Cheesy Goodness

standard February 18, 2014 Leave a response

What a week month! With the number of events and tasks on my calendar, I am beyond thankful to have made it through in one piece. March and April is going to be just as busy, so I am going to enjoy the rest of this month as much as I can! And now that this last week is over, it is time to get back to regularly scheduled programming. So many things coming down the pipe for this little blog (that just turned 4!)

Today, let’s talk about cheese. The HARDEST thing for me to give up when I switched to a plant-based diet was cheese. I know I am not alone in this, from all the times I have been asked “How could you give up cheese?!”

The one food that makes it all better: nutritional yeast. Made from deactivated yeast, this amazing little condiment is a vegan wonder food. The yeast is a member of the fungi family and grows on molasses. Once it is harvested and cleaned, it is heated to deactivate the living organism. Since it is inactive, it does not grow or aid in leavening baked goods, which is the main differentiating factor from active Brewer’s yeast.

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Here are three reasons why nutritional yeast is a vegan’s best friend:

1. Flavor – There is a slight nutty and cheesy taste to the yeast, making it a natural substitute for cheesy flavor in dishes.

2. Versatility – In dry form, it can be sprinkled on top of dishes or blended with nuts or seeds to make a Parmesan-like mixture. It can also be mixed with soaked cashews or chickpeas, water, and spices to make various cheese sauces. From queso to Alfredo to the best all-purpose sauce ever, you can really do anything with it.

3. Nutrients – Nutritional yeast is the only plant-based source of vitamin B12. So for those of us who do not like taking supplements, adding nutritional yeast into your daily diet can help get this much-talked about vitamin into your diet. It is also fairly high in protein, with 4 g per tablespoon, as well as many other B vitamins, including B6, niacin, folate, and riboflavin. At 30 calories per tablespoon, that’s a pretty nutrient dense serving! (Make sure to check your nutritional yeast when you purchase it, as nutrient information varies greatly among brands – you want to make sure to get one with plenty of B12. I like Whole Foods or Braggs brands).

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Here are some of my absolute favorite recipes with nutritional yeast. So good, you won’t even miss the cheese!

Cheese & Burgers

standard August 28, 2011 1 response

Things I learned this week:

  • I can get the husband to eat and like tofu as long as I don’t tell him he’s eating it.
  • Tofu pureed with nutritional yeast, garlic, and basil makes an excellent ricotta cheese substitute, especially for stuffed shells.
  • Soaked cashews pureed with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt makes an amazing soft cheese. Perfect on crackers.
  • Black beans are the best substitute for beef when making burgers.

I’ve made black bean burgers before, but always following someone else’s recipe. This time I had a beef burger recipe that had a really fun combination of ingredients that I wanted to try out, only without the beef.

Black Bean “Cheese” Burgers

Serves 2

Adapted from the “Kreator Burger” recipe, Clean Eating, Aug/Sept 2011

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked black beans, roughly mashed
  • 2 T instant oats
  • 1 T diced green bell pepper
  • 2  small mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 c  diced sweet onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (or 1 clove)
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 T chia seeds
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 T non-dairy cheddar cheese, such as Daiya
  • Burger buns and toppings of choice

Steps:

  1. Finely chop pepper, mushrooms, onion, and garlic in a food processor. Place mixture in a medium bowl. Stir in thyme, salt, pepper, mashed beans, and oats.
  2. Divide bean mixture in half. Form each half into a patty, then place on a non-stick baking sheet and chill for 1-2 hours.
  3. Take each patty in your hands,  place 1 T of cheese in the middle, and fold patty over the cheese, completely covering it.
  4. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Burgers are done when they’re no longer soft and start to brown on top.

And since fries always go with burgers: slice 3-4 baseball sized red potatoes into wedges, toss with olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika, garlic powder, parsley, and salt, and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Since I don’t like buying a whole package of burger buns and only using two of them, I usually end up using frozen dinner rolls instead. So I made 4 sliders instead of 2 burgers so they’d fit on the buns.  Worked out perfectly!

Vegan Italian

standard July 24, 2011 1 response

I love Italian food. Hands down my favorite type of food. So I am always trying to figure out how to replace all the meat and cheese laden dishes with healthy, veggie alternatives. My absolute favorite Italian dish is risotto. My first taste of risotto was at an authentic, family owned Italian restaurant in Chicago on my 19th birthday. It was probably the best thing I had ever eaten, and when I got married and had my own kitchen, it was one of the first things I taught myself to make. I don’t follow a recipe when I make it, and I always make it differently every time, based on what I have on hand. Last week, I made one of my favorite versions, so I had to share!

Mushroom and Leek Risotto with Parmesan Tempeh

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c arborio rice
  • 4 c vegetable stock
  • 2 T Earth Balance, divided
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 8 baby Portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 c diced leeks
  • 2 c spinach
  • 1 T  + 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 2  tsp dried thyme, divided
  • 1/2 block of tempeh
  • 1/4 c whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 c sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Make vegan “parmesan cheese” by combining nutritional yeast and sesame seeds in a food processor or blender until ground.
  2. Heat a large pot or skillet. Melt 1 T Earth Balance, then add mushrooms and leeks. Add 1 T parsley and 1 tsp thyme and saute until soft.
  3. Add rice to the skillet and allow to toast slightly. After about 5 minutes, add wine and stir well.
  4. Add veggie broth about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Add broth as it gets absorbed, keeping the rice mixture covered in liquid. Keep adding and stirring until all broth is added and rice is tender.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in half of the vegan parmesan, spinach, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Combine remaining vegan parmesan, breadcrumbs, and the rest of the parsley and thyme in a shallow bowl.
  7. Dredge tempeh slices in mixture, patting it down well to stick it to the tempeh.
  8. Heat a skillet with remaining Earth Balance. Cook tempeh until heated through and golden on each side.
  9. Serve tempeh on top of risotto. Garnish with any remaining parmesan.

Oh so creamy goodness. If you want it even creamier, stir in a spoonful of vegan cream cheese. Or change up the veggies depending on what you have on hand. Try adding lemon zest with the rice, and stirring in asparagus and peas instead of the mushrooms and spinach. Delicious!