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Sandwiches

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. 
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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!

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This was so yummy and hearty. It’s messy, so be prepared with a fork or serve open-faced!

Beer Bread

Beer Bread is so amazing!  It takes seriously 3 minutes to come together and 1 hour in the oven.  The inside is soft and the outside is crusty.  And you don’t have to like beer to like this bread… the beer flavor is there, but subtle.

Follow this Happy Herbivore recipe for 100% whole wheat beer bread.  Some tips:

  • Prep your dough after the oven is preheated!  The dough comes together so fast and you don’t want the leavening to weaken while it’s sitting on your counter waiting for the oven.
  • Consider doing half whole wheat pastry and half regular flour if you are using this for a sandwich as it can be a little dense as is.  Keep it all whole wheat if you are serving this with soup!

Caramelized Onions

  • 4 onions, sliced like this
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp no-beef bouillon base
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup water

Heat a large pan over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, whole thyme sprigs, and pepper, and cook until the onions are caramelized.*  Dissolve no-beef bouillon in a small bowl with the wine and water.  Add the liquid to the pan, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium, simmering until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry.  Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

*Quick way to caramelize onions (Seriously this takes half the time with the same result!):

Start with a dry non-stick pan at medium-high heat… do not add water or oil.  Add onions. Stir once every minute or two with a wooden spoon until the onions release some moisture and then that moisture cooks away.  

When the moisture cooks away, the onions will start to brown and you will see a sticky brown substance start building up on the bottom of the pan.  This is when you want to start stirring the pan more frequently, every 15-30 seconds.  Allow the onions to stick to the pan a little and brown, but do not let them or the sugars on the pan burn.  Now every couple minutes or so, start adding two tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan.  Only deglaze the pan when you fear the sugars on the pan might burn or you will slow down the caramelization process.  When your onions look like this, you are done!

Creamy White Cheese Sauce

Chop the following veggies and steam in a steamer basket in a pot or saucepan:

  • 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 of garlic (amt. depends on personal preference)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

When steamed veggies are soft, add to blender and process till smooth.

Let’s just say my search for the perfect vegan grilled cheese is over.  And I will say the same for this tomato basil soup.  Although, if you’re making the soup for yourself, cut the recipe in half as it makes a lot!  The vegan grilled cheese is based off of VegNews mac and cheese sauce here. The tomato soup is a simplified and veganized version of Ina Garten’s Tomato Basil Soup here.  I have to say, I really love these two together!

I’m not sure if this is three pounds, but it worked out perfectly!

Purchased at Whole Foods… it has a lot of salt in it, so if you’re avoiding that, just use water.

This was really tasty… although just like my pizza, I have to say this had one too many ingredients and less would have been more.  I think I’d save the pear for a side salad, and this sandwich would be perfect. The idea came from here, but as usual, I wanted to remove the 67% fat Daiya and 100% fat Earth Balance!  The jam does have sugar, so I probably won’t buy it again, but I do love that it has a spicy kick to it.

Ingredients:

To serve, top the toasted bread as shown above, although I suggest omitting the pear. Gently smoosh both slices together and warm on a non-stick pan for a couple minutes or in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Slice with a serrated bread knife and eat!

The “Hot Pepper Raspberry Preserves came from AJ’s Fine Foods.  The first time I tried this jam, it was served with cream cheese and crackers… wow was that good!  I think I may have to combine it with Miyoko’s Vegan Brie  and make it “en croute” for a Christmas Day appetizer.  Definitely for special occasions only.

Tempeh Bacon

(inspired by this recipe)

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp hickory liquid smoke
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • vegetable broth
  • 8 oz tempeh
  • sea salt (optional)*

Combine all ingredients except broth, tempeh, and salt in a 9×13 pan.  Add enough vegetable broth so that that a layer of thinly sliced tempeh can be covered (about 1/2 -3/4 inch high).  Stir with a fork to mix ingredients together.

Slice tempeh into long, thin strips with a serrated bread knife.  Aim for 1/4 of an inch thickness or smaller.  Coat each side of each slice with marinade until all strips are coated as in the picture below.  Marinate for at least an hour or overnight.

Next, gently move a slice of tempeh at a time to a non-stick frying pan.  Brown both sides over med-high heat.  It takes a little longer without oil (just a few minutes) so be patient!

*If you are eating this bacon by itself, I suggest sprinkling some sea salt on this after it is all cooked.  I sprinkled some on just before I put it in my sandwich and I don’t think I would have been able to tell if I had left it out.  

This grilled cheese recipe comes from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak (click here for the recipe).  I thought this had a better texture than the Happy Herbivore grilled cheese, but it really tasted more like a roasted red pepper spread than anything else (it could be that I roasted my own peppers instead of buying the jarred kind).  It was tasty, a nice tangy flavor, but not my first choice for grilled cheese.

The bread: Ezekiel 4:9 Low Sodium.  I realized my favorite whole wheat tuscan pane from Trader Joe’s had way too much sodium, so this ezekiel bread is my new “go to”… can be purchased at Sprouts for $4.99.  It’s pretty good… I thought it would be too dense, but it’s just right, makes great toast!

Sometimes things don’t turn out as you expect them to… You make some delicious BBQ tempeh, and decide to add some extra tempeh, a bunch of veggie broth, an onion, and some jalapeños to stew in the crock pot overnight thinking “this will kick it up a whole ‘nother level!” … and it just doesn’t work. You even take some pics as the natural light is still shining through the window, still thinking it will be delicious…

But it isn’t.

So round two.  Grilled Cheese.  I’ve been vegan for four years and this is my first attempt.  I suppose it’s taken me this long to actually like the taste of nutritional yeast!  It really is growing on me.  The recipe is from the Happy Herbivore cookbook, so you will have to check it out if you want to try it yourself. 🙂  It’s full of simple/delicious/quick recipes that are vegan and low in fat.

I don’t know if it looks delicious, but trust me it is.  It’s almost like a cheesy, light peanut butter, as it sticks to your mouth a little.  And it was wonderfully hearty with this whole wheat tuscan pane from Trader Joe’s.  I don’t buy bread very often, but when I do, this is what I get.  Only four ingredients, and one of them is water!  I will say, the only thing that stinks about this bread is that it doesn’t fit in a toaster.  These mini grilled cheeses (above) are made from the ends that didn’t fit!