Wow, this time of year sure gets away from you! I’ve finally wrapped up the manuscript for the second book in The Allergy-Free Cook series, so I am pleased that baking cakes and cookies is finished for a bit… except for the fact, of course, that it is the holidays and I’ll start baking again soon!
I absolutely love Christmas and the holiday season. This year, I’m finding it a little more difficult to dive into that holiday feeling considering it is still about 14 degrees outside. Though I love it for various reasons (running, primarily) it just doesn’t get me into that holiday mood. But then, come January when we have boatloads of snow, I’ll be thankful it was so mild for awhile!
I’ve been starting to get into the holiday mood by doing a little bit of planning, but haven’t went much further than that. I did buy a new ornament for a couple dollars the other day – does that count?
But what I have been doing is thinking about what to bake (even though my freezer is loaded with cookies and bars from cookbook testing), and planning on what to do for my Christmas Day meal.
Since I became a vegan and diagnosed with celiac disease years ago, I’ve made a healthy effort to recreate everything I “missed” so I would, well, no longer miss them! Perhaps I’m lucky in the sense that certain things that would never be to par to the original, I never really liked.
Angel food cake, for example, I don’t mind if there is no replacement for because it was never a favourite. And no, I don’t think there would be a suitable allergy-friendly replacement for something made with so many eggs. Yes, I think you could make something to stand in for it. No, it wouldn’t taste like it. There are about 10 things that would fall into this category (other than meat, of course).
One thing that falls into the category of replacements that work are variations of cheese. I definitely do not mean a cheese substitute that is completely the same. But dishes that usually rely on some sort of cheese can easily be done without it at all. Lasagna is one. And this “cheeseball” (or pate, since sometimes saying “cheese” to guests gets them all excited about something that will never come to fruition).
Something that does give a bit of “cheesy” flavor to dishes is nutritional yeast. If you’re a seasoned vegan, chances are you are pretty familiar with the product and its versatility. If you aren’t, well, here’s a little info. Basically, it’s an inactive yeast that is yellow in color and has a bit of a cheesy, nutty flavor. The is no texture as it pretty much dissolves on anything you use it on.
From a nutritional standpoint, it offers a dose of vitamin B12, which can generally lack in a vegan diet. B12 is important because it plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as helps keep our energy levels up to snuff .
I use nutritional yeast here and there, and like the flavor it adds to certain dishes. I have a pretty good variety of recipes on the site that use it, too.
My quiches and savory tarts use a couple tablespoons to impart that hint of cheesiness that is generally found in quiche or ricotta fillings (due, of course, to about 2 cups of cheese). And you can immediately see a benefit there. Whereas cheese doesn’t offer you much nutritionally (other than protein), nutritional yeast does AND you use a lot less. Excellent. Collards stuffed with ricotta take the same cue, as does some stuffed portabellos.
I also use it in my Baked Buttercup Macaroni and Twice Baked Stuffed Delicata Squash. Squash is the PERFECT companion for nutritional yeast! I make versions of the macaroni often. Last year when I was sick and in bed, I noshed on Tinkyada mixed with squash, nutritional yeast, and a bit of salt. Sounds weird but oh, so comforting. Good with potatoes, too, on a twist of my mom’s classic dill-cheese version.
And if you love pasta? It adds just the right touch to Fettucine Alfredo.
So in this dish that I tend to dole out around the holidays, it gives that cheesy flavor without the cheese. I am going to attempt to do a soy-free version this year, but am not sure what to replace the tofu with without making it ALL nuts or seeds. Any ideas?
Pecan-Crusted Cheeseball (Pate)
With a quick whirl in the food processor, you have an easy-to-prepare appetizer or snack that’s together in a snap. You can substitute your favourite nuts for the almonds and pecans.
1 cup almonds
1/2 package extra firm tofu, pressed of excess moisture
1/2 cup (24 g) nutritional yeast flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons (12 g) garlic powder
1 teaspoon (5 g) crushed thyme
1 teaspoon (5 g) dried oregano
Juice from half a lemon
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup (143 g) pecans, chopped into pieces
Place almonds in the food processor and whizz until finely ground. Add all remaining ingredients, except for pecans, and blend until smooth. Test for seasonings.
Spread chopped pecans onto a plate. Using your hands, form the almond/ tofu mixture into a ball, then roll in the pecans until coated. Wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. (Overnight is best; you can do all of the steps without the pecans, then do that about an hour before serving).