Wok on the Wildside

Vegan Food and Living

Cashew Alfredo Sauce

February24

pic of pasta and alfredo sauce

Do you want to know something funny? I never liked Fettuccine Alfredo before I was vegan. I ate it a few times because I had friends who loved it. I could never get over how heavy it was. Give me a simple garlicky tomato sauce or pesto any day! This all changed when I became vegan. It started as a challenge really. I was talking to a vegan friend, and we were discussing foods that we missed since going vegan. Either I’m an optimist, or I just have poor memory, but there weren’t many things I truly missed. However, my friend missed cheese, sushi, and Alfredo sauce. I sort of understood missing cheese and sushi to a certain extent, but I couldn’t fathom missing Alfredo sauce. So I decided to make one for my friend.

The thing about a good cashew Alfredo is that it’s made best with a high-speed blender. I have a Vitamix. I’m sure Blendtec or Ninjas (the blender, not the assassins) would be great as well. Sure, it’s possible to make this sauce without the high-speed blender, but it won’t be as smooth. The ingredients are pretty simple, and it’s almost foolproof. Adding a little more of this or that will change the flavor but won’t ruin it (with the exception of way too much salt).

After many experiments (all of them successful, of course… heh heh), I finally decided to write this recipe down because my mother-in-law asked me for it months and months ago. She’s not vegan… so that’s one of those fun vegan moments when you really want to help someone out with great vegan food… besides, it’s my mother-in-law. I want to make her happy. In the interest of full disclosure, I have procrastinated, and I’m writing this about six moths after her request… better late than never?

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup raw cashews (you can use whole or halves and pieces)
  • 1 medium to large yellow, brown, or white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 ¼ cups water, divided
  • Approx. ¼ cup lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
  • 3 Tbsp. miso paste (white or yellow is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
  • ⅓ cup or more of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package of pasta (something flat or tube-ish works best… we like fettuccine, farfalle bow-ties, or penne)

Directions:

  1. Get a large pot. It’s a little bit of overkill for the onions, but then you can use it for boiling the pasta and then again for the heating the sauce and mixing it with the pasta… I’m all about trying to use as few pots as possible! Fry onions on medium heat with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes till soft and starting to caramelize a little bit. Be sure to stir occasionally to keep from burning. Add garlic and continue frying for another minute or so. Add about ¼ cup of water to de-glaze the pan. Remove from heat.
  2. While the onions and garlic are frying, add the cashews to the blender and blend until it’s a powder. Don’t overdo it because you don’t want cashew butter… just a nice powder. Note: you can soak the cashews for a few hours, but I never do.
  3. Add remaining 2 cups of water, the onion mixture, and all the other ingredients through crushed red pepper (if you’re using it) and blend on highest speed for five minutes. It’ll be relatively thin, but it thickens after it’s heated up and after it sits around. As soon as you start the blending, get the pot filled with water and about a teaspoon of salt, and get it boiling.
  4. Boil pasta according to directions. Ideally you want the sauce fully blended by the time the pasta is ready. Usually my sauce is done long before the pasta.
  5. Note: I use the entire recipe of sauce for a package of pasta, but you can start with ¾ of it and add more to liquify if needed. Pour the desired amount of sauce into the pot and heat on medium, stirring constantly. When it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it’s ready for you to add the pasta to it.
  6. Add pasta and continue heating till sauce is thickened to your preference. Serve immediately with crushed red pepper, nutritional yeast, or your favorite vegan Parmesan.

Options: 

 Do you like Chik’n Alfredo? Add your favorite veggie chik’n in small chunks.

Missing your veggies? Add 3 cups of sautéed veggies. Zucchini, spinach, kale, green beans, broccoli… They all work great!

Into seasonal adjustments? Use local, seasonal ingredients. For example, add flavors of fall… nutmeg, butternut squash, sweet potato. Diced cooked sweet potato blended in the sauce gives it an orange color and a great autumnal flair.

Are you more in the mood for cheesy like Mac ‘n’ Cheez? Double the nooch in the sauce, put the finished pasta in an oven safe bowl, top with a melty vegan cheese, and broil till bubbly and melted.

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Whole Wheat Sesame Bagels

July22
A whole wheat sesame bagel with Daiya Foods vegan cream cheeze

A whole wheat sesame bagel with Daiya Foods vegan cream cheeze

Background Information

This recipe is based on the one in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve modified it a little, added some notes and thoughts for what was successful for me. Don’t be intimidated by all the instructions. It’s actually not as complicated as I thought it would be. Making the dough is easy, you get a break during the rising process, and creating the bagel shape can be tricky at first, but is simple once you do it a few times. Just remember, even if it seems tough, the smell of fresh bagels will make it all worthwhile.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. agave nectar, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 packet dry active yeast (1/4 ounce size)
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • raw sesame seeds for coating
  • Vegetable oil for the rising bowl
  • Salt for the boiling water (about 2 teaspoons)

 

Cooking Instructions

  • In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of agave nectar with the lukewarm water. One trick I use is to microwave room temperature water in the same small bowl I’m going to use. I microwave for thirty seconds. Unless you have a super-high-powered microwave oven, this will get the water just to the point of being lukewarm… Of course, if you have a super-high-powered microwave oven, then you’re probably exposing yourself to way too high of a level of harmful microwaves.
  • Add the packet of yeast. You can stir this up… I don’t. I just sprinkle it evenly on the top of the water. I don’t stir the yeast in. I don’t pile it all up in one area. I spread it out evenly across the surface of the water so that there’s a thin layer of yeast all around. Let it sit till it’s activated and foamy… I wait about ten minutes. Some other recipes say to wait only five minutes, but I think the bagels come out better when you wait a little longer.
  • While the yeast is activating, combine the flour, wheat gluten and salt together in a large bowl. I like to take my smaller wire whisk and give it a nice, fast whisking to mix it completely. I’m sure a wooden spoon or silicone spatula would also work, but it’s fun to whisk it. Quick note: if you’re using a stand mixer for the kneading that will happen later on, then you can use the bowl for the stand mixer to mix the flour… One less bowl to wash!
  • Make a well in the center of the flour, pour the yeast mixture in, add the second tablespoon of agave nectar, and mix till combined… Don’t ask me why, but I think that the bagels taste better when the second tablespoon of agave nectar is added at the mixing stage. Yes, I’ve added both tablespoons when I first prepare the yeast. Yes, I’ve forgotten the second tablespoon entirely. The bagels taste pretty good no matter what you do with the second tablespoon of agave… But for some reason, the best bagels I’ve made are with one tablespoon of agave to activate the yeast and one more when mixing everything together.
  • So when mixing everything together, it’s not necessary to mix till all the flour has been incorporated. Most of it should be mixed together, but there can still be some spare flour. The dough will form and the rest of the flour will follow. Once you begin kneading, the rest of the flour will become incorporated because they don’t want to be left out. If you’re into hand kneading, that’s fine. I’m weak, so I use the stand mixer. With the stand mixer it takes about 3-5 minutes of kneading, so if you do it by hand, it will probably take about 6-10 minutes.
  • Like most bread doughs, the bagel dough will be fully kneaded when it’s a lot more smooth and looks evenly mixed. The dough should not be wet or dry. In other words’ it shouldn’t be sticky or powdery. Some say that it should be pleasantly tacky. That confused me at first, but here’s a translation… Think of Post-it Notes. The dough should feel like that. It will stick to you a bit, but with a little effort, you can easily disengage the dough from your fingers.
  • Take a large bowl and oil it evenly. I use an oil mister and give the bowl an even spray. Put the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat the surface evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist kitchen towel. If you’re a cool, Eco-friendly kind of person, you can use those re-usable bowl covers. Just make sure it fits well. Put the bowl with the dough in a warm-ish place to proof and rise for about an hour. The dough will be soft and spongy, but it won’t necessarily double in size, and that’s okay!
  • Towards the end of the rising process, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. At the same time, put a large pot of water on the stove. I use a Dutch oven because it has a larger diameter. A pasta pot is tall, but more narrow. Add about two teaspoons of salt to the water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, you want to lower the temperature so that it’s a gentle simmer.
  • Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into twelve pieces. Each piece should be relatively equal, but you don’t have to worry if you have some bagels that are bigger than others. Roll each piece into a ball. This also isn’t something you need to be perfect on. The oil from the rising won’t let you roll each into a perfect ball.
  • Cover all the balls with a wet kitchen towel so that they do not dry up.
  • Now comes the fun part. Guess what? There isn’t a bagel hole maker… Not like a donut hole maker. The hole in a bagel is created manually (I’m sure that large bagel makers have machines, but I’m just a single person of average size, so I make them manually). Hold each ball of dough so that your thumbs are in the middle of it and pointing upward. Just pretend you’re eating it like a veggie burger or sandwich. Gently but firmly, begin rolling the outside edges into the center of the bagel, using the power of gravity to help you stretch the dough while you do it. I also use my top fingers to help move the dough to the edges so that my thumbs can gather more dough, roll it to the bottom, and push it in gently. This process does two things. First, it will make the exterior of the bagel smoother, and second, it will make the center of the dough at the top thinner. Eventually, with patience and continuous rolling of the edges in and up, the top gets so thin, you will  break through. At this point, I work the hole so that it’s about 3/4 inch wide. Here’s a big tip… Rotate the bagel while you’re doing this. It makes the resulting bagel more evenly rounded and helps stretch out the dough.
  • As you finish more bagels, cover them with a wet towel to keep them soft. When the water is at a gentle simmer, begin simmering your bagels. Carefully put three bagels in the water and simmer for one minute, flip over, and simmer for one more minute before removing from the water and putting on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • When the next batch of bagels is in the simmering water, go ahead and spread some raw sesame seeds on a flat plate and dip the still damp bagels on the plate to add an even layer of sesame seeds.
  • When all the bagels have been simmered, bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-22 minutes until they are beautifully browned like the bagels you know and love. Remove from the oven when they are done.
  • Here’s the toughest part. You need to allow the bagels to cool for 30 minutes. The smell will be driving you crazy, but have patience. Hot bagels mean soft bagels. Soft bagels will become flat bagels if you bite or slice them. So once they are cooled down, pat yourself on the back for your patience, slice them in half, top with your favorite dip or vegan cream cheeze, and enjoy! Note: after they cool, be sure to put in an airtight container so that they will not harden.
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Red Cabbage Salad

May1
picture of red cabbage salad

Our Famous Red Cabbage Salad

Salads are a funny thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love salads. Some of my favorite meals are salads (like Veggie Grill’s All Hail Kale, Native Foods Chimmichurri Chop Salad, and the 118 Degrees Raw Taco Salad). Salads, done well, are full of flavors, textures, and are a great balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, etc. So I love salads. At the same time, I hate how so many people think that vegans and vegetarians only eat salad. Admit it… one of the most common questions we get – right after, “Where do you get your protein?” – is often something like, “Wow! How do you get full on salads?”

The thing is, like most people with plant-based lifestyles, I don’t just eat salad. From raw avocado tacos to grilled seitan sandwiches to polenta rancheros, I have a pretty diverse, filling selection of things to eat. The bottom line is that I don’t like stupid misconceptions… whether they be about race, gender, or plant-based living.

All that to say, it’s really funny that my first two recipe posts on my blog re-launch are both salad-based. Life is crazy sometimes.

Red Cabbage Salad… This recipe is full of crunch with a nice sour bite and overtones of sweet and salty. It’s the most requested salad I make for potlucks, parties, and other gatherings where we have food. Our daughters have friends who actually look forward to this salad being served at their birthday parties. It’s easy to do and really tasty, so you can’t go wrong.

 

Red Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

1 head of red cabbage shredded (sliced thinly… no more than a ¼ inch thick)

Dressing

  • ⅛ of a medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅔ C. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C. canola oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp. agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. seasoning salt (lemon pepper, shish kabob seasoning, etc.)
  • ¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  • Put all the dressing ingredients into a blender and blend on high until the dressing is emulsified and no onion or garlic chunks remain.
  • Pour dressing over the shredded cabbage.
  • Mix well and let marinate for 6-8 hours in the refrigerator, mixing every hour or so.
  • Enjoy! It will be good in the refrigerator for a little over a week (if you have any left).

Tip: If you have a leakproof container, that will fit all the cabbage, then it makes things easier. You can put all cabbage and finished dressing into the leakproof container and shake the whole thing instead of mixing by hand. Shake every hour or so and let marinate in refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

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Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

April26
Massaged Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

The Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette used on a Massaged Kale Salad

There’s nothing like a good vinaigrette as a dressing. One of my favorite recipes is a simple Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette.

A vinaigrette that’s been done well is a beautiful, emulsified balance of sour, sweet, and salty. A little bit of bite is great too. In this vinaigrette, the sour is from lemon (of course), the bite is from the dijon, and the sweet is from agave nectar. If you don’t have agave, or don’t use it, you can use a little sugar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or whatever sweetener you prefer. If you’re not vegan, you can use honey, and it will work great.

A few notes on using this with kale… A lot has been written about kale. It’s an amazing green that provides a ton of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron, and it’s low in calories and has zero fat… that’s not even mentioning the antioxidants and how it helps with anti-inflammatories and cardiovascular support. If you’re new to kale, then make sure you wash it well, spin it dry (just like any salad), and massage the dressing into each leaf. This is for a few reasons. First of all, massaging it will help break down the cell walls and make the kale a little more tender. Secondly, you’ll end up using less dressing. Finally, it’s cathartic to be massaging the kale. If you want to download the Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette PDF, here you go!

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

3 – 4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 – 2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 – 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a jar. Shake it up to emulsify. Another alternative is to mix all ingredients except for the oil with a whisk or a fork and then slowly whisk in the oil in a little drizzle. This is a lot more work though!

A lot of the ingredients are listed in ranges. This allows you to adjust for personal taste and preferences. I prefer more sour, so I add 4 Tbsp. of lemon juice. Some people love sweeter vinaigrettes, so they might use less lemon or more sweetener.

 

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Phoenix Rising

March31
image of a phoenix

Phoenix rising from its ashes

What happens when you lose your whole blog? You pout for a few months, get over it, change web hosts, and come back. I love vegan food and living. I love helping others see what great food we eat. I love sharing what I cook, buy at restaurants, and have at friends’ places. So I’m back. I won’t make promises, but I’ll do my best to post more regularly and go beyond just my Instagram and Twitter feeds. I do want to give a shout out to our good friend Erika, who made a resolution to post once a month on her blog Conscious Cooking, and that has really inspired me to do more. Additionally, a friend we met only once, Kara Lockwood, has encouraged me to share what I cook, and together, the two… with the right timing, have gotten me going. Both share what they love, and I feel like I can too.

What will you find here? Recipes… restaurant reviews… cookbook reviews… random thoughts… Gratuitous family stuff… probably more that I haven’t thought of.

Hope you’ll join me along the way.

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