Saturday, April 2, 2011

Macaroni and (not)Cheese!

A while back during a study potluck that my medical school partner was having, one of his friends from class brought this amazingly delicious macaroni dish. It was so good that I hardly realized it was vegan. But, good news: it was! So, during the most recent potluck hosted by the Vegans and Vegetarians of the Tri-Cities I decided to try my hand at making homemade creamy vegan "cheese." Below, you will find my recipe for baked Macaroni and (not)Cheese with broccoli and zucchini on top.

Baked Macaroni and (not)Cheese with Broccoli and Zucchini Topping

1 block of tofu (I use Twin Oaks brand)
4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
3/4 cup of nutritional yeast flakes
1 can of pumpkin puree
1/3 cup of cashews, minced
garlic powder, onion powder, dill, thyme, salt, pepper to taste
3/4 cup almond milk
1 head of broccoli, chopped up
1/2 of a large zucchini, diced

In your food processor or blender add the tofu and almond milk and blend until it the tofu is mostly pureed. Now, add the pumpkin and continue to blend until you have a nice, creamy mixture. Now add the yeast flakes, the garlic, and other spices. Continue to blend. Finally, add the cashews and blend until you have a nice creamy mixture.

Cheese is ready to go!

Pre-heat the oven to about 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, boil your pasta (I used rigatoni) and steam or boil your vegetables. Once your pasta is soft (after about 8 minutes of boiling), drain it and place in a baking dish. Pour the cheese on top and mix well. Now, drain your vegetables, mix them with salt and pepper and place them on top of the pasta and cheese. You can mix the cheese over the vegetables slightly (to make sure they are all nice and cheesy too). Bake until the vegetables and cheese on top are slightly browned and the cheese is bubbly. I baked mine for about 25 minutes.


When Life Gives You 10 Lemons for $2...

So, a little while back I was meandering around Earth Fare, absorbing all of the beautiful colors of produce and the fine smell of wholesale herbs and spices, when BLAM! right in front of me appeared this massive crate of Meyer lemons. Affixed directly in front of this magical crate was a sign that read: "Meyer Lemons: 10 for $2". Clearly, I had no choice but to purchase them. You know, like 30 of them. So I did. Once I got them home, however, I realized I had a problem: what was I going to do with this huge ol' sack of Meyer lemons? Upon careful thought I realized that I was sadly out of orange marmalade (delicious recipe by a friend of mine here), so DING! I had an idea: make LEMON marmalade! I got online, googled around a little bit, realized that I wasn't entirely crazy for thinking that lemon marmalade sounds delicious, and created the recipe below. So, if you are a fan of marmalades, I do highly recommend this one. It's sweet, a little bitter, and overall tasty.

Vanilla Meyer Lemon Marmalade:

10 Meyer lemons
6 cups of water
6 cups of sugar
1-2 vanilla bean pods, or about 3 tablespoons of vanilla extract

You will also need:
A cheesecloth
Some sterilized jars (I used 5 8 oz Ball brand jars)
A candy thermometer
I also recommend a funnel to assist with pouring the marmalade into the jars

Chop lemons and remove seeds and any white membrane that you come across (I found that quartering the lemons worked best, then you could just cut the white membrane directly off of the center of each quarter, and pop the seeds out after that, then you could chop up the lemons further without encountering either seeds or membrane)
Place the seeds and the membrane pieces in the cheesecloth
Add the water and the chopped lemons to a large pot. Tie up the cheesecloth, with the seeds and membrane inside, and place this inside the pot also. Bring to a boil.

Seeds and Membrane in the Cheesecloth                    Tied-Up Cloth

Boil about 25-35 minutes, until the lemons are soft. Remove from heat.
Now, remove the cheesecloth from the pot, and let it cool off. Once it is cooled you can squeeze out any remaining pectin and place this into the pot of lemons.
Add the sugar and extra pectin to the pot of lemons, and bring to a rapid boil on medium high heat. Boil about 20-35 minutes. Add the vanilla after about 15 minutes of boiling. There are two tests to know when your marmalade is ready: first, you can place a plate in the freezer (while you are boiling the lemons) and when you think it is ready, you can drop a bit of marmalade on the frozen plate. If it isn't runny and wrinkles to the touch, then it is ready. A more scientific method is to use the candy thermometer. The marmalade is done at 222-223 degrees F.

Make sure your jars are ready!
Here is how to do this:
While your lemons are boiling, wash and dry your jars and jar lids with warm soapy water. After they have completely dried place the jars on a cookie sheet and bake them at 200 degrees F in the oven for at least 10 minutes. Bring a pot of water to boil and boil the lids and rings in the water.

Carefully funnel marmalade into the sterilized jars, leaving about 1/4" of space between the top of the jar and the marmalade. Dry the lid and ring off, and affix these tightly to the jar. Do this for each jar until you run out of marmalade. You should hear the jars pop during the next few hours, this means that they are sealed.

Let your marmalade sit overnight (at least) and then enjoy!