Low-Fat Cheesy Sauce [vegan + gf + no nuts + no oil]

cheesesauceI think I’ve finally done it and I’m really excited.

I have made a LOT of cheesy sauces over the years.  I mean, it’s crazy how many; recipes I’ve found and tweaked, recipes I’ve created, etc.  After all, mac-n-cheese was my favorite food before I went vegan 10+ years ago.  While I don’t crave the real thing, I still really love comforting foods like noodles with a creamy, cheese-like sauce.  Anyway, all the recipes I tried were similar to each other, all yummy, but all left me feeling like I wasn’t there yet;  that my quest for the perfect sauce wasn’t complete.  Getting the perfect combination of texture, mouth-feel, flavor and nutrient profile was beginning to seem impossible.

Sure, there are rich and amazingly delicious sauces out there but many of them call for a ton of nuts or a bunch of oil.  Any vegan food can taste delectable when adding a bunch of fat – there’s no creativity or skill in that.  The real challenge and test lies in making something that’s healthy, rich and delicious without exceeding your daily fat quota in one meal.

Yep.  I think I’ve finally done it.

Pumpkin Spice Brownies || vegan | gluten-free | oil-free

PumpkinSwirlBrownies2

November 4, 2015

CHOCOLATE!

People are coo coo for cocoa.

Me? I like it.  Sure.

But I wouldn’t consider selling my offspring for the last bar on earth as some people I know might.  It’s good.  I enjoy a quality piece of dark chocolate or a chocolatey dessert as much as the next girl, but when I like chocolate best is when it’s paired with something else, for example, peanut butter, raspberry, or in this case PUMPKIN!

If you’ve never had chocolate and pumpkin together, you’ve been missing out! The warm spices we associate with pumpkin taste great with the rich chocolate.  This recipe calls for healthy whole foods like black beans and pumpkin, uses very little flour, and no refined sugar or oil, and no eggs or dairy of course.  The only not-so-healthy part is the chocolate chips but we only use 1/4 cup.  I really like to use the Wonderslim cocoa powder as it’s lower in fat and caffeine than typical cocoa powder.PumpkinSwirlBrownies3

Go ahead, make these.

And try not to eat the whole pan.

I dare ya.

WAFFLES || vegan | gluten-free | oil-free

waffles August 28, 2015

I got a Waring-Pro double waffle maker a few years ago and have only used it twice.  I just couldn’t find a waffle recipe to my liking.  The first one was a disaster and the second just okay.  For my third attempt I scoured the internet and found several vegan recipes but they either contained oil, had bad reviews or weren’t gluten-free.  For the record, I don’t believe wheat/gluten is the evil food many people make it out to be but I seem to have a sensitivity so I go without, which is really no big deal. When done right, it really does force one to make healthier choices.  Which is why most people feel better and lose weight after cutting it out of their diet; not necessarily because gluten was making them heavy or feel badly but because by cutting it out they eliminated processed foods and crap.  But I digress….we are supposed to be talking about tasty waffles here, not gluten.

As I was saying, I couldn’t find a good waffle recipe so I took a chance and made one up, and man was I happy I did! These waffles came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I did have to spray the waffle iron with cooking spray – you just can’t get away from that; trust me, I know this from experience.  So have at it! I hope these work out as well for you as they did for me.

Chili Chowder

ChiliChowder This delicious, hardy dish has flavors similar to chili, with the texture and consistency of a thick chowder.  I love it! Top with avocado and/or Sour Un-Cream.

I have made this using both canned black beans and beans I made from scratch with the pressure cooker.  As is usually the case, I preferred the version with the homemade beans.    If you have a pressure cooker, it’s SO easy.  Soak 1 pound of dried black beans overnight or 6 hours (some say soaking isn’t necessary but I always do).  Rinse and place in your pressure cooker and add just enough water to cover the top of the beans – the water should be just touching the beans.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, a few bay leaves and 2 tsp cumin seeds.  Cook at high pressure 14 minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally.  Beans are done! Makes about 5 cups of black beans. Remove the bay leaves, stir and add the whole batch to the rest of the Chili Chowder ingredients.

I order my dried beans online from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Northern California.  They are heirloom beans, which are open-pollinated seeds that can be planted and you’ll get the exact same bean. They tend to have a lower yield and can be much more difficult to grow but the pay off is in the unique flavors and textures that you don’t find with bland commodity beans.  They are always fresh too, which is great.  You never know how old the beans at the grocery store are, and old beans can take forever to cook.  I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans.  It’s fun to experiment with all the different varieties they offer. Now get cooking!

Tahini Sauce || vegan | oil-free | gluten-free

Brown rice, sweet potato, kale and baked chickpeas topped with Tahini Sauce.

Brown rice, sweet potato, kale and baked chickpeas topped with Tahini Sauce.

I first created this sauce to use with the kale chips I made in my new dehydrator (still learning and experimenting, but that thing is FUN!).  They turned out great, btw, but I didn’t end up using all the sauce and shortly realized how delicious it was on steamed greens, and as a salad dressing.  It packs a lot of flavor so a little really does go a long way.

Giveaway Time! And Review and Recipe from Dreena Burton’s “Plant-Powered Families” – Saucy BBQ Chickpeas & Green Beans

June 16, 2015

One of my most favorite things about being a recipe blogger is getting review copies of cookbooks from publishers.  I have a thing for cookbooks – it’s actually getting a bit out of hand.  Need more bookshelves.  Anyway, Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton, one of my favorite vegan authors, is one of the books I get to play with this time and it’s a real treat.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Dreena’s but the one thing that bummed me out in the past was that I had to adapt her recipes to not include oil.  I was thrilled to find she doesn’t use any in her latest work.  Yay!  One of the things I like most about Dreena is how considerate and detailed she is with her recipes.  She clearly spends a lot of time tweaking and getting the ingredients and methods just right to make things as easy as she can for her readers, and she shares tips, tricks and alternatives for many situations.  She adds notes to each recipe with her suggestions for kicking it up, mellowing it out, use this instead of that, or simply adjusting flavors for adults’ or kids’ tastes.Plant-PoweredFamilies_FrontCover_WEB

Dreena has 3 young daughters so she understands the challenges involved in getting healthy food into picky kids who are busy and on the go.  Her recipes in this book are appealing to kids and adults alike with dishes like Sunday Morning Pancakes, Apple-Spice Hemp Muffins, Red Lentil Hummus, Zippy Chickpea and White Bean Dip, Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Umami Sun-Dried Tomato and Almond Burgers, Home Fries, Lemon-Kissed Blondie Bites and Banana Butter Ice Cream, just to name a few of many.  The book includes mouth-watering photos, and is laid out really nicely beginning with a section on priming your pantry with plant-based staples, followed by color coded chapters such as Healthy Mornings; Lunch Fixes; Salad Dressings, Sauces and Toppers; Dinnertime; Sweet Treats.  The back of the book has some cool resources like a section on Picky Eaters and how to manage them, School and Lunchbox solutions, Tips for Hosting and Attending Kids’ Parties, Sample Meal Plans and a FAQ’s section.  She didn’t miss a beat with this book – everything is covered, and honestly, you could use this book and none other for your family and be set. My only complaint about this book is that it doesn’t include allergen notations for each recipe, which is pretty lame since it’s easy to do and most books have.

Everything I’ve made from the book has been excellent, and today I’m sharing one of the recipes with you – Saucy BBQ Chickpeas and Green Beans.  I used broccoli because hubby hates green beans but otherwise I stuck to the recipe and it was delicious – and so simple! I will be doing a drawing to give away a free copy of this awesome book.  Tune in to my Facebook page for details on how to win! https://www.facebook.com/PlantifulWellness Enjoy the recipe.BBQSaucyChickpeas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies || vegan | gluten-free | oil-free

IMG_9328Soft, chewy, gooey and chocolatey – that’s what these cookies are. Best part is they are a sinful tasting treat without the sin (maybe just a little bit).  Of course there is no oil or butter in these little gems, but I also tried to keep the flour, sugar and fat low.  You’ll notice the recipe calls for 2 med-large bananas.  As such there is a very small banana taste…very slight though.  If you aren’t a banana fan (I simply cannot imagine!), try using only one banana and replacing the other with 1/2 cup applesauce.  I haven’t tried this so I can’t say exactly what the end result would be, but it’s worth a try.

Enjoy your chocolatey goodness!

Top 5 Reasons to Use a Pressure Cooker + Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe (vegan/gluten-free)

If you’re anything like I used to be, you equate pressure cookers with the 1950’s and a fear of getting hit in the face with scalding steam and a hot lid.  I hear it all the time; “I have a pressure cooker, but I’m scared to death to use it.”  Fear not, my friends! Nowadays pressure cookers have been built with safety features to assure ease of use without scalding, or sky-rocketing lids.  There is definitely a learning curve as it’s a different way of cooking, but once you experiment and get a feel for it, you’ll wonder how you ever went without!

Cuisinart-Pressure-Cooker

Electric pressure cooker

Stove-top pressure cooker

Stove-top pressure cooker

For those who don’t know, pressure cooking is a method which uses water to create steam that does not escape the vessel while the food is being cooked.  A fraction of the water is used compared to other methods.  Since there is less water to heat, it takes less time for the water/food to reach cooking temperature.  As well, due to the intense pressure and heat, items cook faster than simply steaming, boiling or braising.  And they are easy to use – put your food in the pan, lock the lid in place, turn on the heat, wait until it comes up to pressure, turn down heat and wait.  The units are available in electric and stove top versions, and while some steps differ slightly between the two, the concept is the same. Some dishes such, as green veggies, require you to let the steam out manually, which simply means pressing the valve and allowing steam to flow.  Others, like beans and grains, call for natural pressure release, which means you don’t do anything but wait until all the steam has slowly escaped on it’s own.  If you aren’t yet sold on the beauty of a pressure cooker, let me share some other benefits with you:

TOP 5 REASONS TO USE A PRESSURE COOKER:

  • Time savings – “I don’t have time” is the most common reason I hear for why people don’t prepare more of their own meals at home.  Well, a pressure cooker can help!  Example: brown rice would normally take about 40-45 minutes when boiled.  Using a pressure cooker it will cook in half the time.  Garbanzo beans take 14 minutes of cook time (not excluding the time it takes to come up to pressure, and release naturally).
  • Nutrient retention – Since the food is exposed to heat for a shorter period of time, fewer nutrients are lost in cooking.  As well, vitamins and minerals are not whisked away by water since there is so much less of it.
  • Energy savings – Thanks to shorter cooking times, the fire and/or electricity are used less.
  • No stirring required – If you’ve ever made risotto you know what a drag it can be, stirring and stirring and stirring.  You can make arborio rice risotto in the pressure cooker, at 5 minutes high pressure, without having ever lifted a spoon.  How cool is that?
  • Less water – water is a precious resource that is not as abundant as it once was, especially here in Southern California.  The less water we can use in every aspect of life, the better.

Some typical dishes for which I use my pressure cooker:

Steel cut oats
Oatmeal
Beans, chilis and stews
Whole grains such as rice and quinoa
Sweet and white potatoes
Kale and other greens

So basically, pressure cookers are awesome.  They can be used for anything you’d boil, steam or braise.  The tricky part is converting a recipe and figuring out how much liquid to use.  It just takes some experimenting.  In the meantime I wanted to share this yummy recipe with you for Butternut Squash Risotto using brown rice.  Easy and so delicious, without the constant stirring typical risotto calls for.  Also, a wonderful cookbook for pressure cooking is The New Fast Food by Jill Nussinow.  Invaluable, really.  Have fun cooking under pressure, and I hope you enjoy this dish!