Eatin’ Broccoli

I know broccoli is good for me and that it should make up a significant portion of my diet: that’s not challenging.  What is challenging is finding unique ways to eat it.  One of my favorite ways is steamed and added to my spaghetti sauce along with beans and black olives but cooked tomatoes and I aren’t the best of friends so that meal, while tasty, isn’t one I can eat regularly.

I’ve had a recipe I copied down-I can’t remember where-when I first became a vegan I was excited to try but it got put in my recipe box and was forgotten.  That is, until I had a head of broccoli in my fridge that needed to be eaten.  I remembered the card and was pleased to find the ingredients and steps were simple.  My family was game and the plan to eat Broccoli Bisque Amandine was put into action.

Like most recipes I try, what’s printed on the page/recipe card is rarely what ends up in the pot.  My mother and I started making changes immediately.  She’s always been a fan of broccoli cheese soup and we happened to have a block of Daiya’s Jalapeno Havarti cheese.  Then, the question became how to make it a one pot meal?  The answer?  A can of organic cannelloni beans.

Broccoli was chopped and steamed, almonds were blanched and toasted in the oven, and beans were drained and rinsed.  I blended the broccoli, beans, and almonds in three batches with 1 cup of almond milk per batch and then poured it into a pot.  My mom added the cheese and we heated it through on medium to medium low heat.

The original recipe said to steam the broccoli until tender and suggested doing so for 12 to 14 minutes.  I usually steam broccoli only a few minutes, just until bright green, so was concerned such a long cooking time would make the broccoli smell like overcooked cruciferous veg.  It didn’t.  The soup did, however, look a little distressing while heating through.

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Does anyone remember that TV show that was on in the (very) early 90’s, Swamp Thing?  Not that the soup reminded me of a muck monster at all, it was just green…and it would bubble from time to time…

It tasted ever so much better than it looked.  The soup wasn’t perfectly smooth but neither was it lumpy.  It was delicious, thick, and spicy.  A perfect soup for cold weather though I think it would be okay during the warm months as well.  The original recipe suggested retaining a bit of the toasted almonds for garnish but I blended them all into the soup.  Instead, I garnished with a slice of whole wheat bread spread with a little Earth Balance.

Fortunately, I have left-overs.  I anticipate this will reheat very well at work tomorrow although I may be fighting my parents for it.  We all liked it and votes about eating it again were unanimous.

Want to try it?

Broccoli-Almond Cheesy Soup

1/3 cup blanched whole almonds, ground

3 cups non-dairy milk (I used Simple Truth Unsweetened Almond Milk)

6 cups broccoli flowerets

1 7 oz package Daiya Jalapeno Havarti cheese, grated

1 15 0z can Organic Cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ground almonds in a thin, even layer on a dry baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, just until golden.  If desired, reserve 4 tsp toasted ground almonds for garnish.
  2. Steam broccoli until very tender, about 12 to 14 minutes.
  3. Combine cooked broccoli, rinsed beans, almonds, and milk in batches in a blender.  Process each batch until the mixture is completely smooth.  Pour the blended soup into  a large saucepan.
  4. Add the grated cheese and heat soup over medium to medium low heat until heated through and cheese is melted.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with almonds, if using.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. Makes 6 One cup servings

 

 

 

Pizza Perfect

I’ve been spending a few months focused on my manuscript and haven’t been going out or experimenting with food.  My dinners have been tried and true meals I through together without need of a recipe: usually a bean and veggie soup served with a grain.  They’re easy to make, don’t require much planning, and my entire family likes them.  I can focus on my writing rather than spending a great deal of time planning dinner.  But then, the time comes when I’m ready to take a break from my manuscript and look forward to trying something new.

Last weekend, that something new was a chicken artichoke pizza.  Or chik’n, as there was no bird involved.  I had a package of Beyond Meat‘s Lightly Seasoned Strips and a jar of artichoke hearts.  I also had an Archer Farms brand thin pizza crust (no dairy or eggs!), a block of Daiya‘s Jalapeno Havarti, and half a bag of Daiya’s Cheddar Shreds.  I like making my own pizza because ordering a veganized pizza from a vendor costs me over ten dollars and a ready-made vegan pizza from the supermarket’s freezer section costs about as much.  Plus, if I make my own, I can have as many toppings as I like.

Most of my pizzas have olives on them as I am an olive addict.  Green, black, kalamata…you name ’em I love ’em.  This time, I decided to leave them off.  I only had green and black and I didn’t feel the flavor of black olives would compliment my pizza.  The pizza was going to be tart enough with the artichokes and I decided to leave the green off as well.  I gathered my ingredients, checked my instructions on the crust, and was ready to go.

The crust didn’t require pre-baking so got my oven ready, layered on my toppings, and slid my pie into the oven.  15 minutes later, I had a pizza that smelled delicious, the crust lightly browned on the edges.  The middle was a bit soggy but another five minutes did the trick.

How was it?  Wonderful.  The shreds of jalapeno havarti on the top of the pizza didn’t melt all that well but the cheddar shreds layered between the strips and the artichokes did and helped hold the pizza together.  Nothing was missing.  There was no layer of flavor I searched for while consuming way more pizza in one sitting than I should.  The thin crust was a bit fragile but once I folded the edges of a piece together, I didn’t deal with the crust giving way and all my toppings ending scattered on the plate.  The best part?  I had leftovers and my workplace has a toaster oven.  Delicious pizza, two days in a row.

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So good!

Want to try it?

Vegan Chicken Artichoke Pizza

1 vegan pizza crust

4 TBSP organic tomato sauce

2 TBSP Italian Seasoning

2/3 package Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Strips

1 cup Daiya Vegan Cheddar Shreds

6 jarred artichoke hearts (equals about two cups once chopped)

1/3 block Daiya Jalapeno Havarti Cheese block, shredded

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, prepare Beyond Meat according to the package’s skillet instructions.  Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, chop into chunks.
  3.  Chop the artichoke hearts and press well to get rid of any excess liquid.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce on crust, coming close to the edge.  Top with the Italian seasoning, then the artichokes, the cheddar shreds, and the chicken chunks.
  5. Top with the jalapeno havarti shreds.
  6. Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.  Check center of pizza and, if necessary, bake 5 minutes more.
  7. Cut into triangles with a pizza cutter.
  8. Makes 8 slices but only serves 2 unless paired with a salad.

What’s In Your Survival Kit?

I recently had to go out of town for an overnight visit and my destination was a small town in Colorado I was certain wouldn’t be vegan friendly.  I checked out restaurants in the area and neither the Asian or Mexican food place had very high reviews.  As my only other options were steak and burgers, I put together a survival kit.

This kit was a little different as I knew I would have access to an oven.  This opened up the survival kit to include a frozen Daiya brand pizza.  I knew I could keep it frozen in a cooler until time to cook it and purchasing the pizza meant I wouldn’t be spending money at a restaurant.  The pizza was on sale so it cost me about 6 bucks: I’ve never been able to put a vegan meal together for that while eating out.  I also included my french press: something I don’t travel with very often.  I figured odds of it getting broken during an overnight stay were fairly slim and I knew I would need excellent, fresh coffee in the morning.  A little chocolate almond milk as coffee creamer and I’d be ready to go.

While the french press isn’t a staple in my survival kits, my electric kettle is.  I think it was Sassy at Vegan Coach who first suggested getting one but I don’t remember for certain.  Whoever it was, it was a genius idea.  A traveling kettle lets me make tea, oatmeal, and soup.  Instant oatmeal and containers of soup are integral parts of my survival kits.  I like Dr. McDougall’s brand: just add water and dinner is instant!  I didn’t bring instant oatmeal with me this time.  I had access to a refrigerator as well as an oven so made some overnight oats with oatmeal, chia seeds, dates, cinnamon, and almond milk.  Give it a mix, stick it in the fridge and breakfast is ready the next morning.  I included some pecans and figured my protein needs were covered.  Almost.

I never travel without packets of peanut butter.  Justin’s is one of my go to brands but Wild Friends make some fun combinations and aren’t too expensive.  I’d used all my Wild Friends peanut butter from my last road trip but Justin’s saved the day.  I popped two packets into my carry on in case I needed a protein boost.  I also included a scoop of my Amazing Meal Chocolate Meal Replacement and a container of rice milk so I’d have a smoothie the next day just in case.  Just in case what?  Who knows what can happen in the wilds of Colorado?

I admit it: I may over plan.

I finished off my survival kit with two cookies from the Alternative Baking Company: an oatmeal raisin and lemon poppy seed.  These are fabulous vegan cookies and they travel very well.  I could think of several more things I should take with me; again, just in case, but only had so much space in my carry-on.  I decided my survival was assured and quit packing.

Sure enough, I didn’t need half of what I packed but I like to be prepared for any  eventuality.  I’m certain that, next time, I won’t pack half so much.  😉

 

 

Spicy Mac to Warm a Cold Day

Winter is trying very hard to become a reality here in Colorado. A few warm days muscle it out of the way but then the temperature drops and I haul the flannel pants and fuzzy socks out of the drawer and wrap up. I am consuming a great deal of tea-maudling my insides to quote Georgette Heyer-and am looking for meals that warm and comfort me. In my opinion, there are few foods more comforting than Mac’n’Cheese and I’ve worked over the years to make a perfect, veganized version. I think I’m getting close.

I enjoy spicy food and, as I’m the only one eating my veggie mac, I can make it as spicy as I choose. I get help from Daiya’s Jalapeño Garlic Havarti and a shaker of red pepper flakes. I don’t measure anything; I just toss it in the pot and eat the result. Fortunately, the result is usually wonderful.

For this recipe, I started with arrowroot and unsweetened almond milk. I put close to 2 TBSP of arrowroot in the pan and added some milk. I did not add enough milk and ended up with lumps which fortunately disappeared as I added more almond milk and vigorously applied a whisk. I then added some spicy mustard and the grated Havarti I mentioned before along with a few slices of Daiya cheddar. I have three secret ingredients I use in my veggie mac which I am going to share with you. One: white pepper. This adds a smoky pepper flavor to the cheese sauce that is impossible to get with black pepper. Two: cumin. This adds a different layer of smoky flavor and a little bit of spice as well. Three: white miso. I first added this to my veggie mac by accident because I had no Tofutti sour cream. I now use it all the time. I think it makes my cheese sauce creamy and, with the miso, I add less salt.

While the cheese melts, I cook my pasta. For this veggie mac, I used DeBoles gluten free multi grain penne made with brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth. It wasn’t bad but I didn’t cook it long enough and it was a little too al dente. Once the pasta is done I drain it, return it to the pan, and pour the cheese sauce on top. Give that a stir, pour it into a bowl, and I’ve got a tasty lunch it took me fifteen minutes to make.

I’ll sometimes fry up a few slices of veggie bacon but I didn’t have any for this recipe. I didn’t miss it. This veggie mac was hot enough to make my tongue tingle, filling, and the perfect creamy comfort food on a cold day. Yum.

Now that I’m thinking about it…it’s almost lunch time and I still have some Daiya Havarti in the refrigerator. Happy eating!

This  tastes better than it looks.  I'm trying to get a place in my house set up with better lighting.
Gluten-Free, Vegan, and Yummy!

Imagine: A New Favorite

Fall is quickly descending into winter here in Colorado.  We’ve already had a bitter cold spell and the forecast calls for more snow this week.  It’s perfect weather to curl up in a comfy chair with a blanket, some tea, and a good book.  It’s also perfect weather for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  This combination was a favorite of mine growing up but the tomato soup was always Campbell’s which contains dairy, and of course the sandwiches were made with either Kraft singles or slices of cheddar cheese.  But, choosing a vegan lifestyle does not mean one has to give up on favorite meals.  Thanks to Daiya Cheddar Cheese and Imagine Organic Tomato Soup, an old favorite is back on the menu, better than before.

I’m not sure I’ve ever proclaimed the awesomeness of Daiya cheese.  There are vegan artisan cheeses out there I’d love to get my hands on but they’re difficult to come by in Colorado.  I’ve only tried Follow Your Heart brand and Daiya.  I have not found a vegan cheese substitute that is as creamy as Daiya.  It’s rich so I use thin slices in my grilled sandwiches but Daiya melts beautifully and the sandwiches remind me of those I had when I was a child.

Finding a dairy free tomato soup was bit more difficult.  The canned soups all contained dairy.  Amy’s makes a tomato soup but I have trouble finding it on the shelves.  I hoped Pacific brand would be a vegan soup but, nope, it contains dairy.  Finding Imagine brand soup was a fluke.  I found it on the shelf of my local King Soopers but figured it would have dairy in it, especially as it’s called “Creamy Tomato Soup”.  If the container hadn’t been on sale and I weren’t an optimist, I’d never have taken it down and read the label.  When I found no dairy listed, I did a happy dance in the aisle, bought a container, and took it home.  The soup is creamy, so much so that I still have a hard time believing it’s dairy free, it’s full-flavored, and the perfect comfort food on a cold day.  My non-vegan family has happily made the switch.

Any cold weather favorites I should try?  I’m always looking for new tasty favorites.  Sending you warm wishes from chilly Colorado!

An Old Favorite, Veganized
An Old Favorite, Veganized

Daiya’s In My Kitchen

My family has been infiltrated by something insidious: the cold virus.  My mother and step-father lie in their chairs, sneezing and hacking at each other, and I swear I can see the virus in the air searching for its next victim.  Since I’m the only other one in the house, its victim is narrowed to me.  But I refuse.  I will not get sick.  With rest, relaxation, good food, and echinacea tea; there’s no reason why I should get sick.  I know that cooking my own food thick with healthy veggies is the best way to stay healthy but, alas, not always possible.

I’ve been extremely busy of late, not conducive to fighting off a virus, and last night was no exception.  I came home from work and had to dash off to the store before a conference call at 6pm so dinner was going to consist of whatever I could find in the grocery store.  I was pleasantly surprised to find something new in the freezer section:  a vegan cheese pizza made by a company called American Flatbread.  I love flatbread pizzas and this one sounded tasty: Daiya mozzarella, basil, organic tomato sauce, and garlic.  On the shelf above the pizza I found a package of Beyond Meat brand southwestern style chick’n strips.  I bought both and a dinner was born, thanks to Safeway.

Beyond Meat is my new favorite product.  I’ve used Gardein, Boca, and Yves brands since going vegan and am new to Beyond Meat.  My mother found a package of the crumbles on sale a while back, added them to chili, and  I’ve been a devotee ever since.  I’m trying to move away from the mock meats but I still use them from time to time and Beyond Meat is one of the tastiest out there.  If mock meats don’t gross you out, I highly recommend Beyond Meat.

Anywho…I brought my dinner, the cold medicine for my family, their soup and crackers, and two boxes of echinacea tea home and slid my dinner into the freezer for after my conference call.  An hour later, I dragged my bleary eyed self back up the stairs and retrieved my dinner from the freezer.  Talk about fast food:  the chick’n strips cook from frozen in 3 to 5 minutes and the pizza bakes in 8.  Well, 12-15 in my oven.  I cooked the chick’n through then diced it, sprinkled it on top  of the pizza, and slid the whole thing into the oven.  Then I waited.  Patiently.  Stomach growling.

It was worth the wait.  The flatbread had that perfect balance between crispy and chewy, I can never say enough good things about garlic and basil, the Daiya cheese melted beautifully, and my chick’n pieces were a perfect protein packed topper.  The only complaint I have is that the pizza was too small.  It’s perfect for one person, or maybe two if both have relatively small appetites or the pizza is going to be rounded out with soup and salad.  It was perfect for me though: I ate half last night and the other half will go into the toaster oven at work for lunch today.  I thought about rounding out my meal with a glass of Malbec but I chose to go for cold fighting power instead.  I dislike over the counter cold medicines and don’t sleep well when I have to take them.  Instead, I brew a cup of echinacea tea and add a splash (or a pour) of blackberry brandy.  A good night’s sleep and I’m ready for a new day.  Virus defeated!

Dinner From the Freezer Section
Dinner From the Freezer Section