Aug 31, 2016

august wrap up

It's hard to believe that August is coming to an end and September is literally just around the corner. It is equally hard to believe that I blogged all month, offered 9 new recipes, and finished my first tutorial video about aquafaba.

In that light, I think a recap of the month is in order, just in case you missed something. It's also nice to see a wrap up of a fun-filled month of goodies.

This month, I introduced you to a new way of cooking dinner: Pantry+

Pantry+ is where I offer you a recipe that consists of around 10 ingredients, about half of which are from a limited pantry and the other half are fresh or non-pantry ingredients. By virtue of the ingredients list, the recipes lend themselves to being quick and easy --- with a little foresight on my part to ensure that they actually are Q&E.

Other recipes I shared this month are some comfort food recipes from around the world and the US, including a healthy dip, a stew and a few sandwiches.

1. Blackened Moroccan Chickpea Patties were my first Pantry+ offering and they are easy to put together and have that Moroccan flare with the help of Ras el Hanout spice mixture.

2. Zucchini Satay with Spicy Lime Sauce and Quinoa was another Pantry+ recipe. It is another complete meal with limited ingredients and unlimited flavor. If you haven't made it, yet, don't delay. Summer squash is almost gone.

3. Classic Philly Roast Sandwich introduced you to Philadelphia's other famous sandwich, but made it much better because it is all plant-based. Seriously, this is a great sandwich!

4. Sriracha, homemade, fresh and plastic free. Very easy to make, although it takes a few days to ferment, this healthier sriracha is a must make, especially if you want to play with the spice level of this extremely popular hot sauce.

5. Caprese Sandwich is another Pantry+ recipe and it is one I was very excited to share. Caprese salad was always one of my favorites and this one does justice to the sandwich and the cows.

6. Roasted Cauliflower in Coconut Curry is another Pantry+ recipe. It is an aromatic, delicious curry made possible with the addition of garam masala, an Indian spice mixture.

7. Arrabiata Mostaccioli is a comfort classic for sure. Make sure to use some wonderful vegan cheese that melts well for the full "baked" experience. Even if you don't go for the cheesiness, the rich sauce is well-worth the effort.

8. Lentil-pepita Pate is easily a Pantry+ recipe, but because it isn't a complete meal I decided not to call it that. This is, however, a decadent pate that is healthy, protein-rich and so delicious slathered on crackers, vegetables or added to sandwiches.

9. Red Pozole is a classic Mexican stew that is served at parties because it can sit and simmer for hours and only get better. It is also better reheated, so, again, a great party dish. It is completely customizable with the various toppings and very delicious.

I do have to say that the surprise recipe of the month was the Roasted Cauliflower in Coconut Curry (#6). It was not just easy to make but even though it only had the inclusion of one spice mixture, the curry was flavorful and rich. My husband and I kept going back for seconds, it was that good.

Next month brings us the end of summer and the beginning of autumn so expect to see dwindling summer vegetables, an increase in autumn flavors and spices and some aquafaba recipes, as my new cookbook Aquafaba is less than 5 weeks from releasing. Lots of excitement (and cinnamon and nutmeg) in the air!

Aug 29, 2016

red pozole

Pozole is traditionally a stew made with pozole corn [AMAZON], which is corn that has been soaked in limewater, or has been nixtamalized. This is pozole in dried form and needs to be simmered for a few hours before using.

I had one can of hominy left in the pantry, and since hominy is an adequate replacement for the dried version, I felt the immense need to make a red pozole, which I have been eyeing for a year or so now.

Shredding the meat is the common way of serving this stew and since I still had a few cans of jackfruit left in the pantry, that, too, became an addition. Rinse both canned ingredients well before using and shred the jackfruit.

Because jackfruit is not a stand alone ingredient, in my opinion, being a bit too watery and lacking much substance, I added chickpeas to the mix. Of course, with aquafaba comes a lot of chickpeas and I keep needing to find great recipes to use them in.

Instead of the quick savory seasoning I supply in this recipe, using nutritional yeast, sage and oregano, you can use a commercial brand. Onions, garlic and cilantro are required ingredients for the white pozole, which is the stew before you add the chili paste.

The chili paste is really an easy combination of whatever dried chilies you have hanging around. California chilies are very mild and you can adjust the proportion of spicy chilies to this mild one for a very mild, but still flavorful, chili puree.

Combine the dried chilies with cumin, onion and garlic and cook it until the peppers are soft. Strain the peppers, creating a puree, and you have just made a flavorful addition that will transform your white pozole into a red pozole.

Simmer the soup for another 15 minutes and serve with a range of toppings: cabbage, cilantro, lime, radishes, tortilla chips, onion, and oregano, that you crush between your hands before adding to the individual bowls, are all traditional additions.

Red Pozole
Makes 6 servings

8 cups vegetable broth (or 6 cups broth and 2 cups water)
1 (25-ounce) can hominy, rinsed and drained
1 (20-ounce) can green, young jackfruit, rinsed, drained and pulled apart
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
6 sprigs cilantro
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if you have it)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

Chili base:
2 dried California chilies, stems and seeds removed
2 dried kashmiri chilies, stems and seeds removed
1 dried ancho chili, stem and seeds removed
1/4 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup water
3 tablespoons neutral oil

Red radishes, sliced
Cilantro leaves
Cabbage, shredded
Lime wedges
Dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)

1. Add all the soup ingredients (the broth, hominy, jackfruit, chickpeas, onion, garlic, cilantro, nutritional yeast, sage, oregano, salt, black pepper and bay leaf) to the pot of a pressure cooker. Pressure cook the soup for 30 minutes, allowing for natural release. If cooking on the stove-top, cook, partially covered over medium heat for 1 hour. Add more water as it reduces. Remove and discard the cilantro and bay. Set the soup aside.  
2. Add the chiles, onion, garlic, clove, cumin and water to a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook, covered until tender, about 10 minutes. Blend the pot of chili and water and pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Press out as much of the pulp as possible.
3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chili puree. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the reduced puree to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil and cook for 20 minutes to marry the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
4. Serve the soup hot with the toppings, as desired.

© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Aug 26, 2016

lentil-pepita pate

This is an amazing, healthy and flavorful pate. It is ready in about 20 minutes flat. Serve this delicious pate on crackers, cucumbers, in bahn mi sandwiches, in pita, with cucumber or tortilla chips. Very versatile.

This pate uses toasted pepita seeds  -- which, by the way,  boast one the highest protein counts, and sauteed onion and garlic. Adding some oregano and thyme make this spread burst with flavor and umami - which is a flavor profile linked with savoriness or meatiness. 

After the onions are golden and delicious (about 14 minutes), add the whole shebang to the food processor and blend until smooth and creamy, adding a bit of water or cooking lentil liquid.

That's it! Chill and serve!

Lentil and Pepita Pate
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 medium onion, minced
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 1/2 cups cooked brown or green lentils (rinse and drain, if canned)
2 teaspoons mellow white miso
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste

*If cooking lentils from scratch, reserve about 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid. 

1.  Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pepitas and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside in a medium bowl to cool. Once cool, add the seeds to the bowl of a food processor.
2. Heat the oil in the now empty skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion and garlic. Cook, covered, until the onions are golden brown and tender, about 10 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon of vegetable broth or water, as needed, if the onions are beginning to stick. Keep the skillet covered to minimize cooking time and loss of liquid.
3. Add the thyme and sage and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Transfer the onion mixture to the food processor, along with the lentils, miso, salt and black pepper. Process the mixture until smooth as possible, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. To make the pate creamy, add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid* or water, a little at a time. Do not add too much liquid, just enough to make the pate creamy. 
4. Transfer to an air-tight lid once cooled and chill for at least an hour before serving.
5. Serve with crackers, raw vegetable sticks, toasted pita bread or on a cheese plate. Serve with thin slices of raw onion and thin slices of dill pickle.

© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Aug 24, 2016

arrabiata mostaccioli

The other day I came upon a picture of a non-vegan baked mostaccioli recipe, complete with ooey, gooey cheese. Wanting to make a kinder version of that was my impetus for this recipe. 

It is almost Pantry+ friendly, but not quite, but I was very pleased with the dish, in spite of that. It has 11 ingredients and does take a bit to make, going from stove to oven to bake, but it is well worth it. If you just want to make the sauce and not bake it, then you are still in for a treat.

It's actually pretty simple, cooking plenty of garlic and ground seitan (or mushrooms) in some olive oil, along with a good helping of chili flakes, oregano and basil. Adding the tomato products and letting the sauce reduce and thicken is the key to this quick sauce - ready after only 30 minutes. I was surprised at the depth after relatively such short time. I've heard of sauces that need to cook for hours.

Check out the color and textural difference! It is thick, rich, dark red and extremely flavorful.

Toss the sauce with the pasta and end it right there, taking it to the dinner table, garnished with fresh basil.

Or you can add it to an oven safe skillet, add plenty of melt-able vegan cheese ....

and bake it until bubbly and golden brown. Admittedly, I failed on the cheese part. I used a cashew-based cheese and if the cashew cheese has too much cashews in it, the cheese just simply will not melt because it has too much unmelt-able components - the cashews!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the dish thoroughly! You, however, can learn from my mistake and bake this with a combination of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella (use the block that you shred at home) and Daiya. Together the two will melt incredibly well for you, just like on a pizza. Or, better, yet, use Somer's Moxarella cheese, which is already melted and only needs to be browned. Should have, would have, could have....didn't!

And if you haven't seen my new YouTube channel, check it out. And subscribe to get up to date new content.

Baked Arrabiata Mostaccioli
Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 cups ground seitan (or 1 pound ground mushrooms)
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 to 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (6-ounce) jarred tomato paste (or 7-ounces of tomato concentrate)
2 (15-ounces) jarred diced tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Sugar, if needed
1 pound penne or mostaccioli
2 to 4 cups shredded vegan cheese (preferably a combination of meltable cheeses)
Fresh basil, for garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the seitan, garlic, chili flakes, oregano and basil. Cook, stirring often, until the seitan is golden brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 more minute, stirring to incorporate the paste. Add the diced tomatoes and salt. Stir well, bring to boil and reduce to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened and reduced, about 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain and reserve. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees F.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning of the sauce. Add salt and sugar as needed. Add the pasta and toss well to combine. Transfer to an oven-safe skillet and add the cheese. Bake in the pre-heated oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden, about 20 minutes. Once melted, broil the cheese for 5 minutes if it refuses to brown. Serve garnished with fresh basil. 

© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Aug 23, 2016

video: the peaks of aquafaba

If you've ever wanted to know how to make aquafaba meringue, I have the tutorial for you.

The peaks of aquafaba is the most important first step in creating vegan meringue pie, marshmallows, marshmallow creme, macarons, quiches, whipped topping, and so much more.

Subscribe to my channel and get all new video updates.

Thank you!

Aug 22, 2016

pantry+ roasted cauliflower in coconut curry

I am going to be completely honest with you: this is a really delicious dish! It uses pan-roasted cauliflower cooked in a coconut bechamel sauce. The sauce is laced with garam masala, one of the global spice mixes I am using for the Pantry+ recipes and it is a knock out!

It also happens to be really easy and fast to make, so you should get the rice cooking right away. Use my quick, 30-minute brown rice recipe HERE to make things go as fast as possible.

This recipe needs only 5 pantry ingredients and 4 fresh ingredients.

Roasted Cauliflower in Coconut Curry:

Large skillet
Medium sauce pot

Pantry ingredients are:
Vegetable broth
Garam Masala
Coconut milk
Red chili flakes

Fresh ingredients are:
Brown Rice

It is amazing how using only one spice mixture, and cooking the spice mixture first, adds so much flavor to a dish. This certainly cuts down on a list of ingredients. Since I still have garam masala from a store-bought batch I am not supplying a recipe for it, yet, but a quick search on the web will result in a plethora of options.

I dry roast the cauliflower because I've come to notice that there is a lot of moisture in vegetables that help cook and saute them without the need for added oil as long as you dry roast them in a well-seasoned cast iron pan and use a lid. It also speeds up cooking.

Because of the lack of oil, you need to toast your flour first and then add it and the milk to a blender, instead of using a roux of oil and flour to make the thickening agent.

Whether you choose to use a roux or a blender, this sauce thickens beautifully and is very delicious. The garam masala comes through in a big way and the touch of spice from the red chili flakes offers a bit of bite. The few dates in the curry lend the sweetness that it needs. Add some fresh cilantro as a garnish to brighten up this curry and the meal is complete.

Roasted Cauliflower in Coconut Curry (a Pantry+ recipe)
Makes 4 servings
Pantry list is HERE.

1 medium head cauliflower
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided
3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
3 large dates, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup cilantro
Hot, cooked brown rice

1. Begin preparing the rice as desired. Use my quick brown rice recipe. 
2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Chop the cauliflower into florets and add it to the hot skillet. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Stir, cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Repeat until the cauliflower is golden. Add 1/2 cup broth, cover and steam until the broth evaporates and the cauliflower is tender. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
2. Add the flour to the skillet and stir. Cook for 2 minutes and add the garam masala. Stir and cook until the masala is aromatic. Add the coconut milk to a blender and add the cooked flour. Blend until smooth. (This step is to omit oil from the recipe. You can cook the flour in 3 tablespoons of oil and whisk in the coconut milk {instead of using a blender}, if desired.)
3. Transfer the coconut mixture to the skillet, add the dates, the salt, red chili flakes and the remaining 1 cup of broth. Stir to combine and add the cauliflower. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened and the dates are tender, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve with the brown rice and garnished with the cilantro. 

© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Aug 20, 2016

pantry+ caprese sandwich

There is a restaurant in San Diego that serves a Caprese Sandwich that I have been eyeing. It's actually pretty simple: fresh mozzarella slices are marinated in olive oil with garlic and capers. Of course, the rub is that it is not vegan. In cases such as these we again turn to the Great Sandwich Remake!

What makes this sandwich even more special is that it is a Pantry+ recipe, to boot! (Find the limited pantry list HERE.)  It requires only 3 pantry items and 5 fresh items. Rejoice!

Caprese Sandwich.

Medium pot

Pantry ingredients are:
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil

Fresh ingredients are:
Fresh vegan mozzarella

Ah! I hear the breaks screeching to a halt. What about the fresh vegan mozzarella?!

Yes, you definitely need that for a caprese anything! Fortunately, it really isn't that difficult or time consuming to make. Or even buy.

But, I did make my own and it turned out really good!

I've collected a few great looking recipes, so go forth and make a batch!

Fresh Mozzarella Recipes from around the web:

Buffalo Mozzarella from DIY Vegan by Nicole Axworthy and Lisa Pitman [AMAZON]. Recipe is available on Dianne's Vegan Kitchen. [Incidentally, I bought this book and it is very good.]

Easy Buffalo Mozzarella by Miyoko Schinner on Artisan Vegan Life. [Of course, I bought her Artisan  Vegan Cheese [AMAZON] and her Homemade Vegan Pantry [AMAZON], too, both great books.]

Fresh Mozzarella by Jay Astafa (video by Jay).

If you really don't want to make it, you can even buy Follow Your Heart block mozzarella [AMAZON] and use that. The texture and flavor of that version is highly appropriate in this recipe.

Now that you are comfortable with your ability to make fresh vegan mozzarella, let's turn it into a slammin' sandwich.

Marinate those babies:

Yes, I used a ton of garlic! It's good for you!

Um, yeah, that's about it. Toast your bread lightly and build your sandwich right away, while the bread is still warm (it's better that way.)

Naturally, use a good crusty bread for this. When ingredients are limited, quality counts so don't gyp yourself; bake or buy some delicious bread.

A word about the balsamic reduction. It is really, really good! Grab a sauce pot and reduce the balsamic vinegar by half. Make sure to turn on your stove fans because it does get sour before the sweet.

Caprese Sandwich (a Pantry+ recipe)
Makes 4 sandwiches
Pantry list is HERE.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons capers, drained
4 balls of fresh vegan mozzarella, about 6 to 8 ounces
Freshly ground black pepper
8 slices freshly lightly toasted bread, still warm
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 4 slices each
8 leaves fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction*

1. Add the oil, garlic, and capers to a medium bowl. Slice the mozzarella into 1/4-inch thick slices and add to the bowl. Season with black pepper to taste. Mix the ingredients gently and set aside until needed (or at least 5 minutes).
2. Add 2 slices of tomato to each of 4 warm toasted breads. Add 2 leaves of basil. Season with salt if the cheese is not too salty. Divide the cheese evenly over the 4 sandwiches and drizzle with the reduction. Add the other bread slices and serve immediately. 

*Balsamic Reduction

1 cup balsamic vinegar

Add the vinegar to a medium saucepan. Turn on the oven vents; the vinegar smell will be quite strong. Bring to a boil, reduce to a strong simmer and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup. Transfer to a mason jar set on a kitchen towel and allow to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container in the pantry. 

© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Aug 18, 2016


That's correct. I ran out of sriracha. This is the Trader Joe's version, but I am also out of the Whole Foods (Squirrel something) version and the Rooster version (the most popular one), as well. One might expect that I would simply add it to my shopping list, but I am committing to using less and less plastic, and I thought, why not start here??

It's not like sriracha is an essential ingredients. Yeah, right. Of course, it is!

As it turns out, Sriracha is very similar to sambal oelek and garlic chili sauce. All three start with the same red jalapenos, salt and vinegar, but that is where the similarities end.

Sambal Oelek is just the chilis, salt and vinegar, ground, cooked and packaged.

Garlic Chili Sauce is sambal oelek with garlic added, ground, cooked and packaged.

Sriracha is garlic chili sauce that is fermented for about a week, strained and sweetened.

As you can see, sriracha is definitely the most difficult of the three, as far as "difficulty" goes - I mean, it is just a matter of setting the ground chilis aside to ferment and then cooking it. I can think of things far more difficult than that. Like making dinner.

The real question is the issue of the chilis.

I could not find red jalapeno chilis anywhere (maybe because Huy Fong Foods has monopolized them all!) which is what the green top brand uses exclusively, so I had to settle for Fresno peppers and green jalapenos. I cut off the stems but left the crown of the peppers because they add a fruity flavor (so I read).

Then I ground them all with salt, vinegar and garlic. The salt is crucial in fermentation such as this because it prevents unwanted bacteria from forming while allowing the good bacteria to flourish. This is true for all vegetable/(some fruit) fermentation.

Then I packed it in a jar, covered it tightly with a lid and let it do its work. I stirred it (more accurately shook the jar) every day and waited. Tough, I know. After all, I was out of sriracha by this point!

After 5 days the mixture actually smelled like sriracha! I was very excited!

Add caption

You can see that the fermentation was working because there were bubbles everywhere, and that was before I shook the jar. Once I shook it this final time the bubbles were just popping up all over, very much like making rejuvelac.

At this point I added the whole thing to my blender, added the sugar and buzzed it until it was as smooth as I could get it.

Then it was just a matter of passing it through a fine (not very fine!) mesh strainer to remove any seeds or pepper skins and then cooking it until the desired consistency was achieved.

Now, admittedly there are a few things I will change when making it the next time:

1. I over fermented it, I think. A day less would have done it. This version turned out a bit too ripe.
2. I will change up the peppers next time. Fresno cost me $7 a pound and I used 1 pound of it, plus the green jalapenos. The cost was way too much. I'm going to try using red bell peppers with green jalapenos. It might be even better because the bell peppers are a bit sweeter.
3. I clearly didn't make enough. But when you are experimenting, you don't want to risk a bunch of wasted product.

Overall, I'm very happy to keep a few more bottles of plastic out of my life and this is so easy and simple to make that I don't hesitate calling this a win-win. For more information, I blog at Plastic Free Vegan.

Makes 1 1/4 cups

1 pound fresno peppers
1/2 pound green jalapenos
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup sugar

1. Cut the stems (but not the crowns) off the peppers and add them to a food processor. Add the garlic, vinegar and salt. Process until finely ground. Transfer to a 1/2-gallon glass mason (to make it easy to stir) and cover tightly with a lid. Place the jar aside, out of sunlight, for 3 to 5 days. Stir the chili mixture once a day and taste after three days. If it tastes fermented it is ready for the next step.
2. Add the chili mixture to a blender along with the sugar. Blend until very smooth. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer (not a very fine mesh) and pass all the mixture through as you possibly can. Don’t forget to scrape the underside of the strainer where pulp accumulates. 
3. Add the strained mixture to a medium saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat until it is at the consistency that you like. I reduced mine to 1 1/4 cups. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and sugar. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. 

*Note: I will update this recipe as I continue to update the process.

© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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