Crispy, Delicious, Fat-Free Hashbrowns

Because of the snow (and more than a little snow-induced lethargy), we haven’t been into town to grocery shop for close to three weeks. Our produce fridge is bare….with the exception of half a cabbage, a few stalks of celery, a couple of apples, and a knob of ginger (yeah, yeah…we have a “produce” fridge, but only because we have to buy so much produce when we go into town that we need a separate fridge to hold it all). We do, however, have tons of potatoes and onions as well as more dried beans than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and flour–we have lots of that (mind you, we’ve run out of white flour, but we have lots of whole wheat, chickpea, brown rice, and tapioca flour).

It’s all cool though because I like the challenge of making delicious vegan meals out of a few ingredients (ingredients that also happen to be incredibly cheap).

So our lunch today is shredded grilled potatoes (basically, hash browns) and spicy refried beans. Now, you may think it’s a weird combination, but it’s surprisingly delicious and I didn’t want to serve the refrieds with rice because we’re having dhal served over brown basmati rice for dinner and whole-wheat flatbread. Oh, and a side of coleslaw made with that cabbage, celery, apples, and onions–the only things left in the produce fridge!

So…about the hashbrowns:

About a year ago, I spent ages scouring the frozen section of various grocery stores for frozen hash browns that contained no oil and no salt. I finally found these ones, which are great, buuuuut I wondered why if they were just shredded potatoes, I couldn’t make them myself. diced-vegetable-hashbrownsHowever, every time I tried to make my own, they’d become a gelatinous mess….until I came across the secret to perfect homemade hashbrowns, which I will now share with you!

Perfectly Crisp Hashbrowns

First, scrub a couple of potatoes well. Don’t bother to peel them–just cut them into large chunks.

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Next, grate the potatoes. I use my food processor with the grate wheel and it works brilliantly.

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Next, is the trick!

Soak the grated potatoes in cold water for AT LEAST ten minutes. This little step is essential because it rids the potatoes of excess starch.

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Drain the potatoes well–you’ll need to squeeze the shreds with your hands to get out all the water, but the shreds are surprisingly resilient–they won’t disintegrate. Finally, lay them on a tea towel and dab off any excess water.

At this point, you could saute the shreds on your stove top or bake them on parchment paper, but they will get SUPER crispy if you cook them in an electric grill (very lightly sprayed with vegetable oil).

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Just spread them across the grill and close it for fifteen minutes.

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After fifteen minutes, you will have the crispiest, most delicious hash browns ever!

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And here’s lunch: hash browns, refried beans, a dollop of salsa, and a sprinkling of chopped onions. This odd combination is actually one of my favourite lunches…even when the larder isn’t bare!

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Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

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As you may have gathered, I’m kind of obsessed with pulses–and not only because they’re nutritionally intense, versatile, and delicious; they’re also aesthetically pleasing. Oddly, my favourite legumes to eat are probably the least attractive of all the pulses: the mundane chickpea and the ever-dull lentil. However, my favourite–aesthetically speaking–has to be the orca heritage bean. I’ve never been able to get my hands on any of these little beauties, and, for all I know, they taste like crap, but they are lovely to look at….

The closest thing I’ve been able to find is the more pedestrian black-eyed pea. It’s no orca bean, but it is lovely in its own way….

Other than my vegan Hoppin’ John Salad, I rarely come across recipes that call for black-eyed peas exclusively, but I decided the bag of dried peas in my pantry was calling my name today, so I thought I’d try them in a quick hummus.

Since I hadn’t soaked them, I did a quick soak in the Instant Pot:

Quick Soak: Place one cup of dried black beans in the IP, cover with four cups of water, and one tsp salt (which prevents the beans from bursting). Bring to a boil (by hitting “saute”) on the pot. Close the pot and set to 2 minutes on high. Do a SLOW quick release by releasing the steam in spurts. If it foams up, just leave it for thirty seconds. Drain and rinse the beans and they’re ready for any recipe!

After you’d done the quick soak, you’re supposed to cook the quick-soaked beans, but every time I try this, the beans are soft and ready after the two minutes. The one exception (so far) is chickpeas (those tenacious little buggers hang onto their structure FOREVER).

Now you’re ready to make…

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

Throw the following in the Vitamix:

  • the quick-soaked black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 6(ish) cloves of garlic
  • 2 heaping TBS tahini
  • 12 capfuls of lemon juice (I make it so often that I’m too lazy to get out the tablespoon)
  • 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (if you don’t have this, just add some salt)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional, but gives it a nice smokey flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional, but gives it a bit of heat)
  • water (you decide how much)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste

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Blend like hell in the Vitamix. The key to good hummus is the smoothness of its texture, so keep that blender on forEVER. Once it’s super smooth, check the texture: if you like your hummus thinner (which I do), add a bit more water until it’s the consistency you like.

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Then blend it like hell again. Check it for saltiness and add more salt if you need to!

This turned out very well. It’s not QUITE like chickpea hummus, but it’s still delicious, particularly with a bit of avocado.

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I made some quick flatbread on the grill and had it for lunch–with a bit of the beet hummus and mushroom pate from a few days ago.

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And the song of the day is Ida Maria’s “Stella”–an homage to our own dear Stella, who enjoyed the black-eyed hummus and flatbread even more than I did!!

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Vegan Ricotta Lasagne

A few days ago, I realized that though James and I have a plethora of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks between us, neither of us ever consults the other’s cookbooks.

James’s cookbooks are invariably fancy and vegetarian as opposed to vegan, and whenever we’re planning a dinner party, he spends weeks poring over a variety of multi-paged recipes (which always include various exotic, incredibly expensive ingredients). His recipe for Portobello Wellingtons with Madiera Sauce is a full EIGHT pages long. He usually makes it in stages…over three days (and I’m not even kidding).

My cookbooks, on the other hand, are invariably NOT fancy and are always vegan. My meals are usually planned around ingredients I already have and how much time I feel like spending in the kitchen. A number of my cookbooks have titles that include words like “quick,” “easy,” and “cheap”–hmmm…oddly similar to my blurb in my high-school yearbook (I’M JUST KIDDING, MUM!!!).

James’s cookbook titles never include these words. Nor do the titles include the words “painstakingly labourious,” “difficult,” and “expensive,” but, in truth, they should since the meal preparation is invariably labour intensive and onerous, and the ingredients exorbitant (I won’t mention the likely relationship to James’s own yearbook blurb, but you can draw your own conclusions).

Today, however, was a first-ever crossover day! James asked me to veganize a recipe from one of HIS books.

Now, I do love veganizing recipes, so he likely knew he could convince me to give it a try. Plus, the recipe seemed relatively straightforward since I’ve recently learned how to create vegan ricotta and vegan parmesan. In fact, once I broke down the recipe, I realized the meal is kind of a deconstructed version of the Vegan Canneloni I made just last week. Indeed, it’s really more of an assembly of a bunch of other recipes (as any lasagne is).

And in keeping with the Jamesian style of cooking, the process did take the better part of the afternoon, but the result was worth it!

This is very much a vegan meal that could be served to carnivores (and they likely wouldn’t even notice that it doesn’t contain cheese). It is VERY rich tasting and delicious.

So….here goes!

Vegan Ricotta Lasagne

  1. Make sure you have some sheets of fresh lasagne noodles.
  2. Make a pot of this marinara (I used fresh tomatoes, rather than canned, and it was super fresh and delicious).
  3. Make this ricotta (in future, I’d add sauteed mushrooms or even spinach, but we didn’t have either).
  4. Make this vegan parmesan.
  5. Next, make a vegan bechamel (I adapted this great recipe from the excellent blog Lovingitvegan).

Vegan Bechamel

  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS whole-wheat flour
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the whole-wheat flour and stir with a whisk for three minutes. Add the almond milk and stir continuously with a whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Return to low heat for a minute and whisk until the spices are blended. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

6. Make the topping to sprinkle over the bechamel sauce.

Topping

  • 3 TBS pine nuts
  • 2 TBS panko crumbs
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 TBS vegan parmesan

Mix together in a small bowl.

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7. Assemble!!

  • Cover the bottom of a 9″x9″ square casserole dish with a thin layer of the tomato sauce.
  • Place one sheet of fresh lasagne on top.
  • Cover with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture.
  • Sprinkle with basil (preferably fresh basil leaves, but I didn’t have any, so I used dried).
  • Cover with tomato sauce.
  • Repeat layers two more times.
  • Top with a sheet of fresh pasta.
  • Top the sheet of pasta with a thick layer of the bechamel sauce.
  • Sprinkle the top with the pine-nut-parmesan-paprika topping.

8. Bake at 400 degrees for forty-five minutes. Let sit for ten minutes before serving.

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Serve with a crunchy salad and fresh baguettes!

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Aaaand the song of day is Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz”…

Super Succulent Mushroom-Lentil Pâté

I’ve been browsing  through my vegan cookbooks lately and realized that I have a number of which I’ve made very little use. One has a rather pedestrian title–The Power of Pulses–but a subtitle that’s completely irresistible: “Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas, and Lentils.”

How could I resist?

So today, I decided to save the world with lentils….or, to be specific, with mushroom-lentil pâté.

I had to adapt the recipe quite a bit since we haven’t been grocery shopping in two weeks (because of the relentless snow!). So here is my adapted version…and it involves a WHOLE lot more ingredients than the original–not only because of the bare larder, but also because the original version turned out to be incredibly bland. After tasting it, both James and I consulted various online recipes for mushroom pâté and ended up adding a whole whack of further ingredients (pecans, spices, soy sauce, miso, sambal oelek, lemon juice, etc.).

The final product is very good though!

Mushroom-Lentil Pâté

First, put the following ingredients into the Instant Pot and set on high pressure for six minutes. Allow a natural pressure release.

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a sprig of fresh thyme (I cannot believe this, but I still have thyme growing on the deck!!)

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Set that aside, and spray the Instant Pot (or you can do this on the stove top–I just didn’t want to get another pan dirty), set it to “Saute,” and saute….

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic

Saute until onions are translucent. Add…

  • 2.5 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1.5 cups shiitake mushrooms (I used rehydrated dried shiitakes), sliced

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Once mushrooms are soft, add the following….

  • 1/4 cup sherry

…and saute for a minute or two longer. Remove from heat and place in blender with the cooked lentils. Add to the blender…

  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup savoury cashew cream
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TBS miso
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Pulse until everything’s nicely blended.

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Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. Serve with a fresh baguette.

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The snow is still falling and branches are falling off the trees under the weight of the heavy snow, so we’re anticipating another power outage this evening.

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As such, we’ve planned a picnic dinner with a couple of freshly baked baguettes, the mushroom-lentil pâté, beet hummus, chickpea salad, coleslaw, olives, pickles, sliced apples, and nuts.

What a feast!!

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And I made a batch of my favourite peanut butter buckeyes today, but we were both too full from our picnic to try them out!

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And the song of the day is Rhiannon Gidden’s amazing version of “Waterboy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan Tikka Masala and Perfect Whole-Wheat Pita

YO, DUDES!!!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following The Happy Pear Channel on Youtube, and I can’t recommend these these videos enough. They’re created by “The Happy Pear”–a pair of Irish brothers (twins) who run a vegan cafe/shop in Greystones, Ireland, but also sell vegan products and cookbooks, write a blog, produce a Youtube channel, and even teach online (and apparently face-to-face) classes on healthy vegan cooking.

Indeed, they seem to be creating quite the business empire, but their success is as much related to their charm and enthusiasm as it is to anything else (which will become clear when you watch this video–one of many in their 5-minute-vegan-dinner video series).

Like many in the WFPB (whole food, plant-based) food community, they have a kind of missionary zeal, but it’s quite charming and endearing (and definitely not heavy-handed proselytizing).

After making a few of their five-minute dinners, all of which turned out very well, I decided to give their tikka masala a whack. I should mention that these lads move at the speed of light…if light happened to be hopped up on amphetamines, so it takes my old ass about four times as long to make their five-minute dinners. Nevertheless, twenty minutes isn’t too bad for dinners this delicious!

For the tikka masala, I made QUITE a few adjustments because we like things pretty spicy here at Sideways Cottage, but the dish turned out brilliantly: perfectly delicious and satisfying!

Oh, and it’s SUPER healthy too.

This is my new favourite recipe!

By the way, the twins always speak incredibly quickly (and often over one another), but they are even more frenetic than usual in this particular video.

Anyway, here is my adapted version!

Tikka Masala

Mix in the Vitamix:

  • 1 TBS coriander
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (if you use smoked paprika, you don’t need to include this)
  • 1 TBS dehydrated cilantro
  • 1 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
  • 2 TBS sambal oelek
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
  • 28 ounces fresh, chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
  • 1 can coconut milk

Saute:

  • 1 onion, chopped

Once, the onion is translucent, add…

  • 1 cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms

…and saute for a few more minutes. Next, add the contents of the blender and…

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (shelled) or 1 cup frozen peas

Stir it all up, bring to a boil, then down to a simmer until the cauliflower is soft (but not mushy–you want it al dente).

Once it’s ready, stir in…

  • 2 TBS lime juice

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Serve with a drizzle of almond-milk yogurt or cilantro cashew-cream, pita or naan, and a nice dollop of chutney. We used James’ apple-plum chutney from fall, 2016.

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Cilantro Cashew Cream

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 TBS dehydrated cilantro (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves)

Pour boiling water over cashews and let sit for half an hour or so. Drain and blend with water and cilantro.

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Now, you’ll want to serve this with either naan or pita. I served it with pita because I’ve recently perfected my pita-making technique, and it is just so damn easy to make and SO delicious to eat!

Pita

First, pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. It’s best to wait another twenty minutes after the oven achieves the desired temperature just to ensure that your baking stone is nice and hot.

Meanwhile, weigh out a six-ounce ball of no-knead whole-wheat bread dough for each pita you intend to make.

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Roll out the dough to a 1/8th-of-an-inch-thick circle. Because the no-knead dough is so sticky, you’ll need to use lots of flour on the surface and on the rolling pin.

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Slap those suckers on the baking stone for EXACTLY nine minutes…

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…and they will puff up and brown brilliantly.

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Remove them from the oven and wrap loosely in a tea towel for a few minutes. The pita will deflate, but retain the inner pocket.

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And here is our delicious meal this evening! As you can see, I added a few beets (roasted and tossed in balsamic vinegar) as well.

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And the snow continues to fall at Sideways Cottage…

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And….the electricity went out once again for about twelve hours!!

The next day, I put a grill on the wood stove, and, once it heated up, I rolled out a pita and placed it on the grill. I knew it wouldn’t puff up as it does in the oven, but I was able to cook some delicious flatbread to have for lunch with the leftover tikka masala (heated up on the wood stove, of course!).

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The flatbread achieved an internal temperature of 207 degrees at the exact moment the electricity came back on!!

Anyway…lunch was delicious!

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Beet Hummus and Vegan Red-Velvet Cupcakes

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The snow continues to fall at Sideways Cottage….but the electricity went out only once today!! The other good thing is that our street is considered part of the highway system because it’s on the route between the Denman West terminal and Gravelly Bay, so it’s ploughed at least four times a day. As such, we’ve been able to get out for our walks every day without a problem. Today we didn’t get too far, however: first, I lost my commitment ring in the snow when I was taking the picture above.

James suggested we wait until the snow melted, but I wasn’t chancing it!! I love that ring, which was made by Frank Paulsen, a Haida artist (the images are the raven and the eagle), from Merrit, BC.

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After digging around for about fifteen minutes, James found it in one of my footprints deep down in the snow! Poor old James lost his matching ring last fall and was devastated, so I was delighted to get mine back.

Shortly after that little flurry of excitement, we came across someone whose car was stuck, so James spent about thirty minutes helping dig it out of the snow-plough-packed snow.

We hadn’t progressed very far on our walk, but decided to throw in the towel (mostly because James had already gotten enough exercise from the shoveling…and the dogs were getting chilly).

In any event, it was an all-beet day today because I had a drawer full of beets that needed to be eaten. After roasting and peeling them, I set them outside in a snowbank on the deck to cool and a few minutes later had to wrestle them away from Stella who’d managed to dig her way through the snowbank to the bowl of beets. There was a bit of a struggle…

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…but I managed to rescue them. Lest you think our struggle was bloody, rest assured that’s beet juice, not blood.

I used the beets in a beet hummus, red velvet cupcakes, and sliced in a big ass dinner salad.

And, yes, I did give Stella a nice chunk of beet as a reward for relinquishing her beet booty.

My expectations for the red velvet cupcakes were low–first, because I’m not much of a fan of chocolate cake, and second, because they contain no eggs or cream and very little sugar and oil. They turned out to be absolutely delicious, however. I will most definitely make these again–particularly because James loved them and he likes a bit of a sweet from time to time. The recipe is from Minimalist Baker and can be found here: Red Velvet Chocolate Cupcakes.

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The beet hummus turned out very well as well–it’s basically my regular hummus recipe with the addition of one roasted, pureed beet. I will make this again in a heartbeet (haha!).

Beet Chickpea Hummus

  • 1 medium sized roasted beet, peeled and pureed
  • 1 can drained chickpeas
  • 6(ish) cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaping TBS tahini (I just use a big soup spoon full of this stuff)
  • 6 capfuls of lemon juice (I make it so often that I’m too lazy to get out the tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (if you don’t have this, just add some salt)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional, but gives it a nice smokey flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional, but gives it a bit of heat)
  • water (you decide how much)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste

Throw it all in the blender and blend until smooth. Once it’s super smooth, check the texture: if you like your hummus thinner (which I do), add a bit of water (or the drained bean juice) until it’s the consistency you like.

To roast beets, just lightly oil them and place in a parchment paper bag (or foil) in the oven for about an hour at 400 degrees.

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I also made this Smoky Paprika Sauce for the salad–it’s a Clean Food, Dirty Girl recipe. I subbed regular paprika and a quarter teaspoon of liquid smoke for the smoked paprika, and it is absolutely delicious.

And here’s the big ass salad with some grilled cornbread. Check out my freshly sprouted sunflower sprouts–they’re labour intensive, but SO fresh and delicious!

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And the soundtrack of the day was Patsy Cline–it’s just so very enjoyable to belt out those heartbreak songs as one cooks….

Vegan Mushroom-Ricotta Cannelloni

Since we retired from teaching last year, most of our days up here at Sideways Cottage are pretty much perfect, but some days are more perfect than others.

Today was one of those perfect days.

We awoke to softly falling snow that had been falling all night and continued to fall all day.

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Most people on the West Coast are pretty sick of snow, but this is only our second real snowfall on this side of the island this year, so it’s still a treat. We were very cozy in front of the wood stove for most of the day, but decided to venture out for a hike through the woods to the lake this afternoon, and I was cursing myself for forgetting my camera because the landscape was stunning.

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Oh, and a hike that normally takes only an hour, took two hours!!

After watching me make sushi this morning, James seemed intent on having something–ahem–tubular for dinner. Likely he feels a bit hard done by that he was not on the receiving end of my apparently tubular lunch, not because I didn’t offer, but because he doesn’t actually like sushi.

Keep in mind that James has “food suggestibility” (think George Costanza): he looks a the moon and thinks of pizza.

In any event, he suggested cannelloni (which is definitely tubular) and, since I’ve been dying to try another recipe with my vegan ricotta, I was excited to give it a try!

So here we go!

Vegan Mushroom-Ricotta Cannelloni

First, get some of this marinara going!

Next, make the ricotta!

Mushroom-Tofu Ricotta:

Place in food processor and run until the seeds are in tiny bits:

  • 1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves

Next, add the following and mix until smooth:

  • 1 pkg. firm tofu (squeeze as much water out as you can beforehand)

Turn the above into a bowl and mix in well–use your hands!:

  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup vegan parmesan (see below–you’ll be using this as a topping as well!)

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Next, saute..

  • 1.5 TBS chopped garlic
  • 1/4 chopped onion
  • 3 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt

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Add to the ricotta mixture and stir well. Taste and adjust with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Next, take some fresh pasta sheets and cut them in half. Soften them in warm water, dry them off, and place a nice chunk of the ricotta mixture in the middle. You want to make sure the pasta sheet doesn’t overlap–the ends should just meet when you roll the cannelloni.

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Put a little bit of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a rectangular casserole dish, arrange the cannelloni (seam down) in the pan, and cover with the marinara sauce.

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Sprinkle with the vegan parmesan…

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And bake at 375 degrees for twenty-five minutes. Cover with foil for the first fifteen minutes and remove for the last ten.

Vegan Parmesan

(very slightly adapted from Thug Kitchen 101):

Throw the following into the Vitamix:

  • 2 tsp sea salt (Thug calls for only 1/2 tsp, but it ain’t enough)
  • 1 cup almonds (eh, I used whole–not blanched–almonds, which improves the colour!)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup chickpea/fava flour (you can use any kind of flour, but I used this to get more beans into my food!).
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

The recipe also makes a ton. I put it in a sprinkly-type container and use it constantly.

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Serve with a Caesar salad and some freshly made bread.

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This is DEFINITELY a recipe I would serve to guests! It’s absolutely delicious and I don’t even think carnivores would be able to tell that it’s vegan!

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And I’ve been listening to The Decemberists Radio on Google Play Music all afternoon as I cooked. Normally, I like to make my own playlists, but Google Play has great “radio” playlists. In addition to The Decemberists, this playlist includes all my favourites–M. Ward, Deathcab, The Postal Service, Wilco, Jenny Lewis, Andrew Bird, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens–but my favourite of the day was Rilo Kiley’s “A Better Son/Daughter,” which I haven’t listened to in ages.