Archive | August 2013

Happy Healthy-ish Faux Cheese

This is my happy food. When I was a child my mother’s macaroni cheese could cure many ills and it was still my go to comfort food until I went vegan. I have used a lot of vegan cheese sauce recipes but this one I created accidentally when I needed to make some the day before shopping day. It is a mixture of trial and error and the many recipes that I had tried before it!

The very best thing about this cheese sauce alternative is that it doesn’t use a roux or any added oils or fats (apart from the oil in the tahini) which makes it lower in fat than most other vegan cheese alternatives and MUCH lower in fat than anything with animal based cheese in it. The creamy protein richness of the beans means that it doesn’t need the oil or margarine to make it satisfying but the tangy sweet orangness of the carrots makes it more convincing as a cheese rather than a hummus type thing (which is my usual issue with bean bases faux cheese).

Sauce of Awesome

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 largeish carrots
  • 1 cup stock (mine is made with a lot of onions and celery – you may want to add onion to the cooking carrots if your stock is out of a packet or low on onions)
  • 1 Tbl soy sauce (we use a slightly watery tamari so you may want less if yours is stronger. Omit or reduce if your stock is high in salt)
  • 1 tin white beans – drained (butter beans or cannellini beans work best)
  • 1/4 cup of savoury yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast)
  • 1 Tbl tahini (mine is usually unhulled you may want to double this amount if using hulled or mild tahini)
  • 1 & 1/2 Tbls white miso (mine is the chickpea and rice sort – this is more mild than soy based brown miso)
  • 2 tsps dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp onion powder (sub: 1/2 tsp galric powder OR reduce soy sauce and use 1/2 tsp onion salt)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper (DO NOT sub black pepper – the white pepper adds a nuttiness that black pepper will over power)
  • 1 clove diced garlic (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
  • Rice milk as needed (normally around 1/4 and 1/2 a cup)

Method

Chop carrots add to a large microwave safe bowl with stock and soy sauce. Also add any celery or raw onion if using it. I then cover the bowl (use one that has its own lid or just use a plate) and microwave the carrots and stock for about 2-6 minute on 1000w until very soft – you could also just cook them on the stove top if you don’t microwave.

Add stock and veggies to the blender with all of the other ingredients and start blending. Add rice milk and blend as needed to get a smooth consistency – I don’t measure this I would say it is between 1/4 and 1/2 a cup.

Variations

Soy free:

The thing that really made it work as a “cheese” was the astringency of the miso, the creamy bitterness of the tahini then the sweetness and texture of the carrots and beans. Using a soy-free white miso and omitting the soy sauce will make this soy free.

Gluten free:

If you use tamari and ensure that all of the ingredients are, in fact, gluten free then this is gluten free anyway!

Yeast flakes:

You could remove the yeast flakes but I would recommend trying it with them it the first time if you can (even if you HATE nutritional yeast) as it does add something and with all the other flavours you can’t really taste it.

Thicker – Melted cheese consistency:

To thicken the cheese (e.g. for a pizza or cheese toastie etc) add 1 to 1.5 cups of cooked millet to the mixture when you blend it and don’t use extra rice milk. Cook the millet with rice or soy milk instead of water. It is usually 1 parts millet to 2 parts liquid and it triples in volume when cooked – so in this case you would want 1/3 of a cup uncooked millet to 2/3 of a cup milk. Cooking times and directions will vary but it is just an absorption method –  bring to boil then lower and simmer for 10 mins or so on stove top OR cook it in the microwave for 10 to 20 minutes in short 2 minute bursts.

Make it EVEN Better (with some forward planning or lucky leftovers):

If you have it or are planning ahead you can add some cashew nut sour cream to make the sauce even better. Just add it at the end when you’re adding in the rice milk – you may not even need rice milk depending on the consistency of your cashew cream.

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

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To make a mac ‘n “cheese” just par-cook some macaroni for about 2/3 the time noted on the package (most dry pasta is vegan but do check because some may have egg in them). Add the drained par-cooked macaroni to a large lasagne or casserole dish. Add a full batch of the Sauce of Awesome, mix through and sprinkle sesame seeds and paprika on top. Bake for 10 minutes at 180°c.

I usually add frozen peas or frozen mixed veggies to the macaroni , before cooking, to give it some colour. Layering sliced leek through it can also be a nice addition.

Cauliflower Bake

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This is very similar to the mac and cheese above. I use the purple and green cauliflowers when I can get them but white works just as well (or even use frozen). Chop up two heads of cauliflower into small to medium florets. Add to a large casserole or lasagne dish. Mix the sauce through well and cook at 180°c for around 25 minutes (it may take longer depending on the size of your florets) until the cauliflower are nice and tender.


What to do with SO much soup!?

I have a slow cooker. I love soups and stews and I use it a lot. However, it makes an awful lot of soup or stew for two people. The other day I made far too much of my Ultimate Bean Soup (it is half soup half stew and all deliciousness). While it was great for dinner my poor husband, having already been inundated with Green Soup for lunch all week prior, was getting a bit sick of soup.  So I came up with two alternatives to thicken up and vary my abundance of bean-y sloushy stuff.

Bean Soup Fritters

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Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 tsp corn flour (aka corn starch) mixed with 3 Tbls (60 ml) of water.
  • 1/2 cup gluten flour (aka vital wheat gluten)
  • 1 cup plain wholemeal flour.
  • 1 cup bread crumbs.
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds.
  • Lots of left over bean soup – the above amounts are based on about 1.5 litres of soup.
  • More flour as needed.
  • Oil to fry (I use rice bran or canola)

Method

All of the ingredients are estimates – it depends how much soup you actually want to fritterise. The corn starch mix should not really vary though because it is your binder and the amount of corn starch to water matters more in relation to the amount of thickening action that you want rather than the quantity of fritters.

Add the corn starch mixture to the soup. Mix the gluten flour and wholemeal flour together separately then add to the soup and stir in thoroughly. Add the bread crumbs and the sesame seeds and mix in. Now you need to stir your mixture thoroughly. It should be reasonably thick and quite ‘gloopy’. You will cook a small test fritter and if it seems too thin and not sticky enough then add a little more flour.

Heat your oil in a fry pan until it is very hot – you want it to be about a 1/2 cm deep. Add the fritter mix in large spoonfuls (I use a single large traditional table spoon but you can always just do it in two spoonfuls  per fritter if you only have the standard dessert or soup spoons which are sold with cutlery sets). Press it down a little and watch the edges of the fritter. When the mixture thickens in the pan and starts to look tacky and almost golden at the very edges then you can flip it and cook the other side.

Serve with mixed salad leaves, hummus, and lemon juice.

Leftover Bean Loaf

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This one is exactly as above except that instead of frying it you add about a cup more bread crumbs and put it in a greased loaf tin or cooking dish. Top with more crumbs and sesame seeds. Then cook the loaf on 180°c for 35 to 45 minutes – until a fork stuck into the loaf comes out clean.

Serve in slices with cooked potatoes, steamed broccoli, peas and green beans, and  mushroom gravy.