Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who Cut The Cheese & Memorial Day Weekend!

Whew!  What a busy week it has been!  I haven't blogged in about a week and have not followed through on my promises to post some recipes on time!  Shame on me!  My memorial day was spent mostly on our new boat, a 24ft Beach Cat.  Ryan cut work early on Friday for the opportunity to go swimming with Addison and her friend Jack, then out to dinner.  Saturday was spent on the boat at a Lake Parker, here in Lakeland, where our motor cut out due to lack of oil and we had to be towed across the entire lake by a boat the size of a small raft.  We celebrated our Memorial Day on Sunday with a cookout with close friends where everything but the meat was vegan.  And I think we went through just as many veggie burgers and veggie dogs as we did real meat ones!  My potato salad got rave reviews, as always.  Monday: Back on the boat for some more sun.  Only problem is I'm pregnant and cant lay on my stomach, so my torso remains milky white while my extremities display a nice golden tan.  Figures.

I am going to try my best to recall my potato salad recipe.  I generally write and measure as I go but with my busy weekend, I got a little sidetracked with our guests to write it all down.  So here goes the Potato Salad

Potato Salad3lb Potatoes
1/4 C chopped green onions (or choose another variety like vidalia)
1/4 chopped red pepper
1 whole dill pickle, chopped
1 Clove garlic
2-3 Stalks Celery, chopped
1/2-3/4 C Vegan Mayo
2 Tbsp Prepared Mustard (or try another variety...I happened to have a gourmet Cilantro Jalepeno Mustard on hand)
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Parsley
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast (optional...just a nutrition booster)
S&P to taste
Dash hot sauce (optional)
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika

Scrub and dice potatoes into bite size pieces.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add potatoes.  Boil for about 10 minutes until they are pierced easily with a fork.  Drain and run under cold water.  Allow to cool.  To speed up cooling, I like to leave my potatoes in the strainer and mix with ice cubes.  When potatoes are cool, mix with remaining ingredients.  If you prefer more of a mashed potato texture, use your potato masher to mash a little bit, but leave lots of chunkiness.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.
Serves a small crowd (8-12)

Since it's always better to be overprepared than underprepared, we were left with a bunch of leftovers that we are still trying to finish.   What to do with leftover potato salad?  A not-so-greek, Greek Salad!  For many Floridians, it is commonplace to expect a heaping mound of potato salad hidden under their greens in a greek salad, thanks to the popular chain restaurant Louis Pappas.  Authentic?  No.  Delicious.  Oh yes!  You can google it and find the details, but long story short, the restaurant owner was some kind of a cook in the military and in an attempt to feed his guys healthy but filling food, found that piling a yummy greek salad on top of creamy potato salad was nutritious and delicious.  The restaurant started in Tarpon Springs, FL.  Everyone else thinks we're crazy but if you'd tried it, there's no turning back.  So....with my leftover potato salad, I did just that!  I did not measure salad ingredients.  If you love tomatoes, pile them on.  If you dislike red onions, leave them off.  You get the idea.

My Big Fat Greek-ish Salad1/2 C Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Dill
2 Cloves Garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp Agave Nectar
Juice of 1 Lemon
8-10 Pitted Kalamata Olives, minced
Hearts of Romaine Salad, coarsely chopped (Buy Organic Salad...They are full of pesticides otherwise!)
Leftover Potato Salad
Red Onion, chopped
Tomatoes (cherry tomatoes would probably be ideal, but I only had roma...so I chopped)
Cucumber, chopped (If NOT organic, peel it!)

Combine first 8 ingredients and whisk or throw in something covered and shake it up.  There's your dressing.  Toss salad with dressing.  Place a mound of potato salad on your plate.  You can either dump salad on top and then mound a pile of tomatoes, cucumbers and onion on the plate or you can mix those in with the lettuce and then dump on top of your potato salad.  Voila!

Now, there are few recipes that I am as proud of as I am with my cheesecake recipe.  I have tried and tried different vegan cheesecakes over they years and although many are very good, none truly reminded me of my dairy days.  Maybe its because I've only dairy free for 2 years now and some others have forgotten what real cheesecake tastes like?  Either way, I have always been a huge fanatic of cheesecake.  It's delicious, it's creamy, it's firm, it will increase the dimples on your ass faster than any other.  Well, I simply refused to give up my yummy cheesecake and spent some time perfecting the following recipe.  Its delicious.  It's creamy.  It's firm.  And it's a SMALL FRACTION of the fat and calories or real cheesecake.  This entire cake is probably about equal to 1-2 slices of the real thing.  And I promise you, there is no giving up taste.  I have experimented and had taste testers trying it along the way to assure its pure perfection. Without further adieu...

Who Cut The Cheese-Cake (?)1 Box Graham Crackers
1/4 C Flax Meal (Golden or Regular.  This just adds a nutrient boost and no taste difference)
1/4 C Pure Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp Vegan Butter, melted

1 12oz Block Firm SILKEN Tofu
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1/2 C Soy, Almond or other Non-Dairy Milk (NOT Rice...too thin)
8oz (1 tub) Vegan Cream Cheese (I like Tofutti)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
3/4 C Organic Powdered Sugar
1/4 C Organic Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Vanilla Bean, Scraped*

Grind up graham crackers into a meal and measure out 1 3/4 C.  Save the rest for ice cream toppings or another use.  Mix in bowl with flax, syrup and butter.  Press into an 8" spring form pan.  (If you don't have a spring form pan, you can use a pie plate but Don't Double the recipe unless you plan on making 2).  Set aside.

Put the tofu in your food processor and process until smooth.  In a separate bowl, mix non-dairy milk with cornstarch.  Dump 'milk' mixture and remaining ingredients into food processor and process until JUST combined.  Do not over-mix.

*Vanilla Bean - This concept was new to me a few years ago.  I purchased a ton of organic vanilla beans from amazon.com a while ago when I learned this technique.  If you are unfamiliar with scraping the beans: Lay the vanilla bean on a flat surface.  Using a small paring knife, cute lengthwise down the center of the bean.  carefully use your fingers to peel apart the bean and spread it open.  Use the paring knife to literally scrape all of the tiny vanilla-ness out.  You will only end up with a small amount, but it is a potent small amount. 

Spread your cheesecake mix onto your crust and gently but firmly lift the pan and drop it from an inch or 2 above the counter to even it all out and create a uniform shape.  Bake at 350º for 30 minutes.  Turn temp down to 325º and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on counter for at least an hour.  Then....as hard as it might be, leave it in the pan and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 8-12 hours.  The refrigeration is key to creating a firmer texture so you're not digging into tofu mush.  This is your BASIC Vanilla Bean Cheesecake.  From here, the possibilities are endless. 

Variation 1: (pictured)
I doubled the recipe to create a thicker cake.  I had on hand some frozen organic raspberries and blackberries and some organic blueberry preserves.  I used my leftovers, roughly 1/2 C frozen and thawed berries and 1/4 C preserves and a couple Tbsp Agave Nectar.  Pulsed in my food processor and spread on top.  Refrigerated another hour or so to firm up the topping.

Variation 2:
Melt 1/2 C Vegan Chocolate Chips and swirl through cake prior to baking.

Variation 3:
Slightly melt organic peanut butter and swirl through cake prior to baking.

Variation 4:
Combine Variations 2 & 3!

I generally used the measurements listed in an 8" spring form pan.  It is delicious and perfect if you want a thinner pie-size.  However, if you want a thicker cheesecake DOUBLE the CAKE ingredients (NOT the Crust...leave that the same!) and  bake for 45min at 350 and 15 at 325 degrees.


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