Vegan cream cheese frosting (no cream cheese required): a recipe

Cream cheese frosting, as a concept, is so far removed from cheese itself that it really only has a few attributes in common. Creamy? Yes. Tangy? Yes. Umami? No. Salty? No. Funky? Definitely not. Vegan cream cheese frosting, dare I say, is even further away.

So it never made sense to me to buy a pre-made vegan cream cheese to make cream cheese frosting. Can’t you replicate the qualities of a good cream cheese frosting without any…cheese, vegan or otherwise?

As it turns out, you can!

For my purposes, lemon juice is the secret ingredient. Adding just the right amount transforms a basic buttercream frosting into a tangy, cream-cheese-y, ready-for-carrot-cake delight.

I also like to use some coconut cream in my frosting to add richness in a different way than just vegan butter.

Check out my recipe below, and please let me know if you try it out!

Vegan cream cheese frosting

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream*
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (from about half a lemon, but definitely measure it)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-2.5 cups powdered sugar
  • If needed: A splash of plant milk

Instructions

  1. If you haven’t already, soften your butter by microwaving it at 50% power for 15 seconds at a time until soft to the touch.
  2. Combine your butter, coconut cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and mix with a hand or stand mixer until well-combined, smooth, and fluffy.
  3. Add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, and continue mixing until the frosting has reached your desired sweetness level and texture. (You want it to be soft enough to spread, and thick enough that it won’t fall of your cake once you frost it.)
  4. If your frosting is too stiff, you can add a splash of plant milk and re-blend. If it’s too runny, add more powdered sugar. If it’s not cheesy/tangy enough for you, you can add a little bit more lemon juice, but be careful! It’s a fine line between “cream cheese frosting” and “straight up lemon-flavored frosting,” and you can’t really go back from the latter.
  5. Ideally, cool/set it in the fridge for about 30 minutes before using it to frost a cake. Then, enjoy!

Notes

  • This recipe was adapted from Minimalist Baker‘s buttercream frosting.
  • *For coconut cream, you want the solid stuff in a can of coconut milk. Sometime these cans are already separated, but if not, you can stick it in the fridge the day before you’re going to use the coconut cream. Then, when you’re ready, open the can without shaking it and scoop out the solids. That’s coconut cream!
  • You could probably substitute more of vegan butter or coconut cream for each other in this recipe, if you have a preference for one of the other, but I haven’t tested the recipe this way. Let me know how it goes if you do, though!

Scrumptious maple-mustard vinaigrette: a recipe

This is probably my favorite salad dressing—and I don’t even eat that much salad!

It’s inspired by the Love & Magic dressing at SweetArt, an incredible vegan restaurant and bakery in St. Louis. I went to college in St. Louis and whenever I needed a pick-me-up treat, I biked to SweetArt and got myself a cupcake (only $2 on Wednesdays!). When I wanted to be a bit more nutritionally responsible, I indulged in their burger—still the best veggie burger I’ve had to date—and a side of the kale salad with Love & Magic dressing.

I was obsessed with figuring out the secret to their dressing, and I never did, until a couple years ago when a Thanksgiving recipe called on me to make a marinade with maple syrup and Dijon mustard. I tasted it and it was delicious…and it reminded me of that elusive, magical dressing. Since then I’ve honed in on a recipe that may not contain all the same Love & Magic as SweetArt’s, but it’s still pretty damn great.

Tl;dr: Make this dressing, and whenever you’re in St. Louis, get a burger, a salad, and a cupcake from SweetArt—you’ll be glad you did.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1.5 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • Black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a jar, combine all ingredients. Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Taste the dressing and if desired, add a bit more maple syrup for sweetness, vinegar for acidity, mustard for tang, or soy sauce for saltiness/depth of flavor. Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from this one from the Food Network.

Really good greens: a recipe

If you or a loved one blanch at the mere mention of kale, you may be entitled to this recipe for Really Good Greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch lacinato kale (or other dark leafy green)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced into thin rings
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 0.5 tsp vegan chicken-flavored bouillon paste (I use Better than Bouillon No-Chicken Base)
  • Black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash your greens and tear or chop them into roughly bite-sized pieces.
  2. Heat a large, tall-sided pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then add shallot. Once shallot is softened, about 3-4 minutes, add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 more minute.
  3. Add chopped kale to the pan and top with soy sauce and bouillon paste. Mix to combine, and keep over medium heat until kale has wilted and bouillon paste has completely dissolved. (If you prefer your greens more saucy, place a lid on the pot while the kale wilts; otherwise, leave it uncovered.)
  4. Once kale is wilted, add black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Spring ephemerals (ramps!) and hearty pantry staples: a recipe

In the gentle slopes of the Appalachian mountains, spring is synonymous with ramp season. Or at least a small sliver of it, anyway—these cheery yellow-green leaves spring up from the forest floor for just about a month. Their impermanence makes them feel special. But due to overharvesting, slow-growing ramps may become elusive in a more permanent way. It’s important to treat these special plants like the special treat that they are. Here is a great resource for ramp identification and sustainable harvesting. Enjoy responsibly.

A friend clued me in to a patch of ramps growing by a nearby pond, and I made the trek to grab a few leaves. I’ve made ramp pesto before, which is delicious, but this year I decided to blend them into a creamy sauce with some white beans I had in the pantry. The light, savory ramp flavor shines through here, with just a few other ingredients to round out the sauce.

RAMPS! just the leaves, of course.

I used sweet potato “noodles” for no reason other than that I was out of pasta and didn’t want to make a special trip to the store, but I’m sure regular wheat pasta would be just as delicious, if not more so (shh, don’t tell sweet potatoes, one of my great loves, that they just don’t hold a candle in this form to the original). Kale was the green veg I had on hand, but if I made this again, I would probably roast up some broccoli instead. Basically, the star of this recipe is the ramp sauce, and the supporting elements are pretty much interchangeable.

Please let me know if you make this recipe, and I hope you enjoy. Happy ramping!

Sweet potato noodles with creamy ramp sauce and crispy kale (vegan)

  • Serves: 4
  • Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (~1.25 lb.)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch red kale, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1 pack Field Roast apple sage vegan sausages

For the ramp sauce:

  • 1 handful sustainably foraged ramp leaves
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions

  1. Spiralize sweet potatoes. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a regular vegetable peeler to create fettuccine-like strips.
  2. Wash and roughly chop the ramp leaves and peel and crush the garlic clove. Sauté the ramps and garlic in 1 tsp olive oil on low-medium heat until fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the ramps and garlic to a blender along with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth, adding more water if you want a thinner sauce.
  4. If needed, add another tsp olive oil to the same pan. Cook chopped veggie sausage (if using) for ~3 min. on each side until browned. Then, add kale, salt, & pepper and cook for several more minutes until kale is wilted and crispy in places. Transfer to a bowl.
  5. In the same pan, sauté the sweet potato noodles (swoodles? let’s go with it) on medium heat, adding a bit more oil or water as needed to keep them from sticking to the pan. After 3 minutes or so, cover the pan to steam the swoodles until al dente, about 6-7 minutes total.
  6. Add sauce, kale, and veggie sausage to the swoodles and cook on low heat until sauce is heated through. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • The sweet potato noodles can get soggy if they are left saucy for too long, so if you’re saving some of this recipe for later, keep the uncooked sweet potato noodles separate from the sauce and saute+ combine them immediately before eating.
  • Recipe somewhat inspired by this one from Minimalist Baker.

Quarantine pasta lunch: a recipe

Hello! Hope you are well in these strange times. I just made this dish for lunch by throwing together some bits and bobs that I had lying around from other recipes, and I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. Pasta is my favorite comfort food, and it’s always fun to find a new and quick way to prepare it. This one utilizes tofu feta, for which I just posted a recipe that you should also check out. 🙂

Vegan tomato-basil-feta pasta

  • Serves: 2
  • Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. fusilli or other pasta of choice
  • 1 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste*
  • 1-2 large cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • a few handfuls spinach
  • 3 Tbsp tofu feta
  • several leaves fresh basil
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
  • Optional: cooked chickpeas or veggie sausage (I love Field Roast)

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, mince garlic and roughly chop or tear spinach and basil.
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add vegan butter.
  4. Once the butter is melted, add tomato paste and garlic to the skillet. Fry for a couple minutes or until fragrant.
  5. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. If using red pepper, chickpeas, or veggie sausage, add ’em at this point and saute for a couple more minutes.
  6. Add spinach and pasta water (starting with 2/3 cup and adding more if needed) to the skillet. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste into the pasta water until a smooth sauce forms.
  7. Add cooked, drained pasta to the sauce (or vice versa) and stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
  8. Divide pasta into two servings and top each with fresh basil and tofu feta. Enjoy!

Notes

*This pasta is also great with a chopped fresh tomato instead of tomato paste and just a splash of pasta water, which forms less of a sauce and more of a juicy, fresh tomato-y delight. Try it both ways!

The best tofu feta: a recipe

I should maybe stop adding “: a recipe” to the end of my recipe posts, huh? Maybe there’s a better system?

Anyway, this is the best (in my humble opinion) tofu feta recipe! I’ve shared it quite a few times on my Instagram stories, but now I’m immortalizing it on my blog. The texture of tofu is not quite the same as that of feta, but the flavor is perfect: creamy, cheesy, tangy, salty, herby. What’s not to love?

This feta is super quick to prepare, but it does require chilling in the fridge for 24 hours. That wait time is not optional—it makes the feta immeasurably more delicious once all the flavors have had ample time to mingle and infuse into the tofu. Patience is a virtue!

Use this recipe to top pastas, salads, roasted vegetables…it makes pretty much anything more delicious.

Again…I’m really not a photographer. But trust me, this stuff is delicious!

My best tofu feta

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 25 hours (but only 15 minutes active prep)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • juice of 1 lemon (~2 Tbsp)
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Optional: fresh basil or sun-dried tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Press your tofu: drain the excess liquid from the tofu package, then wrap the block in a clean kitchen towel. Sandwich it between two cutting boards/baking pans/other flat kitchen tools and place several heavy cans or cookbooks on top to squeeze out excess moisture. This improves the tofu’s ability to absorb the feta flavors. Press for 20 minutes.
  2. Once pressed, use your fingers or a fork to crumble the tofu into smallish chunks in a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the tofu and mix well to combine. Then, sample it. The flavors will develop while it’s chilling, but at this point you can add more of whatever you feel might be lacking: nutritional yeast for cheesiness, lemon juice or ACV for tanginess, etc.
  4. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
  5. Enjoy! Some optional add-ins to make it even more delicious: Fresh basil or sun-dried tomatoes.

My best vegan mac & cheese: a recipe!

I’m comin’ at ya with another recipe post! This is the vegan mac & cheese that I make at least once a month. Is there any more quintessential comfort food than mac & cheese? I DON’T THINK SO. Anyway, I’m writing this post late at night from my self-isolation and if I keep writing I’m going to get pretty loopy, so I’m just going to move on to the recipe. (Bonus: You should have most, if not all, of these ingredients in your pantry right now! :)) (Another bonus: This mac & cheese is whole-heartedly omnivore approved. Though it doesn’t taste exactly like traditional mac, it’s very delicious in its own way.)

Important note: This recipe was very much inspired by/based on the VegNews Best Ever Vegan Macaroni & Cheese, but I’ve adapted it enough that I feel OK with claiming it as my own. Still, I would be nowhere without this OG inspiration! (And by “nowhere” I mean eating subpar vegan mac & cheese. No thank you.)

Let’s be honest: my food photography skills are not great. I assure you, this mac & cheese tastes better than it looks!

My best vegan mac & cheese

  • Serves: 4-6 (depending on how much you eat……)
  • Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. small pasta (I suggest macaroni, obvi, but you do you)
  • 2 cups potatoes, chopped (~ 1 medium or 2 small potatoes)
  • 1 scant cup onion, chopped (~ half an onion)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped (~ 1-2 carrots)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil (I use canola or coconut)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (juice of ~ 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Smoked paprika (a few shakes, for smoky flavor)
  • Optional: Turmeric (a pinch, just for color)
  • Optional: 3 cups broccoli, chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add your pasta and cook according to package directions.
    • If using broccoli: Add the chopped broccoli to the boiling pasta when you have ~ 4 minutes left to cook it.
  2. While pasta water is boiling, chop your vegetables and add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic to a medium pot with 2 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are fork-tender.
  3. While the vegetables and pasta are boiling, add the remaining ingredients (cashews, vegan butter, oil, mustard, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and optional spices) to a high-speed blender.
  4. When the vegetables are tender, add them + the water they cooked in to the other ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Sample the cheesy sauce and adjust, adding more salt, pepper, etc. to taste, then blend again. (You can also add cayenne, red pepper flake, or other spices at this stage, but I figured if you’re going to do that, I don’t need to tell you to do it. Ya know?)
  6. Combine your luscious sauce with the drained pasta (and broccoli, if using) until it’s evenly coated. Serve with a protein, like Field Roast sausages or smoky tempeh. Bon appetit!

Recipe notes

This recipe is pretty forgiving and tastes delicious in every iteration! With that said, here are a few substitutions you can make as needed.

  • If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you should soften the cashews (soak them in hot water for a few hours or boil them for 20 minutes) before adding them to the regular blender. If you only have a small, smoothie-sized blender, you can make the sauce in batches (with some of the vegetables & water in each) and stir them together at the end.
  • The vegan butter & oil can be swapped for other fats in whatever proportions you have on hand. My happy medium is half-solid at room temp (butter) and half-liquid (oil), but feel free to switch it up.
  • Also, if you’d like to lower the oil content in this dish, you can reduce the oil and butter to 1/4 cup each and/or swap some of them for more cashews. The sauce just won’t be quiiiite as creamy. Add a splash of water if needed to thin out the sauce.
  • If you don’t have lemon juice on hand, you can use apple cider vinegar instead. I prefer the lemon, but ACV will do the trick as well to add a cheesy tang.
  • I haven’t tried this, but it occurs to me that you could substitute cauliflower for the potato for a lower-carb option. I might have to test this substitution next time…stay tuned!

Please let me know if you make this recipe or if you have any questions about it. Hope you enjoy!