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. You may have to cover with foil about 40 minutes into baking so that the bread will cook through without the crust becoming too brown. Cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

Since being diagnosed with food allergies, the one thing I’ve really — I mean really – been missing has been lasagna, which was one of my all-time favorite comfort foods back in the day. This version is not only gluten-free and dairy-free, but also soy free. After coming across a recipe for pine nut ricotta dip in one of my favorite food blogs, Elana’s Pantry, I decided to adapt her dip recipe into a ricotta that could be used in lasagna. The results were out-of-this-world. Now when I’m craving a comforting, decadent one-dish meal, this vegetable lasagna will be my go-to recipe. Serve this meal for friends, but don’t tell them what’s not in it. You’ll fool them every time.

Gluten Free Vegan Lasagna with Pine Nut Ricotta:

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium zucchini, diced

5 button mushrooms, sliced

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon rosemary, minced

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles (I used Tinkyada brand, which is made with brown rice)*

Pine Nut Ricotta:

1 cup raw pine nuts, soaked for 2 hours and drained

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Prepare sauce: In a large sauce pan or Dutch Oven, saute onions and garlic in one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add zucchini and mushrooms, plus another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute for another 8 minutes. Add both canned and fresh tomatoes, parsley and rosemary. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When finished, drain any excess liquid. Mixture should be quite thick. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pasta according to package directions (I cooked mine for less time than the box called for).

3. Prepare ricotta by blending pine nuts, water, lemon juice and salt in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

4. Assemble lasagna: in a 9×13″ baking dish, start by layering noodles, side-by-side, lengthwise. Spread approximately 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over noodles. Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the top of the ricotta mixture. Repeat 3x, then top with a final layer of noodles.

5. Bake, covered in aluminum foil, for 20 minutes. Serve topped with additional parsley.

*You may need 2 boxes to fully complete the layering process. 1 box will usually be sufficient, but if there are broken pieces, one box might not always be enough. I try to keep an extra box on hand just to be on the safe side.

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Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Cake

This cake is a quick and easy one-bowl-and-you’re-done operation. I adapted it from the apple cake recipe in the Joy of Cooking, which, for all intents and purposes, is my bible (the book, not the recipe). I’ve been known to bring it to bed with me to read on more than one occasion. You’ll love the smell coming from your oven as this cake bakes. In all, this gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free cake makes the perfect dessert for a cool fall evening. Add chopped walnuts for some extra flavor and crunch if you wish. In an effort to incorporate more gluten free flours into my baking, I made this bread using sorghum flour, which is high-protein and high-fiber and reminiscent of whole wheat. That is, if you remember wheat well enough to reminisce. I’m not sure I still do…

For a twist: try this cake topped with orange vanilla frosting from the recipe for carrot orange cupcakes. Of course, it’s very good as-is, with no frosting or sauce at all.

Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Cake:

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light coconut milk

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup apple, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

 Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add agave, coconut milk, oil and vanilla and whisk until batter is smooth. Fold in apple, cranberries and walnuts (if desired). Pour batter into a greased, 8-inch square baking dish.

3. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Carrot Ginger Dressing

I’m busy early in the week this semester. When the days are long and I’m getting tired, I’m always tempted to order in or hit the salad bar at Whole Foods. Just a little Sunday night preparation, however, goes a long way. Last night, for example, I washed and cut up some romaine, roasted some tofu, and sliced some red onion. By adding some sprouts and this dressing I had a simple and healthy lunch and dinner, and one that will last me at least a couple of days. Despite the very low calorie content of this dressing, it’s amazingly flavorful. Prepare a batch for yourself and let it brighten up your busy week as well.

Ingredients:

1 cup diced carrot (about 2 carrots)

1/4 cup water

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon wheat free tamari

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

pinch salt to taste

Directions:

Blend everything in a blender until fairly smooth. Dressing will be thick and carrots will still have some texture, but no crunch. Chill in refrigerator before serving.

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Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with “Sour Cream” Frosting

Frosting is one of the most difficult feats to pull off when cooking for a dairy and sugar-free diet. When it’s done right, though, it can be just as satisfying as the powdered sugar kind. But the first time I tried a cupcake with the unique addition of a sour cream frosting, I was hooked, and I didn’t know if a dairy-free sour cream frosting of the same caliber could ever be pulled off.

Well, this frosting is not an exact match, but it’s pretty darn close. The spirit of sour cream is completely there. It’s tart and sweet, and a great fit with the fluffy chocolate banana combination beneath it. To create a thick and fluffy texture for the frosting, I used coconut butter. It has great coconut flavor and hardens up really nicely in the refrigerator. One potential problem with this product, however, is that it is not available everywhere. A very good alternative would be coconut cream, which is inexpensive and somewhat more upiquitous. Can’t find coconut cream, either? Well, you could try coconut oil, but I would reduce the amount of coconut milk in the frosting. Play around with it, and make sure the final product is really well chilled. Notice how the sweetness of the coconut and agave go surprisingly well with the secret “sour” ingredient — apple cider vinegar.

Yield: 12 large or 14 regular sized cupcakes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup light coconut milk, shaken

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe banana

Frosting:

1/4 cup coconut butter

1/3 cup coconut cream from the top of a full-fat can of coconut milk (do not shake or stir)*

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Prepare frosting by blending all ingredients in a blender or food processor (blender is preferable). Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat coconut milk, agave, oil and vanilla until combined. Add banana and beat until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients to mixture and beat slowly until everything is smooth.

4. Add cupcake liners to cupcake tin. Fill cups with batter about 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 22 minutes. Let cupcakes cool on a wire wrack.

* Note: if you get a can of coconut milk that, for some reason, does not have the layer of cream on top, you can thiken your coconut milk with cornstarch or arrowroot in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk 1/3 cup milk with a tablespoon of starch until thick like a paste and add to blender. This will change the texture of the frosting, but should do the trick.

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Peanutty Stir-Fry Salad

food 031I think one of my favorite flavor combinations in the whole world is peanut butter with soy sauce, sesame oil and chile flakes. Peanut butter is rich and creamy, and seems to perfectly compliment the heat and saltiness of the rest of the ingredients. You sometimes see this combination over noodles, or in some sort of Szechuan stir fry. One of my biggest problems with preparing stir-frys, however, is the fact that my kitchen equipment — and just about everyone else’s in America — is not equipped to make them. The heat needed to make the perfect stir fry requires special burners — something I definitely don’t have on my way outdated oven. For something different, I decided to make a cold salad uses the same ingredients and flavors of a stir-fry.

I just got back to New York after a 10-day trip to visit my family in Michigan. For my last day there, my aunt (another food allergy vitctim) and I decided to prepare a vegan feast. A picture of our spread is below. My aunt’s quinoa stuffed peppers came from Susan O’brien’s Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking, a go-to cookbook for my family. The kale salad is raw and dressed in an almond butter dressing. I will post the recipe soon. While at home, my family and I ate at the Living Zen Cafe in the Detroit Zen Center: http://www.detroitzencenter.org/index.htm. The raw kale salad they serve singlehandedly had me transformed from a kale hater (something I’ve never before admitted) to a kale enthusiast. I have been working on a similar recipe ever since.

food 044This peanutty salad can be served with any number of vegetables or proteins. The sauce would also be great on rice noodles or for dipping. My favorite part is the way the broccoli absorbs all of the wonderful flavors of the sauce. One word of advice is to make sure that the blanched vegetables are very well drained. Maybe the only downfall of the dish when I made it was that some of the water from the vegetables diluted the sauce slightly. It was still tasty, but this sauce is too good to be at all watered down.

Ingredients:

1 package firm or medium firm tofu, pressed with a paper towel to absorb water, then cubed

florets from 1 head broccoli (use the stems for coleslaw)

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces

Cooking spray or a little vegetable oil

Sauce:

3 tablespoons peanut butter (or almond butter)

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari (Bragg’s liquid amino would also work)

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons minced jalapeno

3 tablespoons yellow onion, minced

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Lay tofu flat on baking sheet and spray with cooking spray or drizzle with oil. Bake for 45 minutes at 350, tossing once halfway through.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare another bowl filled with ice water to cool vegetables. Salt the boiling water and ice water if desired. Add broccoli, pepper and carrot to boiling water. After 1 minute, remove to ice bath to stop cooking process. Leave in ice water for another minute, then drain vegetables well.

4. Prepare peanut sauce: add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Toss with vegetables and tofu to serve.

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Low Fat Pumpkin Mousse Pie

pumpkin mousse pie 2My mom commented on the amount of buttery spread I had used in my lemon coconut pie crust. But pie crusts by definition contain butter, I thought. Then I thought some more. Was that really the case? After putting the dates I had been saving to make muffins to experimental use, I discovered pie crust can be more than a butter-ladden treat, and so much less fattening as a result. Then, the healthy pie crust  idea inspired a  health-conscious filling to match. I read somewhere that pumpkin is one of those super healthy things that people don’t eat enough of. In keeping with the theme, I added a whole can, along with silken tofu, to the filling. Healthy crust? Healthy filling? Before you run for your lives, I offer you this: I made this for a recent family party and even some of the non allergy-plagued guests counted this dessert among their favorites. If that doesn’t convince, I offer this: I don’t actually like pumpkin pie. In fact, I usually despise it. I loved this one.

If you avoid oats for fear of cross-contamination, try Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats. They test all of their oats to make sure they don’t have a trace of gluten, and process them using completely gluten free facilites. If you simply can’t tolerate oats altogether, well, I’m still working on a good, cripsy crust that’s gluten-free, vegan, and still tasty. It may take awhile, but I’m determined to do it, so check back in often!

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill dry rolled oats

1 cup dates

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling:

1 12-oz. package Mori Nu extra firm silken tofu

1 15-oz. can pumpkin

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Place all ingredients for crust in a food processor and blend until a large clump forms. Using fingers, press evenly into a 9″ pie pan. Bake for 22 minutes. After crust has baked, set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients for filling. When crust has cooled, pour in filling and chill in refrigerator overnight.

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Mexican Style Quinoa Salad

 A while ago, my cousin made a delicious quinoa salad and this is a take on that. It’s a good recipe to play around with, as ingredients can be added and taken away without changing the integrity of the dish. Try adding grilled zucchini or asparagus, roasted red pepper, or diced tofu. I’d also be interested to know how this one tastes with the addition of fresh mint.

This is a really simple and healthy lunch or dinner. It’s also great as a side or served at a party. Thanks, Kelly, for the idea!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup canned corn, drained

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained

1 jalapeno, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste

1 avocado sliced

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, toss corn, black beans, jalapeno, olives, grape tomatoes, and red onion. In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, cider vinegar, canola oil, chile powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt.

3. When quinoa has cooked, add to the salad mixture. Add the dressing and toss. Top with sliced avocado immediately before serving.

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Gluten Free Vegan Carob Cupcakes

carob cupcakes 3These cupcakes are a new favorite. In the words of The Moosewood Cookbook: “Carob is carob.  Chocolate is chocolate…Let carob be itself — its genuine, sweet, subtle self. You will discover it to have a charm and character of its own.” Since Moosewood has been in my family for years — given to me by my mom, pages curdled and stained from from spills,  others stuck together — I trust that Moosewood is probably right. Carob deserves to stand on its own as a worthy ingredient, and not just as a chocolate substitute. Personally, I love it. And I love chocolate as well. But since this is a site for people with food allergies, if you can’t have chocolate, these are an indulgence worthy of taking the chocolate cupcake’s place — even if carob is carob, and chocolate is chocolate.  

A quick note on coconut cream (used in the frosting): You can find it in the baking aisle of health food stores (I bought mine at Whole Foods), usually next to the shredded coconut. It’s kind of like natural peanut butter in the sense that, at room temperature, the solid separates from the liquid. When it’s cold, it completely hardens. I suggest warming the package in a bowl of warm water before using, if the cream is completely solid. When using in this recipe, you want to use, for the most part, the solid part of the coconut cream. This is what will allow the frosting to harden and form a nice glaze over the cupcakes.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Gluten Free Vegan Carob Cupcakes:

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon carob powder (not sweetened)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 banana, mashed

Sugar Free, Dairy Free Carob Frosting:

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coconut cream (the solid part)

1/4 cup carob powder (not sweetened)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Prepare frosting at least an hour or two before using so that frosting can chill and harden. To prepare, blend all ingredients in a blender. Cover and chill in refrigerator.

2. Preheat oven to 325.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat coconut milk, agave, canola oil, vanilla and banana on high. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on a low speed until incorporated.

4. Fill cupcake tins with liners and add batter a little more than 3/4 of the way to the top of each liner. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate cupcake tin 180 degrees, and bake for another ten minutes. Cupcakes may be a little soft to the touch when you take them out, but they will harden a little more as they cool. Allow to cool five minutes in tins, then on a rack. When cupcakes have completely cooled, frost using about a tablespoon of frosting at first. Add more as needed and spread evenly over the top of the cupcake. This is not a fluffly frosting, but more of a glaze.

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