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

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

Jackfruit Barbacoa 

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Jackfruit Barbacoa Tacos with Queso Fresco, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

One of the most amazing discoveries I made when I transitioned into plant-based, vegan, eating and cooking was the jackfruit. I had never heard of jackfruit before but once I read, and then made few recipes I was completely sold on it! The jackfruit recipes I made so far varied from very simple, like tacos, to a couple that replaced seafood and shellfish with jackfruit, like the New England Clam-free “Clam” Chowder and Crab-less “Crab” Cakes, to some that take a bit of time to come together, like the Jackfruit Tikka Masala.

If you are not familiar with jackfruit, it is a beast of a fruit. It is actually the largest fruit produced by a tree, since one jackfruit can weigh as much as 80 pounds (35 kg). Not to worry, most home cooks will not have to carve this beast themselves, because the jackfruit comes chopped up in a can. I recently saw a real fresh jackfruit and was tempted to buy it, but it is just too expensive plus I am not even sure I would be able to handle all the prep work. When it comes to jackfruit in a can, for savory dishes you need to pick young, green jackfruit in water or brine. I drain and rinse the jackfruit well to remove excess salt, and use my fingers to pull it apart and remove any seeds that may be in there and the bits of the hard core. At the end of all that I have a pile of jackfruit shreds that are ready to go.

For this barbacoa I start with a pile of onions and grated carrots to give the dish a lot of sweetness, and by caramelizing the onions and carrots I add smoked flavors as well. There are no tricks here, other than taking it slowly and adding layers off flavor one by one. I start by letting the onions caramelize over the medium heat. Then I add carrots and let them cook through, before adding garlic and a nice mix of spices (dried oregano, cumin, allspice, and paprika) leading the way.

My secret ingredient for this barbacoa is roasted red pepper purée, which is super simple to make. All you need is couple of roasted red peppers, homemade or store bought, a can of fire roasted green chili peppers, and a food processor or a blender. You need to give your peppers a buzz for ten to fifteen seconds, and they will be ready to pour over the barbacoa. Finally, I add the shredded jackfruit and let everything simmer for a while, with couple of additions of water to deglaze the bottom of the pan and get all those flavorful brown bits incorporated into the barbacoa.


You can serve this barbacoa any way you like, but it works really well in tacos. If you are into making your tacos exciting, you can try pairing the jackfruit barbacoa with Macademia Nut Queso Fresco and some fresh cilantro. Yummy!

 

Jackfruit Barbacoa

What you’ll need:

3 large white onions

6 large carrots

3 20 oz. (570 g) cans of young (green) jackfruit in brine

4 cloves garlic

1 7 oz (200 g) can fire roasted green chili peppers

3 roasted red peppers

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 (or as needed) cup water

Cooking spray

Corn tortillas, fresh squeezed lime juice, fresh cilantro, sour cream, queso fresco, avocado, …

What you’ll do:

  1. Peel and slice the onions lengthwise into thin strips.
  2. Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and place over the medium to medium high heat. Add the onions and let them caramelize for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Peel and grate the carrots using a grater or a food processor. You want the carrots to be about the same width as the onions. Add them to the caramelized onions and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Peel the garlic and mince by hand or use a garlic press. Make a bit of room in your Dutch oven by pushing the onion and carrot mix to one side. Add the garlic and let it brown for a minute or two.
  5. Push the garlic to the side and add the rest of the spices. Let the spices brown for a minute, until the aromas start to develop. Mix everything together and simmer for couple of minutes.
  6. Put roasted green chili peppers and roasted red peppers in a blender or a food processor. Blend until a smooth purée forms.
  7. Add to the rest of your barbacoa and mix together. Let simmer for couple of minutes.
  8. Add jackfruit to the post, mix everything together and increase the heat to medium high to high. Stir occasionally, but do let your bottom brown a bit before stirring. This will help your jackfruit and the rest of your barbacoa get browned, and look almost as if they came from a grill or a roasting pan. You are going for a bit of burned ends look and feel here, but keep an eye on things and from time to time add a bit of water to deglazed the bottom. This step takes about 15 minutes.
  9. Lower the heat to medium low, put the lid on and let barbacoa cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot in a taco, burrito, with rice or beans. Top with sour cream or queso fresco.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

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

Roasted Tofu Steak Tips

Beef steak tips are tough and chewy, and slightly annoying but these tofu steak tips will have you asking for more!
Roasted Tofu Steak Tips, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One of the most frequent questions that I get when I tell people that I am vegan is: “What do you eat?”. And when I explain I eat plants, then the next question is almost without a fail: “Where do you get your protein from?”.

Putting aside the fact that gluten is a protein and that, therefore, you can get protein from eating wheat bread, there are numerous other plant sources of protein. Peas and quinoa come to mind, as well as beans and chickpeas, edamame, nuts and nut butter, tempeh and tofu. This last one, tofu, does raise some eyebrows and comments along the lines of “Tofu is so bland… How do you make it taste any good?”.

Being bland is what makes tofu perfect. It is a blank canvas, ready for you to paint flavors on. I use tofu all the time, and it works in Indian inspired dishes, like Saag Paneer and Mango Chickpea Curry Tofu, in Pad Thai, grilled, as well as Popovers. An eye opening moment for me came when I realized how super easy it is to transform tofu into incredible bacon!

Tofu comes in couple of different consistencies and textures so you can pick and choose from silken to extra firm to match the recipe you are making. Extra firm tofu works well for applications where it is critical that the final product is solid and slightly chewy and that’s why I went with extra firm tofu in this Roasted Tofu Steak Tips recipe.

Most tofu recipes start with tofu pressing and draining. You can go professional and get yourself a tofu press, but I am keeping it low tech (for now) and usually just take a block or two of extra firm tofu, drain it and then leave it in a strainer for couple of hours. That usually does the trick for me. Once pressing and draining is completed, you can slice the tofu any way you like or crumble it if you are making something like a ground beef substitute.

Next comes adding flavors, which usually involves marinating, meaning letting your tofu sit in a mix of species, aromatics, and usually some liquids (oil, vinegar, citrus juice of choice, liquid smoke, or other sauces). I recommend being patient and leaving the tofu to marinate for at least an hour. But, if you are pressed for time you could use the marinade ingredients and cook the tofu in them. You will end up with something really flavorful that way as well, just not necessarily grill or broiling friendly.

These tofu steak tips can be roasted, as I did here, but they can also be made into kebabs and grilled. That was my original plan but rain interfered and I went from outdoor grilling straight into the hot oven. The tofu steak tips did not mind at all and come out absolutely delicious!

These Roasted Tofu Steak Tips are a great summer food. They are also very grill friendly and easy to transform into kebabs!
Roasted Tofu Steak Tips, Plated via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Roasted Tofu Steak Tips

What you’ll need:

2 16 oz. block tofu, extra firm

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce (vegan)

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic pressed

1 tablespoon dry basil

1 tablespoon dry oregano

Zest of one lemon


What you’ll do:

  1. Drain the tofu and press it using a method that works for you. I usually leave my blocks of tofu in a strainer for few hours on the kitchen counter or overnight in the refrigerator. You can do whatever your normally do to prep your tofu.
  2. Once drained, cut the tofu into 1 in x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm) cubes.
  3. Combine all the other ingredients in a large freezer or food storage bag (or a large container with a flat bottom) and mix everything together. Add tofu cubes and let the tofu marinate for 1-2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
  5. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the marinated tofu cubes on it. Make sure to leave some space between them for more even roasting.
  6. Put the tofu into the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Check, turn over if needed and roast for another 10 minutes. The tofu steak tips should be brown, with charred edges. You can adjust the roasting time to fit your taste preference – I like my steak tips charred and blackened!
  7. Take out of the oven and enjoy with a salad, roasted corn, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn bread, pasta salad, or anything else you like. These tofu steak tips are versatile and are a great match for many of the summer favorites. And as I already mentioned they can be made into fantastic kebabs and grilled!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Sunday Slow Cooker Jackfruit Stew

Jackfruit is the “It” ingredient of the plant-based and vegan cooking world. When I started blogging about my plant-based cooking exploration and experimentation, jackfruit was one of those exotic ingredients that I could only get in a local Asian grocery store.

My first jackfruit recipe were the tacos, which still make a frequent appearance at the dinner table because they take no time to make and are really, really good. But what I discovered soon after is that jackfruit is a lovely and realistic stand in for seafood, and you can make a fabulous crab-free crab cakes and clam-free New England clam chowder. I’ve also used jackfruit to make a very rich chickenless tikka masala – yummy!

So in order to feed this new hunger for jackfruit I would go to the Asian grocery store and buy a pile of canned green jackfruit in brine. But, two weeks ago I found out that Trader Joe’s now carries jackfruit suggesting that this amazing plant has gone mainstream.  I still bought more than I need just in case and immediately jumped on testing it out.

What I did with two cans of young (green) jackfruit in brine this time around is transform it into a mellow slow cooker (crockpot) stew infused with onions, garlic, Indian bay leaf, dry basil and ground cumin, as well as spiced up with a bit of red and green chili pepper. In case you are wondering about the Indian bay leaf, the tree it comes from belongs to the same family as the cinnamon tree so the flavor is a bit of a mix between bay leaf and cinnamon. So, if you don’t have Indian bay leaf on hand, you can simply use some regular bay leaf and a dash of cinnamon.

What I like to do when using canned vegetables is to dump the contents of the can out into a strainer and rinse well with lots of water. Then I let access water drain out for few minutes before using. In the case of jackfruit I also prefer to pull the bits of fruit apart, so what I end up with is a pile of pulled jackfruit ready to be flavored in any way I like.

My favorite slow cooker trick that I mentioned before, but is definitely worth repeating, is to combine the aromatics (onion, garlic, chili peppers, and spices), add some oil or cooking spray, and soften in the microwave for three to five minutes.  This helps them develop some caramelization and flavors that slow cooker is not able to achieve. Finally, these days I don’t use the slow cooker unless lined up with crockpot liners that make the cleanup an absolute breeze.

One last note: don’t worry if you don’t have a slow cooker. You can try making this stew on a stovetop in a Dutch oven type of pot or any other. If this is what you are doing remember to brown your aromatics in a bit of oil first then add the jackfruit, and lastly diced tomatoes. The benefit of using a slow cooker is that you set it and forget it, which frees you up to spend your Sunday doing whatever…

Slow Cooker Jackfruit Stew

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g) young jackfruit in brine

1 can (28 oz, 800 g) petit diced tomatoes

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1 red chili pepper, seeds and veins removed

1 green chili pepper, seeds and veins removed

1 tablespoon basil, dried

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2-3 Indian bay leaves

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Rinse and drain the jackfruit to clean out access brine. Pull the jackfruit pieces apart, removing any hard bits of core and seeds that may have been present (I leave softer bits of core and seeds in).
  2. Place the jackfruit in the crockpot that’s been lined with a liner.
  3. Remove the seeds and the veins from the chili peppers and diced them finely. Dice the onions and crush the garlic.
  4. Mix chili peppers, onion, garlic, dry basil, and ground cumin in a microwave safe bowl with the vegetable oil until everything is well coated. Microwave for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the aromatics to the crockpot as well as petit diced tomatoes and mix everything together.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
  7. Serve over basmati rice, or even pasta. This stew is fragrant and just discretely spicy. You can definitely adjust the level of spiciness to fit your palate.
  8. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Basic Pad Thai is a simple noodle dish, where wide rice noodles are mixed with eggs and chopped peanuts, then sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes, lime juice and chopped scallions (green onions) and sometimes fresh cilantro. The whole dish comes together in five to ten minutes and can be eaten as is, or customized with a range of toppings so it is definitely a very popular dish found in every Thai restaurant.

Although it is relatively straightforward to find the right type of rice noodles that are typically used in Pad Thai, I decided to explore whether spaghetti squash would work. Spaghetti squash is a squash that, as the name suggests, has a stringy flesh structure that can be forked into a noodle-like structures. The texture of these noodles is softer than the regular pasta, and they are usually shorter but the flavor is rich and delicious, and the nutritional facts are definitely on the side of the squash when compared to either rice noodles that one would use in Pad Thai or any other pasta.

One down side to using spaghetti squash in a recipe like Pad Thai is that squash needs to be roasted first, which means that a five to ten minute recipe all of a sudden becomes a sixty to ninety minute recipe. Still, I recommend you give it a try especially as the hands on time is not as intense.

Are there any tricks to spaghetti squash? No, not really. The only two tips that are worth mentioning is to roast the squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and to let the roasted squash cool as it will help with handling the squash as well help the squash noodles come out better defined.

To make this into vegan Pad Thai, I recommend using extra firm tofu instead of eggs. You don’t need to press it, but do let it drain for just a bit. Otherwise it may make your Pad Thai too mushy.

One final modification to the traditional Pad Thai recipe I made is using peanut butter in the sauce and some chopped cashews for the topping. Reason for this? I ran out of peanuts!

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

What you’ll need:

1 medium spaghetti squash, 1 to 1.5 lbs (about 500 to 700 g)

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2-3 tablespoons lime juice

14 oz. (400 g) extra firm tofu

7 scallions (green onions), finely sliced

1/3 cup cashews, chopped

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

    1. Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).
    2. Wash the spaghetti squash, wipe dry and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to clean out the seeds.
    3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place spaghetti squash on the parchment paper, cut side down. Place in the oven and let roast for 25 to 30 minutes. Check with a knife and it goes in without resistance your squash is done. Take it our of the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Be patient because the squash needs to be cool to handle.
    4. Once cool, take half of the squash, flip over and using a large fork go in and pull the flesh to make the “spaghetti”.
    5. Spray the bottom of a large pan or wok with cooking spray and place it over medium-high heat. Add garlic and let the garlic aroma develop, which will take about 1-2 minutes.
    6. Add soy sauce and peanut butter. Stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
    7. Add spaghetti squash and mix with the sauce. Here, I recommend using a pair of tongs to gently fold the squash into the sauce. Once the two are well incorporated add tofu that you have crumbled to small bits that look like scrambled eggs.
    8. Mix everything well together and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
    9. Turn the heat off, add the lime juice, scallions and cashews.
    10. If you like to add some heat you can use crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of sriracha sauce. You can also top with fresh cilantro for some added freshness.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous

Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous
Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Sometimes you need to throw together couple of ingredients you have on hand and have the meal ready in a blink of an eye. This recipe is your one way ticket to a no fuss meal that is filling and satisfying. When it comes to easy and hands-off cooking nothing comes even remotely close to couscous. I’ve been making couscous for years and all you need to remember is to 1:2 ratio – 1 cup couscous plus 2 cups of boiling water – and to keep your lid on and your hand off.

Basically, once you pour your boiling water over the couscous and give it one gentle stir, all you need to do is put the lid on and let the couscous sit for 15-30 minutes. For best results use a fork to fluff the couscous up and that’s it – a delicious base for your meal is done!

The rest is very straightforward. The eggplant needs to be chopped into good size, 1 x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm), cubes and mushrooms need to be quartered. The cooking begins with browning onions, then adding eggplant and letting it brown for a bit, adding mushrooms and sprinkling some corn starch to bind everything together, especially mushrooms that tend to release a lot of liquid. Another important thing to do is deglaze the pot as a lot of great caramelized flavor will be stuck to the bottom of your pan. Here, just a little bit of vegetable stock will help.

Mushroom and Eggplant Stew
Mushroom and Eggplant Stew, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous

What you’ll need:

2 medium eggplants, cubed

2 10 oz. (284g) white button mushrooms, quartered

1 yellow onion, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

6 scallions, diced

3 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare couscous according to the box instructions, usually by mixing 1 cup of couscous with 2 cups of boiling water, putting the lid on the container and letting couscous soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
  2. Spray the bottom and the sides of a large Dutch oven or another heavy pot with a good lid with cooking spray. Turn the heat to medium high, add diced onions and scallions and brown for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute or so, letting the garlic release its aroma.
  4. Add eggplant and let it brown which will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the size of your pot.
  5. Lower heat to medium, and add mushrooms, corn starch and thyme. Sauté for 5-8 minutes. You want your mushrooms to be soft.
  6. Use the vegetable stock to deglaze the bottom of your pot and let everything cook for 5-10 minutes more, covered.
  7. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then plate the couscous and spread the mushroom and eggplant stew on top. Sprinkle with fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, and enjoy!
  8. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Healthy Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus Risotto, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Healthy Asparagus Risotto, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Spring is in the air, although perhaps not yet on the ground, and when it comes to spring vegetables asparagus is it! If you haven’t enjoyed asparagus before, do give it a try. Asparagus is very easy to make as it tastes really good roasted, or in a soup. It is also one of those risotto-friendly ingredients that blends well with creamy rice to add crunch and earthy flavor.

The path to a really lovely risotto goes through picking the right rice and cooking it with patience and with a lot of stirring. My go-to rice for risottos, as well as for sushi and other rice dishes that need a stickier rice variety, is medium grain rice. This is a point of difference with most risotto recipes out there as they recommend using short grain rice variety called arborio rice. Arborio rice will work really well in this recipe too, so if you have it on hand go for it. The kinds of rice that may not work well here are the long grain variety, like Jasmine or Basmati rice.

Cooking risotto does require lots of stirring, and one trick that I use is to add the liquid in batches to let the rice absorb it before adding more. It takes time, but at the end your risotto will be rich and creamy without needing any butter, cream or parmesan, all common risotto ingredients.

My risotto recipe does use on less-common ingredient, nutritional yeast. If you will be preparing vegan recipes often nutritional yeast is definitely worth getting because it is a common add-on that mimics dairy. In the case of this risotto nutritional yeast acts as a substitute for parmesan cheese.

Healthy Asparagus Risotto

What you’ll need:

1 pound (500 g) green asparagus, chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

1 cup medium grain or short grain rice

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2-3 cups vegetable stock or water

Cooking spray

Lemon zest, lemon juice (optional)

What you’ll do:

  1. Wash and trim the asparagus. I don’t peel it because I try to get spears that are thin and less woody, but if your asparagus is thick it will need peeling. Cut into approximately 1/2 in (1 to 1.5 cm) bits. You don’t need to be precise here but just think about what your final spoonful will look like and make sure your asparagus bits are small enough to be in harmony with the rice.
  2. Dice the onion into fine dice.
  3. Spray the bottom of a wide and shallow pan with cooking spray. Turn the heat to medium high. Add onions and cook until they soften and start to brown. This will take 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add asparagus and let cook for another 4-5 minutes with occasional stirring.
  5. Add the rice and stir well. Let cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Lower the heat down to medium low. Add 1 cup of liquid. Stir well and let the rice soak up the liquid. Give it time and repeat with more liquid. Risotto is definitely one of those dishes that people fear to approach and many articles and posts have been written about how to get to the perfect bowl of risotto and avoid mistakes. Fear not, because all you really need to do is hang around your pot, watch your rice and add the liquid when the rice tells you its thirsty. The amount of rice in this recipe can take anywhere between 2 and 4 cups of liquid. You also might want to start by adding one cup at a time for first 2 cups and then decrease to 1/4 cup of liquid at a time. Keep going until the rice is soft but not mushy, a shade softer than al dente.
  7. Turn the heat off and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Mix everything together and let stand for 5 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with lemon zest and a dash of lemon juice just before serving!
  9. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Roasted Red Peppers Chickpea Burgers

Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burger
Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

There are many things that every time I make then turn out perfect and exactly as I want them. Well, veggie burgers ain’t that! I’ve tried many veggie burger recipes and had failure after failure to reckon with.

The main issue with most of the veggie burger recipes I tried (and failed at) is that the burger consistency is just so delicate that they fall apart as they are cooked. One way to make the veggie burgers sturdier is to use a grain or a flour based binder, like bread crumbs, which I use in my Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes, or oats, which I used in my Meatless Meatballs. But, I really wanted to see if I can skip using those in a burger.

The recipe I came up with uses chickpeas – in all honestly because I bought one too many cans of chickpeas at a recent sale – and some roasted red peppers, for color and flavor. It also uses sunflower seeds that add a different texture, a bit of crunch, good amount of healthy fats and a good amount of iron, which is something that I keep in mind when cooking given that meat, a great source of dietary iron, is off my table. Additionally, a key ingredient that glues the burgers together is “flax egg”, which is flax meal soaked in water which turns it gooey and slimy, just like egg!  The mix comes together really quickly and all you need will be a stick (hand-held) blender or a food processor.

Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burger Mix
Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers Mix, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

The rest of the preparation does take a bit of time but really not much effort because you will let the fridge or a freezer do some work for you. Placing formed patties into a fridge or a freezer to firm up is officially the greatest tip ever. It helped my Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes, and I can now say it most certainly helped these Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers. I recommend keeping the patties in the freezer for quite a bit, until they are almost frozen on the edges, because these burgers are still gentle and soft while they cook. They do come together as they cool off and they will be great when you serve them, but you will need to be gentle and careful when you flip them so give the patties plenty of room.

Roasted Red Peppers Chickpea Burgers in the Pan
Roasted Red Peppers Chickpea Burgers in the Pan, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Leave the burgers to cool just for couple of minutes. As I mentioned, they will come out of the pan pretty soft and they will get firmer as they cool. You can serve these burgers any way you like your burgers served, in a bun or without. They have a delicious, just slightly sweet flavor from the roasted red peppers and the lovely browning they get as they cook.

Could you bake or broil these? I think that would work. Could you form patties, freeze them and then cook them a week later? I don’t see why not. But in that case I recommend thawing for a bit before letting them hit the griddle. Could these be grilled? Well, sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think so. But, this is not to say that I am not going to try. After all, experimenting is half the fun…

Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burger
Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Burgers

What you’ll need:

3 15.5 oz (439 g) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), low sodium

1/2 cup roasted red peppers, homemade or store bought (jarred in water)

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon flax meal

4 tablespoons hot water

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

    1. In a mixing/measuring cup mix flax meal and hot water. Stir well and let stand for 15-30 minutes.
    2. Place the chickpeas in a large colander or a strainer. Rinse well and drain.
    3. Put chickpeas, roasted red peppers, sunflower seeds, “flax eggs”, and all the spices in a large and deep mixing bowl (or the food processor if that’s what you are using instead of the stick blender) and blend until mostly blended. I like some texture to the burgers so I do leave some bigger chunks around, but follow your taste buds and preferences here.
    4. Line a flat serving platter or a tray with wax paper. Using your hands shape the burgers and place them on the tray. This amount of the burger mix makes about 8 good size burgers. Put the burgers in the freezer for 30-45 minutes of refrigerator for 2-3 hours. If using the freezer method make sure the patties are not frozen through but still soft in the middle and mostly solid at the edges. If you are using the refrigerator, the patties need to give some resistance when you poke them.
    5. Spray the bottom of your frying pan with cooking spray and heat over high heat. Put 3-4 burgers in at a time, how many depends on the size of your pan and it’s important to keep in mind that these burgers are on a softer side so need some extra space around them to help with moving around and flipping. Cook for 4-5 minutes on one side, carefully flip around and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
    6. Let the cooked burgers rest for 5 minutes or so, then serve!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cake, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
I discovered jackfruit about two months ago and can’t live without it ever since. I used it as my secret “chicken” in the Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, as well as a quick and easy taco filling. If you are new to jackfruit, here is a brief intro. The type of jackfruit that works for savory main dishes is called young green jackfruit and for most of us it will come in a can, usually packed in brine or water. There is also jackfruit in syrup, which is ripe and sweet – I did not taste that one yet, but it seems like it tastes like pineapple or grapes.

One thing I noticed over the last few weeks is that people are very much interested in trying jackfruit but they don’t really know where to find it. My source is a local Asian food market – the trip is fun and the price is right. But, I know that not everyone has a handy Asian food market nearby so in that case places like Amazon.com will help, or places like Whole Foods Market that carries products of The Jackfruit Company, which is a Boston-based company I just stumbled upon dedicated to promoting use of jackfruit and supporting farmers who grow it.  The Jackfruit Company site also includes a long list of interesting looking recipes, but no “Crab” Cakes – they don’t know what they are missing!

My jackfruit comes in a brine so I always begin by rinsing the jackfruit off really well and letting it drain for a while. Basically I leave it in the same strainer I wash it in over a bowl on the kitchen counter for at least 30 minutes, and then I also pat it dry. For this crab cake recipe, I recommend pulling the jackfruit pieces apart to make them roughly the same size crab chunks usually are. The two other ingredients that I enjoy in crab cakes are scallions (green onions) and red peppers, both of which I chop relatively finely.

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Finally, one ingredient that you simply can’t have a crab cake flavor without it is Old Bay Seasoning. One note of caution when using Old Bay Seasoning: if you are keeping your meals low salt you may want to skip this one and make your own seasoning mix, or use a smaller amount.

If you are wondering if there are any other tricks to this recipe, I would say that the really neat trick is to leave the cakes in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This will help them keep their shape while cooking and as a result you will have a plate of Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes that are delicious, and good lookers to boot!

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes Last Step, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g each) young green jackfruit in brine

6 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 large red bell pepper, finely diced

2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

3 tablespoons flax meal

6 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

Cooking spray

Fresh cilantro and lemon wedges for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Use flax meal and warm water to make vegan flax egg. What you need to do is in a small bowl or a measuring cup mix flax meal and water in 1:2 ratio (1 tablespoon flax meal plus 2 tablespoons warm water and scale up from there if you know you need more binding agent), mix well and let sit for 15-30 min.
  2. Drain and wash the jackfruit. Pull apart with your fingers into smaller pieces that are approximately size of crab meat used in crab cakes. Place into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Dice the red pepper into small dice and add to jackfruit.
  4. Chop scallions (white and green part) finely, add to the bowl.
  5. Add all the other ingredients including the flax egg and mix well.
  6. Line a tray with wax paper, form crab cakes with your hands, and set on the tray. This amount of jackfruit should yield 6-8 cakes. Leave the cakes in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
  7. Spray the bottom of the frying pan with cooking spray and heat it over the medium high to high heat. Place 3 to 4 crab cakes into the pan at a time. Make sure you leave enough room between the crab cakes as it will help you move them around and flip them over. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the second side.
  8. Sprinkle the Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes with some freshly chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew

Balkan Cabbage and Beans
Balkan Cabbage and Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Growing up in the Balkans cabbage and beans were unavoidable, especially during the winter months when each household used to have bins of dry beans and barrels of homemade sauerkraut. Although for the most part dishes that I grew up with kept cabbage and beans apart, one of my grandmother’s signature dishes was a cabbage and dark bean stew that was packed with both, as well as with piles of smoked meat. I do remember the taste with fondness, so I wondered if I can come up with a vegan way of making a Balkan style cabbage and bean stew.

This is a straightforward recipe with only a handful ingredients. I recommend using a Dutch oven, or a similar type of pot, and not being afraid of keeping it on relatively high heat to get the onions, which form the aromatic base of the stew, and Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, brown and caramelize. In looking for an ingredient that can replace smoked meat, I decided to go with this chorizo as I found it to work really well in the past, both in Mexican-style lasagnas, and in hearty soups.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The star of this stew is definitely cabbage and for a big pot you will need lots of it. In principle, you could grab few bags of shredded cabbage and that will work fine, but for best texture I recommend shredding the cabbage a bit more thickly. This time around I used both red and green cabbage, but traditionally this type of stew would use fresh green cabbage or even sauerkraut (don’t laugh until you try it – it is delicious!). And don’t freak out about the volume of cabbage, it will cook down.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One final trick to this stew is creating a bit of a roux to bind the stew together. Traditionally, the roux in the Balkans starts with lard and flour, and it often includes paprika. To keep this stew vegan and gluten-free, I used corn starch and instead of making the roux in a separate pan and pouring it over I simply sprinkled the corn starch and mixed in with the onion, chorizo and wilted cabbage before adding the beans and water.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 4
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 3, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Once you add corn starch, beans and water, as well as whole peppercorns and bay leaves, the rest is easy. You bring your pot to gentle simmer, put the lid on and leave it on low heat. In less than 30 minutes you have your perfect post of a not-so-traditional Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew which is best enjoyed hot with a piece of freshly baked Balkan cornbread (proja).

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew

What you’ll need:

1 medium head of green cabbage, anywhere between 1.5 to 2 lbs (700 to 900 g)

1/2 small head of red cabbage, anywhere between 0.5 to 0.75 lbs (250 to 350 g)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo

2 15.5 oz (439g) cans pinto beans

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 cups water

3 bay leaves

20 whole peppercorns

Cooking Spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Spray the bottom and the sides of your Dutch oven or a large pot with the cooking spray. Turn the heat on to medium high to high and add diced onions. Let the onions brown for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add soy chorizo (note: if using Trader Joe’s Soy chorizo please make sure to remove the casing before cooking because it is plastic and inedible!), and brown for additional 3-5 minutes.
  3. While onions and chorizo are cooking, shred the cabbage into thick shreds. Add the cabbage into the pot, stir well and let it cook down for 5-10 minutes with occasionally stirring.
  4. When the cabbage has gone down a bit, stir in corn starch. Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add beans that have been drained and rinsed. Mix well.
  6. Add bay leaves, peppercorns and water. Let the pot come to a simmer than lower the heat to low, put the lid on and let it cook for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with the piece of Balkan Style Cornbread!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017