Homemade Nut and Seed Granola

Homemade Nut and Seed Granola
Homemade Nut and Seed Granola, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

There are so many granolas out there. And there are ready made ones that you can get from the store. So, why should you ever bother making granola at home?

Well, I bet it is sometimes hard to find the perfect granola – some may be too sweet, some may include things you don’t like, some may have flavoring agents (spices) that you can’t stand or that overpower your palate. So, what I am getting at here is that knowing how to make granola comes in handy – you can use the same technique and just switch ingredients in and out as you please.

For example, I am not a huge lover of dried fruit in my granola so I made this batch with nuts and seeds. If you are allergic, you can make granola entirely out of nuts and still get a great snack/breakfast item.

Also: you are in complete control of the sugar levels. In many cases, store bought granola mixes are just to sweet. Making your own allows you to dial sugar up or down – recommend using a syrup: agave or maple or even stevia or molasses. You do need something sticky that will serve as a glue to bind all the ingredients together. Here, I used agave syrup, and 1/3 of a cup, although it does not sound like much, is plenty.

Now, when it comes to preparation, you will need a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (or two). The first step is getting the granola spread out as much as possible. It is nice to have clusters, so don’t break every cluster apart, but you do want to make sure that you are leaving plenty of space between clusters so that they get a chance to brown and crisp up on all sides. If you discover that a single baking sheet can’t hold the entire amount you get using the measures below, use two sheets. The main trick here is to start low and slow, and “dehydrate” the granola at 200 F (which is just about 100 C) for an hour or two.

However, in order to get the final, toasted crunchiness you do need to increase the heat to 425 F (220 C) or higher. This second step takes only 5-10 minutes, and you do need to stay put and check how things are going every minute or two. It’s important to keep stirring the granola, move pieces around, and flip them over. This will prevent the burning, yet let the toasty flavors develop.

You can keep the granola in the air tight container for a week, and it will keep. You can bring it along to hikes, or have on hand as a quick snack. You can certainly enjoy it for breakfast. Putting a bit of yogurt (preferably unsweetened because granola does contain added sugar) in a small jar, and topping it with fresh fruit or a fruit compote, and some granola is all you need to get going in the morning. Closed with a tight lid, these jars can go right into your bag and come along as you rush out of house. They can also be a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

I admit that I sometimes go a bit crazy and add granola into my oatmeal – it is indulgent but once in a while I think it’s OK. Enjoy!

 

Homemade Nut and Seed Granola

What you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat
  • 1/3 cup flax seed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seed
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seed
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds (hulled)
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup (maple syrup or other liquid sweetener of your choice)
SERVING SUGGESTIONS
  • 1/2 cup plain plant-based yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh fruit (like blackberries pictured above)

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 – 210 F (about 100 C).
  2. Place the almonds into the food processor and process 4-5 times, until roughly chopped.
  3. Add the next 6 ingredients (all except hemp seeds and agave syrup) and process for another 4-5 times. You want everything to be chopped finely but not turned into a meal or flour.
  4. Pour everything into a large mixing bowl, add hemp seed and the syrup and mix well to combine. Make sure that the syrup covers everything evenly.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the granola evenly in a single layer of well separated clusters. Place into the oven on low heat for an hour.
  6. After an hour at low heat, increase the heat to 425 F (220 C) and toast the granola for another 5-8 minutes. Make sure you check on your granola every minute and mix each time to allow every nook and cranny to get toasted. CAUTION: you do need to baby sit this part because your granola will easily burn!!!
  7. Once nicely toasted, take the granola out and let it cool completely before using. You can use it as a dry snack, or with some milk for breakfast. My favorite is topping a bit of yogurt with a homemade berry syrup and granola – yummy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Easy Gluten-free and Vegan Corn Bread

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Easy Gluten-free and Vegan Corn Bread, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

What you will learn from this recipe is how to make corn bread that needs only seven ingredients (that’s including baking powder, baking soda, salt, and oil), is completely gluten-free, and entirely vegan! It is also simple, yet delicious, without extra sugar and other funky stuff that many recipes include.

I grew up eating plenty of corn bread, especially during winter months. I’ve also shared a recipe or two, providing different variations on the theme. Here, I wanted to share a recipe that strips away all the complexity and uses corn meal, corn starch and oil, together with leavening agents and carbonated (sparkling) water to create a nutty and mealy corn bread.

The bread is a bit on a crumbly side and it is best used with hearty stews, chilis and soups, those types of dishes that need a bit of bread to mix it in. For example, it would pair well with a cabbage and bean stew, or a bean soup with chorizo, or 15 bean chili!

The down side of this corn bread is that it does not store well, and it is really at its prime when it is fresh from the oven. So, if you feel that you may not need this much corn bread, make a smaller batch. It is so easy to make that you can whisk it all together as needed. If you are bothered by crumbliness, you can add some flax egg to the batter or chia egg.

Easy Gluten-free and Vegan Corn Bread

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups of yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup of corn starch
  • 1/3 cup canola (or other vegetable or olive) oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sparkling (carbonated) water
  • Cooking spray

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cron meal, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well, then add oil and combine. Batter will be soft (see picture above).
  3. Let the batter stand for 10 minutes or so.
  4. Spray the bottom and the sides of the 8 in x 8 in (20 cm x 20 cm) baking dish. Pour the batter in, smooth the top, then place in the preheated oven to bake at high temperature for 10 minutes.
  5. Lower the temperature to 350 F (175 C) and continue baking for another 20 minutes.
  6. Let the corn bread cool for 15 minutes or so, then cut and serve. Please note that this bread will not be asa great the next day so I suggest that you enjoy it fresh!

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping

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Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Sweet potatoes are the most amazing vegetable that I used to avoid like the plague. I could not stand being served sweet potatoes as a side dish at traditional American Thanksgiving dinners, and I did not enjoy them as fries either.

But: I did give them a second chance (under y own conditions) and I am very glad I did. Sweet potatoes are sweet, very sweet, especially when roasted! This makes them an ideal natural sweetener for desserts and treats, and I’ve been using them as a key ingredient for pancakes, super-sweet sweet potato butter, and even chocolate mousse pie. Sweet potatoes are also a handy substitute for pumpkin as the consistency of roasted then mashed sweet potatoes matches that of canned pumpkin well. The main difference is the sweetness level, as the sweet potatoes tend to be sweeter, while pumpkin tends to be mild. So, if you decide to make something like these brownies, you may want to adjust the amount of additional sweet ingredients you put in.

My main trick when using sweet potatoes as an ingredient in desserts, is to roast the potatoes. Roasting sweet potatoes usually takes about 45 minutes at 425 F (220 C), and can’t be simpler. All you need to do is wash the potatoes, then place them, unpeeled, on a baking sheet and let them roast until soft. You can eat these roasted sweet potatoes as a quick snack, plus breakfast, lunch and dinner. If using to make desserts, let the potatoes cool completely before puréeing, so it is best to do the roasting a day in advance.

Sweet Potato Pie is not my invention. Oh, no – it’s a very traditional dessert of the southern United States. As with its cousin, the pumpkin pie, this dessert is traditionally made with condensed (evaporated) milk and eggs, which results in a custard-like pie. For this vegan version, coconut milk and brown sugar are cooked together to make a thick and sweet “condensed milk” substitute. Plus: the recipe uses corn starch that combines to give the pie smooth, creamy and rich consistency that is very similar to the original, and cinnamon, nutmeg and clover, which give it the easily recognizable aroma.

If you love baking, you may want to make your own pie crust. However, the store-bought crusts work well and many are vegan, so you do have a choice here. I recommend baking the crust half way through before pouring in the pie filling, and pricking it with the fork before placing in the oven to back. You may even want to weigh the crust down with beans because these crusts do tend to puff up, which is to be avoided (here is some handy advice on how to get to the perfect pre-baked crust)!

The final touch for this sweet potato pie are pecans. These nuts are also traditionally found in the southern United States, and if you don’t have them where you live you can definitely use walnuts, or almonds. You can also skip the topping altogether – the pie will not taste any less awesome!!!

 

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping

What you’ll need:

  • 1 store-bought pie crust (or make your own – a good recipe to follow is here)
  • 1 can (13.5 fl oz; 400 mL) full fat coconut milk (you can use coconut cream, but I don’t recommend using light coconut milk)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 roasted sweet potatoes, puréed
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon grund clover
  • 30-40 whole pecans
  • Whip cream for serving (optional)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a heavy sauce pan, combine coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract and place over medium heat. Bring to boil and decrease the heat to low, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until thick. Final volume will be about 1/3 to 1/2 less than what you started with. Set aside and let the “condensed milk” cool.
  3. While the “condensed milk” is cooling, pre-bake the crust to about half way through, which will take about 10-15 minutes (if you are making your own crust, you will need to have one ready to go so plan accordingly). Take the pre-baked crust out and let it cool.
  4. As the crust is cooling, use a food processor to combine the “condensed milk”, sweet potato purée, corn starch, and the spices. The pie filling should be smooth, thick and rich.
  5. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crust, and return everything into the oven for another 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, take the pie out, and working quickly top with pecan (or walnut, or almond) halves, arranging them in neat circles or spiral until the entire surface is covered. Return to the oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, to allow the pie to finish baking and pecans to get slightly toasted. If you are keeping this pie nut free, skip the nuts, and bake for a total baking time of about 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Leave the pie to cool completely before serving. Traditionally, this pie is served with whip cream, but you can serve it just as is, with whip cream or ice cream. Yummy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Gluten-free Cinnamon Raisin Monkey Bread

Gluten-free Cinnamon Raisin Monkey Bread, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Have you ever heard of monkey bread? Well, neither have I until recently when I started thinking about an easy breakfast type of a bread that can be made quickly and without much fuss. Monkey bread, a pull apart sticky bread full of cinnamon and drenched in a sticky syrup, is one such option.

Most recipes for monkey bread out there start with a pre-made biscuit dough of some sort – this is fine, especially when you are in a rush, but most of these doughs are not gluten-free. Also: if you are paying attention to what you eat and how much salt and fat you consume, these products are probably not for you although most of them are actually vegan.

The recipe below is my attempt at making monkey bread that is gluten-free, relatively low on oil (and you can skip oil if you want an oil-free version), and full of lovely fruit and vegetable. To boost the flavors and sweetness, I am using pumpkin purée and raisins, and too boost healthy fats and provide a binder for the bread dough I am using chia seeds. Lastly, I am not using a great deal of sticky syrup – but just enough agave syrup to make this slightly over the top. This means that unlike monkey breads you may have had in the past this one is not dripping with gooey syrup, although it is sticky (and finger licking’ good!).

You can play with arrangements of the small dough pieces when you start to lay them out, and create any pattern you like. Traditional monkey bread is made in the Bundt pan. If you would like to experiment with that you will need to make several adjustments to the recipe below. First of all, you will need to prepare a different sticky sauce that is made from brown sugar and butter, and if you don’t want to use butter (vegan or otherwise), you may want to use a bit of corn or tapioca starch as a thickener. The sticky sauce would go to the bottom of your pan and dough chunks are layered one on top of each other. In that case, you will need to double the amount of dough from the recipe below and follow the instructions on how to assemble the bread here.

Gluten-free Cinnamon Raisin Monkey Bread

What you’ll need:

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chia seeds

1 cup hot water

1 cup rice flour

1/2 cup arrowroot flour

1/4 cup glutinous rice flour (or corn/tapioca starch)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon 

3/4 cup  pumpkin purée

3 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable; you can skip if oil-free)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 

1/3 cup agave nectar (or maple syrup), divided

Butter or oil for greasing the baking dish (optional)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Cover the raisin with some water and leave them to soak overnight. If you are in a pinch and need them sooner, you can soak them in hot water and they should be ready to use within 15-30 minutes.
  2. When ready to make the monkey bread, turn the oven on to 350 F (175 C).
  3. Soak chia seeds in a cup of boiling water until gel-like substance forms. This usually takes 10-20 minutes.
  4. While chia seeds are soaking, mix together all the dry ingredients (flours and spices).
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: pumpkin puree, soaked chia seeds, oil, and vinegar. Mix well.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mix well, then add the raisins and mix again.
  7. Grease the bottom and the sides of a baking dish (8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm)). You can skip this step if you are using a high quality non-stick pan. Pinch smaller chunks of the dough (roughly 1/4 cup), form into a ball by gently rolling (don’t pack too tightly, the dough should feel loose but not falling apart), and start arranging the monkey bread by placing the balls next to each other. Let them touch but don’t press the balls together. If you can’t squeeze them all in, start another layer and continue until all the dough is used up.
  8. When all the dough balls are all arranged, brush one half of the agave nectar over the top, and bake for 20-30 minutes. The monkey bread is done when the surface is completely brown.
  9. Take the monkey bread out of the oven, brush the rest of the agave nectar over, and leave to soak and cool for 15 minutes or so before digging in!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

 

Pumpkin Brownies with Chocolate Avocado Frosting

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Pumpkin Brownies with Chocolate Avocado Frosting, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

The magic of chocolate is real – just ask anyone who has ever had a piece of delicious, rich, dark chocolate goodness. Of course, that makes desserts like brownies so addictive. But: they don’t need to be such a guilty pleasure if you take the time to add couple of things that are good for you, like fruit and veggies, and take away couple of things that are not so good, like added sugar and eggs. And the best thing about this strategy is that, guess what? – nobody will know your secret.

I recently profiled a Veggie Patch Brownie recipe from a recently published cook book, and that inspired me to experiment on my own. My concoction includes lots of vegan chocolate – Enjoy Life is the brand I can find around where I live but any semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips or baking chocolate will work – and some vegan butter which you could likely omit if going for a really healthy version. But, if you are making these brownies for a special occasion like Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, graduation…, being a bit indulgent seems justified to me. In a need of healthier option? These brownies full of oats and chickpeas may do the trick!

Another thing to note is that you don’t need to use pumpkin purée if not available. You can replace it with sweet potato or butternut squash purée. Even carrots would work here – all you need is a dense purée made of somewhat sweet vegetable and you should be fine. I usually recommend roasting (not boiling) the vegetables, as roasting brings out more sweetness and makes the veggies less mushy.

One final tip? Oh, yes: let the brownies cool completely before frosting and after you frost them it’s best to give them some time for the frosting to firm up a bit before biting in. Happy eating!

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Pumpkin Brownies with Chocolate Avocado Frosting

What you’ll need:

FOR THE BROWNIES:
  • 4 tablespoons golden flax meal (other flax meal will work as well)
  • 1 cup hot water 
  • 1 stick butter, softened (vegan, or if making vegetarian version regular butter will work)
  • 10 oz dark chocolate chips (vegan brand I like is Enjoy Life)
  • 1 15 oz (425 g) can pumpkin purée
  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose gluten-free if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1/4 teaspoon clover
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
FOR THE FROSTING
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened

(Optional toppings): Sprinkle with crushed freeze-dried strawberries and/or raspberries for a Valentine’s Day version; or chopped shelled pistachios for St. Patrick’s Day; or top with chopped walnuts or shredded coconut for an extra special winter holiday spread.

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the flax meal, mix really well and set aside to soak for 5-10 minutes. Flax meal should become gooey and dense, almost like a gel.
  3. Place the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl or a double boiler. If using a double boiler, bring water to boil then add the chocolate chips, and mix until about 75% melted. Take off the double boiler and continue mixing until all chocolate is melted, smooth and combined. You will need to do the same if using microwave oven. Microwave on high in 30 second increments. After each 30 second period, check the chocolate and mix. Stop when about 75% of chips are melted, but continue to mix. Your bowl and the chocolate will have enough residual heat to melt the rest.
  4. Add softened butter, melted chocolate chips, pumpkin purée, and soaked flax meal into the food processor and combine until smooth.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and all the dry spices.
  6. Add the wet ingredients as well as the lemon juice and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) slightly greased pan. Even the top out then bake for 25 minutes or so. Your brownies are done when the top looks baked and the sides look as they are starting to come loose. Please note that these brownies have lots of chocolate so the toothpick may not come out dry. But, it should still be fairly dry, with perhaps some melted chocolate on it.
  8. Take the brownies out of the oven and let them cool completely. They should be room temperature before frosting.
  9. To make the frosting, mix the softened butter with avocado using a hand held mixer, a stick blender or a blender. Add melted chocolate and mix until creamy. Spread the frosting over the brownies, decorate as desired (the wiggles on my photo above were done using a fork), and let the frosting firm up (30-60 minutes should do it!). You can sprinkle any or all of the optional toppings or leave as is. 
  10. Cut into square and serve! These brownies are very rich, without being very sweet and you will likely not need ice cream or whip cream to go with them – but if that’s how you roll, then just roll with it!!!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Baked Spaghetti Marinara

Baked Spaghetti Marinara
Baked Spaghetti Marinara, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

What can be better than spaghetti tossed with a simple tomato sauce, and sprinkled with some parmesan cheese, olive oil and fresh basil? For me, pasta, and especially spaghetti, have been a huge go to food because they are (a) easy, quick and cheap to make, and (b) absolutely delicious!

Marinara sauce for all seasons

In my view, simple marinara sauce is the best sauce for dressing the spaghetti. Yes, sure, bolognese is also pretty good, especially this amazing lentil and mushroom bolognese sauce, or this ragù made with lentils and walnuts. Marinara sauce is the type of simplicity that can only be described as pure genius. The sauce is tomato based and usually includes only a couple of additional ingredients, like olive oil, garlic, onions, and herbs, like oregano and basil.

Homemade marinara sauce to the rescue

Although I have been known to reach for a jar of store-bought marinara sauce from time to time, I do prefer to make this sauce myself. It’s actually one of the easiest things to make as all you need is some olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce, and dried oregano and/or basil. The sauce is done in less than 15 minutes, which is probably less time than it will take you to boil the spaghetti given that getting a large pot of water to boil does take forever, and your dinner will be ready and on the table in a blink of an eye.

From quick pasta to baked pasta

However, if you do have a bit more time and don’t have to rush I recommend that you give the recipe below a try. It is essentially the same recipe, just elevated to a bit more gourmet experience. The sauce is made with fresh and canned tomatoes, and includes nutritional yeast that boosts the “cheesy” flavors. The spaghetti and sauce are mixed together then baked to create a nice balance of smooth, soft, and just slightly crunchy. Given some gluten sensitivity, my recipe here was made using gluten-free pasta, but you can use any spaghetti you like. I recommend that you cook spaghetti only 80% through as they will continue to cook in the sauce as they bake. I also recommend that you use an ovenproof pot, such as a Dutch oven I used below, in order to go from the stove top directly into the oven.

Don’t forget fresh basil

Finally, don’t forget to top your pasta with some fresh basil. We all know what that will do of you, so let’s not belabor the point. Trust me, this Baked Spaghetti Marinara will quickly become your favorite!

 

Baked Spaghetti Marinara

What you’ll need:

1 lbs (454 g) box spaghetti (regular or gluten free), cooked al dente

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 pint (10 oz, about 300 g) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 28 oz (794 g) can of chunky crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh basil

A pinch of salt

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a pinch of salt, then place spaghetti gently into the boiling water until fully submerged. Cook about 1 minute less than what the instructions on the box suggest. The spaghetti should be al dente, meaning still a bit underdone.
  3. Simultaneously with making the spaghetti, start working on your sauce. Add the oil to a large, ovenproof pot. I used my Dutch oven for this one, and it worked well. Place the pot over the medium heat, and add the sliced garlic. Let the garlic brown for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Once the garlic starts to release its aroma, add the halved cherry (or grape) tomatoes, and sauté until tomatoes are softened. This will take about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the nutritional yeast and let it brown for only a minute.
  6. Next, add the crushed tomatoes and mix well. When the sauce starts to bubble, add dried herbs, cover with a lid and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat off, and add the cooked spaghetti to the sauce. Mix well until spaghetti are evenly distributed and fully covered. Place the pot into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the edges and the top are nicely browned.
  8. Serve with fresh basil and enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

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Vegan and Gluten-free Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Vegan & Gluten-free Baked Eggplant Parmesan, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Eggplant Parmesan – the staple of Italian restaurants in our area, and a frequent favorite of many. Unfortunately, it is so easy to overdo this dish and make it almost inedible. For example, frying the breaded eggplant very often results in a mushy piece of oily eggplant that is far from appetizing. So, to compensate for absence of flavor of a soggy eggplant people usually dump in a whole lot of cheese, usually a mix of ricotta and mozzarella. This makes for a goopy mess of a meal that can be easily avoided by following couple of simple rules. Rule 1: bake your eggplant; Rule 2: make your own tomato sauce; and Rule 3: make the dish 100% plant based.

Prepping the eggplant

Eggplant has a bad reputation for being bitter unless prepared a certain way. However, I don’t remember the last time I had one that was bitter when grilled, or made into a stew. Having said that, for the eggplant parmesan I do recommend that you use the trick that’s supposed to draw the bitterness out. You slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and then let drain for 15-30 minutes. The way I did it is to place the eggplant on several layers of paper towels, sprinkle salt, cover with more paper towels, put a baking sheet over the top and weigh with some cans. The amount of liquid that eggplant releases is not enormous but the paper towel should be quite damp.

Breading the eggplant, gluten-free and vegan way

The next step towards your Eggplant Parmesan is breading and baking the eggplant. I don’t recommend frying the eggplant – baking at 425 F (220 C) will give you much better results, and nice crispy eggplant.

To get to a gluten-free version of this classic all you need to do is use gluten-free bread crumbs which are now available in most grocery stores. If you don’t have access to gluten-free breadcrumbs you can use stale and/or roasted gluten-free bread to make your own bread crumbs. Or, if that is not available either, you could use corn flakes and make them into the crumbs! And don’t forget to add some dried oregano and basil to your breading – that just makes everything better!!!

For the breading, you will also need an “egg” mix, in this case some vegan mayo mixed with some plant milk. This mixture gives a nice thick consistency, but if you’d rather skip mayo, you could use just plant milk. The main point of the “egg” mix is to make the surface sticky so that the breading adhere to it well.

Eggplant parmesan breading assembly line

So, your breading assembly line will look something like this – pile of eggplant slices, deep fish (soup plate) with the “egg”, a pie dish with the bread crumbs, and the baking sheet lined with parchment paper sprayed with some cooking spray. An eggplant slice would go from the “egg” mix, to the crumbs, to the pan.

After about 15-25 minutes in the oven the eggplant should be nicely golden and crunchy.

Making the perfect marinara tomato sauce

While the eggplant is baking, you can make your very own amazing tomato (marinara) sauce. The sauce starts with some olive oil and garlic, and includes only five ingredients. You will need olive oil, garlic, crushed and whole peeled tomatoes, and dried oregano and basil.

Vegan eggplant parmesan needs some good cheese

The cheese starts with cashews soaked overnight. It includes nutritional yeast, plant milk, lemon juice and that’s it! As with the tomato (marinara) sauce, this cheese is universally applicable to a range of recipes and dishes. The final consistency is that of a ricotta not mozzarella, but in this case that works great.

Putting the eggplant parmesan together

This magnificent eggplant parmesan starts with a layer of marinara sauce on the bottom, then a layer of breaded eggplant, followed by some tomato sauce then cheese, another layer of eggplant, sauce and cheese, and so on. You can keep layering until you run out of ingredients. Once all the layers are in, put your eggplant parmesan in the oven and let the top and the edges brown. Let the baked dish cool for 15 minutes or so, sprinkle some fresh basil and some freshly ground pepper, then serve with a simple salad. Yummy!

Vegan and Gluten-free Baked Eggplant Parmesan

What you’ll need:

FOR BAKED BREADED EGGPLANT

3 large eggplants, cut across into 1/2 in (1-1.5 cm) rounds

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mayo

1/4 cup milk

1 cup bread crumbs (gluten-free or regular depending on your preference)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

Cooking spray

 

FOR SIMPLE TOMATO (MARINARA) SAUCE

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoon olive oil

 

FOR SIMPLE RICOTTA CHEESE

1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 3 hours (overnight in the fridge is fine)

7 oz. silken tofu

1/2 cup almond milk

1/2 lemon, juice

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh basil, finely chopped (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Cut the eggplant into rounds, arrange on several layers of paper towel, sprinkle with salt, overlay with several more layers of paper towel, then weight down and leave for 15 minutes. This will draw excess moisture out – your towels should be quite damp, so pat the eggplant dry and set it aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with the cooking spray.
  4. In a large soup plate combine mayo and plant milk together. Whisk well. Next, in a separate plate combine bread crumbs and dried oregano and basil. Take a piece of eggplant, dip in the mayo/milk, then move to the breadcrumbs, and lay flat on the parchment paper. Repeat until all the eggplant is used up. You may need two baking sheets for this, so have another one on stand by just in case.
  5. Spray the top with a bit more cooking spray, then bake the eggplant for 15 minutes. Flip it once and bake for 10 more minutes. Take the baked breaded eggplant out and let it cool before handling further.
  6. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the sauce and the cheese. To make the marinara sauce, place a large, heavy pot (I use a Dutch oven) over the medium high heat, add the oil and sliced garlic. After 1-2 minutes, add the can of crushed tomatoes and the can of whole peeled tomatoes that you have smushed with your hands. Let the sauce come to a simmer, lower the heat down, and leave the sauce to simmer with a lid one until needed for the next step.
  7. While the sauce is simmering, combine all the ingredients for the ricotta and blend until smooth using a blender. Set aside.
  8. For the final step you will need a deep baking dish, like the 13 x 9 in (33 x 23 cm) dish. Pour in some tomato sauce, and spread around until the bottom is fully covered. Layer in the eggplant. Top with sauce, then cheese, then add another layer of eggplant, then sauce, and finally cheese. Keep layering until you run out of ingredients. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may have 2 or 3 layers. If you end up with leftover sauce or cheese, you can store them in the fridge and use for 5 days or so.
  9. Bake the eggplant parmesan for 20-25 minutes, until the dish is bubbling and the top is browned. Let the baked eggplant parmesan rest for 15 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Oven-fried Jalapeño Tapioca Pearl Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

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Oven-fried Jalapeño Tapioca Pearls Fritters with Yogurt Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

You are probably thinking to yourself “Baked Jalapeño Tapioca Pearl Fritters!? What on Earth is that? And why would anyone want to try it?”. Well, I can’t blame you for feeling that way. I would not have made these ever has it not been for a huge kitchen mistake. What I wanted to do was make a batch of Sabudana Khichdi, but my mind was on autopilot and instead of using cold water, I soaked the tapioca pearls in hot water. Unfortunately, this resulted in a pile of messy and sticky tapioca pearls, definitely not fit for Sabudana Khichdi.

It seemed such a waste to just dump everything out, so I threw in some roasted jalapeño peppers, roasted green chilis, coarse corn meal and some nutritional yeast, with a dash of oregano and garlic, and created little fritters. These went into the oven – no deep frying in my house – and came out fragrant, crunchy and delicious.

They had quite a bit of heat and punch, so I paired them with a yogurt sauce to take the edge off. If you prefer less heat in your food, dial back on the amount of jalapeños you use, or just use more yogurt sauce which has a gentle, soothing effect on the overheated taste buds. Enjoy with the side of a salad for a light meal, or serve as an appetizer with a punch.

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Oven-fried Jalapeño Tapioca Pearl Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

What you’ll need:

2 cups tapioca pearls

4 cups hot water

3 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 can chilies

1 can jalapeño

1 tablespoon oregano

2 teaspoon garlic

1 cup coarse corn meal

1 cup almond or cashew yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Start by soaking tapioca pearls in hot water for 2-3 hours. The pearls should absorb all the water and be very sticky.
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients except yogurt, cilantro and lime juice and mix everything well together.
  3. Using your hands, form tapioca pearl balls that are about 2 in (4-5 cm) in diameter and arrange them on a baking sheet lined up with parchment paper. Spray the fritters with some cooking spray and place in the oven that has been preheated to 350 F (175 F). Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the fritters get that nice golden-brown look.
  4. Let the fritters cool before serving, and while they are cooling whisk together the yogurt sauce by mixing yogurt, cilantro and lime juice together. Serve drizzelded over the fritters or as a dipping sauce.

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Gluten-free and Vegan Scones with Chia and Coconut

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Gluten-free and Vegan Scone with Chia and Coconut, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

I recently had a pleasure of teaching an evening plant-based cooking class at our local technical and vocational school. I enjoyed the experience immensely and in addition to having a really very pleasant evening  I have also learned about some of the things that people who are relatively new to plant-based cooking wonder and care about.

For example, I had several conversations about vegan breakfast items and whether it is possible to make vegan pancakes (yes!) and vegan crêpes (also yes!). And based on many conversations online, people are just having hard time figuring out what their plant-based breakfast options are.

What’s for vegan breakfast?

Breakfast is not as limited as people usually think. After all oatmeal, cereal with nut milk, fruits, vegetables, toast (including with avocado), smoothies, muffins, cauliflower tofu burritos, vegan “scrambled eggs”, and many, many more options are currently available. Some require a bit more hands on preparation but the offerings are as diverse as for people that eat meat, eggs and cheese. For me, a roasted sweet potato is a great breakfast that keeps me going well into the afternoon!

How about vegan baked breakfast treats?

Of course the number of options increases vastly on those days when you find yourself with extra time to do some baking. Vegan baking is actually not all that difficult. There are quite a few vegan options when it comes to replacing eggs, and nut milks usually work just as well as dairy. Plus: there are now a couple of vegan butters on the market so if the recipe asks for butter there are now alternatives to be used (including the dreaded margarine, but I don’t recommend you go there!)

Are gluten-free vegan treats possible?

Having said all that, if you are trying to be vegan and gluten-free you may be out of luck. In gluten-free baking, gluten, a protein that makes some people unhappy yet provides baked goods with their lovely structure, is usually replaced by extra eggs to keep the levels of protein high. Unfortunately, finding a plant-based replacement for eggs in this context is not easy because most options, like flax meal, bananas, apple sauce, and various starches are not protein rich; they are mostly carb heavy.

Chia seeds as an egg replacer for gluten-free vegan baking

Enter chia seeds! These little seeds are one of my current favorites. Chia seeds can be made into a pudding and they are an excellent binding agent for making seed crackers – and in this category nothing compares to Oh She Glows Endurance Crackers, so give them a try! Amazingly, they also work in these super easy and quick scones. A critical step in this recipe is soaking chia seeds for 15-30 minutes in some warm water. This will transform them into a gel like substance that will keep your scone batter together. And that’s more than half a battle won! The rest is all about mixing things together, adding the right leavening agents to helps things rise high, and some flavors in.

Vegan buttermilk trick

A common way to help a leavening agent like baking powder and baking soda is to add some buttermilk. Acidity is what makes buttermilk so special, and what provides an extra push for the baking powder and baking soda. The easiest way to make a vegan buttermilk is to add some lemon juice or lime juice to your plant-based milk, mix it together and let it stand for 5 minutes or so. And, if you don’t have any sour citrus on hand, you can also use some apple cider vinegar as well. If you are using milk with lots of protein, like soy or pea protein milk, you may see quite a bit of curdling – that’s normal.

These delicious scone will please your entire household – so you may want to make a double batch. So, next time when someone asks you what’s for breakfast you can tell them: freshly baked scones. Enjoy!

 

 

Gluten-free and Vegan Scones with Chia and Coconut

What you’ll need:

3 tablespoon chia seeds
6 tablespoon warm water

1/3 cup almond milk, unsweetened (vanilla flavor or plain)
1 teaspoon lime juice

1 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup corn starch
1/3 cup almond flour
1/3 cup shredded coconut unsweetened
1/6 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon psyllium powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
Unsweetened coconut flakes and raw sugar, for sprinkling on top

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What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Mix chia seeds and warm water together and set it aside for 15-30 minutes until a sticky gel-like substance forms.
  3. Measure out the almond milk and add the lime juice to it. Let that stand for 5 minutes before using.
  4. In a large mixing bowl measure out and mix all your dry ingredients.
  5. Mix your wet ingredients (almond buttermilk, agave syrup, soaked chia seeds, and melted coconut oil), then add to your dry ingredients. Combine everything together. The batter will be sticky but not falling apart.
  6. Line a large baking sheet with some parchment paper. Place your batter in the middle of the sheet, and form a round, domed structure. Using a thin and sharp knife, cut your dough into six even pieces. Use your knife to separate the cur pieces out just a bit, but you don’t need to pull them apart. The scones will bake well and break of easily when they are done.
  7. Top the scones with some extra coconut flakes and sugar, then place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Let the scones cool for 15 minutes or so before serving, then enjoy with some butter and/or jam, like his 10 minute, no sugar added blueberry jam I shared some time ago.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Free and Beautiful – Flourless Double Chocolate Brownies with Chickpeas and Oats

Just how free and beautiful are these brownies? On the “free” side they are vegan, so dairy-free and egg-free, they are also gluten-free and nut-free, plus they are no-added sugar! So, what on Earth do they have? They have plenty of chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa nibs, which gives them their chocolate richness.

They are also full of ingredients that you will not find in your regular brownies, like a banana I use here for sweetness and a egg replacement, and oats and chickpeas, which I use as the key flour-like components. Chickpeas and the chickpea water – the miraculous aquafaba – are essential here. They add the protein needed to help give the brownies a bit of structure and texture. They combine well with oats so that the result is not chocolate oatmeal but a real double chocolate brownie with a bite and a chew.

For this and other baking projects, like my meatloaf and my marshmallow topping, I suggest you try making your own chickpeas. They do need some work – you soak them overnight in lots of water, then you rinse them and boil them in double the amount of water to get soft chickpeas and very useful aquafaba. I cook them in an electric pressure cooker on the “beans” setting. To help aquafaba along, I recommend letting the liquid that chickpeas were cooked in sit in the refrigerator for a day or so before using.

Other than cooking the chickpeas that’s a bit elaborate, everything else is smooth sailing. You will need a large food processor, pile everything in, and pulse to mix and combine. The baking is a standard deal, using a 350 F (175 C) oven and taking somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes. Let your brownies rest for at least 15 minutes before serving, then cut and plate. They’d be great with some vanilla nicecream, if you’d like to make them fancy. They are also great as is or with some orange zest on top.

Flourless Double Chocolate Brownies with Chickpeas and Oats

What you’ll need:

2 cups oats, gluten-free

2 cups chickpeas, cooked

1 banana

3/4 cup aquafaba

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks, vegan

2 tablespoons cocoa nibs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Place cooked chickpeas, oats, roughly chopped banana, and all the rest of the ingredients except chocolate chips and cocoa nibs into a food processor, and process until you form a dough.
  3. Add the cocoa nibs and chocolate chips and mix everything together.
  4. Pour the mix into a square, 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) baking dish and put your brownies to bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Take the brownies out and let them rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy with some vegan ice cream or as is!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Towards a Gluten-free Vegan Bread Loaf

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Kamut and Chickpea Fluor Vegan Loaf, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Imagine the smell of freshly baked bread spreading throughout your kitchen, and beyond… Cozy, sweet, homey, friendly and welcoming – the smell of freshly baked bread sends all those signals to our senses and more.

But, bread making and baking has always seemed too complicated and too impractical to me, especially since you can get an almost-freshly-baked loaf at any large supermarket these days. And if you live in Europe, small, local bakeries are likely on every street corner, offering really delightful breads made in small batches and very often available right out the oven.

Now, freshly baked gluten-free breads are far less widely available. And if you are looking for gluten-free and vegan breads, freshly baked or otherwise, you may be completely out of store-bought options because almost all gluten-free breads use either eggs or egg whites to give the bread structure in absence of gluten.

I’ve been tinkering with gluten-free baking a bit, and it’s generally forgiving if you are going for cookies, muffins, brownies, or pizza. But, making anything that needs to rise, and stay up, has been a challenge.

Enter bread machine! I recently purchased a basic bread machine model that offers couple of bread settings and loaf size and crust options, and have now used it to get very close to achieving the impossible, a loaf of 100% gluten-free vegan bread.

I’m not there yet but I think I’m getting closer. My most recent experiment used sprouted kamut (khorasan) flour, which is a wheat variety and therefore not gluten-free. But, khorasan flour seems to be easier to digest, especially when sprouted, and therefore better for people who are trying to avoid and/or minimize gluten for reasons other than allergy, celiac or intolerance. I’ve combined khorasan flour with chickpea flour, which is a gluten-free option, a mix of starches (corn and tapioca), and some flax meal. I also added some xantham gum into my dry ingredients as well as some baking powder. This baking powder is in addition to yeast and it helps the bread rise – gluten-free and low-gluten breads need all the help they can get! I meant mixed all the dry ingredients together before adding them to the bread machine.

Regarding the order of the ingredients, you must follow your bread machine instructions. Mine start with the liquids and end with instant rise yeast that is not supposed to touch the liquids directly, so it always added last into the dry ingredients.

If you have an option to select gluten-free setting, I recommend you use it. If not, you may want to play around with the timing a bit. Gluten-free breads tend to work best when they are allowed to rise only once, so you may want pick an express cycle or do a more manual prep if your machine does not have a gluten-free program. Here, I used French bread setting, 2 lbs (1 kg) loaf size, and medium crust on the basic Oster model.

The result is a very hearty loaf, with a good amount of chew, and a very nice nutty earthiness to it. You can enjoy it as is, with a salad, or with a quick jam, or homemade Nutella. The crunch and the aroma of freshly baked bread can’t be beat!!!

Vegan Kamut and Chickpea Flour Bread Loaf

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup oil, canola

1 3/8 cup (300 ml) water

2 cups khorasan flour, sprouted

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup corn starch

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flax meal

1 1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons quick-rise active yeast

What you’ll do:

loaf

  1. Add water and oil into your bread machine pan.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl mix all dry ingredients except the yeast. Add the dry ingredients to the wet.
  3. Using your finger make a small hole in your dry ingredients and add yeast to it.
  4. Close your bread machine, pick the appropriate cycle keeping in mind that this amount of ingredients is supposed to yield a 2 lbs (1 kg) loaf, and that you should preferably go with a gluten-free bread setting. If unavailable, you can use Express setting if the baking step is at least 40-50 minutes long. If none of this is what your bread machine offers in terms of options, go with the most basic program. You may need to re-adjust so approach this with an open and experimental mind. Remember: your perfect loaf is within your reach!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Unbelievably Easy Baked Polenta Sticks

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Baked Polenta Sticks, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

I was raised eating polenta with milk and sugar for breakfast. As I grew up and started experimenting with my food, I would add sour cream and even ajvar, the roasted red pepper and eggplant spread many associated with Bulgaria and the South East Balkans. But even with these add-ons, polenta remained a breakfast food.

So, I was quite surprised to discover that fancy Italian restaurants include polenta on their dinner menus. Of course I had to try it, and I liked it! I actually never met a polenta I did not like. And as a cook it’s something that you can whip together in minutes!

Polenta is basically boiled coarse corn meal, so it is in the same food family as grits. And, practically speaking it is as easy as it sounds – you bring a pot of water to boil and you add some corn meal to it while stirring constantly and furiously to prevent clumping. You let the pot boil for five minutes with constant stirring and the polenta is done.

The recipe here is two steps removed from the basic polenta. First, after you make the polenta according to the instructions on the box, you will need to pour it into a deep baking dish which is either lined with some parchment paper or well sprayed with the cooking spray. Spread the polenta into one even and smooth layer and let it set for at least an hour.

Once the polenta has set and hardened you will be able to slide it out of the dish and onto the cutting board. Slice polenta into 1 x 2 in (2.5 x 5 cm) sticks and arrange them on a baking sheet. Spray the tops with a cooking spray.

From here you can take your polenta in any direction you like. You can add fresh or dry spices, nutritional yeast, small bits of cheese or vegan butter that melt well, or sprinkle sugar and cinnamon if you want to make the baked polenta sticks into a dessert. Here, I decided to go two ways and top one set of polenta sticks with some cumin powder, dry basil and oregano. The second batch I spiced up a bit with freshly ground black pepper as well as smokey red pepper flakes. The topped polenta stick are then baked until their surface is nicely browned.

I served the Baked Polenta Sticks with vegan bolognese sauce but you can eat them as is, or serve them with a wide range of dishes. The flavor of polenta sticks is mild, slightly nutty, and depends on the spice combination you used. In general, Baked Polenta Sticks are great with any dish you would serve with corn bread, like chili, Jackfruit Barbacoa, or Bean and Leek Soup. They can also be used as an appetizer, served along side simple marinara dipping sauce and some olives.

 

Baked Polenta Sticks

What you’ll need:

2 cups polenta (or corn meal)

4 cups water

1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust salt to taste)

Cooking spray

Dried basil

Dried oregano

Cumin powder

Crushed red pepper flakes

(Onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, freshly ground black pepper, lemon zest,… quite a few toppings will work so feel free to experiment)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil.
  2. Add the salt and polenta to the boiling water while stirring rapidly to prevent clumps from forming. Decrease the heat to medium/medium low, and keep stirring the polenta for about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the polenta out into a baking dish that you previously sprayed with cooking spray. I recommend using 9 x 13 in (22 x 33 cm) dish for this amount of polenta – this will give you 1/2 in (1 cm or so) thick sticks – but you can use any other flat bottom container you have on hand. Just note that the thickness of the sticks will vary depending on what you use.
  4. Let the polenta cool and set for at least an hour. The thicker your polenta layer, the longer it will take.
  5. Slide the polenta slab out onto a cutting board. Cut into sticks of regular size.
  6. Arrange your polenta sticks on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Do leave some space between the stick so they can bake evenly, which means you may need to use two baking sheets or bake in two batches.
  7. Spray the top with some cooking spray and sprinkle the toppings/spices of your choice liberally.
  8. Place into the oven that was preheated to 400 F (205 C). Bake for 15 minutes or until the sticks are golden brown.
  9. Serve as a side dish with a soup, or as an appetizer with marinara sauce, or simply munch on these any time. They are best served fresh from the proven, but couple of minutes in a toaster oven will help the next day!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018