Thursday 29 November 2012

Vegan Unprocessed Cheese Slices

Vegan Unprocessed Cheese Slices

So, I have Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory to blame for my latest addiction here. It was that episode where he goes back to his mom's house annoyed at a prank his friends played on him. While there she makes him a grilled cheese sandwich and I instantly wanted it. Not a fancy grilled cheese but the old school style with white bread and processed cheese. They were easily my favourite growing up, sure, later on I loved a grilled cheese with some fancy artisan cheese as much as the next person but I would still come back to this style.

I know there are vegan "processed cheese" style slices out there but lets face it. They're gross. I've used them when I'm desperate but it's never satisfying. Then I remembered that The Un-Cheese Cookbook had a recipe for a grilled cheese where you basically made a thick nutritional yeast based cheese sauce and spread that onto toasted bread. I've always loved the way Chef Chloe's Macaroni and Cheese sauce recipe reminded me of a processed Velveeta style sauce so I adapted hers but made it thicker. I was really happy with the result but found making a sauce for a sandwich a little awkward, for example you have to toast the bread first and for me the golden rule of a grilled cheese is buttering both top sides of bread and frying it. It's essential.

Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Home Made 'Unprocessed' Cheese Slices.

So, I experimented with making slices using a gelling agent. First I tried agar as I figured more people can buy that but it didn't work. I only have flakes and they never dissolved properly. Next up was using Vege-Gel, a veggie gelling agent which is a fine powder and, success! Well, after several attempts with lots of rather expensive nutritional yeast, agar and vege-gel being dumped in the bin that is. But, it was worth it. These taste so much like my old grilled cheeses of my youth I couldn't get over it. They hold together as slices but be warned, are a little delicate, just not delicate enough to justify 2 sachets of vege-gel. They melt fantastic too, I even tried one grilled and they melted just like I remember processed cheese slices melting, by getting a little brown and puffing up in spots so these should be great topped onto a vegan soy burger and melted. Still, it's these grilled cheeses I'll be making often - so happy to have them back in my life!!!

Vegan Unprocessed Cheese Slices

Vegan Unprocessed Cheese Slices
Yields 6 large slices.

• 30g vegan butter (2 Tbsp) I used Vitalite.
• 30g plain flour (3 Tbsp)
• 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (240ml)
• ¼ cup nutritional yeast
• 2 tsp tomato paste (puree).
• ¾ tsp salt
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• 1 sachet vege-gel *

* I have only used the Dr. Oetker brand vege-gel here. Each sachet is about 6 grams each. Other brands may need some adapting to work. As I mentioned I tried agar flakes but it didn't work. Agar powder I feel will work but I can't buy that here. So I'm afraid if you can't buy this brand you'll need to do some experimenting of your own :-)  EDIT - A HUGE thank you to Laina who mentioned in the comments below that she had success using 2 teaspoons of agar powder. I've said it before I'll say it again, the vegan awesome :-)

Line a 7.5" x 11" jelly roll pan with cling film so that it overhangs enough that you can cover the top.

Place the nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder in a mortar and pestle and grind until the yeast is a fine powder. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the flour and vege-gel.

In another bowl whisk together the soy milk and tomato paste until the paste dissolves. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk really well until no lumps appear.

In a small saucepan add the vegan butter then pour over the mixture. Turn the heat to medium-high (I used my smallest element on high heat) and whisk all the while until the butter melts and incorporates into the mixture. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and changes from a somewhat nothing colour to a vibrant orange. You can now change to a wooden spoon and keep stirring until nice and thick. It took 3 minutes for mine to get the the wooden spoon stage and another 3 minutes of simmering once thick. I kept the heat on high but again, I used my smallest element here.

With a rubber spatula scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread out with a knife until it fills the pan and is nice and even. Take the overhanging cling film and cover the top, pressing down slightly just to get it all nice and even. 

Chill until set, it'll take a couple of hours. Peel back the cling film then lift out of the pan and place on a chopping board. Slice into 6 large slices then they are ready to use. 

Keep leftover slices on individual pieces of baking paper and covered with cling film in the fridge. 

I found it easiest to get them onto bread by picking up the paper and placing them down onto the sandwich then removing the paper.

The Ultimate Vegan Grilled Cheese

Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Home Made 'Unprocessed' Cheese Slices.

Essential rules: use good quality white bakery bread and butter both sides that are getting fried. Don't be skimpy with the butter either. A good grilled cheese should be golden, crispy and buttery on the outside. And, if you old school like me, served with a dill pickle on the side :-)

The Ultimate Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

These slices work great in a sandwich maker too! Look how melty that is!! This is a recreation of an old favourite sandwich of mine filled with 1 unprocessed cheese slice, 5 slices of Redwood Foods Beef Style slices and lots of French's mustard. Photo taken from my daily blog.

Nutritional Information: based on 1 cheese slice (not the sandwich).

Calories: 68
Protein: 3.1g
Fat: 3.7g
Sat Fat: 0.7g
Carbs: 5.9g
Sugar: 0.3g
Fibre: 0.7g
Sodium: 327mg
Calcium: 50.9mg

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Wednesday 21 November 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato & Pecan Salad with Mixed Leaf & Beetroot and a Maple-Balsamic Dressing

Warm Roasted Sweet Potato and Pecan Salad with Mixed Leaf and Beetroot with a Maple-Balsamic Dressing

This is actually a revamped version of the Warm Butternut Squash and Pecan Salad that is already on the blog. After the Thanksgiving Weekend we just had I had quite a bit of both butternut squash and sweet potato leftover that needed using up. I first made it as is with the butternut squash and omitting the cumin seed and it was as good as it always was. Then I made it with sweet potato and decided to use a maple-balsamic dressing as opposed to roasting it with maple syrup and Oh.My.Word. This was delicious! I was just going to update that post but decided that this salad deserved it's own post, front and centre on the blog ;-) 

I'm usually not keen on beetroot but it went really well with this salad. I'm thinking that earthiness beetroot has was countered nicely by the sweet potato and maple dressing. Now, I cheated here and used a bagged mixed leaf that had shredded beetroot already added. You can easily add your own here and I do recommend it, however I'm afraid I'll have to direct you to searching on how to cook and add the beetroot elsewhere though as it's a vegetable I never work with! (Sorry - bad blogger!!) 

Speaking of Thanksgiving, we had a great meal and an altogether great weekend, you can read all about it on the daily blog. Also, do you like my little homemade pumpkin candles there? I found these mini pumpkins in the English Market here in Cork and just carved them out to house a little tea light. They were scattered on the table for Thanksgiving dinner, looked really good all lit up!

Roasted Sweet Potato and Pecan Salad with Mixed Leaf and Beetroot with a Maple-Balsamic Dressing

Serves 2 as a main dish salad

• about 270g peeled weight sweet potato, diced
• 2 tsp olive oil
• 50g whole pecans
• 180g mixed leaf, I bought one with shredded beetroot in it, or you can easily add your own. 
• 2 shallots, sliced
• 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
• ½ Tbsp maple syrup
• ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp salt
• 3 grinds of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C. Toss the sweet potato in the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and spread out in a roasting tin. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and slightly charred at the edges. Add the whole pecans when there is 5 minutes left.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients except the oil. Slowly add the oil whisking all the while until incorporated. Toss most of the dressing with the leaf and shallots then divide amongst two plates.

Top with the warm roasted sweet potato and pecans and a drizzle of more dressing then serve immediately

Warm Roasted Sweet Potato and Pecan Salad with Mixed Leaf and Beetroot with a Maple-Balsamic Dressing

Source: Dressing based on this recipe.

Nutritional Information: based on 1 serving.

Calories: 475
Fat: 36.8g
Sat Fat: 4.2g
Protein: 5.5g
Carbs: 36.7g
Sugar: 9.6g
Fibre: 6.4g
Sodium: 243mg

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Wednesday 14 November 2012

Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls

Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls

A delicious and fun idea for Thanksgiving!

Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls

First, an apology to my fellow Canadians that I missed posting this before our Thanksgiving. I only just made them and realized that they are perfect for Thanksgiving, so, it's one for all my American friends for the upcoming holiday :-) I actually didn't get around to making Thanksgiving dinner back in October and am doing ours this weekend which will most definitely feature these rolls.

I saw this idea of putting a little message in a bread roll on Pinterest. It came from The Girl Who Ate Everything blog as "Thankful Rolls" and I immediately pinned it. You were to write a little message on a small piece of paper, fold it up, wrap it in foil then place inside a bread roll and bake. I absolutely loved this idea. 

Then I was flipping through an old Canadian Living magazine and saw these Sweet Potato Rolls which were made by folding them over and thought, gosh, those are just made to house a little fortune inside! So, the two ideas were forged together and here you go: Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls, absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving dinner :-)

The original idea was to put a little message of thanks in each roll but to be honest, we're not all that sentimental (ha!) so I pretty much knew mine were going to house comedy fortunes, or in the case of the first test batch I did here, Dr. Who quotes for my son ;-) In any case you can write whatever you like inside, have fun with it!

Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls
My son really enjoyed the Doctor Who Fortune :-D

As for the buns themselves - Oh. My. Word. They are absolutely delicious!! I pretty much exclaimed after my first bite that they were the best bread roll I've ever eaten in my life and I stick by that. The sweet potato and hint of brown sugar does not make these sweet but just gives them great flavour, and do not omit the spring onion here, they really make these rolls. Believe me when I say I'll be making these with or without the fortunes many times!

Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls

Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls
Yields: 8 large or 16 small rolls.

• 125g (1 cup) sweet potato (peeled weight) cut into 1" dice.
• 125ml (½ cup) reserved potato water
• ½ Tbsp packed brown sugar
• 80ml (1/3 cup) dairy free milk
• 1 tsp quick rise yeast *see original recipe for using active dry if you prefer, keep in mind I've halved the recipe here.
• ¼ cup finely chopped spring onion
• 1 Tbsp vegan butter
• 350g (2½ cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra.
• 1 tsp salt

Boil the sweet potato in unsalted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking water. 

Add the measured cooking water to a saucepan with the dairy free milk and heat to 130F / 54C or until hand hot. You should be able to leave your finger in there tolerably.  

Mash the sweet potato with the brown sugar and vegan butter until smooth.

Mix together the flour, salt and yeast. Add the liquid, potato and spring onion to the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together.

Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed, until smooth and elastic and shape into a ball. Transfer to a large greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls

Once risen, you should be able to poke the dough and leave an indentation, it should also have risen very well. Now roll out the dough and cut out circles, any size you like really, I used a large (3") circle cutter but found these much too big for a dinner roll so would make them smaller next time. The size is ultimately up to you but you should get 8 large or 16 small rolls out of this. If you are not making fortune rolls, simply cut into 8 or 16 pieces and shape into balls for plain rolls.

Take the circle and roll it out a little to make a slight oval shape. Place the fortune or message of thanks that has been wrapped tightly in foil in one end, wet the end with a bit of water and fold over the dough, sealing the message. Press down slightly to ensure the two ends stick together.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, cover loosely with cling film and leave in a warm place while you preheat the oven to 200C / 400F. When the oven is at temperature, remove the cling film and bake the rolls for about 18 minutes, rotating the pan with 10 minutes left to ensure even baking. The rolls should have risen again, be golden brown and sound hollow underneath when tapped.

Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls

I now like to brush the rolls with vegan butter, it gives them a lovely gloss and adds nice flavour. Serve immediately as these are best fresh from the oven. Just split them open at the crease to reveal the fortune, slather them with vegan butter then mop up all that vegan gravy with them. Sigh, these might just be my most favourite part of Thanksgiving dinner now!

Vegan Sweet Potato Fortune Rolls


Sources: Fortune idea from "The Girl Who Ate Everything" blog; recipe based on Canadian Living's Sweet Potato Rolls.

Nutritional Information: based on 1 large roll out of 8.

Calories: 213
Protein: 7.5g
Carbs: 40g
Sugar: 2.4g
Fibre: 3.2g
Fat: 2.7g
Sat Fat: 0.5g
Sodium: 345mg

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Thursday 8 November 2012

Monkey Squares

Vegan Monkey Squares
Chocolate cookie base topped with peanut butter frosting, crunchy salted peanuts and chewy banana chips then drizzled with chocolate :-) No bake too!

These were inspired by another recipe in the latest Canadian Living Holiday Baking Magazine - told you I would be making a lot out of it!! Unlike the cinnamon roll cookies, these ones needed more veganizing so I've really just used their idea for the squares and made them my own.  

Ever since I made that Grasshopper Pie I've been wanting to use that amazing base for a bar or square and since the original recipe called for Oreo crumbs (which I can't buy here and they probably aren't vegan anyway) I knew it would be the perfect replacement.

The recipe then called for sweetened condensed milk to be poured over the base and peanuts and banana chips. Heck, I wasn't even going to attempt to veganize that! I love peanut butter frosting and thought a layer of that on top of the base would be delicious. Then I chopped up some roasted salted peanuts and banana chips and sprinkled them generously over top and a drizzle of chocolate. 

Oh my word....these are amazing!! Oddly enough though, I had trouble finding banana chips! I ended up with chewy banana chips from Tesco which I wasn't sure would work as I was expecting the crisp dried banana chips but you know what? I think it works better. You already have a crunchy factor going on with the salted peanuts so the chewy banana chips adds yet another texture. Lovely.

Vegan Monkey Squares

Monkey Squares

• 150g digestive biscuits or vegan graham crackers (1¼ cup crumbs)
• 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 Tbsp caster sugar (or granulated)
• 50g vegan butter ( 1/4 cup + 2 tsp)
• 100g chopped plain or semi-sweet chocolate (or chips)
• 70g vegan butter (¼ cup)
• 100g smooth peanut butter (1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 180g icing sugar (1½ cups)
• roughly chopped roasted salted peanuts
• roughly chopped banana chips
(apologies, I didn't measure how much I used here, just enough of both to cover the surface.)
• about 50g plain or semi-sweet chocolate to drizzle.

Either line an 8" square baking tin with several sheets of overhanging cling film or lightly grease an 8" square silicone baking mould. I used a silicone mould and it worked great.

Process the biscuits until they are fine crumbs either in a food processor or place in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. You don't want any chunks left. Tip this into a large bowl and add the cocoa powder and sugar.

In a smaller bowl add the vegan butter and chopped chocolate. Place this over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until both are melted.

Pour this over the crumb mixture and stir well until it all comes together. Tip it all into the prepared pan and with greased hands press it all down until even and into all the corners. Pop into the fridge to set - it should be ready in a couple of hours.

To make the frosting simply beat the vegan butter and peanut butter together until well mixed. Add the icing sugar a little at a time beating well after each addition. When it starts to get a little dry add the vanilla extract and beat well. Once all the icing sugar is added you should have a frosting that is slightly thicker than if you were icing cupcakes.

Remove the base from the fridge and spread with the frosting. Generously sprinkle over both the chopped peanuts and banana chips then slightly press them down into the frosting a bit so they don't fall off while eating. Pop this back into the fridge for the frosting to firm up a bit, a couple hours should do it.

Remove the whole thing from the pan, either by just popping it out of the silicone mould or by lifting it out via the cling film. Melt the chocolate, I just used the microwave and drizzle back and forth all over the top. Place back in the fridge for the chocolate to set, about an hour.

Slice into a minimum of 16 squares (they are RICH) get some coffee on and enjoy! Note - you might find it easier to slice if it is out of the fridge for about half an hour first. Once sliced you can keep them at room temperature.

Vegan Monkey Squares

Source: Inspired by Canadian Living's Monkey Squares.

Nutritional Information: based on 1 square out of 16.

Calories: 260
Protein: 3.6g
Fat: 15.3g
Sat Fat: 5.7g
Fibre: 2.6g
Carbs: 27.5g
Sugar: 20.2g
Sodium: 20.2mg

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Tuesday 6 November 2012

Vegan Turkey Style Deli Slices

Vegan Turkey Style Deli Slices

Now, I don't work with vital wheat gluten much. Anyone who lives in the UK or Ireland will know why - it's almost impossible to buy the stuff! Online only as far as I can see and I like to keep my foodstuffs ordered online to a minimum  That being said I do order vital wheat gluten mostly so I can make my Vegan Rullepølse, which is an absolute Christmas essential for me :-) 

Since I had some about I thought I would have a go at some turkey style deli slices. This was inspired from 2 sources, first - the turkey style broth for seitan in La Dolce Vegan and Vegan Dad's Corned Beef.

I once tried the broth in La Dolce Vegan when I got brave one night and attempted to make my own wheat gluten (nightmare, I don't recommend it!) but I loved that broth, the sage and onion flavouring really was reminiscent of Christmas turkey and I actually continue to use a variation of it as a gravy. Then I made Vegan Dad's corned beef which is steamed rather than boiled and I was so impressed with the texture: tender, not too chewy and when it's cold can be sliced really thin.

So I thought I would combine the two, adding the flavourings from the broth in La Dolce Vegan with the steam and bake method Vegan Dad uses. I am so happy with the end result, well, for someone who rarely uses vital wheat gluten I am! If you know those sage and onion slices by Redwood foods this is very close, and I love those. (Just a note, I noticed that Vegan Dad also has turkey style slices but he uses flavourings I can't buy here so figured I would stick with La Dolce Vegan's flavourings).

In the same way any meat style dish features in my life it's for one reason only - memories. Good food memories. For me, leftover Christmas turkey was only consumed one way: thinly sliced in buttered white bread with lots of mayo and a bit of salt and pepper. Yes. Sliced white bread - gasp! So, that's exactly how I had this (with vegan butter and mayo, of course) and it reminded me so much of my old favourite. That being said I can also see this working as a roast, thickly sliced while warm and served with the usual trimmings.

Vegan Turkey Style Deli Slices

Vegan Turkey Style Deli Slices:

• 100g (1/2 cup) canned white canellini beans, drained and rinsed.
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 cup water
• 2 Tbsp soy sauce
• 1/2 tsp vegan worcester sauce
• 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt
• 1/2 tsp dried sage
• 1/2 tsp dried thyme
• 1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten

I prefer to do all of this in a mortar and pestle but you could use a food processor if you prefer or even by hand.

In a mortar and pestle add the nutritional yeast flakes, onion powder, salt, sage and thyme and grind until the yeast flakes are like a powder and the herbs get crushed. Remove and set aside.

Add the beans to the mortar and pestle and mash until really creamy. Transfer to a large bowl.

Mix together the water, olive oil, soy and worcester sauce in a pyrex measuring jug then whisk in the yeast and seasonings. Pour a little over the beans and whisk to incorporate, slowly add the rest of the liquid whisking all the while until mixed. 

Add the wheat gluten and mix well until it comes together. Sprinkle some more wheat gluten onto a surface and knead a few times until you have a large, wide oval loaf. I probably kneaded in a couple tablespoons more gluten here but the loaf will be on the wet side. That's good as you won't end up with dry deli slices, although it is probably the reason for the holes in the end product there. Still, I wouldn't change a thing here as the taste and texture was lovely!

Wrap the loaf up in foil, sealing the edges well and steam for 1 hour. Do check the water levels now and again as it can easily boil dry!

Preheat the oven to 180C when there is about 15 minutes left of steaming. Place the foil wrapped loaf directly in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool then it's ready to be sliced thin for sandwiches.

Vegan Butter Grilled Turkey and Mustard Bagel

Furthermore, I used the slices to make another variation on my Vegan Butter Grilled Bagel Toasties. This one had the turkey slices, vegan mayo, black pepper and Dijon mustard and was amazing! Possibly a new favourite here :-) Just toast using the same method as the other bagel toasties in the post there.

Vegan Butter Grilled Turkey and Mustard Bagel

Nutritional Information: per 100g

Calories: 196
Fat: 2.8g
Sat Fat: 0.3g
Fibre: 1.8g
Protein: 23.9g
Carbs: 16.8g
Sugar: 0.4g
Sodium: 422mg

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