Almond Milk, and Soft Cheese

My youngest daughter never got into drinking cow juice, and shifted to drinking almond milk at a pretty young age. This version doesn’t taste particularly almond-like, but if you want your milk to taste more of almonds, use those with the skins still on. We found that the soft cheese was better made from the skinless slivered almonds, so which you choose depends on what you’re really after. This milk isn’t sweet; we don’t think that it needs it, although you certainly could add some after straining if you wanted to.

The soft cheese needs the oil adding to it. For some reason, it brings out the flavors and makes the texture smoother and richer.

This recipe is quick and easy to make (once the almonds have soaked).

For the almond milk:

  • 1/2 cup slivered or raw almonds , soaked overnight then rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • small pinch of salt for the almond milk

For the soft cheese:

  • almond meal left over from milk production
  • 1/8 tsp lactic acid
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chickpea miso
  • 1 tbsp neutral flavor oil

Remove the almond skins (if present) by pinching each one between two fingers. The nut meat will shoot out like a lemon pip. Drain and rinse the almonds.

Put the almonds in a high speed blender with half the measured water for a minute, and blend until smooth.

Line a sieve/chinois with muslin over a clean container, and pour the almond mixture through the muslin to remove the almond pulp. Use the remaining water to rinse the blender out into the muslin. Leave to drain for a couple of minutes, then twist the muslin briefly to squeeze out the remaining milk.

Add the salt and any optional sweetener for the milk to the milk, and store in the refrigerator until needed.

Scrape the almond pulp out of the muslin into a bowl. Add the remaining cheese ingredients. Beat together with a fork; if the mixture is too dry, add a small amount of white wine or almond milk. This will keep in the fridge for at least 2-3 days.

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

I got the idea for this appetizer from P.F. Chang’s restaurant. Unfortunately, their version is not gluten free, so I haven’t had it for years. My version is ridiculously easy to make. When I first made it, I used 3 tbsp of gluten free soy sauce, which was verging on too salty, even for me …. but if you like salt, and want that flavor kick, then 3 tbsps works well; these can also be added to salads to provide salty, tangy highlights, if you do that.

… and if you’re interested, this total recipe works out at 360kcals plus that needed for lettuce (or peppers etc.) that’s used for scooping.

Grlled tofu

Serves 3 as an appetizer

1 (~14 oz) packet of firm tofu, drained
2 tbsp Braggs Aminos (or other gluten free soy sauce)
1 tbsp Hoisin Sauce (check for gluten first)
1/8 tsp ground ginger
cooking spray or oil for the pan
1 iceberg/cos/romaine lettuce

Slice the tofu into 1/4″ thick cubes.

Pour the Braggs into a large bowl, stir in the hoisin sauce and ginger, and then add the cubed tofu. Stir to coat. You can check the seasoning at this point.

Pre-heat the broiler/grill (not the BBQ variety).

Spray a baking sheet with the cooking spray (or smear with the oil) and tip the tofu out onto it, spread so that the layer is only one cube deep.

Put the tofu ~5″ under the grill/broiler and cook until browned and chewy, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and encourage even browning. (~10-15 mins)

Serve in a bowl with an iceberg or romaine/cos lettuce on the side. Eat by spooning a small amount of the tofu into an individual lettuce leaf, and eat as finger food.

Almost Instant Vegan Cheese for Pizza

browned-pizza-slice

When the urge for pizza strikes in our household, it’s usually a fair rush to get it cooked and on the table … but that’s really only possible if the cheese, and tomato sauce are already made! The second easiest option for making pizza (after opening a jar of ready made pizza sauce and a packet of store bought cheese), is to have both available as blender foods. This cheese goes well with my instant pizza sauce.

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice OR 1/4 tsp lactic acid
1/4 tsp chickpea miso (or other light colored miso)

UNLESS you have a high speed blender, soak the cashews in water for about an hour before draining and continuing with the recipe.

Place all ingredients in a blender along with 12 fl oz (1 1/2 cups) water, and blend until completely smooth (~20 seconds).

Scrape the mix into a saucepan, and cook until bubbling, stirring frequently (especially as it starts to thicken) to prevent burning. Initially, the cheese will thicken where it touches the bottom of the pan, and will look a little lumpy, but just keep stirring and that will sort itself out.

Spoon dollops over the pizza as required, and brown the top under a grill/broiler.

Mushroom and Pecan Pate

Pate in lettuce

Vegan Mushroom Pate

This is a seriously easy recipe which makes a pretty sophisticated dish. It’s quick to make and then sits in the fridge happily for a few days, which makes it excellent for dinner parties. The texture starts off a bit fluffy, but firms up nicely after a day or two, giving that firm, squishable texture that pate has. The flavor is deeply savory.

Both my husband and I were quite taken with this, but neither of my kids liked it. I think their palates are too young, and having always been vegetarian, they’re not used to the deeper notes that you’d get from a meat pate, so I’ll keep this for the adults! If you want a more kid friendly mushroom pate, try this one.

1 tbsp garlic infused oil (or olive oil and 2 cloves minced garlic)
8 oz mushrooms, cleaned
1/2 tsp dried thyme
5oz firm tofu
4 oz (1 cup) pecans
2 tbsp Braggs or other GF soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper

Break the mushrooms into rough chunks, and process in a food processor until roughly minced.

Add the remaining ingredients, and process to a coarse pate (a few small pieces of nut are OK).

Decorated pate top

Decorated pate top

Press into an oven proof serving bowl (~6″x6″ and at least 2″ deep), and optionally decorate with thin slices of another mushroom pressed into the surface, and cook at 350F for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and firm up completely, and chill uncovered, preferably for a day or two, until required.

Serve stuffed in lettuce leaves or celery sticks, on toast, or in sandwiches.

Mushroom Pate

Daughter #2 loves mushrooms. She also likes a bit of variation in her school lunches, so I have introduced this recipe to her repertoire. Mushroom pate is pretty quick to make, and squishes down nicely in sandwiches. It’s a lightly peppery, distinctly mushroom-y affair, good enough to serve to guests, but not to those who don’t like mushrooms.

Pate on toast

Vegetarian, mushroom pate, here served on teff toast.

1 tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 large (or 1/2 a medium) onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
5oz firm tofu
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tbsp mushroom powder
1 tbsp Braggs or other GF soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper

Sauté the onion in the margarine for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms and thyme, and sprinkle with the 1/4 tsp salt to draw out their water. Once the onions are cooked, and the mushrooms are softened, add the garlic to warm through.

Put all ingredients into a food processor, and pulse until a rough paste has been attained.

Return the pate to the pan, and cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes to drive off excess moisture, stirring frequently.

Check for seasoning, press into serving bowls, and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Crumbly, Tangy, Dairy Free Feta

Moist and tangy, this faux feta is very quick to make, and strongly flavored like the dairy cheese. I like it best on crackers and tortilla chips, though in a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes is good, too.

The rationale behind this recipe is to simmer the tofu in liquid for at least 5 minutes, so that its texture firms up and the harsher vinegar notes are driven off, and to infuse the tofu with the flavorings in the process. It then needs to cool (and continue drying) to firm up.

My miso is a bit lumpy so I quickly blend it with the other ingredients to make a homogenous liquid before adding to the tofu, but if yours is smooth already, you can just whisk the flavoring ingredients together.

The miso I use has a light color, and a rich winey flavor. It isn’t particularly salty, so you may need to adjust the recipe to suit your miso.

DSC_0009

This quantity makes 1 – 2 servings of faux feta. If you have cause to increase the batch size, make sure to use a large frying pan so the juices have plenty of room to evaporate.

1 tbsp chickpea or other light colored miso
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp margarine (I use Earth Balance)
4 – 5 oz firm tofu

DSC_0001Blend the miso, salt, vinegar, and nutritional yeast together with 4 fl oz (1/2 cup) of water.

Heat the margarine in a small frying pan, then roughly mash the tofu with the back of a fork into the margarine.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, and simmer until the water evaporates and the tofu starts to sizzle in the fat. Drying FetaAvoid breaking up the tofu lumps too much.

Fry for a couple of minutes to drive off any excess water, stirring continuously, then turn off the heat.

Scoop all together to form a block, and leave in the pan to cool and solidify. (~1/2 hour) Pack into a small container and store in the fridge as necessary.

Cashew Mozzarella

Mild in flavor and close textured, this browns nicely in the oven, and tastes great with basil and fresh tomatoes in an almond bread sandwich.

You’ll note that I’ve used both xanthan gum and tapioca starch in this recipe. The xanthan gum is used to make it stiff, and the tapioca gives it a bit of wobble and that knife-clinginess that fresh mozzarella has. This recipe went though a fair number of revisions to get to this stage. I’ve had the taste pretty much where I wanted it for a while, but the texture hasn’t been right. The last two versions, however, have been very interesting! This current version with 3 tsps of agar, makes a sliceable cheese, somewhat softer than the partially dried stuff that comes in plastic wrap, but more manageable than fresh mozzarella. 2 tsps of agar makes something more akin to fresh mozzarella which sticks to the fingers a bit in a lick-able sort of fashion.

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1/2 cup raw cashews
3 tsps agar powder (use 2 tsps for fresh mozzarella, 3 for sliceable)
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chickpea miso
2 tsp nutritional yeast

Soak the cashews in water for at least 1 hour. (Not needed if you have a high speed blender.)

Put the agar in a medium size saucepan along with 1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz) of water, and bring slowly to a simmer over a medium high heat, stirring frequently, to dissolve the agar.

While the agar is dissolving, put the drained nuts, salt, starch, vinegar, lemon juice, miso, and yeast into a blender, along with 1/2 a cup (4 fl oz) of water, and blend until smooth.
molten mozzarella

Once the agar has come up to the boil and thickened, add the smooth contents of the blender, and stir vigorously until combined.

Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring or whisking to prevent sticking, and cook for about 2 minutes until the starch has cooked and thickened.

Lightly oil a 1 pint container, scrape the hot cheese into it, and refrigerate until cold and firm (~2 hours), or drizzle straight over your pizza which is waiting to go into the oven.

Gruyere Style Cheese Spread (and Pasta Sauce)

I had a flurry of enthusiasm for making faux cheese last week. My girls had reminded me that they liked the faux cheddar that I sometimes make (and not often enough, allegedly), and I’ve had a draft recipe for an appetizer requiring feta for about a year now, just waiting for me to figure the recipe for the feta before I post it. I’ve just about developed something that I like, but in the meantime, I had a go at something to replace Gruyere.

Pasta with Marinated Artichokes and Gruyere Sauce

A rich and delectable dish for entertaining. Pasta with marinated artichokes and rich ‘gruyere’ sauce (skip the cooking stage for the cheese).

The initial batch I made was with all water (too bland), so the second batch was made with all wine (too strongly flavored), but the next batch made with 1/2 water and 1/2 wine was great. I didn’t get as far as adjusting the texture to firm it up, as I couldn’t think of a use that I’d have for Gruyere where a spread wouldn’t work (and some where soft was preferable).

Gruyere cheez spread

GF baguette loaded up with vegan Gruyere cheese spread, cooked until thickened to a paste.

Like Gruyere, this is a moderately strong tasting cheese, and the initial flavor is very similar to the dairy variety. The aftertaste, however, has a bit of a tang due to the wine that isn’t present in regular Gruyere, but that can be driven off, to a certain extent, by cooking it. As an erstwhile lover of cheese fondue, I have to admit to liking the tang, and I’m not in a hurry to get rid of it!

Daughter #2 consumed quite a quantity of this stuff on crackers, so it’s been put through its paces! Personally, I like it on pasta. About 1 tbsp of cheese per ounce of dried pasta, stirred into the drained, cooked pasta for an almost instant supper. If you figure on any other ways to use this, do let me know.

8 oz (2 scant cups) blanched almonds
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
1 tbsp dark colored miso (I used Sweet Tasting Brown Rice Miso)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) melted coconut oil

Put the almonds and dry white wine in a blender, along with 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) water, and leave to soak for at least a couple of hours.
Add remaining ingredients, and blend until completely smooth. This might take a couple of minutes or so, and if your blender can’t handle such a dry mixture, add a tablespoon or two of water, which you can then cook off.

DSC_0014

Texture of cooked cheese.

If your mixture is a bit thin, scrape it into a small saucepan, and heat, stirring frequently until the mixture turns stiff like cream cheese.

Adjust flavoring if necessary.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

 

Pineapple and Mango Guacamole

Pineapple GuacamoleA couple of weeks ago, we had a storm which brought down a whole heap of avocados off the trees, and once avocados are off the trees they start to ripen which means that I’ve had to think of ways to have the whole family eating plenty of them in a hurry. None of us has got bored of the Mediterranean Guacamole, yet, but I did run out of tomatoes yesterday, and so hunted around for other avocado recipes. I found loads of recipes on the Calavo website, but many of them included cream or meat, so I took some ideas and played with them, until this variation on a theme popped out: an interesting mixture of mildly hot and sweet, all tempered by rich avocado. Note that the amount of chili added depends on how hot your chili is. Add enough so you can just taste the heat.

1/2 cup pineapple pieces (frozen & defrosted works fine)
1/2 cup mango pieces (frozen and defrosted works fine)
1 cups avocado flesh (~4 avocados)
1 tbsp minced jalapeno chili (or to taste)
2 tsp lemon/lime juice
1 tbsp minced onion

Chop (by hand or in a blender) the pineapple and mango pieces into small pieces.

Stir all the ingredients together with a metal spoon (start with 1/3 of the chili), chopping any large pieces of the avocado into small chunks with the side of the spoon.

Check seasoning (adding more chili as desired), and serve with corn tortilla chips, or wrapped in GF tortillas.

Orange Salad or Dipping Vinegar

A lot of my salad recipes call for Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar as sold by Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, much of the world is deprived of my favorite store, so I decided to mix up a more accessible alternative. I asked daughter #1 to taste test the two side by side (to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself that the mixture tasted great), and her reaction was “Wow!”

Orange Salad VinegarThe mixture is thicker than regular vinegar, but this is not a disadvantage when making salad dressings. The orange flavor is quite pronounced and fresher than the original, but the clean cutting properties of the vinegar are preserved. Although I figured this as an alternative to vinegar for salad dressings, it would work really well as a dip for bread cubes, too, much as you get balsamic vinegar and olive oil in fancy Italian restaurants … though you’d have to double or triple the recipe!

Makes about 2-3 tbsp of ‘vinegar’.

1 medium size orange, juiced
1 tbsp white salad vinegar (such as white balsamic)

Thick, reduced orange juice.

Thick, reduced, orange juice.

Boil up the orange juice in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes until reduced to about 2 tbsp in volume and thick enough to leave a trail when the spatula is dragged through it.

Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the white salad vinegar. Use within a day or two in salad dressings and such like.

Cashew and Roasted Pepper Dip

Rich, zesty, and remarkably easy to make, this went down really well with my brood, serving the same purpose as hummus. In keeping with that, I served it with freshly made GF pita bread.

I’ve also served it up (slackened off with a small amount of water) with GF pasta, and for some reason that went down well, too. It mitigates my concerns about the low nutritional value of the pasta, so my girls get something they like, and I get something I approve of!

Golden Pepper and cashew dip

Cashew and pepper dip made with yellow peppers. Yesterday’s batch was made with red peppers, and was quite distinctly red. One of my daughters suggested that I should make both kinds and swirl them together. I think she was thinking about ice-cream!

1 tin cannellini / garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup raw cashews
2 roasted red/yellow peppers, deseeded (jarred is fine)
4 cloves garlic
1 lemon, zest and juice, OR juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt
2 shakes of cayenne pepper (or fresh chili of choice)

Blend everything together until smooth (a high speed blender like a Vitamix makes light work of this). Refrigerate until needed. Serve with tortilla chips, or pita breads.

Sun Dried Tomato Gougere

I’m not quite sure what got me cooking again today. Was it the retirement specialist I was dealing with who said that he used to photograph food for hotels (he’d followed the blog link in my email signature; I didn’t have the nerve to ask him how I was doing), or was it the calm that has descended on the house since our brief vacation last week, that was sorely needed to restore some kind of sanity to our household. I don’t know, but my mind was able to start wandering again, and as I mused about my beloved almond bread, it occurred to me that the batter wasn’t too far off that for a gougere ….. and then I was off peering at a recipe attempt I made a year or two ago (which produced a delicious, but crunchy, affair) …. and then out popped this recipe. It worked first time! ….. and they weren’t crunchy, and the crust wasn’t too thick, and they weren’t like omelet, and they didn’t sink after they came out of the oven. Lucky, or what! I’m not proud; I’ll admit to accidental successes.

You can also cook this mixture in circles (to accept fillings and then be served as a main course – see below), or as little bowls (to accept fillings and then be served as hors d’oeuvres).

gougere

This makes 36-40 mini gougeres.

4 oz blanched almond flour
2 1/2 oz tapioca flour/starch
2 tbsp flax meal
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional – use for a slightly cheesy flavor)
2/3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vinegar
4 fl oz water
4 tbsp margarine (I use spreadable Earth Balance)
3-4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup minced sun dried tomatoes in olive oil

In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water and margarine quickly to a rolling boil.DSC_0001

Remove from the heat, and quickly shoot all the flours into the boiling liquid, then mix furiously with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough is formed (I managed a whopping 30 seconds before my arm gave out), and allow it to cool for at least two or three minutes, so that it isn’t hot enough to scramble the egg that you’re about to add.

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This paste used all 4 eggs. I have subsequently used just 3 eggs to make a thicker mixture, which also worked nicely, but produced a construction with fewer holes.

Now, using an electric hand mixer, thoroughly incorporate about a tablespoon of the beaten egg. Repeat this step until all of the egg has been absorbed, one tablespoon at a time.

Heavily grease 40 mini muffin formers, and spoon about a tablespoon of mixture into each,
OR just place on a greased or parchment paper lined baking tray / cookie sheet in tablespoon sized dollops, or form 4″ wide circles, or pipe into 5″ long sticks.

When you’re ready to cook the gougeres, preheat the oven to 400F.

Place the tray in the center of the oven, and cook for 15 minutes.

Turn the temperature down to 360F, and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, release from the tin with a knife, and serve as they are, or split, and fill with vegan cream cheese or somesuch.

stuffed gougere 2

Sun dried tomato gougere stuffed with cauliflower in an orange/tomato sauce, served with steamed chard and a walnut sauce.

Sun Dried Tomato Pate / Sandwich Filler

This is really tasty. `Nuff said. The girls both like it, and hubby said he did, but I’m not to write that down! Does vegan pate have the same image that quiche did 20 years ago? I don’t know. What I do know is the girls had it in their school lunch packs today, and it went down well.

My initial experiments with this recipe involved cooked rice, but using quinoa makes the mixture easier to compact into a pate-like consistency. For a finer consistency, you could employ a food processor to partially blend all the cooked ingredients before adding the quinoa, but I wouldn’t over do it, as the tofu needs to retain some of its structure. You don’t want to turn it into a sauce.

Sun dried tomato pate served with hot 'buttered' almond bread toast.

Sun dried tomato pate served with hot ‘buttered’ almond bread toast.

Make sure to taste your sun dried tomatoes before using them here to check that you like them, as they are a fairly dominant flavor. The ones I buy are stored in olive oil with herbs (predominantly thyme, I would say). You might need to adjust the salt or thyme used here depending on how much is already included in yours.

1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 large mild onion, finely chopped
8 oz firm tofu
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup compressed sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, minced
4 tsps Braggs (or other GF soy sauce alternative)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 oz) almond flour (or blanched almonds, ground in a food processor)

Rinse the quinoa for a minute in a sieve under running water to remove the bitter saponins, then combine in a saucepan (or rice cooker) with 1 cup (8 fl oz) water, the thyme, and salt; cover tightly, and cook until most of the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to finish cooking in its own heat.

In a large frying pan, melt the margarine, and sauté the onion over medium heat until softened and beginning to brown.

Add the tofu, and roughly mash with the back of a sturdy fork. Add the garlic and sun dried tomatoes to the onion, and allow to warm through for 5 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients together with the fork. Check seasoning.

This is now ready to use as a sandwich spread, or it can be compressed in a small serving bowl (or four ramekins) in the fridge overnight to form a pate. Serve on warm almond bread toast, or in sandwiches with slices of tomato or cucumber.

Green beans with Artichoke and Spinach Sauce

French green beans with Artichoke and Red Pepper Sauce

This dish started off life as my veganized version of a rich artichoke and spinach dip. Then one day, I had some left over from the day before, and needed a sauce for some beans, and this rather delightful combination was born. If you just want the dip as itself, just make this recipe up until the part where it says to deal with the beans. If you’re making a dip instead of a sauce, you can use a fresh red bell pepper rather than roasted. Make sure that you like the taste of the roasted red bell peppers before using them, though. I find that some of the jarred ones have way too much citric acid in them! Have a mouthful of pepper before adding to the dish, and if you don’t think ‘yum’, use a different kind.

12 oz tinned artichoke hearts, squeezed dry (Not the marinated ones, they are too highly flavored for this.)
1 1/2 cups (8 oz) roasted red bell peppers (or raw if you’re making a cold dip), deseeded
8 oz frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
4 oz vegan cream cheese or 3/4 cup mayonnaise (vegan if desired)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp light chickpea miso
1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt (start with less, and add more if you want it)
1 lb green beans
16 oz tin of baby lima beans, drained

Chop the artichokes and red pepper until they are in pieces no bigger than a large pea, either by hand or by pulsing in a food processor.

Put the spinach in a small saucepan, and heat on high, stirring occasionally, until fully defrosted and the liquid has evaporated.

Stir together the cream cheez or mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, and miso; then stir everything (except for the two types of beans) together, until the ingredients are amalgamated, but not pureed.

Check for seasoning.

At this point you can put the sauce aside until you’re ready to cook and serve, or chill and serve as a dip.

Steam the green beans with 1 tsp salt (or to taste) until soft (or to your liking).

Now make sure the sauce and the lima beans are hot (either individually before putting in a warm serving dish, or assembling in the serving dish, covering with foil, and warming for about 20 minutes or until hot in the oven.)

Serve at formal meals, or in baked potatoes for a more casual lunch.

Mediterranean Guacamole

Guacamole made with rich late season avocados.

We live in the middle of an avocado grove in Southern California. You would have thought that since I have access to fresh avocados 9 months of the year, that I’d have more recipes using avocados. The problem is that we all like raw avocado in salad, and spread in sandwiches, and this version of guacamole so much, that we never really get much further than that! Yes, yes, I’ve tried making cold avocado soup, and putting it on pizza, but I just get strange looks from folks wondering why I’m wasting a good opportunity to eat it this way instead.

It just so happens that my family doesn’t care for very spicy foods. We like our guacamole without chili. (My sincere apologies go to anyone of Mexican heritage.) The black olives are not traditional either, but we think they’re a really good addition.

2 ripe avocados, sliced in half through the stem end, stone removed
1 fresh medium Roma tomato, diced (or equivalent volume of cherry tomatoes, cut into halves)
10 black olives (brined Greek, not the tasteless Californian variety which have been emasculated with lye), halved or quartered
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion (optional)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
salt and lemon or lime juice – to taste

Guac and chips

Scoop the flesh out of the avocados into a bowl. Roughly chop with the side of a fork or spoon (never emasculate guacamole by making it in the food processor).
Add the other ingredients and stir to mix. The avocado will lose its shape as you stir, and form the required lumpy puree quite easily.
Serve with tortilla chips, or in sandwiches.

…. but that last bit isn’t so easy on a gluten free diet. Tortilla chips look as if they should be a safe bet being made from corn, oil and salt, but I find that certain brands disagree with me. What’s frustrating, is that so far, the ones that disagree with me are the organic ones …. but there’s a mass market brand that gives me no problem at all. I can only guess that the big production lines have dedicated factories for tortilla chips.

The almond brioche bread (toasted or not) makes a great sandwich with guacamole and crunchy undressed green salad or coleslaw.

Cheddar Cheez

Faux Cheez with grapes

Last year, I bought The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. The reviews on Amazon pretty much convinced me that it was a good idea, and I didn’t change my mind after it arrived. If you like cooking, and you can’t eat dairy, this book is a real eye-opener to new ingredients, and new uses for more familiar ones. I rushed around cooking as many of the recipes that I could source ingredients for. This one is based on one of my favorites from that book. Part of what’s so nice about it, is I don’t feel guilty eating it. Which sounds worse for your health? Cheese, or onions, carrots, and cashews?

The texture of this block cheez isn’t quite the same as dairy cheese (there is no crunch if you simmer for long enough), and it is well worth the effort to make it. The resulting cheez melts best when covered, as in quesadillas. This stuff rarely lasts more than a day in our household, so I usually double up the quantities; my kids eat it straight out of the fridge (and yes, ahem, so do I). A note to the wise, though: if you do double up the quantities, don’t try blending it all at the same time. You might be able to cook it all together, and you might be able to fit it in your blender, but it won’t blend properly with a double batch all together. If you use an immersion blender, however, there’s no problem at all.

Using soy milk rather than water makes for a richer tasting cheez. For a change, you can also add an additional 1/2 cup of fried onions after blending if you want onion strands in your cheez.

2 tsps non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, then diced OR 1 large roasted red pepper, cleaned
1 1/2 cups (24 fl oz / 350 ml) plain, unsweetened soy milk, or water
5 tbsp agar flakes or 1 1/2 tbsp agar powder
1/2 cup (2 oz) raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (not the same as Brewer’s Yeast)
2 1/2 – 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice)
2 tbsp sesame tahini
2 tbsp chickpea miso
2 tsps onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp honey mustard (or strong made mustard for cheddar cheez)

Melt the margarine in a saucepan and fry the onion and carrot until softened (this adds flavor, and reduces ‘crunch’).

While the onions are cooking, measure out the soy milk/water in a measuring jug, and then add the rest of the ingredients to the jug.

When the onions are cooked, add all the ingredients to the saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium or medium/high heat.

Lightly oil a 2.5 cup container.

When the agar has dissolved, blend well with an immersion blender. (If you use a surface top blender rather than an immersion blender, the cheez will cool and congeal fairly quickly, so work quickly.)

Pour into the plastic container and refrigerate until solid (>hour).

Chickpea, Artichoke, and Carrot Salad/Dip

Alternative version using chickpeas (garbanzo beans) instead of artichoke hearts. Served on GF Vegan Almond Bread.

I really like this blended salad. Apart from the fact that I like the taste, it is loaded with fiber and veggies. If you don’t care for the idea of a fishy taste, leave out the nori (seaweed) powder, though since I believe it’s an excellent source of omega-3 (that’s where the fish get it from!), I’d recommend trying it once. I buy mine in sheets, then turn it into powder in a non-coffee dedicated grinder.

Preparation is simple. It’s pretty much ‘put all ingredients in the food processor and pulse to combine’.

1 (15oz.) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed (or second can of chickpeas / garbanzo beans)
3 oz (1/2 cup) sweet dill pickle slices
4 fl oz (1/2 cup) vegan mayonnaise
~3 medium carrots (½ – 1 cup) finely grated for color, pulp from juicing works well
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp nori (seaweed) powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon miso (I have used both chickpea and sweet white misos with success)
pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the artichokes, chickpeas, and dill pickle until most of them are about the size of a sweetcorn kernels or a bit smaller if desired. Mix in the remaining ingredients, using 1/4 cup mayonnaise at first, and then adding more as needed. Cover and refrigerate. Use on sandwiches, or on a bed of salad greens, or as a dip with tortilla chips or gluten free pita bread.

Hummus

Hummus served with Garlicky Vegetable Salad

This is the third day in a row that the outside temperature has been up near 100F (that’s 37C for those folks outside of the USA). I so wanted to do some experimenting with the new amaranth flour that I ordered from Amazon last week, but Himself (my husband), quite rightly objected to having the oven on. Lunch ended up as jacket potato (cooked in the microwave oven to keep the additional heat down), coleslaw, green salad, pickles, and black olive hummus. I like hummus, but I don’t like the calories associated with the traditional variety, whose consistency is adjusted with olive oil, and my tummy really can’t deal with so much fat. I slacken mine off with water (you can use olive oil, if you need the calories, or want a richer taste). If you are happy cooking dried beans, 4 oz of dried garbanzos/chickpeas, cooked until very soft, can be used instead of the tinned beans.

Himself’s Choice Hummus

Himself isn’t keen on chickpeas or cumin, so I came up with this version of hummus which we all like! However, if you do like chickpeas (which I most certainly do), you can just substitute them for the white kidney beans (Cannellini), and add 1/4 tsp cumin.

1 ~14oz tin white kidney beans, drained
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sesame tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
dash of paprika / cayenne pepper (optional)
4 fl oz HOT water (substitute olive oil for some of this, if desired)

Heat the beans in their juices before draining and adding to the blender. Hot beans will produce a smoother hummus with less liquid.

Place all ingredients in a medium or small food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. The right consistency is thinner than a paste, but not quite pourable. Add more water/oil as necessary.

Return to room temperature before eating. Serve with torn GF tortillas, sliced zucchini/courgette, fresh red pepper strips, corn tortilla chips, apple slices, carrot sticks (etc.)

Variation: Caramelized Onion Hummus Thinly slice 1/2 medium onion, and fry in 1 tsp margarine over a medium heat until softened and starting to brown (~10 minutes). Add another tablespoon of tahini to the hummus. After blending the hummus, add the cooked onion and pulse to combine.

Variation: Black Olive Hummus: After blending the hummus, add 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of pitted black olives, and very briefly blend again so the olives get chopped, but don’t turn the hummus grey.

Variation: Sun Dried Tomato Hummus
1 tin garbanzo beans, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil, 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) sun dried tomatoes (preserved in oil with herbs), water to adjust consistency. Blend everything together until smooth.

Variation: Sriracha Hummus Add 2 tsp Sriracha Hot Chili sauce before blending.