Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chocolate Tofu Pie

This is a well known vegan dessert that I've seen on many blogs, recipe websites, and at a few potlucks that I've attended.  It's super easy to make with just two main ingredients:  chocolate chips and silken tofu.  But don't let the inclusion of tofu fool you into thinking this is healthy!  It's very rich and very decadent.  You can use any type of pie crust and add a variety of fresh fruit or nut toppings.  I went with an almond-oat crust and hemp seeds for the topping.  What can I say?  They created an illusion of healthfulness.  :)

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 cup rolled oats, ground (or oat flour)
2 cups almond meal (or whole almonds, ground)
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Grind the oats in a blender or food processor until finely ground.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. If you don't have almond meal, grind the almonds until finely ground.  Mix the almond meal/ground almonds and salt with the ground oats.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  6. Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan using your hands or a spatula.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven, and then bake for another 15 minutes.  (30 minutes total)
  8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool while you make the filling.
1 10 oz. package of vegan chocolate chips, melted
1 12 oz. package of silken tofu
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee extract (optional)
  1. Melt the chocolate chips using a double boiler or microwave. (instructions here)
  2. Blend the melted chocolate with the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. 
  3. Spread the filling evenly into the pie crust and smooth out the top using a spatula or spoon.  Add your topping, if using one.
  4. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 2 hours until the filling has set. 

The best part about this pie is that it looks like you've spent the whole day making it when in reality, it only took an hour.  Even better, you can cut that time in half if you use a pre-made pie crust.  No one will ever guess that there's tofu in this pie.  All I tasted was chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. :)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Crispy Quinoa-Crusted French Toast

During the week, I rarely have time to make breakfast that isn't in the form of oatmeal, a smoothie, or an English muffin.  So when the weekend rolls around, I try to be a little more creative.  This past Sunday, I did some kitchen inventory and discovered an abundance of crispy quinoa cereal and an unopened bottle of St. Dalfour blueberry sauce.  Iron Chef-esque thinking led me to one thing:  quinoa-crusted French toast with blueberry sauce! 

I'm not sure how readily available quinoa crispies are in supermarkets.  I found them in the bulk bin section at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.  They definitely bring the cool factor to this recipe, but another type of cereal would work just as well.  This is inspired by cornflake-crusted French toast, after all.  :) 

Makes 2 servings

1 cup coconut milk (full fat)
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 cups of crispy quinoa cereal
4 slices of bread
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Store-bought blueberry sauce or more maple syrup
Fresh blueberries or other fruit
  1. Whisk the coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together in a shallow dish. Add another tablespoon of maple syrup if you'd like more sweetness. :)
  2. Place the quinoa crispies in another shallow dish.
  3. Soak a slice of bread in the coconut milk mixture, turning once. (Try not to let the bread get too soggy)
  4. Let the excess coconut milk mixture drip off, then dredge the bread in the quinoa crispies.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  6. Cook the French toast (2 slices at a time) until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. (Some of the quinoa crispies will fall off, but that's okay)
  7. Add another tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan and repeat the process with the remaining 2 slices of bread.
  8. Top with blueberry sauce and fresh blueberries.
French toast can be soggy at times, so I really enjoyed the crunchy texture from the crispy quinoa.  With maple syrup and cinnamon in the mix, there wasn't really a noticeable coconut flavor.  I used the coconut milk mainly as a binder.  If you'd like more coconut flavor, try adding some coconut flakes to the quinoa coating.  Yum!

And if you'd like to make the blueberry sauce from scratch, there's an easy recipe here.  Or you can just scratch the blueberry sauce all together and use good old fashioned pure maple syrup.  Just try not to over-pour because the best part of this dish is the crunch! 

Enjoy! :)


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chili Garlic Noodles with Tofu and Kale

This dish is so quick and easy to make, I wonder why I've never made it until this week.  There are only 5 ingredients:  bean thread noodles, store-bought chili garlic sauce, tofu, kale, and sesame oil.  It's hard to believe that these simple ingredients give way to a flavor explosion that will easily satisfy your grumbling stomach after a long work day. You can use any noodles that you have on hand, or use rice or quinoa instead. But the great thing about bean thread noodles (also known as cellophane or glass noodles) is that you just have to soak them in warm water for a few minutes and they're done. Sign me up!

Makes about 2-3 servings

1 8 oz. package of bean thread noodles (or 3 bunches of noodles that look like this)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 10 oz. package of firm tofu, cubed 
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee)
Some chopped green onion, for garnish (optional)
  1. Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour enough hot water in the bowl to cover them.  Let the noodles soak for about 15 minutes.
  2. While the noodles are soaking, heat the sesame oil in a wok or frying pan over medium/high heat.
  3. Add the tofu cubes and fry until golden on all sides.
  4. Add the chili garlic sauce and the chopped kale.  Cook for a minute or so until the kale begins to wilt. Remove from heat.
  5. Using tongs, remove the noodles from the water and place them into the chili tofu mixture.  If the noodles are too long, you may have to cut them shorter using kitchen shears.
  6. Stir the noodles with the chili tofu mixture (they'll be sticky, but that's okay).  Add more chili garlic sauce if the noodles look dry (or if you want more heat!).  
  7. Garnish with chopped green onion.
That's it!  This is nothing fancy, but it comes together quickly and the results are pretty darn tasty.  Any veggies would work, but I always have kale around to save the day.  If you'd like to make the chili garlic sauce from scratch, there's a simple recipe here.  But when you're hungry after a long day at work and don't have all night to cook, try this dish.  It was quicker than waiting for take-out and much more satisfying that a bowl of cereal. :)


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vegetable Supreme Pizza with Cashew Cheese

I've been craving pizza like nobody's business lately.  There are numerous places in San Francisco that serve vegan pizza such as zpizza, Patxi's, and Source.  Even the Whole Foods down the street from me serves vegan pizza!  That said, I opted to make one at home.  Since I'm completely useless when it comes to making pizza dough from scratch, I went with store-bought refrigerated dough from Whole Foods.  Easy peasy.

Cheese-wise, I absolutely love nut-based varieties for all cheesy dishes, including pizza.  So, you know what that meant:  time to soak some cashews!  This type of vegan cheese won't melt, but it's a wonderful spread to replace the cheese (and even the sauce) on any pizza.  If you've ever made cheesy kale chips before, you'll notice that this is practically the same sauce.  This cheese is extremely versatile, not to mention flavorful and healthy.

Makes 1 medium pizza or 2 personal pizzas (pictured)

1 package of ready-made pizza dough (I used Whole Foods refrigerated whole wheat dough)

1 cup of raw cashews (soaked in water overnight, or for at least an hour, and rinsed)
1 medium bell pepper (any color, except green), roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 cup baby spinach (or a generous handful)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup artichoke hearts, chopped (marinated or not)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven according to the the package instructions for the pizza dough.
  2. Stretch or roll out the dough to your desired shape and place on a baking sheet.
  3. To make the cheese, blend the cashews, bell pepper, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  4. Spread the cheese evenly over the pizza dough.
  5. Layer on the vegetable toppings in any order that you'd like.
  6. Bake according to the package instructions. (18-20 minutes or so until the crust is browned)
Right out of the oven, I drizzled the pizza with some roasted red pepper sauce.  It's totally optional, but it did add some extra flavor, creaminess, and color. 

So, how did this compare to a traditional pizza?  I'd say that it was just as satisfying, if not more.  I didn't miss the texture of melted, stretchy cheese at all.  And with the sliced tomatoes in the mix, I also didn't miss the pizza sauce.  This is definitely something I'll be making again and again.  Who needs pizza delivery when you can make your own at home?  Not me.

Enjoy!  :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Raw Brownies with Avocado Cashew Frosting

I know there are some mixed feelings out there when it comes to avocado in sweet treats. For some people, the thought of an avocado milkshake or cheesecake sounds absolutely disgusting.  Guacamole for dessert?  But for many others (like me), the idea of an avocado flavored dessert is positively alluring and mouth-watering.  If you're one of those people, this post is for you!  :)  The avocado flavor is very subtle here, but the avocados mainly contribute to the creaminess of the frosting.  Visually, these brownies are sure to please. Who doesn't love multi-colored layered desserts?  And taste-wise, these are utterly delicious.  Summer is upon us and these will make an impressive and refreshing contribution to any BBQ or potluck.  Plus, there's no hot oven required!

Makes 16 small squares

1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water overnight (or for at least an hour)
2 avocados
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or other sweetener)
Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of water (plus more to achieve your desired consistency)
  1. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews with water.
  2. Blend the cashews, avocado flesh, melted coconut oil, lime juice, vanilla extract, and 1 cup of water in a food processor or blender.
  3. If the mixture is too thick and chunky, add more water 1/4 cup at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl and refrigerate while you make the brownie layer.
Brownie Layer
1 cup raw almonds (or other nuts such as pecans or walnuts)
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or agave nectar)
5 tablespoons cocoa or cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Water, if needed
  1. Blend the almonds in a food processor until they're almost like powder. (you can also use almond meal instead)
  2. Add the dates, maple syrup, cocoa powder, and salt and blend until a sticky, crumbly mixture forms.
  3. If there are still big pieces of dates in the mixture, add 1 tablespoon or more of water and pulse the mixture a few more times.
  1. Press the brownie mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch square pan using your hands or a spoon.
  2. Spread frosting evenly over the brownie layer.
  3. Sprinkle with one of the toppings below, if using.
  4. Cover with foil and freeze overnight.
  5. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to thaw for about an hour before slicing into squares.
Optional Toppings
Hemp seeds (as pictured)
Chopped nuts
Sliced strawberries, blueberries, or other fruit
Coconut flakes
Raw chocolate sauce
(basically, whatever you want!)

You'll likely have some extra frosting left over, but when has that every been a problem?  :)  The brownie layer can also be used as a crust for any raw cheesecake recipe, such as this one.  Freezing these overnight probably isn't necessary (I know it's a long time to wait!), but give it at least 3 hours so that the brownies will be easier to cut into nice, clean squares.  After that, the only thing to worry about is self-restraint.  It's hard to just eat one of these. (I should know)

Enjoy!  :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Filipino Seitan Menudo

Unlike Mexican menudo, Filipino menudo is more like a stew than a soup.  Or at least that's the way I had it while growing up.  Traditionally, Filipino menudo is a tomato-based stew made with small pieces of beef or pork, potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and flavored with soy sauce.  It also differs from Mexican menudo in that it doesn't call for spicy chilies.  But it's still full of flavor and is a wonderfully comforting meal.  It was actually very easy to veganize, since the only non-vegan ingredient is the meat.  For this dish, I enlisted the help of Upton's Naturals ground seitan, which worked fabulously.  If you're not a fan of meat substitutes, you can use chickpeas or tofu instead.  It'll still turn out delicious, I'm sure!

Makes about 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 8-oz package of ground seitan (or other meat alternative)
1 large potato, diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1 small bell pepper (any color), chopped
1 cup vegetable broth 
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 cup green peas (I used frozen)
Black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium to high heat.
  2. Add the garlic and onion and saute until soft and fragrant. 
  3. Add the seitan, potato, carrots, and bell pepper and saute for a few minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable broth, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and bay leaves and continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are tender.
  5. Add more soy sauce if the sauce is not salty enough or add water if it's too salty.  (since the flavor across vegetable broth brands varies)
  6. Add the green peas.
  7. Season with black pepper.
This dish (and most Filipino dishes) are typically served with a huge pile of white rice.  I opted for some quick-cooking farro (pictured) just to switch it up.  I've seen some variations of Filipino menudo that include raisins and a few teaspoons of sugar.  As I said in my previous empanada post, I can't handle raisins in savory food, but feel free to add some in if you'd like. The beauty of savory cooking is that anything goes, as long as it tastes good to you.  :)


Friday, June 7, 2013

Raw Mini Chocolate Mango Cheesecakes

I've been obsessed with raw cashew-based cheesecakes for some time now.  There are so many recipe variations floating around in cookbooks and on the Internet, I think my head will explode from wanting to try them all!  I'm drawn to the all natural ingredients, the no bake factor, and of course the phenomenal texture and flavor.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to toppings:  fresh fruit, chopped nuts, chocolate sauce, raw vegan caramel, etc.  So I decided to make a basic raw cheesecake using my handy dandy mini cheesecake pan and created different toppings for each piece.  For this post, I went with chocolate + mango + macadamia nuts.  Yes, yes, and yes. 

Makes a dozen mini cheesecakes or one 8-inch round cheesecake

1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup pitted dates 
  1. Blend the nuts and dates in a food processor until a sticky mixture forms.
  2. Divide the mixture evenly among the bottoms of the mini cheesecake pan and press down well to form a crust. Set aside.
Cheesecake Filling
3 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked for at least an hour or ideally overnight)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup coconut oil, melted (I placed the jar in a bowl of warm water to do this)
1/2 cup water 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
  1. Blend all the filling ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Pour the filling mixture evenly over each crust. Use the back of a spoon to flatten out the tops.
  3. Cover with foil and freeze overnight.
Chocolate Sauce (make this right before you're ready to serve the cheesecakes)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
6 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
Sliced mango (or other fresh fruit)
Chopped macadamia nuts (or other nuts) for sprinkling
  1. Transfer the cheesecakes to the refrigerator to thaw for about an hour before serving.
  2. Once thawed, spoon some chocolate sauce over each cheesecake.
  3. Top with sliced mango and sprinkle with macadamia nuts.
Some notes:
  1. For the crust, you can use any nuts that you have on hand, except maybe cashews since that would be cashew overload.  Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts would all work well. 
  2. You can also substitute agave nectar for the maple syrup. 
  3. If you don't have a mini cheesecake pan, you can use a regular muffin pan with paper liners or use silicone muffin cups.  And if making mini cheesecakes seems too cumbersome, you can just make one large cheesecake using an 8-inch spring-form pan. 
With the time spent pre-soaking the cashews and then waiting for the cheesecake to set in the freezer, you can see that this recipe isn't about immediate gratification.  Although, you can always set aside some of the filling and eat it like pudding.  :)  And looking over the ingredients, this probably isn't something you'd make everyday unless you have wads of cash to spend on raw organic cashews, maple syrup, and coconut oil.  But it's definitely a delicious and wholesome treat to enjoy when you're craving something decadent (that doesn't include two sticks of Philadelphia cream cheese).

Enjoy! :)