Recipe Post: Zesty lemon, garlic and dill dressing

All summer, I’ve been experimenting with lemon in dishes ranging from roasted potatoes to stir fry. The sharp, citrus tang of lemon is unparalleled (except maybe by lime, but that’s neither here nor there). It offers an amazing boost of flavor to pretty much anything, savory or sweet, and it’s super easy to add to any recipe for that extra kick.

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I’ve discovered that one of the easiest ways to add lemon to savory dishes — including kale salad, crispy tofu, fried rice, roasted potatoes, and zucchini pasta, to name a few — is to whip up a batch of the homemade dressing I first made a few months ago by throwing together some spices in my pantry and hoping for the best.

This dressing has a sharp, tangy flavor to it that will make your mouth water. It’s become one of my favorite toppings and my partner requests it regularly, to the point that we now have to buy full bags of lemons almost every week so that we always have some on hand for when we want lemon dressing on our meals.

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I’ve tried making batches of this dressing to last for a while, but we end up going through it in just days. It’s just so good. I often end up making single or double servings for individual meals in order to keep us from just dousing everything in this dressing. When we have it around, it ends up in every dish. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but mouth sores from too much citrus are very real and very painful, so limiting our intake a little is probably a good idea.

The proportions for this recipe vary a little depending on the size of the lemons and whether you’re making a jar or just a serving of dressing. You may have to adjust accordingly. Ideally, you just want the flavors to marry in way that’s appetizing to you. For us, that means lots of lemon for a ton of zest. For you, that might mean a little more oil to temper the tang. Regardless, everything you need to make this incredible condiment can be found in the recipe below.

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Zesty Lemon, Garlic and Dill Dressing
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 10 minutes
Makes about one jar

What you’ll need:

  • 3 large lemons
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp. dill seeds
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. QUICK METHOD: Juice the lemons (preferably by hand, to get every last bit of delicious lemony goodness). Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend for 1 minute. Serve and enjoy!
  2. SLIGHTLY SLOWER METHOD: Juice the lemons (preferably by hand, to get every last bit of delicious lemony goodness). Mince the garlic. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk rapidly for 2-3 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
  3. Store extra dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It will stay good for 1-2 weeks (if you can hold onto it for that long)!
Recipe Post: Zesty lemon, garlic and dill dressing

Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

The one sweet snack that gas station gods have granted us vegans is Oreo chocolate cookie sandwiches. Whenever my partner or I crave chocolate, it’s super easy to walk to a convenience store and pick up a package of these delicious morsels and then gorge ourselves until we don’t want to even look at an Oreo cookie for at least a week. Co-workers and friends are usually pretty shocked to discover that Oreos are vegan, but then I point them to this list on PETA’s website and they realize vegan food is everywhere. (That makes veganism sound like a cult thing. It’s not. I swear.)

IMG_2897Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

Sometimes stuffing our faces with Oreos isn’t quite enough, though. Sometimes we need more chocolate, or a more filling sweet snack. Lucky for us, Oreos are excellent for baking. If you’re a fan of chocolate mud pies or any kind of chocolate cream, then I’ve got the perfect recipe for you.

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A few days ago, we had some friends over for dinner and I had the rare opportunity to cook a three-course meal. When it’s just my partner and I, going full stop on a massive meal and using tons of dishes isn’t always practical; although our new apartment does have a dishwasher (fondly named Steve), we prefer to dirty as few things as possible and then wash them by hand once we’ve eaten and digested. However, when we have friends over, it’s a perfect excuse to try new recipes and even revisit some old favorites, which we did the other night.

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For dessert, I whipped up some of these Oreo Dream Pies (so named because my phone autocorrected the word “cream” to “dream” when I posted about them on Instagram, but also because they are dreamy). They went over very well, but I’ve since tweaked the recipe just a little in order to perfect it. The raspberry topping not only make these pies look adorable, they add a tartness to the flavor that is absolutely incredible.

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The crust is spongey and rich, which marries it well to the light, creamy top layer. Altogether, these pies are a chocolate lover’s dream. I recommend having a glass of non-dairy milk handy to accompany the rich, decadent flavor. (After all, Oreo is “milk’s favorite cookie”.)

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This dessert is wicked easy, but it does need to be prepared ahead of time so that each component has time to set up. Both times that I made these pies, I gave myself at least four hours prior to when we planned to enjoy them. Keep that in mind! These pies are sweet and creamy, but they require a little extra love, space and time to reach their full potential.

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Oreo Dream Pies
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Chill Time: 3-4 hours | Total Time: 3-4 hours
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

Crust:

  • 10-12 Oreo cookies
  • 1 Egg Replacer egg or 1 flax seed egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream filling:

  • 1/4 block silken tofu, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 tbsp. agave nectar or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet vegan chocolate, melted
  • fresh raspberries for topping

What you’ll do:

  1. Add Oreo cookies to a food processor and blend until they create a fine dust. Then, add “egg” and vanilla extract and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, evenly divide mixture into four ramekins or small bowls, leveling until flat. Put ramekins in the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill. When removed, the crust should be spongey but firm.
  3. About five minutes prior to removing ramekins from the freezer, add your tofu, agave nectar, vanilla extract and salt to a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth but still a little lumpy, about 30-45 seconds.
  4. Melt your semi-sweet chocolate using a double boiler (I have a set of metal bowls that are perfect for this: I heat water in my electric kettle and pour it into the biggest bowl, then add the unmelted chocolate to the medium-sized bowl and let it float in the water until the chocolate starts to melt). You will likely have to stir the chocolate for 2-3 minutes until it is all melted and creamy.
  5. Add the chocolate to the food processor and blend until mixed with the rest of the ingredients, usually 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove ramekins from the freezer. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, evenly divide tofu mixture into the ramekins and level until flat. Top with raspberries (as many as you like!) and put in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
  7. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

Recipe post: Crispy, crunchy tofu

Tofu is tough to enjoy. It’s the first thing non-vegans ask about whenever the subject of diet comes up in conversation, and it’s a food that lots of people — vegans and vegetarians included — just can’t get behind. Tofu, on its own, is flavorless and fleshy and usually sopping wet. I’ve spent the last several years learning how to make tofu enjoyable for myself, but in the last few months I’ve been faced with a new task: making tofu enjoyable for other people.

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With the help of my partner (who prior to this prep method wouldn’t touch tofu with a ten-foot pole and now actually requests it in meals), I’ve finally found a way to consistently prepare tofu so that it tastes good every time. As a bonus, this recipe is quick and easy (if a little messy). It’s also easy to alter to fit various flavor profiles, depending on the meal you’re making.

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Admittedly, some of the nutritional value is probably lost with this preparation method, but it can’t be denied that this is a quick, easy, delicious way to get the protein punch tofu provides without sacrificing any flavor or texture. Plus, it’s super versatile*. We’ve had it with rice and homemade dressing, on breakfast sandwiches, chopped up in salads, as a protein in faitas, and even on its own. I personally like to have it solo, dipped in a little sriracha. The crunch and flavor are awesome.

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Crispy, Crunchy Tofu
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 10-12 minutes | Total Time: ~15 minutes
Makes multiple servings

What you’ll need:

  • a block of firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 1/3 cup of ground cashew meal
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1.5 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • pinch of salt

What you’ll do:

  1. Start by draining and pressing the tofu. To do this, cut open the package and let all of the liquid drain. Then take the block of tofu and place it on a food towel (I purchased a 10-pack of dish towels at IKEA for a few dollars and use those towels specifically for food). If you don’t have a food towel, you can use several paper towels, but the process will be quite a bit messier that way. Wrap the block of tofu in the towel and press firmly with your hands on all sides until most of the liquid is soaked into the towel. You don’t want to soak up all of it. Make sure the tofu is still somewhat moist when you’re done.
  2. Using a sharp, smooth-edged knife, slice the tofu into 1/4 inch slices. Depending on the meal and how many you are feeding, you may need more or less. Discretion is up to you, but if you have leftover tofu, store it in fresh water in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to seven days. Let your slices sit while you prepare your flour mixture.
  3. Combine flour, cashew meal, nutritional yeast, paprika, lemon pepper and salt in a small bowl.
  4. Spread a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper over a portion of your work area. Make sure it’s large enough to hold all of your slices once they’re breaded.
  5. Take individual slices of tofu, place them in the flour mixture and use your hands to coat. (Note: tofu is fragile when it’s sliced thin! I’ve found it’s best to put the slice directly in the center of the bowl and then use my fingers to toss flour mixture over the top. It puts less strain on the tofu and makes it less likely to crumble when you try to handle it.) Rest each slice on the plastic wrap or parchment paper while you heat your oil.
  6. Coat the bottom of a non-stick frying pan with olive oil. 3-4 tbsp. works for my pan, but you may need to adjust depending on size. You want a very thin layer of oil to fry your tofu slices in. Heat the oil over medium until it gets a liquid-like sheen to it; then, add your slices of tofu in a single layer to the pan.
  7. Fry the tofu over medium heat until crispy and golden on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side. For a less crispy finish, fry for less time; for a more crispy (but potentially burned! be careful!) finish, fry for more time.
  8. Once slices are cooked, set on a paper towel to soak up excess oil, then serve.

 

* Keep an eye out for recipes featuring crispy, crunchy tofu in the future! If there’s one you’d like in particular, comment below and I’ll get to it!

Recipe post: Crispy, crunchy tofu

Recipe Post: Crispy green bean fries

In the midst of its Earth Day celebrations, our local Whole Foods put up a table overflowing with green beans outside its sliding glass doors. Above the crates full of crispy greens, there were stacks of white paper buckets and a sign that read, “Fill the bucket for $2.” It was such a good deal that we obviously took advantage, but then we realized we had no idea what to do with a bucket full of green beans. Steam them? Boring. Boil them? Gross. They just looked so beautiful and so fresh that we couldn’t pass them up.

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I love green beans. They’re one of the only vegetables I would consistently eat growing up (prior to going vegetarian and then vegan) and honestly, I could eat raw, fresh green beans by the handful. Knowing that most people, including my partner, probably wouldn’t be down for that, I wondered if it would be possible to turn green beans into something savory, spicy, and with the perfect amount of crunch.

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Since I didn’t want to steam or boil the green beans and plop them, flavorless, onto plates, I opted to coat them in spices and then bake them until they resembled french fries. Of course, green beans don’t crisp up in quite the same way as potatoes — but this recipe gives them a nice crispy, crunchy coating that will leave you craving them for days.

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Crispy Green Bean Fries
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes multiple servings

What you’ll need:

  • green beans, trimmed and washed
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3-4 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Put olive oil, 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, chili powder, salt, and lemon pepper in a medium bowl. Toss green beans in mixture until they are thoroughly coated.
  3. Spread green beans in a single layer over a baking sheet. Sprinkle remaining nutritional yeast flakes over green beans (this will add the “crispy crunchies” that make them so tasty!). Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. After 15 minutes, remove green beans from oven, turn, and return to the oven. Increase heat to 500° and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Serve as a side dish to your favorite sandwich or wrap (we had them with homemade falafel wraps and falafel sliders) and enjoy!
Recipe Post: Crispy green bean fries

Recipe Post: Buttery breadcrumb pasta with fresh tomatoes

Before going vegan, my go-to comfort food was cheesy pasta, a cheap homemade version of macaroni and cheese that basically involved melting a ton of cheddar over some elbows and throwing in my favorite combination of spices, then stirring it all up with some butter or a little milk. Since going vegan, finding a substitute has been hard — while I enjoy vegan cheese substitutes, they just don’t melt quite the right way to make my classic cheesy pasta.

Yesterday, I had a sudden craving for a dish my stepdad makes: browned butter noodles. I decided to take his concept and twist it a little (in addition to making it vegan). I ended up with a new favorite comfort food that’s quick, easy, and absolutely delicious. We’ve had it two nights in a row for dinner and honestly, I could continue to eat it for the rest of the weekend without complaining.

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This dish is savory and fresh with a texture that will make your mouth water. The breadcrumbs add a flavor and crunch that can’t be denied and the tomatoes bring a nice pop of color that brightens the whole dish. It also works as a great starting point for someone who isn’t super comfortable in the kitchen, and it’s basic enough that you can add your own twist to it. If tomatoes aren’t your thing, try zucchini or mushrooms for a different flavor!

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 Buttery Breadcrumb Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: ~15 minutes | Total Time: ~25 minutes
Makes 2 servings

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp. Earth Balance
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2-3 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil or 9-10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  1. In a smallsauce pan, melt 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance, then add breadcrumbs. Toss until breadcrumbs are coated with the butter, then add garlic, paprika, nutritional yeast flakes, and hefty pinches of salt and pepper. Stir until combined, letting the breadcrumbs toast on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully so that they don’t burn! Once the breadcrumbs are toasted, remove pan from heat and set aside.
  2. Fill a large pot with water. Salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Once pasta is al dente, strain it and let it sit so excess water can drip off.
  3. While pasta is straining, add remaining 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance to pasta pot and stir. Add pasta slowly, while stirring, until pasta is lightly coated with Earth Balance. Add basil, breadcrumbs, and tomato. Mix everything together, serve, and enjoy!
Recipe Post: Buttery breadcrumb pasta with fresh tomatoes