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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.

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Just to be clear… this is not a pesto made from kale.  I never understand how people can replace basil with cilantro or some random green like kale and still call it pesto!  Basil is irreplaceable in my book.

So I was needing a good dose of greens, but I didn’t want to eat them plain.  And I had some extra basil leftover from my tomato basil soup… so I made pesto.

Vegan Pesto

  • 1 tightly packed cup of basil leaves (rinsed clean)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt, depending on personal taste preference

So there are a couple ways you can do this…

The easy way: Blend it all up in a food processor.  Done.

The less easy way: I wanted to try making it like an Italian grandmother (click here for link), because that just sounded too appealing!  So I followed her directions for the basil and garlic, but when it came time to incorporate the parmesan, I just grated some walnuts in a rotary cheese grater and added that and the nutritional yeast and salt to the minced basil mixture.

Then I steamed a bunch of kale in 1/3 cup of water till the water was mostly gone:

Then I combined the two… and voila!

I highly suggest serving this with leftover mashed potatoes and/or cauliflower, then you can be all fancy and call it “Pesto Colcannon”:

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.

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!

This nacho cheese was wonderful.  Great consistency and flavor.  Just right.

The recipe is from Happy Herbivore (click here for the recipe).  After making the sauce, I added two tomatoes (diced) and half a mini can of diced green chiles.  Both of these veggies added a little extra liquid, so I had to stir for a few minutes more to re-thicken up the sauce.  The chips are La Reina baked no-salt tortilla chips (from Whole Foods, only $2.19 a bag, only ingredients are corn and lime!).

I think next time I will ALSO add:

edit 7/7/12: I made this again, but omitted the cayenne and added 1/2 a chipotle in adobo sauce (click here to see on amazon) with about 1/4 tsp of the sauce added too.  This added a nice smoky, but mild kick.  If you are a spice lover, I say go for a whole chipotle and a bit of the adobo sauce.  

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!

I admit it.  I love nachos and cheese.

I read about these chips from the healthy vegans in LA, so I was surprised to see them here in Arizona! The lightly salted version does contain oil, but somehow the calories from fat are the same as the unsalted ones that do not contain oil???

I suppose your best bet would be to get a little water spritzer, lay out the unsalted chips, spritz them with a little water, then a little salt.

Also, the vegan queso is a little pricey for my budget, so I think I will need to experiment with some recipes. I do like Isa’s Cashew Queso, but I would also like a simpler nutritional yeast-based alternative that is quicker and lighter.

La Reina Tortilla Chips: at Whole Foods in AZ, $2.19 each, nutrition: 9% calories from fat, sodium to calories ratio is less than 1 in the lightly salted version. But I still recommend the non-salted b/c the salt is not evenly distributed in the salty kind.

Food for Lovers Vegan Queso: at Whole Foods in AZ for $4.99, nutrition: fat free, does contain white flour, but the whole jar is only 240 calories.

If you’re not into microwaves, sometimes I use this 5/8 quart non-stick butter warmer as a double boiler. Super easy clean-up.

yummmm… good and spicy.