Basics

My formula collection is one that will continue to grow as I experiment in my kitchen.  On my blog, you can find formulas in the following categories:  Breakfast, Snacks, Square Meals, and Desserts.  Start with some basics here.  Enjoy!

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CREAMY “ALFREDO” SAUCE

I believe that there really is no substitute – in flavor or texture – for real cheese and find processed vegan cheeses pretty unhealthy and unappetizing. Thus, I do not claim that my creamy sauce formula promises to taste just like an alfredo or cheddar. What I can tell you is that this formula is extremely satisfying and uniquely flavorful, with substantially less fat and no grease or cholesterol. What takes this from a “béchamel-like” cream sauce to more of a “cheese” sauce is the addition of more nutritional yeast and cashews. Make your potato selection based on the flavor profile and color you are attempting to create – purple potatoes just don’t make for the prettiest of sauces, but that may not be important depending on what you’re going for!

  • 2 cups homemade veggie stock*
  • 1 large or two medium potatoes
  • ¼ of a large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Juice from ½ of a lemon
  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel, chunk, and boil your potatoes until cooked through. While they are cooking, coarsely chop and sauté your onion and garlic (in a tiny bit of oil, if needed to prevent sticking), also until cooked through. Drain the potatoes and combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust, depending on whether you’re aiming for a plainer “cream” or more assertive “cheese” sauce. Try this formula with sweet potatoes for a totally different sauce experience!

*See my DIY veggie stock formula, also under Basics.

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CREAMY DRESSING

Dresses 3-4 salads

Are you a ranch person?  Blue cheese?  Thousand island?  Do you love creamy salad dressings, but not the associated guilt in soaking your salads with them?  I’ve come up with a formula for a rich and creamy, cholesterol and hormone-free dressing that you can feel better about.  Made with seeds and nuts, this dressing is satisfying, delicious, and jam-packed with nutrients.  Experiment with the thickness to create drizzles and dips galore.

  • ¼ cup seed or nut butter
  • 2 ½ tbsp acid (citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, or a combination)
  • Thinning liquid as needed, depending on whether you’re going for a dressing or thick dip (ideas: veggie stock, water, or more acid)
  • Up to 2 tbsp raw garlic and/or fresh/dried herbs and/or spices (optional)
  • ½-1 tsp sweetener (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients with a small whisk. Add thinning liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency. Still not creamy enough for you? Run the whole mixture through a food processor or blender.  Drizzle over salad, spread on bread, pita, or wrap, or use for dipping.

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CREAMY VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Yields sauce for one box of pasta

Similar to my creamy alfredo sauce, this formula calls on cashews.  The difference between this sauce and the former is that the alfredo is potato-based, providing for more of a blank slate and a flavor more traditional to the classic dish, fettuccini alfredo.  This formula can utilize other vegetables, which will yield a more flavorful and specific profile.  Be strategic in your choice of vegetable depending on how you will be using the sauce (over pasta, in a lasagna, over vegetables, etc.).  Enjoy!

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped raw vegetables
  • ½ cup cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight and blend with just enough water to form a thick cream)
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp acid (i.e. vinegar, mustard, citrus juice, etc.)
  • ¼-1 tsp seasoning (i.e. fresh/dried herbs, spices, etc.)
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Peel (if necessary) and chop your vegetables. Steam, roast, or boil to cook.

While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare your pasta of choice. When the vegetables are finished, combine with all other ingredients (except the pasta, of course!) in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

Pour atop your pasta (or use in another application) and enjoy immediately for most desirable consistency. It will keep just fine in the fridge, but will dry out a bit.

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JAM

Makes 2 small jars or 1 large*

If you’re like me, sometimes, nothing else satisfies like a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich!  I love this healthy and naturally vegan snack/quick meal, but I do not like all of the added sugar that comes with many store-bought jelly and jam varieties.  I’ve come up with a jam formula that is sure to please without too much added sweetener.  Now, you can have your PB&J and eat it, too…without having to worry about all of that sugar!

  • 2 cups raw or precooked fruit**
  • 2 tbsps sweetener
  • 1 tsp pectin
  • 1 tsp calcium water (prepare according to package directions)

*You can find mason jars at many retailers including dollar or 99 cent stores.

**A hard fruit like apples will be easier to mash or puree if it has been precooked, but a softer fruit like raspberries will mash easily in a raw state.

Fill a pot with water enough to completely cover your mason jars in standing position and bring to a boil.  Add both the jars and their lids.  After the jars have boiled for a few minutes, turn the heat on low and keep the jars in the hot water.

Next, peel and precook your fruit, if necessary.  Place your raw and/or cooked fruit in a bowl and mash, or, puree in a blender or food processor.

Combine your mashed fruit and calcium water in a pot and bring to a boil.  While you are awaiting the boil, combine your pectin and sweetener in a separate dish.

Add the mixture to the boiling fruit and stir an additional 1-2 minutes, until the pectin is dissolved.  Remove from the heat.

Using tongs, remove your hot jars from the other pot and bring the water to a boil again.  While you are waiting for yet another boil, pour the jam into the jars, approximately ¼ of an inch from the top.  Wipe the rims clean and seal.  Once the water is boiling, submerge the jars in an upright position and boil for 10 minutes.

Use tongs to remove the hot jars and place on the countertop to cool.  Refrigerate once opened.

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MARINARA

Ok, I forgive you for buying pasta sauce in a jar.  This formula is so simple, you’re going to kick yourself for not coming up with it sooner (I’m kicking myself for not coming up with it sooner!).  The key is using fresh tomatoes and a high quality blender.  The rest comes together on the stovetop in less than two hours with minimal stirring.  Use this simple sauce atop pasta or pizza, in a lasagna, or even just as a dip for fresh-baked bread.

  • 1 ½ pounds tomatoes
  • ½ of a small yellow or white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp sweetener (optional)
  • 1 ½ tbsp dried fennel fronds (or a small handful of fresh)
  • 1 tbsp dried basil (or a small handful of fresh)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (or a small handful of fresh)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly wash your vegetables so that you can save the scraps for homemade veggie stock. Coarsely chop your tomatoes and onion. Throw them into a blender with your garlic, herbs (not the bay leaf), and seasoning and puree until smooth. Pour into a pot on the stove, add your bay leaf, and simmer on medium low for 1-2 hours, or until your sauce reduces by approximately one third.

When I am just over the halfway mark, depending on what I’m going to be using the sauce for, I finely dice vegetables that I don’t anticipate my two-year-old being eager to eat and throw them in the pot. I’ve pulled one over on Nolan a few times with great success. 🙂 You can skip this step if you want to keep this recipe extra simple.

Remove the bay leaf and your sauce is ready!

If you’re feeling adventurous and like to plan ahead, quadruple the recipe and freeze in containers the perfect size for a box of pasta. When “there’s nothing to eat” strikes, you’re ready for a quick pasta dinner!

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MUSHROOM GRAVY

Yields approximately 2 cups

While I love mashed potatoes all on their own, a thick, creamy gravy really makes the dish.  Consuming a diet made up exclusively of plants means that what is a side dish for an herbivore is a main dish for me, so I’m counting on my mashed potatoes to be nutrient-packed and filling, in addition to being vegan.  This mushroom gravy–the formula was developed by my husband–definitely holds a candle to meat gravy and is certainly what your mashed potatoes, shepherd’s pie, and stuffing have been missing.

  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms*
  • 1 cup+ cooking liquid (homemade veggie stock, red wine, water, unsweetened plant milk, etc.)
  • ¾ of an onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsps flour
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp minced fresh herbs (or ¼ tsp dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*If you’re using any large caps with lots of gills, remove the gills before chopping and cooking.

**Remember, we make veggie stock from veggie scraps.

Pour your oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Chop your vegetables. Start by adding the onions only. After approximately 2 minutes, add the garlic. 2 minutes later, add the mushrooms, herbs, and bay leaf and cook for another 6-8. Add the flour and stir until thoroughly moistened. Add cooking liquid, a ½ cup at a time and reduce until desired consistency is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove the bay leaf. Pour the entire mixture into a blender and puree until smooth (optional).

Serve atop classic mashed potatoes, in a vegan shepherd’s pie, or in another favorite preparation. We are serving ours over rosemary mashed sweet potatoes and parsnips: the perfect balance between sweet and savory!

Travis reported that this gravy tasted best the first day, but can certainly keep for several in the fridge.

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NACHO CHEESE

You know the stuff:  orange, gooey, salty, and flavorful, the perfect topping for tortilla chips.  The question is, What’s really in nacho cheese?!  Now you can have all of the delicious ooey-gooeyness without the questions or the guilt that comes from excess fat, salt, cholesterol, and mysterious additives and preservatives.  This healthy nacho cheese spin-off will make vegan nachos one of your new favorite meals or snacks!

  • 1 medium potato (or the equivalent in fingerlings or another small potato variety) OR 1 large sweet potato or yam
  • 1 large carrot (if you’re NOT using sweet potato/yam)
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • Salt and Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste

Put your cashews in water and soak for at least four hours (I usually do overnight).

Peel your potato(es) and carrot, if using. Cook using the method of your choice (steam, boil, bake, etc.).

Drain and rinse your cashews. Place in a blender with cooked potato(es) and carrot (if using) and all remaining ingredients. If necessary, add more milk until you’ve reach the desired consistency, keeping in mind that you then may need to adjust your seasonings to prevent the sauce from becoming bland.

Use immediately or store in the fridge (does keep well!). May require more milk when reheating.

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PESTO

Pesto is a combination of fresh herbs, garlic, liquid, and a “cheesy” element like nutritional yeast or nuts. It can be used as a sauce, spread, dip, or marinade in a number of different cuisines from Italian to Mexican to Greek. You can store it in the fridge for up to a week, but keep in mind that it will change in consistently when the oil within solidifies in the cold.

  • 1 ½ cups fresh herbs
  • 1 cup raw nuts
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 5 cloves raw garlic
  • ½ cup citrus juice
  • Additional spices (optional)
  • Water/oil as needed for smoothness

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding water and/or oil as needed. The less oil used, the lower in fat the end product will be.  🙂  So flavorful, this pesto doesn’t even need salt!

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VEGETABLE MARINADE

Yields 1 cup marinade

Marinating is not just for meat!  Even though the cellular structure of many fruits and vegetables prevents them from absorbing flavors to the extent that meat does, it is still possible to infuse yumminess!  In American cooking, where there is marinating, there is typically grilling to follow, so put this formula to use at your next backyard barbecue.  Save any excess marinade for salads.  🙂

  • 2 pounds raw vegetables (or fruit)
  • ½ cup acid (i.e. freshly squeezed citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, etc.)
  • ¼ cup oil*
  • ¼ cup liquid sweetener (i.e. agave syrup, maple syrup, etc.) .
  • ¼ fresh herbs**
  • Salt, pepper, spices, and/or dried herbs to taste

*When it comes to heating, not all oils are created equal.  Ideally, when grilling (or sauteing, frying, or roasting), you want to use an oil with a higher smoke point.  This allows you to optimally maintain nutrients and flavor when the oil is subjected to heat.  In addition, it is safer to cook with oils that contain primarily monounsaturated fats, although occasionally cooking with those primarily composed of polyunsaturated won’t hurt.

**If you don’t plan to save excess marinade, it doesn’t really matter how finely your herbs are chopped.  If you do want to save the excess, however, finely chop your herbs so that you’ve got a more texturally appealing salad dressing when all is said and done.

Prepare your vegetables (peel, chop, etc.) and line them up in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  You can toss them right in or skewer them.

Mix together all marinade ingredients, starting with the wet.  I like to layer the ingredients in a single measuring up so that I don’t have to dirty multiple measuring cups.

Pour the marinade over your veggies and let them soak for several hours, turning occasionally.  Once your vegetables are on the grill, drain any excess marinade and save in the fridge for salads.

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YEAST BREAD

Yields 1 loaf

To make a non-yeast bread, you could easily use my muffin formula and pour the batter into a loaf pan instead of a cupcake pan. My yeast bread, on the other hand, is always baked in a loaf pan. This formula was inspired by Country Living: The Breakfast Cookbook, but I’ve made it my own by taking an ordinary loaf of bread to the next nutritional level. You can really jazz up a basic bread recipe with specialty ingredients like spices, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Also, while a stand mixer makes the dough-making process much easier, you could certainly combine ingredients in a bowl initially and then consult your two best kitchen utensils – your hands – to finish the job.

  • 3-4 cups of flour, plus more for dusting your workspace
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 ¾ cups very warm water (hot, but touchable)
  • up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (optional)

Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer. Thoroughly clean and dry your countertop and sprinkle with flour. Have any specialty ingredients of choice nearby to eventually knead into your bread dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and a loaf pan.

Combine 3 cups of flour, salt, and yeast in the mixer on low. Add any additional spices or sweeteners, if using. Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl before starting the mixer. Start on low speed and increase the speed as the dry ingredients become incorporated into the wet.

Add all of the flax seeds and then, additional flour gradually until your dough forms a minimally sticky ball on high speed. I can tell that the dough is ready for kneading if it is still somewhat sticky to the touch, but does not stick to the mixing bowl itself when whipping around on a high speed. Flour your hands, remove the dough, and place the dough onto your floured countertop.

Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, until it makes a smooth ball. If you are adding ingredients like dried fruit or seeds, stretch the dough open 3 times throughout the kneading process to sprinkle in ingredients before folding over the dough and kneading again. Knead for 5-7 minutes total and then place the ball into your oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, punch down the dough, reform into a loaf shape, and transfer it into your oiled loaf pan. Cover the dough and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the time that it takes the oven to preheat, your dough will rise again and then be ready for baking. Bake for 35 minutes. The bread should come out of the loaf pan fairly easily and onto a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

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VEGGIE STOCK

Purchasing a large quantity of organic produce can be pricey at times, so I really try to maximize every bit of my vegetables. I collect veggie scraps in a large, glass bowl (with a lid) in the freezer and use them to make my own stock. This requires washing the entire vegetable before you begin slicing or chopping and then saving the parts that you would normally throw away: carrot tops, kale ribs, potato peels, etc. Once your freezer bowl is full, you’re ready to make super easy stock that is a fraction of the cost of the boxed stuff and with no added sodium. I don’t add any spices, herbs, salt, or pepper whatsoever so that the stock is a blank slate, ready for any soup, stew, or sauce application.

Although I have an amount listed in this formula, it will certainly vary depending on how large your glass bowl and crock pot or stove top pot. I prefer to make stock in a crock pot so that it can cook slowly overnight or all day while I’m at work, but you can make this on your stove much more quickly if you need it for a recipe in an hour or two.

  • 4 quarts frozen veggie scraps
  • Water enough to cover scraps

Place the scraps into your crock pot or stove top pot and cover completely with water and a lid.

Crock Pot: Set it to low heat and simmer for 8 hours.

Stove Top Pot: Set it to medium high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 hours or until veggie scraps are cooked through.

Drain the stock through a fine strainer and discard veggie scraps…once and for all.  🙂

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