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Smokey Baked Mac & Cheese and inspiration from Bang Bang Cafe in Seattle, WA

Smokey Mac & Cheese, inspired by Bang Bang Cafe

This recipe marked the first time I’d turned to VegWeb for guidance in years. The veg recipe directory and LiveJournal’s vegan cooking communities were my learn-as-you-go and read-the-comments because you can only-sorta-trust-the-internet tip toes into the vegan culinary world back in the early 2000s. It’s like I can recall mildly freaking out when the number of nutritional yeast sauce recipes rose above 10. After our time apart, I admit that I really enjoyed seeing that most of the recipes I perused were still called “The Best Ever” “The Very Best Ever” “Mom’s Best” “The Best in the World!!!!”, etc. I like vegan enthusiasm.

To get to the point, I just decided to chance it on the internet, test my tastebuds and emulate the memorable vegan mac & cheese my friend Chelsea ordered at Bang Bang Cafe at Seattle this past weekend. I stole a couple of bites, and I was a little jealous that I hadn’t ordered their smokey vegan mac for breakfast, too!  I thought it was so good that it must contain vegan cheese, and was surprised to learn that it was tofu and nutritional yeast based! Swell.

Back to Bang Bang, where I fed my bourbon-induced mild hangover a more wholesome bean and roasted veggie filled burrito. When I returned, however, I had a potluck meeting to attend to the next day and after browsing my limited ingredients and finding a box of whole wheat shells, knew it was time to eye my 2 jars of Spanish smoked sweet paprika, Hungarian hot paprika, Hungarian half sweet paprika, Alder smoked salt and my good buddy, the giganto container of nutritional yeast flakes. The finished result didn’t seem to fit everyone’s tastes – which is how vegan mac & cheese always seems to work – but more than a couple folks seemed obsessed and another friend had me write down the recipe, so here we go. Dare I say I had fun making a mac & cheese recipe where you simply had to puree the cheesy sauce ingredients..because, I did.

Smokey Baked Mac & Cheese, adapted from Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the entire world…seriously, as posted on VegWeb.com. I halved the recipe and made a few changes based on what I was aiming for and had on hand.Go, go smokey, creamy mac!

Ingredients:

  •    3/4 lb whole wheat pasta or rice pasta, preferably with ridges

Cheesy sauce

  •     1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (I used a combination of So Delicious coconut milk beverage and soy milk)
  •     3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  •     1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or non-hydrogenated margarine
  •     1/2 cup water
  •     2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  •     1/2 cup soaked and drained raw cashews
  •     1 clove of garlic
  •     1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • pinch cayenne
  • pinch hot paprika
  •     generous pinch of salt (add more to taste after blending sauce)
  •     1 tablespoon mustard (I used TJ’s spicy sweet mustard)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Additional: 
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup vegan cheese (I used Teese cheddar sauce)
  • breadcrumbs
  • pinch of additional paprika and cayenne
  • olive oil mister/spray
  • smoked salt

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease a small casserole dish. Boil the water and cook pasta 1 minute less than instructed. Drain and add to your casserole dish. You’ll want at least a couple inches of room to be able to add the cheesy sauce.

2. Puree the cheesy sauce ingredients  in a blender until smooth and adjust the seasonings to taste. Carefully stir into the cheesy sauce and vegan cheese, if using.

3. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly on top, followed by the smoked salt and additional paprika and cayenne, if using. Lightly spray with oil. Bake until the breadcrumbs looks golden, 15-20 minutes. Broil an additional 5 minutes, if desired.

Serve with steamed greens, unless you’re nuts.

Bang Bang's Vegan Mac & Cheese

The aforementioned vegan breakfast burrito with red chile sauce

Alicia's Bang Bang burrito with red & green chile sauces

Melissa went with a classic Mighty-O Donut

lately

I’m just going to come out and say it. Hi. My name is Jess. I have a camera and a blog and here’s the flow of what I’ve been up to lately:

Smoked Potato Cheese: Take 2, Creamy Edition. I'll post the recipe after one more test run before Heartichoke.

Have I mentioned that I'm digging my stovetop smoker? Well, I am. Smoked Cherry Tomato & Kale Raab Pesto Bruschetta

Kale Raab Bistro Chowder; Bruschetta. Bistro Chowder Recipe from Appetite for Reduction. Farewell, Soup Season.

Tofu Cube Toss with Smoked Tomatoes, Roasted Red Pepper, Maitake Mushrooms, Kalamata Olives, Collard Raab; Mac & Cheddar Teese Sauce with Miso & Collard Raab. This ain't no wimpy scramble.

Baked Saffron Rice with Roasted Peppers. The recipe will be in the Spring issue of T.O.F.U. Magazine. Zomg.

From a small dinner party: Baked Saffron Rice with Roasted Peppers, Serrano Seitan Ham over Kale, Roasted Potato Bread and Blood Orange & Grapefruit Marinated Olives, etc.

Galician Empanada Pie with Smoked Soy Curls & Serrrano Ham, Take 1. Will be working on the conrmeal crust and spice factor.

TGI Return of the FarMar & Multi-Color Carrots. There are white carrots in the empanada pie, yo.

From the PPK Test Kitchen: Cappuccino Mousse Pie with Rad Whip. I'll get the fluffin' up next time.

From the PPK Test Kitchen: Manhattan Mud Pie. Photo by Lucas DeShazer. Truly, one of the few times you'll ever see me in the backround of a photo here.

Portland Hidden Gems are up next. Really.

Happy (Belated) Vegan Pizza Day from Portland!

This past Saturday, the nondairy cheese industry rejoiced as thousands of vegans gripped their stomachs in post-vegan-pizza-overload. I celebrated (or supported said vegan-friendly industries) by enjoying the greasy heck out of a slice of breakfast pizza at Sizzle Pie, which I can’t get enough, and by assembling some English Muffin pizzas for hungry friends later on in the day.

First up, the awesomely named Drugs Benedict slice from Sizzle Pie. It’s one hell of a unique slice with super thin, whole wheat crust, creamy white bean and shallot spread, fried chunks of hash browns, “cheesy” tofu scramble, bacun bits, and sliced green onions. Somehow, I resisted the call of the Weekend Brunch slice + breakfast drink special, and went for the slice + salad combo ($6).

Drugs Benedict slice and Rabbit Salad with vegan ranch, Sizzle Pie

And we’ve quickly hit later on in the day! – I had friends over and they simply had no choice but to celebrate this Vegan Pizza Day. Seriously, I have no idea if they even knew it was happening.  In general, there’s something about English Muffins pizzas that I can’t stand, but the novelty helps win me over. These mini pizzas are on whole wheat muffins with homemade basil tomato sauce and black olives. On the left is one of the fools with a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella Teese and spinach, and on the right there’s mozzarella Daiya (shocking, but true – using it up from a project!) and as inspired by Sizzle Pie, a cashew pesto cream.

Mini English Muffin Pizzas

Portobello Pizza & The Vegan Pizza Day Countdown

In preparation for Vegan Pizza Day on Saturday (fellow vegans, I behoove you – can we please declare a vegan danish say next?), I found myself once again contemplating the cute Pizza Cups from Slice and channeling my inner little old Italian lady relatives. Somehow, this led to the veganization of Portobello Mushroom Crust Pizzas from the same site, while remembering I had just received some Teese from a friend to play with.

The following portobello pizzas differ from Tonecapo’s pictorial on Slice because a) there’s vegan mozzarella involved, b) the gills are scraped, and c) a mixture of pureed mushroom stem, spinach, garlic and black olives is used in place of the sausage crumbles.

Of course, please forgive that I should iron my tablecloth or whatever grown ups do in the following photo pictorial. The recipe follows.

Step 1) The De-Gilling

Step 2) The Saucing

Step 3) The Stuffing

Step 4)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our special guest, Teese!

The Topping

Step 5) The Finale

The Recipe:

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas with Spinach & Black Olive Filling

These mini “pizzas” are ridiculously week-night friendly, and any leftovers are just waiting to top pasta or fill a sandwich.

Serves: 1-2, double and use larger caps for bigger portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 Portobello mushroom caps, stems removed and set aside, and gills carefully scraped out with a spoon
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (use more if needed)
  • 1/4 cup of shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
  • handful of baby spinach
  • 1 clove of garlic – see below
  • good pinch of salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 black olives
  • olive oil, preferably in spray/misting form
  • optional: dried oregano and crushed red pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 450F and lightly grease a baking pan large enough to fit the caps.
  2. Spoon the sauce even onto the caps.
  3. Finely mince or pulse together the removed mushroom stems, baby spinach, garlic and black olives in a food processor.
  4. Saute, stirring frequent, in a lightly oiled pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat.
  5. Spread half of the spinach mixture onto each cap.
  6. Top each cap with half of the shredded vegan cheese, sprinkled with desired dried herbs, lightly spray with oil, and bake for 18-20 minutes. Broil for an additional 1-2 minutes, if desired.
  7. Remove from the oven, and serve.

The local garlic love:

Do you have any plans for this Vegan Pizza Day? I’m considering breakfast at Sizzle Pie, myself. If you’re in the Portland area, there’s always local vegetable topped slice sat Hot Lips, cornmeal crust at Dove Vivi, wood-fired pizza from carts Pyro Pizza and Wy’yeast ( gah! why have I not been yet?!?), Hopworks, Portobello (Daiya and cashew sauce), Rudy’s (recently added Daiya), Eat Pizza, Oasis (now has soy cheese!), and more.

mini pizzas & teese & holiday confessions

I was recently afflicted with the pizza bug. It’s been the coldest and driest November I’ve ever witnessed in Portland, and it usually seems much more rational to use the oven over the heater. You get a warm dinner and a warmer abode. Win Win.

Whole wheat crust (Trader Joe’s), homemade marinara, mozzarella teese, sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, jalapeño peppers.

I’m always impressed at how well teese holds up upon re-heating.

Variety time!

Whole wheat crust, roasted orange pepper and white bean spread, steamed greens, strips of more roasted orange pepper, and halved  kalamata olives.

As for my holiday time, pizza making confession, it’s totally not the store-bought dough – it’s the music. The first evening of pizza baking marked the first day of the season I welcomed the easy listening christmas music station back into my life. Every night. I can’t help it. I can be pretty damn humbug, but hear Linda Ronstadt wishing me a Merry Little Christmas and go weak with nostalgia. I start cutting out snowflakes and wishing for the marshmallow winter song and Band Aid to come on next and then start picturing my grandfather singing along with Bing Crosby. I may have even put up a fucking holiday tree under the guise that it’s for a shindig. And quite frankly, if I had wine, and mulled wine went with pizza, it would have been on my stove.

A New Tradition in the Life: Marsala, Sun-dried Tomato & Mozzarella Stuffed Mushrooms

The Story:

Stuffed mushrooms were one of the first dishes I learned to pull off and share with guests as a vegan. Italian background, Italian food, check. I can still remember my mom pulverizering the filling in the food processor, and that flavor, which was nothing like the other foods I ate (admittedly, it was full of parmesan and likely, crab, and I was such a picky eater). My late mother actually developed a severe, yet comical,  allergic reaction to mushrooms at some point, yet still kept making these due to popular demand. Nowadays, I usually make them for potlucks, and there’s nearly always wine (because mushrooms should nearly always be drunk), nuts, and breadcrumbs involved. Very recently, my mushrooms-have-the-consistency-of-eyeballs paranoia returned, as it is does now and then, so there I was, with creminis, yet, not wanting to slice them. Stuffed mushrooms are the least of my squishy mushroom fears, and there I went. You could easily sub red wine, or add roasted garlic, steamed greens, vegan crab, etc.  Stuffed mushrooms = versatile.

The Recipe:

Marsala, Sun-dried Tomato & Mozzarella Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 20-25 cremini mushrooms, stems separated, and gills scraped (optional)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan mozzarella (I used Chicago Soy Dairy Teese)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of chopped sun-dried tomatoes (re-hydrated or oil packed)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Dave Killer’s Good Seed)
    • Note: I used 3/4 cup initially, and had too much filling leftover, hence the cut. Not the end of the world if you run a little short or extra!
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch hot paprika
  • pinch nutritional  yeast
  • additional olive oil for spritzing
  • additional wine

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a casserole dish large enough to fit the mushrooms, such as an 8×8 or 8×4.
  2. Thoroughly mince the mushroom stems, either with a knife or in a food processor.
  3. Sauté the garlic and mushroom steams over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the wine, stir for 1 minute, and simmer for an additional 5, or  until most of the liquid evaporates.
  4. Add the herbs (excluding the salt & pepper!) and stir for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Mix the breadcrumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper and nutritional well in a bowl. Carefully mix in the sautéed mushrooms mixture and vegan mozzarella shreds, and incorporate well.
  6. Using a 1/2 tablespoon, fill each mushroom cap with the mixture, packing tightly. Place the caps into your lightly greased baking pan, spray with olive oil and a couple good dashes of additional wine, and cook for 20 minutes. If you have extra mushroom caps, just save them to slice into a tofu scramble or something.
  7. Increase the heat to 425F, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, as needed. Check for browning.
  8. Remove from oven, briefly yet cool, pour some more wine, and serve.

The Photos:

Filling:

Mixed:

Pre-baked:

Roasted:

The End.

return from travels & vegfest photos

Alright! I’ve spent the past weekend resting, doing laundry, and catching up with my cats after two weeks traveling on the West Coast for my mysterious day job.  As much as I usually think Portland is the bees knees, and as much as I complain about having a day job, I’m grateful for my employment and the bonus opportunities to explore other cities (and play travel writer). Back to my point and purpose here – I was in town for just over 24 hours halfway between my journeys north and south, which fortunately, allowed me to attend Portland’s annual VegFest. I may not have had time to experience every single exhibitor booth or attend any glorious talks, but I did get to see countless smiling veg-faces and proudly table for Vegan Iron Chef’s big public, pin-dispensing debut.

Most of these photos were taken as Saturday was ending. Pretend people aren’t falling asleep at their booths and that there’s a never-ending stream of veg-happy and veg-curious folks, because there was!

Photo essay time:

My favorite on the show floor (you can’t deny it was mostly a trade show out there, and I say that fondly): So Delicious.

I can’t really think of any flashy new veg products I hadn’t seen before or that blew me away, so I’ll call my favorite as I see it – So Delicious Coconut Creamer. And well, they were one of a couple of vendors offering complimentary coffee, and as I was there all day with my own mug, I happily drank it. On top of that, I have a fond memory of my friend Melissa bringing me one of their coconut ice cream sandwiches…

Deanna works the NW Veg table. She does so much for the vegan community and it clearly loves her back.

Here’s dear, smiling Wendy: VegFest organizer and author of the Veg Food & Fit blog.  She’s tabling with a friend for her recent cookbook release, Scatter Vegan Sweets.

What to wear when you’re veg…besides Herbivore, of course.

The German Viana line. In the past, I found these very hit or miss for my taste buds – but after sampling most of them, I really dug the Doner Kebap and Veggie Cevapici.

Supreme Master:  Never disappointing. Just tired. We had the sweetest reporter from their channel, Youping, come with a small team to Vegan Iron Chef last year.

Lundberg: Where I learned that according to CNN’s Health reporters, Black Rice could be the new Brown Rice. Noted.

Chicago Soy Dairy bros. Mozzarella teese, I got your back.

Fair Trade Theo Chocolate Samples

Another favorite of the day – Soy Feta at Heidi Ho’s Organic Vegan Cheeses. Locally made & currently available at Jazzkats Coffee Bar.  They graciously donated a fruit & hazelnut cheese spread to a Portland talk my friend & fellow blogger Janessa (with a new domain!) and I did last month for Try Vegan Week.

VegFest super announcer and staple, bodybuilder and author, Robert Cheeke, signs those autographs

Hold onto your hearts, you crazy Daiya heads – Amy’s  Vegan Mac & Cheese.  I finally tried it and have to give a big ol’ Pass, but I get convenience. I get novelty.

Pull yourself together! One more Daiya shot to go… Now this pizza? I really get it.

Thai and True’s distributor’s stand tied with Chicago Soy Dairy for the stand I supported the most, financially. I picked up 4 small tubes of teese (on sale 2 for $5 – it really bothers me that I can only get teese at one store in town, albeit the great Food Fight!) and restocked on Yellow and Massaman curry paste. Locally made & VEGAN.

Don’t buy curry paste from a can. This is so much better (or make it!)

Another popular neighbor, naturally:

Portland <3 Kombucha

I overheard such interesting, varying comments from the folks stopping by the Gardein table. What do y’all think?

Out to Pasture Sanctuary.

I  know these are *just beans* , but they really are good beans! The Better Bean Company.

A big bowl of spices at the CuisineMentor table.

Photo evidence of the crowds, and that guy on the left eating.

Food vendors. Who’s been to Yummy Tummy? I keep hearing such positive things!

Red & Black, my favorite anarchist cafe-runners, tabled on Saturday.

Sengetera, selling Ethiopian veggie combos.

My girls at the Vegan Iron Chef table:

Day Over! Back to the real job.

Off to work, work, beaches, work, Costa Mesa, and a few days vacation for my first time in Los Angeles after this.

I have a geeky Stumptown Vegans review of this cafe below coming soon….

Juliet Burke, will you make me a Grilled Cheese?

Semi-Warning: LOST spoiler sensitive. Except it’s the final season, I’ve been watching since the Season 1, and if you’re not up to date – DUDE! Come back in a couple days!

Grilled Cheese with (new!) Teese Mozzarella and Tomato

Some days you just want a damn grilled cheese sandwich.

Some days you don’t.

Being held captive in a cell on Hydra Island could have something to do with it.  Wondering if your ex-wife was sleeping with your alcoholic, distant father prior to the divorce is another.  Contemplating the fugitive you have feelings for caged alongside the sexy con man outside is yet another…

Time for a Screwdriver, right?

Well, Grilled Cheeses have had a special place in my heart and stomach this past week.  Credit the Jackets and veganization.  Of course, there’s a thread for these shippers entitled “Grilled Cheese:  The Official Jack and Juliet Thread“. Very cute.  I may be a Suliet shipper (and a former Shayid shipper), but I like it.  I was going to dedicate this post to both Jack and Juliet, but I’m still screaming at Jack for you know what what what what, that could bring tears to my eyes right now. Entering Season 3, Juliet Burke was a character I disliked almost as much as Ana Lucia.  That is, until Not in Portland.

Please accept your Grilled Cashew Cheese with Tomato and bonus Pineapple Orange Screwdriver.  Please, Jack. Just take it.

Just let it go Jack. Take the Grilled Cheese.

This version has homemade cashew chickpea cheese inside, a variation of the Real Food Daily Cheddar recipe. By the way, if you’re a fan of Jack learning to live alone, however miserably he chooses (perhaps as Island protector?), are you a Screwdriver?  Or are you Jacob?

The inspiration:

LOST Images Credit ABC

Who knew they had rosemary on the island? I’m impressed.

The sight of these two is almost heart wrenching as watching Penny and Des. Almost. Maybe. A little tiny bit.

We have to go back! I think I have one more LOST meal up my sleeve this season.  Think “Namaste“, because I sure am. Always.

I decided long ago not to throw a LOST series finale party this year. It was a difficult decision.  One one hand, I really love themed parties and counting my rations, but on the other, I need to concentrate! During the show’s six year run, I’ve hosted weekly viewings and thrown both premiere and finale parties.  This year, I’ve been watching it for free on big screen at the Bagdad Theater – just what this epic season deserves.

Plus, big screen = less distraction when your friends swoon and cry and speculate  and “aw” over Hurley next to you.

If you’re throwing a party, head to Max Pictures right now and download your Dharma labels!

And might I suggest Kung Foodie’s spectacular Fish Biscuits?

More LOST! on Get Sconed!