Swiss Chard Gratin

Swiss Chard Gratin -- Epicurean VeganHoly moly! Has Christmas come and gone? Where was I?  Well, I certainly wasn’t blogging. I planned to, but to be honest, the dishes I made came out less-than-stellar. I was really disappointed. I was thrilled to use the Whole Foods Recipe App for my ipad, but I think the only thing exciting about the recipes I chose, was how they looked on the app. :-( Oh well, not a big deal. I did, however, receive Vegan Holiday Kitchen from a friend, so next Christmas, I’ll be prepared.

I wasn’t about to give up on Whole Foods and their fabulous app. It’s quite amazing, actually—check it out. So here’s how it went down tonight . . . I received 2 gorgeous bunches of organic Swiss chard from Green Buffalo Food Company this afternoon and I immediately clicked on the trusty app. There’s a section called “On Hand” where you plug in what ingredient(s) you have it’ll show you what they’ve got. Plus,  you can narrow it down to only show you vegan or vegetarian recipes using that ingredient.

There were so many choose from such as Chard with Sherry Vinegar and Walnuts and Mushroom, Chard and Caramelized Onion Tacos. I decided on the Gratin, which I had to veganize, but that was a breeze. I served it with some pilaf and rolls, making it a night of side dishes. This recipe certainly restored my faith in WF’s recipes. I added mushrooms to this recipe and I’m glad I did–they are ideal for a dish like this. Even using three bunches of chard or some added kale would have been good, too.

2-3 bunches Swiss chard leaves, chopped
6-8 mushrooms, sliced
1 C water
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs Earth Balance margarine, more for baking dish
1 C almond milk
2 Tbs flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 C Daiya mozzarella
1 Tbs panko (or vegan breadcrumbs)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large pot, add the water and chard; cook over medium heat. I used tongs to constantly stir the chard. After 3-4 minutes, or the chard is tender, drain (but reserve 1/4 C of the water) and set aside. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and stir constantly for a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and reserved cooking water; whisk until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Swiss Chard Gratin -- Epicurean Vegan

Stir in 1/2 of the Daiya cheese, then remove from the heat. Stir in the mushrooms and chard.

Swiss Chard Gratin -- Epicurean Vegan

Butter an 8″x8″ baking dish and pour the chard mixture in, topping it with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs.

Swiss Chard Gratin -- Epicurean Vegan

Bake for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Swiss Chard Gratin -- Epicurean Vegan

Mushroom and Snow Pea Soup

Mushroom and Snow Pea Soup -- Epicurean VeganThis soup is perfect if you want a comforting meal in no time. I used lots of my favorite ingredients and like most soups, it will taste even better the next day.

6 C vegetable broth
1 Tbs olive oil
6 green onion, sliced
3 C Shiitake and white mushrooms (or cremini), sliced
2 C snow peas, cut into pieces (and ends snipped)
1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
3 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbs yellow miso
6-oz Angel hair pasta

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and garlic. Add the green onion, mushrooms, and snow peas. Cook until the veggies are tender.

Mushroom and Snow Pea Soup -- Epicurean Vegan

Add the ginger and miso, and combine well. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.

Mushroom and Snow Pea Soup -- Epicurean Vegan

Add the pasta and cook another 3-5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Gluten-Free & Vegan Mexican Casserole

Gluten-Free and Vegan Mexican Casserole -- Epicurean VeganI’m fortunate I don’t have a gluten intolerance (even though seitan bothers me). I can’t imagine eliminating gluten from my diet as well, but I am starting to realize that it’s not that difficult to make something vegan and gluten-free, like this delicious casserole.

8-oz quinoa pasta, any variety
3 bell peppers, diced (I used one red, one yellow, and one orange)
1 medium red onion, diced
2 C mushrooms, sliced
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 6-oz can tomato paste
4-5 green onion, sliced
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Daiya cheese, any flavor
2-1/2 C Corn chips or gluten-free crackers
Optional ingredients: 1-2 C fresh chopped cilantro, 1-2 C black olives, diced avocados, salsa, jalapenos, green chilies, Tofutti sour cream
Taco seasoning packet or make your own: (This is a mild version, so you may want to add more chili powder for a added kick)
1 Tbs chili powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. If making the seasoning, combine the ingredients and set aside. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8-10 minutes—not too long, or it’ll get mushy. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the peppers and onions.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Mexican Casserole -- Epicurean Vegan

Cook for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly soft. Add the mushrooms and half of the seasonings; cook another 5 minutes.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Mexican Casserole -- Epicurean Vegan

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the tomato paste and diced tomatoes until well combined. Stir in the black beans and the rest of the seasonings. Stir the tomato mixture into the pepper mixture and combine well.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Mexican Casserole -- Epicurean Vegan

Using the same bowl as the tomato mixture, combine the pasta and vegetable mixture and stir well to combine. Line the bottom of a 15″ baking dish with corn chips or gluten free crackers, then spread on a layer of Daiya cheese. Pour the vegetable mixture on the chips.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Mexican Casserole -- Epicurean Vegan

Top with more Daiya cheese and green onion. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of Tofutti sour cream and enjoy!

Orange-Almond Cheese Log

Orange-Almond Cheese Log -- Epicurean VeganI saw a recipe in the December issue of Vegetarian Times for Date-Cheese Ball, but it’s made with goat cheese. I decided to make my own version using the almond cheeze I’ve made before. It has a similar taste and texture to goat cheese and figured it’d be a perfect substitute. It was. Plus, the orange zest gave it such a unique flavor. I brought this to a holiday party and it was gone pretty quick. Keep in mind that this recipe takes up to two days to prepare. You could make it in a day if you blanch and soak the almonds in the morning and serve it in the evening.

2 C blanched almonds
1/2 C lemon juice
5 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1 C cold water
8-oz Tofutti cream cheese
1-2 Tbs orange zest
2 tsp dried thyme
1 C sliced almonds, toasted

To the make the almond cheese, soak the blanched almonds for about 24 hours in water. Next, dry them off and transfer to a food processor. Puree them with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, water and salt. Layer a fine mesh strainer with a thin cotton napkin (works way better than cheesecloth), and place over a bowl. Pour half of the mixture into the lined strainer and wrap up tightly, then squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. Wrap up and secure with a rubber band. Do the same with the rest of the cheese. Transfer to a plate and chill for 8 hours or over night.

Orange-Almond Cheese Log -- Epicurean Vegan

(you’ll end up with twice this much almond cheese)

To make the cheese log, cream the cream cheese the food processor or mixer. I used a food processor; either would work fine—I just find that the cream cheese gets blended much better this way. You can then transfer to a bowl and stir in everything else, or continue using the food processor.  Squeeze out any more liquid from the almond cheese and add them to the cream cheese along with the orange zest and thyme.

Orange-Almond Cheese Log -- Epicurean Vegan

Pulse several times to combine. Layout a long piece of plastic wrap and spread the toasted almond slices on it. Scoop out the cheese onto the plastic, then wrap up the sides to create a log. This will take some finessing, so just go with how you feel most comfortable doing it.

Orange-Almond Cheese Log -- Epicurean Vegan

Chill for a few hours and serve with crackers. As we were putting the food out for the party, someone had some blackberries and put them around the cheese—brilliant! Fresh fruit is ideal to accompany this cheese log. I know there’s some time involved in making this, but the steps are very easy and worth the effort. Enjoy!

Avocado Cupcakes

Avocado Cupcakes -- Epicurean VeganYes, that’s right. Avocado Cupcakes. I love incorporating avocado into recipes when I can, especially when I can use it to replace the oil in baked goods. The Glazed Chocolate-Avocado Cupcakes proved that avocados belong in cupcakes, so I decided to try making them without the cocoa and made some other minor adjustments. They came out perfect! Soft, moist and green! It’s good to be green.

1-1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1/2 C Florida Crystals sugar
3/4 C almond milk
1/3 C vanilla soy yogurt
2 tsp vanilla

1/2 C Earth Balance margarine
2-3 C confectioner’s sugar
Almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 and line a 12-cup muffin with liners. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the food processor, puree the avocado. Add the almond milk, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla; blend until smooth and creamy.

Avocado Cupcakes -- Epicurean Vegan

Combine the avocado mixture with the flour mixture by using a whisk.

Avocado Cupcakes -- Epicurean Vegan

Evenly fill the 12 muffin cups.

Avocado Cupcakes -- Epicurean Vegan

Bake for 25 minutes.

Avocado Cupcakes -- Epicurean Vegan

Let them cool completely before frosting them. To make the frosting, cream the Earth Balance and add some almond milk, then some sugar. I didn’t measure these out, I just added a little at a time to reach a thick consistency. Using a pastry bag, I frosted the tops. You can also spread it on with a knife. I got fancy; as fancy as I can get in the time I had. :-)

Avocado Cupcakes -- Epicurean Vegan

Vegan Calzones

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean VeganThe Seventh Grader wanted calzones for his birthday dinner and it’s so easy to let guests make their own with their choice of ingredients. I made some tofu ricotta cheese, had mushrooms, spinach, black olives, and green bell pepper to fill up the calzones. Bake, then top with warm marinara and you’re ready to eat!

I packet (2-1/4 tsp) yeast
1 C warm water
2 Tbs agave
1/4 C olive oil
3-1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt

Veggies of your choice, such as: spinach, mushrooms, tofu ricotta, bell pepper, roasted red pepper, Daiya Mozzarella, etc.
1 jar marinara sauce (This was enough for 5 calzones)

Using a mixer, combine the water, yeast, and agave and blend well. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to get foamy. In medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. With the mixer running, add the oil, then gradually, the flour.

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean Vegan

Squeeze the dough together tightly and knead it a little to get a smooth ball. Place it in a large, oiled bowl.

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean Vegan

Cover with a dish towel and place it in a warm place for about an hour. It ought to nearly triple in size.

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean Vegan

Punch it down and transfer to a floured surface. Knead the dough for 3-5  minutes, or until you no longer hear “dough-farts.” I divided the dough into 5 parts or five calzones, but you can easily get 6-7 calzones from this recipe. I rolled them out ahead of time and layered them in between sheets of waxed paper.

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean Vegan

If you do this, I recommend lightly greasing the waxed paper sheets. I then placed the stack in a large ziplock and stored them in the fridge until we were ready to assemble them.

Preheat oven to 350. Fill up the calzones with whatever veggies you’d like. You can also ladle some marinara sauce inside, too. I’ve never been good about making things like this look pretty, so we ended up with a motley crew of calzones.

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean Vegan

Bake for 12-15 minutes–not too long, or the tops will get hard and crunchy.

Vegan Calzones -- Epicurean Vegan

Top with some marinara sauce and enjoy!

Amazing Avocado Salsa

Amazing Avocado Salsa -- Epicurean VeganBeware: This feeds a crowd . . . and . . . you can easily fill up on this salsa before dinner because it’s so delicious! It’s packed full of flavor and would be ideal for a summer get together. (yes, it’s December, but avocados were on sale). The recipe is from All Recipes, but I just made a couple of changes such as using red onion instead of yellow and adding 1 cup of fresh cilantro. Dig in!

1 (16 ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 (2.25 ounce) cans sliced ripe olives, drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 C fresh cilantro, chopped
4 avocados – peeled, pitted and diced

In a large bowl, mix corn, olives, red bell pepper, onion, and cilantro. In a small bowl, mix garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper.

Amazing Avocado Salsa -- Epicurean VeganPour into the corn mixture and toss to coat. Cover and chill in the refrigerator 8 hours, or overnight. (I didn’t have time to let it sit that long. I chilled it for about 4 hours). Stir avocados into the mixture before serving with tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices. Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean VeganI officially have a teenager. The Seventh Grader turned thirteen yesterday! How did that happen so fast?! Born 6 weeks early, my little guy quickly became a big guy:

10 months

Hard to believe that chubby babe is now five feet tall and 13!!

He wanted a chocolate layer cake for the big day, so I ventured out on Google to find one. Savvy Vegetarian had one that looked pretty good and I liked that it didn’t have any oil. When it comes to cakes, I often find that with the frosting, they are way too sweet, so I messed with the sugar content of this cake a bit. Because frosting is typically pretty sweet, I reduced the amount of sugar in the cake. It came out perfect! It was slightly dense and very moist. Everyone agreed it was fabulous!

2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C unsweetened baking cocoa
2 Tbs arrowroot
1 C Earth Balance margarine
1 C (I reduced it from 1- 2/3 C) granulated sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
1-1/3 C water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C almond milk
2 Tbs lemon juice

2 C (1 bag) Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C Earth Balance margarine
2 Tbs almond milk

Florida Crystals

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter two 9″ cake pans, then dust with flour; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa, and arrowroot. In a small bowl, combine the almond milk and lemon juice. Using a mixer, cream together the Earth Balance and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the milk mixture, water, and vanilla. Slowly, add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, combine well. Pour evenly into the two cake pans.

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean Vegan
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of each cake—if it comes out clean, they’re done. Let them cool completely.

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean Vegan

Using a sharp knife, go around the edges of the cooled cake. Place a rack or plate over the top of the cake and turn upside down. If they don’t fall out right away, lightly tap the bottom of the pan. It’s always so suspenseful hoping the cake comes out without sticking to the bottom of the pan . . . luckily, it worked out beautifully for me.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate chips over low heat in a saucepan. Remove from heat and let cool until slightly warm. In the meantime, beat the Earth Balance with a mixer. (What I like about this frosting, is that there is no added sugar in it!) Add the chocolate to the butter mixture and combine well. You’ll need to add up to two tablespoons of almond milk to thin it out a little. It will resemble mud.

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean Vegan

Transfer one of the cake layers to a large plate and frost the entire thing.

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean Vegan

Place the other layer on top. Came out a bit lopsided . . .

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean Vegan

Frost the top layer. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake -- Epicurean Vegan