nutritional yeast

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

Barbecue season is in a full swing with invitations plenty. Traditionally barbecues are not the best place for somebody on a plant based diet. If you do happen to get invited to one, it’s good to have a plan. Last weekend I made this salad to bring to a barbecue together with some veggie burgers and sausages. I bring food with me to any dinner partyI am invited to, partly because I like to cook and feed people but it’s also a way to introduce people to some tasty plant based dishes. Most of the time even the biggest meat lovers enjoy something “different”.

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In this salad I used my home dried tomatoes, they taste more “tomatoey” than shop bought sun dried tomatoes. They are simple to make if you have a dehydrator but oven drying works well too. However you wont achieve the same consistent results as ovens tend to produce uneven heat.

If you are using shop bought dun dried tomatoes the best ones for flavour comparison are sun blushed tomatoes. Unfortunately most sun dried tomatoes are preserved in sunflower oil, the one oil we should have less in our diets. If you can’t make your own or can’t buy sun dried tomatoes that are not suspended in oil, than rinse the oil off under a running tap. The home dried tomatoes are also not salty like the shop bought ones tend to be. Adjust for the salt depending on what tomatoes you are using.

In this dish I would not use roasted peppers from a jar, they tend to have a briny taste, I much prefer the sweetness of the peppers I roast myself. I do prefer to roast them in the oven rather than on the flame of my gas hob. When roasted in the oven they become soft and sweet, even green peppers taste lovely when oven roasted. Just make sure you don’t forget to pierce them with a tip of your knife before roasting to avoid any pepper explosions.

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WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

6 bell peppers, assorted colours
2 cups cooked or 2 tins of white beans (canellini are the best)
1 tin or jar of artichokes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup home dried tomatoes (or sun blushed)
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup juice from the roasted peppers
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Pierce the peppers in few pieces with the tip of the knife. Place in a baking dish or on a baking tray lined with unbleached parchment paper. Roast for 30min or until the skin is all blistered.
  • In the mean time n a dry pan roast the pine nuts will golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Place the peppers into a glass bowl cover the bowl with cling film to let the peppers steam, this makes it easier to peel the peppers. The peppers release juices, strain these and set aside. Peel the peppers, remove all the seeds. It helps to run the peppers under water to remove all the seeds.
  • Cut peppers into strips and put into a large bowl together with the beans and quartered artichokes.
  • In a blender combine the pine nuts, home dried tomatoes, parsley, garlic, roasted pepper juice, lemon, olive oil and nutritional yeast.
  • Blend till you achieve a thick dressing, about thickness of mayonnaise. Add more red pepper juice to thin out the dressing if too thick.
  • Mix into the beans, artichokes and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.




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Home Dried Tomatoes

Small ripe tomatoes

Dehydrator
Halve the tomatoes. Place them cut size up on the dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 43C (115F) for 14-18 hours for cherry tomatoes or more if the tomatoes are larger.

Oven
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the tomatoes cut side up on the tray and bake at the lowest setting of your oven till dried. Times will vary depending on your oven and size of the tomatoes. After 3 hours check every 30minutes.


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VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

It’s the annual Vegetarian Week and people may be choosing to transition to vegetarian or vegan diets. When done right, eating the plant based way can do wonders for person’s health.

The key in a successful transition to a plant based diet is to focus on all the wonderful foods you can have rather than mourning those you have lost. What about cauliflower buffallo wings, cashew nut cheese, or homemade plant strong parmesan made out of nutritional yeast flakes and nuts? All these come pretty close to the real thing. And some, I think, taste even better.

Yesterday I went to a business lunch and ended up with one of the most tasteless vegan dishes I had in a long time. On the menu it sounded reasonable, stuffed pepper with roasted vegetables and herby couscous with a side salad. The reality was different. The couscous was overcooked, bland, flavoured poorly with herbs of the dried variety. The roasted vegetables were far and few between I did struggle to taste them. The pepper itself was undercooked. I was very happy that I didn’t end up with a green pepper and felt sorry for those who did. The only saving grace was the bottle of balsamic vinegar brought as a dressing for our side salad (the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber - yawn!), I wasn’t the only person who splashed it onto the meal to add some flavour. This is the type of meal that will never make people consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.

Why is it so hard for some chefs to make a decent vegan meal? Surely, with a little imagination, you can halve the peppers lengthways, roast them till soft, stuff them with couscous bursting with roasted veggies, chickpeas and lots of fresh herbs. What about toasted pine nuts to top it all of? How about a lush zingy dressing or a tomato sauce spiced with Moroccan spices to go with it??? Vegans and vegetarians don’t want their dish to be an afterthought, we want flavour!

My pesto recipe is full of flavour and I am giving you two different recipes to use it in :)

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VEGAN BASIL PESTO

2 cups basil pesto leaves, packed (you can also use parsley, or half and half)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 cup (50g) pine nuts ( walnuts or pistachios work well too)
juice of half lemon
5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender and process till combined. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too thick.

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ROASTED VEGETABLE CIABBATA WITH PESTO
I don’t buy the commercial oil sprays, I have a Pampered Chef oil pump and use my own, good quality oil in it. No added rubbish.

3 bel peppers (red, orange, yellow)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
olive oil (in spray bottle)
10 sun dried tomatoes
1 ciabbata loaf
vegan basil pesto above

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  • Preheat oven to 220C. Line a baking tray or dish with parchment paper. Pierce the peppers with a knife in few places (to prevent them from exploding), place on the tray and bake till the skin is blistered all over (turn halfway through) about 30-40min. Place the peppers in a glass bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and let the peppers steam, this will make it easier to peel them. When cooled peel off the skin, remove the core and seeds. Best done under running water. Tear into large pieces.
  • Slice the aubergine into thin round slices, about half centimetre thick. Preheat a griddle pan. Spray the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides, grill on both sides till the aubergine is cooked through (it should be easy to pierce with a fork). Set aside.
  • To make the giant sub sandwich halve the ciabbata lengthways. Spread the inside of both ciabbata halves with the pesto, be generous (I was left with about 2 Tbs of the above recipe after doing this).
  • First cover the bottom half of ciabbata with a layer of aubergine slices, than add a layer of pepper pieces. Next layer is the sun-dried tomatoes, than peppers and lastly the remaining aubergine slices. Top with the other ciabbata half.
  • Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in a cling film and refrigerate for at least half hour.
  • When ready to eat, unwrap the sandwich and cut into individual portions.
  • PS: There is no tidy way of eating it. Have a napkin on hand.

When making the above recipe I used 2 aubergines and found myself with slices from one left over. There was also 2 tbs worth of pesto. This is what I made for lunch with these leftovers. It was delicious and I will be making a large dish for the whole family soon!


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AUBERGINE, TOMATO AND PESTO BAKE FOR ONE

1 aubergine, sliced and slices grilled (see above)
2 tbs vegan pesto
1 tin of crushed tomatoes (or passata)
6 sliced olives, sliced


  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a small baking dish, place couple tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes. Sandwich the aubergine slices with the pesto.
  • Make a layer of the aubergine pesto slices, cover with half the tin tomatoes, scatter with olive slices. Next repeat with rest of aubergine slices and top with the remaining tomatoes and olives. Season between laters.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

My son enjoys a cup of tea with me. We get my teapot, some loose white or green tea (I have quite a collection), let it brew, pour and of course we sip and enjoy. The other day, holding a cup of tea, he told his sister : “You should drink green tea too, people who drink 3 cups of green tea a day get less cancer”. It made me laugh. Where did he get the information from? I guess my shouting out latest health headlines at everybody has made some impact after all.

There are many strategies how to get kids eating healthy. Everybody has an opinion. When my daughter was going through an extra picky period I even had the recommendation of just making her eat it. Too controlling! Making food fun? Honestly I am not into making faces out of fruit and veggies. I did try making start charts and giving rewards. We even had a colour coded chart to make sure she would eat a rainbow. It worked for a while but slowly she seemed to care less and less.

Last year, when I was studying Biomedicine for my course, my daughter got very interested in the human body and especially cells and the immune system. We had to watch lots of Youtube videos of cells dividing, immune cells gobbling up invaders and blood cells gushing through veins and arteries.

This gave me an idea. I started to explain to her how healthy food makes our cells happy. I tell her what nutrients she is getting from her food and what they do inside her body. I also mention the bad stuff, how harmful certain foods can be. The other day, on my computer, she saw picture of foods that cause cancer v foods that protect from cancer. It sure made an impression on her. Maybe kids need to know exactly why we want them to eat health giving foods. Saying: “because it is good for you” doesn’t seem to cut it. And we need to lead by example! Kids do learn from us.

Admittedly all is not perfect, she will still rather have a piece of chocolate than a carrot, but she has been trying new fruits and veggies lately in a rate that I have not seen before. Did I finally find a strategy that works?

While making this broccoli and cauliflower bake I didn’t think she would eat much of it. Perhaps the broccoli. The sauce? Only is she didn’t know that a pepper was in it...I was setting myself for a fall. On top of it all she decided to help me cook. Oh no! I couldn't just hide the pepper in the sauce! She did watch with great interest the red pepper’s skin getting blacker and blacker on the flame. She helped me make the sauce. She helped me pour it onto the veggies and sprinkle pine nuts on top of the bake. And to my surprise she ate cauliflower and scraped the rest of the pepper sauce out of the dish. Success!!!

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BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER BAKE IN A ROASTED PEPPER SAUCE

Serves 4

ingredients
1 red pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 medium cauliflower
150g (5 oz) of silken tofu
125ml (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
125ml (1/2 cup) water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs pine nuts

method
  1. Roast the pepper. You can do it directly over the flame (I use a large metal skewer to make it easier to hold the pepper) or roasted under a grill (broiler) or simply in the oven until the skin is blackened and blistered. Make sure you prick the pepper with a skewer or a tip of the knife to prevent it exploding.
  2. When the skin on the pepper is blistered place it in a bowl and cover with cling film, this will create steam making it easier to peel the pepper. Remove the seeds.
  3. Next steam the cauliflower and broccoli. I prefer to do them separately since the cauliflower takes longer to cook. Aim for about 6 min for cauliflower, 4 min for broccoli.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking place the peeled and deseeded roasted red pepper, tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast into a blender and process till smooth. Add more water if too thick, you want sauce that is little bit thinner than the classic bechamel sauce.
  5. Place the broccoli and cauliflower into a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  6. Bake in a 180C oven for 30min or until golden brown on top. Serve.

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MAC AND WHIZZ

MAC AND WHIZZ

Classic macaroni and cheese used to be one of my family’s favourite dishes, we would have it at least every other week. I would make the cheese sauce out of butter, white flour, dairy milk and at least half a pound of cheese, mix in the white pasta and there you have it. This classic mac and cheese can have around 18 - 25g of fat per 1 cup. That is bad enough but I have yet to meet a person who would eat just that one cup of mac and cheese.

Times change, and even though I am on a mission to avoid pretty much everything in the classic recipe, my love for mac and cheese remains. Finding a suitable alternative became my goal. First I tried few vegan mac and cheese recipes that I found on the web. Later I tweaked and experimented until I came up with my version. There are few reasons why I love this dish. I can still get that mac and cheese fix minus that heavy dairy induced feeling afterwards. I have sneaked in somewhere around a pound of butternut squash, a vegetable very much hated by both of my children (victory dance!!!). They always scoff the lot even though they now know what lurks inside. My son still says he prefers the dairy heavy version but that did not stop him to make his way to the pot for seconds... Slow but steady steps and he may even change his mind one day.

There is a reason why I am calling this Mac and Whizz, all you need is a good blender to whizz up the sauce. Pretty quick and easy. You could also use a food processor.

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MAC AND WHIZZ
This recipe makes loads, but reheats well. To reheat just add a touch of water and bring to a gentle simmer, stir often till heated through..

Serves 6

ingredients
1 lb butternut squash (about half of a larger one, peeled weight), cut into 2 inch cubes
500g (1lb 2oz) whole wheat macaroni
1 cup of cashews soaked
2 cups of water
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp paprika
1 tsp dried onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs miso (the lighter colour the better)
60ml (1/4 cup) Nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

method
  1. First steam the squash till soft, this will take about 10-15 min depending on the size of your pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, place all the remaining ingredients and the cooked butternut squash into your blender. Process till smooth. Depending on your blender this will take a few minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, return into the cooking pot or a large sauce pan together with the sauce. Bring to a simmer for couple of minutes, the sauce will thicken nicely.
  5. Serve with some steamed veggies and a big green salad.
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