kale and cremini mushroom lasagna

To get ready for the grand opening of The Bear and The Blackberry House Restaurant, I have decided to cook for my friends and family more. So my very special friends Leah and Sandy came over for a vegan lasagna and salad feast!

The lasagna was made of whole wheat noodles, to get the best noodle-y nutrition possible. Layered inside the lasagna was sauteed kale, cremini mushrooms, and yellow bell peppers. I alternated a layer of almond cheese (Jef is a pro at making this… almonds, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and some spice grinding magic and VOILA!) with the home made marinara sauce. The marinara sauce had garlic, onions, crushed canned tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, kalamata olives, sea salt, and crushed black pepper. Add a sprinkling of almond cheese on top and yum!

It was fun cooking for friends, and I hope to be doing a lot more of it! Especially when we turn our house into a restaurant for intimate vegan dinners come late spring/early summer! : )

Although Sandy and Leah are both omnivores, they really enjoyed their home made vegan feast. Leah even commented on the almond cheese, noting that it tasted spookily like parmesan! I served the Kale and Cremini Mushroom Lasagna with: Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Toasted Almonds.

garlic cashew cream pasta with green peas

What time is it? It’s pasta time! We were inspired to make this pasta by the Sacramento Foods Co-op. They have a “Garlic Lover’s Pasta”¬† in their deli case from time to time, which is vegetarian. But we went ahead and dreamed up a vegan version of this pasta, and MMMM MMM it’s good!

The cream sauce is made up of toasted cashews, garlic, unsweetened soy milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, dried basil, dried thyme, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. After some food processoring-ering-ering and stove magic, we poured this sauce over whole wheat fusilli and green peas, and enjoyed it with roasted kale and carrots on the side.

We have found that a combination of nuts (for fat), nutritional yeast (for cheesy flavor), and sea salt (for uh…salt!) are great for replacing cheese, since our tongue recognizes cheese as basically fat and salt. Nuts, seeds, and oils are a great way for us vegans to get the healthy fats that we aren’t getting elsewhere in our diet, and they are also a great source of protein and other nutrients. Some key nutrients in cashews are iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, calcium, and protein.

Green peas are also action packed with nutrients and ridiculously delicious! Key nutrients in green peas include calcium, iron, vitamin C, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

This pasta was enjoyed hot by the bear and the blackberry, but it is also great cold, as in pasta salad. We love pasta time!

chiocciole with butternut cashew cream sauce

We tried a new spin on pasta, making a homemade sauce that was delectable and interesting. Using the magic amazing food processor, we blended together roasted butternut squash, toasted cashews, earth balance, nutritional yeast, soy milk, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. We added it to some boiled whole wheat chiocciole pasta shells (“snail” in Italian, for the shape), topped it with sauteed red onion and mushrooms, and finished it off with a fresh basil garnish. VOILA!

The sauce was creamy, rich, tangy.. so many good flavors bouncing off each other, our taste buds were quite sufficiently satisfied. Snail pasta? Snail pasta!

A couple fun facts about nutritional yeast:
Not only is it a very high source of vitamin B12, it is cheesy in flavor, so its great when paired with a fat (like nuts) and salt to replace cheese. Because cheese is basically just salty fat gone bad (rotten nipple juice) this is wayyyyy better!!! Hooray!

popcorn popcorn we love popcorn!

It was movie night at the good ol’ BEST house, so, what better snack than POPCORN!!

Annnd, not just any popcorn will do, we wanted fancy popcorn treats. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing: Sweet Curry Ginger Popcorn and Vegan Cheesy Popcorn!

Stovetop popcorn is fun. Plus, we don’t own a microwave so it is the only option. Many people out there use a pot to make popcorn. SHAME ON YOU. This is an easy way to burn it. Use a flat bottom sauce pan.The surface-area-to-kernel is important. Coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer of oil. Add a few kernels, 5 or 6 or so, and keep the pan covered. Heat pan until kernels start popping. Remove from heat and wait for about 30 seconds. Add in a half cup or so of popcorn kernels and heat it up again. Chaos will ensue. When popping significantly slows down, remove pan from heat and pour popcorn into a bowl.

Now for the tasty part: melt down some Earth Balance (vegan butter), drizzle over popped corn. Add seasonings.

Sweet Curry Ginger Popcorn

  • Curry powder
  • Ginger powder
  • Agave syrup
  • Kelp flakes (they have a salty flavor and are very nutritious)

Vegan Cheesy Popcorn

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Thyme, dried
  • Basil, dried
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Salt

MOVIE TIME!

walnut faux-parmesan

Loyal followers are aware we have tried to make a cheese-analog before, but this walnut parm was mind blowing. MINDBLOWING. “And it’s soo simple!” as Tyron Biggums would say..

Last time we tried sesame seeds since we had those laying around. Last night we used walnuts, and SWEETBABYJESUS it was good! We blended the walnuts with nutritional yeast and salt, the first batch was almost a paste due most likely to me leaving the grinder running for too long and realllllly extracting the oil from the walnuts (this paste-like cheesy spread would be great for crackers or grilled sammies). The second attempt, I pulsed the grinder and got a good powder consistency much more suitable for sprinkling onto pasta. Seriously, this fauxparm is the best, BEST. I was floored. It was cheesy, salty, fatty.. almost creamy, it practically melted in my mouth, no joke! I am excited to try new nutty combinations like pistachio, cashew, almond.. hazelnuts? Sunflower seeds?? Pecans????? Who knows! The possibilities are limitless! I sense vegan pizza in our near future.. Stay tuned!