Recipe Review: Mushroom gravy

I love potatoes! And I love gravy because it helps me eat potatoes! Being able to make a fantastic, rich, hearty, vegan, oil-free gravy was initially a worry for me. I thought it would be difficult to get something that wasn’t a bit insipid without using some sort of fat. Turns out, it’s fabulously easy to make a lovely, satisfying gravy. I tried out a number of different recipes, and here is my absolute favorite…

I adapted this recipe from one I found in the NYTimes Cooking section. The original recipe, though, starts out with 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil. Wow – that’s a lot of oil, and it’s completely unnecessary because, as I’ve discovered, the oil is NOT the flavor foundation. It’s caramelization! For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s when you cook something until the sugars come out and convert into a sweet brown sauce, like syrup. Many cooks will add a sugar source, like honey, to onions when caramelizing them but that only adds extra sweetness – there’s enough natural sugar in the onions (and pretty much any other vegetable) for them to caramelize without the help of external sugar sources. So, that’s what we’re going to do with our gravy, and then we’re going to balance it with soy sauce, and it’s going to be amazing. Try it out!

One more note before we begin: bouillon! Having an excellent bouillon is going to really make your gravy stand out. I make my own in large batches and freeze it. It’s salt-free, but loaded with herbs & spices, and I use the scraps from all the vegetables I cook. I just throw them in a bag in the freezer to keep until I’m ready to make my next batch. Because this recipe uses soy sauce, you should try to find a salt-free vegetable bouillon if you don’t make your own.

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Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion (about 110 g), very finely diced
  • 4 oz (120 g), or 1 c very finely diced mushrooms
  • 3 T arrowroot starch or 1/2 c (65 g) flour
  • 4 – 5 c bouillon (depending on how thick you want it)
  • 1 T soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Cooking Instructions
  1. Sauté the onions & mushrooms in a large pan until nicely caramelized.
  2. Mix in thickening agent and cook for a further 3 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Slowly whisk in bouillon until the gravy is smooth and starting to thicken.
  4. Stir in soy sauce/tamari & pepper, and simmer until the gravy has reached the desired thickness.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s so malleable. You can use whatever kind of mushrooms you want, to get exactly the flavor that you’ll enjoy the most – if you love cèpes, use them; if you love porcini, use them. Hell, if you can afford Périgord black truffles, and this is how you want to use them, go for it. But plain white mushrooms give it a great flavor, and they’re inexpensive.

You can also use whatever thickening agent works best for you, and play around with the amounts a little bit. If it gets too thick, just add a little more bouillon – easy enough.

Finally, if you like chunky gravy, like I do, serve it as-is. If not, just pass the mixture through a sieve before serving.

Nutrition Information

First – ignore the sodium content if you’re using a homemade salt-free bouillon. I generated the nutrition info using cronometer. They don’t have homemade salt-free bouillon in their food list, for rather obvious reasons. I selected low-sodium vegetable bouillon. (And, frankly, I’m left wondering what they think “low” means.)Mushroom gravy nutrition info

As this is just a gravy, we’re not going to be getting a whole lot of our checklist items taken care of, but that’s not the point here. In order to get all those lovely veggies and grains, we need some good sauces to help them go down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe Review: The Best Damn Vegan Sour Cream

The Quintessential Vegan Cream.

This stuff is absolutely amazing. It takes me 5 minutes to make. I’ve used it to replace sour cream, crème fraîche, mayonnaise, and cooking cream in dishes as diverse as tarts, cole slaw, and burritos. You can even use it in sweets. It serves as a base to which you can add any other flavors you’d like. The best part? It’s a delicious way to get your daily serving of nuts.

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It is, as advertised, The Best Damn Vegan Sour Cream. I use the recipe exactly as described by Savanna at Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry. This is the first recipe review in which I don’t recommend any changes. I even find the amount of salt to be appropriate. I tried adding more nutritional yeast once because I love it, and it just wasn’t as good, so now I stick to the original.

The recipe is repeated below for one reason – to make some of your lives easier by giving the ingredient amounts in metric (not available in the original).

  • 1 c. (135 g) raw cashew nuts, soaked for 8 hours or overnight
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T (90 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast (you might omit this for use in certain sweet items)
  • 1/2 c. (118 ml) water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Throw everything in the blender and you’re done. In the original recipe, it says to blend for 5 – 7 minutes, but I get impatient and only blend for 3 – 4 minutes. It comes out really nice and creamy for me, but that may depend on your blender. Use the link given above to see lovely pictures of the ingredients and finished product.

More dilute than nut butters because about half the contents by volume are nuts, you can use about 4 T or 1/4 c. (60 ml) of cashew cream for one serving of nuts. I like to think about it this way: if I eat 2 sweet potato & black bean burritos, that’s 2 T for each burrito.

Vegan cashew cream has definitely added flavor to my meals, made more dishes possible, and helps me tick a box off my daily dozen with very little effort. This one’s a winner.

See my Sour Cream recipe page for more ideas on how to use this recipe as a base for other things.

26 things I always have in my pantry

These are the items that are essential to my vegan life.

1. Beans, beans, beans: I always have at least 4 kinds of beans – 2 canned, and 2 dried. For canned beans, I prefer garbanzos (chickpeas) and cannellini. For dried, at the moment I’ve got loads of black beans, plus kidney beans, coco beans, and adzuki beans. I’ve also got some borlotti beans & yin yang (a.k.a. orca) beans from my garden. I use more black turtle beans than anything else, so I maintain a sizable supply of those in particular. I’m growing my own, so that will help, but I don’t have enough space in my garden for a year’s worth.beans-1001032_640

2. Buckwheat: I really wasn’t kidding in my review of buckwheat when I said it’s my new favorite thing. I now add toasted buckwheat to every salad.

3. Whole grain rice: I like to keep a variety – black & red are my favorites.

4. Potatoes: I check my potato supply every week and make sure I have enough for at least 2 spontaneous meals. I usually have both sweet and white potatoes on hand.

5. Cashews (raw): These little guys form the foundation of the most wonderful vegan cream, sour cream, cheese and cheese-based sauces and spreads.

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6. Corn: This might sound ridiculous, but, as of this writing, I have 23 cans of corn in my pantry. What? It was on sale. Plus, my partner and I both love corn, and we add it to every salad we make, so we go through a lot.

7. Corn tortillas: I use these for lunch all the time – just toss on some lettuce, beans, a veg, salsa or other dressing, and bam – hearty, healthy 5-minute lunch.

8. Cornmeal: One of my favorite breakfasts is cornmeal mush with maple syrup & berries. And who doesn’t love chili with cornbread??

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9. Flaxseed: Aside from the fact that one of the Daily Dozen checklist items is 1 T ground flaxseed, they also make the best egg replacers for burgers, patties, brownies, etc.

10. Ketchup: Because black bean burgers & oil-free baked fries!

11. Lentils & split peas: I typically keep black (beluga), red, & puy lentils, though I don’t use them as often as beans. And I love split pea soup with smoky tempeh, so the split peas are also a must-have for me.

12. Lettuce: Okay, I don’t keep lettuce in my pantry, but I always make sure I have some. In the summer it’s easy – I keep it in my garden. The rest of the year, I buy a large head of lettuce every week, and it’s never lost.

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13. Maple syrup: This is my favorite sweetener, and I use it in dressings, desserts, and, of course, on pancakes & waffles!

14. Miso paste: Because you never know when you’re going to want to have a miso soup lunch.miso-934742_640

15. Mustard: For dressings, burgers, and much much more!

16. Nutritional yeast: Simply a must-have for, like, everything.

17. Oatmeal: Another one of my favorite breakfasts, but also an essential ingredient in the best veggie burgers ever.

18. Olive marinara: Oddly specific, perhaps, but there’s a reason. It’s amazing. And I make a vegan pizza every Saturday night using this brilliant marinara.

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19. Pasta: I try to keep at least 3 full bags/boxes of whole grain pasta. I prefer whole wheat because it’s the cheapest and cooks very well, but sometimes I’ll be in the mood for something different (see my review of corn pasta).

20. Pesto: You can’t ask for a better quick & easy pasta dinner! There’s a vegan pesto available at a shop near me, but I prefer to make my own using the basil & nasturtiums from my garden. I always have a batch in the freezer.

21. Spices: I have a crazy spice collection. They don’t all fit in my spice cupboard. But the ones I use the most are black & szechuan peppers, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, & cinnamom.

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22. Sriracha (a.k.a. Rooster sauce): I used to keep this around for deviled eggs before I was vegan. Now I use it in soups, sauces, and stir-fries.

23. Sun-dried tomatoes: I also put these on my vegan pizza, but they’re also a great addition to salad dressings, sandwiches, spreads, dips, etc.

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24. Tahini: Essential for both my favorite salad dressing, and my favorite hummus.

25. Tamari/soy sauce: I use this stuff a lot – in stir-fries, in my favorite salad dressing, pretty much anytime I eat garbanzo beans, with avocado, the list goes on…

26. Veggie stock/bouillon: I don’t keep this in my pantry, either, because I don’t buy it, I make it. I save the leftovers from herbs & vegetables in the freezer. When I have enough, I make a stock and freeze it.