Cultured Creamy Cashew Spread

Cashews are one of my favorite fats to use during a fast. Of course they’re great to use any day of the year, but I’m especially happy to have cashew-based dairy substitutes on oil free days since most store bought products contain added oil. This Creamy Cashew Spread is currently in heavy rotation on my breakfast menu, it’s perfect to use instead of cream cheese on bagels or toast. It also makes a great dip for veggies, and I used it to dot vegan mac n cheese for extra cheesiness, with great results!

Cultured Creamy Cashew Spread | Orthodox and Vegan
I used homemade coconut yogurt for extra flavor. You don’t *have* to use it, but I highly recommend it. If you skip this ingredient you will just need to add a little extra water, but it won’t have quite the same flavor, and may not thicken up as well (although you could leave it to drip in a nut milk bag while it ferments to help it firm up better).

Cultured Creamy Cashew Spread | Orthodox and Vegan
Cultured Creamy Cashew Spread
2 C raw cashews*
1 C water
1/4 C Cultured Coconut Yogurt
1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste**
2 probiotic capsules, contents of

Add first four ingredients to blender (salt starting at 1 tsp, and adding another 1/4 tsp at a time as needed), and blend until smooth. Open probiotic capsules and empty contents into the cream, blending again to incorporate. Place the cashew cream in a sterile glass jar, and fasten cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar with string or a rubber band. Let it sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, then replace cheesecloth with a tight fitting lid and store in the fridge for 1 – 2 weeks. The spread will get a little thicker after a day or two in the fridge.

It is normal for a skin to form on top during fermentation – and it is totally edible! However, if you do happen to see mold appear or if the spread gets an “off” smell, dump it and start over.

Note: 2 teaspoons of salt is quite salty, but I love it this way on my German fitness bread. It’s probably best not to put in 2 tsp all at once, though.

*Soaking the cashews will make them softer for blending, and also help make certain nutrients more easily absorbed. You can soak them for 30 minutes to overnight in the fridge, then drain & rinse before using. I have been known to skip this step completely when I didn’t bother to plan ahead.

**Iodized salts and salts containing anti-caking agents should be avoided when fermenting foods.

Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowl

As promised, here’s a follow up to the Basic Chia Pudding recipe I shared yesterday. Plain chia pudding is extremely versatile, this is just to give you a little inspiration for your own Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowl. Of course you can always divide your pudding into handy little jars, but if you have some time to relax over breakfast at home, I recommend starting your day with a little extra beauty.

Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowl | Orthodox and Vegan
Pomegranate Blueberry Breakfast Bowl
1 C Basic Chia Pudding
2-3 tsp maple syrup (or to taste)
-sliced almonds
-finely shredded coconut
-blueberries
-pomegranate molasses*

In your serving bowl, stir the maple syrup into the chia pudding. Add toppings in a lovely way that is pleasing to the eye. Look at the beautiful work of art you created and, if the lighting is right, take a picture for Instagram (remember not to use the flash!). Now that you’ve made a record of this masterpiece, you will need to destroy it. I recommend stirring everything together – it won’t look pretty, but it will taste delicious!

*You can normally find pomegranate molasses for a reasonable price at Middle Eastern markets. If it isn’t sold in a store near you, there are multiple brands sold on Amazon.

You may also enjoy this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Chia Pudding Parfait by Real Food Whole Life.

How will you top your chia pudding bowl?

Cultured Coconut Yogurt

Friends, I have been experimenting with fermented foods lately, and I’m having a great time. I’ve been using inexpensive probiotic capsules to get things started – seriously, the cheapest vegan capsules I could find, with the lowest count – and also using the resulting fermented products as starters for other projects. I had one really big failure (turns out almond milk + pea protein smells like death when fermented), and some awesome successes. I count this simple Cultured Coconut Yogurt a success.

Honestly, I’m not so sure this DIY is any cheaper than what you can buy at the store, but the taste is totally different. You can experiment with the texture/thickness by combining coconut cream and coconut milk (or even just using all coconut milk), but I prefer the extra thick, creamy coconut cream. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s full fat as that’s what will work best.

The yogurt starts out a little on the thin side, but will thicken up nicely after it chills in the fridge. I found the taste also matured slightly in the fridge, and I prefer it after it sits a couple days…although I will still start to eat it right after it chills.

Easy Cultured Coconut Yogurt | Orthodox and Vegan
Cultured Coconut Yogurt
1-2 14oz cans coconut cream*
2 vegan probiotic capsules, contents of

Scoop coconut cream into a sterile glass jar, liquid included (the number of cans you use simply depends on the size of the batch you’d like to make). Open probiotic capsules and empty contents into coconut cream, whisk to combine. Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth fastened with string or a rubber band. Leave at room temperature for two to three days, until desired taste is achieved.
*The cans of coconut cream will probably not be exactly 14oz, and that’s okay.

The coconut yogurt should smell like traditional yogurt. If it smells off or looks discolored, DO NOT EAT IT! I haven’t had this happen yet, other than the pea protein incident, but just be aware.

When you’re ready to stop fermenting the yogurt, replace the cheesecloth with a lid and store the jar in the fridge. It should keep for at least week, mine has lasted much longer – just keep an eye on it for mold, and a nose on it for smells 🙂

Enjoy your yogurt on its own, or with fruit, or in a parfait. You may wish to sweeten it with maple syrup or agave nectar, or flavor it with vanilla or lemon. Or leave it plain and use it to make tzatziki or other yogurt sauces. Or, you know, just use it wherever you might use yogurt.

What will you do with yours?

Basic Chia Pudding

Ch-ch-ch-chia! Ch-ch-ch… Chia Pudding?! YES, these are the very same seeds you may have used to sprout “fur” on your Chia Ram, or a beard on Chia Abe Lincoln, and believe it or not chia seeds are an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. The gelatinous coating that makes them stick to our Chia Pets is what helps them turn milks into pudding – they also make a great substitutes for eggs in many baked goods!

The best part is you can let the chia seeds do their thing in the fridge overnight, and wake up to pudding in the morning 😀 It’s easy to make a big batch of chia pudding and have your breakfast for the week. I like to do a plain unsweetened version that I can modify, so I can have something a little different each day.

Easy Vegan Chia Pudding | Orthodox and Vegan
Basic Chia Pudding
For One Serving
3 Tbsp chia seeds
1 C unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk (almond is my favorite)

Whisk ingredients to combine, add milk first and then the seeds. Seal your container of choice (I prefer a glass jar) and, if possible, place in the fridge overnight – the seeds will start to gel after about 20 minutes, though, if you’re in a hurry.
Once the pudding has set, give it a stir and add more milk a little at a time as/if needed.

If you want to prep for the week, simply multiply the ingredients using 3 Tbsp of seeds for every one cup of milk.

Suggestions

Sweeten to Taste With…
-Maple Syrup
-Date Paste
-Fruit Puree
-Agave Nectar

Flavor With…
-Cinnamon
-Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend
-Chai Spice Blend
-Fruit Syrups
-Fruit Butters (such as apple or pumpkin)

Bulk it Up With…
-Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
-Nuts & Seeds
-Granola
-Fruit or Berries

I’ll be sharing one of my favorite chia pudding breakfast bowls soon! What’s your favorite way to enjoy chia pudding?

What I Ate Wednesday: Nu Thai Bistro

Yesterday was the three year anniversary of my stepfather’s passing, so my mom took the day off from work and we had dinner together that evening. In the past we’ve gone to Stella’s, which was one of their favorite hangouts. This year she wanted me to try a restaurant they used to frequent, Nu Thai Bistro. At first I wasn’t sure because I wanted to stuff my face with fried food, but then I remembered: Spring Rolls!!!

One cool thing about Nu Thai Bistro is they were willing to veganize some of the dishes for us (maybe all of them, but we only asked about a few :)). We started with Tom Kha soup without the fish sauce.

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The soup is made with coconut milk and hot & sour broth, plus lots of veggies, and served in this cool bowl over a flame – click the picture to see the soup bubbling!

Nu Thai Bistro Grand Rapids, Steamed Vegetable Spring Rolls | Orthodox and Vegan
Next, mom went healthy and got the Steamed Vegetable Spring Rolls filled with steamed Thai noodles, carrots, string beans, bean sprouts, lettuce, and basil.

Nu Thai Bistro Grand Rapids, Fried Vegetable Spring Roll | Orthodox and Vegan
I got my fried food fix with the crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls with clear rice noodles, carrots and cabbage. Both appetizers were served with a delicious sweet & sour sauce.

Nu Thai Bistro Grand Rapids, Pad Ped | Orthodox and Vegan
Mom ordered her favorite, Pad Ped, made with red and green peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, onions and coconut milk in a red curry sauce, served with rice.

Nu Thai Bistro Grand Rapids, Peanut Curry Noodle | Orthodox and Vegan
I went for extra protein with the Peanut Curry Noodle: rice noodles with tofu, white onions, green and red peppers, and Thai curry sauce with coconut milk and peanut sauce.

I’m sorry to say we were too full for dessert, but happy to tell you the Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk is vegan! I may stop in to Nu Thai Bistro some time just for Jasmine tea and dessert.

What’s your favorite vegan Thai dish?

Venerable Cosmas the Desert Dweller

On September 22 in the Holy Orthodox Church we commemorate the Venerable Saint Cosmas, the Desert Dweller, who reposed in the year 1323.

St. Cosmas the Desert Dweller | Orthodox and Vegan

“Saint Cosmas came from Bulgaria where his devout parents provided him with a good education in Slavonic and Greek. They wanted him to marry but he was drawn by the love of Christ and, unknown to them, made his way to the Holy Mountain of Athos to become a monk at the Bulgarian monastery of Zographou. On the feast of the Annunciation at the Monastery of Vatopedi, he saw a woman among those serving in the Church and in the refectory, and he was grieved at first to observe this breach of the monastic rule, but overjoyed when he realized that it was the Mother of God who had appeared to him in this way.

He was clothed in the holy angelic Habit and, after some time, was ordained priest. One day, as he was praying before the icon of the Mother of God, asking her with tears how to achieve his salvation, he heard a voice saying, ‘Let my servant withdraw to the desert outside the monastery.’ He was obedient to the will of God and, with the blessing of his Abbot, lived in silence from then on. Some years later, he was found worthy of the grace of discernment of thoughts and of beholding things happening elsewhere, as well as of other spiritual gifts. In the course of many years, he was the spiritual helper of a great number of monks.

St. Cosmas the Desert Dweller, Zographou Monastery on Athos | Orthodox and Vegan

The monastery of Zographou on Mt. Athos, where St. Cosmas once lived, is still in use today.

At the end of his life, Christ appeared to him saying that he would shortly have a great trial to endure from the Devil. Indeed, the prince of demons made his appearance next day with a host of his servants bewailing and bemoaning their inability to annihilate their great enemy Cosmas, who had held them in check for so long and gained possession, by his virtue, of the throne in Heaven that had once been Lucifer’s. Taking a heavy stick, the demon beat the Saint so violently that he left him half-dead.

Saint Cosmas died in peace two days later, on 22 September 1323. When the fathers came from the monastery to bury him, the wild animals gathered around. They kept silent until the end of the service, but howled unusually loud as his body was covered with earth. Then having paid their respects, they made off into the wilderness. Forty days later, the monks came to take up the body of Saint Cosmas and translate it to the monastery, but it was no longer in the grave. Where it now is God alone knows.”

Sweet Potato Flatbread Gluten Free, Grain Free

For various reasons, I’ve been experimenting with gluten free recipes lately. In this case, I needed something to go with my Ethiopian food since the injera (a kind made with a blend of flours, not just teff) hasn’t been sitting well with my tummy. I ended up with a Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread that comes out looking somewhat like an orange pancake, although you can make it any shape you want. It went perfectly with my Ethiopian veggie combo, and would also taste great with curry.

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread | Orthodox and VeganThe batter is thin enough to scoop, but not as thin as pancake batter

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread | Orthodox and VeganUsing the back of a spoon, you can spread the flatbread batter into whatever shape your little heart desires.

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread | Orthodox and Vegan
Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread
1 med Sweet Potato, that has been baked/nuked, peeled, and mashed
2/3 C chickpea flour*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic
3/4 C water

In a medium bowl, combine first four ingredients. Mix in the water 1/4 cup at a time. Once combined, scoop batter into a non-stick skillet over medium heat and quickly spread into whatever shape you want using the back of a spoon – you’ll need a light touch. I used a 1/4 C to scoop, but you can use however much you want as long as you have room in the pan to spread the batter to 1/8″.
Cook the flatbread for about 3 minutes, or until it is firm enough to flip. You’ll need to start by gently slipping the spatula under the bread and loosening it around the edges. Once flipped, cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove flatbread to a plate, and allow to cool completely.
Makes 6 flatbreads when using a 1/4 C scoop.

*Chickpea flour may also be labeled gram, besan, or garbanzo bean flour. You can normally find it at a reasonable price in Indian or Middle Eastern markets, although it is available for slightly more on Amazon. It has a bitter taste until it has been cooked through, so you’ll not want to sample the batter uncooked.

I tried the sweet potato flatbread at various times to see when it had the best flavor. I preferred it after it had cooled completely and sat covered at room temp for a few hours (I made them before work, and ate some when I got home). They were also good right away after cooling, just not quite as good.

What will you do with your Sweet Potato Flatbread?

Vegan Q&A: Would a Vegan Eat Cultured Meat?

Would Vegans Eat Cultured Meat | Orthodox and Vegan

Photo Courtesy of james-mcwilliams.com

Hey Friends! Today’s Q&A question is another one I received via the Orthodox and Vegan Facebook page. Would vegans eat cultured (lab-created) meat?

Cultured meat is meat grown in cell cultures instead of in animals. So basically, cells are taken from actual animals, and then grown in labs. Since only a small amount of cells is needed, the popularization of cultured meat could mean the end of factory farming. The following is part of a Twitter DM conversation I had with Hampton Creek:

In regards to the attached questions, producing clean meat does not require any animal-derived inputs beyond the initial animal cells which can come from, for example, a single feather from a chicken roaming free in a sanctuary or a single egg laid by that chicken. The cells can grow by being nourished with plant-based nutrients, and can in principle continue growing indefinitely without the need for any additional animal-derived inputs. Our goal is to produce meat and seafood that is sustainable and eliminates the need to confine or slaughter any animals.

So would vegans eat cultured meat? Since by definition vegans avoid, “as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food”, and because the meat is created by taking cells from animals, as Simon Cowell would say, It’s a No. Also, just because Hampton Creek uses an example of the animals being kept in sanctuaries, that won’t necessarily be the case. I do think if there’s proof the animals are well cared for, some people would stop being vegan to make use of these products, especially those who identify as vegan but are simply on a plant-based diet. Cultured meat can be produced without growth hormones or antibiotics. It’s also possible the lab-created meats could be made to contain significantly less saturated fat.

It’s also estimated the land needed to produce meat would be reduced by 99%(!!!). The amount of associated water needed could be reduced by 90%, not to mention a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is good, and (again, if the animals are treated well) something most vegans will be happy about and support to some degree, even if we don’t support the product financially by purchasing it for consumption.

It should probably also be noted that most ethical vegans are pretty grossed out by the idea of eating flesh, which this will still be. Maybe some other vegans can chime in below in the comments. What do you all think??