Straw-Buried Tart with Orange Cream Cheese

This is probably one of the most labor intensive dessert recipes I make, but damn, is it worth it.

My brother and his wife had a baby a few weeks ago!  I’m an aunt!  He’s a perfect little dude and I’m super stoked that I moved from Los Angeles to Denver so that I can be a part of his life.  My mom has been here all week to meet her first (and probably only) grandchild, and she’s been staying with me.  It’s been a fun mix of family time and family meals, and making sure there are some accommodations for me, the lone vegan.  The first night, she baked an apple pie, and made sure we used Earth Balance and vegan shortening so that I could get in on the action, too!

Well, strawberries were on sale at the store yesterday, and I was inspired to make one of my favorite desserts, a strawberry cream cheese pie.  I have not made this since going vegan, so it was an experimental recipe, and it could not have been more delicious.  My sister in law’s mom, a butter/cheese/meat loving Polish woman, thought it was delicious and couldn’t believe it was vegan!

In the past, I’ve always made a graham cracker crust, but I’ve had a lot of trouble finding graham crackers in regular stores that don’t have honey in them, so I cracked open my Williams-Sonoma Pie & Tart cookbook and adapted their basic tart crust recipe to my vegan needs, turning it into a tart instead of the usual pie I once made.  I am so pleased with how everything turned out, and I can’t wait to make this again and again!

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Ingredients:

(For the tart crust):

  • 1 “egg” (I use Ener-G egg replacer and follow the box’s directions)
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (if you don’t have it or are allergic to nuts, just use more vanilla – this is a modification I made, and I think it adds a lot of flavor)
  • 1 1/4 cup (200g) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (90g) organic sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) vegan butter (I use Earth Balance sticks – avoid the spread, as it has a higher water content, and won’t work as well!), cut into small cubes (I cut it into 1/4ths lengthwise, then cut it into about 10 cubes)

(For the tart filling):

  • 1 8oz container of vegan cream cheese (I prefer Tofutti to Dayia in this case, because it has a more mild flavor)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • zest of 1 orange (technically optional, but it really adds so much flavor!  Could substitute lemon zest, too)
  • 2 1/2 pounds of strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (can use regular sugar if you want, this just makes it a little more special!)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions:

(For the tart crust, adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Pie & Tart book to be vegan friendly!)

  1. Preheat your oven to 375, and spray a 9-inch tart pan with non-stick oil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together your egg replacer, the cold water, and the extracts.  Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter in.  If you are using a stand mixer, mix on medium-low speed until the butter is broken up and the mixture looks sandy; pea-sized butter chunks are okay.
  4. Add the “egg” mixture to the flour/butter and stir until just combined.
  5. Mold the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk.  You can either put it in your dough in right away, or refrigerate it for 30 minutes (if you wait, hold off on preheating the oven).
  6. When ready, roll out the dough so that there is about an inch of the crust rising up the side of your tart pan, and place it in the tart pan.  Cover with aluminum foil, patted down so that it touches and covers all of the crust, and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool completely (you can accelerate this in the refrigerator or freezer!).

(For the tart filling):

  1. Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and orange zest together, and spread on the bottom of your completely cooled tart crust.
  2. After washing and hulling the strawberries, sort them out.  You want to find about 1.5 pounds of berries that are approximately the same size to use to line the whole tart.  Cut them into standing 1/4ths, so that they point upwards when placed on top of the cream cheese filling.  Starting from the middle, fill the entire surface of the tart with upright berries.
  3. Chop up the remaining strawberries into chunks, and add the 1/4 cup of sugar to allow them to macerate.
  4. Mix together the corn starch and water (should be at least warm), and mix to get rid of any chunks.  In a small sauce pan, combine the macerated berries, corn starch mix, and turbinado sugar.  Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to cook until the berries break down (I mashed them with my whisk, too).  Continually stir until the mixture becomes thick and viscous.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before pouring over the rest of the tart (I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process).
  5. Refrigerate the entire tart for at least 30 minutes to make sure everything sets up!
  6. ENJOY!  It’s delicious!

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You’ve Lost Your Noodle! Lasagna

When I was on my weight loss journey a few years ago, I was looking for ways to enjoy delicious foods, but maybe cut back on the carbohydrates a little bit (mostly in the pasta and bread-y forms).  That was when I found a recipe for eggplant and zucchini lasagna, using those two plants instead of noodles.  Now, back then, I wasn’t vegan, so the original recipe was full of cheese and egg and the like.  I have since learned how to adapt it to make a simple, healthy, and delicious vegan recipe.

One thing that I should let you know is that this is a recipe that pretty much requires a special kitchen tool – a mandoline slicer.  The ability to make slices all the same thickness is pretty important to the success of this recipe.

Most of the time, I make it very, very simple, but under the ingredients list, I’ve added a few possible (and delicious) add ins!

Topped with a little red pepper flake and additional nooch, for extra love.

Topped with a little red pepper flake and additional nooch, for extra love.

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1/2 of a small eggplant, sliced thinly length wise (use the thin blade on a mandoline)
  • 1 medium/large zucchini (you may not use all of it), sliced thinly length wise
  • 1 package of firm or extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup dairy free cheese alternative (this time, I used Daiya, but I usually use the Follow Your Heart shreds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 can unsalted tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped basil
  • 2 diced up cloves of garlic
  • Options (including, but not limited to):
    • mushrooms!
    • kale!
    • spinach!
    • add crushed red pepper to the sauce to make it spicy!
    • ground meat substitute! (Beyond Meat’s Beefy grounds would be my recommendation!)
    • you could also sub the tomato sauce with my vegan alfredo sauce, if you’re into that kind of thing!

Directions (this is a recipe big enough to share!  It’s technically 4 servings, but you or a guest may end up eating half of it, it’s so good!):

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and spritz a little oil on the base of a 9×9 glass baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, combine the tomato products, fresh herbs, and chopped garlic.  Place a small amount on the bottom of the dish, just enough to give a little coating.
  3. In another bowl, combine the pressed tofu, nooch, salt, pepper, dried basil, granulated garlic, and 1/4 a cup of the cheese alternative.  This should look and taste kind of similar to ricotta cheese.  The addition of the cheese alternative is to help it be a little sticky, so the lasagna holds more shape.
  4. Place a layer of zucchini/eggplant on top of the bottom layer of sauce.  You can do this several ways – you can alternate layers of zucchini and eggplant, or you can mix them.  Although the image I have included shows the eggplant cut into rounds, I recommend lengthwise for either application (I was just using left over eggplant from the other day – you can also use all zucchini or all eggplant, if you’d like!)
  5. Layer the tofu ricotta mixture, followed by about another 1/4 cup of cheese, and top with sauce.
  6. Repeat this process until you run out of tofu mixture and sauce.  Then, top with one more layer of zucchini/eggplant, and the remaining cheese.
  7. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted.  Let sit for 15 minutes, and enjoy!
The whole shabang, right out of the oven.

The whole shabang, right out of the oven.

Penne Alfredo with Kale and Mushrooms

While I was at the grocery store yesterday, someone mentioned they wanted pasta, and I came to the conclusion that I, too, wanted pasta.  I felt like a mushroomy, creamy, sauce was just what I was in the mood for, so I stocked up on crimini mushrooms and headed home.

Mushrooms are one of my favorite things to base dishes around, since I have found them to be very versatile, as well as totally delicious.  Before I stopped paying for cable, I used to watch a lot of Food Network TV shows.  A lot.  I actually attribute this to my ability to cook, since I really never did it beforehand.  Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats, was always a favorite, and one year I remember him making my favorite holiday dish from scratch – green bean casserole.  Since then, I have always made it with fresh ingredients, and it’s been super simple to adapt to my veganism.  I’ve made the mushroom cream sauce and mixed it with pasta before, but I recently decided to play around with it and try to get the flavor of an alfredo sauce with the mushrooms in it.  I feel like I nailed it, and was in the mood for this delicious sauce again last night.

Something about pasta with a cream sauce was just begging for greenery, however, so I added about half a bunch of lacitano kale. Really the only reason I used this kind of kale was because it’s so much easier to cut up into strips than curly varieties of kale, and I was going for that abundance of kale that only thinly shredded bits would be able to give me. Served with a side salad, this was a delicious, hearty, and vitamin filled vegan meal worthy of writing about.

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Without further ado, here is the recipe for my Penne Alfredo with Kale and Mushrooms.

Ingredients:

  • 1 serving of the vegan alfredo sauce (recipe here)
  • 1 serving penne (or other pasta of your choice, but the sauce will stick really well to penne)
  • about 150g, or 1-1.5 cups, sliced mushrooms (I used crimini, but you could cut up portobello mushrooms or use white button.  Nothing with too strong of a flavor, though)
  • 1/2 of one large bunch of kale (I used lacitano, but any kind will work, and you can also adjust the amounts for your taste)
  • oil to saute the mushrooms and kale in
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • optional: some kind of vegan protein source (I used smokey tempeh strips, because I thought the smokey flavor would lend well to the sauce)

Directions (makes one serving):

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package.
  2. Follow the directions included for the vegan alfredo to make the sauce, but add the dried rosemary as well.  It works beautifully with the mushrooms and kale, and although optional, it shouldn’t be!
  3. In a large saute pan, cook your mushrooms until they’re browned and have expelled liquid.  Add the kale on top and cover, allowing it to steam for a while.  ***If using a protein, cook during this time.
  4. When the pasta, sauce, and vegetables are done, test for seasoning and combine ingredients.
  5. Enjoy!!

Vegan Alfredo Sauce

After going to a few restaurants with my friend and finding that most places didn’t have a vegan alfredo sauce, I decided to try to make my own.  How hard could it be?  I’ve already got the basics of a bechamel sauce down, so it seemed like a no brainer.

Here’s the recipe for this basic, yet totally freakin’ delicious, sauce.  Try it on your favorite pasta, or instead of red sauce on pizza! Yum!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter (I use earth balance)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup plain, unsweetened, non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy cheese, mozzarella flavor (I used Follow Your Heart shreds)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions (creates enough for 1 serving; multiply ingredients to serve more):

  1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan.
  2. Once melted, add the flour, and stir until all flour is completely covered in the fat.  Cook on a low heat until it forms a thick paste, or roux.
  3. Add in your milk and stir until well combined.  Turn to a medium-low heat and allow to come to a low simmer.
  4. Add in the cheese and nutritional yeast, and stir until the cheese melts into the sauce.
  5. Stir in your seasonings, and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.  In this time, the sauce will thicken, and should easily coat the back of a spoon.  Once it has reached your desired thickness, add it to your recipe!

Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

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I’m back.  I really wanted to start posting here more for the new year, but between preparing to move and losing my cat, I didn’t really have time.  So much has happened in the last few months, it’s been insane!  I moved from Los Angeles to Denver a month ago, and I’ve started working from home – which gets my cooking and baking juices flowing, I guess, because I can’t stop creating.  I’ve got a handful of recipes I’ve been working on, and I do plan on posting a little more often.

So, blueberry cookies.  Berries were on sale at my local Sprouts when I went this week, and I couldn’t resist buying up a few packages.  I’d also been staring a mostly full container of oatmeal and several very ripe bananas in the eyes, and I got the itch to bake.  I’ve been working on perfecting my banana bread muffin recipe, but wanted something a little more… cookie.  That’s how we got to this little creation.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mashed banana
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted to liquid form
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 “egg” (whichever vegan egg substitute is your favorite)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional; replace with additional vanilla extract if necessary)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (non-pastry flour is fine, too, but I wanted them super light)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup of blueberries

Directions (makes approximately 2 dozen medium sized cookies):

  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Mash the banana together with the oil, “egg,” sugar, and extracts.  Make sure mixture is as smooth as possible.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.  Then mix in the oats.
  4. Add the dry into the wet in two doses.  When the second dose is almost  mixed in, carefully fold in the blueberries.
  5. Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets in approximately 1 inch balls.  Make sure dough doesn’t touch, but they won’t really spread.  I pushed mine down to make them flat before baking.
  6. Bake for about 12-14  minutes, depending on your oven.  I would check them after 9, because I am baking at a high altitude, this worked best for me.
  7. Let them cool on a baking rack, and enjoy!!!

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Portobello Steak with Mixed Green Spaghetti Squash

I’ve had a George Foreman grill for years.  When I ate meat, I probably used it… twice ever.  Just in the last 4 months, I’ve used it close to 10 times.  Why?  I discovered the joy of cooking portobello mushroom caps on it.  After they’ve been marinated and grilled, they’re easily one of the tastiest things I can make at home.

A word about spaghetti squash – it doesn’t taste like spaghetti, so don’t get your hopes up, if you haven’t had it.  That’s usually the first question people ask me when I tell them I had some of it for dinner.  It’s a squash, and it tastes like one.

Anyway, I hadn’t been on a serious grocery shopping trip in close to two months.  I went out of town for Thanksgiving, then for work, then Christmas showed up pretty quickly, and I went out of town again for New Years.  So, yesterday, I did the first half of my grocery shopping.  I decided to make something new with my spaghetti squash, and that lead to this!

ingredients

Ingredients: spaghetti squash, portobello mushroom, beet greens, kale, Beyond Meat chicken-free strips, lemon, garlic, an array of spices, and not pictured: balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cooked spaghetti squash (I boil mine, but you can bake them or even microwave them!  Just make sure they’re cut in half first)
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap
  • 4-5 beet green leaves
  • 3-4 kale leaves
  • 1 serving Beyond Meat chicken-free strips
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • however many cloves of garlic your heart desires
  • assorted herbs and spices (I used basil, parsley, rosemary, lemon pepper, and crushed red pepper)
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
1. Boil a large pot of water (large enough for your spaghetti squash. I always just cook the whole thing). If you don’t have a grill, preheat your oven to 450 (for your mushroom)
2. Zest your lemon (set half aside) and squeeze half of the juice into a container that will fit your portobello mushroom. Add salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Mix together, and add your cap, gills down. I always do this in a sealed tupperware so I can flip it around and get the whole thing coated. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes in the marinade. If you’re putting the mushroom in the oven, go ahead and do that right after the 10 minutes is up.
3. Take your leaves, then pile and roll them up to chiffonade (this is a fancy word for “cut into strips”). Here’s a picture:

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4. Sauté your greens with olive oil and garlic. They’re going to need a little time to soften.
5. When the spaghetti squash is done, remove it from the water. I like to place it in a bowl and use my fork to scrape it out. Here’s another picture:

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6. Right about now, I would put my mushroom on the grill. It only needs about 5 minutes on the GF, closer to 15 if you’re baking.
7. Take the scraped squash and drop it in with your greens, and add the Beyond Meat chicken-free strips. Mix them together, and remove from heat. Add the rest of your zest and lemon juice, as well as any spices you want.
8. When your mushroom is done, remove it from the grill or oven, and slice as desired. Plate, and enjoy!

(note: unlike meat, you can use your marinade without heating it and pour it on top of your mushroom.  It’s delicious!  I showed a friend this, and she totally thought I was eating a steak.)

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Sweet Potato Chili Pie

I’ve been eating a lot of sweet potatoes for the last year, if you haven’t noticed.  I love them.  I’ve been experimenting more with different ways to eat them.  Today I decided to try a “shepard’s pie” kind of approach, utilizing the chili I made today (https://jackieisgreen.com/2015/01/05/bean-chili-basics/).  It was awesome.

Ingredients (serves 1 as is, but obviously easy to adapt):

  • 1 serving of bean chili (see link above)
    • Note: I used garbanzo beans, black beans, white beans, and pinto beans, a can of diced tomatoes, 1 jalapeño, cumin, lemon pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne, turmeric, ground ginger, cinnamon, garlic, parsley, basil, and my favorite hot sauce.
  • 1 small-medium sweet potato, peeled and mashed
  • salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, and garlic
  • Beyond Beef beefy crumbles

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take the serving of chili and put it in a ramekin, and mix in the Beyond Beef.
  3. Top the chili with the mashed sweet potato.
  4. If all of your ingredients are already warm, it only needs to bake for 8-10 minutes to get nice and hot.  If they’re both cold, you’ll probably want closer to 20 or 30.

That’s it!  If you’ve already made the chili, it’s super quick and east to throw together and make this.

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