Monday, March 28, 2011

Vegan. Gluten Free. XGFX.

I'm now part of a gluten free and vegan blogging community called Vegan. Gluten Free. XGFX. This community was started as a resource for those of us who are gluten free and vegan. There are many vegan and many gf blogs, but this community is made of folks who are always gluten free and always vegan.

Please come and visit us whether you are gluten free, vegan, both, or neither. Most of you know someone who is at least one of those things. Come on over and check out our awesome xgfx blogging community. I'm so happy to be part of this supportive and understanding group of bloggers!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cashew "Cheese"

I’m a bit nutty and that might be why I like nuts so much. While I’ve eaten them my whole life, I never went far beyond the peanut until the past five or so years. Sure, I would consume mixed nuts at a party, but I never used them in cooking. Along the way, they became a larger part of my diet. Early on, I'm not sure I realized the wonderful nutritional benefits that they offered, such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols, and so on. They are also rich in unsaturated fats, unlike milk, eggs, and meat ( Unless you are allergic, there is no reason they shouldn’t be a normal part of your diet.

Cashews are among my favorite nut and if I don’t watch myself, I can eat too many in one sitting. While nuts are healthful, they contain fat and I try not to consume an overabundance of fat in my diet. This is pretty easy since I’m vegan!

Some of my favorite ways to enjoy cashews is to add to cooked dishes, granola, oatmeal, and cereals. Every once and a while, I want the cashew to be the star of the show and when that is the case I dine on cashew cheese. There are probably hundreds of recipes for cashew cheese and if I repeat one here, it is by coincidence only. I’ve combined elements of cashew cheeses that I’ve had in the past to come up with the following recipe. I served it at a recent event and it was a hit!

Cashew Cheese
  • 2 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours (if you need them quicker, you can go with at least 30 minutes)
  • ¼ cup of water- use more or less depending on consistency.
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • Tahini to taste
  • ½ tsp of salt or less to taste- I prefer less
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of chili powder
Drain the cashews and place them into the bowl of the food processor along with the clove of garlic and nutritional yeast. Pour half of the water, lemon juice, tahini, and blend. Add more water as needed for consistency and more lemon juice for taste. When it has almost reached the desired consistency add the ground pepper, salt, paprika, and chili powder. Give the cheese a final blend while being careful not to over process. The cheese should be smooth with texture. Taste and add more spices as needed.

Chill for about a half hour, or until ready to use. Serve with gluten free crackers or vegetables and enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pickled Sunchokes? What's a Sunchoke?

We have been buying sunchokes, also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, from our farmers market. It is a small root vegetable that looks like a cross between ginger root and a potato. I recently learned that it is neither from Jerusalem nor is an artichoke. The sunchoke is native to the United States and is a knobby tuber that comes from the root of a plant called Helianthus tuberosus. This tuber is healthy as it is rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, thiamine, iron, and potassium.

As a child, my Mom would buy sunchokes and we would snack on them raw or in a salad. This tuber has a very different flavor raw than it does cooked. When eaten raw it resembles the flavor of jicama, although not as watery, and a sweet turnip. When cooked, it resembles the flavor of a white potato. It is delicious!

Over the years, my Mom would bring up the sunchoke and I searched for the choke with no avail. When I came across sunchokes at the Durham farmers market, I was ecstatic to have them back in my life again. Piedmont Biofarm, one of my favorite local farms, had them in their booth one warm Saturday. I was so delighted to see the root after all of these years. John had never heard of them, but was willing to give them a taste.

We both loved their flavor and continued to buy them and add them to salad for a bit of crunch. Piedmont Biofarm was even nice enough to suggest a new way to eat the sunchoke by sauteing them with some olive oil and onion. We followed their advise and were not disappointed.

Recently, I came across a recipe to pickle the choke. I like cucumbers, okra, beans, and peppers pickled and I thought a sunchoke would be just as delightful pickled. I didn’t much care for the recipe that I found so, I used the recipe as a guideline and made up my own.

  • Sunchokes (about a pound and a half to two pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 ¾ cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • ¾ c water
  • ½ Tbsp of whole mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ½ onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Mix the lemon juice in a bowl of cool water (the sunchokes will rest in here, so make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the chokes). Peel the sunchokes and cut into rounds. Transfer as cut to lemon water.

Bring vinegar, salt, water, mustard seeds, turmeric, and cayenne to boil in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Cool brine to room temperature.

Cook sunchokes and onion in a large pot of boiling water for several minutes until tender. Drain and let sit to cool. Put vegetables in a glass/ceramic bowl or Mason jar and pour brine over them. Make sure that the veggies are submerged and chill. Stir once or twice a day and allow them to marinate for at least 1 week (to allow flavors to develop). You can start snacking on them whenever you like, but the longer they are in the brine, the better they will taste.

The end result is a homemade, crunchy pickle that makes a great snack!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Birthday Link Love

Last week Deanna over at The Mommy Bowl was kind enough to shout out to her followers to send her vegan and gluten free recipes to share on her blog. It was her Birthday and she wanted to give back. It just so happened that we share a Birthday week. As a treat for myself, I submitted my last blog post and she accepted me. Yay!

It has been nice to connect with other gluten free, vegan bloggers. The support has been so crucial to my current success of being gluten free for five and a half months. The first thing that I learned as a gluten free, vegan is that you NEED support from others like you.

So a B-I-G thanks to Deanna! I appreciate the Birthday Link Love! :-)