Aubergine Ricotta Rolls

Guest post by Amily Blanch 

Valentine’s Day seems like it was just yesterday. The streets were flooded with energized romantics, toy hearts and chocolates of all shapes and sizes. At this time of the year, especially, we are all craving to surprise our loved ones with a delicious dinner. Who says you can’t do a belated version in March? 

In the vegan community it is quite difficult to find recipes that would truly make even a non-vegan fall in love, so I wanted to share a few tricks I have up my sleeve, as well as tell you how to prepare a healthy, heavenly starter.

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The dish itself is called Aubergine Ricotta Rolls and its overall making will take around 30 minutes and serve 4 people. This means, it’s perfect for a double date with your best friend and their significant other as well. 

INGREDIENTS…

What you will need for the vegan ricotta cheese: 

  • 7oz firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups of raw cashews, that previously had been soaked in water overnight
  • 1/4 cup of soy (or any other non-dairy) milk
  • Juice of one third of a lemon (around 2/3 tablespoons) 
  • Some salt and ground black pepper

What you will need for the rolls: 

  • 2 aubergines (also known as eggplants)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS…

  1. Start by making the ricotta cheese. Firstly place the (drained) cashews into a food processor along with the tofu. It is important to soak the nuts in water overnight because that helps break down the phytic acid, water stops the acid from being absorbed into our bodies, and therefore reducing a feeling of heaviness after the meal. Soaking nuts also neutralizes their enzymes, allowing proper digestion to take place.
  2. Add half of the non-dairy milk that you have prepared, blend, and then the second half.
  3. After it turns into a smooth paste, add the rest of the ingredients: lemon juice, salt and pepper (for which the proportions may vary depending on how flavorful you want the “cheese” to be).
  4. Once that is done, you can start preparing the aubergines by cutting them lengthwise into very thin, wide pieces.
  5. While the pan is heating add 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. For extra flavour and a more intricate taste, chop up one small clove of garlic and let it sit in the olive oil for some time, this will infuse it with slight pungency. It is up to you whether you want to keep the small pieces of garlic in the oil or remove them before adding the oil to the pan. Remember to not add TOO much oil, or else the aubergines will not be cooked properly and that will affect the taste.
  6. After the oil is hot, place the aubergines on the pan and wait for the pieces to turn a beautiful shade of brown, and then flip.
  7. Afterwards, place the aubergines on a cutting board and start spreading a thin layer of ricotta on each of them. Roll them up, however if you find that they do not stay in a roll, you can use a toothpick to stabilize them. (Make sure to take them out before serving the dish though.
  8. Different ingredients can be sprinkled on top of the ricotta in the process like some chopped chives or a drizzle of lemon zest, if you want to put your own personal spin of this dish.

After the preparation and decoration of this beautiful starter, you can make the main dish. There are millions of recipes that involve servings like vegan ratatouille pasta or quinoa dishes that would blow your significant others’ minds. To finish off the lovely evening, share an appetizing raw cake made out of bananas, cocoa powder, walnuts, dates and agave syrup.

Anyone, no matter vegan or not, will be ecstatic after tasting this aubergine dish, so make sure you try it as well! The best thing about a complete, vegan Valentine’s dinner is that it contains all the vitamins and proteins that we need to be our best selves and feel good in our bodies, as well as, leaves us feeling energized, satisfied and not bloated at all.

Nuts provide protein and the vegetables are overflowing with vitamins like A, D and C, so instead of feeling guilty after having a chocolate cake for dessert, you will be focused on your date and celebrating love.

About Amily Blanch: A longtime vegan, red wine advocate, and health ambassador. Member of a team of freelance writers from New York publishing recipes for the Secrets of Vegan Baking blog and product reviews for the Consumerion site.

Interested in submitting a guest recipe post for our blog? Hit us up at vegangirlfriend@gmail.com, and we can chat.

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Baked Mac & Cheese Cups

Post by Megan Stulberg 

Another dish I whipped up for American Thanksgiving last week! These were a big crowdpleaser — and by that, I mean everybody ooh’d and ahh’d over them but I ended up eating most of the batch myself. Can you blame me, though? These cups are so good, both as a side dish or an appetizer. These baked mac and cheese cups are gluten-free and vegan, FYI.

And oh look, we made another video! Watch below and then subscribe for more on YouTube.

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Ingredients…

  • 1 box standard gluten-free macaroni
  • 1/2 bag cheddar style shreds (I used Daiya)
  • 1 cup almond milk, roughly
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tbsp corn meal
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Directions….

  1. Bring large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Dump that box of pasta on in. Cook accordingly, then drain.
  3. While pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Put almond milk in smaller pot and heat on medium. Add cheddar style shreds, stirring regularly until pieces melt. Add nutritional yeast, sea salt, thyme, red pepper and garlic powder. Once thoroughly combined and slightly bubbling, remove from heat.
  4. Drain pasta, then slowly add sauce to larger pot. You’ll probably have some leftover sauce, but add a bit extra as you’ll want extra moisture for baking.
  5. Add flour and cornmeal to pot, then mix to coat pasta evenly with sauce.
  6. Prevent oven to 350F.
  7. Coat muffin tray in coconut oil. Scoop mac and cheese by the spoonful into each cup.
  8. Sprinkle additional cornmeal for crunch, nutritional yeast and thyme on top.
  9. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until slightly browned on top. Ensure that all liquid has evaporated when you remove them from the oven — this is crucial or else the cups won’t stay together.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool.

Serve warm, with dip or sauce of your choice. Makes 12 cups.

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Spinach Avocado Pesto (Raw, Vegan, GF, Sugar-Free)

By contributor Megan Stulberg

Instead of consuming large amounts of buffalo wings and potato chips on Super Bowl Sunday, I skipped the game altogether and made this healthy snack! Traditional pesto is made with parmesan cheese but avocado is a great creamy alternative.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp ground garlic (or 2 cloves)
  • Black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Half the avocado, remove pit, then scoop out the flesh.
  2. In a high-speed blender/food processor combine avocado, spinach, nuts, water, oil, yeast and seasonings until thoroughly combined.
  3. Serve immediately, or else avocado will brown!

Makes roughly 1 cup of pesto. Use as a spread on raw crackers (as pictured), as a pasta sauce, or as a dip with fresh veggies.

Duqqa Navy Bean Dip (vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

By Aine Davis

I wanted to make a dish that incorporates duqqa for a family dinner, but the Egyptian spice blend typically contains nuts and my cousin is allergic to them. Being the stubborn and determined person that I am, I came up with this delicious duqqa navy bean dip recipe that’s nut-free! Problem solved.

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DUQQA:

Ingredients…

  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne
  • Pinch of black pepper

Directions…

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. On a lined baking sheet, toast sesame seeds for 10-12 minutes until golden in colour. Flip halfway and ensure not to overcook.
  3. Combine toasted sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, cayenne and pepper in a food processor until fine in consistency.

Note: You’ll only need a little bit of duqqa for the dip! Store in an airtight container and add sparingly to your favourite savoury dishes.

DIP:

Ingredients…

  • 1 can of navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp duqqa

Directions…

  1. In a food processor combine beans, 1/4 cup of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and duqqa. Blend until smooth in texture.

TO SERVE: 

  1. Transfer dip into a large bowl.
  2. Using the back of a spoon, make a well in the middle of the dip and fill with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Garnish dip with parsley and pair with Mary’s original seed crackers.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Raw Caesar Salad Dressing

Recipe by Megan Stulberg

I worked a brief stunt in appetizer and dessert preparation at Swiss Chalet when I was in high school. That being said, I couldn’t touch a Caesar salad for years afterwards. Now I’m absolutely hooked to the vegan version! Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

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Ingredients…

  • 1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight + drained)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or other natural sweetener of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried dill
  • 1 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions…

1. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed food processor until thoroughly combined. Taste and add more garlic or seasoning if desired.

2. Leave dressing in fridge for one hour to set. Add more water if the dressing becomes too thick.

2. Toss kale (or lettuce, but it’s 2015 and that’s boring) in dressing. Top with nutritional yeast flakes and raw walnuts.

Holiday Recipe: “Cheese” Ball Platter (Raw, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free)

Recipe by Aine Davis

You’re dairy-free, and your cheese cravings over Christmas are getting out of control? No problem!

Note: Be sure to prepare this dish one day in advance.

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Ingredients…

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Directions…

  1. Soak cashews for an hour. Drain and rinse.
  2. Place cashews in food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Add garlic, nutritional yeast, rosemary, thyme, and salt. Continue to process.
  4. Add lemon juice. The mixture should be thick and malleable. If the mixture is too wet, add more nutritional yeast.
  5. Scoop mixture out onto large piece of wax paper. With wax paper, use hands to shape mixture into a ball.
  6. Leave cheese ball in the fridge overnight to harden.
  7. Serve on large plate with additional garnish. I paired mine with Mary’s gluten-free seed crackers!

Serves 4 (appetizer-sized portions)

Recipe: Fresh Veggie Rice Paper Wraps

By contributors Megan Stulberg and Alexandra Courts

Want a quick, easy and healthy way to combine all of your favourite ingredients into one meal? Wrap ’em up in rice papers!

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Ingredients…

  • 1 250g package tempeh
  • 1/2 package rice paper sheets
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 bunch alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch chives

Directions…

  1. Wash and dry all vegetables thoroughly, then slice into thin pieces. Set aside.
  2. Slice tempeh into thin pieces or larger chunks if desired.
  3. Heat a dash of coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Once it sizzles, place tempeh strips into pan and season with salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice. Flip tempeh regularly until both sides are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To prepare the rice paper sheets, fill a large bowl with warm water. Individually soak each sheet until malleable. Lay the sheet flat on a kitchen towel or cutting board. Line up all ingredients on centre of sheet.
  5. To wrap, fold both sides in and then fold down the top. From the bottom, roll up to the top and seal the wrap securely. A touch of water can be added if necessary.
  6. Repeat steps 4-5 for each wrap. Serve with your favourite dip — we used plum sauce! Enjoy.

Yields 6 rolls (2-3 servings).