Hey, Lentil-goers! Happy 2018!!! (Obviously this post is nearly a year old)!
It’s been a minute, I know. Oh, the plans I had to blog some of my new favorite holiday dishes! But time, because life. In the words of the great American humorist Will Rogers, “Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I know I did… Filled with family and friends and food… This was my very first vegan Christmas, and it did not disappoint. I may have even won over a carnie or two (that’s carnivore, not carnival worker) with some of my newly veganized baked goods, especially my Yo-ho–ho Rum Cake. I call it that because it’s a Christmas cake (ho-ho-ho) with rum in it (yo-ho-ho). Just picture Santa with a patch over his eye and a cardinal on his shoulder. We’ll spare giving him a wooden leg, because fireplaces.
One of the highlights of our Christmas season was spending time with family we don’t get to see too often, like my niece Jessica and her husband Steven. They live in Hawaii, where she is a professional fitness model, bikini competitor and business owner. Jess has accomplished many things in her lifetime that most of us would never even dare to dream about. She is an inspiration to people all over the world, and I couldn’t be prouder of her! What makes her even more b.a. is that the girl is legally blind. At the age of 14 she was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration. She has never let that, or anything, get in the way of her success. Her favorite saying is “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”. Amen to that!!!
Like looking in a mirror, I tell ya.
Here is a video of my incredible niece, describing what life is like living with her disease.
We had lots of fun with Jess and Steve during their stay. They came along with us on our house hunt (did I mention we’re house-hunting? Because there’s no better time than the holidays to do that :~). We made scented soaps with some family members for her blog, and I showed her how to prepare a simple, healthy snack from chickpeas. So with Jessica in mind, this post is dedicated to the humble chickpea. Or garbanzo bean. I still don’t get how it’s a pea and a bean, but sure.
Chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Most of us these days associate them with hummus (did you know “hummus” is actually the Arabic word for chickpea?), but there are so many more ways to enjoy them. They are filled with protein and fiber, and rich in necessary vitamins and minerals. I seriously eat them straight out of the can. Roasting them brings out a whole other side of these unassuming legumes (good band name), and in addition to being a yummy snack, they also can be used in place of croutons in salad, or as a soup topper. Yum!
Try one or all of these flavors, or make up your own! I have a serious weakness for salt and vinegar chips, and those flavors work perfectly for this recipe… Minus the guilt. This really is the perfect snack; healthy, crunchy, tasty… A real help in keeping those fitness resolutions for the new year!
1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, drained and completely dried
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 425.
Drain the chickpeas and blot them with paper towel until they are dry. Place on a baking sheet lined with Silpat or nonstick aluminum foil.
Toss with olive oil and salt.
Place in preheated oven and roast for 15minutes (they sometimes pop like popcorn, so you might want to place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top). Remove from the oven and toss with a wooden spoon, then roast for another 10 minutes or so, until golden brown and crispy.
Remove from oven and toss with one of the following spice combinations:
Sweet and Spicy: 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. chili powder, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, ¼ cup pure maple syrup
Ranch: 1 tsp. minced onion, 1 tsp dry dill, ½ tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. thyme, ½ tsp black pepper
Cinnamon-Sugar: ¼ cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon
Salt & Vinegar: 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (or rice wine, or any vinegar, really), ½ tsp. sea salt
As the weather grows colder, I grow hungrier. I’m not sure if it’s some primordial instinct (good band name), or just an excuse to eat more. Either way, with the promise of upcoming holiday feastsuses comes the undeniable craving for comfort food.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “comfort food”? By nature, the foods we find comforting come with a bit of a stigma. They are usually rich and filling and calorically dense. They also tend to come slathered with cheese, drowning in gravy, or swimming in sauce, and almost always with a supersized side of guilt. But just what is it about these qualities in foods that draw us in like… like… like similes and metaphors?
For some, it’s a memory connected to past comfort. Just one whiff can take you back to those Sunday dinners around Grandma’s table. The region of our brains responsible for our sense of smell is closely connected to the part that handles memories and emotions. These are called “smemories” by people who are me.
Other times, we seek comfort in food the way we would a friend. After all, a true friend is always there for us. I’ve seen people take out their stress and frustration on a poor unsuspecting bag of Oreos (Brian), and I’ve witnessed a woman scorned practically bankrupt a Chinese buffet, all because the guy she’d been seeing for the last three months wasn’t actually the Gunnar Nelson, just a drifter selling blonde hair extensions out of the back of his 1989 Dodge Caravan/”small living space”. I’d have to call that discomfort food. I know it made me uncomfortable.
Each of us has a favorite comfort food. Even within the same household, it can be diff’rent strokes. For example, Mr. Drummond might have had a bad day at his nondescript wealthy New York businessman day job, and all he can think about is getting home to Mrs. Garrett’s meatloaf and mashed. After her harrowing encounter with the creepy photographer who picked her up hitchhiking, Kimberly turns to chocolate to calm her shattered nerves (Why, 70s television, WHY???). Willis and Arnold, on the other hand, are talkin’ bout ice cream. Moral of the story: The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be comfort food for you, may not be comfort food for some.
On a very special episode, they all sit down around a candlelit table and enjoy a lovely Italian dinner of salad, garlic knots, and deliciously comforting lasagna roll-ups. Spoiler alert: IT’S ALL VEGAN!!
I wasn’t sure I could veganize one of my favorite comfort foods, but by gum, I’ve done it! These lasagna roll-ups are filling, satisfying and yes, comforting. The meal pretending to be enjoyed by the fractured 70s sitcom family above is actually the perfect meal to feed your family on a “meatless Monday”, or to serve to guests you really, really like. J
12 lasagna noodles prepared according to package directions, drained and laid flat to dry (I use either parchment paper or a cookie sheet)
1 recipe Master Marinara (or 3 cups of your favorite vegan sauce, which this should be!)
Optional: Sauteed vegetables (onions, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms) to add to sauce for more substantial comfort)
1 recipe Cashew Ricotta
1 ½ cups raw cashews
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
¼ tsp each kosher salt and black pepper
¼ cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened
Water as needed, for consistency
¼ cup (about half a bunch) Italian parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 350.
Put your cashews in a medium bowl. Bring a small saucepan of water (I use my tea kettle) to a boil and cover the cashews well with it. Let them soak while you make the marinara and/or boil the noodles, at least half an hour. Alternately, you can soak them overnight. I’ve almost always got cashews soaking in the fridge. Drain and place in blender or food processor. Add the other ingredients, except for the water. You’ll have to scrape down the sides a few times to make sure everything’s smooth and creamy. If needed, add water a teaspoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached.
By the way, this makes a really great dip for crackers or crudité!
Place ricotta in a bowl and mix in the chopped parsley.
If sauteeing vegetables, now is a good time to do that and add it to your sauce. When sauce is finished and cooled a bit, pour about a cup in the bottom of a 9×13” baking dish.
Now comes the fun part! Put about 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture on each noodle (I always make 12 but lose a couple along the way, so really it’s 10 noodles I use. Just be sure to distribute the ricotta evenly betwixt noodles). Leave a little room along both ends and carefully roll up. Place seam-side down in prepared baking pan and cover with remaining sauce.
Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
Oh! I would be remiss to not include a recipe for quick vegan parmesan. It’s a really nice addition to so many things, but especially here. Before you pop these babies into the oven, just take:
1 cup raw cashews
¼ cup nutritional yeast, or “nooch”, as we call it
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoons sea salt
Put all ingredients in a blender (or food processor fitted with the S blade) and pulse until it’s the consistency of parmesan cheese. It’s super important to use the pulse button, because if you go too far, you will have cashew butter!
We put this beep on EVERYTHING! Even popcorn.
Sprinkle on enough to cover each rollup and then put it in the oven. Store any leftover parm in the fridge.
A cibo consolatorio de vegano… To Italian vegan comfort food!
Welp, it’s almost the end of yet another season… Pumpkin Season! Isn’t it weird that we automatically associate pumpkin with fall? I mean, I guess it makes sense. The gourds are harvested in October, and can be used to make so many wonderful foods like bread, soup, and THIS CAKE!! AHHHHH!! It’s so good.
That pumpkin overkill though. Please, oh marketing wizards and brand ambassadors of the world, let’s scale back on the pumpkin spice barrage and keep it to food, beer… Maybe a nice candle. There is no earthly need for pumpkin spice toilet paper. I’m pretty sure I pumped pumpkin petrol into my gas tank yesterday morning. And yes, I sniffed my hands after, and they smelled like nutmeg ethanol*. 🙂
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to post this recipe for those who may want to do dessert a little differently this year. That includes us, as this is officially our second vegan Thanksgiving feast!
This cake is moist, fluffy, and dense without being heavy. The sweet frosting (I wanted to call it “buttercream”, but that’s like a compound double vegan no-no word) is the perfect complement to the spicy richness of the cake. It is seriously deeeelicious!
*Nutmeg Ethanol. Good band name.
*2 cups flour
*1 cup brown sugar
*1 cup white sugar
*1 tsp baking powder
*1 tsp baking soda
*½ tsp salt
*2 tsp cinnamon
*2 tsp allspice
*1 can pure pumpkin puree (15 oz)
*1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 flax egg
*4 cups confectioner’s sugar
*10 Tbsp vegan butter
*1 tsp vanilla
*1 Tbsp nondairy milk
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Make your flax egg by adding 3 tablespoons hot water to 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal. Let it sit and get all Augustus Gloopy while you prepare the other ingredients.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice.
- Add the pumpkin, vanilla, oil, vinegar and flax egg and mix very well. Thick batter? Yessss. You did it right.
- Spray two 7” round cake pans with non-stick spray and then add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom of each.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two tins.
- Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.
Prepare your frosting by putting the powdered sugar, vegan butter, vanilla, soy milk and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer. Starting at the lowest speed, gradually increase the speed until frosting is smooth. If it’s too thick, add soy milk, just a drop or two at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add a bit more confectioner’s sugar if you want it a little thicker.
Once your cakes are completely cooled, frost the top of one of the layers, then add the other layer and frost the whole cake.
Sprinkle the frosted cake with cinnamon. If desired, add some crushed, toasted walnuts to the top, as pictured.