Monthly Archives: June 2012

Basil Walnut Pesto

If you ask me, one of the best things to plant in a garden is basil.  There are so many things you can do with basil… you can make bruchetta, pesto, serve atop pasta… add to fancy drinks, add to salads… or you can just dry it out and save it for later!  Not to mention, deer dislike basil, so having lots of basil plants around your garden may help keep the deer from eating your veggies before you do! I have a small boxed garden full of basil plus several basil growing in pots that I move around the garden wherever I feel necessary!

This is a simple recipe I threw together that turned out DELICIOUS! It probably made somewhere between 3/4 – 1 cup.  Mmmmm! Good thing I have about 15 basil plants outside because we devoured this batch in a day! I was REALLY surprised at how much my kids enjoyed eating this pesto! YAY! I love when my kids surprise me and really enjoy something I was hesitant to serve them! (Especially when its so healthy!) Next time I think we may even try it on spaghetti noodles instead of sauce!

(I found that you can really pack basil into a measuring cup, so it I think it depends on how much basil you have to how hard you pack it in.  My advice – just use your best judgement!)

Basil Walnut Pesto

Simply blend it all in the food processor, adding the oil in last. I kinda pulsed all my ingredients together but then I just let it blend when I added the oil!  I guess it depends on how you like your pesto! Feel free to sub pine nuts for the walnuts, but don’t forget that using walnuts adds all those yummy omega-3 oils!

  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup basil, packed, but not crammed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • < 1 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh)
  • crank/dash of pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (instead of Parmesan)

Here is our pesto on a french baguette with diced tomato… serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for ultimate yumminess!

Pesto makes a great pizza sauce instead of your traditional tomato sauce!

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Vegan Macaroni Salad

We started out our day this morning in the garden.  Our garden is currently producing cucumbers at warp speed , so I’ve been trying to think of recipes that use cucumbers.  Ironically, this recipe doesn’t contain any cucumbers, but bear with me! There will be some coming! I am not a HUGE cucumber person… I’m not sure why I planted 6 (yes, six!) cucumber plants in our garden this year.  But, on the bright side, it’s been forcing me to eat cucumbers with a vengeance.  So far, with our first ones, we’ve been making salads… eating cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches… we have had hummus with slices of cucumber on the side… falafel patties topped with cucumber and tomato.  I think I may try to make my own pickles this year with some of them.  What is your favorite thing to do with cucumbers?

This morning we made a big “Green Juice” in the juicer, containing (surprise!) cucumber, apple, kale, spinach and celery.  It was really refreshing! My kids didn’t care for it though -not sweet enough I guess!  Maybe I will add more apples for them next time.

It’s finally starting to really feel like summer here in good old Georgia, with pleasant morning temperatures climbing high late in the afternoon… but it’s not late enough in the year to be deathly hot yet!  Ahhh… it’s totally one of those days that makes me want to make sweet tea (if you’re from the south you will know what I mean) and grill out vegan hot dogs with macaroni salad and potato chips on the side… which brings me to today’s recipe – Macaroni Salad!

This macaroni salad is delicious, easy AND healthy… it is tofu based instead of mayo based… You could use vegan mayo if you wanted to, but trust me and try this first – everything I have ever made from scratch always turns out better!  Make this ahead of time and keep cold until ready to serve.  Even though it’s not made with mayonnaise, I personally don’t like to leave anything that should be cold sitting out in the hot sun for long!  This is a great salad to have around on the Fourth of July or at any picnic or cookout!

I changed very little from the original recipe, which is from Vegan Planet, one of my first and very favorite cookbooks! Robin Robertson never lets me down.  She makes vegan cooking seem so easy!

Vegan Macaroni Salad

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1/2 cup minced celery (I only used 1/4 cup)
  • > 1/2 block silken tofu
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cayenne pepper (optional)

1 – Cook the noodles in some boiling salted water until al dente, 8-10 minutes.  Drain and rinse well under cold water.  You want to rinse off the starch and stop them from cooking any furthur and turning into mush! Put them in a large bowl and continue on.  (You could even shock the noodles in a little ice bath to stop them from cooking and chill them really quick if you wanted to.)

2- In a blender or food processor, combine the tofu, soy milk and process until smooth.  Scrape down the sides and process again. Stir in by hand the onion, celery, relish, lemon juice, mustard, salt and cayenne to taste (or save the cayenne for last and sprinkle on top as serving).  Add the cold (drained) pasta noodles and mix well.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving cold. Devour… alongside your other favorite summer dishes!

This easy macaroni salad is a great addition to any BBQ, cookout or picnic!

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake 1 (biscuit style)

If there is anything I remember seeing at the Farmers Market lately, it’s berries – especially strawberries.  Go grab yourself some strawberries or blueberries this weekend and surprise your loved ones with this amazingly simple shortcake. This recipe can be used with either strawberries or blueberries… or even peaches, though I’ve never tried those… yet!  I would recommend making the vegan whipped cream ahead of time to get it nice and cold in the fridge.  It will last up to 5 days!… If it lasts that long!

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

To make the biscuits:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or use 1 cup whole wheat pastry + 1 cup unbleached flour)
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder (non aluminum kind, like Rumford)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water (using warm water makes it mix easier)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil, water and extracts.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed but no floury pockets.

Carefully pat the dough out about 1/2″ thick onto some parchment paper.  (I almost just used my 1/4 cup to scoop the biscuits out because the dough is very delicate, but if you have some parchment paper, you should be able to pat it out very gently and use a biscuit cutter okay.  I got 8 biscuits but could have gotten 9 if I had made them a teency bit smaller.)

Bake 12-14 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet until golden and allow to cool.

Shortcake biscuits, waiting to be cut and served!

Make the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of chopped berries
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Place maple syrup, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of the berries in a saucepan.  Simmer on low, stirring, until the mixture thickens, crushing some berries during the process.  Set aside to cool slightly.

To serve:

Cut a biscuit in half, top the bottom piece with whipped cream, then sauce and then garnish with fresh berries.  Top with remaining biscuit (opt). DEVOUR!  (If your little one likes to help in the kitchen, stacking these sweet treats together can be quite a sweet treat for them!)

This biscuit was made with tofu whipped cream

Oh yeah… one more thing – I ran across this great little article on vegan baking tips from Vegan Pastry Chef Fran Costigan.  It’s a quick, print-worthy/stick it in your cookbook – kind of read! Check it out!

Vegan Whipped Cream Taste Test

So, searching the internet and my cookbooks to find the most delicious homemade whipped cream led me to these two recipes here… one is made using tofu and one is made using coconut milk. One is a little healthier (tofu) and one is a little fattier (coconut)… but which one will prove itself to be better?? Well, I think only an old-fashioned taste test is in order!!

Not that there is anything wrong with the store-bought soy whipped cream – it’s seriously good! – but this is great if you prefer making things from scratch 🙂

Both of these “whipped cream’s” should keep for  roughly 5 days in the fridge.  Just chill until ready to use, just like regular whipped cream!

VEGAN WHIPPED CREAM -USING TOFU

    • 1 block silken tofu (I usually have Mori Nu extra firm silken tofu around, so that is what I primarily use, though I think lite, soft, firm, or xtra firm would all work okay!)
    • 2 Tbsp agave nectar (amber or raw)  OR use real maple syrup
    • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    • pinch of salt
    • 1  1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • > 1  Tbsp canola oil
    • 1 Tbsp cornstarch to help thicken

Blend all ingredients in food processor or mixer and whip until thoroughly mixed. Dont forget to occasionally scrape down the sides! (Add a splash of water if necessary to help mix but remember you want it to as thick as possible.)  Store and serve as you would real whipped cream!

(I usually use silken tofu for making silky soft pudding, which is why I thought it’d be the best kind of tofu for making this whipped cream, though I bet regular soft or firm tofu would work well too, though you’d have to use a bit less as the silken tofu blocks are smaller than regular blocks of tofu, and adding a little water may be necessary. Please let me know if you try using something different than silken tofu! I’m curious to know how it works out!)

I love the healthy benefits of the tofu whipped cream… It was sweet, perfect for dipping fruit, and also contains zero cholesterol and little fat.

 VEGAN WHIPPED CREAM – USING COCONUT MILK

  • can of regular coconut milk (NOT low-fat!!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (opt)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • scant 1/4 cup powdered sugar (This ingredient is debatable – it may not be necessary to add!)

** First, it is best if you have chilled your can of coconut milk for several hours or overnight.  I also like to chill my mixing bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before mixing. **

1) Without shaking or flipping over your can of coconut milk, open the can carefully and scoop out all the fatty stuff on top – this is your cream! You can save the rest of the coconut water for another recipe. (I tried poking a hole into the bottom of the can to let the liquid drain into a bowl, but found this method a bit more complicated.  I’d recommend just opening the can normally and skimming the cream off the top.)

2) Whip the coconut cream on high-speed, about 4-5 minutes until it you can see your beater making track marks through it. Scrape down the sides and add each ingredient, stopping to scrape the sides and beat again after each one. Once the mixture is nice, thick & creamy, chill until needed!

OUR CONCLUSION:

Well, the kids were practically doing back flips over the coconut version, I think because of the powdered sugar (which I don’t really think was necessary to add)…  It wasnt quite as fluffy as I wanted, but I’m pretty sure that was totally my fault – Some of the watery stuff got into my cream because of the way I tried to open the can from the bottom.  Next time, it will be perfect!!

I am happy to say the kids both really enjoyed the tofu version as well!!  The tofu version proved not only to be delicious… but healthier… I see myself making this often to use as a fruit dip for the summer!  Mmmm!

However, when it comes to strawberry shortcakes, honestly, both these whipped creams made the grade in my book!  They were both great and I will make them both again.

Noodles with Sesame-Peanut Sauce

What is your favorite Disney movie?  Okay… wait.  I’m going to stop myself right there. That may just be an impossible question to answer. Let me say it this way – is there a Disney movie you’d like to see featured on Your Vegan Neighbor’s Dinner and a Movie night?

Last night for our Dinner and a Movie, we watched Disney’s Dumbo and we made a delicious noodle bowl with a sesame-peanut sauce. Read all about our movie night and get the recipe right here!