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So I have not posted any recipes this week because I am following a Happy Herbivore meal plan (getmealplans.com) that I will post about this weekend.  Seriously check it out… If you are having a busy week and you want to eat healthy and delicious food without putting in crazy hours of prep, then these meal plans are for you.

Tonight I met up with some family at my parent’s place and so we made my dad’s yummy mushrooms and brown rice…

This is one those “I can’t believe it’s that simple!” recipes.  When I first tried it, I could not believe the mushrooms were only cooked with two ingredients.  Crazy good… just try it.

Cook rice according to package directions.

Add mushrooms to a large saucepan over high heat.  Stir mushrooms till they release some of their moisture and start to cook down (you do not need to add water or oil to the pan).

Add soy sauce and garlic.  Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium till mushrooms are cooked, about 5 minutes.

Serve mushrooms over bowls of brown rice, and be sure to ladle in some of the sauce from the pan.

Serves 6.

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When I saw these videos a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to make this entire meal sooner than later…

Here are my results, everything was delicious!  I’m showing you mostly pictures up-front because I hardly changed anything.  You can find the “Smoky Chipotle No-Queso” recipe here.  For the rest, you can check out my map of the “It’s Nacho Business” meal here.

We found a couple of these “love mushrooms”… unfortunately we had to separate them. :/

Enchilada filling: mushrooms, red pepper, onions, and cumin. Everything is better with cumin

Queso, before blending.

Queso complete!

my full plate.

This recipe made 20 enchiladas (two 13×9 pans)

Papaya Salad and Nacho fixings. The salad dressing is at the top of my favorite salad dressings ever.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Cashew Cream and Sauteed Mushrooms, Vegan Sausage, and Greens.

Okay.  I’m just going to say it.  This is the best thing I’ve ever made!  This is omnivore approved and my mom puts it up there with my adapted version of the Vegan With a Vengeance Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto.  Yes it’s that good.  A little involved, but so worth it.

I originally planned to make both orange and purple gnocchi (from purple potatoes)… but the purple just turned to mush when I cooked it.  I was just happy that ANY of this worked given that this was my first attempt at gnocchi. It takes time, but it’s really not rocket science.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Method based on this recipe.

  • 1 lb. garnet yams (about 2 potatoes)
  • whole wheat pastry flour (2-4 cups)

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into bite size chunks.  Steam in a steamer basket in a pot or medium-large saucepan until soft (approx. 20 minutes).

Mash with a potato ricer (the easy way) or a fork (the longer way) until completely lump-free.  Then spread the potatoes across your work surface/cutting board until cool enough to work with.

Pull the potatoes into a soft mound and sprinkle with 1/2 cup flour across the top.  To incorporate, use a metal spatula or a pastry scraper.  If the dough is easily sticking to the spatula or your hands, add another 1/2 cup flour and incorporate.  Then, continue adding 2-3 Tbsp flour at a time just until the point when the dough still feels slightly wet, but is not sticking to your spatula/hands (moist but not sticky).

Gently knead dough a few times to form into a ball.  Cut it into four pieces.  Now gently roll each fourth of the dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb.  Use a knife to cut pieces every 3/4-inch.  Dust lightly with a bit more flour.

To shape the gnocchi, hold a fork in one hand so that the tines are curled toward you.  Using your thumb on your other hand roll each gnocchi pillow from the base of the tines to the tips.  What you’re aiming for is a slight “c” shape, where the back has small ridges to catch the sauce.  Set each gnocchi aside until ready to boil.

This is usually the point when I make my sauce and cook the veggies that will go with the gnocchi.  I thought they benefited from a few minutes of rest.  

When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of water to boil.  Cook the gnocchi in batches by dropping them into the boiling water roughly twenty at a time.  When they pop back up to the water’s surface, give them 10 seconds or so and remove them with a slotted spoon.  Have a large platter ready with a generous swirl of sauce.  Between each gnocchi batch, add a layer of your sauce and other ingredients, like cooked veggies and greens.

Sage Cashew Cream

  • 1 generous cup raw cashews (soaked for 30-60 minutes in very hot water and drained)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 15 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup water + more if needed

Blend all ingredients in a blender till smooth.  Add water until the sauce reaches the consistency of heavy cream.  It should make about 2 cups (add more cashews if sauce gets too thin, more water if too thick).

Sautéed Mushrooms, Vegan Sausage, and Greens

  • 12 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 2 links vegan Italian sausage, crumbled or diced small (I used Field Roast brand, but you could make your own)
  • 2 cups fresh dark leafy greens, however much you like (I used dandelion greens and spinach)

Heat mushrooms and 1/4 cup water on a pan over med-high heat until mushrooms are cooked down a little, about 3-5 minutes.  Add greens, and heat until wilted.  Drain any excess liquid, then add crumbled sausage, and heat until warm.

Serve with a few fresh sage leaves.

Left: cashew cream, field roast italian sausage, basil; Right: alfredo sauce, mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, tofurky pepperoni

We experimented tonight with a few new pizza options with varying success:

Cashew cream (from “He speaks in the silence” website here): This was wonderful, it was lighter in texture than the vegan alfredo sauce I’ve been using, it’s mild in flavor, so it really let the veggie toppings shine.

Field Roast Italian Sausage:  so delicious and flavorful, but it’s a little higher in fat and made from gluten, so it’s not for everyday or for everybody, but it’s a great treat!

Tofurky Pepperoni: I was iffy about trying this one, and for me and my fellow pizza testers, it just wasn’t great.  There are just too many good veggies in the world… this just isn’t necessary to make it better.

“Flatout” Flatbread (from Costco): pros: 100% whole wheat, makes a crispy thin crust, works great for these pizzas. cons: the ingredient list is a little long.

this was a winner. last year we used field roast apple sage sausages in our thanksgiving stuffing, so we had high expectations… and we loved this!

Just didn’t have a lot of flavor, not terrible, but not great.

a great, quick option for weeknight pizza night.

Vegan two cheese pizza: Parmesan Spread and Creamy White Cheese with broccolini, roasted corn, sun-dried tomatoes, and red onion. No Daiya, Teese, or added oils here!

Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

I really wanted to make something extraordinary for Vegan Pizza Day… Generally when I make pizza, it’s on a pita, doesn’t have any cheese, and is really just a quick, easy meal for a weeknight.

So I thought I’d try out a few homemade cheeses for this one.  I have to say, it makes this pizza pretty rich and filling, and I almost think I should have made two smaller pizzas… one with the cheeses and the other with the veggies.  Less is more.

The veggie combination is inspired by California Pizza Kitchen’s Vegetarian with Japanese Eggplant Pizza.  I think omitting the eggplant is the only change I made.  But seriously, these veggies don’t need cheese to be delicious… next time I will use them on their own!

Okay.  Now for the components:

The Crust

Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough.  Made with a mix of whole wheat and regular flour.  I wish it were 100% whole wheat, but hey… it’s delicious, quick, and cheap ($1.29).

The Sauce

3 ingredient pizza sauce…. does water count?

I don’t need a fancy sauce. I added about 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning, 1 Tbsp garlic powder, and water to a can of tomato paste… and really, that’s all it needed! For this pizza, the sauce is like the skinny models on the runway. They can’t be too pretty or voluptuous or they’ll distract people’s attention from the clothes. Same thing here. I just wanted the other components to shine.

Cheese # 1: Parmesan Spread

I’m not sure the name does it justice.  This stuff tastes like parmesan.  It was inspired by a bunch of recipes I found online and this one in particular that made a spread out of the sprinkle stuff.  I made mine oil-free by using cannellini beans.  These beans are awesome… they are light, creamy, and don’t have a strong flavor, so they were perfect for mixing with this parmesan.

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cooked cannellini beans (if from a can, then drained and rinsed)

First make some vegan parmesan.  My new favorite way of making it is using a cheese grater, another great tip from Cathy Fisher of StraightUpFood.com.  First, use the grater to grind the nuts.  Then, in the little barrel where the grated nuts are, mix in the nutritional yeast and salt.  This is one recipe where I would not leave out the salt… parmesan is a particularly salty food, so without it, I just don’t think it tastes right.

This grater is great because it has a little adjustable window. You can reduce the window to a crevice and it’s perfect for sprinkling parmesan at the table!

You can mix this up in a blender just as easily. Just make sure you get the nuts chopped up pretty fine. Blend parmesan and cannellini beans in a blender with 1/4 cup water. If the mixture is not moving, continue to add 1 Tbsp of water at a time, scraping down the sides of the blender, until you get a consistency a bit thicker than a hummus but not as thick as a paste.

Since this spread has a pretty strong flavor, I decided not to put a whole layer of it on top of the pizza sauce. I opted instead for these circles:

Cheese Sauce #2: Creamy White Sauce

This sauce is so creamy and based on my go-to mac and cheese sauce.

Chop the following veggies and steam in a steamer basket in a covered saucepan or pot (filled with about 1-2 inches of water) on med-high heat, until veggies are soft.

  • 1 cup yukon potatoes (if using russet, you will need to peel)
  • 1/3 cup red onion
  • 2 Tbsp shallots or more onion

While the veggies are steaming, blend in your blender:

  • – 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • – 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • – 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • – 1/8 tsp or a few drops of yellow mustard
  • – a few cloves garlic (depending on personal preference)
  • – 1 Tbsp lemon juice

When steamed veggies are soft, add to blender and process.  If mixture isn’t moving/gets stuck, then add 1 Tbsp of water at a time till mixture gets going.  The goal is to add as little water as possible so you aren’t pouring soup on your pizza!

The Veggie Toppings

Under the Creamy white Cheese:

  • broccolini / broccoli raab / baby broccoli, lightly steamed
On top:
  • Trader Joe’s roasted corn (or you can roast your own kernels on a non-stick frying pan)
  •  red onions, chopped
  • sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted a bit

I put most of the veggies underneath the cheese and they kind of got lost, so that’s why I recommend putting most of them on top.

I made this delicious chili a few days ago and man does it go far!  This quinoa cornbread goes amazing with it… it’s moist, savory, and and the quinoa gives it a bit of a nutty flavor that’s really nice.  Both recipes are from Cathy Fisher at StraightUpFood.com.

Both of these recipes are gluten-, oil-, sugar-, and salt-FREE!

A couple modifications and tips:

For the cornbread (click here for recipe)

  • Don’t use the banana unless you want to taste it in your bread.  I subbed out 1/2 cup applesauce (one of those little containers) for the banana and it worked perfectly.
  • I also left out the cinnamon, because I thought that was weird for cornbread.
  • If you want a sweeter cornbread, you are either going to have to add a few more dates to your soaking liquid (discard any additional liquid you use to soak) or use sugar.
  • Use a coffee grinder to grind your whole flaxseeds, oats, and cornmeal.  I just bought this one recently, and I LOVE it!  I put it next to my 13-inch macbook so you could see how compact it is.  Click the photo for an amazon link to purchase it. 

For the chili (click here for the recipe):

  • Use Pomì Tomatoes (pictured above and can be purchased here in bulk on amazon, or in Arizona at Sprouts or Whole Foods).  Then you don’t have to worry about what’s leeching from the cans.
  • Don’t leave out the celery.  In her cooking demonstration at True North, Cathy said that celery gives the impression of saltiness… and it really does work in this chili.  I ALWAYS miss salt when they are left out of soups and stews, but I don’t miss it here.
  • If you like your chili spicy, then add come chipotle chili powder and some cayenne.  I also doubled all the spices she listed.
  • I heard this great tip about beans that I haven’t tried yet… If you want to avoid canned beans, but don’t want to be soaking and cooking dried beans every week, cook them in larger batches, then store in plastic sandwich bags or small jars in 1 1/2 cup portions in the freezer.  Most canned beans equal about 1 1/2 cups, so if a recipe calls for canned beans, you just pull out a bag or jar from the freezer!  I’m so doing this.