September 29, 2011

Classic Basil Pesto

Time for one last Summer Hoorah! I was lucky enough to have a ton of basil growing in my garden this year. Every year before the weather gets too cold for the basil to weather, I pick all of the basil and make a big batch of pesto sauce. It's one of my absolute favorite summer luxuries - and if you end up making a ton of pesto sauce, you can freeze the leftovers to keep all winter long! I like to freeze individual portions in ice cube trays and then transfer them to a larger container or freezer storage bag. Just pop individual cubes in the microwave or on the stove top for a fresh taste of Summer all Winter long!

I'm so excited for next weeks posts + events. I'm hopefully going to be doing a GREAT giveaway plus I'll have two really delicious all new recipe posts. I'm planning on going to this really amazing apple orchard and pumpkin patch nearby, so one of the recipes is definitely going to have apples!

This recipe is for 2-4 servings - so if you have a ton of basil to use - just multiply the recipe!

  • 2 cups of packed basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Vegan Parmesan or Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

September 26, 2011

Sweet Yankee Cornbread

Hey everyone! Things are cooling down here in Minnesota and that means only one thing. I'm going to be a baking maniac the next few months. The leaves are changing from Summer's bright emerald green to Autumns bright reds, oranges, and yellows and I keep forgetting to put on more layers when I go outside! Sometimes I step out the door to walk Keeva and I'll be wearing a pair of pajama shorts and a T-shirt! I'll take two steps and realize that I'm completely dressed for the wrong season. Oh well - I guess it takes some getting used to every year.

For me the most exciting thing about Autumn is knowing that the Holidays are coming. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve are almost upon us! Does anyone else think it was intentional to put all of the major holidays during the winter months so people wouldn't be so miserable? I guess not everyone hates winter as much as I do...but I do. But let's not talk about winter right now...Autumn has only begun!

I've actually already started planning my recipes for October-December and I can not WAIT to share them with you guys. Think apples, pumpkin, maple, squash, chestnuts. All the delicious flavors of Fall and Winter! I just hope my family isn't going to be sick of me shoving yummy Vegan goodies in their mouths by the time the holidays are over.

I've been wanting to make cornbread for a while now (since I got a free bag of cornmeal not too long ago!) and finally got around to it - with the help of my little sister Madison. This does contain wheat flour so it's not the classic, "traditional" southern cornbread, but it's just as sweet, moist, and delicious!

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 1/2 cup light oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh, canned, or frozen corn

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl (or right in the measuring cup) mix together the milk and lemon juice. Set aside while you mix the other ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, vinegar, and sugar. Once well combined, add in the milk + lemon juice and blend well.

In a smaller mixing bowl, sift together the baking powder, baking soda, cornmeal, flour, and salt. Once sifted and well combined, mix into the wet ingredients in three batches. After you've combined the wet and dry ingredients, stir in the corn.

Grease a 9x9 inch glass baking dish and pour the batter into the dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes until the tops and edges have become golden brown and when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If you're using a metal baking dish - increase the oven temperature to 375.

September 20, 2011

VH BASICS: Vegan Baking Substitutions

When I first started having my friends and family taste my baked creations - my dad would always ask me "Is this real cake?" or "Is this a real cookie?" That's what I was up against people. Luckily he's come around after seeing that Vegan food can taste just as good as it's non-vegan counterpart. And let's be honest. My Vegan desserts are probably more real than anything he's been eating. I know to a lot of people - the thought of "vegan baking" may seem overwhelming. No eggs, milk, or butter? How else are you supposed to make delicious desserts? It really isn't that difficult - once you get the hang of it. In reality, baked goods don't need animal ingredients to work.

Eggs give moisture and help bind your baked goods, milk also gives moisture and that special creamy taste, and butter gives your desserts that delicious fatty, buttery taste. But guess what? There are endless Vegan options to use to make all of your favorite desserts and the best part is - they're cruelty free and in most cases much healthier for you. Much of this information comes from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's amazing book The Joy of Vegan Baking. I'll show you my favorite Vegan baking subsitutions + some other sure fire ways to make yourself some delicous and healthier Vegan desserts!

Replacing Eggs
  1. Applesauce - My guess is that you've noticed that I put applesauce in all my cakes and dessert breads. Not only does it help in binding the dessert, but it also helps in keeping it moist without adding any cholesterol or added fat. 1/4 of unsweetened applesauce is equivelant to 1 egg.
  2. Vinegar & Baking Soda - Another one of my favorite ways to give my cakes and sweet bread that "lift" is to add vinegar and baking soda. The chemicals in baking soda form bubbles when combined with acidic foods such as vinegar. When your desserts are heated - the bubbles expand and give your dessert that extra "lift". My rule of thumb with soda and vinegar is usually 2 tsp of vinegar + 2 tsp of baking soda = 1 egg. I always use apple cider vinegar, but white distilled works just fine too.
  3. Mashed Banana- Bananas are a little bit more difficult to use as an egg replacer. There really isn't an exact measurment to equal one egg, but I go with a half of a medium banana, mashed is equal to one egg. Bananas work really well for binding and giving moisture to your favorite desserts. Also - remember that when using a banana as an egg replacer that your dessert will have a banana flavor!
  4. Ground Flaxseeds - I've never actually used ground flax in any dessert recipe as an egg replacer, but I've heard from many people that it works really well. Since flax has a nutty flavor, I would only use it in something that already has a nutty or grainy texture. Think oatmeal cookies or bran muffins. To use ground flax as an egg replacement - whisk together 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp of warm water in a food processor (or blender) until the mixture becomes thick. That mixture equals 1 egg.
  5. Packaged "Egg Replacer" - This was always my "go to" way of replacing eggs in my desserts. The two brand that I know of are EnerG and Bob's Red Mill. It's a blend of raising and stabilizing ingredients to help you easily make your favorite Vegan desserts. It's a great product to have in your pantry since it lasts forever, but I've found that the above options work better in giving your desserts that classic flavor and texture.
Replacing Milk

Replacing the milk in your recipes is a pretty basic task. You can use any non-dairy milk you like and swap it 1 for 1 in any of your favorite recipes. The main thing is finding which one you like - taste wise. I remember the first time I tried soy milk. I thought it was disgusting. It was grainy and beany tasting and really not pleasant. While I can now tolerate the taste, soy milk is still not my favorite. Now a days there are so many options out there for Vegans and those allergice to dairy: Soy, Rice, Almond, Coconut, Hazelnut, Oat, Cashew, Flax, Hemp are all really great choices! Just taste test and find your favorite!

Replacing Butter 

Butter is another simple ingredient to swap in your recipes. There are so many margarines and non-dairy butters on the market these days. When you're choosing a margarine make sure you read the ingredients label carefully. Just because something is called "margarine" doesn't mean it doesn't contain dairy ingredients. Another thing I watch for is choosing a brand of margarine that doesn't include hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. My ultimate favorite brand of non-dairy butter is Earth Balance Spread. It's the perfect replacement for butter in any recipe. The only downside is that the have yet to offer a unsalted variety. If you're using Earth Balance in baking - be sure to reduce or omit the salt in the recipe. Earth Balance offers the Original Buttery Spread, Original Whipped, Made with Olive Oil, and Soy Free in tubs. They also have the Original Butter Spread available in sticks, which is a great time saver when you're baking!  It'll take some tast testing to find what your taste preferences are, but you'll get the hang of it!

For certain recipes - you'll notice that I use shortening instead of butter. It's mostly in cookies, frostings, and other things that the salt in Earth Balance Spread would overpower. Luckily Earth Balance also makes shortening sticks! If you can't find Earth Balance shortening - Spectrum is another great option!

Replacing Buttermilk

Are you still looking to get the delicious buttermilk taste for your favorite buttermilk biscuits or buttermilk pancakes? For every cup of buttermilk replace it with 1 cup of non-dairy milk + 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Allow the milk to stand for 10 minuts, stir, and that's it! You've got yourself some vegan buttermilk!

Replacing Cream

Don't be fooled by companies that call their products "Non-Dairy Creamers" (Like Coffee Mate). They're non dairy creamers...that contain dairy! Like non-dairy milks, there are many vegan cream substitutes on the market to choose from. My favorites are So Delicious non-dairy Coconut Creamer, Silk Soy Creamer, or MimicCreme's Almond and Cashew Cream. They also come in a variety of flavors like Original, Hazelnut, and French Vanilla!

If you can't find any vegan creamers in your area, try looking for whole fat canned coconut milk. It's the perfect all natural way to replace cream in your favorite baked goods!

If you have any questions on Vegan baking substitutions or if you have another ingredient that needs to be substituted, email me at!

September 17, 2011

Garlic Sesame Kale

I really do eat a lot of vegetables - I swear! You proabably can't tell by the majority of the recipes I share with you, but I eat Kale almost every day and this is my favorite way to have it! It's such an easy, simple recipe to prepare. If you haven't tried Kale - you've got to start including it in your diet.

Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, and reasonably rich in calcium. Kale, just like broccoli, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

So eat your Kale, people! If steamed Kale is not your thing - or you're looking for ways to get your kids to eat it, try making my Cheesy Kale Chips!

  • 2 bunches of Green Kale
  • 3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • Black pepper to taste

De-stem and roughly chop the kale. Steam for 5-7 minutes until it's tender, but still has a bite to it.

In a large bowl - whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, minced garlic, and black pepper. Add the steamed kale, toss together, and refrigerate.

Serve chilled.

September 14, 2011

Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese

Thanks to whoever requested this on my Facebook Fan page - because this is amazing. Whenever I was craving some Mac & Cheese, I always went the easy way. I either bought Road's End Mac & Cheese or I bought Teese's Cheddar Sauce. Those are really great options, but if you have the time to make an old fashion Baked Mac & Cheese - you've gotta try this recipe!

Growing up, I never had any real home made macaroni and cheese. Always that stuff from the blue box (If my parents were feeling like spending a few extra pennies - otherwise it was the cheaper store brand variety). Though when I got older and started admiring the home made baked version of Mac and Cheese - I always wanted to give it a try! It took me long enough, but I finally gave it a go. And I'm so glad I did!

You can use any small shaped pasta you like. You could use the classic elbow shape, even rotini or penne would work really well in this recipe!

  • 16oz small shaped pasta
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance Spread or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 slices of toasted bread
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In your food processor - grind the cashews until it becomes a powder-like consistency. Don't grind it too long or you'll be making Cashew Butter! Next add in the yeast, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Pulse to blend the ingredients. Then stream in the one cup of milk. Next add in the corn starch, Earth Balance/Oil, lemon juice, turmeric, tahini, and black pepper. Blend just long enough to combine the ingredients.

Transfer the cheese sauce to a pot to simmer on the stove. Simmer over medium low heat and stir almost constantly until your cheese sauce thickens. It will thicken after about 5 minutes. If it's not thickening - try adding 1 tbsp more cornstarch. Once thick - remove from heat.

Once the pasta is done cooking - drain and transfer to a greased baking dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix until all of the pasta is coated.

Rinse out your food processor and grind together the toasted bread, basil, oregano, parsley and 1 tbsp oil to create your own bread crumbs! You can use your own if you want to skip this part. It's about 1/4-1/3 cup bread crumbs. Top the pasta and sauce with the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool before serving!

September 12, 2011

Canning Salsa with Grandma!

I don't think it's any secret how much I love my grandma. She's inspired so many recipes on this site - a lot of which are her recipes only veganized. So obviously I jumped at the chance for a lesson in canning! My grandma cans salsa every year. My Grandpa and her always have the biggest tomato plants. They grow them in this special container that knows the exact amount of water it needs. I don't even know what it's called, but it works. Their plants always produce the biggest, juiciest tomatoes!

Their tomatoes are always at their peak between late August and early September - so I knew she's be canning salsa somewhere around this time - so I called her and asked if I could help! I had never canned before and just like making my own jam, I assumed it was this long, hard process that involved all these complicated things to even do it. I was so wrong! They're are a few steps and you do need the right equipment, but it's so simple - and so worth it!

  • 1 large canning pot (You can find these from anywhere between $30 - $50)
  • 1 canning rack (These are pretty inexpensive. Most are less than $10)
  • Pint (or smaller) canning jars - sanitized (This recipe makes 5-6 pints, but you could use smaller jars!)
  • Canning lids and rings
  • Ladle or Measuring cup (to pour the salsa into the jars)
  • 1 large pot (for boiling the tomatoes and cooking the salsa)
  • 1 medium pot (for boiling the lids)
  • 1 large bowl of ice water (for removing tomato skins)
  • Optional Supplies: Jar Grabber, Magnetic Lid Lifter, Funnel
  • 10 medium-large tomatoes
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 large onion (any color you have on hand is fine!)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (use 1/2 a teaspoon for mild and taste test for heat level after that)
  • 12 oz can of tomato paste

Place your lids and jars in a medium sized pot. This sanitizes the lids and helps in getting the rubber part of the lids to seal onto the jars. Boil for 15 minutes. To sanitize your canning jars you can run them through your dishwasher's sanitize cycle - or boil them in a large pot for 7-10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop in the tomatoes one at a time and boil for 1 minute to remove the skins. After the skins are beginning to peel away, plunge the tomatoes into the bowl of ice water. This should make the tomatoes easier to peel and easier to handle once cooled. My grandma didn't even use a bowl of ice water. She just dumped them in the strainer and peeled (and cored the under ripe ones) while they were still hot. It didn't look very fun - so I would suggest using an ice bath!

After you've peeled the skins off of the tomatoes - cut them in half to remove the seeds and any tomatoes that have a rough core. You can do this easily with a spoon, paring knife, or even your finger! Once drained and seeded - dice the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are diced, place them in the same pot you used to boil them in. No need to dirty another dish! Then dice your bell peppers and onion and add to the tomatoes. Add the garlic powder, salt, cayenne, and tomato past and mix thoroughly. Cook over medium high heat until the peppers have cook through and softened.

Once the salsa is done cooking - start filling your jars to 1/4 inch from the top. Place the lid on top and tighten the ring to close. To ensure you will have a good seal *make sure the tops of your jars don't have any chips and the underside of the lids and rings and the tops of the jars don't have any food stuck to them.*

Fill your canning pot with water and place the canning rack inside. Heat over high heat and once it's come to a boil, place the jars inside the canning rack. Lower the canning rack into the water and  boil the jars for 30 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

Once the salsa is done boiling, remove from the canning pot and allow to cool. Try not to bump or hit them. This may cause the jars to "unseal". My grandma said a good tip to ensure a good sealing is to tip the jars upside down after boiling. The heat from the salsa reaches the lid and makes the seal even better. Allow to sit until the jars are cool to the touch - possibly overnight. Once the jars are cool, make sure the lids have sealed. Press on the lids with your finger. If the lids pop up and down, the jars have not sealed properly. If it doesn't do anything, then the lids have been sucked down and the jars have been sealed. The salsa should keep in a cool, dry place for about a year! It's so nice to have the fresh taste of summer in the middle of winter. I can't wait to try canning more things. I'm definitely thinking of pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, and peaches!