Vegan Wedge Salad with Faux Bleu Cheese Dressing

One of the things I missed after deciding to eat vegan is a cheese filled, creamy salad dressing.  There are decent vegan substitutes at the store that get their creamy texture from things like avocados, oil or chia seeds.  If you have vegan mayonnaise in the fridge, this is a fairly easy dressing to whip up. I used reduced fat vegenaise but regular vegan mayo will taste even better.  I like to make dressing fresh each time so the recipe below will serve one or two but you can easily multiply the ingredients by the number of servings you desire.  The tofu doesn’t add any flavor but it does add protein and gives your dressing a bit of texture like bleu cheese dressing.

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Vegan Wedge Salad with Faux Bleu Cheese Dressing

1/4 wedge of an iceberg lettuce head
diced tomato
diced red onion
2 strips of vegan tempeh bacon
3 Tbsp. vegan mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. tahini
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. tofu
1 tsp. unsweetened coconut milk
fresh ground black pepper

Shred the tempeh bacon strips into bits and heat in a small non-stick frying pan over medium low heat until heated through. Remove tempeh bacon bits from heat and set aside.

Mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, tahini, garlic and onion powders and stir until smooth. Stir in the tofu last. Stir in coconut milk one teaspoon full at a time until desires dressing consistency is reached. Add black pepper to taste.

Layer the dressing over the iceberg wedge and top with tempeh bacon bits, tomatoes and red onions. Add a dash of additional fresh ground black pepper and serve.

Vegan Royal Icing

I entered a gingerbread house competition last week fully aware that I had never made a gingerbread house before.  I thought I could buy pre-made gingerbread pieces but I could not find them in the shape that I needed to make a gingerbread version of a southern staple,  Waffle House.  I used this gingerbread recipe substituting vegan shortening for the butter.  Gingerbread houses are typically held together with something called royal icing.  It is a bit stiffer than buttercream and dries to a hard consistency if left uncovered.

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Most royal icing recipes I came across required eqq whites or meringue powder to provide structure.  Enter aquafaba also known as the “bean juice” that you drain off a can of garbanzo beans.  A 15-16 ounce can will contain about a cup of bean water.  The beauty of aquafaba is it whips up just like egg whites.  Trust me.  Since I knew my icing would probably not be consumed, I didn’t add any vanilla to it.  If you use natural brown vanilla extract, it could yellow the color.  If you are using the icing to be on display and wish for the icing to remain white, clear vanilla flavoring is available at most baking supply stores.  This icing pipes like a dream and is extremely stable once it dries   Keep unused portions air tight and whip stored icing up a second time before using once it has sat for a while.  If it gets too thick, add a drop of water or two at a time until desired consistency is reached.

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Vegan Royal Icing

1/2 cup aquafaba (garanzo bean can juice)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
5 cups organic powdered sugar
vanilla extract (optional)

Drain the aquafaba from the can of garbanzo beans and strain to remove any large bean fragments.  Place the aquafaba and the cream of tartar into a stand mixer with a whip attachment.  Whip on medium speed until frothy then increase the speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until each cup is incorporated.  Add optional vanilla or other flavorings (lemon or orange zest, chocolate powder).  Icing is ready to be piped or spread.

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Vegan Gumbo

This recipe started with the celery I bought at the Marietta Farmer’s Market this weekend.  For some unknown reason, I have avoided celery lately.   Now that it was staring at me from the kitchen counter, I had to find something to do with it because I’m not an “ants on a log” fan.  Gumbo it is.

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Gumbo can be intimidating because it starts with a “roux” or thickener made from whisking butter and flour together.  Roux can be difficult to perfect without burning it.  I came across a technicque of “toasting” the flour online which eliminates the need to rapid fire cook a roux first and reduces the amount of butter.

If you would like to make this recipe gluten free, omit the tempeh bacon if it contains wheat.  The brand I used includes soy sauce brewed with wheat.  Also, substitute gluten free flour for regular wheat flour. The gumbo pictured was made with gluten free flour.

Okra wasn’t on the radar where I grew up in Oregon.  After several years in the south, I’ve discovered people have very strong feelings about the long green veggie.  If they hate it, they hate it a lot.  Personally, I love it and it’s not gumbo without it.  If fresh okra is not in season, pick up a bag of frozen.

Vegan Gumbo

3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. light vegan butter
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 green bell peppers diced
3 celery ribs diced
1 medium yellow onion diced
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp. coconut sugar
1 Tbsp. vegan worcestershire sauce 
salt
pepper
 2 cups okra slices
 8 slices tempeh bacon diced
1 9 oz. package Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips prepared and diced
cooked brown rice
diced green onions
hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the flour on a cookie sheet and shake gently to evenly distribute it across the surface of the pan. Toast the flour in the pan for thirty minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent burning until the flour is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, bell peppers, celery and onion. Stir the vegetables until translucent. Sift the toasted flour and stir into the vegetables.  Add in the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, lemon juice, Cajun seasoning, coconut sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the okra slices, tempeh bacon and Beyond Chicken. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Serve gumbo over steamed brown rice topped with diced green onions and hot sauce to taste.

Vegan Gluten Free Mushroom Risotto

I’ve been cleaning out my cabinets and freezer over the past couple weeks instead of eating out and found a box of risotto shoved in the back of a shelf.  Mixed with the cremini mushrooms sitting in the fridge, I made risotto magic on this rainy Atlanta Sunday afternoon.  A lot of risotto recipes call for butter and olive oil but I omitted them in favor of a few spritz of cooking spray.  Creamy and full of flavor without the dairy or fat.

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You get risotto when you slow cook arborio rice with broth or water.  Unlike regular long grain white rice, you can’t just throw the lid on and wait for fluffy rice to happen.  Plan to spend a little time slowly stirring in the broth allowing the arborio grains to absorb the liquid.  Risotto works as a meal in itself or throw some sautéed zucchini and a meatless Gardein Chick’n Scallopini cutlet on top for added protein.  I didn’t invent risotto, this is just my lower-fat version.

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Vegan Gluten Free Mushroom Risotto

1 cup Arborio (risotto) rice
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 yellow onion diced
2 tsp minced garlic
cooking spray

Spray the bottom of a large sauce pan with cooking spray over medium high heat and sauté mushrooms, onion and garlic until onions are translucent.  Stir in the rice and continue to stir for a minute or two until the rice starts to toast.  Reduce heat to medium low and stir in 1 cup of the broth until it is absorbed.  Continue adding the broth, one cup at a time until absorbed before adding additional broth.  Risotto should be tender and creamy once all the broth has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and serve.

Vegan Tempeh Bacon Jalapeños

The most popular dish I brought to parties was always bacon wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese.  Then I learned that almost all farm raised baby pigs in the United States not only have their tails removed but are also castrated, often without anesthesia.  Ouch.  This horror show is performed to reduce aggression and to improve the flavor of the meat. Groooosssss.  You can read more about it here.  Accidentally watching a video of farmers torturing little baby piglets two years ago was the last porky straw and I haven’t had bacon since.  Enter tempeh bacon.  Tempeh is made from whole soybeans.  You get tempeh bacon when those beans are formed into strips and the smoky flavor similar to that of pig bacon is added.  I used LightLife Fakin’ Bacon Tempeh Strips that contain soy sauce brewed from wheat.  If you are sensitive to gluten, you may have to find another brand or try making your own.

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These “cheese” stuffed peppers are also super easy to make if you are careful handling the peppers.  I wear disposable gloves when prepping them but you can use bare hands. If you don’t have gloves, do NOT touch your skin or eyes after handling the peppers before thoroughly scrubbing your hands.

Not all vegan cream cheese spreads are created equal.  For months, I’ve seen Kite Hill’s cream cheese spread on the shelf at my local Whole Foods.  After trying another vegan cream cheese, I assumed all of them had an awful, chemical taste like the first one I tried. Kite Hill is also twice the cost of the most popular brand. I’m so glad I gave them a shot because Kite Hill’s version is the closest thing I’ve had to real cream cheese with zero chemical after flavor.   It’s also dairy and gluten free (as per their website).  Bonus!

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Vegan Tempeh Bacon Jalapeños

10 whole jalapeño peppers
8 oz. tub vegan cream cheese spread
4 strips vegan tempeh bacon
1/2 cup diced pineapple (optional)

non stick aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with non stick aluminum foil.  Dice the bacon strips into bits and set aside.  Using gloved hands, slice the top off each jalapeño pepper and then  slice each pepper lengthwise in half.  Discard pepper tops and seeds from the inside of each pepper.  Using a butter knife, fill each pepper half with cream cheese spread and place cut side up on the cookie sheet.  If you would like a “hawaiian” experience, stir in the diced pineapple into the cream cheese before stuffing the peppers (I did half my peppers with pineapple spread and half plain).

Sprinkle diced tempeh bacon on top of each pepper.  Use the butter knife or the back of a spoon to “smoosh” the bits into the cream cheese just so they won’t fall off during transport.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 25 minutes or until the pepper skins look wilted and the bacon is crisped.  Remove from oven and enjoy once cool to the touch.

Vegan Gluten Free Beyond Beef Eggplant and Spinach Bake

I had eggplant hanging out in my fridge already so when I spotted vegan ricotta at Whole Foods, I thought I’d make lasagna magic happen.  However, no matter how much garlic and spices I added to that vegan ricotta, I could not make it edible.  It just had the taste and consistency of creamy plastic.  So, into the garbage disposal it went.  This recipe uses eggplant slices instead of noodles to cut down on the carbs and calories.  Eggplant has a tendency to become mush if overcooked so baking them first with breadcrumbs helps them maintain structure.  I’m a big fan of leaving the skin on vegetables with the exception of eggplant in a bake.  Eggplant skin can be tough to cut through with a fork so strip that veg before slicing.

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If you can’t find a good vegan mozzarella, I think this would taste good even without it.

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Vegan Gluten Free Beyond Beef Eggplant and Spinach Bake

1 large eggplant
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
cooking spray
11 oz. bag Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. anise seeds
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 jar marinara sauce
2 cups cut baby spinach leaves
1 10 oz. package vegan mozzarella shredded
vegan parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice eggplant lengthwise. Place breadcrumbs on a plate. Spray both sides of each eggplant slice and then dip each side into breadcrumbs and place onto a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the eggplant is baking, place the Beefy Crumble in a frying pan over medium heat. As the crumbles defrost, stir in the garlic, fennel, anise and red pepper. Cook for 3-5 additional minutes, stirring often and remove from heat.

Place 2 cups of marinara in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Place a single layer of eggplant followed by beef, spinach, half the mozzarella. Top with a second layer of eggplant slices, the remaining marinara sauce, the remaining mozzarella and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and remove from oven. Let sit for 15-20 minutes and serve.

 

Sweet Chili Shredded Tofu Tacos

Twice last week, I had the opportunity to try variations on Korean spiced tofu.  As per usual, I had to make my own variation this weekend.  Also as per usual, I chose to simplify the recipe with ingredients available at most grocery stores.  Sweet chili sauce is typically associated with Thai food and hoisin sauce is Chinese so I’ll just describe this sweet and slightly spicy tofu taco filling as Asian fusion and leave it at that.  You can also use the filling in lettuce cups or on tortilla chips.  It’s pretty easy to throw together.  Bake the tofu to remove the moisture, whisk the sauce together and combine.  Easy as yī, èr, sān…

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Squeeze the tofu between towels or let it drain overnight in the fridge to remove as must moisture as possible.  Baking the tofu gives it those brown bits and texture closer to meat rather than tofu mush. You can shred the tofu cutlets using two forks on a cutting board or pop them in a food processor.  When shopping for ingredients, watch labels closely.  Wheat based soy and/or fish sauce are popular ingredients to watch out for if you want to avoid gluten/animal products.  I found vegan, gluten free sweet chili and hoisin sauces at my local Whole Foods market. The spice is mild in my opinion but if you want to kick it up, try topping each taco with a little sriracha sauce.

Vegan Gluten Free Sweet Chili Shredded Tofu Tacos

14 oz. block extra firm tofu
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1 tsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. coconut sugar
 1/2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
taco shells
sliced green onions

Drain tofu and slightly press between paper towels to remove excess moisture. Slice the block into 8 even cutlets.  Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or coat with cooking spray and place the cutlets on the sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Flip the cutlets and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

While the cutlets are baking, whisk together the sweet chili sauce, hoisin sauce, coconut sugar and black sesame seeds and set aside.  Remove the cutlets from the oven and shred on a cutting board using two forks and add to a mixing bowl.  Stir the sauce into the shredded tofu and serve immediately in taco shells, topped with shredded green onion.

Vegan Gluten Free Beyond Chicken Pesto Panini

After my celiac diagnosis, I avoided bread for years.  Regular, gluten-free, it didn’t matter.  The regular stuff could kill me and the gluten-free stuff could break my jaw as well as add 10 lbs.  So I sat for years, breadless.  Like vegan food, gluten-free options have come a long way, baby.  Today’s gluten-free baked goods don’t necessarily double for a doorstop anymore.  I was at Whole Foods this weekend when I spotted O’Doughs sandwich thins in the freezer.  Made with chia seeds instead of eggs, the sandwich thins are a rare vegan/gluten-free combo.  The square-ish shape reminded me of ciabatta bread which reminded me of paninis which reminded me of pesto and the Beyond Chicken strips in my fridge. You see where this is going.

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Pesto sauce is typically made with basil and pine nuts.  My local grocery store was out of pine nuts today but I had raw almonds at home.  Pine nuts are delicious but they are expensive and I think this almond version is an excellent substitute.  Most of the pesto recipes I saw called for high amounts of olive oil.  I kept the oil to just a tablespoon for this recipe, substituting vegetable broth and lemon juice.  If your pesto is too thick to spread, add a little extra vegetable broth until it does.  Buon appetito.
Vegan Gluten Free Beyond Chicken Pesto Panini

pesto sauce
1/4 cup raw almonds
20-25 fresh basil leaves
2 tsp. vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. vegetable broth
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste

sandwich
Beyond Chicken grilled strips (5 strips per sandwich)
vegan gluten free sandwich thins
fresh basil leaves (3-4 per sandwich)
vegan reduced fat mayonnaise
tomato
vegan provolone or mozzarella cheese slices (2 slices per sandwich)
basil leaves
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast almonds for approximately 10 minutes. Watch closely, removing the almonds before they burn. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor and combine until smooth. Add additional vegetable broth if required until pesto sauce is spreadable.

Coat a frying pan with cooking spray and add the grilled strips and 1 Tbsp. of the pesto sauce. Heat the strips over medium low heat until coated in pesto and heated through. Remove from heat.

Spread reduced fat vegan mayonnaise followed by a thin layer of pesto on the inside of the top and bottom sandwich thin. On a griddle pan or large frying pan, coat with cooking spray and place the bottom sandwich thin.  Layer the first piece of provolone followed by tomato, basil leaves, grilled strips, the second piece of provolone and finally the top piece of the sandwich thin.  Use another pan to press the sandwich into a panini, continuing to cook until the cheese has softened.  Serve immediately.

Vegan Gluten Free Polenta “Sausage” Stuffed Peppers

I was picking up groceries at Sprouts Farmers Market this week when I spotted new red and yellow striped peppers.  I did a little research and discovered the colorful “stripy peppers” were developed as a way to get kids to eat more veggies.  They combine the sweet flavors of red and yellow peppers while allegedly providing more vitamin c than an orange.  I wasn’t planning on making stuffed peppers this week but these stripy peppers inspired me to try something new.

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Polenta is a type of cornmeal popular in Italian cooking and can be purchsed in different forms.  The only way it’s available locally is in the refrigerated section of my grocery store, packed in a large tube similar to breakfast sausage.  That form is too dense for the peppers so in this recipe, you reconstitute the polenta by heating it in warm coconut milk.  If you don’t have or don’t care for coconut milk, try vegetable broth. Whatever form of polenta you find, just prepare it per the package instructions. Stripy peppers are new to me so if they haven’t made it to your neighborhood try yellow or red peppers.  Green peppers will work just fine but the red and yellow peppers are sweeter and compliment the spicy meet better in my opinion.

I again rely on my favorite soy-free, vegan, gluten free beef replacement, Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble. If Beyond Meat products aren’t available in your area, use whatever vegan, gluten free beef replacement crumbles are available in your area. I was able to stuff four small-medium sized peppers with this recipe. You may yield more or less depending on the size of the pepper.

Vegan Gluten Free Polenta “Sausage” Stuffed Peppers

5 red or yellow striped peppers
16 oz. tube cooked polenta
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 11 oz. package Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. fennel
1 tsp. anise seed
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. garlic
14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
15 oz. can tomato sauce
sea salt
black pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the tops off of 4 of the peppers.  Reserve tops and set aside.  Remove ribs and seeds from inside the peppers.  Remove the seeds and ribs from the fifth pepper and dice.

Chop up the tube of cooked polenta and add to a sauce pan along with the coconut milk.  Stir over medium heat often, breaking up the chunks of polenta until the polenta breaks down and has absorbed the coconut milk resulting in a porridge consistency.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble, onion, chopped fifth pepper, fennel, anise seed and garlic to a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Sauté until beef is thawed and the peppers and onions are tender. Stir in the polenta and diced tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Let cook for 2-3 additional minutes.

Coat the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish with tomato sauce. Stuff each pepper with the polenta and sausage mixture and place standing up in the dish. Pour tomato sauce over each pepper. Place the pepper tops on a foil lined baking sheet and lighty coat with cooking spray.

Place the pepper tops and stuffed peppers into a 350 degree oven. Remove the pepper tops after 30 minutes. Leave the stuffed peppers to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until peppers are tender (look for wrinkles in the pepper skin). Remove from the oven and serve peppers over additional tomato sauce, crown each with their original baked top.

 

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Vegan Gluten Free Mexican Tofu Sliders with Spicy Mayo

I made the mistake of watching the movie ‘Burnt’ on a recent flight.  Bradley Cooper stars as a chef attempting to redeem himself after burning out and alienating everyone he cared about.  The movie was “m’eh” but you can’t watch a culinary movie without getting hungry.  So, when I came home starving and found a block of tofu I had to use up, I created these Mexican spiced tofu burgers.  Sure, you can buy a box of commercially prepared plant burgers at your local grocery store.  When you make them yourself however, you eliminate the need for preservatives and can tone the spice up or down to your preference. I’m not a fan of lighting my mouth on fire, but if you like to kick it up a notch, add a little cayenne pepper.

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Yellow corn flour acts as a binder in this recipe.  Not cornmeal.  Not corn starch.  Corn flour.  I found a bag at my local Whole Foods.  It may seem as if I use a lot of chili powder but I found the spices mellowed as the patties cooked.  The moisture content of tofu varies so if your mixture doesn’t form patties, add corn flour incrementally until you can form one. I grilled my burgers but if you don’t have a grill available, use a frying pan over medium heat on the stove top. Olé.

Vegan Gluten Free Mexican Tofu Sliders with Spicy Mayo

burgers
1 16 oz. block extra firm tofu
1/2 cup yellow corn flour
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. dehydrated onion pieces
3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
sea salt (to taste)

spicy mayo
1/4 cup reduced fat vegan mayo
2 Tbsp. chili powder

yellow onion
tomato
chopped cilantro
cooking spray
foil

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Drain the tofu block and remove as much moisture as possible using paper towels.  Add all burger ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  The consistency should be similar to meatloaf.  If not, add small amounts of additional corn flour.  Use hands to form patties and place on non-stick foil or regular foil lightly coated with cooking spray.  Place the foil and burgers on the grill.  Flip after four minutes and cook an additional four minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from the grill.

Mix the mayo and chili powder to create the spicy mayo.  Top each slider with a slice of tomato, onion, a dollop of spicy mayo and chopped cilantro and serve.