“Creamy” (Cashew) White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce

I would like to give a shout-out to my girl at OnMyWayToHealth for pointing me in the direction of this recipe!  This is an absolutely AWESOME creamy tomato sauce recipe without the cream!  Cashews blended with a fresh chopped tomato and tomato paste provide a tangy-sweet and creamy base for an amazing but simple Italian classic white wine tomato basil sauce.  As OnMyWay notes, this recipe is great for those transitioning to vegan and trying to satisfy lingering creamy cravings and also as a nice change from the typical red pasta sauce.  Every kitchen needs a few good pasta sauce recipes.  Come summer, we’re all going to need as many tomato recipes as possible, and I’m really excited to be able to add this one to my recipe box!

“Creamy” Tomato Basil Sauce:

Equipment:

  • Food processor, medium saute pan, wooden spoon, spatula

Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh tomatoes, 1 chopped into big chunks, the other 2 diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 heaping cup of roasted, unsalted cashews
  • 2 small yellow onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ~10 big fresh basil leaves, cut into small ribbons
  • 1/4 evoo
  • Dry white wine (to taste)
  • Water (as needed)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add the cashews, tomato that was roughly chopped, tomato paste, 2-3 Tbsp of water and a big pinch of kosher salt to the food processor.  Blend, scrape down the sides, and keep blending until the mixture is silky smooth.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion.  Saute 2-3 mins until softened and then add the chopped garlic.  Saute another 2-3 mins, or until the garlic and onions are just starting to brown.  Add a big pinch of salt, pepper, the diced tomatoes and the cashew-tomato mixture from the blender.  Let cook 1-2 mins, or until simmering.
  3. Once the tomatoes are starting to get hot, add 2-3 splashes of a dry white wine (to taste) and/or a few Tbsp of water.  Without extra liquid the sauce is very thick and creamy.  I wanted mine a little thinner, so I ended up adding probably 3-4 Tbsp of wine and the same amount of water.  Add the basil and let simmer together 5-10 mins or until all of the flavors are deliciously incorporated.
  4. ENJOY!!
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Vegan Tamale Pie

What’s Tamale Pie?  I’d never heard of it until I saw this video recipe on YouTube.  I instantly saw that recipe full of ground beef and white flour and thought “Yeah, I can make that GF vegan.”  It turns out that Tamale Pie is one of the most delicious Tex-Mex casseroles I’ve had in a looong time.  It’s a layered casserole of spicy veggies and homemade cornbread that is very freezer-friendly.  I’ve been keeping pretty darn busy over the past few months, so I’ve had to maximize my time by taking advantage of my stock of pre-chopped frozen veggies.  I could also see this casserole lending itself easily to using up leftover roasted veggies.  Of course, I’d prefer fresh veg, but hey, if using frozen veggies means I get a hot homemade meal in the middle of the work week, then I’m all about it!

Vegan Tamale Pie: 

Fresh cornbread and spicy veggies are a magical combination.

Equipment:

  • Heavy-bottomed/Cast-Iron skillet with lid, liquid & dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, large casserole dish, medium mixing bowl, wooden spoon, spatula, knife, cutting board, range

Ingredients: (makes a gigantic casserole for a week+ of eats – feel free to cut the portions down!)

  • 1 16 oz bag of assorted frozen veggies, thawed – I used a mix of organic carrots, broccoli, green beans, spring peas, lima beans and onions.  But when I make this again with fresh veggies, I’ll probably go for peppers, broccoli, and summer squash
  • 12 oz frozen corn
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1/4″ half-moons
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 “can” of kidney or black beans
  • 1/2 cup TVP
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika (more to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin (more to taste)
  • Dried or fresh cilantro to taste (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 cup GF AP flour
  • 1 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored soy milk
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 2 tsp raw vegan sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sunflower or other neutral oil
  • Vegan cheddar slices (I used this time, but I really don’t think it’s necessary if you’re not into substitute cheeses. I’ll probably leave this out next time.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Combine the GF flour, cornmeal, sugar, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the oil, soy milk, and water to the bowl and mix with a fork.  Batter should be runny and still somewhat lumpy.  Don’t worry about getting it smooth. Set aside.
  3. Over medium heat, saute the fresh onions for 1-2 mins and then add the fresh garlic.  Saute another minute, or until the veg are starting to soften.  Add the beans and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir and heat 1-2 mins or until the beans are heated through.
  4. Add the thawed veggies, the jar of salsa, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 Tbsp cumin, the textured vegetable protein, and the veg stock.  Stir, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Then cover and reduce the heat.  Let the veggies simmer 5-10 mins or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and re-season as needed.
  5. Grease the bottom of your casserole dish.  Pour in half the cornbread batter and then evenly sprinkle a layer of corn kernels over the cornbread batter.  Carefully spoon the hot veggie mixture over the cornbread batter.  Because the batter is runny, you want to prevent it from just running up the sides of the dish.  If you’re using vegan cheese, grate or shred your cheddar into the other half of the cornbread mixture and then pour the cheesy cornbread batter over the hot veggies.
  6. Bake uncovered for 45-60 mins at 425 F, or until the top cornbread is a deep golden brown and the contents are bubbling hot.
  7. ENJOY!!

Curried Veggie Fried Rice

I’ve had a pretty busy couple of weeks, which for me usually means two things: 1) I don’t have time to cook and 2) as a result, I spend way too much money on quick eats (and believe me, gluten free, vegetarian fast food is pricey!).  Now that things have calmed down a bit and I’ve got some time off to recover, I’m stuck with the carry-over money shortage.  And so, this fried rice was really a “what do I have?” version of what it could be (produce-wise).  In desperate need of a fresh veggie infusion, I coughed up a couple bucks on a pound of green beans and some zucchinis.  And holy crap does this simple recipe deliver!  I love it when new recipes go as planned 🙂

Granted, this veggie fried rice will be soooo much better come Spring when the spring onions, baby corn, asparagus, and carrots come back.  But for now, adding curry paste to a more traditional fried rice, gives this recipe a nice spicy Thai kick that was exactly what I needed.  I foresee the beginnings of a long love-affair between myself and homemade fried rices!

Simple Curried Veggie Fried Rice:

Best GF, vegan fast food I've had all week!

Equipment:

  • Large ss pot with lid, slotted spoon, wok/round-bottomed pan, knife, cutting board, stove-top, couple of medium and small bowls

Ingredients: (as shown in photo; add/replace veggies by availability)

  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced into 1/4″ half-moons
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and sliced length-wise (because I had the time!)
  • 2 zucchinis, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, strained if needed and chopped into small cubes (could replace with a scrambled egg if desired)
  • Sunflower or peanut oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (optional)
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 Tbsp red/green/yellow curry paste (whatever you’ve got/prefer)
  • 3 Tbsp liquid aminos (or other GF soy sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp siracha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp raw sugar
  • Dried or fresh cilantro (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Fill your large stock pot with water, cover and bring to a boil.  Add a generous pinch of salt, and then blanch the green beans for 30-60 seconds.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon.  Repeat for the zucchini, but blanch them a bit longer, maybe 1-2 mins.  Set the veggies aside.  Don’t discard the blanching water yet!
  2. In a small bowl, combine the curry paste, soy sauce, chopped garlic, salt, and siracha.  I typically dislike cilantro, but I like what it does to balance out soy sauce in some sauces, so I added a hit of dried cilantro here too.  If you’re a cilantro enthusiast, go for fresh and go wild.
  3. Heat the wok over med-high heat.  Drizzle a couple of Tbsp of oil and throw in the onions.  Stir-fry 1-2 mins, and then add the tofu cubes.  Stir-fry and additional 2-3 mins.
  4. Add the rice.  Stir-fry the rice with the onions and tofu cubes 2-4 mins, or until the tofu and rice are starting to brown.  Pour in the curry mixture and then stir-fry another minute.
  5. Pour in the veggie stock or two cups of the blanching water you used for the veg.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer 10-12 minutes, adding more water as needed and simmering until the rice is cooked.
  6. Add the veggies.  Top with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds or crumbled peanuts, and/or fresh cilantro if you’re feeling fancy.
  7. ENJOY!!

Ramen Noodles with Dignity!

I don’t know how ramen is treated in other countries, but here in America, ramen noodles are strictly associated with college students and last resort, cheap, quick-fix meals.

As a college student who more often than not needs both cheap and quick food, I love me some ramen.  But, as a gluten-intolerant college student, my ramen noodles are considerably more expenisve than the 19-cents a pack variety.  $2 doesn’t sound like a lot for a meal, but it is a tough sell for a pack of ramen.  The plus side?  My ramen noodles are whole grain, sodium free, and organic.

So, where’s the pride?  Why does ramen have to be so bad for you and the “he thinks we’re friends, but we’re really not” resident in the American kitchen?  It doesn’t.  And at $2/pack, I’m out to get my money’s worth by adding just an extra 10 minutes to the rip open and boil routine.  I’ve used only pantry staples to jazz up my ramen to keep it convenient, but you could make it really fancy with some fresh scallions and edamame.  Believe me, it’s worth the extra few minutes!

Ramen with Dignity:

Sorry about the bad photo, but it's late and I'm in a rush - the perfect time for some delicious ramen!!

Equipment:

  • Small saucepan, knife, cheese grater, cutting board, stove top

Ingredients:

  • 1 extra small yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/4 block firm silken tofu, diced
  • 1 pack buckwheat or brown rice ramen noodles, whatever flavor you prefer (I can’t give enough props to King Soba’s GF ramen!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Evoo
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Heat a small drizzle of evoo in the saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the onion with a big pinch of salt.  Stir and saute 1 minute and then add the tofu cubes.  Stir and saute 2-4 minutes or until the onions are soft and the tofu is warmed through.
  2. Add the grated carrot and peas.  Heat for 1-2 minutes and then stir in the seasoning packet from the ramen.  Make sure everyone’s coated, and then add 1 1/2 cups tap water.  Taste test your broth and adjust seasonings as needed.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.  Add the ramen and boil 4-6 minutes, or as recommended by the package.
  4. ENJOY!!

20 Minute Broccoli and Portobello Soup

Last night, while chopping some parsley for a roasted veggie casserole, I became separated from the tip of my left index finger.

This resulted in two major changes:

  1. I am officially banning myself from watching any and all Gordon Ramsey programs while cooking.  He’s just so good looking and dramatic and British that he’s become too distracting.  He will be dearly missed.
  2. I have to dramatically change what I was going to make this week to recipes that require significantly less chopping and less left-hand activity.

Things are also taking me way too long to do (like typing), so I’m also a bit behind on the work I needed to get done this weekend.  Taken all together, this simple soup recipe is exactly what I need.  It’s incredibly flavorful, has a short ingredients list, and can be prepped, cooked and served in under 30 minutes.  It came out so well that I had to add it to the ol’ recipe box for the next time I have a Kitchen Nightmare (buh-dum ting!) 😉

Quick Broccoli and Mushroom Soup:

If you want to thicken it, I'd bet this would be awesome with some sauteed potatoes.

Equipment:

  • Large soup pot, wooden spoon, blender, large bowl, ladle, knife, cutting board, stove top

Ingredients:

  • 4 yellow onions, halved and sliced into 1/4″ half-moons
  • 1 large or 2 medium heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4 cups of warm vegetable stock
  • 3 large portobellos, stemmed, gills scraped out, and cut into bite-sized chunks (Next time I’d recommend about 1/4 lb. criminis sliced thin.  I think they’d look much prettier floating in this thin-brothed soup, but I went with what I had)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • Evoo

Directions:

  1. Warm a drizzle of evoo in the bottom of your soup pot over medium heat.  Toss in the sliced onions and saute with two very generous pinches of Kosher salt and a hit of pepper for 2-3 minutes or until they start to soften.  This is a simple soup, so we want to aggressively season each step to make sure all of the flavors shine!
  2. Toss in the broccoli.  Season with another big pinch of salt and pepper.  Saute another 3-4 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green and hot through but still crunchy.
  3. Add the warm vegetable stock and let the flavors mingle for a few minutes.  Then ladle the hot soup into the blender. Carefully pulse the soup, allowing ample opportunities for the steam to vent to prevent explosions.  Blend in batches until all of the soup has been blended to your desired texture.  Pour the soup in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Warm another drizzle of evoo over medium heat in the bottom of the soup pot.  Saute the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and pepper for 2-3 minutes or until the mushrooms have just started to soften.  Add the soup back to the pot and let simmer about 5 minutes to let all the flavors start to mingle.  Taste and re-season as needed.  Serve hot (it’s really good poured over some leftover rice).
  5. Enjoy!!

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Hummus

I love hummus.

And every time I make hummus, I always end up with way way too much no matter what I tell myself.  But! This time around instead of feeling guilty over wasting hummus, I shared my delicious garbanzo bounty with some friends.  They liked it so much, that they both asked for the recipe – which, as far as I’m concerned is the best compliment someone can give you after they try your food!  I got well over 3 cups of hummus by starting with 1 cup of dried chickpeas.  I’m going to write out this recipe for 1/2 cup of chickpeas, and maybe one of these days, I’ll finally figure out how to make a reasonable amount.

An important thing I’ve learned about homemade hummus is that it does tend to mellow out in the fridge.  So keep that in mind while you’re standing over your blender taste-testing – it might be worth seasoning it a little stronger the first night if you intend to eat it for a few days. The best thing about making homemade hummus is that it requires lots of taste-testing to get it just right!

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Hummus:

Snyder's, the local pretzel company, finally rolled out a dairy-free gluten-free pretzel! They make my inner Pennsylvania German proud.

Equipment:

  • Large soup pot, tea pot (optional), couple of medium-sized bowls, colander, stove-top, food processor

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of dried chick peas, soaked overnight
  • 3-4 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 7-8 fresh basil leaves, torn up
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1+ Tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1+ tsp of paprika
  • 2-3 heaping Tbsp tahini (or to taste)
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • A ton of evoo

Directions:

  1. Strain the soaking chickpeas, give em a rinse, and then boil them in a large pot of lightly salted water for 1-2 hours, or until tender.  Strain them again and rinse the chickpeas under cold water until they’re a manageable temperature.
  2. Pull up a chair, put on your favorite sitcom, grab a glass of wine, and start peeling your garbanzo beans.  Note: You don’t have to peel them, but I like to.  The hummus keeps a smoother texture if you take the time to remove their leathery skins.  I like to use the minimal amount of oil in my hummus, but still want it to be smooth.  So I’ve found I can get away with less oil if I don’t keep the skins on. It’s all up to your personal tastes!
  3. While peeling your chickpeas, bring a 1.5-2 cups of water to a boil in a tea pot or the chickpea pot.  Pour the boiling water in a bowl and soak your sun-dried tomatoes 8-10 minutes, or until somewhat softened.  We need them to be slightly softer because otherwise they’re too stiff to grind up in the food processor.
  4. Once all the chickpeas are naked, throw them in the food processor with a couple of big scoops of tahini, a generous splash of lemon juice, a few hits of paprika, and a few pinches of salt and pepper.  Listed above are just suggested starting values for seasoning.  The chickpeas are very earthy, so don’t hold back your lemon juice, paprika, s&p and keep tasting and adjusting until it tastes good to you!
  5. Blend until the chickpeas are ground.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and garlic.  Blend, taste-test, and adjust your seasonings.  Continue blending while you drizzle in some evoo.  Blend and drizzle until the hummus has reached your desired smoothness and consistency.  Taste-test and continue to adjust seasonings until you’ve reached maximum hummus deliciousness.
  6. Enjoy!!

Yellow Thai Curry with Baked Tofu

First things first – Thank you thank you to everyone who visited my blog last night!  I had about 20x as many hits in 3 hours as I usually get in a whole day!! And thank you to whomever pinned my Cooking Tips and Tricks page to Pinterest!! I’m so glad so many people are reading and liking what they see enough to share!  Although you may never read this, I still thought I’d at least try to say thanks! 😀 You guys totally made my day.

And now for something equally awesome: Thai curry.  I recently fell in love with Thai food. I found a great Thai restaurant nearby and almost fell over when I realized they had literally dozens of gluten free vegan/vegetarian options.  Usually when I eat out, I have to seriously compromise both on flavor and on what I’m willing to overlook (the vegan becomes more vegetarian).  So you can imagine my excitement when I had that feeling of “I can’t decide what to get!!!” — I never get that feeling anymore!! 😀

The first night I ordered take-out I decided to splurge on a 2 entrees and a soup so I could kind of sample what was available.  I instantly fell in love with the sweet, thin-brothed curry and knew I had to save my wallet by learning to make this dish.  This is my new favorite dish for a Saturday night in, curled up with a glass of wine and a season or two of an old British sitcom.

This dish lends itself well to any vegetable, making it very market-friendly.  Since it’s January, tonight’s curry is full of heartier veggies like cauliflower, potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, and parsnips.  If you like you can also scramble an egg and add it in.  Because the veg is so flexible, the real trick is to make sure you’ve got authentic curry paste.  I strongly recommend ordering your curry paste online or in an authentic Asian foods supply store before overspending on a jar of imitation curry in a grocery store.  It will be many times cheaper per serving and the flavor will be spot on!!  It will also have a much longer shelf life.  Here’s the curry paste I use and highly recommend.  Lastly, when shopping for curry paste, make sure to check the ingredients label! Many Thai curry pastes contain shrimp paste, and are therefore not truly vegetarian.

Yellow Thai Curry with Baked Tofu: (as listed serves 8-10, or one curry fanatic for a whole week)

Crunchy veggies in a light, spicy, and slightly sweet sauce. Seriously, what could be better?

Equipment:

  • Wok (or round-bottomed pan), wooden spoon or spatula, baking sheet lined with a Silpat (or use a non-stick sheet), large bowl, tea pot/kettle, medium sauce pan, colander, metal spatula, whisk, spoon, knife, 2 plates, paper towels, cutting board, range

Ingredients: (all veggies can vary based on preferences and availability!)

  • 1 block firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets/pieces
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced into half-moons
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3-4 new potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • 7-8 shiitakes, stems removed and caps sliced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp yellow Thai curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Fish sauce or salt
  • Raw sugar/agave syrup
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • Coconut oil
  • Spike’s very low sodium Vegit Magic veggie seasoning (or similar seasonings/mix)
  • 8 servings of rice vermicelli or bean thread (brown rice is also and excellent option)
  • Salt and Pepper

Update (July 2012): To lighten this up during the summer (or when serving those who don’t dig on the sweet sauce), I’ve started adding the zest and juice of a lime to the broth.  Also, while the curry and coconut milk are warming, I’ll steep fresh garlic and chopped spring onions in the sauce too, adding an extra layer of flavor.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Remove the tofu from its packaging.  Drain the tofu, and wrap it in paper towels.  Place it between two plates and top with the can of coconut milk.  Let the tofu sit, pressed under the weight of the can for at least 15 minutes.  Prep your potatoes.  When the tofu’s ready cut it into bite-sized chunks.
  3. Place the tofu and potato pieces onto your baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and then generously sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Spike’s veggie seasoning.  Toss with your hands to make sure everyone’s feeling the love.  Bake for 50-60 mins on an upper rack at 450 F, turning with a spatula half-way through.
  4. Prep the rest of your veggies.  Fill your tea pot or kettle with water and bring it to a boil.  Place your noodles in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water.  Let sit 5-10 minutes or until the noodles are soft.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  5. Warm the can of coconut milk in the sauce pan over med-low heat.  Whisk in about 2 Tbsp of curry paste and the vegetable stock.  Season with a pinch of salt (or dash or two of fish sauce) and then sweeten to taste.  Try starting with about 1 tsp of the sugar and then taste and adjust seasonings/sweetness as desired.  Set aside and keep warm over low heat.
  6. Melt a Tbsp or two of coconut oil in the bottom of your wok over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, and cook 1-2 minutes or until starting to soften, then add the carrots and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper as needed and slowly add each of your vegetables in the order of longest cook-time to shortest cook-time.  Be careful not to add too many veggies at one time to prevent cooling off your wok too much!  Stir-fry the veggies a few minutes until they reach your desired texture, and make sure they’re all lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.   I like to add the mushrooms at the very end so they can keep their firmness.
  7. Add the baked tofu and potatoes to the wok, and then pour on the curry sauce.  Give the veg a good stir in the sauce.  Serve the hot curry over the noodles (or rice) and slurp away!!
  8. Enjoy!!