Finally! A vegan and healthy cottage cheese, made by Me!

Game Changing Vegan Cottage Cheese

1 350g package of organic extra firm tofu, rinsed, mashed well by hand with a pastry blender
3 Tbsp plain coconut yogurt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Makes 4 servings. 116 calories each, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 5g monounsaturated fat, 291mg sodium, 22% calcium, 4.3g carbohydrates, .7 g fibre, 1.7g sugars, 11.5g protein, 12.2% iron. WOW, eh?!

Mix by hand the above ingredients, and be blown away!

I loved small curd, drained, savoury cottage cheese as a kid and adult before going vegan. I have searched and searched for a suitable alternative for two decades.
I have found it for my tastes at least!

Slow Cooker Vegan Cabbage Rolls (holubtsi)

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First, I have to talk about my wife, who is half Ukrainian. She has brought such rich traditions to my world, especially at Christmas (which is on a different calendar than most of us North Americans). As we celebrate Ukrainian Christmas Eve, I bring you my vegan version of a very common and varied dish: holubtsi (or cabbage rolls).

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This version contains cooked buckwheat, made the traditional way of toasting in the oven following stovetop prep, and prior to mixing with the vegetables and bacon” for stuffing. I used a number of online and one book resource to configure this recipe, as I am currently seeking so-called skinnier cooking as I continue my quest to lose the last 13 of 140 pounds (from 315 pounds).

Without further ado…

Vegan Slow Cooker Holubtsi

The Cabbage:

Please feel free to prep this however you see fit. I chose the longer method, as I will describe, and it was, erm, long! I recommend trying the freezing overnight method, as my wife’s mother swore by it.

Chose a medium head of green cabbage. It’s better to keep it simple, and just get one you might already buy for other cooking purposes. It doesn’t have to look perfect. This recipe is very forgiving.

Core the cabbage, and place it in a deep pot. Pour boiling water over the cabbage, first into the cored hollow, and then all over, and around the cabbage. Cover tightly, and place on high heat, allowing the water to continue the boiling process. You should start to see the leaves separating after 5 minutes. Do check it often. We are not after cooked cabbage! We are looking for leaves that you can roll into holubtsi (little pigeons, literally).

Carefully take the head out or the leaves as they separate, and lay flay to dry and cool a bit. When you can handle them, slice them down the middle and set aside for rolling.

The Filling:

You can use whatever grain you like: rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, etc…). This recipe lists the grain I mentioned above: buckwheat. It is an authentic filling, and much healthier than some of the others I researched (versus barley for example).

1 cup buckwheat groats, rinsed

2 cups water

1 cup vegetable stock

¼ tsp sea salt

Bring the water and stock to a brisk boil, adding the groats while stirring, cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat or until the liquid is absorbed. You don’t want to completely mush up and cook the grain as it will cook in the rolls later.

Place the cooked buckwheat into a baking dish that has been well-oiled. Bake covered at 350 F for 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the grain.

The vegetables and filling sautee:

¼ cup finely diced vegan bacon or ham

10 crimini mushroom, stems removed, finely chopped in a food processor

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1 egg equivalent of egg replacer, or 1 flax egg

Sautee the above vegetables in a nonstick pan, adding olive oil if you prefer, then sea salt and pepper to taste, for up to 10 minutes on medium heat. You are primarily just rendering the fat from the bacon, and releasing flavor and water from the mushrooms.

Remove from the heat and add the baked buckwheat, stirring to combine. Add the egg substitute.

Rolling:

There are many methods. Cutting the leaves in half allows for uniformity.

Place 1-2 tablespoons of your mixture into the half leaf, pinching the sides together and rolling up tightly. Begin to line the large slow cooker tightly with the rolls, making as many rolls and layers as your cabbage and filling allow.

The sauce:

I just used a no salt added tomato sauce, 1 medium can (roughly 15 ounces), and added water until the top layer of rolls was partially submerged.

Slow cooking:

I slow cooked these on low for 3.5 hours, then switched to high for 1.5 hours. That simulated a texture that seemed right. You can experiment, or just roast them in a covered dutch oven on medium-high heat for 1.5-2 hours.

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I hope you try these, experiment with what you like, and enjoy many versions! I am looking forward to making many more!

Happy Ukrainian Christmas!

Vegan Slow Cooker Hoppin’ Lee (Spicy Cajun Black Eyed Peas and sausage)

in the pot and ready to go

in the pot and ready to go

I am from the South, where New Year’s means you eat black eyed peas and cabbage. I’m always looking for new ways to eat old foods. This is but one version of a classic, with one cheat by way of prepared vegan sausage. We absolutely devoured this, without any additional salt. I recommend leaving the sausages in chunks so as to allow them to swell without becoming ground granules. The andouille will add enough flavour on its own to not need much else, but I only used half of the package, requiring some spices and broth vs water to the pot. Get creative! It’s fun to not have to soak the beans as long as you use hing or asafoetida to reduce the gas :-).

Serves 6-8 as a main course.

Prep: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 5-6 hours

Ingredients:

2 cups dry black eyed peas, rinsed, picked over
2-4 Vegan sausages of your choice (I used Tofurky Andouille), cut into 4ths
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds *optional
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 pinches asafoetida
1 litre low sodium vegan vegetable broth

Place all above ingredients into a large slow cooker, stirring well. Cook on high setting for 5-6 hours, until beans are tender, and most of the liquid has reduced.

Serve with green onions, nutritional yeast, freshly ground pepper, and a splash of lemon juice if desired.

in the potfinished cooking and ready for plating with green onions, etc...

finished cooking and ready for plating with green onions, etc…

Easy vegan slow cooker kitchari

From what I’ve read, kitchari is a cleansing, Ayurvedic dish that is easy on the gut whilst being filling and simple to make. I love my slow cooker (my wife’s slow cooker, that is), making this a natural fit for my culinary preferences.
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1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup moong beans
3/4 cup red or brown Asian rice
2 carrots, sliced into thin medallions or chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup green beans
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp hing or asafoetida (helps with gas and digestion without changing the flavour)

Place above ingredients into a large slow cooker

Spice mix:

1 tbsp coconut oil
1.5 tsp mustard seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp cayenne
3 minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix in a small microwave safe bowl, and heat carefully in the microwave until the oil melts. Combine well, and add to the slow cooker.

Liquid:
8 cups water or combined water and vegetable broth. You don’t really need the broth, but it can deepen the flavour. Stir well, making sure to incorporate your spiced oil into the kitchari.

Cook on high for 4-6 hours, depending upon how quickly your kitchari thickens.

Serve with lemon juice, added salt, fresh cilantro, turnip slices, and jalapeños if desired.
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Makes 8 servings that are each 1 1/2 – 2 cups.

Easy vegan roasted almond fudge

vegan fudge dec 24 2014 2

This is now our Christmas go-to fudge tradition! You won’t be in the kitchen for long making this, and it’s bowl-lickin’ good!

1/2 cup coconut oil, choose a brand that softens easily (I used Spectrum, and do not recommend Trader Joe’s for this ingredient)
1/4 cup of roasted almond butter (unsweetened, and I do recommend Trader Joe’s for this)
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder (another Trader Joe’s shout out here)
1/8 cup Grade B maple syrup (or any sweetener of your choice, but I recommend it be a liquid for creamier fudge)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp or less of Himalayan pink salt (less if you used an almond butter with salt added)
3/4 cup of raw walnut pieces, *or coconut flakes (optional, but raw walnuts are quintessential fudge)

Makes 24 servings

Method:

Line a small glass cake or loaf pan with wax paper, and set aside.

In a medium to large glass bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the coconut oil and almond butter until very smooth. *tip: I always keep coconut oil in the pantry, not the fridge, which aids in quick softening.

Add the cocoa powder, and mix until very, very creamy-smooth. The smoother, the better. Careful not to shower yourself in cocoa!

Add the maple syrup and vanilla, and mix until combined. Trust me, you don’t need more sweetener than this.

Stir in the salt, and your nuts or other goodies.

Pour into pan, spreading evenly. Here is where you get to lick the bowl!

Allow to set either overnight in the fridge, or for 1 hour in the freezer.

Cut, and enjoy! These are not too sickeningly sweet as they have no confectioner’s sugar or melted chocolate chips. They are light, better than any chocolate nut spread I’ve ever had, and easy to overindulge in!

Merry Christmas!
vegan fudge dec 24 2014
(Highly inspired by Oh She Glows raw fudge recipe, but I prefer this version)

Lazy vegan Canadian Thanksgiving

Tofurkey day 2014 canada

I I made a big to do about cooking this year. In the end, I went partially lazy vegan for our Canadian tofurkey feast.

Tofurky roast, organic and vegan jellied cranberries, homemade  mashed potatoes (my wife made those), Hains gravy, homemade roast veggies that included beets from our garden, and steamed scarlet runner beans from our garden

Leftovers here. Yummy!

Vegan Baked Spaghetti Squash Colossus

Baked Spaghetti Squash Collossus 08222014We have quite the garden this summer. Being badly neglected seems to be a boon for the spaghetti squash. They seem to love the inattention, and have taken off. As they are home-grown, organically tended and planted, and not store bought GMO-lians, they are smaller than the major melon-shapes one finds in a grocery store. As such, they only feed two hungry mouths (three if you wanted to get technical), and are great for last-minute dinner planning.

No wishing to load up on the sodium, I planned to avoid one of my mainstays of last-minute stuffed squashes: soy sauce. I used the very flavourful and less salty Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead, and added a splash of Chilean Merlot that was left over from a guest dinner. This dish was a last-minute, stressful week’s end answer to my growling belly. It includes some cheats that are not on the healthier end of the spectrum. Something’s gotta give, eh?

It all came together in a mountain of mouth-tingling goodness. I cannot wait to make more!

Ingredients:

1 smallish spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, lightly oiled on the cut side with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1 t extra virgin olive oil for the veggies

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

½ large red onion, sliced into thing half medallions

½ large red bell pepper, thinly sliced

6 large button or crimini mushrooms, sliced medium-thick

5 slices of vegan bologna, sliced into strips and separated

1T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

¼ cup Chilean Merlot (or any equivalent)

½ t smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat. Place the squash cut side down and bake for 45-50 minutes. This recipe works whether or not the spaghetti effect is perfectly realized, or it just bakes like a mushy squash. Mine turned out mushy and slightly strand-like for this incarnation. When they are ready (test with your fork), crack some black pepper onto the flesh, and don’t worry about pulling it apart from the rind. This will be done as you eat the dish later.

Meanwhile, prepare the veggies.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet on medium.

Place all of the veggies into the pan and cook until beginning to soften.

Add the bologna.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, and pour in the Bragg’s and wine, stirring as it reduces and thickens a bit. Add the smoked paprika and a few shakes of pepper.

Pour an even amount onto the peppered squash halves.

Optional: shake nutritional yeast flakes on top

Baked Spaghetti Squash Collossus 08222014 afterMm!!!