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Oh Christmas Cheese!

parsley tree

Thanks to the proliferation of plant-based cheese wheels, balls, and logs in recent years, vegans can now enjoy something other than hummus or salsa at holiday parties.  Whether you buy some of the fabulous vegan cheese now available from companies such as Miyoko’s Creamery or Kite Hill or make your own using one of the many recipes available in cookbooks or online, a gorgeous vegan cheese board is no longer just a dream. Oh, Christmas Cheese!

There are a number of ways that you an arrive at the creamy texture and umami flavor you want, including kappa carrageenan, agar powder, rejuvelac, and others.  For my own part, I prefer to use the easiest and quickest method which relies solely on coconut oil combined with cashews to provide the firm yet creamy texture.  The flavor comes from the usual suspects found in many vegan cheeses: nutritional yeast, miso paste, lemon juice … plus I like to add a splash of wine or beer.

Over the years, my go-to cheese log has been made by simply adding some melted coconut oil to my favorite mac and cheese sauce base and then chilling it and then shaping it into a cheddary log encrusted in crushed pretzels or walnuts.  Today’s recipe, however, is even more basic, using fewer ingredients for a milder flavor.  Best of all, it’s shaped like a Christmas tree, just in time for the holidays.

Shown are two ways to “decorate” your tree — coat it with minced parsley and festoon it with pimiento ornaments, or go with a more subdued yet still festive combo of crushed pistachios and dried cranberries (or pomegranate arils).

pistacchio tree

If you want to try your hand at some other vegan cheese recipes, there’s a nice round-up here that features Somer McCowan’s stellar sharp cheddar ball and Richa Hingle’s glorious green goddess gouda.

And now here’s my recipe for a Cheesy Christmas Tree!  Happy Holidays!!!

cheese slice

Cheesy Christmas Tree

1 1/3 heaping cups raw cashews, soaked 15 minutes in hot water, drained well
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
4 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry white wine, beer, or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon light-colored miso paste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Your choice of: 1/3 cup crushed pistachios + 2 teaspoons dried cranberries (or pomegranate arils)
–or– 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley + 2 teaspoons chopped pimientos

In a food processor, combine everything except the pistachios + cranberries or parsley + pimientos. Process until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Place a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a small cutting board. Scoop the mixture into the center of the plastic wrap and top with a sheet of plastic wrap, then use your hands to shape the mixture into a triangle shape to make your tree. It should be about 1-inch thick. Top the cheesy mixture with another small cutting board (or other flat object) to be sure the “tree” is even. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Remove from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap, and smooth the tree shape, using a knife to even up the sides and bottom. Shape a small amount of the cheese mixture that you trimmed from the tree into a small piece of trunk and attach it at the bottom of the tree.

Press the crusted pistachios or minced parsley evenly into the cheesy tree, on the top and on the sides, then place cranberries or pimiento pieces on the “tree” to represent holiday ornaments. Use a thin wide metal spatula to transfer to a plate or cheese board and chill until ready to serve.

Recipe by Robin Robertson (c) 2015.



Hakka Noodles


For the most part, I love living in the quiet countryside of Virginia, miles away from traffic jams, crowded streets, and noise pollution.  The only times I really have second thoughts about living out in the sticks is when I get a food craving and there’s no restaurant even remotely close enough to get the dish in question, be it a fragrant Indian thali, a platter of vegan sushi, or, in this particular week’s craving, hakka noodles.

Good thing I know how to make them myself!  The recipe is in my book, Vegan Without Borders — the gorgeous hardcover book filled with gorgeous photos by Sara Remington that LOOKS like a coffee table book, but is also a super cookbook filled with my favorite global recipes.

If you’ve never had hakka noodles, why not give them a try?  Hakka noodles can be found in well-stocked Asian or Indian markets – look for Wai Wai or Ching brands. If unavailable, you can substitute angel hair pasta or rice or wheat vermicelli.

Hakka Noodles
The texture of this dish should be dry rather than saucy, as the noodles absorb the flavorful sauce. For a less spicy dish, use less red pepper flakes and sriracha (or leave them out). For extra protein, add diced extra-firm tofu or thin strips of seitan. This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014, published by Andews McMeel Publishing.

8 ounces hakka noodles or angel hair pasta or rice or wheat vermicelli
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 small carrot, coarsely shredded
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato puree or ketchup
1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot chili sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain well, rinsing under cold water, then transfer the well-drained noodles to a bowl. Toss with the sesame oil and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, scallions, and ginger and stir- fry for 4 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the mushrooms, if using, and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for 2 minutes longer. Add the cooked noodles, soy sauce, tomato puree, sriracha, and vinegar, and stir-fry for a few minutes longer to mix well and heat through. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Serve hot.
Serves 4

Chef’s Tip: To make this dish in a flash, buy bagged shredded cabbage and carrots instead of shredding your own.



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Holiday Cookbook Giveaway

Pantry Pasta Salad

Tis the season! To celebrate, the nice people over at Vegan Heritage Press are holding a whopper of a Cookbook Giveaway.  Inspired by my new cookbook, Cook the Pantry, the giveaway is a photo contest.

It’s called “The Cook the Pantry Photo Contest” and it’s going on now through December 15, 2015. To enter, simply take a photo of your favorite vegan pantry meal and post it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Be sure to tag Vegan Heritage Press and use the hashtag #CookThePantryBook so they can see it. That’s it!  And you can enter as many times as you like! Here are the prizes:

The Prizes:

1st Prize: A set of 7 Vegan Heritage Press cookbooks: Cook the Pantry signed by Robin Robertson, Vegan Richa’s Indian KitchenThe Abundance DietVegan BowlsVegan TacosThe Lusty Vegan, and World Vegan Feast.

2nd Prize: set of 3 Vegan Heritage Press cookbooks: Cook the Pantry signed by Robin Robertson, Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, and Vegan Bowls.

3rd Prize: a copy of Cook the Pantry signed by Robin Robertson.

You can post as many photos as you’d like between now and December 15th, 2015. The more photos you post, the greater your chance of winning. Everyone can participate, however, prizes can only be shipped to US addresses.  The winners will be chosen at random and announced on December 18, 2015, on the Vegan Heritage Press blog.

I want to stress the point that your photo can be of ANY vegan dish you make from pantry ingredients (it doesn’t have to be from my book!). 

Of course, if you’d like a delicious pantry-powered recipe to inspire you, try this Pantry Pasta Salad from Cook the Pantry (shown above, photo by Annie Oliverio). It makes an easy and festive-looking addition for a holiday party or potluck.

Pantry Pasta Salad

One of the great thing about this recipe is that the portion size is easy to adjust. To increase the volume, cook an entire pound of pasta and add additional pantry goodies, such as olives, roasted red peppers, or pine nuts. You can also add fresh vegetables and herbs (see optional additions).  This recipe is from Cook the Pantry by Robin Robertson (c) 2015 published by Vegan Heritage Press.

8 ounces bite-sized pasta of choice
1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans or chickpeas, drained
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 6-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers
1/2 cup thawed frozen baby peas
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
3 sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed or reconstituted dried), cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper
Optional additions: halved cherry or grape tomatoes, minced red onion, chopped scallions, chopped celery, grated carrot, leftover cooked or steamed veggies such as broccoli or green beans, chopped fresh parsley or basil

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain and run under cold water, then drain again and transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans, artichokes, bell peppers, peas, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers. Toss gently to combine. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, agave, garlic, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to break up and distribute the garlic. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad. Add any optional add-ins and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Makes 4 servings

Again, here’s how to enter the Great Cookbook Giveaway:

  1. Make a meal with everyday items from your pantry. (You can make ANY of your favorite dishes that use pantry ingredients  — they don’t have to be from the Cook the Pantry cookbook.)
  2. Take a picture of your meal.
  3. Post your photo on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram and tag Vegan Heritage Press.
  4. Use the hashtag #CookThePantryBook
  5. That’s it!

Good luck!!!

Nut Butter Universe Ad


Vegan Thanksgiving

TG Leftover Pizza 018b

I’ve been making a stuffed seitan roast for Thanksgiving every year for nearly 30 years, so naturally, I have to put a “spin” on it every so often.  Usually, I like to be creative with the leftovers, but it occurs to me that these so-called Thanksgiving leftovers would make great main events on the actual holiday.  So here’s a round-up of some of my favorite creations over the years, beginning with the Thanksgiving Pizza shown above.

Then there was this Thanksgiving “Pie” — a spin-off of the Almost One-Dish Thanksgiving Dinner from 1,000 Vegan Recipes which includes layers of seitan, tofu, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a puff pastry crust.


I’ve also transformed the various Thanksgiving dinner components into a tower — complete with green bean casserole on top and surrounded by a cranberry-enriched brown gravy:

Thanksgiving Tower 11-24-10 043b

One time I layered everything into a “cake” frosted with mashed potatoes:

TG Cake w slice IMG_0679

And another time I made T’day yuba-wrapped spring rolls:

Thanksgiving Spring Rolls 11-24-10 044a

Most often, however, our holiday meal looks like this:

TG Dinner Plate 2012 7101a

or like this:

Pastry-Wrapped Seitah Roulade

The infamous green bean casserole is usually present on my table.  Sometimes it looks like this:

TG Grn Bn Cass 2012 029a

But I’ve been known to serve a “deconstructed” version as well:

Decon Green Bean Cass 11-14-11 003a

And don’t forget dessert:

Pumpkin Cheesecake drizzle 1c

I hope this post gives you some “food for thought” to make this a delicious and compassionate Thanksgiving!



Spinach & White Bean REV

Today’s recipe is another of my favorites from my new book, Cook the Pantry.  This one is for White Bean and Spinach Quesadillas and it couldn’t be easier or quicker.  The recipe calls for canned beans and frozen spinach, but you can certainly use home-cooked beans and fresh spinach if you have them on hand.  The recipe easily doubles or triples, depending on how many hungry mouths you have to feed. Serve with your favorite salsa and lunch (or dinner!) is served.

White Bean and Spinach Quesadillas
Makes 2 servings
Frozen spinach and canned white beans combine with garlic and spices to make a delectable filling for these hearty quesadillas. No cheese needed. Serve with your favorite salsa. This recipe is from Cook the Pantry by Robin Robertson © 2015, published by Vegan Heritage Press. Photo by Ann Oliverio.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and ground black pepper
1 (15.5-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large flour tortillas

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the beans, lemon juice, coriander, and cumin. Cook, stirring, until the spinach is cooked and the flavors are blended, about 5 minutes. Mash the beans well while cooking. Set aside.
Place two large tortillas on a flat work surface. Divide the spinach mixture evenly between the tortillas. Spread the filling mixture evenly on half of each tortilla. Fold the remaining half of each tortilla over the half with the filling and press gently to enclose and spread the filling close to the edges.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Arrange the quesadillas in the hot skillet, one at a time or both, depending on the size of your skillet. Flatten with a spatula and cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the quesadillas and cook until the other side is golden brown. Serve hot.


The winner of the Vegan-Ease Giveaway is: Cathy whose favorite easy meal is My favorite easy meal is a burrito made with a large whole grain tortilla filled with on-hand cooked beans, grains, and veggies.  Thanks to all who entered!  Cathy, please email me with your mailing address so a copy of Vegan-Ease by Laura Theodore can be sent out to you. And a big thanks to Laura for allowing me to host a giveaway and share her vegan omelet recipe!  Speaking of Laura Theodore….I will be her guest next Wednesday, November 18 on Jazzy Vegetarian Radio.  Be sure to tune in!


omelet 3

I’m excited to participate in the blog tour for Vegan-Ease, the new cookbook by Laura Theodore, aka The Jazzy Vegetarian. In this book, “ease” is the operative word.  In addition to being easy to prepare using easy-to-find ingredients,  each recipe also includes an “Ease-Factor” ranking from 1 to 3 to make meal-planning a breeze. The book also features a selection of menus to help put it all together.

The recipes include everything from  delicious sides like Roasted Baby Artichokes, and baked delights such as Lemony Cornmeal and Cranberry Muffins, to main dishes such as Vegetable Quesadilla Bake, and a temping array of desserts, salads, and soups including Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup.

Laura has graciously allowed me to share with you a recipe from the breakfast section of the book for Spinach-Tomato Vegan Omelet.  PLUS!! she has also allowed me to offer a copy of Vegan-Ease to one lucky winner.

To enter the Giveaway, leave a comment at the end of this post telling me what your favorite easy meal is.  That’s it!  Enter now — the giveaway closes on Sunday 11/8 at midnight.  The winner will be announced on Monday 11/9. (U.S. only, please.)

Now here’s that yummy omelet recipe…..

Spinach-Tomato Vegan Omelet
Makes 2 servings / Ease Factor: 3

I tried for years to create a tasty vegan omelet, so I was super excited when I came up with this oven-baked version. Because a tofu-based omelet is more delicate than the classic egg version, I have developed a jazzy method for helping it to stay together when serving. It takes a little bit of extra fuss, but is well worth the effort.

2 medium tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Several grinds of freshly ground pepper
5 to 6 cups very lightly packed baby spinach, washed and dried
1 block (14 to 16 ounces) firm regular tofu
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1?8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1?8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (for dusting top)
¼ cup shredded vegan cheese (optional)
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat with vegan margarine a heavy, ovenproof 10-inch round sauté pan or skillet with tight fitting lid.
Arrange the tomatoes in the prepared skillet by overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle the thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper evenly over the top of the tomatoes. Top the tomato layer with all of the baby spinach, pressing it down slightly.
Put all of the tofu “egg” layer ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Spread the tofu mixture evenly over the spinach, smoothing the top as you go. Dust the top of the tofu layer with the additional 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika. Cover tightly and bake for 45 minutes. Put the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully cut the omelet into two servings, by slicing down the middle. Gently lift one-half of the omelet out of the pan, using two very large, flat spatulas. Place it tomato side down onto a rimmed dinner plate. Place a second rimmed dinner plate of the same size firmly over top of the omelet and quickly flip it over to invert the omelet so the tomatoes will now be facing upward. Sprinkle the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the vegan cheese, if desired. Then, use the spatula to gently fold the omelet over. Proceed plating up the second half of the omelet in the same manner.
Spoon the sauce that remains in the bottom of the pan over each omelet. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Serve warm.

Amount per serving, based on 2 servings: 188 Calories; 11g Fat; 2g Saturated fat; 21g Protein; 107mg Sodium; 7g Total Carbohydrate; 2g Sugars; 4g Fiber

Recipe © 2015 Laura Theodore, published by Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC, reprinted by permission.