Kale Pesto with Cashews

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Kale Pesto with Cashews, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Pesto, a fragrant bright green pasty sauce made by crushing or blending basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil together has been around in one form or another since Ancient Rome. There are quite a few variations on the original theme, but they all boil down to combining a ground nut base with a flavor enhancer, like garlic and basil, and fortifying these with some oil and usually cheese.

My first attempt at making pesto, many, many years ago did not go that well. I am a bit foggy on detail but as far as I can remember the follow up conversation with friends had revealed that I used arugula instead of basil, and that I should have used pine nuts, which I completely skipped. Still, it was not all a waste and a horde of graduate students, who this was made for, gobbled it all down nevertheless.

These days I know the difference between basil and arugula, and appreciate that a good pesto does need something more than just greens to give it real body and bite. Yet, as you will see, it seems that I remain determined not to use basil or pine nuts to make the pesto happen.

What happened this time around is that I had two large bags of kale without much interest to use them in a soup or roast them. So, I was looking for something more exciting to do – and the rest may go down in the pesto history!

And once I had my pile of pesto, I went very traditional and used it to dress my pasta. However, pesto, be it basil based or kale based, is quite versatile and you can use it in many different ways. There are even blog posts dedicated to showing what pesto can do beyond pasta (see here for a good example).

Whatever you decided to do with this pesto, I think you’ll like it. It offers a nice kale bite, mixed wit gentle cashew nuttiness and freshness that the lemon brings. And, of course there’s garlic!!!

Kale Pesto with Cashews

What you’ll need:

4 cups kale leaves, stemmed and chopped

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lemon, juice and zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Clean the kale carefully and make sure that all the woody pieces of stems are fully removed. Although you will be using a food processor, which should take care of all the tough kale pieces, I recommend that you do spend some time making sure you have mostly nice, green kale leaves.
  2. Place a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic, and sauté for just a minute, until the garlic starts to release it’s aroma.
  3. Add chopped kale leaves and let them wilt by tossing them with oil and garlic continuously. This will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the size of your pan. The more surface area your bottom has, the quicker it will be. Once the kale is fully wilted, turn the heat of and let the kale cool.
  4. Rinse the soaked cashews under some cold water, drain well and place in a large food processor. Add the wilted kale, lemon juice and lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and process until fully ground and smooth.
  5. Enjoy on pasta, in a sandwich, as a dip, on a pizza… The possibilities are endless and just remember that you are keeping it healthy and eating a whole bunch of kale!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Cauliflower Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells

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Cauliflower Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Ever since I’ve decided to transition into 100% plant-based eating, I’ve been going easy on pasta mostly because it is yummy and enjoyable, yet not really all that great for you given the calories and starch. I’ve tried some replacements, like spaghetti squash, which made a great Pad Thai, and black bean pasta, which made an awful base for my “Clam” Sauce.

Of all the things I’ve tried, zucchini noodles are simply the best! They work really well with meatballs or even lighter veggie toppings that I’m thinking of ditching spaghetti all together.

But, there are some dishes that are hard to imagine without pasta, like a very simple yet incredibly delicious pasta salad I made at the height of summer season, and these stuffed jumbo shells right here.

The shells are stuffed with cauliflower “ricotta” and spinach mirroring a very traditional ricotta cheese and spinach stuffed shell recipe. The shells I use here are the “jumbo” kind, and their name is well-deserved. Two or three of these makes a solid serving size, so the recipe below ought to serve four people easy.

The main departure I took from the traditional recipe, which is vegetarian, is to skip the tomato sauce, usually a simple marinara, and to use my own creation, a cauliflower “ricotta” cheese, which makes this recipe dairy-free, vegan, and plant-based.

The cauliflower “ricotta” is inspired by cashew ricotta that I’ve made in the past. I was very curious about whether cauliflower can help the basic cashew ricotta recipe (some great examples here and here), and retain all the creaminess while cutting down the cost (frozen cauliflower is cheaper than raw cashews), and the calories and fat (cauliflower has far less calories than cashews and no fat!).

The cauliflower “ricotta” works well here, and it’s a useful cheese alternative to have for other pasta dishes, or a lasagna. Amazingly, what puts this entire dish over the edge is actually a tiny bit of nutmeg. Just a pinch goes a long way, so be careful not to overdo it.

Cauliflower Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells

What you’ll need:

16 jumbo shells, boiled

1 bag (1 lbs; 454 g) frozen chopped spinach

1 bag (1 lbs; 454 g) frozen cauliflower

1 cup cashews, soaked overnight

1 tablespoon white miso paste

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the shells and let them boil for 8-10 minutes. Take the shells out, rinse with cold water, and place them aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  3. Cook the cauliflower and spinach according to the instructions on the bag. You can use a microwave or a stove top method and you don’t need to thaw the vegetables but I recommend that you squeeze the access water out before using. Keep the cauliflower and the spinach in separate bowls. Cauliflower should take about 10-15 minutes to cook, and spinach about 5 minutes.
  4. Place the cooked cauliflower, soaked cashews, and the rest of the ingredients into a food processor and process until you reach the consistency of ricotta cheese.
  5. Spray the bottom of 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) with cooking spray and pour in 1/2 cup of cauliflower “ricotta” and spread around to cover the bottom.
  6. Using a tablespoon, spoon some cauliflower cheese into a shell, then some spinach, and place into the baking dish. Continue with the rest of the ingredients until all the shells have been filled.
  7. Spread any leftover spinach and/or cauliflower ricotta over the top, spray with a bit more cooking spray, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more until the top is golden and sides are slightly browned.
  8. Let the stuffed shells rest for 5 minutes before serving then enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff 

Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Mushrooms come in many different shapes and sizes. They also range a lot in terms of their availability and price. The kind I find readily available in my local supermarket are white button mushrooms. They tend to be affordable and versatile, and use them in many of my recipes. Those with bigger caps are easy to stuff, and I’ve experimented with couple of different types of stuffing, like the mashed potatoes and corn tortilla, Mexican-flavor inspired stuffing. Small and imperfect mushrooms are great for chopping up, and using for recipes like a quiche or a stews. White button mushrooms are also a common ingredient in my burgers and my homemade ground beef substitute, where I grind them and add to the burgers for color, texture and flavor.

In many aspects, white button mushrooms and baby portobello (crimini) mushrooms are interchangeable, and I may use one or the other or both depending on which variety looked best at the store that day. Crimini mushrooms had a more woody, deep and rich flavor than white button mushrooms, but the differences are not major, so they tend to cook and taste about the same. They also cost about the same as well, and tend to be on sale at the same time!

Once in a while I lay my hands on really large portobello mushrooms, and those I like to grill and transform into portobello steaks. They look and taste amazing, and make for an easy and healthy dinner. The price tag on these is a bit larger, and you do have make more of them to feed the crowd, because one portobello steak is usually not enough. But, they are absolutely irreplaceable if you need to make a great grilled steak vegan style.

What makes mushrooms an essential staple of any vegetarian, vegan and plant-based kitchen is their flavor, and a large amount of umami, the flavor associated with perception of meatiness. The naturally occurring chemicals behind this umami flavor are glutamate and guanylate (plus couple of others), and mushrooms have large amounts of them, none more than shiitakes. Shiitakes are native to Southeast Asia and have been used in local cuisines for centuries, either fresh or dried. They are also now becoming more commonly available in US supermarkets, although they tend to be more expensive.

Luckily for me, I recently ran into a pile of loose shiitake mushrooms in my store that were plump, fresh, large and reasonably priced. I bought about a pound (half a kilo) of shiitake mushrooms and decided to try making a Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff. I am sure this recipe would work with other types of sturdier mushrooms but shiitakes, becasue of their sweeper umami flavor, work exceptionally well.

I paired Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff with some spaghetti for a satisfying dinner. You can make the dish gluten free if you need to by the right kind of pasta. Alternatively, you can serve with quinoa for a higher protein meal.

 

Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff

What you’ll need:

1 lbs (454 g) shiitake mushrooms

5-6 cloves garlic

1 cup raw cashews, unsalted

3/4 cup almond milk, plain & unsweetened

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

1 tablespoon olive oil

freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)

fresh basil (for garnish, optional)

crushed red pepper (for garnish, optional)

1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked according to instruction on the box

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Cover the cashews with water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes, best overnight.
  2. The next day, rinse the cashews and place them into a blender. Add almond milk and tapioca starch, and blend until creamy. Set aside.
  3. Clean the shiitake mushrooms to remove the stems and any signs of visible dirt. Rinse them with water, pat dry with some paper towel and slice the caps intro strips.
  4. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them very thinly.
  5. Place a large pan over the medium heat and add olive oil to it.
  6. When the oil is hot, add mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Stirring frequently sauté the two for 5 to 10 minutes, until mushrooms have softened.
  7. Mix in the freshly ground black pepper to taste, then add cashew cream sauce and fold everything together.
  8. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.
  9. Pour over your favorite pasta, quinoa or polenta, and enjoy with a sprinkle of crushed red peppers and fresh basil!

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream

Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream
Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Fully loaded vegan mushrooms are finally here! Last time I went grocery shopping large white stuffing mushrooms were on sale and they looked so inviting that I had to have them. For most vegetarians and vegans mushrooms are a common ingredient as they add that elusive umami flavor to dishes. I used them fairly often and have featured them in  my Vegan Stuffed Pepper recipe.

This time around it is the mushrooms that are getting stuffed, and the stuffing I decided to go with is yummy, silky smooth and creamy mashed potatoes. Additionally, just to kick it up a notch I made some Cashew Sour Cream by Oh She Glows to add a bit of flair. Finally, sun dried tomatoes on top are for loveliness, color and for a bit of sweetness.

There are really two tricks here. One is to bake the mushroom caps on their own, and the other is to use a blender to purée the potatoes.

To get your mushrooms going I first remove the stems, but I don’t throw them away  as I use them as a part of the stuffing. I place mushroom caps their open ends up on the parchment paper (or foil) covered baking sheet and put them in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. The point is to get the caps soft and to let the mushrooms release excess water. At the end of the baking each mushroom cap should be filled with brown liquid (see below), and I dumped this liquid out. Transfer your mushroom caps into a greased baking dish with tall sides that will help with making sure no stuffing gets out while baking.

Baked Mushrooms, Ready for Stuffing
Baked Mushroom Caps, Ready for Stuffing, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Using a blender to purée the potatoes makes them into a creamy heaven that is perfect for stuffing. I would not recommend using the blender method if your end point is mashed potatoes because what you get is quite smooth, but for topping something like a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie or stuffing these mushrooms this method is perfect.

All in all these Vegan Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream are perfect as an interesting appetizer and entertaining, as well as a really great dinner in their own right. The amount of mushrooms I used is huge and it was definitely meant for sharing and enjoying in a large group, so feel free to scale down accordingly!

Vegan Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream

What you’ll need (for a 12 servings):

2 24 oz. (680 g) boxes white mushrooms, large

4 medium Russet potatoes

6 scallions

1/4 cup almond milk, plain & unsweetened (or other non-dairy milk)

1 cup of Cashew Sour Cream

1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, julienned

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Clean the mushrooms gently with a piece of paper towel. Separate stems from the caps. Keep the stems for later. Place caps, hole side up, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the mushroom caps are soft and full of clear, brown liquid.
  3. Take the mushroom caps out the oven, discard the liquid and place them into a deep baking dish well sprayed with the cooking spray. Put aside.
  4. Peel the potatoes, chop them into small cubes and boil until cooked through which can take 15-30 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Drain the water and let the potatoes cool for 15 minutes. Add almond milk and blend until potatoes are smooth.
  5. Chop scallions, using both the green and white parts, and mushroom stems finely.
  6. Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and sauté scallions and mushroom stems fro 5-10 minutes. Add sautéd scallion and mushroom stem mixture to the potatoes. Mix well.
  7. Spoon the potato mix into mushroom caps and top with a spoonful of cashew sour cream and few slices of sun dried tomatoes. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  8. Bon appétit!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017