Tag: recipes

Traditional Polenta: Three Ways

Creamy Polenta, Polenta Squares, and Polenta Fries!

Polenta is a traditional Northern Italian dish made from boiled cornmeal that has been a staple in Italian cuisine for centuries. It is a simple and hearty dish that can be served on its own or as a base for a variety of toppings and sauces. Despite its humble origins, polenta has gained widespread popularity around the world for its versatility, comforting texture, and delicious flavor.

Polenta can be traced back to ancient Roman times when it was known as puls, a porridge made from a variety of grains, including barley and millet. In medieval times, polenta was made from chestnut flour, which was abundant in the northern regions of Italy. It wasn’t until the 16th century that corn, which had been introduced to Europe from the Americas, became the primary ingredient in polenta.

Creamy Polenta

To make polenta, cornmeal is slowly simmered in water or stock until it thickens and becomes creamy. It is traditionally stirred constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps from forming and to achieve a smooth and velvety texture. Once cooked, polenta can be served hot, topped with a variety of savory or sweet ingredients, or chilled and sliced into wedges to be fried or grilled.

Polenta can also be used as a base for a variety of dishes, such as polenta lasagna, where layers of polenta are substituted for pasta, or polenta cakes, which are a delicious gluten-free alternative to traditional cakes.

The typical ratio for making polenta is 4 parts coarse cornmeal to 1 cup water, though I tend to add a little more, especially when making creamy polenta — to ensure it retains its creamy texture and doesn’t set up too quickly.

Ingredients

4-1/4 cups water (or half vegetable stock and half water)

1 cup (170 g) coarse cornmeal (polenta)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 tablespoon nondairy butter (such as Miyoko’s or Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon salt, added gradually (and you may not use all; depends on your taste)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the water over low-medium heat until it comes to a full boil. Secure the lid to accelerate the process.

Once the water is boiling rapidly, slowly add the cornmeal, whisking continually as you do to prevent lumps. The mixture will be hot and bubbling, so be careful not to get splattered. Just keep steadily stirring, and don’t walk away.

Once the polenta is fully incorporated and you’re certain you have no lumps, reduce the heat to low, and maintain a gentle simmer while the cornmeal continues to thicken up, just a minute or two.

At this point, cover the pot with a lid, and set your timer for 20 minutes, returning every 5 minutes to uncover it and give it a stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t have to stand at the stove stirring the polenta the entire time; just return every 5 minutes, give it a stir, then re-cover. This will result in the creamiest, silkiest polenta.

After 20 minutes, remove from the heat and add the butter and the teaspoon of salt. Stir until fully incorporated, taste to adjust seasonings, adding additional salt or freshly ground pepper. Cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

At this point, you can plate up the polenta right away, or continue on to make the polenta squares or fries — below.

Polenta Squares (or Hearts)

Once cooked (as above), the polenta can be spread out in a dish to cool and set. Once firm, it can be cut into squares, triangles, or any other shape you desire.

To make polenta squares or “cakes,” you can use the same basic recipe for traditional polenta above. The key is to allow the cooked polenta to cool and set before cutting it into shapes. This can be done by pouring the cooked polenta into a greased baking dish or sheet pan and spreading it out evenly.

Once it has cooled and set, the polenta can be cut into squares or other shapes and served as a side dish or used as a base for a variety of dishes.

One popular way to enjoy polenta squares is to fry them until crispy and golden brown. They can be served as a side dish or as a base for toppings such as roasted vegetables or tomato sauce.

Polenta Fries

Nary a week goes by that I don’t make these golden fries of goodness. These fries are perfect as a side dish, a snack, or a starter. For parties, I serve them up in their own individual bowls, along with some dipping sauce. Because the polenta has to set up before you can make the fries, just plan ahead a few hours. You can also set the polenta up overnight.

Directions

Once the polenta is set up and you’re ready to make your fries, take it out of the fridge, and cut your polenta into uniform slices resembling large french fries.

Gently brush or spray the polenta slices with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Air fryer method
The air fryer is my preferred method for these fries, but you can also use an oven; it will just take longer. Place as many of the polenta fries in your air fryer basket that will fit as a single layer without overlapping, and lightly mist the tops with cooking spray.

Cook in an air fryer to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), for 15 minutes. Gently flip the fries with a spatula and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes longer, or to your preferred crispiness. Transfer the fries to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining fries. Best served while hot, they are perfectly fine at room temperature.

Oven method
An air fryer is just a compact convection oven, so you can absolutely make these in a regular oven, preferably at the convection setting. Preheat your oven to 350, spread the polenta on a parchment lined baking sheet, bake for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they reach your preferred crispiness.

Polenta is often considered a staple dish in Italian “cucina povera,” which translates to “poor kitchen” or “peasant cooking.” It was a simple and affordable dish made from cornmeal and water that sustained people for centuries. Today, polenta is enjoyed as a versatile and delicious dish that can be served in many different ways.

You May Also Be Interested In

Traditional Soda Bread

Soda Bread is Easy-Peasy to Make Vegan

Sometimes you want a delicious loaf of bread last-minute, and you don’t have time to let the dough rise. Or you don’t have live yeast. Or you’ve never made yeasted bread before! (Sometimes you’re just looking for St. Patrick’s Day recipes!) The solution: traditional Irish soda bread!

Soda Bread History

Enter soda bread, a type of quick bread that dates to approximately 1840, when bicarbonate of soda was introduced to Ireland and replaced yeast as the leavening agent. It eventually became a staple of the Irish diet and is still used as an accompaniment to a meal. 

There are several theories as to the significance of the cross in soda bread. Some believe that the cross was placed in the bread to ward off evil, but it is more likely that the cross is used to help with the cooking of the bread or to serve as a guideline for even slices.

Soda Bread Recipe

One of the things I love about traditional recipes such as this Irish soda bread (featured in The Joy of Vegan Baking among 150 others), is that they rarely need to be “veganized,” because they just happen to be vegan already.  The lactic acid in buttermilk is what activates the carbon dioxide, but adding vinegar, which is acidic, to our nondairy milk creates the same effect. 

Irish soda bread is a perfect, delicious bread that anyone can make, regardless of your skill level — and whether or not it’s St. Patrick’s Day! Pair it with a hearty stew, and you’re all set! (For a St. Patrick’s Day Menu of Potato Pancakes, Vegan Irish Stew, and Apple Whisky Crumble, click here!)

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups nondairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or melted nondairy butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Lightly grease a round 9- or 10-inch cake pan.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Essentially, by adding an acidic agent, you just created “buttermilk.” 

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the milk and vinegar mixture, plus the oil or butter, and combine until you have a sticky dough. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a floured surface for about 10 to 12 strokes. 

Place the dough in the prepared pan, and cut a cross on the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until the bottom has a hollow sound when thumped. Cool slightly before serving. 

Soda bread can dry out quickly and is typically good for two to three days; it is best served warm or toasted with nondairy butter.

Yield: One round loaf

Serving Suggestions and Variations

Add

  • 1-1/2 cups of raisins
  • 1 cup of various nuts

This recipe was reprinted from The Joy of Vegan Baking. Get your copy today!

DID YOU MAKE IT? HOW DID IT TURN OUT?

What more fantastic vegan recipes?

Check out my on-demand and online classes!

Read more about creating a St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu!

Vegan Passover Menu

Why a plant-based Seder beautifully reflects the values of this important Jewish holiday

A brief history of Passover

The story of Passover dates back over 3,000 years ago when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt under the rule of the Pharaoh. Moses, who was raised as an Egyptian, learned of his true heritage and led the Israelites to freedom.

After enduring a series of plagues, including the death of all their firstborn, the Pharaoh finally relented and let the Israelites leave Egypt. They were in such a hurry to leave that they did not have time to let their bread rise, and instead made unleavened bread to take with them on their journey.

The Passover Seder, the ritual feast that begins the Passover holiday, includes a retelling of the Exodus story, using symbolic foods and rituals that represent the Jewish people’s journey to freedom. It is a time for families and communities to come together and share in the tradition, history, and values that have sustained the Jewish people for generations.

How the values of Passover and veganism align

Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom, and emphasizes the importance of treating others with dignity and respect.

Similarly, veganism seeks to minimize harm to animals and reduce exploitation in the food system, promoting compassion for all beings.

Both values highlight the importance of recognizing the inherent worth and value of all individuals, regardless of their species, background, or circumstances. Freedom from harm, liberation from enslavement, and hope for a better future are central values in both Passover and veganism.

Vegan Passover Seder menu

The Seder, which means “order,” is the traditional Passover meal that includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, remembering history, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions.

One significant practice of this holiday involves the removal of leavened foods commemorating the fact that the slaves fleeing Egypt did not have time to let their bread rise.

Matzo represents this unleavened bread and is used in many forms throughout the holiday — as crackers, as flour, as meal / bread crumbs, as bread. 

Options for a vegan Passover menu abound, and you can find 11 delicious recipes in my specially curated RECIPE BUNDLE FOR A VEGAN PASSOVER. Enjoy these easy-to-make, eager-to-please recipes for:

  • Matzo Ball Soup
  • Borscht (Beet Soup)
  • Charoset
  • Noodle Kugel
  • Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
  • Roasted Beets and Fennel Bulbs with Fennel Oil
  • Matzo Pizza with Cashew Mozzarella
  • Mushroom Walnut Pâté
  • Matzo Chocolate Brittle
  • Flourless Chocolate Tart
  • Coconut Macaroons

Most of the ingredients in these recipes are whole plant foods, some of them call for store-bought ingredients, such as olive oil or balsamic vinegar. If you are keeping kosher for Passover, just double-check your commercially bought ingredients before using.

I included ingredients that you should have no problem finding certified kosher, but depending on how observant you or your host and their guests are, you’ll want to double-check if they’re labeled “kosher for Passover.”

Your best bet is to check a kosher grocery store, the kosher section of a larger grocery, or one of the many online stores that carry kosher products, especially if they come from Israel!

GET YOUR PASSOVER BUNDLE TODAY!

Vegan Seder plate

The six symbolic foods on the Seder plate play an important role, since they’re used to recount the story of the exodus and convey the elements of the powerful message of Passover: that freedom is possible, that slavery can end, and that the future can be better than the past.

Many plant foods are already traditionally part of the Seder plate, namely:

  • Charoset, which represents the mortar that Jews worked with when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. Ashkenazi Jews typically make charoset with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and wine; Sephardic Jews often use figs and dates. Also delicious.
  • Bitter herbs, which symbolize the bitterness and harshness of slavery. This is often represented with horseradish.
  • Additional bitter herbs, such as romaine lettuce or endive, have the same effect.
  • A green vegetable, such as parsley, which represents new life, is dipped in salt water, signifying the tears of the slaves.

A couple animal products are also used as symbols, namely a boiled egg to symbolize new life and a shank bone to represent the lamb who was offered for sacrifice, but non-animal alternatives are widely accepted:

  • The most common vegan substitute for the shank bone is a roasted beet, whose “bloody” appearance is used to represent the blood of the sacrificial lambs. Beets are referenced as a Passover Seder option in the Talmud.
  • While the egg doesn’t have the same kind of long-established traditional substitute, there are a few different options used by Jewish vegans in its place:
    • something egg-shaped — like a plastic or wooden egg, or even a smooth rock 
    • seeds, because they symbolize and hold the potential for new life, can be used in place of an egg. An avocado pit is used by many because it is a seed and it somewhat resembles the shape of the egg it is replacing.
    • the type of eggplant that is round and white is a great substitute; it even looks like an egg.  
    • rice, being outside of the category for grains forbidden to eat at Passover, was another vegetarian Seder option given in the Talmud.

Pick the one that resonates with you and take heart in the fact that a vegan Seder is not only traditional in its own right, it reflects the principles of freedom and mercy that signify this holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu

Vegan Irish Cuisine

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀🇮🇪 Today, we’re taking a deep dive into the rich culinary heritage of Ireland, celebrating the delicious traditional foods that have been passed down for generations and making a St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu.

You heard that right.

Traditions are meant to be adapted. Traditions are meant to reflect our values. So, let’s get to it.

Irish cuisine is hearty and comforting — thick soups, chunky stews, creamy sides, and warming drinks. This is the food I grew up on in my Irish-American family. My name IS, after all, Colleen Patrick — Colleen meaning “girl” and Patrick referring to the patron saint of this holiday. (The “Goudreau” part of my last name comes from my husband.)

Officially, I’m 75% Irish and 25% Italian, my ancestors having immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century. And I’m 100% vegan. So, that makes a St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu right up my alley! 😇

St. Patrick’s Day History

The history of St. Patrick’s Day dates back to the 17th century, when it was first observed as a religious feast day by the Catholic Church in Ireland. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a fifth-century Christian missionary who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

He is also known for using the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish people.

Over time, St. Patrick’s Day became a public holiday in Ireland, and it was celebrated with religious ceremonies and feasts. It was also a day when people would wear green, which is now a symbol of Ireland and a nod to the country’s lush green landscape.

In the United States, St. Patrick’s Day became popular among Irish immigrants in the late 19th century. These immigrants organized parades and other celebrations to celebrate their heritage and culture. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland and is celebrated around the world.

Irish Main Dishes and Sides

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE (AMERICAN): One of the most popular St. Patrick’s Day food traditions is corned beef and cabbage, and I have memories of my mother cooking this in the slow cooker every March. However, this dish is not actually a traditional Irish meal. It is believed to have originated in the United States in the mid-19th century, when Irish immigrants substituted corned beef for bacon, which was more expensive in America.

Hearty Irish Vegan Stew

HEARTY STEW (IRISH): In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is more commonly celebrated with a traditional Irish meal of a thick, hearty stew with potatoes, carrots, and onions. For my vegan version, I use plant-based meat, though you can just leave that out and just feature root vegetables. You can use store-bought seitan, sausage, or any favorite vegan meat. To avoid extra packaging and cost, I make my own seitan, which is much more economical and ecological. You can find my recipe in the on-demand class library, or just click on the button below:

COLCANNON (IRISH): Another traditional Irish dish is colcannon, a delicious and creamy mixture of mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage. This simple yet satisfying dish would be served with a dollop of (nondairy) butter, and it’s a great accompaniment to any main dish. It is also a perfect way to get some St. Patrick’s Day GREEN in your menu — using healthy, delicious greens. You can take that further by making a side of

  • kale chips
  • sauteed collard greens
  • pea soup
  • spinach or arugula salad

Think green!

BOXTY (IRISH): An alternative to colcannon is boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake. There are different regional variations of boxty throughout Ireland, with some recipes including other ingredients like onions, garlic, or herbs. Boxty has been a staple of Irish cuisine for centuries and is still popular today, particularly in rural areas of the country.

I demonstrate how to make boxty in my St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu, which provides my video instruction with tons of tips and tricks.

SODA BREAD (IRISH): Another traditional item for this holiday is soda bread, which has been a staple in Irish cuisine for many years, and it’s still enjoyed today for a few reasons. One of the main reasons is that it’s a simple bread to make using basic ingredients that were readily available to the Irish people throughout history, including flour, salt, baking soda, and soured milk (or buttermilk).

Using plant-based milk instead of animal milk is an easy vegan switcheroo for a bread that is otherwise vegan. Enjoy my recipe for Irish Soda Bread here.

Irish Dessert and Drinks

For dessert, Irish people often enjoy traditional dishes like apple cake, bread pudding, or trifle. They may also indulge in Guinness beer (now vegan!), Bailey’s Irish Cream (a vegan version now available!), or Irish whiskey (always been vegan, thank goodness!). 😇 These iconic Irish beverages have been enjoyed for centuries, and their rich flavors are the perfect complement to any traditional Irish meal.

You can enjoy my Whisky Apple Cake recipe as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu. And if you have my book, Color Me Vegan, you will find a beautiful Green Matcha Cupcake, which is a fun way to feature some of the Irish green!

Green Recipe Inspiration!

Here are some more ideas for green recipes for St. Patrick’s Day:

Green Matcha Smoothie with Blueberries
  1. Green smoothie bowl: Blend spinach, banana, kiwi, and coconut milk to make a creamy and nutritious green smoothie. Top with sliced fruit, granola, and nuts for a satisfying breakfast or snack.
  2. Irish soda bread with green herbs: Add chopped green herbs like parsley, chives, or basil to your Irish soda bread dough to give it a fresh and savory twist.
  3. Shamrock avocado toast: Spread mashed avocado onto toasted bread and use a cookie cutter to cut the shape of a shamrock. Top with sliced cherry tomatoes, green onions, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
  4. Green hummus: Blend chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Add a handful of fresh parsley, cilantro, or spinach and blend until the mixture turns bright green. Serve with pita chips or crudites.
  5. Matcha latte: Whisk together matcha powder, agave, and warm plant-based milk to make a frothy and invigorating green tea latte.
  6. Pistachio “nice” cream: Make a homemade pistachio nice cream by blending pistachios into your frozen bananas. Blend the mixture in a blender until it’s thick and creamy.
  7. Shamrock sugar cookies: Make sugar cookie dough and add green food coloring to the mix. Cut out shamrock shapes with cookie cutters, bake, and decorate with green icing and sprinkles.

So let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in true Irish style with delicious, nutritious, compassionate vegan recipes! You can find my video, recipes, and menu of TRADITIONAL IRISH STEW, POTATO PANCAKES (BOXTY), AND APPLE CRUMBLE by clicking on the button below.

St. Patrick’s Day Vegan Menu Ideas

What are your favorite vegan St. Patrick’s Day recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

12 (Vegan) Days of Christmas Recipes

Plant-based recipes inspired by the popular holiday song

Search for “12 Days of Christmas recipes” on the internet, and you’ll find countless blog posts featuring loads of animal products: actual cooked hens for Day 3, egg-based dishes for Day 6, milky desserts for Day 8, and so on.

There’s absolutely no evidence that the song pays homage to the consumption of different birds on different days during the 12 Days of Christmas; rather, it was most likely a memory game played on Twelfth Night, the 12th and final night of the 12 Days of Christmas, which begins on December 25th and ends on January 6th, otherwise known as Epiphany.

Still, you will find no animals harmed in the crafting of these dishes. It was so much fun crafting this menu — making literal interpretations as well as taking creative license. You’ll see all the whys and wherefores and details about why I chose the dishes I did once you purchase!

Obviously, you can cook from this menu anytime of the year, but I was very mindful about making sure you have what you need for a single holiday dinner (appetizers, starters, mains, and desserts) or for featuring one recipe per day during the 12 days of Christmas. Enjoy!

Our inspired musical menu!

Poached Pears — A Partridge in a Pear Tree (December 25)
Chocolate Pecan Turtles — Two Turtle Doves (December 26)
Fabulous French Toast — Three French Hens (December 27)
Better-than-Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie — Four Calling Birds (December 28)
Monkey Bread — Five Golden Rings (December 29)
Eggless Egg Salad Crostini — Six Geese a Laying (December 30)
Swan Cut-out Sugar Cookies — Seven Swans a Swimming (December 31)
Potato Leek Soup — Eight Maids a Milking (January 1)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pink Lady Apples and Onions — Nine Ladies Dancing (January 2)
Wassail — Ten Lords-a-Leaping (January 3)
Polenta Fries + Eggless Meringue Cookies — Eleven Pipers Piping (January 4)
Butternut Squash Timbales — Twelve Drummers Drumming (January 5)

(If you’d like to understand more about why — historically — The 12 Days of Christmas started on December 25th and ended on January 6th (otherwise known as the epiphany), check out the Food for Thought podcast episodes Forbidden Meat as well Food and Feasting.)

The Best Juicer! (+Discount Code)

Want To Make Fabulous Homemade Juice AND save $$$?

I did a ton of research to find a better juicer than the one I had for 15 years, and my search is over. No doubt about it: the Nama Juicer is THE BEST! (And no, this post is not sponsored by them.)

  • Not only does it extract more juice
  • It’s incredibly easy to use
  • It’s extremely easy to clean
  • It’s shockingly well-priced for the value it provides
  • And it’s light enough to be portable! (Yes, this crazy lady takes her juicer on road trips.)

Get Your Discount Code For The Best Juicer

To receive yours (in plastic-free packaging!), get free shipping, and save $40 (10% off!),

1. USE this link 
2. Enter this coupon code at checkout: COLLEEN10

–> Do you have a favorite homemade (or store-bought) juice combo? Tell me below, or ask me any questions you have! (For instance, I love to EAT celery, but don’t get it anywhere near my juice!)

Tools for Making Homemade Tofu (Zero Waste + Vegan)

The Benefits of Making Tofu At Home

Mastering homemade tofu (well, as much as a little grasshopper can master a 2,000-year-old practice) has been my highlight of 2020. It’s all the more exciting because I failed so many times, and when I realized what was hindering my success, it was like a dam breaking. I’ve never looked back and now make tofu successfully a couple times a week. 

Is it worth making tofu at home? ABSOLUTELY! 

  • Homemade tofu is so much less expensive than store-bought
  • Homemade tofu eliminates plastic packaging (i.e. zero waste / low waste)
  • Homemade tofu tastes absolutely scrumptious!

Whether or not you join me in my upcoming live cooking class for making homemade tofu, I thought I would share with you the basic “equipment” needed to make your own tofu at home. As you’ll see, I mention a couple things you probably already have on hand, but there are some things that will be new to you. 

Tools You’ll Need for Homemade Tofu

As for the tofu mold, I prefer a wooden tofu mold, which I’ve had for years, but when I looked for one to refer you to, I found it difficult to find one that wasn’t part of a tofu-making kit. However, considering the fact that the kits provide you with everything you need, it may be worth it in the end. The two kits I recommend are:

  1. SoyaJoy Tofu Kit with Wooden Mold, Nigari, and Cheesecloth 
  2. Yamako Tofu Kit with Wooden Mold, Nigari, and Cheesecloth 

Because I wanted to ease you into the homemade tofu-making process, I also wanted to find an option for you to use a mold you may already have on hand without having to buy one just yet. While a “colander” would work (as some blogs suggest), you need more than just a colander…you need a colander/strainer that will also act as a mold (usually square but any shape will do). So, two options to consider:

  1. A plastic tupperware container you punch / drill holes into the bottom of.
  2. A small plastic basket — like those that strawberries come in. The fruit basket is actually the perfect size, and it creates / presses a pretty little design into the tofu block once it’s finished pressing. 

Cheese Cloth: Whatever mold you use, you still need a cheesecloth, though, so just purchase some at a store near you, or buy some online; here’s one I like — it’s unbleached, you can cut it into whatever size you need, and you can wash it and use it again and again and again. And I do.

Nigari: As for the nigari, as I mentioned, it can be purchased in crystal or liquid form and can be found at most Japanese or Asian grocery stores, or you can order online here (in crystal form) or here (in liquid form). FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve used only the crystalized nigari that I dilute in water, and while it comes in a plastic bag, the amount of plastic waste you avoid using by making your own tofu makes up for it a hundred fold. (For instance, 1 pound of crystallized nigari makes about 240 pounds of tofu!) HOWEVER, I *am* curious about using liquid nigari, and since the one I recommend comes in a glass bottle, it would be even less plastic waste. I just haven’t tried it yet. What I use at the present time is nigari salts that I dissolve in water. 

Kitchen / Candy Thermometer: I mention below that this is not required, but I like to know I’m at the right temperature when adding my coagulant, so I use a simple thermometer to do so. Here is the one I have

The main thing I learned in terms of successfully making tofu was that the soy milk has to be made … from scratch. I mean…you definitely can’t use store-bought commercial soy milk and try to make tofu, but my failed attempts at making tofu also came from using soy milk I made in my favorite soy milk maker. I still use that soy milk maker just for making soy milk for daily use, but for making tofu, you have to do it without a machine.

Learn How to Make Tofu

There is a LIVE ONLINE COOKING CLASS coming up to teach you how to make tofu! REGISTER TODAY!

And let me know about your experience! I want to hear your comments and questions.

How to Make Delicious Bruschetta!

Black Olive and Cashew Cream Bruschetta

Can you tell Italian cuisine is on my mind? Between our trips to Italy and my Italian cuisine podcast series, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes: bruschetta.

Traditionally, bruschetta features tomatoes and basil, but bruschetta itself just means “burnt / toasted bread,” so really, we can do whatever we want.

BUT, you can’t say broo-SHET-a. The “ch” sound in Italian is a hard “k” sound (like Chianti or Gnocchi), so it’s pronounced broo-SKET_a.

Ingredients

🌱2 tablespoons olive oil
🌱3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
🌱2 shallots, finely minced
🌱Salt and pepper, to taste
🌱1/4 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped
🌱1/2 cup pitted black (or kalamata) olives, finely minced
🌱1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
🌱1 whole grain baguette, sliced
🌱Olive oil for brushing
🌱Basil Cashew Cream (see below)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400, and line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.

2. Add the oil to a large sauté pan, along with the garlic, shallots, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Cook over medium heat until the shallots begin to glisten, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and olives, and sauté for 3 minutes more.

4. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, and turn off heat.

5. Lightly brush both sides of the bread slices with oil.

6. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until about 5 to 7 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes. Spread a generous amount of cashew cream on each bread slice, and carefully spoon the olive mixture on top.

8. Sprinkle with some minced basil.

MANGIA!

Basil Cashew Cream

Because the cashews have to soak for at least an hour, you will want to factor that in to your total prep time.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (300 g) raw cashews soaked in 3 cups (720 ml) of water for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water

Directions

Once the cashews have soaked, drain and rinse them in a strainer.

Place them in a food processor, along with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil. Turn on the machine, and let it run for a few seconds to start combining the ingredients.

Add most of the water, and process until the mixture is completely smooth, about 2 to 4 minutes, turning the machine off periodically to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Before adding all of the water, I like first seeing what the consistency is; it’s always easier to add more than it is to take any out!

Salt, to taste. The consistency should be thick but spreadable.

For Your Modification

*Instead of basil, add chives, dill, parsley, or any combination you desire.

*Add finely chopped sundried tomatoes and/or olives instead of or along with the fresh herbs.

For Your Information

It will keep well in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.

Did you make this bruschetta recipe? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Don’t Waste That Stale Bread!

Panzanella is an Italian salad (pan means “bread”) that was most likely invented out of necessity as a way to use stale bread, along with fresh vegetables from the garden. The earliest written reference to Panzanella is from the 1500s in a poem by the famous artist, Bronzino. Because the tomato hadn’t yet been introduced to Italy, the original recipe wouldn’t have included tomatoes. 

Instead of discarding that hearty Italian loaf that’s going stale, make this delicious salad that is absolutely divine in the summer when tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil are at their peak. Vegan, of course.

Panzanella Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks 
  • 4 to 6 cups (360 to 540 g) day-old crusty bread (Italian loaf or French baguette), cut into cubes the same size as the tomatoes (a full loaf or baguette should be fine)
  • 1 medium hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • ½ small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 medium cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons high-quality balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Add the tomatoes, bread, cucumber, red onion, garlic, capers, and basil to a large bowl, and toss together. Drizzle in the vinegar and ¼ cup olive oil, and toss some more. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add additional olive oil, if desired. 

Set aside and marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to 12 hours. I would avoid marinating the salad in the refrigerator, since the tomatoes tend to become somewhat “mealy” in the fridge. 

Serve at room temperature. 

Yield: 8 generous servings as a side 

If you don’t have stale bread, take a fresh loaf of hearty bread, cut it into large cubes, spread them on a baking sheet, and bake in a 200°F-degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. You don’t want to completely toast the bread; you just want to dry it out. It’s essential that you dry out the bread first before soaking it in the oil and vinegar; otherwise, it will just become soggy.

Soy free

For Your Modification

Add other ingredients that pair well with the traditional classic, such as olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, red wine, parsley, mint, roasted bell peppers.

Reprinted with permission from The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. For more recipes and resources, check out The 30-Day Vegan Challenge Online Program.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Cooking with Herbs and Spices

Are you cooking with herbs and spices? Or are they sitting and collecting dust on the lids of those cute little jars, unused for six months or more?

If so, I get it. You’re not alone.

Herbs and spices are the most underused ingredients in cooking

I often quip that people who say they “could never be vegan” because the food is “too bland” haven’t stopped to think about the fact that they flavor their meat with plants: ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, relish, vinegars, oils, horseradish, hot sauces, chutneys, jellies, jams, salsa, soy sauce, wasabi, curries, tahini, pickles, garlic, ginger, onions, lemons, limes, and an endless array of spices and herbs.

But truly, aside from the most widely used commercially prepared condiments, even vegetarians and vegans are not taking advantage of the thousands of herbs and spices available that add flavor, color, texture, warmth, and excitement to their dishes.

And that’s what I covered in my class: EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT HERBS AND SPICES. I addressed the most commonly asked questions: 

  • What’s the best way to store herbs and spices?
  • Should I use ground spices or whole?
  • I have a small kitchen but love to cook, so if you could choose only 5 spices and 5 herbs to have on hand, which would you choose?
  • I tend to stick with typical spices and herbs (cumin, coriander, turmeric) but would love to know what to do with less familiar ones such as sumac, fenugreek, and tarragon.
  • How do I substitute herbs and spices? For instance, if a recipe calls for cumin and thyme, but I don’t have either, what can I use instead?
  • Which herbs/spices go best with which foods?
  • Can I freeze leafy herbs like basil, parsley, and sage? How?
  • In terms of nutrition and flavor, which are best: fresh or dried?
  • If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and you have only dried, what would the measurement be?
  • What cuisines are specific herbs and spices associated with?

I also provided recipes to help boost your use of some common (and not-so-common) spices and herbs:

  • Turmeric “Golden” Milk
  • Hibiscus-Infused Water
  • Za’atar
  • “Poultry” Seasoning
  • Herb-Infused Simple Syrup

Join Me in a Class

I packed a LOT into this class, and I’m so pleased by the response to it. You will feel soooo empowered and soooo excited by the end. GET YOUR ON-DEMAND VIDEO, RECIPES, AND RESOURCES

And tell me what else you’d like to know regarding cooking with herbs and spices in the comments.  

GET YOUR FREE JOYFUL VEGAN GUIDE

Includes delicious plant-based recipes and a meal plan!




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