Daily Vegan Lunch for 8 September, 2013: Portabella Mushroom Burger

portabella burger with chipotle mayonnaise IMG_3390


1 bun (I used a bagel)
1 portabella mushroom, washed and stem cut off
1 teaspoon oil

Sliced tomato
Sliced onion
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce from can of chipotles plus 1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise

Slices of buffalo mozzarella, optional


Cook mushroom by frying it in one teaspoon oil on medium heat for about 3 – 5 minutes. Flip and fry for a minute more: mushroom will shrink and give off a little juice.

Mix chipotle mayo (mayo plus chipotle can sauce) in a small bowl. Assemble burger with bun, mushroom, chipotle mayonnaise, tomato, and onion. If I made this again I might grill the onion.

Daily Vegan Lunch for 7 September, 2013: Vegan Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese Salad

What to do with so many end of summer tomatoes?  I made Miyoko Schinner’s brilliant buffalo mozzarella out of cashews!  You CANNOT tell the difference between it and real cheese.



1 cup plain (unsweetened) almond yogurt or other plant-based yogurt such as coconut or soy
1 cup cashews, soaked for 8 hours and drained

1 cup water, divided

1.5 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons tapioca powder

1 tablespoon agar powder


Bowl of ice water


Handful of fresh basil leaves
1 ripe tomato per serving
4 – 5 blobs of cheese

1 teaspoon olive oil plus 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar per serving
Salt and pepper


Make the cheese base by combining soaked cashews, yogurt, and 1/2 cup water in a blender until very, very smooth and creamy.  If 1/2 cup isn’t enough water to get the cashews to blend, add water by 2 Tablespoonfuls at a time until it blends.  Scrape down the sides of the blender frequently during  the process.  Alternately, use cashew butter in the place of soaked cashews.

Scoop into a bowl and allow the mixture to ferment from anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.  It will thicken into cream cheese and you can stop right there if cream cheese is what you wanted.   Stir tapioca flour into the cashew mixture.

I did this: made a big double batch of 2 cups worth of cashews and yogurt, then fermented half for cream cheese (no tapioca flour) and half for buffalo mozzarella.  My blender blends large amounts better than it does small ones so this was a winning strategy.

In a small pot, heat reserved 1/2 cup of water and agar, bringing to a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat to medium-high and simmer the agar water for 3 – 4 minutes.   Add the tapioca floured cream cheese.  Whisk in and stir continuously until the mixture thickens dramatically and takes on a glossy, stretchy texture.  When it seems as thick as it is going to get,  scoop out the mixture with an ice cream scoop into the ice water.

Allow the cheese balls to set up for about 20 minutes.


Assemble cheese balls, basil, and chopped fresh tomatoes on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Daily Vegan Lunch for 5 September, 2013: Smoky Cream Cheese, Avocado, & Cucumber Sandwich

vegan smoky cream cheese and cucumber sandwich
This cream cheese is so realistic, if I had not made it myself, I would swear it was made with cow’s milk.  I learned the secret from Miyoko Schinner and her Artisan Vegan Life recipes and Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook.  Just blending soaked cashews with a little water, lemon juice, and salt makes a very convincing cream cheese to begin with, however, if you add Miyoko’s stroke of genius a.k.a. almond milk yogurt and allow the cream cheese to culture/ferment over the course of a day, the results are a dead ringer for dairy cream cheese.

This is a godsend for the lactose intolerant as well as vegans.  I recently wrote Panera Bread about carrying more vegan options — imagine if Panera provided vegan cream cheese!

Which begs the question, why does anyone ever need to torture a cow and take away her babies for cream cheese when you can just make an exact replica cholesterol-free out of cashews and vegan yogurt?

cow and calf

1 cup cashews soaked in water 9 – 24 hours
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 drops liquid smoke
1/2 cup almond or other non-dairy yogurt, plain flavor
1/4 cup water
Salt, to taste

1 green onion, minced


1-2 tablespoons vegan smoky onion cream cheese
2 slices whole grain bread, toasted
1/2 a small avocado, sliced thinly or smashed
4 slices of cucumber, peeled and seeded


Soak cashews and drain.  I have noticed that with my Vitamix blender, it is far easier to blend cashews in large batches of 2 cups or more.   A good strategy is to make this cream cheese in bulk by doubling the recipe and then freezing the excess.  I used the cream cheese without onions as a base for Mozzarella Basil Caprese Salad from Artisan Vegan Life.

Combine cashews, lemon juice, liquid smoke, water,salt, and yogurt in a blender and blend until very, very smooth.  Alternately, save the blending altogether by replacing the cashews with cashew butter.  Blending soaked cashews into a smooth paste will take longer in a non-high speed blender, however, it can be done.  No matter what kind of blender you have, the sides will have to be repeatedly scraped down.  I use a rubber spatula.    Add water by the tablespoon to get the consistency you want, keeping in mind it will thicken dramatically once it sits out for a day.  Add the minced green onions to the blender and pulse a couple of times until they are incorporated.

Transfer the cream cheese to a container and allow it to sit on the counter for anywhere from 12 – 36 hours.  The yogurt will help the mixture to ferment/culture.  The mixture will thicken as it sits.  The longer you leave it to sit, the more tangy your cream cheese will be.

Chill the cream cheese.  Toast the bread and assemble the sandwich!

Daily Vegan Lunch for 1 September, 2013: Basil Cashew Cheese Baked Potato

vegan basil cashew cheese baked potato


1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup plus a few tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sun dried tomatoes (I used oil packed from a jar)
1 cup fresh basil

2 – 3 baked potatoes (depends on size) or 5 cups of pasta


Drain cashews after soaking (you can save the water for blending, I did not this time) and put them in a blender or food processor with lemon juice, salt, garlic, and 1/4 cup water.

Process until very smooth, adding water by the tablespoon if needed and scraping down the sides of the blending apparatus.

Once the cheese is smooth, add the basil and sun dried tomatoes, pulse until they distribute themselves throughout your cheese.

Prick a potato with a fork and bake it — I cooked mine in the microwave for about 5 minutes but I could have stuck it in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees to do the same thing. Split the cooled potato and top it with basil cheese. This also would make an excellent alfredo sauce.

Daily Vegan Lunch for 14 August, 2013: Mushroom Toast

I like buying button mushrooms because here in Illinois they are grown locally. Supposedly mushroom toast is very popular in Britain as a breakfast dish. I’m not sure they add garlic when they serve it for breakfast.

vegan mushrooms on toast


Makes 2 toasts


1 teaspoon oil
8 cleaned white button mushrooms, cut in half or left whole if they are small
1.5 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1 cup vegetable broth, plus a few additional tablespoons of vegetable broth if needed
1 clove garlic

Salt to taste

2 slices of toast, 2 halves of a bagel, or 2 baguette slices

In a small pan, add oil to pan and heat on medium high until the oil spreads thinly over the surface of the pan with a spoon. Add the mushrooms to the pan and let them sit to sauté on each side until browned, about 1 minute each side. You don’t want to toss them around too much because if you do, they don’t brown.

Make a well in the center of the mushrooms and add garlic. Let the garlic sauté for 30 – 45 seconds.

You might want to start the toaster now.

Add the broth and cream cheese to the mushroom and garlic pan. (Remember my recipe for easy vegan cream cheese is 2 cups soaked cashews blended with enough water to make them into cream in a food processor with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice.) Stir until the cream cheese is melted and add salt to taste. Serve ladled on toast.

Daily Vegan Lunch for 29 July, 2013: Artichoke Tortilla Pizzas

These are very, very good. The tortillas become crunchy like a thin crust restaurant pizza. If I ever own a vegan restaurant or deli in the future, I will definitely feature these pizzas on the menu.

vegan crunchy tortilla pizzas




1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes)
1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise or olive oil (I used vegan mayo)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup onion, minced


2 regular sized tortillas, any kind

1 cup artichoke hearts
1/4 cup roasted peppers
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup pitted olives
(or any pizza toppings you can think of, I really liked the artichoke hearts)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl until it makes a thick, chunky paste. Spread the paste evenly on 2 tortillas. Top with artichokes, olives, and whatever you are putting on there. Put tortillas on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 10 minutes.

Daily Vegan Lunch for 23 July, 2013: Bacon Cheese Fries

July 23 was my birthday. Yes, I was a french fry vegan for one day. This was really tasty.

My awesome vegan cheese recipe is very low calorie and almost zero fat. The bacon cheese fries you see here contain zero cholesterol and the whole thing clocks in at only 350 calories and 7 grams of fat! Yay!

The same plateful of bacon cheese fries from Steak & Shake is 950 calories and 54 sad grams of fat.

This non-dairy cheese sauce is also excellent on nachos. I originally invented a version of it to go on Best Ever Vegan Mac & Cheese.

vegan bacon cheese fries



3 cups of frozen steak fries
2 teaspoons oil

1 cup Oat Cheese from Best Ever Vegan Nachos

1 tablespoon veggie baco bits

1 green onion, chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the fries in a casserole dish or on a cookie sheet. Hand toss frozen fries in oil until they are lightly coated on all sides. Alternately, coat fries with less or no oil at all if you want even less fat.

Bake fries 10 minutes, then toss them with a spatula and cook for 10 minutes more.

Coat fries with slightly warm cheese sauce and top with baco bits and green onion. DELICIOUS! Happy Birthday to me!!