Parmesan Cheese Topping

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Herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores alike know that any plain or dull meal can be made amazing with a little sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. You know the kind, in the green plastic container that you shake, and shake, and shake. I used to be exactly like that, shaking piles of the stuff over pasta, vegetables, or whatever else needed a little kick. But what kind of chemicals, animal parts, and other unhealthy granules was I adding into my food?

I haven’t found the answer to that, but what I have found is an easier solution: make vegan Parmesan cheese topping. It’s easy and incredibly delicious, and comes from Veggiful.com. Try it, you’ll fall in love with it as quickly as I did.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt

A few notes about these ingredients: first of all, cashews may seem like an expensive product if you buy them in small portions, but if you buy in bulk they can be very economical. Just freeze any cashews you don’t use and they’ll keep perfectly until you need them again. I use tons of cashews in the recipes I make, so I always have cashews stored in the freezer.

Secondly, what the heck are nutritional yeast flakes? If you’re asking yourself that question, you’re just like me, when I first encountered “nooch”, as the internet fondly calls these yellowish flakes. In short, nooch is a deactivated yeast that grows on molasses and is the ONLY vegan source of Vitamin B12. Plus, it has a distinctly cheesy flavor, meaning it is in a majority of vegan cheese recipes. Therefore, it’s natural, healthy, and super delicious.

Now, as for the preparation: blend together in a food processor. Yes, it’s that easy. You don’t want to completely grind the cashews, but you want to blend until you almost have a powder, with some cashew bits still visible. It should look something like this:

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And that’s it. Store in the refrigerator and use to top anything you would top with Parmesan cheese, such as pasta or vegetables. And feel proud of yourself because you made it from scratch. Enjoy!

Artichokes: Hidden Simplicity

Artichokes look complicated. They’re bulky green globes with dangerous, spiky leaves and a foot-long stem. At first sight, an artichoke seems incredibly difficult to handle. So too does the lifestyle of making your food from scratch. From the outside, it seems nearly impossible, and in this day in age, it is not necessary whatsoever. But it is my opinion, an opinion that has evolved over quite some time and through countless failed and successful recipes, that the benefits of making your food from scratch are exponential. Such a lifestyle is incredibly good for your health, for the environment, and even for your wallet.

And why vegan? Well that’s easy for me to say now, although it wasn’t at the start. The environment is deteriorating quickly, and we humans are making it worse by farming Earth’s creatures at a rate that the planet cannot keep up with. Choosing a vegan lifestyle can mean giving back to the Earth that works so hard to keep us alive.

There are a thousand paths individuals take to a plant-based diet, and none is better or worse than the next. Mine was driven by one goal: to take back control of the choices I make when I eat. Prepared foods made by someone else have countless unknown ingredients in them, and I was consuming foods, chemicals, and parts of animals that I did not know the origin of nor did I want to know.

A vegan lifestyle seems difficult at first, but I heartily believe that if you choose to cook your own food from scratch ingredients, it can be an exciting adventure that will thrill you beyond your imagination. And so, just as cooking vegan from scratch may seem difficult, so too does cooking an artichoke. I’m here to prove that wrong.

Roasted Artichoke

Ingredients

  • One large artichoke
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Hold the artichoke by it’s stem and with a large, sharp knife, cut the top 1/3 of the artichoke off. This part of the artichoke, the pointy ends of the leaves, is completly inedible, so cut without worry. Then, cut the stem of the artichoke off leaving only enough to balance the artichoke facing up, with the purplish leaves inside visible from the top.

With your hands (carefully, in case their are any remaining spiky edges), pull at the leaves so they separate slightly. Then stuff two or three garlic cloves (I prefer three, because garlic is delicious and oh so nutritious!) directly into the center of the purplish leaves. They will stick out a tad, this is perfectly fine.

Next, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil on the aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet. Then put the artichoke, garlic side up, in the center of the foil. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the artichoke itself. Drizzle all of the lemon juice and the salt over the artichoke and garlic. Don’t worry if you make a bit of a mess, it will all be wrapped up in the next step.

Wrap the aluminum foil up and around the artichoke, so it is completely covered. Put the artichoke in the oven and do the dishes (oh wait, there are none, except for the knife and cutting board) for the next hour and fifteen minutes. When your timer goes off or you can’t stand waiting any longer for artichoke-deliciousness, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully–there is extremely hot steam trapped inside–unwrap the foil. The artichoke should look wonderfully roasted and is ready to eat in it’s current state. If this is how you want to enjoy your artichoke, simply remove to a plate and consume.

However, you’ll notice that at the bottom of your foil is a little puddle of oil, lemon, and artichoke juices. I find this liquid amazingly flavorful, and after putting the artichoke on my plate I pour these juices over the leaves for an extra kick. Be warned–this makes your artichoke a bit oilier than before, so have napkins prepared.

If you’ve never eaten an artichoke before, the consumption process may seem a bit strange. But it’s quite simple–pull a leaf from the plant and drag the inside of leaf along your bottom teeth, allowing you to consume all the “meat” of the plant but without actually eating the leaf itself. The outer shell of the leaves are mostly inedible in this state, so you just want the insides anyway. Finally, when you get to the smallest of leaves, use a fork or knife to scrape the “hairs” from the heart of the artichoke and then eat the heart itself. The outer pieces of the stem are edible as well, however they are a bit bitter.

Finally, feel incredibly proud of yourself for cooking your meal from scratch. It was delicious, easy, and guess what? You’re just getting started.