Nut Cheese!

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So, this will be my second blog in a row where I review a product. I hope that doesn’t alienate any of my faithful readers. But it begs the question- do I actually have any faithful readers? Better yet- why in the hell do I have faithful readers? Strange. Anyhow. Today’s item is something that is taking the vegan world by storm. I’ve been reading about it on every vegan blog and webzine out there so I had to check out the hype for myself. Here goes….

I first heard about Dr. Cow’s Tree Nut Cheese in one of my issues of VegNews magazine. Tree nut cheese is exactly what is sounds like- cheese made from tree nuts. But wait- there’s more. It’s raw, too. *in annoying Monica Gellar voice* I know!!

When I visited their website, I discovered they made a product called ‘cashew cream cheese.’ My heart leapt with joy. I checked out all the sites they claimed carried their products and none of them carried the cashew cream cheese. My heart sank. Plus, the one place I found that carried the regular cheese did not have any in stock. I was wicked bummed but I put myself on their mailing list to hear about when they got it in stock again. That happened about two weeks ago and pictured above is what I recieved via UPS last week. On the left is aged cashew and on the right is aged cashew with blue green algae. (I hear it’s good for you, that’s why I picked that one.) So, with shipping, these two little tiny itty bitty wheels of cheese were about $23. Ouch. The verdict? Worth every penny.

0021I tried each separately, then each on top of a cracker. I didn’t like the one with the blue green algae as much as I loved the one without it, and the opposite was true for my friend who was also tasting both, kind of like my wingman if I decided I wanted to cut and run the hell away from this stuff.  There was no need for that, however. The plain cashew cheese was smooth and creamy, with no gritty texture at all, which surprised me. The cashew with the blue green algae was also smooth and creamy, but with a certain tang at the finish. These were very delicious indeed.

Now, I want you take a couple things into consideration. First, I make a killer macaroni and cheese using pureed cashews as my ‘cheese’ sauce and it’s my favorite thing on the planet. So yes, this was right up my proverbial alley. Also, these little wheels are meant to be used as an artisinal cheese, not something you grate and put onto your tempeh tacos. Plus, it’s fairly pricey and in these uncertain economic times, you’re better off waiting until your Whole Foods carries it, or whatever your local health food store is. If you’re insistent, here’s where I got it from. It’s worth mentioning that I did not opt for the cold packs to be shipped with the cheese because when I ordered it, it was subzero outside my house. Naturally, when they arrived, it was seventy degrees out. It doesn’t seem to have adversely affected the cheese, or maybe it has and I just don’t know any better. Regardless, it’s yummy.

Thanks for reading and next time, a delicious recipe for coconut chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream! Yum!

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Keepin’ It Green

005First up, we would like to thank our friends over at ReusableBags.com for their generosity in sending one of these interesting little devices. (You rule, n8!) A few months back, I went to order two of these (one for me, one for my cheapo mother) and the website told me they were out of stock. Come to find out, they’re hand made by the hard working indigenous peoples of……..wherever, and they only make like two a year or some crap like that. Okay, so I *might* be exaggerating a bit. But they are definitely hand made from sustainable wood using fair trade and wage practices, so that’s pretty cool. And at $15.95 a piece, they’re also a steal, in this reviewer’s opinion. Here’s a fun fact pulled right from the product description on their website:

“If you purchased one box of plastic baggies and washed / reused each bag 30 times you’d save approximately $100.00. Plus you’d help save precious non-renewable resources by consuming nearly 1,000 fewer bags. It’s a win for you and for our environment!”

I know that sounds like a chore but have you seen Wall-E?  That’s the kinda crap we’re headed for if we don’t stop throwing stuff away like it’s no big deal. I don’t buy plastic baggies anymore, I stopped about 6 months ago. It’s driving my husband nuts because now I put his crackers or chips into plastic containers. We’ve discussed this before, he and I. As long as I’m the one who does the dishes, I will decide how many dishes I have to wash, and honestly, a few more plastic containers in my dishwasher do not bother me one bit. Now, to make things easier, when I stopped buying baggies, I went to ReusableBags.com and bought eight Happy Sacks, four in small and four in large.

007The large ones are sandwich sized and the small ones are perfect for a handful of wheat thins or a few chocolate chip cookies. They have an easy to clean inner lining that is not PVC and seriously, if your kids take lunch to school like mine do, you know just how many of those plastic baggies are getting tossed in the trash each year. To me, that’s sickening. Now, with shipping, all 8 of these were about $65 if i recall correctly, but they are super cute and you’ll save at least that in one year over buying those baggies, so they’ll pay for themselves eventually. Wait til your kid comes home and tells you about all the oohs and aahs they got at the lunch table over these!

The product details say that you can throw them in the washing machine but to make them last longer, you should hand wash them. That’s where the aforementioned bag drier comes in! When I went to order it, *this* is what I wanted it for. Of course, with all the baking that I do, it will also be nice to wash my pastry bags and let them dry on the counter. That’s what we like to call “awesomeness.”

The bag and bottle dryer is easy to put together and take apart. If you don’t like it sitting on your counter, there is an eye screw at the top where you can place a hook and hang it from your ceiling. Just remove the base and voila! When you’re not using it, it comes apart and fits nicely into whatever cabinet or drawer you feel like cramming it into.0081

I enjoy having one of these. Now I feel like I can buy those freezer bags again for my vegetables and fruits during the summer months. I tried so hard last year to use plastic containers to store my produce but it’s just not the same. I think the bag and bottle dryer is a great product and worth every penny. I would also like to say that both of my orders came with a complimentary ACME bag, a collapsible grocery tote with a loop for hanging on my keyring. I keep one in my car and one, well, on my keyring, dammit.

009Here is a picture of me that my daughter Carmen took while i was writing this blog. Can’t say I don’t love argyle, because you would be lying.

Until next time….

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Cholent

0041So, we’re coming up on Passover in about another month and while I don’t feel like going into all the customs and laws that the Jewish people must observe, I will tell you i found a pretty decent recipe full of yummy stuff to eat that does not contain chametz or kitniyot. That is, wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, rice, corn, or peanuts. It does have beans but you can just as easily leave those out and sub in more lentils or potatoes.

Essentially, Passover is when the Jewish people commemorate being “passed over” by God when He went on the warpath about Pharaoh being a dick to the Jews. The tenth plaque was death to all firstborn sons but if they had the blood of a spring lamb over their door, they got “passed over,” get it, smarty? When they left Egypt, they were obviously in a hurry and didn’t have time to let their bread rise, thus they remember this with the eating of unleavened bread, or Matzoh.

For more information on Passover, please visit Judaism 101. Passover starts April 9 this year, lasts about a week, and makes all the Jews I know fairly cranky because they pretty much starve the whole time. So fire up your Haggadah, stir the crap out of your charoset, and lets get ready to observe!

This recipe was taken from Veganomicon. I have made it several times and I’m pretty sure I even already put in on this blog, but it’s worth repeating. My kids love it, what more do you need to know? It’s cheap, easy, and feeds about 47 people. She has hers made with fake meat, but if you plan on serving this to others, leave it out. Fake meat gives people the willies who don’t eat it frequently, and I know plenty of vegetarians who won’t touch meat substitutes. Also, cholent is a traditional Jewish (beef) stew made for the Sabbath, so that makes it even more Jew-friendly.

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Cholent

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, cut into a medium sized dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp tarragon

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp salt

several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup red wine  or vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup lentils

1 cup peeled, diced carrots

4 medium sized potatoes, peeled, diced

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce(make sure yours doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it!)

3 cups water

1 cup frozen peas

1 15 oz. can light red kidney beans(or just cut up enough extra carrots and potatoes to equal a cans worth of beans and add them when you add the other carrots and potatoes)

Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onions in the oil until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, tarragon, caraway, salt, and pepper. Saute about two or three more minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant. Deglaze the pot with the red wine/vegetable stock. Add the bay leaves, lentil, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce and water. Mix together, cover and simmer about 30 minutes, or until carrots and potatoes are tender. Add peas and beans and heat through, about 5 more minutes. Done. I really hope I don’t have to tell you to not eat the bay leaves, but just in case, there it is.

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Coming up in my next post, an honest review of this plastic bag/ pastry bag drier!

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Potato Asparagus Soup

008I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog to “Just Soups.” Just kidding, but it does seem that I’ve been posting an awful lot about soups lately. Speaking of awful, here’s a recipe for some potato asparagus soup that looked a little like “dirty dishwater” as a friend of mine so lovingly put it. It didn’t taste horrible but as I post this, know that I am not posting the original recipe, but the recipe as I feel it should have been originally done. Any questions? Save it. I don’t care that much about this one.

Potato Asparagus Soup

3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 pound asparagus roasted (how i roast my asparagus to follow) then chopped

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion cut into fine dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

few dashes black pepper

4 cups veg broth

2 bay leaves

juice of 1/2 lemon

How I roast my asparagus: wash and cut off about an inch of that rough end. Toss with about one tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp grill seasoning. I use McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning. You can leave off the seasoning and just roast the greens if you don’t want that particular  flavoring in your soup, but as you can see, this isn’t a heavily flavored soup. You can pretty much have your way with it and it won’t complain. So anyways, lay them nicely side by side on a cookie sheet, put your oven at 400 and roast for about 20 minutes. You want some of the tips to get a nice dark color. Black, if you will. Once finished, let cool and cut into smallish pieces.I suppose you could chop up the asparagus before roasting but I’ve never done that, so let me know how it turns out if you do.

In a large soup pot, bring the potatoes to a boil in a lot of water. Let boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from pot, set aside. Rinse pot, then heat up olive oil in pot. Toss in onion and let sweat and caramelize for about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and saute about 1-2 more minutes. Add broth and bay leaves, boil for about ten minutes. Discard bay leaves, add potatoes. At this point, you can use your immersion blender to puree the holy crap out of this, or you can put it in batches into your food processor like I did. (I have an immersion blender. I’m not sure why I didn’t use it. Anyways.)

Once the potatoes are all pureed, put the asparagus back into the pot. Add the lemon juice. Done.

I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, I ‘nothing’ it. On the other hand, here is a recipe for my new favorite dish. I’m calling it…

004Bow Tie with Nuts

1 lb bow tie pasta, cooked al dente

1/3 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped (or more if you want)

1/2 cup pine nuts and walnuts, chopped (or just walnuts, if you think pine nuts are too pricey)

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Toast your nuts until fragrant, no more than 4-5 minutes. Heat olive oil in pan, add in garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, add in salt, red pepper, and nuts. Remove from heat and stir into the pasta. Then add the basil and parsley. Best thing ever!! I have made this with dried herbs and it just isn’t the same so please, please use fresh basil in this one. Super easy and super delicious. Enjoy!


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Corn Chowder

Midsummer Corn Chowder

Midsummer Corn Chowder

I love soup. I especially love it when it’s chunky and hearty and full of herbs. Although, I hear that if it’s chunky, it should be called stew, but that’s neither here nor there. My family and I are on a budget, as is most of the country, so when I see something that’s relatively inexpensive, plus it makes enough for us to eat for a couple days, well, it’s on like Donkey Kong.

This soup was incredibly easy to make. I’m pretty sure that even the people who claim they ‘can’t even boil water’ can make this soup. All it entails is a bunch of chopping, then sauteeing, then boiling. I took the recipe from Veganomicon (and made minor changes) which is slowly but surely becoming my most-used cookbook. It really is a page-turner people! You should check it out. It encompasses every type of recipe you’d want, with only a few you might not. (Um, borscht? Yuk.)

Midsummer Corn Chowder with Basil, Tomato, and Fennel (p144)

6 ears fresh corn, husked, silk removed, and de-kerneled(or a 16 oz. bag of frozen works nicely, too)

3 tbsp olive oil (I often wish recipe authors would stop telling me how much olive oil to use, because I always end up using three times what they tell me to)

3 cloves garlic (remember me? the gal who loves garlic? I used 6 cloves)

1 large onion, diced fine (i used sweet onion)

1 small bulb fennel, diced fine

1 stalk celery, diced fine

1 large carrot, diced

1 lb potatoes, diced (I used Yukon gold. No, I did not peel them, I just washed them really well)

2 tsp dried thyme

2 qts corn stock, or veggie broth (I used veggie broth)

For when the soup is done cooking:

1 lb tomatoes, seeded then chopped (I used plum tomatoes)

1/3 cup fresh basil leave, cut into thin strips

salt and pepper to taste

So, I’m a lotta Giada in that I salt and pepper every layer of what I’m cooking. Time for carrots? Toss in some salt. Now it’s time for potatoes? A little more salt please. She’s got the right idea on this and I’m a gal who doesn’t usually like salt, salty items, nor do I use salt in my cooking if I can avoid it. Usually. Certainly not for health reasons mind you, I just never really liked things that were salty. My husband, on the other hand, will put salt on pizza. He’s kind of gross, in my opinion. However, things like casseroles, stews, and of course chowders that are full of fresh veggies, definitely need salt.

Heat up that olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Why heavy bottomed? Who knows. Maybe our author has a fondness for heavy bottoms. Anyways, for this recipe, you pretty much go down the list of items, starting with the garlic, and throw them in the hot oil to sautee. Now, the garlic only needs to be sauteed alone for about 30 seconds. Everything after will take about five minutes per item. And remember: a little salt and pepper  to taste after each addition never hurt anybody.

Once it’s all done sauteeing, you pour in your vegetable stock. Bring it all to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and let sit for about five minutes to take the edge off the boil. Next, take your immersion blender and put it in the middle, then blend here or there for a minute or so. You still want this soup chunky, so not too much immersion blending, okay?

When you are finished, toss in the tomatoes and basil, then reheat for about 5 or 10 minutes. Gorgeous AND delicious! I would serve this with grilled cheeze or a nice little sala maybe, although I’d rather have the grilled cheeze.

Next time, I may experiment with Mimcreme, just to see how it tastes and thickens. At the end, you could also finish this off with big plap of Earth Balance if you wanted, just for a little extra flavor and creaminess.

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Potato Kale Enchiladas

010Dang, you guys. I’m sorry. School has taken over my life. In fact, I should be studying right now but I’m giving myself a much deserved break in order to tell you about the fabulousness of these Potato Kale Enchiladas I made from a recipe in Veganomicon.

When I first heard someone talk about cooking with kale, I almost gagged. Why would I want to make a meal out of the tough, woody green stuff that takes up space on my plate when I order food at the local Greek joint? The nice thing about kale is that it has an uncanny ability to soak up flavors nicely and hold onto them without too much fuss.  I once made ‘kale chips’ by just roasting some torn up pieces of kale, sprinkling them with salt, oil, and vinegar, and they accompanied my next sandwich, taking the place of the usual salty, fatty potato chips! (Much thanks to Melisser for this idea!)

In this recipe, the kale is chopped up fine and allowed to wilt down with some garlic and oil while on medium flame. Don’t be scared about cooking with it, I promise it won’t disappoint! Plus, there’s another great way to get some dark green, leafy veggies into your diet.

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Above is a close-up shot after I took out a couple scoops. You can probably still see the filling steaming like mad!

008This is right before it went into the oven. Those little green guys are pepitas, or the meat of the pumpkin seed. They were toasted and used for garnish.

Things I did different from the original recipe: I only had ten tortillas and the recipe called for 12 to 14. I will definitely use more tortillas next time. I like to be able to taste the corn, as gross as that may sound. Also, I used canned chiles because my grocery store didn’t have them fresh. Oh well!

If you want the recipe, leave a comment with your email address!

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Apple Crisp Cupcakes

So, you know how some people are like, “Oh, hey, I meant to call you but I’ve been busy…”? Well, I am probably one of the only people you’ll ever meet in your life who IS genuinely busy. And uh, yeah, I meant to call you, he he.

But seriously, I just started school full time, I work part time, and I have one toddler and two teenagers who I have to drive here, there, and everywhere, otherwise I’m made to feel like an a-hole. This is the reason I all but stopped my side baking business with an exception now and again- like today.

It’s Superbowl Sunday! I have to work and I’m bringing in these delicious apple crisp cupcakes. The recipe is pretty basic- take the vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and cross it with the Apple Crisp Cupcake from Julie Hasson’s 125 Best Cupcake Recipes. Totally vegan and totally delicious! Simply add 1 cup of peeled, chopped apple to the batter of the vegan vanilla cupcake. Then make this streusel…

Streusel:

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp Earth Balance

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch salt

Mix together until you have coarse, wet crumbs. Fill your lined muffin cups half way with the batter. Place a dollop of the streusel mixture in the center then fill to the top with more batter. Bake at 350 for about 26 minutes, possibly more, if your oven sucks. Let cool completely. Yes, they will be very sticky and gooey but seriously, if anyone actually complains about this, remove the cupcake from their hand, toss it in the trash and say “There. Not so sticky now, is it!?”

Apple Crisp Cupcakes

Oh and I tried to download the cupcake toppers my friend Natalie posted in her blog but I have this new-ish printer that apparently doesn’t have magenta ink, thus being the reason why it was given to me, i guess. Alas, no toppers.

Enjoy these!!

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