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Tag Archive: Italian

Vegan Ricotta Cheese

July 7, 2014 Print this page

Creamy yet still maintaining some good texture, this vegan ricotta cheese is a delicious compliment to any Italian dish you make. It also tastes great on top of crackers for an afternoon snack! Inspired by this recipe.

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min (plus soaking overnight)
Cooking Time
Total Time 5 min
Yield Approximately 2 cups

1 3/4 cups of raw cashews, soaked overnight

1/2 cup of water

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the cashews with the water, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt. Pulse until everything is well-blended but NOT smooth, about 1 minute. It should be the texture of “real” ricotta cheese and there should be no big pieces of cashew. (That’s just gross.) 

Set aside until ready to use.


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Spinach Cannelloni (gluten-free + vegan)

July 6, 2014 1 Comment Print this page

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Do you see all of that cheese in there, from the ricotta inside to the mozzarella on top?! There is no way this thing is vegan.

But it is.

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That’s right. I made not one, but two different kinds of vegan cheese for this recipe. Sheer madness. And you don’t miss the dairy or regular pasta at all in this cannelloni: it’s just as cheesy, indulgent, and flavorful as its heavy Italian counterpart. The best part is that after you’re done with dinner, you’ll feel full, but not greasy or sluggish like after sitting down to a decadent ristorante meal. That’s the magic of cashew cheese: tastes great and feels great going down.

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Originally, I wanted to make stuffed shells…but I couldn’t find gluten-free or even whole wheat ones anywhere, and I looked at three different supermarkets! Sure, there were brown rice shells on Amazon, but I wasn’t willing to shell out $11 for a meager box of pasta when it would cost a third as much in the store.

Instead, I re-strategized and picked up a box of brown rice lasagna at Whole Foods and sought out to make cannelloni, one of my mom’s favorites when she and my dad go out for Italian food. I haven’t eaten the “real thing” in years, so I thought it would be fun to try.

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A word of caution: this recipe does take some time to assemble. There are lots of components, and proper timing is crucial. I recommend making the two vegan cheeses and the tomato sauce beforehand for quick assembly on a weeknight; if it’s a weekend or you have some free time, by all means do this all in one sitting.

But I promise you…the result is so worth it. Yum.

Ready to become an Italian-yet-vegan god/goddess? Let’s get started.

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We’ll first start off with this simple tomato sauce: in a medium saucepan, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add 1/2 of an onion, diced finely. Saute until slightly browned, about 5 minutes, then add 1 large clove of crushed garlic. Stir to incorporate and add 1 tablespoon of dried basil, 1 tablespoon of oregano, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, along with a generous pinch of salt.

To the onion, garlic, and herbs, pour in 1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 1 14 ounce can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste. I love the combination of regular and fire-roasted because it gives the sauce a little heat without it being overwhelming, and it nicely compliments the tomato flavor.

Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes, then taste. Chances are, your sauce might taste a little acidic; I recommend adding a pinch of unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar just to balance it out. Sounds weird, but it really works!

In the blender or with an immersion blender, blend the sauce until few bits of onion remain. Set aside until ready to use.

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Meanwhile, rinse and dry off the equivalent of approximately two cups of spinach. If you got big leaves, chop it up a bit–if you got baby spinach, don’t bother.

Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan, and when hot, add the spinach. Saute just to slightly wilt, only a minute or so, then immediately remove from the heat. Transfer to a bowl or plate and let cool to room temperature–you can speed up the process by putting it in the fridge.

While the spinach cools, make the ricotta “cheese” inspired by this recipe: in the bowl of a food processor, blend 1 3/4 cups of soaked raw cashews with 1/2 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pulse until everything is well-blended but NOT smooth, about 1 minute. It should be the texture of “real” ricotta cheese and there should be no big pieces of cashew. (That’s just gross.)

Once your spinach is cool, place it over a fine mesh strainer in the sink and squeeze out as much water as you possibly can. Then, transfer it to a cutting board and chop into smaller pieces. Stir the spinach into the ricotta “cheese” and set aside.

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Now is a good time to bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once bubbling, add in 12 gluten-free lasagna noodles–I used brown rice because I tolerate it well and there are just three ingredients (rice, rice bran, and water). Use whatever noodles float your boat–or substitute thinly sliced zucchini, if you’d like.

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Here’s the trick: cook your pasta for ONLY five minutes. This ensures that it’s pliable but still not cooked on the inside. Your cannelloni will be spending 30 minutes in a hot oven, so you want to leave the pasta very al dente to prevent it from becoming a mushy mess later on.

Once the five minutes are up, strain the pasta and rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside for now.

If you want to, make some vegan mozzarella “cheese.” You can follow my recipe here with step-by-step photos here.

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It’s now time to assemble! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Take out a 9 x 13 dish and pour (approximately) 1 cup of your prepared tomato sauce on the bottom. Use a spatula to spread it out.

To roll the cannelloni, take one lasagna noodle and lie it flat on a clean surface. Add a large scoop (about 2-3 tablespoons) of the prepared vegan ricotta “cheese” and use the back of a spoon to spread it out. It should cover 3/4 of the noodle, not the entire thing.

Then, using a good amount of torque, roll up the noodle with the filling inside. Place it seam-side down in the dish with the tomato sauce and repeat with the rest of the lasagna noodles.

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Please ignore the iPad in the back.

The cannelloni should fit snuggly in the dish. That’s what you want! Cover the top with another cup and a half of tomato sauce, then use a small spoon or ice cream scoop to put the vegan mozzarella “cheese” over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling. To get the cheese on top to be golden-brown, brush it with a little olive oil and put it under the broiler for a few minutes.

Voila! Hard work, but oh my gosh, INCREDIBLE.

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What is your favorite Italian dish? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Vegan Pesto Pizza

May 14, 2014 Print this page

Oh yes I did. I made completely vegan and gluten-free pizza. And it actually tastes like real pizza. Real cheesy, doughy, crispy pizza that you’d get at a pizza shop. I don’t tell lies, people. This pizza is AMAZING. Probably the best pizza I’ve ever made at home, regardless of gluten and dairy content.  Adapted from Zenbelly!

Ingredients

Prep Time 2 hr
Cooking Time 10 min
Total Time 2 hr 10 min
Yield 4-6 servings (2 medium pies)

2 tablespoons of yeast

1/2 cup of warm (but not hot) water

2 tablespoons of maple syrup (or your preferred liquid sweetener)

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of blanched almond flour

1 1/2 cups of tapioca powder

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil (or melted coconut oil), plus more to finish

3/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

VEGAN MOZZARELLA CHEESE

TRADITIONAL PESTO

Basil and oregano, to garnish

Directions

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast with the warm water and maple syrup. Whisk just to combine, then let everything sit and hang out for 10 minutes. If the yeast doesn’t get all bubbly, toss it out and start over again.

Meanwhile, stir together the blanched almond flour, tapioca powder, and salt, breaking up big clumps of almond flour with your hands.

Pour the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and also add the olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes until everything is just combined, scraping the bowl down once halfway through.

Cover with a warm or slightly-damp kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put a pizza stone in there, if you have one.

Doing the best you can, divide the ball of risen dough in the bowl into two pieces. Take one piece and put it on a large sheet of parchment paper. Using damp hands–water will prevent the dough from sticking to you–spread the dough into about a ten inch ball. If a hole appears, use a little water to smush it back together again.

Put the dough circle on the pizza stone WITH the parchment paper and bake until just beginning to turn color, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out another piece of parchment paper and shape the second half of dough. When the first crust comes out, put the second one in.

Now, spread half of the pesto on the first crust. Using a small spoon or ice cream scooper, make the “cheese” into balls and drop them all around the pizza to your liking.

Bake at 500 for another two minutes, then take the pizza out of the oven and turn it on broil. Slide the pizza off of the parchment paper and put it on a heavy cookie sheet. (Parchment will burn in the oven, as I learned the hard way.) Brush the top of the slightly-set “cheese” with a little olive oil, and broil until the cheese begins to turn golden brown, about three minutes. (It should bubble, too!) It’s OK if the crust gets a little burnt–it tastes better that way!

Repeat the same with the other crust and remaining pesto and cheese. Sprinkle with fresh basil and oregano before serving.


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Traditional Pesto

May 13, 2014 Print this page

Always best with in-season basil, but still good year-round. Feel free to substitute mint or cilantro for new flavor combinations!

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time
Total Time 5 min
Yield About 1 cup of pesto

2 cups of fresh basil (or mint/cilantro/other leafy herb)

1/2 cup of pistachios (or nut of choice)

1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast

The juice of 1 lemon

1 clove of garlic

1/2 cup of olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1-2 tsp sugar or maple syrup (optional)

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 30-60 times to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste. This is obviously best with fresh, in-season basil; if you find your basil is very bitter, I recommend adding a little sugar or maple syrup to cut it a bit.


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Pesto Pizza + Vegan Mozzarella Cheese (gluten-free, grain-free)

May 12, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Oh yes I did. I made completely vegan and gluten-free pizza.

And it actually tastes like real pizza. Real cheesy, doughy, crispy pizza that you’d get at a pizza shop. I don’t tell lies, people. This pizza is AMAZING. Probably the best pizza I’ve ever made at home, regardless of gluten and dairy content.

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The dough stretches. The cheese stretches. The dough gets golden-brown. The cheese gets golden-brown. It’s incredible that there’s no gluten, dairy, or eggs to hold it all together. But it works.

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I was sitting around my kitchen one Wednesday evening, procrastinating on chemistry or writing an essay and instead thinking about food, like I usually do. Unexpectedly, a little birdie whispered in my ear, repeating one word over and over again: “Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.” And when I get an idea stuck in my head, I drop everything and hit my cookbooks and the internet. I wanted to create a crispy, chewy pizza, but one without dairy and more “authentic” than my Zucchini Pizza, which, while beloved by my family, is basically a thin, crispy frittata with lots and lots of cheese. After much research, I decided to go with adapting a recipe from Zenbelly, which I’ve heard rave reviews about. For the cheese, I gave this one a shot and was pleasantly surprised by the results; naturally, I again made a few adjustments of my own to create a very, very “cheese-like” final product. And who says eating vegan can’t be fun AND delicious?

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As you can see, the crust is very brown: a homage to my favorite pizza ever from Pepe’s, a Connecticut restaurant that’s famous across the state for its almost-blackened, wonderfully crunchy base for its pizzas.

Pepe’s pizza is amazing. It doesn’t look fancy–they don’t even slice their pies into even-sized pieces–but it tastes like heaven landed in your mouth. Let me elaborate: one time, when my camp took us there after going to a museum, three of my friends and I demolished an entire large pizza, which is ENORMOUS. (Mind you, we were only twelve years old at the time. That’s a lot of pizza for pre-teen girls.) It was that good. I think we all had stomach aches for the rest of the week, but it still  was worth it. That crust. That cheese. That sauce. Mmmm…

Of course, I haven’t had Pepe’s pizza in years–it would probably make me both psychologically and physically sick if I ate that amount of pizza now.

Not this pizza!

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What I love about this pizza is that it’s very satisfying but doesn’t make you feel gassy, give you heartburn, or leave an unpleasant feeling in your stomach. I attribute it to the cashews: while dairy often gives me an adverse reaction, nut-based non-dairy products don’t cause me any gastronomical stress.

Instead of the traditional tomato sauce, I decided to make a thick, flavorful pesto to both lighten up the pizza for the spring and summer months and get in some greens. By the way, did you know that just 1/2 cup of basil (about 1/4 of my pesto recipe) provides almost 100% of your daily vitamin K, which helps with both blood clotting and bone health? That’s a pretty awesome nutritional benefit from eating pizza, if I do say so myself.

In the summer months, I look forward to making this pizza with really fresh vegetables and herbs for an even more amazing flavor. (Nothing tastes quite like fresh-picked basil in August.) But for now, I’ll still enjoy this delicious circle of heaven with the produce I can find at Whole Foods.

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Are you ready to see how easy (and delicious) homemade gluten-free and vegan pizza can be? I hope so! Let’s get started.

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In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 2 tablespoons of yeast with 1/2 cup of warm (but not hot) water, and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (or your preferred liquid sweetener of choice). Whisk just to combine, then let everything sit and hang out for 10 minutes. If the yeast doesn’t get all bubbly (like the picture shown above), toss it out and start over again.

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Meanwhile, stir together 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of blanched almond flour, 1 1/2 cups of tapioca powder, and 1 1/2 TEASPOONS of salt, breaking up big clumps of almond flour with your hands.

Please remember to use teaspoons instead of tablespoons. In my second trial of this recipe, I added 1 1/2 tablespoons, making for a very very salty crust. It was still delicious (my dad and I thought it tasted quite like a pretzel), but less salty is always better.

Pour the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and also add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or melted coconut oil and 3/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes until everything is just combined, scraping the bowl down once halfway through.

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Cover with a warm or slightly-damp kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the “mozzarella” cheese which, surprisingly, tastes exactly like the real thing. Scary and cool at the same time.

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In the blender, combine 1/4 cup of cashews (soaked overnight) with 1 cup of hot water, 3 tablespoons of tapioca powder, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Once everything is combined, transfer the cashew liquid to a small non-stick saucepan.

Stir the mixture continuously over medium-high heat. If it starts to vigorously bubble or burn, decrease the heat to medium or medium-low. Within a few minutes, the “cheese” should start to thicken and will become very hard to stir. Just keep going and eventually, the mixture will look quite a lot like melted cheese. (It will feel like it, too, if you touch it!)

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Look at that stretch. That’s the power of tapioca for you!

Set the “cheese” aside until pizza-making time comes around. Now is also a good time to make the pesto.

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In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups of fresh basil with 1/2 cup of pistachios (or your favorite nut), 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, the juice of 1 medium lemon, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Pulse about 30-60 times to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste. This is obviously best with fresh, in-season basil; if you find your basil is very bitter, I recommend adding a little sugar or maple syrup to cut it a bit.

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At this point, your dough should be about ready to get rolling. That means you should preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put a pizza stone in there, if you have one.

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Pizza stones are wonderful tools to have around. As you can tell by this picture, we actually have two, but I took out the smaller one because the big one is a bit unwieldy for a person of five feet tall with short arms. My dad originally bought them for bread-baking, but we don’t do much of that nowadays.

But for this pizza, a pizza stone is your secret to getting a crispy, dark brown, restaurant-style crust. If you go to an old-school (good-quality) pizzeria, you’ll see that the pizzas are put directly on the floor of the oven which, if well-seasoned, imparts wonderful flavor and makes the crust a beautiful color and gives it a great texture. The pizza stone uses the same technique: that stone absorbs a LOT of heat, and that heat goes right to your pizza crust. That’s what you want.

Back to the crust itself.

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Doing the best you can, divide the ball of risen dough in the bowl into two pieces. Take one piece and put it on a large sheet of parchment paper. Using damp hands–water will prevent the dough from sticking to you–spread the dough into about a ten inch ball. If a hole appears, use a little water to smush it back together again.

Put the dough circle on the pizza stone WITH the parchment paper and bake until just beginning to turn color, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out another piece of parchment paper and shape the second half of dough. When the first crust comes out, put the second one in.

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Now, spread half of the pesto on the first crust. Using a small spoon or ice cream scooper, make the “cheese” you made earlier into balls and drop them all around the pizza to your liking. (This one was very cheesy–the other one I made only had a few dollops!)

Bake at 500 for another two minutes, then take the pizza out of the oven and turn it on broil. Slide the pizza off of the parchment paper and put it on a heavy cookie sheet. (Parchment will burn in the oven, as I learned the hard way.) Brush the top of the slightly-set “cheese” with a little olive oil, and broil until the cheese begins to turn golden brown, about three minutes. (It should bubble, too!) It’s OK if the crust gets a little burnt–it tastes better that way!

Repeat the same with the other crust and remaining pesto and cheese. Sprinkle with fresh basil and oregano before serving.

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I had forgot how much I love(d) pizza.

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What is your favorite pizza topping combination? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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