Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ricotta without the curdles.

Every once in a while (and by every once in a while, I mean far too often), I crave some cheesy gooey comfort food. And every once in a while, I indulge this craving. However, one weekend, I decided to play with this craving in a health(ier), vegan way. -- nut cheese!

I had made it once to put on some kale chips (not the previously posted ones), and although the kale chips were kind of soggy and weird-the nut cheese was tasty! So I figured this wasn't a completely impossible concept.

I played around with some different textures and flavors and liked the result quite a bit. I used a combination of cashews and tofu for a really crumbly, but also creamy texture.

This is what I came up with, feel free to tweak based on what you're using it for.
  • 1 cup cashews -- soaked in water (with a dash of salt) at least 2-3 hours
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • between 1/8-1/4 cup soy milk/creamer or a combination of both (use more or less depending on what you're using it for)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • basil - I used as much as I could pull off of my aerogarden plant without killing it - probably between 1tsp-1tb dried basil, or as much fresh basil as you like
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
-Drain and pulse the soaked cashews in a food processor until well pureed -- kind of like a chunky butter
-Cut the firm tofu into cubes and add it to the food processor, pulse combining it with the cashews.
-Add all remaining ingredients, pulsing as you go, until you have a creamy, ricotta like texture
-Feel free to adjust the seasonings as you wish -- make it sweeter (more agave) for a spread/dessert, herb-ier (?) for an italian dish (more basil, oregano, or add parsley!)
-Taste and adjust! And taste and taste and taste! I couldn't stop eating it!

Note that the cheeze dries out a bit when you bake it, so you can make it a bit waterier/creamier if you're using it in a dish that will be baked.

I boiled some store-bought manicotti shells, stuffed 'em with the "cheeze", added some tasty (jarred) tomato sauce and baked for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

 Serve it up with some extra sauce and a yummy salad and feel quite a bit less guilty about indulging!

The cheezeee was also Deeeeelish on these little flatbread crackers/on some raw veggies/on a spoon. I'm sure it'd be excellent as a spread on a veggie wrap - perhaps with some eggplant and sundried tomatoes.

Aka -- make extra because you'll want to use it on everything!

Monday, February 20, 2012

taming of the squash

A long time ago, someone told me about "spaghetti squash". I had never had it, heard of it, or seen it and wasn't much of a squash eater. She described it as "just a regular squash that, when you cut it open, the inside is like spaghetti!"

I was intrigued, but never tried it. Recently, however, I bumped into a box of these large, intimidating squash at Whole Foods. I decided to pick one up (which was quite a feat because they are pretty heavy).

I forgot to take a picture of mine, but that's what they look like before you tame the beast, in case you stumble upon a bunch of unmarked squashes? squashi? sqeesh? what is the plural of squash, anyway?

After lugging it on the subway, I put it on my counter and there it sat for a few weeks. Good thing squash don't go bad quickly!

One day, I decided it was now or never but had NO idea how to crack this monster. Apparently, there are two ways to go about it.
1. Roast the whole thing and then cut it open
2. Cut it open and then roast it

...revolutionary, really.

I went for the latter, and took the sharpest knife I could find and dug in. It.wasn't.easy. Its a bit like carving a pumpkin, except not as fun and far more dangerous since it has no flat bottom to stand on and seems to slip every time you give the knife a good push...cute

Anyway, I got it open, split in half, VERY unevenly, but it didn't seem to matter.

However, once I looked inside, I was appalled to see that nothing inside it even resembled spaghetti. I was baffled, but upon a bit of research, found out this was okay.

Once you've conquered the beast and opened it, pull out all the slime and seeds, again, similar to the way you'd clean a pumpkin, except far less fun. Then,  stick it cut side down onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven, pre-heated to 375 degrees.

I let it roast for about 40 minutes, and honestly, had NO idea if it was done or not. I pulled it out and it looked practically the same as it did when it was un-roasted, except it now burned my hands and some of the pulp that I was too lazy to clean out was burned.

I held it over a bowl, ran a fork down the center, and I swear, the heavens opened and the angels sang. This stupid little wanna-be pumpkin who had tried to make me cut my fingers off, had just turned into SPAGHETTI. I was thrilled.  ecstatic. shocked. and then I wondered who on earth figured this out for the first time.

But either way, run your fork over the "meat" of the squash from end to end, stem to stem, until the whole thing is just an empty shell and you have a bowl of beautifully yellow spaghetti squash.

I ate mine with only some garlic and shallots, sauteed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. I'm sure there are a million ways that this would be delicious, but I wanted my first spaghetti squash experience to really taste as squashy as possible.

It did not disappoint.

when all else fails...make kale chips!

Raw Kale Chips

These little babies seem to be popping up in every health/natural/hippy store I walk into, and as delicious as they look, I never feel like its okay to hand seven of my hard earned dollars for some dried up leaves. So, after a bit of googling, I decided to whip some up myself.

Inspired by every recipe on the internet but also no one recipe... I whipped up three different types of these kale chips. Honestly, they were so easy, so tasty, and so healthy, they are a great way to break into the healthy, whole food, raw, vegan, whatever the word is today, world.

Kale Chips:

1 bunch kale
olive oil
Random combinations of the following:
freshly ground pepper
sea salt
nutritional yeast
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
lemon juice

-Thoroughly clean your kale and remove the big sticky stalks in the center.
-Tear the leaves into bite size pieces (keep in mind they will shrink a little [or a lot depending on how you cook them.])
-Coat them with your desired toppings. Pour olive oil on top, a drizzle at a time and toss the kale. **Using your hands works far better than a spoon or fork, and is much more fun - -this way you can make sure all the kale is touched with the oil without pouring globs of it on. Then toss on your desired toppings and mix em around.

The three combinations I made:
1) The first batch I made using just olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Honestly, I found these a bit boring, but if you are in the mood for just straight up kale-ness, these are for you!
2) The second batch I made using olive oil and lemon juice (*perk!: the lemon juice lets you use less oil!). I then tossed with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. More of less of each to taste. I felt like these got a bit spicier after being cooked/dehydrated, so consider yourself warned!
3) The third batch I made I think were my favorites! I used just olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. The yeast and the garlic together made a real cheesy, garlicy flavor that made them taste like FAR more than a dried leaf!

Side note: I refuse to give measurements for this recipe because every bundle of kale is differently sized and everyone's taste is a bit different. Feel free to taste as you go, adjusting the seasonings for taste - no one ever died from eating raw kale! (well, don't quote me on that, but I haven't yet anyway!). You'll definitely want to keep tasting the cheezy, garlicky ones, not to adjust, but just to lick your fingers because its so darn tasty!

After they are seasoned to your liking, its time to cook, or not cook - depending on your kitchen appliances. Now, I've made kale chips a few times. The first time I made them was before my lovely bf placed a dehydrator under my Christmas tree.

If you don't have a dehydrator, patience is key! And some spare time to sit around and make sure you don't burn your house/apartment building down.

Spread them out on a cookie sheet and preheat your oven (as low as it will go). Probably around 170 degrees or so. Stick em in the oven and wait. And wait and wait. Probably about 3-4 hours.

If you DO have a dehydrator, lay these babies out on the trays and dehydrate. I set my dehydrator somewhere between 100-104 so that I was sure they were still considered "raw". (Heck! If I'm going to eat dehydrated kale, I'm going to reap EVERY nutritional benefit possible!)

Dehydrate until crunchy. I'd say I left mine in about 20 hours, but I bet they were done after 16 or so. It really will depend on the size of each leaf and how much coating you put on each one. Feel free to take them out before my 16-20 hours if you think they are ready.

How do you know? Think of the Fall, right before it turns to winter...when all the leaves are brown and fallen on the ground, when if you pick one up, you can just crunch it up in your glove!

Sounds appetizing, eh?

Once you have deemed them late-autumn-crunchy, stick em' in an airtight container and store.

Oh, and be sure to bring them to work and crunch on them throughout the day so everyone can give you stranger looks than they normally do for being the crazy girl in the corner eating leaves.

time filler, tummy filler

I'm in a bit of an odd 'limbo' period. So, in this period of time that I call "whatamIgoingtodowithmylife", I've been occupying my brain (and my chatty mouth) in the kitchen. As I never remember what I've made later on, I figured its time to start documenting these gems...For my benefit, and maybe yours, too.

Disclaimer: After a few remarkable documentaries and some hefty research, I try to stick to mostly vegan, healthy, animal-free food. However, I, personally, am not a vegan (110% of the time). So while most of what I cook, eat, and post will be vegan; please don't be alarmed to see a plate of cheese, meaty goodness stick its head in here every so often and, for goodnesssake, don't call PETA.

So, here's to a (feeble) attempt to empty my mind, fill my belly, and cook my way through my limbo. (and beyond)