It’s all about the cheese

I love cheese. I love the taste, the smell, the gooey texture when melted and the mouth feel. Because I adore cheese, I have found it hard to transition from a vegetarian lifestyle to a vegan one. Consciously it is important to me to do this.  Climate change, better health and animal rights are all topics that have made me want to change my lifestyle. So, you can see it was a struggle.  A struggle until I found nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is the form of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  When added to recipe it takes very similar to cheddar cheese! It’s allowed me to work towards veganism.

Nutritional yeast is found in most versions of vegan cheese. Vegan cheese also contains a variety of plant-based products.  These can include nuts, soy, seeds, coconut milk for creaminess, agar agar to firm the cheese, lemon for acidity, salt for flavour, tapioca starch to make the cheese melt better, and root veggies for bulk.

Like dairy based cheese vegan cheese comes in many varieties including Parmesan, mozzarella, cream cheese, shredded cheese, block sliced, nacho cheese, and Gouda. The best cheeses tend to have a cashew nut base as the taste is neutral and allows the flavourings to shine.

coconut oil image

Vegan cheese is often fortified with Vitamin B12; something that is essential for a healthy diet. In general plant-based cheese eaters tend to have better blood pressure and cholesterol than dairy consumers.

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Mushroom Potato Soup

Fresh vegetables a Canadian winter can be expensive so I tend to eat a lot of root veggies in the cold weather. Potatoes are a staple in m pantry. They’re easy to prepare and very versatile. They’re also very filling and can be made quickly.

Mushroom Potato Soup

Mushroom potato soup is a recipe that can be made ahead and frozen for those days you don’t have time to cook from fresh. The recipe includes potatoes, onions, garlic and mushrooms. It’s great with Rosemary Parmesan Bread Machine Buns, Home-style Bread or a Kitchen Sink Salad and Mustard Lemon Dressing.

The recipe uses mushrooms and stock. I used button mushrooms because their widely available but you can use your favourite variety. You could even reconstitute dried wild mushrooms for the recipe. You might want to try substituting veggie stock for mushroom as well.

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Fresh Cranberry Muffins

The recipe for fresh cranberry muffin is easy and versatile. The cranberries can be fresh or frozen. Just use whatever you have on hand. In either case chop the cranberries into small pieces or for a bigger burst of cranberry flavour leave them whole.

fresh cranberry muffins

This recipe uses a flax egg. For those of you who are new to vegan cooking flax eggs are a combination of flax meal and water. The mixture is allowed to set for 5 minutes until it gels. Once the mixture is thick the flax egg replaces a chicken egg one to one. Just mix 1 tbsp of flax meal and 2 1/2 tbsp of water thoroughly.

The recipe also calls for almond milk but it can be replaced with most nut milks, soy milk and even oat milk.

Cranberry muffins are great for lunch on a cold winter day or easy to grab for a quick breakfast. Serve with your favourite tea and jam or jelly.


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Zesty ginger spice carrot soup

It’s Decembers and the days are short and the weather is cold. At this time of year I turn to warm comforting recipes that are quick to make but tasty. Hot soup is one of those recipes that is often on my table. It’s warm, filling and nutritious and most people love the smooth creamy texture.

zesty ginger spice carrot soup

The easiest soup recipe I make is zesty ginger spice carrot soup. The soup is a perfect blend of creamy carrot puree, spicy ginger and aromatic garlic. It’s great with bread or crackers and perfect with vegan sour cream.

The zesty ginger spice carrot soup recipe is an easy and adaptable way to use leftover carrots and stock. The puree can be made with vegetable or mushroom stock. I prefer mushroom as it adds an earthy flavour to the soup base. There are a number of commercially prepared stocks on the market or if you have extra time try making your own. Vegetable stock is just a mixture of carrots, celery, peppers and water boiled until the taste of the vegetables permeates the liquid.

I used fresh ginger in the soup but you can also use powdered ginger. Add 1 tbsp and then taste the mixture. If it’s not strong enough for you add a little more ginger until the flavour of the soup is enhanced to your liking. Don’t add too much at once though as ginger is strong.

If your short on time you can purchase minced garlic in jars but fresh garlic is even better. Just smash the garlic cloves and add to the soup base. In a pinch you can even use garlic salt but you’ll have to adjust the salt content. Too much garlic salt will make the mixture unpalatable.

chopped carrots

I like to pair the soup with buns or bread. My favourite pairing is with rosemary Parmesan bread machine bread.

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Patchwork Peppermint Cookies

When Christmas rolls around I like to have a cookie tray filled with different cookies for my guests to enjoy. Although there will be few holiday visits this year I still wanted to have a few special cookies in the house for the family.

patchwork peppermint cookie

The recipe for patchwork peppermint cookies is a new cookie that I modified from the patterned cookie recipe. The cookies are sweet with a hint of peppermint and are colourful on any tray.

The recipe is a bit fussy and the assembly of the cookies takes a little longer than usual but it is worth the work. The cookies can be made in two and a half hours. This includes the time the batter rests in the refrigerator.

The recipe can be modified for different holidays. Change the colour of the food colour and add a different extract to make your holiday cookie special. For example, for a summer birthday use yellow food colouring in half the dough and add lemon extract. Yummy! Orange and red can be used for fall with maple extract.

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Concorde Grape Salsa

When I was a child we lived in a house on the outskirts of the city. My father was from farm country and we always had fruits and vegetables growing throughout the summer and fall months. He loved concord grapes and had planted a hearty vine that entwined its way around our back porch. The plant seemed to like it there as we had baskets of the grapes every year and we made jam, jelly, grape juice and wine.

Concorde Grape Salsa

Concord grape salsa uses the sweetness of grapes and the heat of peppers or chilies to create a unique and tasty condiment.

Concord grape salsa is great in tacos with mushrooms, onions and vegetable protein. It’s also tasty with tortilla chips or on a vegan steak.

If concord grapes are out of season and you can’t find them at your local supermarket substitute the purple grape for seedless green ones. The grape taste is less prominent but is just as delicious.

Chilies are very spicy. If you don’t like spice omit the chili from the mixture and just use the red bell pepper. If you are using chilies be careful when cutting them. Don’t touch your eyes or other sensitive parts of your body before you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Fresh Concorde grape salsa can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days. So make a big batch a couple of days before a dinner party and serve with your favourite vegan entry.


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Walnut Ginger Cookies

Walnut ginger cookies are great for tea time. The cookies are sweet and crunchy with a subtle zip of crystallized ginger. They’re so easy to make you can whip them up in 1/2 hour, make a pot of herbal tea ,and be ready for entertaining.

walnut ginger cookies

My favourite spice is ginger and I like how the subtle heat of the spice comes through in baked goods. This recipe used dried ginger and crystallized ginger to flavour the dough. If you have fresh ginger you can grate it and substitute 1 tbsp for the dried spice.

I used walnuts in this recipe but if you don’t like them you could use chopped almonds. I’ve tried chopped cashews but find them too sweet combined with both types of sugar. If you have a sweet tooth though, you could add them, add some dried coconut and reduce the brown sugar by 1/4 cup.

If you want to serve these on a Christmas platter and need to jazz up the cookie appearance I’d use coloured sprinkles mixed into the batter. Icing on this cookie is too sweet for my taste.


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Milk replacement info graphic

Many of our favourite recipes include milk. From macaroni cheese to shakes cow milk has been the go to option for most cooks. For vegans and vegetarians a plant based milk is a necessity and today there are many plant milks. They are all super satisfying and can be used in most recipes.

The info graphic below shows some of the most common plant milks and gives suggestions where they can best be used.

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Easy Vegan Cheese Dip

I love cheese so my journey to eating vegan has not been easy. When I discovered nutritional yeast I was thrilled. It tastes like cheese and can be added to many recipes. Easy Vegan Cheese dip uses nutritional yeast mixed with spices, potatoes and carrots to make a soft cheese dip.

Easy vegan cheese dip

Traditional cheese dip contains colouring a preservatives. The colouring in easy vegan cheese dip comes from the turmeric. Turmeric is a healthy spice from India that contains cur cumin. Cur cumin has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory which contains antioxidants. It’s natural and good for you. There are no preservatives added to this cheese dip.

The recipe produces a looser dip but if you like a thicker dip heat the mixture on the stove for a few minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. The cornstarch in the mix will do this. You can also remove a little of the almond milk to make it thicker without sacrificing taste. Don’t remove too much though or you won’t be able to blend the ingredients smooth.

ingredients for cheese dip
Cheese dip ingredients

Easy vegan cheese dip is great with snacks or with appetizers. Serve with corn chips for a easy movie night snack. Pour over fluffy baked potatoes to liven up supper. You can also make vegan tacos and pour the sauce over top in the place of crumbled dairy cheese. Any way you use the dip you’re sure to love it.


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Blueberry Mango Cobbler

The weather is turning chilly in Canada and it’s the time of year I like to make comfort food. Cobbler is a favourite dessert my mother made when I was a child. The cobblers she made were usually full of tart plums or fresh blueberry and on occasion we’d have sweet peach. Blueberry mango cobbler is a version of her best recipe. Local blueberries mingle with tropical mango for a unique and tasty combination. You can serve the cobbler on its own or add coconut ice cream if you like fruit mixed with a creamy filling.

Cobblers like crisps are quick and easy to prepare, taste delicious, and are adaptable. If you don’t like mango try adding peaches or shake up the flavours and use cherries, strawberries or blackberries. Use what you have in the freezer or what is in season.

Since the local blueberries are finished bearing for the year this recipe uses a mixture of wild and regular blueberries that I picked and froze. You can purchase frozen blueberries and mango from the grocery store if you don’t have any in the freezer. Frozen fruit is usually cheaper than fresh during the winter and the nutrients and taste are amazing.

If you use fresh fruit the recipe will be just as tasty but you will have to watch the baking time. It will take significantly less time to cook. Try looking at the recipe after 20 minutes to see if it is cooked. If not put the cobbler back in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes and watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

The topping and the fruit filling are tart in this recipe. If you like a sweeter filling

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Homemade from the heart

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