The Kinder Kitchen

Veggie Nuggets With Quinoa and Brown Rice

What kid doesn’t love a nugget?  And what grown-up doesn’t feel the nostalgia of childhood when dunking a plateful of nuggets into their favorite dipping sauce? 

Of course, if you ask most people what comes to mind when they think about nuggets, they’ll likely say “chicken nuggets” from a fast-food restaurant.  Well, here in The Kinder Kitchen, our nuggets are made from veggies and grains, not living beings who don’t want to be your lunch!

The good news is, not only are there many vegan chicken-style nuggets available in stores that kids ADORE (our favorite brand is Gardein), there’s also a bazillion recipes floating around the interwebz for both meaty and more veggie-based nuggets.

You might be asking, “What makes YOUR recipe so special among those bazillions, Shannon?”

Well, I worked for awhile to come up with a veggie-packed recipe that was healthy, with no oils or other refined ingredients, that would hold together beautifully, bake up crispy in both the oven AND the air-fryer, taste awesome with a variety of dips and coatings, and of course my kids had to LOVE it! 

We sampled these veggie nuggets with ranch dressing, marinara, and my homemade vegan cheddar cheese sauce, all with rave reviews, and also tried them coated in Frank’s Red Hot which was a HUGE hit!

 

 

Well alright, let’s get to making some nuggets!


5.0 from 1 reviews
Veggie Nuggets With Quinoa and Brown Rice
 
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These fun and healthy veggie nuggets are sure to please even the most discerning nugget afficianado! They're packed with veggies and whole grains for a nutritional punch and taste great!
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner, Kid-Friendly
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 40 to 50
What You'll Need
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper *
  • ½ cup finely chopped kale *
  • ½ cup finely shredded carrot
  • 1 large or 2 small green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped *
  • ½ cup frozen peas, defrosted and finely chopped
  • ½ cup frozen corn, defrosted finely chopped
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • few twists cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 flax eggs (2 TBS ground flax seed mixed with 6 TBS warm water- let sit til thickened)
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • Frank's Red How Buffalo Wing Sauce (optional)
  • Your choice of dipping sauces
  • *I use my food processor to make quick work of finely chopping these ingredients.
Make It Happen!
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If using an air fryer, no need to preheat.
  2. When all ingredients are prepped, gathered, and measured (remember mise en place?), add them all to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Thoroughly mix- using your hands is the best way to get everything combined as good as possible!
  4. Once mixed, place mixture in the refrigerator for half an hour to firm up.
  5. FOR OVEN BAKING:
  6. Using your hands, form mixture into small oval or round nuggets, approximately ½ an inch to ¾ inch thick, an inch or so wide, and 1½ to 2 inches long. Really, you're in control of what shape to make them!
  7. Place nuggets on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with nonstick coking spray, no closer than an inch apart.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the nuggets, then bake another 15 minutes.
  9. **If making Buffalo-style nuggets: after baking, toss in wing sauce. Serve immediately while nuggets are still crispy.
  10. FOR AIR-FRYER BAKING:
  11. Spray the bottom of the air-fryer basket with a very light mist of cooking spray, OR, if you're avoiding oil, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the basket.
  12. Form nuggets, then assemble as many as you can at a time in the air-fryer basket without the nuggets touching. If you have a rack apparatus that allows you to cook multiple layers at a time, your cooking time may need to be adjusted from what follows, because I don't have such a rack and tested this recipe in a single layer only.
  13. Air-fry nuggets at a temperature of 380 degrees for 8 minutes, flip nuggets, then cook another 8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on the outside.
  14. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!
Stuff You Should Know
To save time and multitask, cook brown rice and quinoa, and chop veggies the day before, OR prep your veggies and seasonings while your brown rice and quinoa cooks.

Brown rice and quinoa should be fairly cooled before proceeding, because you'll be shaping the nuggets with your hands.

These freeze beautifully! Simply layer cooked and cooled nuggets on a baking tray and freeze, then plop the frozen nuggets into a freezer container.

 

Tofu Eggless Salad and Jackfruit Chicken Salad- A Tale Of Two Sandwiches!

One of the greatest pleasures of being vegan (aside from, ya know… not being part of the senseless killing of animals for no reason) is discovering meal after meal after meal that you can STILL have without animal products!

I’ve been vegan going on four years now, and while it no longer is such a novelty to me to discover a vegan version of something I loved eating before (because I know now that pretty much EVERYTHING can be veganized) , it’s really exciting to see newer vegans overjoyed when they realize they can keep right on eating things like tacos, chili, or ice cream.  There are endless varieties of plant foods and seasonings out there that can very easily parallel the same textures and flavor profiles of animal-based dishes, and you may just find that you eat a far more varied and exciting diet as a vegan than you ever did consuming animal products!

These two simple salads are a perfect example of dishes that can still easily have those flavor profiles and textures without meat, dairy, or eggs, and are very easy to customize.  I’ve had numerous requests on social media to share my recipes for Tofu Eggless Salad and Jackfruit Chick’n Salad, and when you ask, I listen!  Both are great as a sandwich served on a lovely soft roll, toast, or with crackers and veggies.  I especially like the jackfruit salad in an avocado or tomato half, and I love both spooned onto dainty crackers.

The “secret” ingredient that puts the tofu eggless salad over the top is of course the Kala Namak black salt.  If you’ve never worked with this salt before, prepare to be blown away!  Grayish-pink rather than black, it exhibits a sulfurous smell and taste very reminiscent of eggs, and has quickly become the vegan community’s go-to ingredient when preparing most anything that was previously egg-based, like tofu scrambles, omelettes, or vegan mayonnaise.  Do yourself a favor and DON’T skip it in favor of regular salt- there’s simply no comparison.  Kala Namak can often be difficult to find locally (don’t be fooled by a packaged labeled simply “black salt”- if it doesn’t specifically say Kala Namak it won’t have that eggy smell and taste) but is readily and affordably available on Amazon.  I bought this one-pound bag over a year ago and have barely made a dent in it since a little goes such a long way.

For the jackfruit chick’n salad, what sets my recipe apart is the technique I use in treating the jackfruit before adding a thing to it. 

First, if you’re working with canned jackfruit (what I use), be sure you’re looking for young green jackfruit in WATER, never syrup, and preferrable not brine.   If you’re doing a BBQ jackfruit, brine may be acceptable since the strong seasonings of most BBQ sauces can mask the bitter taste, but in this more delicate chick’n salad, I strongly advise against using brined jackfruit.  Canned jackfruit is most commonly found in Asian or Indian markets, but if you cannot find any locally, it’s available on Amazon.  As for fresh whole jackfruit, I personally have never gotten my hands on one, so I can’t offer any advice about the treatment of it, but if you happen to get one, You Tube has many tutorial videos about how to cut them up.  They range from football-sized to almost man-sized!

In my recipe, you’ll note that I do NOT cut off and discard the hard pointed tips nor the little oval pods from the pieces of jackfruit.  This amounts to a lot of unnecessary waste, and with my technique, these parts blend nicely into the rest of the shredded jackfruit.  This involves the use of a nylon-mesh nut milk bag (I like this brand) to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the jackfruit, and in the process, I use my fingers to shred apart the pieces.  I finish off the shredding with blitz through the food processor to take care of any hard chunks or pods left intact from the squeezing, then a quick baking at a low temperature in either my air fryer or the oven.  This brief baking dries out the shredded jackfruit somewhat and greatly improves the texture.  Yes, it’s a bit of a fussy procedure, but since the major complaint about jackfruit seems to concern its “slimy” texture, well worth the extra few minutes!

I hope you enjoy both of these new “classic” recipes.  Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you snap a photo, tag me on instagram @the-kinder-kitchen!

Tofu Eggless Salad
 
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All of the savory, eggy flavor you remember with no eggs, this creamy salad is great on sandwiches or crackers and is a crowd-pleasing potluck favorite! This recipe makes a large batch but is easily halved to feed just a few.
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch, Salad, Sandwich, Potluck
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 5 cups
What You'll Need
  • 2 14 oz packages extra firm tofu, drained and pressed well
  • Scant ½ cup thinly sliced scallions (even mix of green and white parts)
  • 2 large ribs celery, diced fine (I run them through a food processor)
  • For mayo mixture:
  • 1 cup vegan mayo of your choice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Kala Namak salt
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric (for color)
  • few twists fresh ground black pepper
  • OPTIONAL: 1 tsp smoked paprika for a light, smoky flavor
  • OPTIONAL: 2 TBS sweet or dill pickle relish if desired (I like a little sweet pickle relish)
Make It Happen!
  1. Coarsely crumble the pressed tofu into a large bowl. Don't crumble too fine- in the process of adding in the mayo mixture it'll crumble further.
  2. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine all of the mayo mixture ingredients. Kala Namak salt can tend to clump, so be especially careful not to leave any nuggets, or someone will be in for a salty bite!
  3. Spoon the mayo mixture into the bowl containing the tofu and gently fold in with a rubber spatula, breaking up the larger chunks of tofu. Continue until thoroughly combined.
  4. Chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours for flavors to absorb into the tofu, but chilling overnight is optimal.

Jackfruit Chicken Salad
 
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Jackfruit, a newly popularized ingredient famous for its ability to mimic the texture of shredded meat, is the star of this new version of classic chicken salad
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch/Salad/Sandwich/Potluck
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 4 cups[url:1][img:1][/url]
What You'll Need
  • 3 20 oz cans young green jackfruit in water (not brine or syrup)
  • ⅔ cup vegan mayo
  • 3 TBS finely diced red onion
  • 2 TBS dried parsley flakes
  • 2 TBS seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch of sugar
  • fresh ground black pepper (optional)
Make It Happen!
  1. Preheat the oven to 200. If you are using an air fryer, no need to preheat.
  2. Drain the jackfruit and rinse well.
  3. Place the whole jackfruit wedges (no need to cut off the tips or discard the seed pods) in a mesh nut milk bag and squeeze out as much moisture as you can, shifting the pieces around and breaking them up with your fingers as you go. Repeat until you cannot squeeze any more water out.
  4. If there are still hard tips or seed pods left that did not get broken up, you may choose to run the jackfruit briefly through a food processor to refine the texture.
  5. If using the oven: Spread the jackfruit in a thin layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake, stirring around, for approximately 20 minutes or until some of the edges start to get a little dried.
  6. If using an air fryer: line the bottom with parchment paper or use a baking dish to fit your machine and place the jackfruit in an even layer. Air fry at 200 degrees, stirring often, until the edges of the jackfruit start to get a bit dry.
  7. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all other ingredients, adjusting any seasonings to your taste if necessary.
  8. Add the cooled jackfruit to the mayo mixture and chill for 2 hours for flavors to meld.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearty Corn and Vegetable Chowder

There’s plenty of cold weather left, at least in my neck of the woods, so soups, stews, and chili are still in high demand and enjoyed by all in the Cuoco household!  This flavorful, rich chowder is no exception- when I whipped it up a few weeks ago, murmurs of “Oh, yeah, this is good stuff” and “Oh wow, yum!” could be heard ’round the table, so I knew it must be shared with my readers.

Now, let’s settle an issue here: what exactly IS chowder?  Originally, it was a thick, chunky fisherman’s stew made with seafood, and nearly always involved the use of milk or cream.  Interestingly, the word chowder even comes from the French word for cauldron, which fishermen usually used to cook most things they ate at sea.

These days, however, the definition has become more vague and inclusive, and we can call most any chunky soup with a creamy element chowder, and with the wide variety of dairy replacement options available to vegans, it’s easier than ever to achieve the silky creaminess needed for a truly satisfying chowder.

Side note: you know how when you say (or type) a word over and over, it starts to sound nonsensical and made-up?  CHOWDER CHOWDER CHOWDER CHOWDER CHOWDER.  Yep.  That’s what it’s like inside my head, folks.

This recipe for Hearty Corn and Vegetable Chowder is amazeballs.  It’s oil-free and only 170 calories per cup, making it a huge score for those of us adhering to a more whole foods, plant-based diet, but rich and creamy enough that you would never guess it’s not a dairy-based soup.  It whips together fairly fast, making it an excellent weeknight meal for busy families.

Alright, enough yammering, let’s do this!  Start by doing what I call “getting your act together.”  Chop all veggies, measure out seasonings and broth, etc.  If you want to get all fancypants, call it mise en place- French for “putting in place” or “everything in place.”  It’s a good habit to get into when cooking, because then you’re never stuck having to stop stirring or whatever and risk your food burning in order to measure something out or chop something.  Plus, it makes you feel like the host of your own coking show when you have all of your ingredients all ready to go in little dishes! 

 

Hearty Corn and Vegetable Chowder
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups diced Russet potato (about 1/2 " cubes)
  2. 1 1/2 cups sliced celery
  3. 1 cup diced carrot
  4. 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  5. 1 cup diced white or yellow onion
  6. 2 cups fresh, frozen, or canned corn
  7. 1 box (32 oz) low-sodium vegetable broth, OR 4 cups homemade veg broth
  8. 1/2 cup cashews (see notes for nut-free alternative)
  9. 1 cup water
  10. 1 tsp garlic salt, OR 1 tsp sea salt and 2 cloves minced garlic
  11. 2 tsp dried parsley
  12. 1 tsp thyme
  13. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  14. White wine, optional
  15. Black pepper to taste
  16. Fresh parsley for garnish, optional
Instructions
  1. First, chop all veggies and measure out ingredients to have at the ready.
  2. In a high-speed blender, blend cashews and 1 cup water until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large soup pot, cook celery, carrot, onion, and bell pepper in a few splashes of water over medium-high heat until fairly soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. If using minced garlic in place of garlic salt, add it to this step.
  4. Add garlic salt, parsley, thyme, smoked paprika, and stir well to combine. Cook another 5 minutes or so, until the water and moisture from the veggies has mostly evaporated and you can see brown bits starting to cling to the bottom of the pot. Don't let it burn!
  5. At this point, if you would like to use the white wine, add a few splashes to the pot to deglaze. See my notes if you prefer not to use wine.
  6. Add the potatoes, corn, broth, and cashew/water mixture.
  7. Bring pot to a boil, then cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  8. Using a handheld wand blender, briefly blend until about 1/3 of the chowder has been coarsely pureed. Alternately, you can put about 2 to 3 cups of the chowder in your blender and briefly puree, then add back to the pot.
  9. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
Notes
  1. Using white wine to deglaze the pot: If you're unfamiliar with the term "deglaze" it's basically fancy-talk for putting cold liquid into a hot pan to loosen up the gunky brown bits from the bottom. Those bits are full of flavor, and deglazing with wine not only loosens them so they can mingle with the rest of the ingredients, the wine itself (the alcohol will burn off) lends a lovely depth of flavor. However, if you prefer not to use wine or simply don't have any, you can deglaze the pot with vegetable broth or water.
  2. Nut-free alternative: If you prefer not to use cashews due to an allergy, or would simply like to pare down the calorie content further, you may use 1 cup non-dairy milk of your choice instead.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based…What’s The Difference?

So…you’ve decided to make a positive change in your lifestyle that’s compassionate toward animals, the planet, and your health.  Congratulations!  Maybe you’ve resolved to start with Meatless Mondays, or give up meat altogether.  Maybe you’ve decided to ditch meat but still eat dairy and eggs.  Or maybe you want to leave anything that came from an animal out of not just your diet but all other aspects of your life.  Whatever the scope of your transformation, and whatever your motivation, you can be proud that you’re among the growing number of people in this world who are effecting real, compassionate change for the future of this planet.

Like most people, you probably followed up the desire for change with the search for information and support, and you probably looked to social media for those things.  And if you found yourself totally confused by all the terminology, rules, and social groupings that come along with living a compassionate lifestyle, you’re definitely not alone!

confused woman

 

My goal in this post is to de-mystify and make easy to understand the differences between being vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based, including all the various off-shoots of each, with some basic facts and definitions.  So let’s get right to it!

WHAT IS A VEGETARIAN?

According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

Of course, it’s not ever that simple, is it?  There seem to be SIX distinct off-shoots of vegetarianism these days, and whichever label one chooses to own can depend on factors such as allergies, tastes, or religious and ethical considerations.  In addition, many vegetarians who choose to consume various animal products may strive to consume those products which are sourced as ethically and humanely as possible.

*Lacto-ovo vegetarian: The most common.  Does not eat meat of any kind including fish, but does eat eggs and dairy.

*Ovo-vegetarian:  No to meat and dairy but yes to eggs. 

*Lacto-vegetarian: No to meat and eggs but yes to dairy.

*Pescatarian: No to all meat except for fish/seafood.  May or may not consume eggs and dairy.

*Pollotarian: No to red meat, pork, and seafood, but will consume poultry.

*Flexitarian: A fairly new term and generally not considered true vegetarian.  This is someone who will only eat animal products occasionally.

breakfast

 

A “strict” vegetarian is commonly known as a vegan.

WHAT IS A VEGAN?

The term “vegan” was born in 1944 when a group of vegetarians, led by Donald Watson, came together to discuss the need for a name that would describe the group’s desire to not only abstain from meat, but all other animal products as well, including dairy, eggs, and honey.  After many names were suggested that didn’t quite hit the mark, they took the first three letters and the last two letters of the word VEGetariAN to form the new word “vegan.”  This group of people lived by various ideals and tenets, but it wasn’t until 1979, when the society became a registered charity, that the definition of “veganism” was refined and solidified.

“Veganism is a philosophy of living which seeks to exclude- as far as is possible and practicable- all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of  humans, animals, and the environment.  In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

For more about the history of veganism, click here.

So in a nutshell, vegans do everything in their power to avoid eating animals (including fish) or eating/wearing anything that came from an animal or using products that were tested on animals.  This includes dairy milks, yogurts, and cheeses, as well as eggs, gelatin (made from bones/tendon/cartilage) and honey.  Leather and wool is avoided, and beauty and household products that either contain animal-derived ingredients or have been tested on animals are avoided.

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?  Welllll…

You might have learned by now that there’s a broad spectrum of types of veganism, as well as a whole host of reasons people list for wanting to become vegan.  Many groups adhere to strict dietary principles, while others are more lax, drifting back and forth between eating styles or piecing together what works for them through trial and error.  If you decide that you want to become vegan, be assured that you DON’T have to pick one camp or the other.  Each vegan gets there in their own way and in their own time, and I’m a firm believer that when it comes to eating vegan, taking time to figure out what style makes sense for you in your present circumstances and makes you feel best gives you the best chance of staying vegan and finding out what a fulfilling, fun, and tasty journey it can be!

So, what are all the colors in the vegan rainbow? It’s a little more complicated than listing the types of vegetarians, who will usually adhere pretty firmly to allowing or excluding various animal products in their diet, while the basic foundation of veganism is black and white- NO animal products whatsoever.  What I’ll try to do here is lay out some popular terms when it comes to veganism and explain what I interpret them to mean.

*The Ethical Vegan: These folks cite ethics as their main, or sometimes sole motivation for becoming vegan. Emphasis is placed on living a lifestyle where all aspects are carried out as cruelty-free as possible, and animal-rights activism is usually a prominent activity in their day-to-day lives.  The ethical vegan may or may not be interested in eating a nutritious diet; they may subsist on a diet of soda, french fries, and cookies, (often referred to as a junk-food vegan) or they may adhere to a raw-foods only diet or anything in between. 

*The Dietary Vegan: This term is commonly used to refer to people who become vegan to improve their health, whether it be to prevent disease and weight gain or to reverse it.  It’s a common complaint among many ethical vegans that people who call themselves vegan but don’t have ethics as their number one (or even ONLY) focus really shouldn’t be calling themselves vegan, but should use the term “plant based” (I’ll talk more about that in a minute).  As with ethical vegans, there may be a wide range of eating styles that the dietary vegan may practice. 

*Plant-based:  A person who eats a plant based diet (also called a whole-foods, plant-based diet, or WFPB) strives to eat a diet that is made up entirely, or as much as possible, from foods that are as close to their whole and natural state as can be achieved, with little to no processed foods, added salt and sugar, or refined oils.  On social media, I see a lot of confusion over why oils are avoided.  In short, this is because oil is pure fat that has been separated from most or all of the fiber and vitamins present in the plant that it came from.  Instead, whole-food sources of fats are encouraged in limited quantities, such as avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds.  It has also been proven that refined oils are damaging to the cells that line the blood vessels that carry blood to all parts of the body (more on this in another blog post).  One of my favorite resources for all things plant-based is Dr. Michael Greger, author of the wildly popular new book How Not To Die, and his website www.nutritionfacts.org, a non-profit website known for its evidence-based material grounded in solid science.

Feeling a little more enlightened?

enlightenment

Well, we’re not quite done yet!  Many vegans and plant-based eaters follow these popular plans or a combination of them most with the goal of losing weight, and preventing or reversing disease:

*High-Carb: This diet is very high in starchy plant foods such as potatoes of all kinds, rice, corn, beans, and whole grains, with fruits and veggies as complementing elements.  Fat is very limited and from whole-food sources only, and unlimited quantities (to fullness) are encouraged.  Emphasis is placed on recognizing the difference between these good carbohydrates that serve as the human body’s main and most important fuel, and bad ones- refined, white flour products filled with empty calories and stripped of much of their nutrition.  A proponent of this lifestyle is Dr. John McDougall, who you can learn more about here.

*Raw:  Pretty much what it sounds like.  All foods eaten are done so in their raw, uncooked state, or very lightly cooked at no more than 118 degrees Fahrenheit (this number varies from resource to resource but not by more than a degree or two).  This usually involves dehydrating or very lightly steaming food.  Many raw foodists believe that cooking food destroys important enzymes and denatures food to the point of being useless to the body.  There is much heated debate about this, and it’s my recommendation that if you choose to explore a 100% raw foods diet, you need to thoroughly research both the risks and benefits, as well as carefully plan to get enough calories. Learn more about raw food fact and fiction here.

*Raw Til 4:  4 P.M., that is.  Though this is an arbitrary time of day (you could easily be raw til 3 or 5 or 7), the idea behind this diet is to eat all raw foods for much of the day, then allow yourself a cooked meal as lightly cooked as possible.  This was popularized by You Tuber Freelee the Banana Girl, a controversial figure whose favorite saying is to “carb the f*** up” and has brought much heat upon herself by stating that meat eaters should not be allowed to live and other unpopular sentiments.  Polarizing though she may be, Freelee has amassed a huge following, and isn’t shy about sharing photos of her physical transformation.

 

Hopefully this has made things a little clearer.  What lifestyle do I personally practice?  I initially began researching the benefits of plant-based eating to lose weight and reverse some health problems, but somewhere along the way I became educated about the horrific cruelty and injustices done to animals in the name of human benefit, whether it be food, clothing, or entertainment, and eventually came to identify as vegan.  You could say that I came for the health but stayed for the animals. I believe that to be vegan and live a life of compassion should mean not just compassion toward animals but toward the planet, other people, and my own body, and I heartily disapprove of tactics of shaming, denigrating, and otherwise demonstrating hatred or a superior attitude toward those who are not vegan.  I prefer instead to think of them as simply not in possession of the facts yet, and I strive to educate others with patience and an understanding that each individual needs to be met where they are to help them plan the best way forward into this joyful and exciting lifestyle.  As for dietary practices, I would call myself a plant-based vegan, because though I am vegan, I believe in and adhere to (for the most part) a plant-based diet, and as a nutritionist, it’s what I teach as the optimal way to good health.  I do, however, have my indulgences such as artisinal vegan cheeses and the occasional vegan peanut butter cup or a decadent piece of cheesecake (vegan of course).

If you enjoy what you’ve read and have found it useful, please drop me a comment and tell me what you think.  Or, if you have any disagreement with what I’ve said, leave a comment also!  And please be sure to subscribe to my blog to get every new vegan recipe and article delivered right to your email so you don’t miss a thing!

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Easy Vegan and Gluten-Free Crackers

 

cracker1

Is there anything more snack-y than crackers?  Who doesn’t love those crispy little squares of herby, cheesy, salty goodness, whether straight out of the box or piled with your favorite toppings- a dab of cheese spread, peanut butter, or avocado perhaps?  Crackers are a year-round staple of the everyday pantry as well as the party buffet.

 
Thank goodness that there’s still many vegan options available to us after we make the switch away from animal products, but gravitating toward the more natural and healthy vegan cracker options can often come with an unwanted side effect- sticker shock! 
 
 
Perusing the snack aisles at several stores tells a story of spendy boxes with flashy promises of healthy treats, most barely half-filled with crackers that often contained high amounts of oil and salt, so I set out to develop a recipe that fit my criteria for the perfect cracker: satisfying crunch, no added oils, minimal salt, BIG taste, and a finished product that I could feel good about eating and giving my family.  
 
 
After several attempts that were either too nutty, too doughy, or otherwise not hitting the mark, I’ve finally found THE right combo of ingredients that results in a cracker I love to eat and that’s a snap to prepare.  
cracker2
 
Looking at the recipe, you might be concerned that some of the ingredients themselves are somewhat spendy, and I won’t lie.  They are.  However, keep in mind that many items such as seeds and flours can be purchased in bulk at a lower cost, and also, these are ingredient that you’ll find are pretty common to vegan baking, so they are handy to have on hand anyway.  For instance, the large bag of whole flax seeds I keep in the fridge costs about $10 upfront, but lasts a very long time and has many uses, like adding them to smoothies, making flax egg replacers, and adding a nutty taste and extra nutrition to breads.
 
 
The only real work that goes into these crackers is the pressing of the mixture into the pan, which takes a bit of doing to get it the right thickness.  You want a cracker that isn’t so thin it’ll crumble to pieces when you pick it up, but not so thick that it resembles more of a flatbread.  Here’s a great trick to getting just the right thickness:  instead of rolling the mixture out with a pin or other tool, use your fingers to press it into a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Keep a bowl of warm water nearby and continually wet your fingers to keep the dough from sticking.  Keep pressing it until it feels just right to you.  You’ll know!  
 
 
I hope you enjoy these easy, vegan and gluten-free crackers!  Be sure to comment below and let me know how they turned out for you.
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Easy Vegan, Gluten-Free Crackers
The perfect cracker for any snack attack!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  2. 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  3. 1/2 cup pepitas (raw, shelled pumpkin seeds)
  4. 1/4 cup almond meal
  5. 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  6. 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  7. 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  8. 1 teaspoon EACH sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder
  9. 2 teaspoons EACH oregano and thyme
  10. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 3/4 cup warm water
  12. Sesame seeds and addtional whole flax seed, OPTIONAL
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. In a food processor or spice grinder, pulse the sunflower seeds until ground almost into a powder, but you still want many larger, visible pieces.
  3. Measure the remaining ingredients into a large bowl, and add the ground seed mixture. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the 3/4 cup warm water, ans stir until the mixture is uniformly wet.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Trust me, you do NOT want to do this without parchment paper, or the crackers will stick, even to a well-oiled pan.
  6. Turn the mixture out onto the parchment paper. Wet hands, and begin patting the mixture into the pan, continuing to wet your fingers to keep the mixture from sticking to you. Pat until you have a uniform thickness- you're going for about 1/8 of an inch.
  7. Next, lightly score the mixture into squares. I suggest using a butter knife or a pizza cutter.
  8. Finally, as an optional step, you may sprinkle the crackers with sesame seeds and whole flax seeds for added flavor and a nice appearance.
  9. Bake at 400 for approximately 20 minutes.
Notes
  1. If, at 20 minutes, some areas still seem too soft, like they need more crisping up, bake an additional 5 minutes, but lay strips of aluminum foil over any areas that look like they're getting too brown.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

Baked Ratatouille Stew

 

Mangia, mangia!
Mangia, mangia!

Confession: I never even knew what ratatouille was before I saw the Disney Pixar animated movie of the same name. I mean, I knew it was a dish, but I really didn’t know what exactly it WAS. Even after seeing the movie, I had to consult Uncle Google to find out that ratatouille is basically a dish comprised of eggplant, tomato, zucchini, and onion- that’s the easy explanation. I found recipes for ratatouille as a casserole, as a soup or a stew, served hot or cold, alone or with a side dish such as rice or bread. This was back in the day when I was the mom of several very small people, though, and taking the time to learn to cook what seemed to be a very complex and nuanced vegetable dish was NOT high on my list of priorities.

My four boys are much older now and open to trying dishes with actual recognizable veggies in them, as opposed to the toddler days when stealth-health (hiding vegetable purees in food they would actually eat) was the name of the game, and my take on this classic savory dish gets gobbled every time.

In cobbling together my own version of ratatouille, I found that I liked the stew versions over the layered-casserole versions for one major reason: it drove me CRAZY when I was not able to get an equal amount of equally-sized slices of the zucchini, eggplant, onion, and tomato. Yeah, I’m weird like that. My family probably wouldn’t have cared less if the eggplant slices were far bigger in circumference than the zucchini slices, but I cared. Deeply. So I gravitated more toward a cubed-veggie approach with this recipe. The veggies are baked in a savory, herbed tomato sauce, then are stirred into pasta. I prefer small pasta shells, but any shape pasta will work just fine. When I want to stretch the amount (no small feat when feeding four hungry boys and a husband), I might add a package of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble that I’ve cooked in a skillet, and a great finisher for this dish is vegan mozzarella and fresh sliced basil.

I hope you enjoy this hearty, comforting Ratatouille Stew, or as my boys like to call it, Ratatouille-Stewie! I put my foot down at calling it Rat-Patooty.

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Baked Ratatouille Stew
Serves 6
A hearty, crowd-pleasing take on an Italian classic.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large or 2 medium zucchini
  2. 1 large eggplant
  3. 4 large tomatoes
  4. 1 medium Vidalia onion (or any variety that you may have on hand)
  5. 2 cups of canned fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes, un-drained.
  6. 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. ¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil, sliced, plus extra for garnish (or about 2 tablespoons dried)
  8. ½ tsp each of dried thyme, oregano, and rosemary
  9. ¼ tsp black pepper
  10. ½ tsp salt
  11. ¼ tsp flaked red chiles
  12. ½ tsp lemon juice OR apple cider vinegar
  13. 1 16 to 20 ounce package of pasta of your choice, prepared according to package instructions.
Instructions
  1. 1) Preheat the oven to 350F, and lightly grease an 8x8-ish baking dish (or oval, round, whatever!)
  2. 2) Cut the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and onion into roughly 1-inch pieces and combine in a large bowl. I leave the skin on the eggplant because it gives the dish more color and contains nutrients, but you can certainly peel it if you wish.
  3. 3) In another bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes in their juices, lemon juice, and all herbs and seasonings. If you’re using fresh basil, be sure to set aside some for garnish.
  4. 4) Spread the tomato mixture evenly in the bottom of your prepared pan and top with the veggies. If desired, brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle on more herbs.
  5. 5) Bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until both the eggplant and zucchini are fork-tender. No stirring necessary!
  6. 6) Once you’ve cooked and drained your pasta, stir in the baked veggies and combine. Add meatless crumbles or vegan sausage, and vegan mozzarella if desired. Garnish with fresh basil.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

The Veganized Famous Bowl

 

Fast food?  Fuggedaboudit!

 

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Far back into my pre-vegan days, when I was pregnant with my oldest son Dominic, I had what you might call a love-hate relationship with food.  I loved it, all of it, in large quantities, and hated when I couldn’t satisfy a craving!  I don’t recall every having any of those outlandish, cliched cravings like pickles and ice cream, but it’s no exaggeration to say that I had a passionate love affair with junk-food.  I look back on those nine months now and cringe, knowing that I could have been kinder to my body and my growing baby.

One of the things I HAD to have, at least  two or three times a week, was KFC’s Famous Bowl.  Actually, it’s funny that they call it that, because hardly anyone I know has ever heard of it.  If you’ve never had one, here’s the gist: layers of mashed potatoes, corn, chicken, gravy, and shredded cheddar cheese.  It’s a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs, comforting bliss.  I would hit the drive-thru, pull into the parking lot with my bag, and inhale it, the bowl resting half on the steering wheel and half on my giant pregnant belly.

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Crispy Oven Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

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Superbowl mania has swept in and out like a tornado, and Uncle Google has seen the last “Superbowl party snack ideas” search request for a while, but that’s no reason to let your vegan appetizer game get rusty!

 

Any self-respecting hostess or bringer-of-snacks to someone else’s party should, at all times, have a handful of tried-and-true recipes at the ready when the need arises to wow a crowd with vegan eats and treats. Well, I am here to bring you what is sure to be a hit that will be a staple for every potluck and party!

 
One of the most ubiquitous vegan dishes floating around on the internet at the moment is the buffalo cauliflower wing (or “bite” for those that don’t want to call them wings). Google that, and you’ll likely find hundreds of recipes, but something tells me that I know just what you’re looking for: a bite that’s tender but not mushy on the inside, with a light, crispy-crunchy coating on the outside. Oh- and you’d like them to be healthy, so you want them baked, not fried, only you just KNOW they can’t be crispy unless they’re fried in gobs of oil, right?

 
While I have sampled fried cauliflower buffalo wings before and beheld their crispy, crunchy awesomeness, let’s face it- that’s a TON of unnecessary fat. I wanted a recipe for crispy cauliflower wings that still had that satisfying crunch without the added calories of oil. I tried dozens of recipes that claimed to result in a crispy bite, but was disappointed every time. In developing this recipe, I used elements of many others and tried a few ideas of my own. The result is a healthier wing that is tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. When I first made these for my husband, Chris, his eyes lit up like a little kid’s! I don’t make these just for parties, either- they’re great any time, and are kid (and husband) tested and approved.

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Using panko breadcrumbs and a two-step baking method is KEY for a great crunch, and these are best served right away for optimal crispiness, so if you’re making them to take to a party, I suggest shortening the cooking time in the second step by about 10 minutes, then finishing them in the oven of your host- IF there’s room!

Crispy Oven-Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings
Serves 6
Oven baked, tender cauliflower with the crispy coating and classic taste you crave. No oil....no kidding!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 large head of cauliflower, or 2 small ones
  2. 1 cup of brown rice flour (NOTE: a variety of flours can be used, but in my experimentation I have found that brown rice flour resulted in the lightest, crispiest batter, while whole wheat flour yielded the heaviest, soggiest results)
  3. 1 ¼ cup non-sweetened, non-dairy milk of your choice
  4. 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt
  5. 1 cup (plus extra if needed) panko bread crumbs, regular or gluten free
  6. Large bottle of buffalo wing sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot!)
Instructions
  1. 1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. 2) Cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces- I cut mine a little smaller than the size of a golf ball. Cauliflower can be tricky to cut up and you’ll likely end up with a lot of little bits. Save those for salad!
  3. 3) In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, non-dairy milk, and seasonings. I like to throw in a few dashes of the hot sauce, too.
  4. 4) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, OR you can use cooling racks sprayed with cooking spray on a baking sheet. I do NOT recommend simply greasing the baking sheet, as I’ve found that the wings tend to stick even on a heavily greased sheet. They release much easier from parchment paper.
  5. 5) Toss the florets in the batter a few at a time, shake off excess batter, then toss in the breadcrumbs in separate bowl. To keep things tidy, I like to use one hand for handling the battered ones, and my other hand to handle the ones finished in the breadcrumbs. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. If you need to use more than one baking sheet, switch racks in the oven halfway through each phase of the baking time.
  6. 6) Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.
  7. 7) Remove racks from the oven and set aside. In another bowl, dump in about half your bottle of wing sauce . One at a time, dunk the baked cauliflower florets in the wing sauce, turning gently with a fork to coat. Using tongs, return the sauced florets back to the baking sheet.
  8. 8) Bake an additional 20 minutes, turning florets halfway through baking time. This is key to prevent sticking.
  9. 9) Optional: for a little extra crunch, I sometimes like to finish them with a little blast under the broiler. Your call! Also optional: brush with a little extra wing sauce for added zinginess. This will, however, make the wings a little less crunchy.
Notes
  1. To make this a totally gluten-free appetizer, look for gluten-free panko breadcrumbs!
  2. Note about the sauce: You may choose to use another sauce such as barbecue or teriyaki sauce rather than wing sauce. However, if your sauce is thick, I would advise thinning it out a bit with water prior to the second baking stage. If the sauce is too thick, it will result in a less-crispy finished product.
  3. Serve with a vegan ranch dressing such as Follow Your Heart's High-Omega Vegan Ranch or Bleu Cheese, and carrot/celery sticks
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

Easy Vegan Cream of Potato Soup

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Is there anything better than a piping hot bowl of creamy, chunky, savory potato soup on a chilly winter day?  (psssst- the answer is NO)

When I first became vegan, I had this idea that my days of enjoying rich, creamy soups and bisques were over.  I hadn’t cooked much with non-dairy plant and nut milks, and had yet to discover the wonder of the mighty CASHEW in whipping up all manner of rich creaminess.  As far as I knew, things like cream of potato soup required CREAM, and since I had sworn off all dairy products, I turned my attention toward brothier soups and bade creamy potato, broccoli, and tomato soups farewell.

It wasn’t until I’d been vegan for almost a year that I was introduced to the wonders of cooking with cashews– which are partly responsible for the rich and creamy texture of this potato soup– and began experimenting with using them to replace things like cream and butter in sauces and soups.  And don’t even get me started on cashew cheeses!  SWOON.  That’s a post for another day.  Replacing the traditional milk and butter in this soup with a scant 1/2 cup of cashews lets you keep the creamy richness at just a fraction of the fat.  WIN!

So without further ado, let’s get cooking, shall we?

***Just a quick note about blenders (okay I snuck in a little more “ado” there, sorry):  Optimal blending and incorporation of the cashews in this recipe really requires a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, which I use, or a Blendtec, which is of similar calibur.  For years I swore I didn’t need one, that my regular blender was just FINE.  And it was, for some things, but in many areas it just fell short, like getting sauces or cheese bases with cashews silky smooth, or blending a kale smoothie to perfection with no chewy bits.  I won’t lie, I hated spending the money for my Vitamix, even after I found the best deal possible on a reconditioned model from The Blender Lady, but when I used it for the first time, I was HOOKED.   But, if you don’t yet have a high-powered blender, don’t worry–you can STILL make this soup!  Just follow the alternate instructions at the end of the recipe, and it’ll still be just as tasty.

 

 

Easy Vegan Cream of Potato Soup
Serves 8
You're sure to love a bowl of this velvety, comforting soup, and I promise you will not miss the dairy in my version.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 cups cubed Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes
  2. 1 small or 1/2 large yellow or white onion, cut into chunks
  3. 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  4. 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  5. 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  6. 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond, cashew, or other plant-based milk
  7. 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  8. salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add potatoes, and cook until soft but not mushy.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, add all other ingredients to your blender, and process until the cashews are blended smooth. Add additional salt or pepper if needed.
  3. When the potatoes are done, drain and return to pot, then coarsely mash, leaving it as chunky as you'd like it. I personally like to mash the potatoes so that about half of them are left in nice bite-sized chunks.
  4. Pour the blender sauce into the potato pot and stir to combine. If it's too thick, more broth or almond milk can be added to thin a bit, then adjust seasoning accordingly if needed.
  5. Garnish with sliced scallions and vegan bacon bits, or if desired, vegan cheese shreds. I've even added sliced sundried tomatoes to this soup--super tasty!
For those without a high-powered blender: A little extra prep here
  1. Soak your cashews in water overnight, then just before blending, boil them for about 5 minutes to soften them up. This helps a lot, but you may find that your sauce is still just a tad grainy. In this case, I'd leave your potatoes a little chunkier to mask any residual graininess.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

Vegan Potato Cheese Sauce

Golden, gooey cheesiness!
Golden, gooey cheesiness!

 

 

 

“I’d go vegan but I could never give up cheese!”

 
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this, I’d probably be set for life.

 
It’s a sentiment I understand. In my first months of being vegan, I worried that I would never experience the joy of cheese again. Tangy, salty, savory, melty, gooey cheese. Over the years in my pre-vegan days, I’d tried a few non-dairy cheeses, and was not impressed. I vividly remember making hamburgers for my boys and slapping a slice of soy cheese on each, hoping it would melt. It didn’t. My son Charlie, who was about 3 at the time, poked at it skeptically and said, “Mom do I have to eat this toy cheese?”

 

Experiences like this did not make me enthusiastic about the giving up of cheese when I decided to be vegan, but once I found out that dairy cheese is far from a cruelty-free product, I knew I could never eat it again in good conscience, and as I learned more about the non-dairy cheese products available nowadays and tested them out for myself, I breathed a sigh of relief. These newer products had more complex flavor profiles, a more satisfying mouthfeel, and more importantly, MELTED! Today’s vegan doesn’t even need to rely solely on store-bought non-dairy cheeses with the abundance of DIY recipes available online. I sometimes come across a product or recipe that doesn’t please my palate, but at least now, when someone says, “I’d go vegan but I could never give up cheese,” I can say to them with confidence, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to!”

 
I thought I’d make this blog’s inaugural recipe my own rendition of one that is quite popular among the vegan/plant-based crowd at the moment (though I was working on this recipe long before similar ones started popping up!), and popular for good reason! This cheesy sauce is thick and velvety and sure to please (and fool!) everyone, and doesn’t rely on gobs of oil to achieve a rich, smooth texture and taste…in fact, it’s oil-free! When I gave my mom a jar of it to sample, I asked her if she could identify its main ingredients, and she couldn’t! Its versatility can take it anywhere from mac and cheese to nachos to chili queso dip and beyond, and the star ingredients may surprise you, but they work together to create a truly satisfying cheesiness.   Be sure to check out my recipe for Lentil Nachos Supreme at the end of this post using this very sauce!

This recipe makes enough to fill about 1 3/4 quart Mason jars.
This recipe makes enough to fill about 1 3/4 quart Mason jars.

 

Vegan Potato Cheese Sauce
Yields 1
A rich and tangy vegan cheese sauce that is sure to satisfy your cravings! Suitable for mac n' cheese, nachos, baked potatoes, or any dish you'd like.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced to equal about 4 cups (russets will work, too)
  2. 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds to equal about 1 heaping cup.
  3. ½ large yellow or white onion, diced
  4. ½ cup cashews (see note below)
  5. 2 teaspoons each garlic powder and onion powder
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  7. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  8. ½ cup nutritional yeast
  9. 1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
  10. 2 teaspoons each mellow white miso paste and tomato paste
Instructions
  1. Cover the potatoes, carrots, and onion in a large saucepan with about 4 cups of water, and boil until soft.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the veggies and transfer to your blender, then add all remaining ingredients. DO NOT throw out your veggie water! You'll need it for blending.
  3. Add to the ingredients in the blender 2 cups of the veggie water, and blend on high until fully incorporated. If you have a blender with a tamper, you may need to use it to get things going. If you have a regular blender, you may need to stop and shove things down a bit with a spatula. Add a bit more of the water, blend, and repeat, until you get a free-flowing cheesy vortex happening. If you find that you've added too much water and your cheese sauce is too thin, you can blend in more tapioca or cornstarch a teaspoon at a time to thicken it back up.
  4. This cheese sauce is ready to rock and roll! Try it on this Lentil Nacho Supreme recipe below, then pour the rest into jars and refrigerate for up to a week.
Notes
  1. Cashews: if you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, cashews can be added dry without soaking. If you are using a standard blender, I recommend soaking the cashews overnight for a minimum of 8 hours, OR boiling them until very soft before blending.
The Kinder Kitchen http://thekinderkitchen.com/

 

LENTIL NACHOS SUPREME (serves 4)

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INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup (plus a bit more) vegetable broth or stock

2 cups cooked green lentils (not green split peas!)

1 cup each diced white or yellow onion and diced bell pepper of any color

1  14oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained but not rinsed

1  4 oz can diced green chiles

1 TBS taco seasoning  OR 1 tsp each ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder

2 tsp Mexican (or regular) oregano

About 1 cup of That Potato Cheese Sauce

Any additional nacho toppings desired, such as black olives, salsa, guacamole, etc

 

DIRECTIONS

Heat broth til bubbling in a large skillet.  Sautee peppers and onion in the broth til soft, adding additional splashes of broth to the skillet if needed to keep from sticking.

Add all other ingredients and another splash of broth and heat til bubbly.

Spoon the lentil mixture onto tortilla chips, drizzle with the cheese sauce, and add desired toppings.

 

Enjoy!

 

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