Vegan Queso Tastes Right, Feels Good

Behold, a dairy-free cheese recipe you might want to make often. Tastes authentic without making you feel bloated from dairy. Finally.

It’s a spicy queso, with the main ingredient cauliflower, emulsified with cashew butter. Like most contemporary recipes my source calls for fresh. If you’re cooking the plant to death, why not use at-least-as-nutritious frozen?

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Wholemeal Tomato Soup

My "Wholemeal Tomato Soup"Tomato soup, rather like you remember, can be yours, homemade, vegan and protein-y. Healthy eaters do miss its grown-up convenience and childhood nostalgia flavor and texture. If you read the ingredients and nutrition levels of canned tomato soup, however, you will definitely want an alternative. Even the seemingly better choices of canned soup are pretty salty etc.

For being from scratch, it’s pretty quick, as it’s a pantry dish. To My Beloved and me, it’s real close to that ol’ heat-and-eat flavor but with full confidence in its quality.

“Wholemeal” is a repurposing of the British word for what Americans would call whole grain. Here it means I’ve tucked in healthy amounts of plant protein with little impact on flavor or texture, to make a whole meal, nutritionally.

Healthy red lentils are more orange but when cooked turn yellow.
Red lentils lose color when cooked. Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • 1-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil or salad oil)
  • 1 medium-large onion, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (about 1/4 can)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (2-3 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4-6 cups water
  • 1 28 oz (large) can tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole), undrained
  • 1-2 teaspoons vegetable broth powder
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs (such as Italian blend or tarragon or basil)
  • 1/2 cup dry red lentils, check for bad ones or dirt or gravel then rinse OR 1 14-15 oz can cannellini beans, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, to start with

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What’s the Deal, Dill

Soup, cooled, is a smoothie. A smoothie warm is soup.

This blog in recent years has focused more on food. Those mainly have covered recipes. A few posts have explored the thinking, how my preferences developed.

Pureeing soups as a trend began the decade before last. They’re still hard to avoid. I like to see then eat a multitude of colors, textures and shapes. Can’t tell the carrots from the broccoli when you whiz everything down to pulp.

There are exceptions, like potato-leek soup. Both were among the first homegrown produce available at the Fayetteville Farmers Market weeks ago. Leeks pack a lot of onion flavor with little bite. Yet even the tender white part of the stalk is fibrous. Whirring up helps. Cooking in red lentils or adding canned white cannellini beans hide plant protein with a minute of an immersion stick blender, add creamy body, too.

Served at room temperature or cooler it’s called vichyssoise, oo-la-la. I spruced up leftovers with kale, simmered then re-pureed. That’s when I beheld a vegan green power smoothie.

I had been mocking smoothies all this time. I did enjoy Tropical Smoothie last year,  been meaning to go back.

) ) ) )

Jar of pickles illustration from openclipart.orgWhile no pickle freak, a jar in the fridge is handy for snacking. Finally finished that jar a while ago. It and the one before that though just weren’t as tasty, and they were from top companies, too.

Puckery cukes are tricky to find in my city’s new Whole Foods Market. What look like them are labeled “fermented cucumbers.” This no doubt is due to renewed interest in the benefits of kraut, kimchi and the like — as opposed to brining in salt or soaking in vinegar. But I sought a regular affordable reliable pickle.

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Canopy Cassoulet

Logo of Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a refugee resettlement serviceAs a volunteer with the refugee resettlement group Canopy Northwest Arkansas, I made a family’s first meal in their new home.

The mom and dad, ages 30 and 28, have been living in camps since fleeing Democratic Republic of  Congo in 2003. Their son just turned 6. Who knows what they’ve been eating all this time. A recipe, a north African-style tajine stew that my wife and I enjoyed a couple of times in recent months, made the most sense.

Did they like it? The adults were nearly beyond exhaustion, and there was a language barrier. They ate silently but heartily. The volunteers who brought them to the apartment from the airport wanted the recipe, it smelled and looked so good.

The boy? For a long time, his folks couldn’t tear him away from the toy trucks the group had waiting for him. Continue reading

Vegan Frittata

My chickpea frittata with flash-cooked bok choy.
My chickpea frittata with flash-cooked bok choy.

ForksOverKnives.com, the website of the 2011 documentary, piqued my interest a few months ago with a recipe for “Chickpea Omelet.” No, it’s not lumpy with garbanzos. The dish is a savory pancake using flour ground from the bean.

The chickpea flour sometimes is found in the gluten-free section of supermarkets, but it always has a shelf spot in Indian or other Asian groceries. There it’s also known as gram or besan flour.

Nor can the beans sit still with just two names, as they’re also known as chana or ceci.

Gram now has a spot in my pantry. A 2-pound bag costs under $10, even the organic version, at my area’s main South Asian market.

I’d been missing frittatas and omelets since going vegan in spring 2013. Scrambled tofu doesn’t appeal. (I am a 95 percent vegan — rarely, I’ll order huevos rancheros at a TexMex cafe, and I never interrogate any host on whether their cookies or cakes contain milk and eggs because they likely will.)

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