Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chicotta! Vegan Ricotta Cheese (Dairy, Soy and Nut-Free)

A while back I made a spinach artichoke hummus for a party. It was very tasty, but in typical Ashley form, I made way too many appetizers for the party and I had a lot leftover... such a problem, right?! My mom always said, there's nothing that kills a party faster than running out of food or beer and you always have to listen to your mother!

That week after the party, I was turning all of the leftover dips into dinner entrees. I used the spinach artichoke hummus for a lasagna roll-up and poured marinara on top. It went over really well in the house and I kept telling myself that I need to do that again. Fast forward two months, my friend brings over a delicious lasagna this weekend and I've been devouring it since. You'd think I had my fill but I wanted more lasagna.

I wanted to see if I could just make a more simple ricotta blend like the hummus I used but a little lighter and fluffier (if that makes sense). As you may know, I try to  limit our soy intake so I didn't want to use any tofu. I have read a lot of vegan ricotta recipes that use cashews too. Well truth be told, I'm lazy and unorganized! Soaking the cashews for hours and remembering to do it the night before just isn't ideal for me. Also, it's just a personal preference, but I don't love the sweetness that cashews give to vegan cheeses (hence the potato and carrot Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce). So instead of cashews and remembering my hummus, I added a lot of artichokes to give it a salty yet fluffy texture than just hummus. And there you have it ... Dairy-Free, Nut-Free and Soy-Free Chickpea Ricotta ... Chicotta!

It worked out great in a lasagna, it tastes great as a dip and I even put it in a creamy pasta bake. Feel free to add some frozen spinach too ... get creative and have fun.

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free and Nut-Free

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free and Nut-Free

Vegan Ricotta

Makes 2 cups

1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove
1/3 c olive oil
1/3 c nutritional yeast
1 T tahini
1 1/2 T lemon
1/2 t salt
1-15 oz can artichokes, drained and rinsed

In your food processor, mix everything except the artichokes until it is nice and smooth. Add olive oil if you need a smoother texture. Next, add in the artichokes and give it a few good turns. I do it so that there is still little tiny pieces of artichoke but nothing big.

Now, it's ready to use in your favorite lasagna, pasta bake or just pull out some chips and carrots and enjoy it as a dip!

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free and Nut-Free

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Vegan Thai Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Can everything in life be easy? Seriously though! I feel like life has been a lot of work these days ... and by life, I mean feeding a family of six and try to have everyone happy (at least content) about dinner. Sounds impossible right? Yup, it is.

Then, like a full moon, a recipe comes along (in my case, usually by accident) that everyone loves dinner and it was super easy to make and even more importantly, to clean up!

Vegan Thai Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

To make a short story long, that is how Vegan Thai Meatballs came into our lives. The kids were getting whinny and I realized that dinner was just a short 20 minutes away and I had nothing prepped and no idea what I was making. I turned the oven on, grabbed a can of beans and then stared at an empty fridge. I hardly had any vegetables or anything fresh ... just a little bit of leftover chopped cilantro and asparagus. Ugh!

I went back to the pantry, grabbed the peanut butter and panko and figured I might as well make a burger. I quickly threw everything into a food processor, said a little prayer and braced myself for the crying that was sure to come when they realized they did not want to try new food.

Much to mine and Paul's surprise, they all loved it. I mean seriously ... it's peanut butter, which they love but is more reason for them to pretend they don't! Paul then asked, "What did you put in these?" That's when the real panic set in. I was in such a rush, I had no idea what the complete list of ingredients was, let alone amounts.

I made them the following week (of course, the kids didn't love them as much as the first time because, c'mon, they're kids!), but Paul and I still loved them and they were even better once I payed attention to what I was doing. Even though the kids go back and forth if they like these or not, I love how amazingly easy they are to make and how many meatballs it makes for the time I don't have to put into dinner. Leftovers are always great in my house!

Vegan Thai Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Vegan Thai Meatballs

Makes about 24

1 15-oz c chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 c peanut butter
1/4 c tamari or Mrs. Braggs Amino Acids
1/4 cup cilantro
1 garlic clove
1 t minced ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 c peanuts, roasted and salted
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/2 c panko (regular or gluten free)

Spicy Peanut Sauce
1/3 c peanut butter
1/3 c tamari or Mrs. Braggs Amino Acids
2 T organic, unrefined coconut oil (add more oil if you want a thinner dip)
dash of red pepper flakes ... add to your spicy liking

Preheat oven for 375ยบ.

Mix all meatball ingredients in your food processor until the mixture is relatively smooth. Form into meatballs.

Place on a sprayed pan and bake for 15 minutes.

While they cooking, mix the spicy peanut sauce ingredients in a bowl or on a stovetop .

Once meatballs are done ... enjoy!

Vegan Thai Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Natural Oral Routine: DIY Toothpaste and Mouthwash

Toothpaste has been a longtime frustration for me. Even when it's 'all natural', there's usually something that I can't pronounce or don't understand. Does that necessarily make it a bad thing ... no, but I just don't like it. Call me anal, call me silly, tell me I'm overthinking it. I doesn't matter, it still bothers me. It's just that plain and simple.

I've made a few toothpastes over the years and never quite loved them. Then I found Earthpaste. Did I finally find a toothpaste of my dreams?! How could it be. A few simple ingredients and my teeth felt great after using it. Even the kids loved their lemon flavor. After about a year of using Earthpaste, I found a problem with it ... the price tag! But I finally found a toothpaste that I loved ... was it worth it?

I should know, you should yell at me ... the best things in life are homemade! If the ingredients are truly that simple, I should be able to make it myself. So, I did. I did a lot of digging about amounts and the reasons why to use some ingredients over others and I finally felt confident. I knew the taste and consistency I wanted.

DIY Toothpaste and Mouthwash

One big concern was the amount of baking soda and clay, I didn't want to harm my teeth. Luckily, I have a few dental hygienist friends that were able to advise me on amounts of ingredients for safety and protection of my teeth. And yes, I know, Earthpaste doesn't use baking soda ... but I like it! Also, xylitol, an ingredient that I never wanted to use before in cooking but I was assured that it helps fight cavities so it is very beneficial in toothpastes.

Let me just admit that the first few batches got tossed! As I always say, my stubbornness pays off and I finally did it. I have been using this toothpaste for just over a year now. My teeth have never felt better and I have had great visits with my dentist!

DIY Toothpaste and Mouthwash

Homemade Clay Toothpaste

5 T calcium powder
5 T coconut oil (organic, unrefined)
2 T baking soda (aluminum free)
2 T xylitol
1 T redmond or bentonite clay
distilled water if it's too thick ... I start out with a Tablespoon at a time, winter I need more than summer since the coconut oil is at a thicker consistency in my house.

Optional: Essential oils or food grade, organic extract. I love peppermint, cinnamon and orange the best! The kids still use lemon. I use about 5-7 drops per batch.

Mix all ingredients except the water and clay until you have a very smooth consistency and it is thoroughly mixed together. Then add the clay and flavoring. Finally add water if you need so it is the right consistency.

I keep mine in a small 4 oz mason jar and use a popsicle stick to scoop it out on my toothpaste.

DIY Toothpaste and Mouthwash

Tea Tree Mouthwash

2 c distilled water
1 t xylitol
2 t calcium powder
5 drops tea tree oil

Mix all in a mason jar. When ready, swish a bit in your mouth and spit out.

DIY Toothpaste and Mouthwash

**Make sure you are using 100% certified therapeutic grade essential oils. Oil Fragrances are already mixed with carrier oils and some have fillers and artificial ingredients.

**Natural remedies do not work for everyone so consult your physician for any concerns. I am far from a dentist, but this toothpaste continues to work for me and I hope they work for you!

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