"Eat me!!!!"

Last night I cooked for colleagues. That isn’t the kicker, though.

Vegan dinner, guys. VEGAN.

People who claim that cooking a hearty, satisfying, and delicious vegan meal for a group of mostly non-vegans is no big deal are liars.  Fact is, vegan cooking requires an attention to detail that us animal product scarfers take for granted. Vegetarian cooking, now THAT is easy. But vegan cooking is an altogether different beast, and that’s mostly due to one critical omission: le fromage.

Long story short, cheese can fix anything. When you take fatty, flavourful dairy products out of your cooking equation, there’s very little margin for error. And when making dinner for five, and four of your party eat animals, you best have your bases covered. Lucky for me, the internet is bursting with recipes for me to co-opt and modify. Case in point: 

Red Stew on Polenta (inspired by the Post Punk Kitchen’s Rustic Winter Stew Over Polenta)

Red Stew:

Olive oil (a liberal pour)

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

A bunch of fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup green lentils

2 cups baby carrots

3 lbs plum tomatoes, chopped

5 cups vegetable broth

3 large yukon gold potatoes (well washed and diced into spoon-sized pieces)

3 leeks, white & light green parts only, in 1 inch chunks

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

For the polenta:

1/2 kg compressed precooked polenta (from a tube!)

1/2 vegetable bouillon cube

3/4 cups water

2 tablespoons vegan margarine (I recommend Earth Balance)

1/4 cup maple syrup

Salt to taste

To make the stew:

In a stockpot over low heat, cook the onion in olive oil until soft (5 mins or so). Add the garlic, thyme, celery seed, pepper and salt and let them hang out for a minute or two.

Add the lentils, baby carrots, tomatoes and vegetable broth. Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

Adding potatoes, leeks, and curry paste, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. Let sit for awhile on low heat (an hour is good). Serve on the polenta!

To make the polenta:

Combine everything in an adequately sized saucepan. Break up the polenta as best you can with a spoon; you may have to bust out a potato masher (or, in my case, the bottom of a clean glass) to really get the job done. Cook on medium-low heat until polenta is creamy and fluffyish.

Serves 5-7

Raw vegan chai cheesecake (very loosely inspired by the Post Punk Kitchen’s Raw Strawberry Cheesecake. Also by chai tea.)

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 pitted, chopped medjool dates

Filling

  • 3 cups raw cashew pieces, soaked for at least 3 hrs
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan with coconut oil and set aside.

To make the crust:

Pulse almonds, coconut, and salt in a food processor until they become crumbs. Add the dates and pulse until all are blended to a sticky crumbly clump. Press firmly into the pie pan and toss into the fridge.

To make the filling:

Pulse cashews in food processor until crumbly. Add maple syrup, water, lemon juice, vanilla, and spices. Once all are blended, gradually add the coconut oil and continue to blend until smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust. Cover with plastic wrap and throw into the fridge for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle cinnamon on top for presentation, then slice and serve.

Serves 15-20 (not even joking)

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