I grew up with this chocolate fondue, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  It’s so easy and fool-proof.  Other than fruit, my favorite dippers were the vegan toasted coconut marshmallows by Sweet & Sara.  Double yum!  We also tried the plain vanilla marshmallows but they stuck together, and not many of us were patient enough to pull them apart to dip in the chocolate!  And if you are between Sweet & Sara and Dandies brands, I suggest you try Sweet & Sara. They have a more homemade taste.

Chocolate Fondue

  • One 12-oz bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter*

In a large saucepan over medium low heat, melt the chocolate chips and sugar with the almond milk, stirring constantly.  Add peanut butter and stir frequently until warm.  Add to fondue pot!

*Look for a peanut butter that has one ingredient: peanuts!  I like the one from Trader Joe’s.  Also, this is a great time to use crunchy peanut butter.

Just about everything I made from Miyoko Schinner’s book Artisan Vegan Cheese worked out beautifully for our fondue party.  I wanted to try as much as possible, so I even threw in a couple appetizers and a dessert.

culturing vegan cheeses

A patient human being and cultured vegan cheeses go very well together.

Pictured below is the Brie (p.12).  I wouldn’t say it tasted like brie on its own, but it worked perfectly as a replacement spread for jam and crackers.  It was a pretty thin round… when I made the brie, I thought it should have been poured into one 6-inch round and not two, but the small height actually worked out great for this context.  And I still have another round to save for another occasion.🙂  I served it with raspberry jam, hot pepper raspberry jam, fig and walnut butter, red chili jam, and prickly pear champagne jelly.  

Then there was the Brie en Croute (p.80) which used the Air-Dried Brie (from p. 39).  Definitely a big hit.  I used 1/3 cup raspberry jam, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and 2/3 cup walnuts as the filling.  It had a classic baked brie taste and went well with the classic Carr’s table water crackers.  (The recipe for the “Mushroom Puff Pastry Bites” at the top of the picture above can be found at the Seitan is my Motor blog here.  We omitted the oil and cut 3×3 inch squares of puff pastry instead of 4×4. They tasted delicious and the crimini mushrooms are perfect for this!)

For dessert, I wanted to try the Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake (p. 115).  It was delicious, with a subtle lemony taste, but I wanted a little more raspberry throughout the cheesecake.  Next time, I think I will pour in half the filling, swirl in some raspberry, pour in the remaining filling, and then swirl the remaining raspberry on top.  Then there were the four fondues. I loved all of them!  Pictured below are the leftovers.  I had planned on having a fifth fondue of Swiss cheese (using the Air-Dried Emmentaler on p. 32) , but it didn’t melt right.  I think if you eliminated the agar and used a bit of carrageenan to thicken it up, it would work better as a fondue cheese.  The taste of the Swiss was spot on, so I definitely will try that at our next fondue!So from the top left I had the Gruyere, Spinach Artichoke, Chipotle Queso, and Sharp Cheddar.  My notes on each:

  • Gruyere (Hard Gruyere, p. 13): Very authentic taste!  Perfect for fondue.  I used the fondue recipe from p. 65 and it worked out great (the recipe is on Miyoko’s blog here… I only used half the wine for kid-friendliness and added more water).  I recommend making roasted Brussels sprouts to dip into this cheese.
  • Spinach Artichoke (used Cashew Cream Cheese, p. 20). For full details and a recipe click here!
  • Chipotle Queso (Low-Fat Chipotle Cheese Sauce, p. 63 or on Miyoko’s blog here): I have made this before and there is a reason for it!  This queso is slightly sweet, smoky, and a crowd-pleaser.  It tastes best with homemade tortilla chips, but for the sake of time, we used store-bought this time around.
  • Sharp Cheddar (Sharp Cheddar, p. 14):  I would really like to encourage people who make this recipe to be patient.  I cultured this cheese in Arizona for 36 hours, so in colder climates realize it could take 4-5 days.  I tasted it everyday and the nutritional yeast flavor does go away and it really does taste like a sharp cheddar.  I melted it with some almond milk and it was perfect.  And please take my advice and buy some soft pretzel rolls for this one.  You won’t regret it!
thanks to kelli for her awesome instagram of the spread!

thanks to kelli for her awesome instagram of the spread!

Vegan Grilled Cheese

Before I went vegan there was one sandwich I was particularly particular about!  My grilled cheese always involved the overly processed American cheese.  It always involved two slices of bread that were buttered on one side and then grilled on a frying pan.  The only healthy part of my sandwich was my switch to whole wheat as I got older.

So when I saw the quick-to-put-together Oat American Cheese (p.50) in Miyoko’s book, I had to try it.  

Oat American Cheese

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In the picture below, the Oat American is on the right, and the leftover cheese from my Sharp Cheddar fondue is on the left.  Clearly, the American on the right is more attractive.  But I have to say I prefer the taste and texture of the Sharp Cheddar on the left.  The Oat American has a lot of flavor (much more so than the dairy counterpart), but is a little too “nutritional yeast-y” to me.  I included the oil in the recipe, and thought it was a little too drippy (I may have melted it too much).

And while I give kudos to Miyoko’s Sharp Cheddar, I still have to say for grilled cheese, my favorite involves the sauce from Veg News’ mac and cheese recipe (click here to see my modified version for grilled cheese).  Probably because it’s not trying to be anything but a delicious sauce. 
DSCN2306

Well there ya go!  Miyoko’s book has clearly inspired me and blown me away with what’s possible in vegan cuisine.  The cheddar, gruyere, and swiss flavors blew me away with their authenticity without tasting fake, processed, or chemical-ish.  And both bries will be a regular part of my holiday repertoire.

The vegan community likes to debate the whole realm of “fake foods” or “imitative foods” vs. whole foods as grown… and I feel like I have a foot on each side of the debate.  If you can create an alternative to dairy or meat that is delicious enough to make someone think that veganism is possible for them, then I think it’s worth serving.   Do I generally admire people more for creating something new with the variety of vegetables we have to choose from?  Yes… but sometimes having an alternative helps people make the switch.  So let’s focus on the big picture.  What you see in this post is a holiday meal, not an everyday meal.  It’s a fun experiment, not a lifestyle.  And I think we should be thankful for people like Miyoko Schinner who are willing to test recipes and spend a fortune on cashews so we don’t have to!

So on Saturday night, we finally had our big fondue night.  I tested 5 cheeses and 4 of them made it to the “fondue island” (my parents’ kitchen island transformed into fondue frenzy).  All of them featured a cheese from the book Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner.  From the top left and moving clockwise in the photo above, we have Gruyere, Spinach Artichoke, Chipotle Queso, and Sharp Cheddar.  The Swiss cheese didn’t melt right, so we didn’t use it.  I will do a cookbook review later, but for now, I want to feature an easy recipe that uses the Cashew Cream Cheese from Miyoko’s book.

Spinach Artichoke Fondue

  • 10 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 14 oz can quartered artichokes
  • 1 cup cream cheese (from Artisan Vegan Cheese p. 20)
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

First wilt the spinach with 1/2 cup water in a covered frying pan over medium high heat.

Drain any excess water, push the spinach off to the side (chop any large pieces with some kitchen scissors), and add your cream cheese to the pan while it is still warm.

Mix the nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in with the cream cheese, tasting for the right seasoning.  Add the quartered artichokes to the pan, cutting each of them an additonal 3-4 times with some kitchen scissors until you’ve reached the desired size.Now mix the three together!Ready for the fondue pot!  My favorite dippers with the spinach artichoke dip were soft pretzel rolls,  cauliflower, and tortilla chips.

Thanksgiving was unusual this year.  Usually we have a random mix of people, but this year it was just my parents, my brother, and me.   So we saved the feast for the weekend and ordered our meal from our favorite vegetarian spot in Phoenix… Pomegranate Cafe!  Everything was delicious, and it was nice not having to clean so many dishes.   “Jewel Salad”: Spinach, Apples, Pears, and Candied Pecans Raw LasagnaSweet Potato Turnover, Fennel Stuffing, Harvest Hash with Gravy, and a Cranberry ChutneyRaw Pumpkin Persimmon Cheesecake and Apple Cranberry Pie

Ever since I saw pictures of the chickpea flour quiche on The Taste Space blog, I knew eventually I would take a shot at it!   I can’t imagine the need to ever make a tofu-based quiche again… this is my new go-to base.  It’s wonderfully creamy on the inside and has a crisp outer layer.

Kitchen Sink Crustless Chickpea Flour Quiche

based on this recipe

Quiche base (blend all ingredients in a blender till smooth):

  • 2 1/4 cups chickpea/garbanzo bean flour
  • 2 cups + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup almond milk (or more water)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black salt*
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary (or other herbs of your choosing)

The Kitchen Sink:

  • I used leftover spring mix, bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, scallions, and roasted red pepper, but honestly use whatever you have!  If you’re using a springform or frying pan, fill it halfway up with veggies.  If you are using a pie plate, fill it to the top.

*also called kala namak, this salt is pink in color, and found in asian grocery stores.  It gives a bit of an eggy taste, but feel free to leave it out or replace with normal salt if you can’t find it.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Grease a 9 in. springform pan, pie plate, or metal frying pan.
  2. Chop up all your veggies you plan on putting in the quiche, then toss them in the pan to mix together.
  3. Blend all the quiche base ingredients in a blender and pour into the pan with the veggies.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes until browned on top and somewhat firm.

If we had been patient, we probably would have gotten a cleaner cut.  So if you can, wait a few minutes to slice into it.

One of my favorite food memories growing up was fondue night at the Oatmans’.   We’d have a bunch of people over, long tables of fondue pots and reclettes, and a three-course feast.  Far from vegan, our fondue courses featured chunks of steak and chicken cooked in oil, several different cheese fondues (we lived in Wisconsin, enough said!), and a killer chocolate fondue that far exceeds anything served at The Melting Pot.

So due to the the recent release of Artisan Vegan Cheese and my desire to health-ify food from my roots, I’m planning a legendary Thanksgiving weekend vegan cheese fondue feast.  And as you may or may not know, culturing your own vegan cheeses often starts with a healthy probiotic drink they call rejuvelac…

Step 1: Soak your grains overnight. They should be just immersed in water. Here I am soaking quinoa (left) and hard red winter wheat berries (right). Make sure you’re using whole grains and not a processed version. On the top of the jars is a double layer of cheesecloth secured with rubber bands.
Step 2: Drain the grains well and return them to the jars with enough water to just moisten the grains and not immerse them (I did 1/3 to 1/2 the way up from the bottom of the jar). Drain and replace water 1-2 times a day till sprouts appear.

Step 3: When the grains start to sprout, drain again and return to the jars, immersing them with filtered water (6x the amount of water compared to the amount of grains you started with).

Step 4: When the mixture smells tangy (somewhat like lemon juice), after 1-3 days, strain the liquid of the grains and store in jars! 1 cup grains yields 6 cups rejuvelac.

Muffins for breakfast this morning!  I’m always so grateful when people get together because as far as I’m concerned, that’s my opportunity to make them my baking guinea pigs!

The three muffins on the right side of the picture above are from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  I loved them all, but I recommend cutting down on the vegan butter (1/3 cup?) and liquids in the ginger muffins, as they fell apart a little too easily.

The pumpkin chai is pretty much my chai cupcake recipe without the icing:

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