Umeboshi Calling – a quick vegan pasta dinner with a slightly addictive creamy cashew sauce

umeboshi calling

little umeboshiThis quick vegan recipe has creamy cashew sauce (or choose the nut-free variation that replaces the cashews with tofu), with spinach and red bell peppers. It uses an unusual ingredient called umeboshi paste, which adds a delicious salty sweetness to the recipe.

Umeboshi paste is made of pickled umeboshi plums — though it does not taste at all like pickles. It is salty and sweet and creamy, making the recipe’s sauce a little addictive.

If you can’t find umeboshi paste, you can replace it with 1 teaspoon of sea salt. That works okay and comes out tasting lovely, but if you can possibly use umeboshi paste, this recipe is much yummier for it.

I originally made this recipe with the kind of pasta that looks a little bit like a telephone cord. That’s how the recipe got the name Umeboshi Calling.

Nut-free version: Replace the cashews with 10 ounces of tofu, and reduce the water to 1/2 cup.

Variation: You can add 1-2 cups of your favorite protein source, such as Butler soy curls (rehydrated before adding!), seitan (note that seitan is not gluten-free), baked tofu, etc.

Tip: If you anticipate leftovers, you may wish to keep the sauce and the pasta separate, so that you can store them separately, so that the pasta doesn’t absorb all the liquid from the sauce in the refrigerator.

Umeboshi Calling - a quick pasta dinner with creamy cashew sauce
 
Prep time
20 mins
Cook time
10 mins
Total time
30 mins
 
This quick vegan recipe has creamy cashew sauce (or choose the nut-free tofu variation), spinach, and red bell peppers. It uses an unusual ingredient called umeboshi paste, which adds a delicious salty sweetness to the recipe.
Author: Valerie Mates
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound pasta, preferably something curly such as Field Day Organic Brown Rice Fusilli
  • 1 package frozen spinach (anything from 10 to 16 ounces is OK)
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons umeboshi paste
  • 1-2 bell peppers (any color is OK; red is especially good in this)
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Defrost spinach, but don’t drain it.
  3. Blend cashews, water, and umeboshi paste in a blender or food processor for several minutes, until it thickens and starts to look about the consistency of sour cream. Make sure you blend the mixture for long enough that it is really smooth.
  4. Chop the bell pepper.
  5. Mix everything together.
  6. Stir, but don't worry if the spinach stays somewhat clumpy.
  7. Serve. Yum!
3.2.2807

 

Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake

chocolate decadence mug cake

chocolate decadence mug cakeMany years ago, after eating dinner at Seva restaurant, I ordered a dessert that was the most dense and chocolatey confection that I had ever tasted. I loved it — but didn’t remember its name! After that, I spent ten years ordering desserts at Seva, wondering what it was, hoping to some day solve the mystery of what the amazing dessert had been. Finally, it did come up again. I found out that the amazing dessert was called Chocolate Decadence.

Later, I found the recipe for Narsai’s Chocolate Decadence on the Internet and tried making it myself.  (Tip: If you make the original recipe, “bake” it in a glass pie plate in the microwave for six minutes, rather than in the oven, to cook it fully without risking any burned bits.) It came out wonderfully and is a birthday favorite at my house.

Last year my partner gave me the very much fun cookbook Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth. I enjoyed baking the creative, original, tiny cake ideas from that cookbook.  When you are making a cake the size of a coffee mug, it is easier to take risks and bake something that you might not want to try a full-sized version of, such as a Sesame Ginger mug cake — which, by the way, came out great!

Anyway, I came up with the idea to try making a Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake.  This recipe is the result.  It mixes up in about five minutes, then needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight, and voila!

The night before the first day of school after a long break, I make each of my older two kids a Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake. The next morning, if they get ready for school expeditiously, they can have it. It’s a fun way to motivate them to get moving in the morning. They each stretch out their mug cake to last all week. My son Arlo says that high school is way too early in the morning, and that the only thing that keeps him awake through his classes is Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake!

Anyway, this is a really wonderful recipe, and very easy to make. I hope you will try it!

Some notes on the recipe:

If you mix up the batter in the mug, it is hard to get all of the ingredients stirred through evenly.  It works better to mix it up in something bigger, such as a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and then pour the batter into a coffee mug for baking.

I like Equal Exchange semi-sweet chocolate chips in this recipe, because they are organic, fair-trade, and vegan.  (The link goes to a 12-pack of chocolate chips on Amazon.)

Use at least a 12-ounce mug. The batter gets a lot taller during baking, then sinks back down again, so the recipe needs the full twelve ounces of space to expand into. American coffee mugs are usually twelve ounces.

You can also divide up the batter into ceramic ramekins and bake it in there.

 

Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An incredible chocolate cake, adapted to coffee-mug size.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 mug cake
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch or flour
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Put the chocolate chips and canola oil into a two-cup microwaveable bowl or cup, such as a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup.
  2. Microwave for 1 minute.
  3. Stir.
  4. Microwave another 30 seconds.
  5. Stir until all the chocolate is melted.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients. Use the fork to stir thoroughly. Be detail-oriented with the stirring, so that the egg gets blended very thoroughly with everything else.
  7. Pour into a 12-ounce coffee mug.
  8. Microwave for 90 seconds.
  9. Let sit until cool.
  10. Refrigerate overnight.

 

Black Bean Tostadas

Black Bean Tostadas

This quick and delicious meal has a story behind it.

Many years ago, when I was a young single person, my friend Rob and I were discussing what to do for dinner. It went something like this:

What do you want to do for dinner?
I don’t know. What do you want to do for dinner?
I don’t know.
Too bad Ann Arbor doesn’t have vegetarian restaurants like Ithaca.
Yeah. Ithaca has great vegetarian restaurants.
Too bad we can’t eat dinner there.
Yeah. It would be neat to eat dinner in Ithaca.
We couldn’t go there, could we?
Well, maybe we could! Want to go to Ithaca for dinner?
Okay, let’s go have dinner at the Moosewood!
Are you serious?
Yeah! Let’s go!

washing black beansThat was on a Saturday in the late afternoon. We hopped in the car and drove eight hours to Ithaca, New York, stopping for a few hours of sleep in a tiny motel somewhere in Canada. We reached Ithaca in time for Sunday dinner — which I thought was really the perfect day to be there because I loved the cookbook Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. I had never been to Ithaca before, but I loved reading cookbooks from the three vegetarian restaurants there, especially the Moosewood.

The meal we ate at Moosewood was Black Bean Tostadas.

It was worth the trip.

Afterward, I discovered that the recipe for Black Bean Tostadas was in the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook. So I tried cooking it. It came out well.

beans for tostadasOver the years I have adapted it in many ways, and made it my own. I am not sure that anybody at Moosewood would recognize this recipe the way I make it.

That trip to Ithaca was twenty five years ago. I am sorry to say that I have lost touch with Rob.

Ann Arbor now has several excellent vegetarian restaurants — but I still think fondly of that crazy weekend road trip to the Moosewood.


The original version of this recipe was served on a crispy round corn tortilla. I’ve always found tostadas very hard to eat without having food go flying in all directions. So I changed this recipe to use crushed corn chips instead of a tortilla. I’ve played around squashed corn chips for tostadaswith the ingredients to meet my family’s food needs. And I have speeded it up, so that the whole meal can be cooked in 30 minutes.

My kids like this meal served with the corn chips on the side and all the parts of the meal in separate piles. I like it all heaped together, with avocado and salsa strewn throughout.


This recipe is dedicated in memory of Sue Talbert, who liked this recipe. Sue passed away last year, far too young.

Here is Sue’s version of this recipe.


Jan Wolter says that when he eats this recipe, he tries to put lots of liquid on the corn chips. Normally soggy corn chips don’t taste so good, but in this recipe they are transformed into something altogether different and very yummy. I know soggy corn chips sound really awful — and some brands are — but I hope you will trust me that the right corn chips are transformed in this recipe.

Black Bean TostadasSome brands of corn chips work better than others in this recipe — they have to mesh with the sauce in just the right way, and some brands do that better than others. I like Guiltless Gourmet blue or white corn chips, but the last time I checked, Guiltless Gourmet could not guarantee that their chips were gluten-free, so I don’t buy that brand anymore. Whole Foods white corn chips are good in this recipe too.

Tip: At our house, we don’t always have fresh orange juice on hand, but we keep some frozen concentrate in the freezer. For this recipe, I mix up a micro-batch of orange juice from concentrate, just enough to use in this recipe: six tablespoons of concentrate plus one cup and two tablespoons of water makes exactly the amount of orange juice needed for this recipe.

Black Bean Tostadas
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Black beans and orange juice taste surprisingly good together. In this recipe they are served on top of crushed corn chips, with avocado, lettuce, and other toppings.
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: vaguely Mexican
Serves: serves 6
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 3 cans of black beans (4 1/2 cups, cooked), rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • EITHER 2 tomatoes, chopped, or 2 red or yellow bell peppers, chopped
  • corn chips (blue ones are good here)
  • 2 ripe avocadoes
  • shredded lettuce
  • optional: grated cheddar or Monterrey Jack or mozzarella cheese
  • optional: unsweetened yogurt or sour cream
  • salsa
Instructions
  1. Put the beans and orange juice in a pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the oil, cumin, coriander, and tomatoes or bell peppers, and stir.
  3. While the beans warm up, wash the lettuce.
  4. Mash the avocadoes into a very simple one-ingredient guacamole.
To serve:
  1. Put two handfuls of corn chips on a plate. Crush the corn chips with your hands, into pieces about an inch wide or smaller.
  2. Put a big scoop or two of the bean mixture on top, taking care to get the corn chips wet.
  3. Add lettuce, salsa, guacamole and other toppings.
  4. Serve!

 

 

 

Chocolate Nanaimo Pumpkin Pie – no bake, healthy, and vegan!

Chocolate Nanaimo Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Nanaimo Pumpkin Pie

I’m a big fan of Chocolate Covered Katie’s healthy dessert blog. Last August, she published her version of a Canadian dessert called Nanaimo Bars. I tried making the recipe. My family and I liked it!  I liked it so much that I made it again and again, adapting it to my own way of cooking, and experimenting with variations.  In the summertime, I made Strawberry Nanaimo Bars and Blueberry Nanaimo Bars. I love chocolate, but it doesn’t always love me back, so I also invented an alternate chocolate-free topping, made with strawberries and cardamom.

Finally, autumn arrived, and gorgeous pumpkins. First I made Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. Then I made Chocolate Covered Katie’s truly wonderful no-bake chocolate pumpkin pie — another of Katie’s recipes that I completely adore.  But still I had more pumpkin to use. So I invented this recipe — a yummy collision betweenChocolate Nanaimo Pumpkin Pie Katie’s Nanaimo Bars and a pumpkin pie.

Everybody who tried it said this pie was seriously delicious! Jan Wolter called it, “Brain-meltingly yummy!”Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

I used fresh pumpkin in this recipe, but it should work fine with canned, too. Here is how to cook fresh pumpkin.

If you would like, you can replace half of the cocoa powder with carob powder.

In case you were wondering, Nanaimo is a city in Canada.  :-)Chocolate Nanaimo Pumpkin Pie


Edited to add: I’ve had a request for a nut-free version.  You can make this pie nut-free by replacing the nuts in the crust with an equal amount of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (without shells).  In the filling, replace the cashews with cannellini beans or other cooked white beans, and add another 1-2 dates.

 

Nanaimo Pumpkin Pie -- gluten-free, vegan, no refined sugar, healthy, quick, no baking -- and awesomely yummy!
 
Prep time
15 mins
Total time
15 mins
 
Quick, delicious, vegan, no-bake pumpkin pie.
Author: Valerie Mates
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 1 pie
Ingredients
Crust:
  • 3/4 cup of nuts, such as a mix of almonds and walnuts
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup raisins
Filling:
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup cooked white beans (eg. cannellini beans) -- or more cashews
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 7 dates with no pits
  • 2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
Topping:
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (or 1/4 cup cocoa powder plus 1/4 cup carob powder)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Place all crust ingredients in a food processor. Blend until everything is in small pieces, about the size of pin-heads, and maybe starting to stick together a tiny bit -- but don't blend it all the way to nut butter.
  2. Put the crust into a pie plate. Use your hands to press it down into the shape of a pie crust. Just put the crust on the bottom and sides of the pie plate -- don't put crust on top of the edges of the pie plate.
  3. Next, place all of the ingredients for the filling in the food processor. Blend it for several minutes, until the mixture is very creamy and smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Use a spatula to smooth it out as flat as you can. There should still be about 1/4 inch depth between the top of the filling and the walls of the pie plate to make room for the topping. If the filling is too tall, scoop some out, then smooth again.
  5. In a heatproof glass measuring cup or other microwaveable container, put the ingredients for the topping. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. If the coconut oil is not melted at this point, microwave again and stir again.
  6. Pour the topping over the pie. If the pie isn't covered evenly, tilt it gently or use the back of a spoon to gently spread it around to get the topping to cover everywhere.
  7. Refrigerate for several hours.
  8. This pie is very rich. I recommend serving it in wedges that are about an inch wide at the widest part.
3.2.2807

 

Banana Claw – Decadent Vegan Ice Cream

Banana Claw ice cream

Back before we had kids, their dad and I used to like to go to the ice cream store and get a type of ice cream called Bear Claw. Bear Claw ice cream is a very rich chocolatey ice cream, with ribbons of caramel, and chocolate covered cashews.

I’ve been making vegan ice cream from bananas. I can’t eat Bear Claw ice cream anymore, so this is my healthy vegan adaptation of it. My daughter Kendra says we should call it Banana Claw.

This whole recipe is easy achocolate and cashewsnd quick. Once your bananas are frozen, the entire recipe takes about 15 minutes to make.

To freeze bananas: Choose bananas that are ripe, with freckles, but not totally brown. Bananas that are overripe and would work great in banana bread will make this recipe taste too banana-y. So pick bananas that are freckled, so that they are sweet enough, but not overripe. To freeze, break the bananas into chunks and put them in a container in the freezer.

cashews going into the bagMaking chocolate covered cashews is easy: Melt chocolate chips, stir together with cashews, and put them in the freezer for a few minutes. Ziplock bags are very non-stick, so they work great for freezing the cashews. The chocolate ends up on the cashews, not on the bag. Tip: To make it easier to spoon the mixture into the ziplock bag, you can put the bag into a glass or mug and fold its sides down over the rim. Then the glass will hold the bag open for you.

bananas avocado food processorThe caramel layer is my version of the caramel in Vegan Richa’s Salted Date Caramel Chocolate Pie with Almond Coconut Crust — a very decadent and wonderful vegan recipe.

just the ice creamI don’t normally use much salt, but it tastes really good in this caramel, and it’s only a small amount. If you happen to have fancy salt available, such as Himalayan Sea Salt, this is a good recipe to use it in.

cashews after freezingBanana ice cream is very easy to make: Blend three frozen bananas with whatever flavoring you like: fruit, or cocoa powder. An optional avocado adds extra richness.

And voila! Healthy fruit and nuts are magically turned into a rich and delicious ice cream.


Edited to add: I’ve had a request for a nut-free version. For nut-free, omit the cashews or replace them with pumpkin seeds (without shells). And leave out the almond butter.

more banana claw

Banana Claw - Vegan Ice Cream
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A rich vegan ice cream, made from bananas, full of caramel, laced with chocolate covered cashews.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 1 pint
Ingredients
Chocolate Covered Cashews:
Caramel:
  • 5-6 dates (with no pits)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
Ice Cream:
  • 3 frozen bananas, broken into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
Chocolate Covered Cashews:
  1. Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave, by heating for 30 seconds and then stirring. Repeat until the chips are melted.
  2. Stir in the cashews.
  3. Pour into a quart-sized Ziplock bag.
  4. Squeeze out the air, then zip the bag.
  5. Use your fingers to spread out and separate the cashews throughout the bag.
  6. Place the bag in the freezer.
Caramel:
  1. Blend all caramel ingredients in a blender or food processor, until completely smooth.
Ice Cream:
  1. Blend all of the ice cream ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Remove the bag of cashews from the freezer.
  3. While the bag is still closed, use your fingers to break apart the cashews, so that they are separate and not stuck together.
  4. Pour the cashews into the ice cream, and gently stir them in.
  5. Put half of the ice cream into a freezer-safe container. Smooth it out. Spread the caramel evenly on top. Add the rest of the ice cream on top.
  6. You can eat the ice cream now, though it will still be soft, or leave it in the freezer to firm up.

 

Potoccoli – a meal of potato, egg, and broccoli

Potoccoli

Potoccoli is made of potatoes, broccoli, and eggs. It is not glamorous, but it is soothing and nourishing.  Potocolli is intended as a main dish, but I could eat (and have eaten!) it for breakfast… and lunch… and dinner.

Everybody has their own favorite comfort foods. Potatoes are mine. When my digestive system is unhappy, Potoccoli is my magic wand of happiness.

I invented this recipe years ago. It has been one of my favorites ever potato cubessince then, because it is easy to cook and I usually have the ingredients on hand. I picked it to be the first dinner recipe in my new blog because the recipe is entirely my own invention, and because I have loved it and been nourished by it over many years. The name is a combination of the words potato and broccoli. Its alternate name is Potatoccoli — adding another syllable.

At the store, if you have a choice between “broccoli cuts” or “broccoli broccoli floretsflorets,” florets work better in this recipe.

This recipe relies on good potatoes. I like Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes in this recipe, but any type of potato should work. Potatoes are grown with a lot of pesticides, so use organic potatoes if you can.

five eggsI aim to post a vegan version of each recipe on this blog — but this recipe is an exception. I am not sure it’s possible to make Potoccoli vegan and still be Potoccoli. Possibly the eggs could be replaced with scrambled tofu, or cashews blended with water and oil and salt — but I have not tried it.

This is a very flexible recipe. I never measure any of the ingredients in Potoccoli — estimating works fine. I like to use equal amounts of potatoes and broccoli, but you can vary this to suit your own preferences.

Potoccoli
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A quick and yummy dinner of potatoes, egg, and broccoli.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of nice potatoes -- Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn work great in this recipe
  • 1 pound frozen broccoli florets
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 eggs
Instructions
  1. Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. Place them in a pot. Add just enough water to cover them. Heat over medium-high heat until the water boils. Pour on the broccoli florets, still frozen, and leave them sitting on top without stirring. When the water boils again, turn the heat down to medium and cover the pot so that the steam from the potatoes will cook the broccoli.
  2. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes, until you can easily pierce a piece of potato with a fork and it seems soft.
  3. While the potatoes cook, beat the eggs in a bowl.
  4. Drain the potato-broccoli mixture in a colander in the sink.
  5. Put the mixture back in the pot. Add the oil, then sprinkle on the salt, then pour on the beaten eggs.
  6. Stir the mixture with a big flat-handled metal spoon. Cover the pot with the spoon still in it, so that the spoon gets heated along with the mixture (so that uncooked egg doesn't stay on the spoon and get back into the food). The spoon should be in the middle of the mixture, not touching the bottom of the pot where it might overheat. Be careful - its handle may get hot.
  7. Heat the mixture on medium, checking and stirring every 1-2 minutes, leaving the spoon in the mixture.
  8. When all of the egg looks dry like scrambled egg, not runny anymore, the Potoccoli is ready.
  9. Serve!