Taste Test: Miyoko’s Kitchen Handcrafted Artisan Vegan Cultured Cheese

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Miyoko Schinner is a legend in the vegan cooking world. I bought her book Artisan Vegan Cheese when it came out two years ago but I never made a recipe. I supported the Kickstarter campaign for her vegan cooking show Vegan Mashup on Delicious TV just so I could watch her in action.

And now, Miyoko launched Miyoko’s Kitchen where she makes artisan vegan cheeses (which are actually cultured nut products) and now I don’t need the book and can just order online!

I liked cheese growing up but nothing fancy. Swiss cheese on toast, American cheese in macaroni and cheese, cream cheese on a bagel, or once in a while a fancy variation at a restaurant or something. Now I get to choose from these very fancy and beautiful handcrafted vegan cheeses. But which to buy? Miyoko’s Mix – why not get it all? – is what the website said. So I did!

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And last night we had a cheese tasting party. Grapes, apples, and eight different cheeses. We loved them all. Each has their own flavor and texture, true to their descriptions on the website (see below), and they last for a few months in the refrigerator and get better with time.

Here are some ideas for cooking projects but first I am going to toast a scooped out bagel and slather it with the double cream chive. This is the closest thing to cream cheese and chives from when I was a girl and I could not be happier! Then I want to melt the sundried tomato garlic into a big bowl of pasta and make risotto with the rustic alpine or the winter truffle. And then I want to sit with a plate of sliced apples and eat the rest or just go into the refrigerator and take a slice straight up.

What a joy that the vegan world has come to this! There can no longer be the excuse that  “I can’t go vegan because I would miss cheese too much” because these cheeses are healthier, environmentally friendly, and cruelty free.

Place your order ASAP and enjoy a whole new level of plant based cuisine!

These are the cheeses from Miyoko’s Mix with descriptions from their website:

No. 1 Classic Double Cream Chive – Buttery, savory, mild herbal garlic flavor.

No. 2 Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic – Creamy and robust with deep Mediterranean flavors.

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No. 3 High Sierra Rustic Alpine – Semi-hard wheel with nutty, sweet overtones and a buttery finish.

No. 4 Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf – Wine-soaked fig leaves caress a gorgeous soft, fresh, aromatic wheel.

No. 6 French Style Winter Truffle – Elegant, woodsy, earthy flavors full of umami in a luxuriously creamy base.

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No. 7 Aged English Sharp Farmhouse - Hard, aged round with sharp, complex flavors and a long finish.

No. 8 Aged English Smoked Farmhouse - Semi-hard with rich, smoky, sharpness that lingers.

No. 9 Country Style Herbes De Provence – Mildly tangy, coated in lavender and herbs for a touch of sweetness.

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And then there is this. Blue cheese! My son wanted to help me take a picture and the natural light was fading. He got his Anakin Skywalker light saber.

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Very Fudgy Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies

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I am always on the lookout for cookie and brownie ideas, especially if they have peanut butter in them because, really, there is nothing better than peanut butter…in my opinion!

I adapted this recipe from one I found out on the internets. These are very fudgy and very decadent. But there is nothing “bad” in them – just peanut butter, maple syrup and homemade applesauce (with the last of the apples from this year’s apple picking adventure!)

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegan mini chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350. Get your brownie pan ready. I use my 8×8.

Mix the peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla and applesauce with a hand mixer until smooth. Add cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix again until smooth.

Fold 1/4 cup of chocolate chips into batter. Pour batter a brownie pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until top is just set. Cool and then cut into squares. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Black Bean Burgers

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OMG YUM! And E – A – S – Y. Just bought my first butternut squash of the season. Perfect recipe to start the fall.

Makes 6 burgers

2 cups cooked butternut squash *
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup diced onions
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 big clove of garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 buns
6 big pieces of lettuce
1 red onion, sliced
Water or oil, for sautéing

* Peel, deseed and dice the squash. Place the cubed squash in pot with a steamer insert. Steam until the squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork. Let cool.

Chop the onions and red peppers into a small dice. Mince the garlic and chop the cilantro.

Sauté the onions in water or oil until they become translucent. Add the garlic and red peppers and cook until just softening, about 5 minutes.

Place the butternut squash, black beans, and quinoa into a big bowl. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and salt. Mix well.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the burger mixture. Place the rest into the food processor and process until combined. Add them back together and mix well.

Form 6 burgers and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Slice the red onions, keeping the sections together. Toast the buns under the broiler for 3 minutes.

To serve, place the burger on the bottom side of the bun and the lettuce and onions on the top. Enjoy!

PS. Leftover cooked burgers freeze well. Wrap each one individually and store in the freezer. When ready to use, defrost the burger and bake or heat in a non-stick skillet.

Tricolore Salad with Creamy Italian Dressing

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An easy Friday recipe. Tricolore salad is called “tricolore” because the green of the arugula, the white of the endive, and the red of the radicchio make up the colors of the Italian flag. I love a creamy dressing so I dressed this salad with my version of Creamy Italian. I got a big smile from my husband with this one. It’s the red wine vinegar that really does the trick.

Creamy Italian Dressing
1 cup raw cashews *
1 cup filtered water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove fresh garlic
A few shakes of dried parsley
A few shakes of dried oregano

* If you don’t have a Vitamix, soak the cashews for 4 hours.

Place everything into the Vitamix and let it rip. It’s done when the dressing is smoooooooth! Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tricolore Salad
Arugula
Endive
Radicchio

Cut the lettuces and toss with the dressing. Enjoy!

Apple-Raisin Chutney

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What to make with the last of the apples from our apple picking adventure last week? Chutney (which is automatically vegan) and we have eaten it several times this week on top of both tofu and tempeh.

makes about 1 cup

3 apples
1/2 onion
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins

Peel and chop the apples. Dice the onion. Grate the ginger.

Place all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Take off the heat and let cool.

Store the rest in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I just made yet another batch of applesauce with our apple picking apples. Applesauce is a great baking ingredient so I made these deliciously dense and chocolate-y cookies.

makes 15 cookies with a 3 tablespoon ice cream scooper

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup vegan sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients. Then add the chocolate chips and mix well.

Using an ice cream scooper, scoop the dough onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Let cool (if you can wait) and enjoy!

Taste Test: So Delicious Candy Corn Ice Cream Pops & Coco Whip

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We have been on the lookout for these new products from So Delicious for several weeks now and yesterday we hit the lottery! We found both the Candy Corn ice cream pops and the CocoWhip at the Whole Foods in Lake Grove.

Holy deliciousness! We couldn’t wait to dig in so we ripped open the box of Candy Corn ice cream pops and stood in the freezer aisle. I ate the chocolate topped section, my son ate the vanilla middle, and my husband ate the creamsicle bottom. What a great idea for a special holiday treat. Vegan coconut perfection.

And the box comes with two jokes:

“What do you get when you cross a vampire and a snowman? Frost bite!

“What do ghosts serve for dessert? Ice cream!”

We had to wait to taste the CocoWhip because it has to thaw for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator so after a great lunch today, I topped my homemade strawberry ice cream with this fantastic whipped topping.

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I usually like homemade but this is way better than anything I have been able to create in my kitchen. I have tried several times with canned coconut milk but it turns out that the added guar gum makes it a challenge to whip. Which is fine because now that I have this, I don’t have to make my own!It is not too sweet, has a great fluffy consistency, and is way better than the Cool Whip I remember having as a kid. And it can be re-refrigerated or re-frozen for longer storage and more eating opportunities.

Two thumbs up for So Delicious. You guys rock!!

Book Report: The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

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How lucky am I to have received this book? The publicist asked me to review it for the blog. Oh my gosh!! It is brilliant in so many ways.

The author is Karen Page who wrote a book years ago called The Flavor Bible which is an award winning cookbook and is considered one of the best cookbooks ever written. It was designed to give the cook information about what foods go with what flavors so they could be creative in their own kitchen.

But a few years ago, Karen Page went plant-based after getting educated about food in the same program as me, The eCornell Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition, and realized that what prevents many people from cooking plant-based meals is a lack of knowledge about what goes with what. So here it is. The Bible! With over 500 pages and beautiful photographs taken by the author’s husband, Andrew Dornenburg, the book is an incredible resource.

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Photo Credit © Andrew Dornenburg

This book is perfect for me or any home cook who likes to make up their meals and not follow recipes exactly. As a reader of this blog, you know that over the years, I have developed my own little repertoire of meals that I have created based on what flavors I like and what I think goes with what. Now I am armed with an actual list of information that validates my thinking. You can turn to any page in this book and find out what goes with what.

For example, under cilantro, you can find the season (year-round), flavor (bitter, sour, sweet with notes of lemon and lime), volume (loud), what it is (an herb), it’s botanical relative (coriander, parsley) and possible substitute (parsley.)

Then there is list of flavor affinities. One that caught my eye was cliantro + carrots + lime + rice. So the other night, I sautéed a few shallots, added diced carrots, added the rice and water and cooked until the rice was done. Then. right before serving, I added fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro. Wowza, a fantastic side dish.

The book is organized into three sections. The introduction explains the macronutrients – protein, carbs and fat – and what and how to eat them. Then comes a thorough history of vegetarianism, with interviews and quotes from world renowned chefs, and a really handy “If you are craving this, try this” list from which I found out that I can pour warm brown rice syrup over popcorn and have caramel corn! That happened last night.

Then come The Lists. Flavor matching for every possible ingredient in alphabetical order. Just like any good resource book, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible has a color coded system of letters so you can find what you are looking for easily when looking at the side edge of the pages and a handy little built in bookmark.

This is a MUST HAVE book that would make a GREAT holiday gift for anyone who likes to cook!

S - SPRING  (market with carrots, herbs, and radishes)

Photo Credit © Andrew Dornenburg

Eating Vegan in Asheville, N.C.

Last month we made a trip to Asheville, NC. We stayed at Inn at the Biltmore, a beautiful hotel on the grounds of the Biltmore, one of the Vanderbilt estates. What a gorgeous place especially the gardens and butterflies!

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Luckily there lots of vegan eats everywhere!

First stop was The Laughing Seed and we dug right in! I had the special entree because I love trying different variations of cashew cream, this one was a cashew alfredo. The dish was cavatappi with artichoke hearts, red peppers, capers, arugula and savory tempeh crumbles tossed with the alfredo. The dish was so beautiful topped with microgreens and a beet puree. Look at that color!

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This here is your basic vegan meal. Brown rice, avocado, and perfect and super delicous locally made tempeh.

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I am a big fan of good french fries and these are gooood! Check out those fried jalapeños in there. Surprise!

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For lunch on our second day, we visited the local Whole Foods which was originally Greenlife Grocery. Whole Foods bought it at some point but the place kept its original charm. These carrot cashew croquettes were an original Greenlife recipe and they were phenomenal. I plan on recreating them in my kitchen soon. The sauce was ridiculously good too. They said it was made with coconut milk, cashews and cayenne. I plan on working that up too! The quinoa sweet potato cakes were a little dry but luckily I had that great sauce. And just look at the pretty stuffed tomato.

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After our Whole Foods lunch, we stopped at The Hop Ice Cream Cafe. They make all of their own ice cream in house and they always have several vegan options! Lucky for us. The shop was totally cute and old fashioned, especially the formica tabletops.

The ice cream was divine. We had vanilla cookies and soy creme in a cone and chocolate banana creme in a cup with homemade coconut whip.

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Our last meal was at Plant. It has been named one of the top vegan restaurants in the country. No wonder. It is a gorgeous restaurant with super creative dishes. It’s only open for dinner so I made sure we scheduled for it.

My son started with the house lemonade. His most favorite drink ever.

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I love when a restaurant serves an amuse-bouche. This one was carrots in a little acid.

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Next we ordered the cheese plate. I have to applaud a vegan restaurant with a cheese plate, homemade too! This is aged cashew, a farmer’s involtini (which is a small bite of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filling in this case vegan cheese wrapped in a slice of zucchini), rosemary peaches, pickled peppers, black garlic oil, and homemade focaccia.

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My son got a plate of gherkins. Very gourmet!

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We also had the smoked hummus plate. If you like smoked, this is your hummus. I prefer not smoked but it was still great. The roasted garlic bulb on the side was brilliant (I will be duplicating this at home) and the toasted bread was excellent.

IMG_5642Next we had the red curry tofu. What a great sauce! It was served with jasmine rice, kaffir lime cakes, and teriyaki green beans with thai basil.

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Finally, dessert. The black out pie was excellent. It had a chocolate peanut butter fudge center with a cookie crust. And a creamsicle ice cream which was good but it had too much ginger in it for my taste.

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Overall, the entire weekend was food filled and delicious. Go to Asheville just to eat!

Harvest Party: Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Potato-Apple Pancakes with Homemade Applesauce & An Apple Crostata (Galette)

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Today we are having a harvest party! Yesterday, we found a small apple orchard five miles from our house and then a pumpkin patch a few more miles down the road. We decided to have a harvest party with all of our goodies!

We carved our very first Jack O’Lantern! I have never done that before. First my husband cut the top open. I had the honor of reaching inside and pulling out the “guts!” Then, my son drew the face on the side of the pumpkin with a pencil and my husband carved out the eyes, nose and mouth. Then, I took the pumpkin seeds and toasted them for a super crunchy and very fresh snack.

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My son also wanted jello so we used this Simply Delish brand of vegan jel dessert. I get that it is not the healthiest thing in the world, but my son is 5 and he needs his fix! This is the orange flavor and we used my mother’s 1970’s Tupperware jello mold. Hilarious!

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We also made my famous applesauce. This is one of the best things I make – perfectly pure, nothing added. Today’s batch came out light pink. Next, we added apples to our potato pancakes so we had a good reason to eat the applesauce.

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And the finale, was that gorgeous apple crostata pictured up top. Inspired by a new vegan friend, I veganized this apple crostata recipe, also known as a galette, from Jessica Seinfeld’s from Do It Delicious. I used vegetable shortening and worked the dough just like the Barefoot Contessa says to.

Note: I forgot to peel the apples. It is probably better to do so. When we ate the crostata right out of the oven it didn’t matter but when we had seconds later, it made a difference.

Apple Galette
Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vegan sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold Earth Balance vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice-cold water + as many more tablespoons as needed

Filling
3 large apples (I used McIntosh)
3 tablespoons vegan sugar
1 tablespoon flour
A few shakes of cinnamon

Glaze
1 tablespoon apricot preserves
2 teaspoons water
Vegan sugar, for an extra sprinkle

To make the dough, add flour, sugar and salt into the food processor and pulse until ingredients are combined. Dice the shortening and add it to the processor. Pulse until mixture has a totally crumbly consistency. With the motor running, add ice water through the feed tube and process until the dough comes together. Add a tablespoon of water a time until it becomes a solid mass. Turn out onto a floured surface and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

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While the dough is chilling, cut the apples into 1/4 inch thick slices. If using an apple slicer, cut each piece into three more pieces. Add to a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, flour and cinnamon. Toss to coat well.

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Preheat the oven to 400. Line a big baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and flour a rolling pin and work surface. Roll the dough out into a circle, as thin as you can get it. It might have breaks on the edges, but that is okay because it will fold over into the crust. Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the baking sheet.

Pour the apples onto the middle of the dough and sort of try to organize them in a pretty way. Fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it as you go around.

Whisk together the apricot preserves and water and brush over the apples. Sprinkle a little extra sugar over the top for good luck.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender. Eat immediately because it is just sooooo good or let it cool. Serve a la mode, if you like!

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Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds right out of a pumpkin
1/2 tablespoon grapeseed oil
Coarse salt

Clean the pumpkin seeds of the guts of the pumpkin. Spread out onto a baking sheet to dry overnight. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat. Toast in a 375 oven for 25 to 30 minutes until brown.

Potato-Apple Pancakes
4 russet potatoes
2 McIntosh apples
1 medium onion
2 flax eggs *
1/2 to 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Sunflower oil, for frying

Whip up the flax eggs and set aside.

Peel the potatoes and shred them in the food processor. Place into a strainer and cover with water. Lift up the strainer and press out as much water as possible. Next, peel the apples and shred them in the processor. Then do the same with the onions. Place the onions into another strainer and press out the water.

Mix everything together, using as much flour as needed to make the mixture stay together. Fry up in oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Best to let them sit for a bit before eating.

Enjoy!