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

Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Salsa and Diced Avocado, CSA Week 7

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Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Salsa and Diced Avocado, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

When life gives you zucchini, there are actually many things you can do with it, grilling and sautéing being my go-tos most of the time. But, doing same thing over over again, no matter how tasty and satisfying they are, does get old. When it comes to zucchini, I have been trying new things, like zucchini lasagna, and zucchini fruitcake – I did also give zucchini cheese a try but that one did not work for me, so I am putting my zucchini cheese making days behind me.

Couple of zucchini’s that came in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share this week from our local Upswing Farm, here in Ashland, Massachusetts where we live, were just the perfect size for stuffing, and that’s what I decided to do.

Getting zucchini ready for stuffing

To me, perfect stuffing zucchini is about 8-9 in (20-25 cm) and what makes this the perfect size is the fact that it matches is the size of my 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish! Plus, the zucchini in this size range is in the Goldilocks zone – not too big and not too small, yet just right for carrying a good amount of stuffing.

The best way to get the zucchini ready for stuffing is to wash them, cut the ends off (this step is actually optional, you could skip it and leave the ends on – this would give your dish a nice, rustic presentation at the end), then slice the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. If the zucchini is old and seeds look well-formed and unappetizing, please feel free to discard them. But, if the inside looks fresh and soft, scoop it out into a bowl and put aside to use as a part of the stuffing.

Par-roasting zucchini

You may have heard about par-boiling, when you boil something only half way through before doing something else with it. Par-roasting is essentially the same thing, just using roasting as a strategy to get the nice, roasted and caramelized flavors going without too much oven time. This can come in handy during hot summer months, for example.

I use par-roasting when prepping most of my stuffed vegetables, be it mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, or zucchini. The method is simple: you turn your oven on high (425 F (220 C) or higher), line a baking sheet with some parchment paper, toss the veggies with some oil, or spray with some cooking spray, or skip the oil altogether if avoiding fat (you can also sprinkle salt on if using, I don’t because the stuffing is usually plenty salty for me), and let the veggies brown for 15 minutes or so, flipping them over once if needed to get them equally browned on both sides.

Why par-roasting?

Well, most stuffing I make is already cooked by the time all is said and done. So, the stuffing itself usually does not need any more cooking time – all it needs to do is go into the oven for 10 minutes or so to get nicely browned on top. Par-roasting is my way of brining whichever vegetable is supposed to hold the stuffing up to speed so that the vehicle is ready for the final oven ride, when the stuffing gets browned and the vehicle finishes baking while absorbing some of the flavors that seep from the stuffing. In this way everything gets harmonized and delicious.

My secret to a perfect (and easy) Tex-Mex flavor

The best way to get the tex-mix flavors going is to start with a good chili powder, then add cumin powder and smoked paprika. These three things combined make for nice smokiness with just a hint of heat, so even with the amount of chili powder I use here the heat will not be overpowering. Having said that, do adjust the chili powder to fit your preferences. Of course, having corn and black beans in this dish is also essential. Here, I used canned corn and canned beans, but you can definitely use frozen corn and cook your beans from scratch. If you are using frozen corn, 1-1/2 cups of frozen corn should be enough, and if you are cooking the beans, 1 cup dry beans will probably be plenty.

Easy homemade salsa

What also helps tex-mix flavors is topping the stuffed zucchini with some freshly made salsa. If you don’t have the time, store-bought is perfectly fine to use here, either freshly made or from a jar – you can pick your own favorite flavor and enjoy! But, if you do want a quick homemade salsa, then follow the instructions below. The main tip here is to cut the tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Don’t throw them out – you can mix them into the tex-mex stuffing! Here, almost everything goes into a food processor for easy chopping. I recommend leaving one cleaned out tomato aside, and dicing it finely by hand to give the final salsa a bit more texture. This salsa takes only a few minutes to make, and you will love the flavor of freshly chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime, so it is worth doing it from scratch.

Diced avocado for a final touch

Last but not least is the diced avocado. You actually don’t need the avocado if you can’t stomach it (I know there are some people out there that have trouble with avocado), but it does add a nice, smooth, rich and creamy flavor to the final dish. It’s like a five layer dip right there in your zucchini “boat”!

To pick the best avocado, get those that are still quite hard and then leave them next to some bananas on your kitchen counter for a day or so. The avocado will soften and then you can store it in the fridge until ready to use. In this way you will avoid getting avocados that are too bruised by all the squeezing and poking, and can buy extra avocados on sale and use them 5-7 days later.

After that PSA, back to the Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini – to finish the stuffed zucchini, squeeze some fresh lime juice over your avocado and sprinkle some fresh cilantro. If you are using homemade salsa you can skip the cilantro, but if you are using the store-bought  then no cilantro-skipping is allowed!

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Tex-Mex Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Salsa and Diced Avocado

What you’ll need:

3 zucchini, washed but not peeled

1 15.25 oz (430 g) can yellow corn (whole kernel)

1 29 oz (820 g) can black beans

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed if you prefer

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper and additional salt to taste!* (see Note)

1 avocado, finely diced, for garnish, optional

Fresh cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice for topping (optional)

 

SIMPLE HOMEMADE SALSA

4 plum tomatoes, seeded, divided

1/4 – 1/2 jalapeño pepper, deseeded (or more, to taste)

1/4 onion or red onion

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 lime, juice

1/4 teaspoon sat (more or less, to taste)

Cooking spray, salt, pepper

 

What you’ll do:

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  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. To make the salsa, cut the tomatoes lengthwise, the use a paring knife to take out the seeds and the middle of the tomato. Reserve the middles for the stuffing. Place all the ingredients, except one tomato into a food processor and buy until finely chopped. Dice the leftover tomato finely and mix in with the rest of pasta. Once mixed, set the pasta to the side.
  3. Wash the zucchini, remove the ends, and cut lengthwise into two pieces (I prefer to remove the ends but you don’t need to do that). Use a teaspoon to scrape out the inside of the zucchini – if full of seeds you can discard, otherwise add to the tomato scrap pieces and put aside.
  4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with some cooking spray, then place zucchini on, spray the tops and place the zucchinis into the oven. Zucchini will be nicely browned in about 10 minutes. Take the zucchini out and set aside.
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 375 F (190 C).
  6. While the zucchini is par-roasting, get going on the stuffing. Add the oil to a large pan (frying or sauté) and place over the medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and sliced garlic and let them caramelize for 2 minutes or so. Next add the spices (chili powder, cumin powder, smoked paprika) and let them “bloom” for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Next add the scooped out zucchini and tomato scraps, and mix well. Sauté for couple of minutes, then add corn and black beans. For corn and black beans, I recommend straining them using a large colander, and rinsing them for half a minute under some cold water before using. If you are using frozen corn, or fresh corn, and the beans you cooked yourself this washing and straining step is, of course, not necessary! Mix everything well and sauté for another 8-10 minutes.
  8. Spray a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish (or a large casserole pan) with cooking spray, then cover the bottom with a layer of stuffing. Place the par-roasted zucchini boats in and fill them with stuffing. Pile the stuffing high, and press gently in as you fill to make sure you get to all the little nooks and crannies. (You may end up with extra stuffing – if that’s the case you can serve the stuffing itself as a side for another dinner, for example this would be a grate thing to put into a taco shell and enjoy, or serve cold on your next tex-mix salad!).
  9. Put the stuffed zucchini into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. All you are looking for is some nice caramelization on the top and the sides. Pull the stuffed zucchini out, and let it cool for couple of minutes before serving.
  10. When serving, top each zucchini boat with salsa and diced avocado, freshly chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime and you are done!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

 

 

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Gluten-free Vegan BBQ Ribs

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Gluten-free, Vegan BBQ Ribs, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

For all of you out there who’s mouths have been watering when you see people share their vegan BBQ ribs recipes but don’t eat gluten, this one is for you! Of course, all of you who are gluten-lovers, I hope you check this recipe out as well – you will not be disappointed!

Big credit for these ribs goes to Linda and Alex Meyerson and their amazing new cookbook “Great Vegan BBQ without a Grill” (read my review here). Their recipe for BBQ ribs (or RIBZ, as they call them!) is amazing and I love it, but my husband has been avoiding gluten so I had to come up with an alternative.

After few trials and errors, I came across couple of recipes that use quinoa as a replacement for gluten. I have been trying to include quinoa into my cooking more often (in a gumbo-jambalaya fusion, as a stuffing for roasted eggplant, and as a perfect side dish for winter holidays), because, although almost impossible for me to pronounce it properly (is it keen-wah or kee-noah or something else?), it is super nutritious. Loads and loads of plant-based protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins!

It also has a subtle flavor which makes many people think of quinoa as bland, while I view it as versatile. This absence of strong flavor means that I can dress quinoa any way I like, and make it come out flavorful and different every time. These BBQ ribs are the proof!

As I said, the real credit goes to Alex and Linda because their idea to bake the rib meat before grilling it further is a real breakthrough. This lets your meat come together, and makes grilling a breeze. These ribs will withstand the indoor and the outdoor grilling so go crazy – and remember that you can prep your “meat” a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge, which can be a real lifesaver if you are having a large party over. All you will need to do is get your “meat” out, cut into the ribs, and grill before serving. This recipe is so fantastic that you can easily serve it to your omni friends and family, and they will not know the difference. Happy grilling!!!

Tip: this is definitely a recipe that you make in stages. You need to cook quinoa, roast some beets, sauté mushrooms, cook the beans (if not using store bought) – all before everything goes into the food processor, so be patient and plan ahead. It will be worth it!

Gluten-free Vegan BBQ Ribs

What you’ll need:

1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

10 oz mushrooms, sautéed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 beet, roasted

2 cups dark red beans (canned or homemade)

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

1 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon liquid smoke (or less, depending on your taste)

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup BBQ sauce (homemade or store bought, I love Stubb’s Original)

Oil or cooking spray for preparing the grill or a grill pan

Extra BBQ sauce for serving!

What you’ll do:

  1. Roast the beet – actually, instead of roasting one lonely beet, I recommend roasting a whole bunch of beets at the same time, at 425 F (220 C) for 45 minutes or so, and then using them to make these ribs, as well as eat them in a salad or make them into a hummus. This can be done on the grill too – wrap the beets in some foil and let them hang on the grill for about 45 minutes as you grill other things! You can make the beets in advance and store in the fridge for up to a week, and use in this, and many other recipes as needed. If you are in a tight time crunch you can use canned beets as well, but the roasted ones do add a bit of nice, earthy aroma that the canned ones simply don’t have.
  2. Combine quinoa and vegetable broth into a pot large enough to hold it all, place over high heat, bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  4. Place a large frying pan over medium high heat, add the oil then sliced mushrooms, and sauté the mushrooms until nicely browned.
  5. If you have a large food processor, you can combine cooked quinoa, sautéd mushrooms, beans, 1/2 beet, and all the rest of the ingredients – except the BBQ sauce! – in the food processor and process until smooth and homogenous. If you don’t have a large food processor, but have a stick blender you can place everything into a large mixing bowl and then use the stick blender to blend it all together. This is your rib “meat” mix.
  6. Line a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish with parchment paper and spray the bottom and the sides with some cooking spray. Pour your rib “meat” mix into the pan, even out and bake for 30 minutes, or until baked through, and browned at the edges. Let the baked rib “meat” cool. This is also a good stopping point, as the “meat” can stay in the fridge overnight and be used the next day.
  7. When you are ready to grill, slice the rib “meat” into strips – they should be roughly the same size as the real ribs, which is about 1 inch or 2-3 cm.
  8. Prepare your grill pan or your outdoor grill as you normally do. For me, this means turning on the heat to high and letting the pan heat up nice and good before brushing with a little bit of oil or spraying with some cooking spray. For the outdoor grill, I turn the burners on to the max (I have a gas grill) and leave the grill covered for 10 minutes, then I use the brush to scrape the grates, oil them with a paper towel dipped into some oil (use your heat proof tongs to handle the towel paper and stay safe), and they are ready (note that the type of a brush you use depends on the kind of the grill grates you have, so follow the manufacturer instruction closely otherwise you may permanently damage your grill!).
  9. Place the ribs on the grill or the grill pan and brush the top with some BBQ sauce. Let them grill for 3-4 minutes on one side then flip over, brush with some BBQ sauce and repeat. I usually flip the ribs three times so that each side has 2 brushes of BBQ sauce and two grilling periods, for a total of about 6 – 8 minutes per side.
  10. Serve hot with the side of your favorite BBQ sauce (I recommend warming the sauce just slightly), and enjoy with your favorite sides, such as grilled corn, spicy cole slaw, or this fantastic arugula and watermelon salad that I just discovered!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Meat-less Keema Matar

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Meat-less Keema Matar, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

By now you probably figured out that I am a huge fan of Indian cuisine. Perhaps it’s the spices, perhaps it’s the long and slow simmering, perhaps is the whole culture of not eating meat that produced an abundance of vegan-friendly recipes and ingredient combinations [EDIT: I was alerted that current facts suggest that India may not be as vegetarian as previously thought; it seems that it’s a myth that India is mostly vegetarian]. Whatever it is, Indian cuisine has always been a huge inspiration for me, and I’ve been sharing some of the results on this blog. Past successes include Jackfruit Tikka Masala, as well as Chicken-less Tikka Masala made with soya chunks, and my version of Sabudana Khichdi.

This recipe is a vegan version of a minced lamb dish called Keema Matar. The recipe uses minced soya chunks that give the final dish the same consistency and appearance as the original recipe. You could use TVP (textured vegetable protein) but note that the food will probably have a softer, less chewy bite to it.

What makes this recipe work are, of course, the spices. I use some pretty standard spices like garlic powder, freshly grated ginger, chili powder, a cinnamon stick, some more specialized spices like turmeric, coriander powder and coriander pods, and some spices that you can only find in an Indian grocery store, like Indian bay leaves and matar masala.  Fear not if you don’t have easy access to these last two spices because you can use regular bay leaves and some cumin powder instead.

The best way to ensure that your soya chunks absorb all the flavors is to cook them according to instructions, which usually say “boil in water for 5 minutes”, rinse, drain, gently squeeze to remove some of the excess water, and mince them – I use a food processor for mincing – and then mix the minced chunks with spices and let them marinate for a while. (Note: if you are using TVP, you will not need to mince since the TVP flakes are already about the right size once they are fully soaked. Although hard to remove access water from TVP once it’s fully soaked, I do suggest you give it a gentle squeeze before marinating!)

Another ingredient that is needed for this dish are green peas. I use frozen peas, and I don’t bother with defrosting – just mix them into the simmering minced soya chunks and they’ll be fine. Once done, serve over  some Basmati Rice, sprinkle with some fresh cilantro and add a side of raita (yogurt sauce with chopped cucumbers and mint – I make mine with cashew yogurt and it comes out great!) or even a piece of naan and you will have an unbelievable restaurant-style dinner right in the comfort of your home.

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Meatless Keema Matar

What you’ll need:

200 g soya chunks

2 teaspoon coriander powder

2 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoon mattar masala

1 tablespoon grated ginger, fresh

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 tablespoon oil

3-4 Indian bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

10-15 cardamom pods

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 15 oz can petit diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cup green peas, frozen

Fresh cilantro for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Place soya chunks in a large pot, cover with water, bring to boil, and cook for 5 minutes, or according to the instructions on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze the soya chunks gently to remove some of the excess water, them place in the food processor.
  2. Add all the spices up to the oil and bay leaves, and process until soya chunks get a consistency of minced meat. Let the minced soya chunks and spices marinate for an hour or so on the kitchen counter at room temperature.
  3. In a heavy pot, like a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat then add the Indian bay leaves, cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods and let the aromas bloom for a minute.
  4. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté them for 5-6 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste, mix well and continue sautéing for another minute to brown the tomato paste just slightly.
  6. Add the minced soya chunks with all the spices they have been combined with as well as the diced tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Add the peas, mix well and simmer for another 10 minutes. By this point, your food will be ready and your kitchen will smell fantastic. Serve and enjoy with Basmati Rice, and/or naan, and/or raita.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

White Bean Burger with Chia Seeds

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White Bean Burgers with Chia Seeds, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Another veggie burger, another sensation (if you like to see some past examples, there are here, here, here, and here)! And you don’t need to take my word for it, just go ahead and make a batch of these. First of all, they are ultra-cheap. I use dry beans and one pound, approximately half a kilo, of dry beans will make a huge pile of these burgers. At the end, I think my yield from this recipe was about 15 burgers. The burgers store well in the tightly sealed container in a fridge – you can keep them for a week – and reheat easily in the microwave oven, toaster oven or on the stove top. I am not entirely sure they freeze well, but you can try. If you do decide to freeze a batch, I recommend cooking them through, letting them cool, then separating individual burgers with some wax paper, then freezing. In that way you can grab a burger any time you need it!

Chia seeds are the magic ingredient here. I’ve used chia seeds in the past to make puddings, but here I use them as the main binding agent, the same way you would use egg or a flax “egg”. To make chia “egg”  all you need to do is soak chia seeds in some water for about 30 minutes or so. By the time half an hour is up you should have a very thick and gooey mixture that looks quite slimy and that is a good sign. It means your chia seeds are ready to use. Chia seeds add not only the cohesiveness to this recipe, but bump up the nutritional value of your burgers because they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

I used to be afraid of cooking the beans and would get canned ones only. But, I recently started using a pressure cooker and I love it! I soak the beans overnight to speed things up, although I did make the beans without soaking and that works as well – you just need to cook them for a longer time. Once ready for the pressure cooker, I rinse the beans, place them in the pot and cover with water. I use an electric pressure cooker and use a preset bean program which takes about fifteen minutes of pressuraized cooking. Once the program is done and the pressure cooker is safe to open, I drain the beans and use without rinsing. You can save the liquid too, and make it into a soup if you like.

Note: if you are cooking dry chickpeas this water is the actual aquafaba that everybody is raving about, so do keep it and use it as the egg white substitute. I recently made aquafaba meringue and topped my Butter Squash and Cranberry Pie with Praline and Meringue Topping.

Once you have your chia egg and your cooked beans the rest is easy. All the ingredients so into a large mixing bowl or a food processor and get processed together. Once formed, the burger patties need to sit in the fridge or on the kitchen counter for about half an hour to an hour to firm up, and they are ready to go. I made my batch in a non-stick pan sprayed with some cooking spray, but you can grill them or even put them in the oven. They don’t need much cooking really since all the ingredients have already been cooked, so what you are really looking to do is brown the patties nicely on both side and heat them through.

You can serve these veggie burgers through the year and with any condiments you enjoy. I can recommend a piece or two of avocados and a spoonful of Macadamia Nut Queso Fresco with just a spring of cilantro. That out to do the trick!

 

White Bean Burgers with Chia Seeds

What you’ll need:

1 lbs (450 g) white beans, dry

1/2 cup red pepper paste (or tomato paste, if you don’t have red pepper paste)

2 tablespoons chia seeds

6 oz (3/4 cup) water

1 cup coarse corn meal

1/2 cup fine corn meal

2 tablespoons stake sauce

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chili lime powder (or regular chili powder)

Cooking spray

What you’ll need: 

  1. Cover the beans with water and soak overnight at room temperature.
  2. Rinse the beans before cooking, then cook them in a fresh batch of water until done. If you are using a pressure cooker the total cooking time will likely be about 30 minutes. If you are cooking them in a regular pot they will probably need an hour or an hour and a half. You can also use the canned beans and you probably need 3-4 15 oz (425 g) cans to get the amount equivalent to what you get from a pound of dry beans.
  3. While beans are cooling, start soaking chia seeds in 3/4 cup of water. This will take 30 minutes or so.
  4. By the time chia seeds are ready to use, your beans will be cool. Place the beans, chia seeds, and the rest of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and process everything together with a stick blender. You can also use a food processor for this step.
  5. For the burger patties and leave them to firm up for about 30 minutes. You can leave them on the kitchen counter or in the fridge. You can also make them a day ahead and leave them in a fridge and finish cooking them the next day.
  6. Preheat the grill, grill pan or a non-stick frying pan to medium-high. I recommend using some cooking spray to help the burgers brown and get them going, but if you do have a good non-stick pan you can probably get away with not using any oil or cooking spray. The burgers need 3-4 minutes per side.
  7. Serve them fresh from the grill/out of the pan and enjoy with your favorite toppings and condiments!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Gumbolaya – Part Gumbo, Part Jambalaya

Gumbolaya- Part Gumbo, Part Jambalaya via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

To be quite honest, I think I may have had gumbo once in my life, and jambalaya only a handful of times. But, I’ve been making something in between the two for some time now. Again, my concoction is not quite paella nor risotto, not a gumbo nor a jambalaya and yet under a slightly different light it could be any of these four. In a nutshell, what I’ve been making is a rice dish with some sautéed onions, celery, and carrots as a base, and with some sausage or seafood added in for good measure.

This version still includes some vegan andouille sausage, and it does start with onions, celery and some orange and yellow pepper (color does not matter really, any sweet pepper would do!), as well as a good amount of okra, but it uses quinoa instead of rice. Quinoa is a protein rich grain, that has delicious nutty flavor. You can use it in any recipe that uses rice, like in these stuffed eggplants, or this gumbolaya!

If you are looking to incorporate more quinoa in your cooking, here’s a flavorful side dish for your late fall and winter holidays – Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries.

Gumbolaya

What you’ll need:

1 yellow onion, diced

6 stalks celery, diced

1/2 yellow pepper, diced

1/2 orange pepper, diced

14 oz. (400 g) andouille sausage, vegan (for example Tofurky), sliced

2 cups quinoa

3-4 cups vegetable broth (or water)

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

16 oz. (454 g) cut okra, frozen

Cooking spray

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Spray the bottom of a large sauté pan with cooking spray. You can also use a wok, or a paella pan. Place it over medium high heat and add onions, celery and peppers. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, until softened and caramelized.
  2. Add the sliced sausage and let it brown for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add quinoa, and 2 cups of stock or water, depending on what you are using. Mix well and bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until all liquid is absorbed. Add 1 more cup, mix well and continue to simmer. Keep adding the liquid until quinoa is done. This should take no more than 4 cups and no longer than 20 minutes. It’s best to add the last cup in 1/4 cup increments to avoid overuse.
  5. Add the Creole seasoning and mix well.
  6. Add frozen okra, mix everything together and let the okra cook for another 8-10 minutes. Enjoy as is or with a drop or two of hot sauce, like the Louisiana hot.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Asian Meatballs with Spiralized Zucchini and Carrot Salad

Vegan, fully plant-based meatballs are one of the easiest thing in the world to make. I like putting meat-free “meatballs” together because they are fun – fun always comes first of course – and they are versatile, you can stick them into a sandwich, over pasta, serve with mashed potatoes, with rice and beans, and the list goes on and on…

Plus: unlike dealing with meat, especially poultry, all the ingredients in these meatballs are safe to eat as is, which means that even young kids can get involved and roll some meatballs. I told you – these can be fun for everyone!

What makes these meatballs Asian is the combination of scallions (green onions), Sriracha (hot red chili sauce), fresh ginger, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), and peanut butter that get mixed with chopped, not ground, soya chunks. The idea is to retain some of the soya chunks structure rather than grind them to the consistency of ground beef. Think chicken salad, rather than taco meat.

To complete the meal you will need to do some spiralizing, which is one of my favorite things to do with zucchini, summer squash, and even potatoes. Here, I combined carrots and zucchini which gives the salad a nice contrast of crunch versus softness, plus a colorful appearance. The spiralized vegetables are mixed with some slivered almonds, lime juice and zest, and tossed to combine. Top them with a meatball or three, and you got yourself a dinner!

Asian Meatballs with Spiralized Zucchini and Carrot Salad

What you’ll need:

FOR THE SALAD

3 zucchinis, spiralized

3 fat carrots, spiralized

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 lime, juice and zest

FOR THE MEATBALLS

200 g soya chunks

1 1/2 cup panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, regular or gluten-free

3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated

1 tablespoon peanut butter, natural and unsalted

3 tablespoons soy sauce, reduced sodium

1/2 teaspoon hot chili sauce (sriracha)

Cooking spray

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare soya chunks according to the instructions on the box. They usually need about 3-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water.
  2. Drain and rinse your soya chunks under some cold water, then chop or grind them into small chunks, similar to chicken chunks commonly used in Asian Dumplings recipes. Place them in a large bowl, and add all the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything well and let stand for 5-10 minutes before making the meatballs.
  3. Heat a large skillet or a cast iron pan over the medium high heat. Spray with some cooking spray and brown the meatballs on all sides until golden brown. Brown the meatballs in batches and make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan.
  4. While the meatballs are browning, prepare the salad. You can either buy a box of spiralized carrots and spiralized zucchini and toss them with some lime juice, lime zest, and toasted slivered almonds, or you can spiralize your own if you have the spiralizer. Let the salad rest while the meatballs finish browning.
  5. To plate, place a good amount of salad in the middle of the plate, and top with 2-3 meatballs. Enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Plantains and Beans Chili

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Plantains and Beans Chili, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Plantains are those weird looking, giant bananas that look either too green or way past their prime, and usually not very appetizing. But, they are a staple of certain cuisines and I’ve had them while I lived in Ghana, almost exclusively deep fried. Unfortunately, deep fried plantains were not quite to my taste and I stayed away from them until very recently.

I was inspired by a Puerto Rican “lasagna” recipe that used plantains instead of noodles and was happy with the results. Here, I wanted to do something slightly different. I started from really ripe plantains and roasted them without peeling. Then, I made mashed plantains and combined them with plain, white beans (navy beans), and a handful of spices to create a rich and dense chili. Why does this chili work? First of all, plantains are full of starch and relatively sweet, adding lots of great flavor almost as if you were adding molasses. The spices and flavor agents, tomato paste, Chile Lime seasoning bland, and paprika helped the taste along. Lastly, the navy beans worked well here because they added smoothness and creaminess. Sprinkling some fresh cilantro complements the ensemble, and you could also spoon some dairy-free sour cream on top or some plant-based yogurt.

Plantain and Bean Chili

What you’ll need:

4 very ripe plantains, roasted

1/2 lbs (225 g) white beans, cooked or from the can

1 onion, diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Chile Lime seasoning bland (this is a product from Trader Joe’s but you can make your own with some chili powder, salt, and lime zest)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Cooking spray

1/4 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

What you’ll do:

  1. Get ripe plantains – those that have quite a few black areas on them – wash them and place them on a baking sheet without peeling. Roast the plantains at 425 F (220 C) for an hour. Their skins will turn black and they should soften inside.
  2. Let the plantains cool then peel them and mash with a potato masher. You could also put them into a food processor and pulse until fine.
  3. Heat a cast iron pan over the medium high heat. Add the cooking spray, spices, tomato paste, and the diced onion and let everything caramelize well, which could take up to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the plantains and let the bottom start to brown. Mix well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked beans – I cook mine in a pressure cooker after soaking them overnight – and let the dish simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  6. Serve with a dash of fresh cilantro, or other types of topping you prefer to use on your chili.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Baked Summer Squash Noodles with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

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Summer Squash Noodles with Pumpkin Seed Pesto, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A sunny day in late November is a real treat. It sends strong reminders of the summer that’s gone, and that, as well as too much root vegetables on the plate over the Thanksgiving holiday, made me reach out for summer squash.

Summer squash is not something I routinely make. I prefer zucchini and Italian squash, but this time around it was the summer squash that looked the freshest so that’s what I got. I used my spiralizer to make some summer squash noodles – if you don’t know what spiralizer is, it’s a kitchen gadget that you’d think you can totally live without but in reality you really can’t.

Joking aside, spiralizer is a gadget that makes long, amazing noodles from all sorts of vegetables and fruit. Initially, I thought I can get by with a mandoline slicer – and that worked fine couple of times. But, after buying spiral cut zucchini from the store few times – and paying through the roof for it – I finally broke down and bought an actual spiralizer. The gadget paid off for itself already, and I’ve enjoyed spiralizing zucchini, summer squash, sweet potatoes, apples and beets.

I paired summer squash with a simple oil-free pumpkin seed pesto, which has four ingredients only: raw pumpkin seeds, roasted garlic, fresh parsley and nutritional yeast. The pesto comes together in a food processor in less than two minutes and it’s ready to use immediately. Plus, the pesto uses pumpkin seeds so in a way builds on all the pumpkin craziness of the season, which I kicked off with my Pumpkin Truffles.

You can make this dish completely oil free, but I did use some cooking spray to oil the baking dish. It helps brown the pesto and the squash, and it does help with cleaning up. This baked summer squash “pasta” goes well with a side of chopped roasted red peppers, some shredded vegan cheese, ripe avocado slices, or a squeeze of lemon. It’s easily customizable, but it’s also a meal on its own.

Note: this same recipe would work with spiralized zucchini or spiralized Italian squash!!!

Baked Summer Squash Noodles with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

What you’ll need:

5 pieces of summer squash, spiralized

2 cups pumpkin seeds, raw

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley

3 cloves garlic, roasted

2 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Spray the bottom and sides of a large and deep baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Place your spiralized summer squash in a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a food processor combine pumpkin seeds, roasted garlic, fresh parsley and nutritional yeast. Pulse until a fine pesto forms.
  5. Pour the pumpkin seed pesto over the summer squash noodles and toss to combine.
  6. Pour everything into the baking dish and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake covered for another 15 minutes or so. Serve hot, or cold as a salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar!!!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Potato-Carrot Mad Mash

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Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Carrot-Potato Mash, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Meatloaf – that one dish that is universally despised yet it persists against all odds. During my meat eating days, I may have made meatloaf once or twice and it did not make a great impression. This Lentil-loaf is different. It’s full of flavor and lightness, while at the same time a little goes a long way.

The key ingredient are the lentils. They are one of those ingredients that can replace minced or ground meat in almost anything. I used them in Shepherd’s Pie, and in Lasagna, as well burgers, meatballs and in that staple of vegan cooking, Lentil Soup. Lentils are cheap, available, nutritious, and lend themselves to many spice and flavor combinations.

In this meatloaf, lentils are the meat, but meat is not all it takes to make a loaf. So, to bind everything together I use a can of pumpkin. The pumpkin holds things together almost as good as an egg would. If your loaf turns out a bit softer than you like, add some oats or some bread crumbs to it. I also recommend letting the loaf sit for 15 minutes or so after coming out of the oven to firm up before serving.

Finally, what really makes a huge difference is what you do to onions and celery before you mix them all into a loaf. I recommend that you place the diced onions and celery, with a dash of cooking spray or oil, into a microwave for five minutes or so. You want the aromatics to soften and brown as they will not have a real chance to do so while the loaf is baking. This will add a nice sweet and savory tone to the loaf and help lentils and the pumpkin, as neither one has a strong flavor. To help them out even further, you will need to add some more umami-type of components, like the Worcestershire and the tamari sauce.

You can serve this meatloaf with any sides you like. Here, I paired it with mashed carrots and potatoes. Adding some carrots to the plain, white potato mash makes it more colorful, playful and in some ways healthier. Plus, it offers a break from the routine! You can make the mash withou adding any salt or butter (oil), it would taste just fine, especially when served with this lentil and pumpkin loaf which has plenty of flavor itself.

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Lentil and Pumpkin Meatloaf with Carrot-Potato Mash

What you’ll need:

For the Meatloaf:

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 stalks celery, diced

16 oz (454 g) brown lentils, cooked

1 15 oz (425g) can pumpkin

1/3 cup tamarind sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup ketchup

Cooking spray

For Carrot-Potato Mash:

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 potatoes, white, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon butter, vegan

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to boil and add the lentils that have been washed and sorted. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are fully cooked. Drain the excess liquid and transfer the lentils into a large mixing bowl. Let them cool while you assemble the other ingredients.
  2. Peel, wash and chop the carrots and potatoes into smallish cubes of about similar size. Place in a large pot or a pressure cooker, cover with water, bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes if using a conventional method or 10 minutes in the pressure cooker. Drain from excess liquid, add the salt and butter and mash it with the potato masher. Place into a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm until the meatloaf is ready. If you like you can even place the mashed carrots and potatoes into an oven safe dish and let the top get crunchy.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  4. While lentils are cooling and carrots and potatoes boiling, dice onions and celery. Place into a microwave safe bowl, spray with cooking spray or with 1/4 teaspoon oil and microwave on high for 5-6  minutes, until soften and slightly browned. Add to the lentils when ready.
  5. Add the rest of the meatloaf ingredients (except ketchup), and using a stick blender form a well blended mixture. You can also use a food processor. In both cases, do leave some lentils whole to add to the texture of the final meatloaf.
  6. Line a large baking sheet, or a loaf pan if you prefer your meatloaf more loaf-y, with a foil, spray with come cooking spray to prevent loaf from sticking, form the loaf with your hands if you are using the baking sheet, and place into the oven (if you are using regular size loaf pans you will have enough of a mixture for two loafs).
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, take the meatloaf out and spread the ketchup across the surface, and bake for another 10 minutes. Take the loaf out and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve the meatloaf with the mashed vegetables and enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart

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Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Savory tarts are a great source of comfort during long, and cold, winter months, so fall seems like a perfect time to stock pile great savory tart recipes. One of the favorite topping combinations for this type of tart is onions and bacon. There can be little mystery about why this is so. Caramelized onions are sweet and juicy, and browned bacon is crispy and salty. Putting those two together makes for a sweet, salty, juicy yet crispy topping. Add to that a thin tart crust – and you get the picture!

In this recipe I wanted to recreate a bit of that onion-bacon dichotomy, by combining thinly sliced onions caramelized to perfection with marinated, thinly sliced, tempeh that has been browned until crispy on the outside. The trick with onions is to slice them into thin strips and then let them caramelize for a long time over medium heat. If you are counting calories and trying to stay as oil-free as possible, you can use just a bit of cooking spray to get your onions going – I did it, and it works just fine! But if you regularly use oil, starting with a tablespoon of olive oil will work well here. I recommend using a well-seasoned cast iron skillet here – not only will it help caramelize the onions and brown the tempeh bacon, it will also go straight from the cooktop to the oven, making this a one pot dish.

To prep the tempeh, first boil it for couple of minutes, pat dry it, cut into thin strips, and let it marinate for couple of hours. I used the same basic marinade that The Buddhist Chef used for his Tofu Bacon. It’s made of oil, maple syrup (I did skip maple syrup in this case since caramelized onions are plenty sweet), soy sauce,  liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast. I prepped the tempeh ahead of the onions, so when the onions were done I could remove them from the skillet and cook the “bacon” immediately afterwards.

My version of the tart is crustless, so there is no fancy pastry making required. What holds the tart together is the mix of almond milk and corn starch that comes in last, as the veggies are finishing cooking. And speaking of veggies, one other ingredient here is jackfruit. I use canned jackfruit and for this tart you will want to rinse it out well, drain it, then shred with your fingers, and remove any tough core bits. I can’t comment on using raw jackfruit since I’ve never done it, but I am guessing that it would be better since canned food does come with a bit of that canned taste/flavor.

The tart will spend some time in the oven, and to finish it off I recommend turning on the broiler at the end for five minutes or so to crisp up and brown the top. Let the tart cool for about ten to fifteen minutes before serving, and enjoy as is, or with some yogurt – I used a drizzle of cashew yogurt and a sprinkle of thyme. The tart is rich, fragrant and fantastic!

Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart

What you’ll need:

2 large onions

8 oz (225 g) tempeh

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or more, depending on your taste)

2 20 oz (570 g) can young green jackfruit in brine

3/4 cup almond milk (plain, unsweetened)

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Cooking spray


What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to gentle boil in a pan that’s large enough to hold the entire piece of tempeh flat without cutting. Lower the tempeh into the boiling water and let it boil for couple of minutes.
  2. While the tempeh is boiling mix together the marinade by combining oil, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Take the tempeh out and pat dry. Let it cool for a moment, until it feels ok to handle. My heat tolerance is pretty high so I usually wait only a few minutes, but depending on your comfort zone when it comes to handling hot things you may want to wait longer before slicing the tempeh into relatively thin slices. Lower the slices down into the marinade and let it stand for an hour or two.
  4. While tempeh is marinating, prepare the jackfruit. Rinse the canned jackfruit well and let the excess water drain. Using a fork or fingers, pull the jackfruit into shreds. Discard the hard core, if present. Set aside.
  5. Slice the onions thinly into fine strips.
  6. Turn the oven to 400 F (200 C).
  7. Heat a heavy skillet, like a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray (or add a tablespoon of olive oil if using), and add the onions. After about 5 minutes at medium high heat, reduce the heat to medium to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes, until onions are soft and golden brown. Transfer the onions into a separate dish.
  8. Increase the heat to high and add tempeh “bacon” strips. Let the side brown then turn over and brown on the other side.
  9. Add back the onions, and jackfruit, mix the “bacon”, onions and jackfruit well, and continue to brown.
  10. In a small mixing bowl combine almond milk and corn starch. Whisk them together so that there are no clumps. Pour over the rest of the ingredients and let it start to bubble.
  11. Sprinkle the thyme and nutmeg, mix again and place the skillet into the oven for 20 minutes.
  12. To brown the top, turn the broiler on and broil for 5 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy.
  13. Take the tart out of the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a side of salad, or drizzle some yogurt over the top for a delicious meal.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Top 5 Eat the Vegan Rainbow Posts of 2017

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Top 5 Eat the Vegan Rainbow Recipes of 2017, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Well, the year came and went. 2017 saw two major changes in my life: I decided to become vegan, and I changed my job after a decade. Both of these changes have helped me rebalance, and regain control of my wellness. The change I made to my diet had profound effects on my energy levels, and gave an incredible boost to my culinary creativity. I’ve have not felt so inspired and motivated to try new things for a long, long time.

On top of wanting to eat and make different food, I also decided to share everything. That’s how this blog was born! It’s been a great adventure because blogging, sharing, and being engaged in social media in many plant-based and vegan groups has been eye-opening. There’s so much creativity, encouragement, and positive energy out there!

I appreciate that many of you may be struggling because a life-style change is never an easy thing, and I also gather from comments and posts that many are surrounded by family, friends or work environment that does not support or even approve of the plant-based and vegan eating and living. The best advice I can give you is to take it one step at a time, and keep reminding yourself of why you decided to make this huge change to begin with. And: keep creating delicious dishes and keep serving them to all you love and care in your lives to spread the well-being and comfort that well-prepared and nutritious food brings.

So, as is customary to do as a year is winding down I took a look at Eat the Vegan Rainbow to see what people enjoyed reading the most. Not surprisingly, the most read post of 2017 is “5 Must-try Recipes for Beginner Vegans” which I put together after being a vegan for about 6 months, to highlight some of the recipes that I found incredibly helpful. And I am glad to see that many of you have found it to be useful as well!

When it comes to my original recipes, there is definitely a clear pattern to the top five. All top five recipes are substitutes to animal-based recipes, and provide a healthier alternative to the types of foods most of us have been exposed to for most of our lives. So, without further ado I give you the Top 5 Eat the Vegan Rainbow Posts of 2017:

  1. Hottest Summer Trend: Carrot Dogs – these “hotdogs” made from marinated carrots that have been grilled are the most amazing thing that I had so far, and it did not surprise me to see that others have loved them too! Since that summer treat, I’ve use similar ingredients to make an incredible Cream of Carrot Soup, which is also a winner in my book and if you have not tried it yet do give it a go!
  2. Homemade Ground Beef Substitute – this was an essential recipe for me to develop since the store-bought ground beef substitutes were just not making me happy. They were either too expensive to really work for me, or had weird ingredients, or spices I did not enjoy, or left a strange aftertaste. So, I developed my own mix that works, and I’ve been using it in tacos, nachos, stuffed peppers, and similar dishes that use ground beef as a filler. It is spot on!!!
  3. Chicken-less Tikka Masala – for those of you who love Indian food, this one is the winner! The blend of spices and nut-based yogurt, with gentle tomato sauce and soya chunks as chicken replacement work incredibly well. You will get all the texture and flavors of the original dish!!! And if you not familiar with Indian cuisine, you should make it one of your New Year’s Resolutions to give it a try. First of all, many of Indian dishes are already vegetarian since India has a huge culture of not eating meat, and many of the traditional dishes are easily veganized. Just take a look at the Vegan Saag Paneer, and Sabudana Khichdi.
  4. Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes – these “crab” cakes are simply amazing! They deserve quite a few superlatives, because they are super easy to make, super cheap, and super impressive. They will be able to convince even the hard core crab cake lovers that you can have a great crab cake without the crab. You can actually have an excellent New England Clam-free “Clam” Chowder as well, and while we are talking about seafood replacements, you can also have a great Faux-lobster roll, although some have been saying that it just not the same! For me all these recipes are really good, and so close to the original thing that I can not longer tell the difference, and that’s good enough for me.
  5. A Very Beefy Veggie Burger – as it turns out, and perhaps not surprisingly, we all love to grill outdoors during the summer days, and we all enjoy a great burger. The veggie burgers that are out there fall a bit short of delivering that meaty bite and flavor, and the high-tech Beyond Burgers are fantastic but really pricey. So, I’ve been playing around and making all sorts of burgers, like the Avocado Burgers, Black-Eyed Peas Burgers, and Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers, which were all worth getting excited about. They have different degrees of beefy flavor and texture, and they hold up to grilling to a different extent, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

I can’t leave without asking you to share some of your favorite recipes. What were your clear winner in 2017? Something similar to what I highlighted above, or something completely different? Let’s share each other’s food and thoughts about eating and well-being, and keep helping each other navigate the world of plant-based foods and flavors. I wish you a Happy and a Healthy New Year!!!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017