Vegan Grilled Cheese: Havarti, Roasted Tomato, Garlic, and Basil

 

Oh yes, this sandwich dripping with cheese is vegan!

The quality of plant-based cheese has thankfully improved dramatically since the turn of the century. We are getting to the point where the difference between a plant-based cheese and a dairy made cheese are getting pretty close.

The vegan cheese featured in this sandwich is the Jalapeno Garlic Havarti Daiya Wedge. This Daiya Havarti melts pretty well. It wouldn’t fool a dairy eater, but oh, it comes in pretty close. The Jalapeno is very mild and adds more flavor than heat.

I made this grilled Havarti with roasted vine tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Other brands of plant-based cheese I would recommend trying include Field Roast Chao Creamy Original and Follow Your Heart Pepperjack or Smoked Gouda.

 

 

For the bread, I found at the market a Pumpkin Seed Sage Boulet that was vegan. Sage and seeds sounded so good to me, and the pumpkin seeds just add more protein to the sandwich.

 

 

To make the roasted tomatoes:

  • Cut the tomatoes into slices. Dice some fresh basil leaves. Chop some garlic chunks.
  • Place on a baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with some olive oil. Massage the oil into the ingredients. Add a couple pinches of sea salt.
  • Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.




The butter I used was Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread. This flavor is my favorite of all the Earth Balance Buttery Spreads because it has a great buttery taste. Also, this spread is trans fat-free, vegan, and has no GMOs. I made toast for my folks using this spread and they didn’t know the difference.

A little secret to get the cheese to look gooey melted is to cook your grilled cheese sandwich in a pan on the stove top like you would a regular grilled cheese sandwich until the bread is a nice golden brown. Then put your sandwich on a plate and microwave it on high for like 10 seconds. If you microwave too long, the bread will start to get soggy and lose it’s crispy grilled texture.

Of course, I had to complete the sandwich experience with tomato soup. For ease, the soup is Whole Foods 365 brand organic Vegan Tomato soup in a can.

If you make this sandwich, take a photo, tag it #theflexi21 and share with the community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @theflexi21.

 

Vegan Szechuan Beef Strips With Padrons, Zephyr Zoodles And Fried Brown Jasmine Rice

 

This meal is something you can easily make for dinner because it doesn’t involve much prep. Thankfully, there are plenty of plant-based alternative meats available to choose from. My favorite Asian beef alternative is Gardein’s Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips . The texture of these beefless strips reminds me of a crispy sweet and sour pork like you get at Chinese takeout places.

I cooked the strips per the instructions and sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. The sauce Gardein uses to flavor the beefless strips is amazing! I wish they would bottle that stuff up because I would buy a whole bottle of it. It tastes like a sweet, soy stir-fry sauce.

 

 

Recently, I bought a Veggetti Spiralizer for like $10, and I’ll be honest because of this gadget I have become addicted to spiralizing vegetables, mostly zucchini. The Vegetti makes some real fun thick and thin veggie noodles.




To make the Zoodles, I used organic Zephyr squash which is one of my favorite summer squashes because of its fun yellow and green stripes.  No need to cook the zoodles because they actually taste better raw.

 

 

I love Padron peppers! Definitely try them if you haven’t. Padrons are a Spanish pepper and only about 3″ long. They have an earthy, sweet, nutty flavor and are mild 99% of the time. Occassionaly though, a couple in the bunch will be hot. It’s like playing roulette. In all the years I’ve eaten this pepper, only twice have I gotten a hot one.

If Padron peppers are not in season or available in your area, try other sweet peppers like Shishito or Jimmy Nardello.

Quickly pan sear a handful of chopped Padron peppers with olive oil, a pinch of garlic powder and pinch of sea salt.

Mix the cooked padrons in with the raw Zoodles and some chopped red onion.

The fried rice is simply pan-fried brown Jasmine rice with organic carrots, corn, edamame, and a little soy sauce for flavor.

 

Plant-based Version of Classic IKEA Cafeteria Meatballs, Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes

One of the most popular dishes in the cafeteria at IKEA here in the U.S, is the meatballs, gravy, and mashed potatoes. When I ate meat, and visited IKEA, I would often get this dish because it’s my favorite and really embodies the IKEA experience for me.

When IKEA debuted their 100% plant-based Vegetable Balls which I reviewed here, my local IKEA offered the Vegetable Balls in the cafeteria for a limited time as a special. So GOOD!

You can buy the frozen Vegetable Balls and make the famous dish at home. This is how I usually make my plant-based version of this IKEA favorite.

Vegetable Balls:

I pan fry the balls in some avocado oil until they are a nice looking brown.

Asparagus:

For the asparagus, I did a simple roast. Massage the asparagus spears with some olive oil, and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 7 minutes so they are cooked but still a little crunchy. To add some zest, squeeze some lemon juice on the asparagus after you take them out of the oven.

Mashed Potatoes:

I make my mashed potatoes using 1 large organic russet potato chopped and boiled for about 15 minutes, Earth Balance Soy-free Buttery Spread, sea salt, and a plant-based milk. The milks I use often are either Milkadamia Original Macadamia Milk, or Living Harvest Tempt Original Coconut Hempmilk. Both have a neutral flavor that doesn’t give the potatoes a milk taste to it like soy or almond milk can.

Put the boiled potato, 1 tbsp of the Buttery Spread, 2 tbsp of the plant-based milk, and a couple shakes of sea salt in a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes until they are nice and creamy. Add more salt to taste if you need or a little more milk for smoother mashed potatoes.

Gravy:

The gravy is from a packet of Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy. I sautéed some chopped cremini mushrooms and chopped shallots in a little bit of the Earth Balance Soy-free Buttery Spread until softened and then added them to the brown gravy. I like chunky gravy.

Enjoy!

Product Review: IKEA Vegetable Balls

Here in the U.S, one of the most popular dishes in the IKEA cafeteria is their meatballs with gravy and mashed potatoes. So, it was exciting when IKEA started selling frozen Vegetable Balls that are not only vegan, but also soy-free and gluten-free.

These vegballs are GOOD! They are pretty meaty and I was impressed how the ball stays together without using any eggs.  You will recognize all the ingredients used to make these vegballs. There is nothing artificial in them.

I made my own plant-based meal version of the cafe meatballs, gravy and mashed potatoes with some asparagus at home using the Vegetable Balls, and it was fantastic.

 

 

I made the gravy using a packet of Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy which is 100% plant-based, and added some chopped cremini mushrooms to my gravy. Pacific Foods also makes an Organic Vegan Mushroom Gravy.

The IKEA Vegetable Balls are also great with spaghetti and as an appetizer. The IKEA website also has some beautiful examples of dishes to make with the vegballs. I’ve never seen vegetable balls looks so gourmet.

 

Easy Staple Meal: Maple Black Beans and Brown Jasmine Rice

 

An easy staple, everyday type meal packed with protein and fiber especially on the days when you don’t feel like cooking much is organic maple black beans with brown Jasmine rice. We have some ying/yang action going on here.

This dish is easy to make and you can add extras on top like roasted squash, green beans, chard, or collard greens. You name it! I added chopped yellow tomato with avocado and some pea shoots with red chili flakes for some heat baby!

Here’s how I usually cook my black beans.

  • Start with a 15oz can of organic black beans.
  • In a small pot on medium heat, heat one tbsp of olive oil and sauté two chopped cloves of garlic with a 1/4 chopped small onion until they are soft.
  • Throw in the black beans and a little salt to taste.
  • Add in 1 tbsp organic maple syrup to add a hint of sweet to the beans and cook everything together for about two minutes. To add some smoky flavor, add a few shakes of paprika.




Here’s how I usually cook my rice, or sometimes I’ll get pre-cooked rice at the Whole Foods hot food bar.

When I make my rice, I add in a little quinoa to add some fun texture and more protein. I like Jasmine brown rice more than regular short grain brown rice because Jasmine is a longer grain and it’s texture is less chewy than it’s shorter grain cousin.

Besides black beans, you can make this dish using pinto beans, adzuki beans, black eyed peas, or any one of your favorite legumes.

What is your favorite bean?

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