Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gourmet Vegan Kale and Pea Stuffed Shells using a homemade cashew ricotta

I used to loveeee ricotta. And I have been dying inside without lasagnas, and what not. I used to make these stuffed shells, with swiss chard, peas, ricotta and mozzarella. When my boyfriend became extremely lactose intolerant, I pretty much gave up on having stuffed shells. Oh but the power of raw cashews... I'm pretty convinced you can do anything with raw cashews. Why should I waste my time and money on raw cashews when ricotta is cheaper and easier?

  • Cashews are never treated with growth hormones like cows are
  • Cashews do not contain blood, pus, or infections, like cows milk does.
  • Cashews contain healthy fats that promote a healthy body and brain.
  • Unlike milk, which feeds cancer, cashews contain flavanols that stop cancer from growing.
  • Cashews eliminate free radicals, milk does not.
  • Cashews promote good cardiovascular health
  • Cashews promote healthy skin, hair, bones...
Only other question is why aren't you eating cashews yet?
I remember I used to argue with vegans about milk. Back, before I did any real research on it. Milk is one argument I didn't win, and they actually had some very good points that I researched, and found were correct.
Humans are the only animal in the world that drinks another animals milk, and we drink it way past infancy. If you have a cow that grazes on grass, and it is giving you raw organic milk, why not make cheese out of it? Dr. Mercola swears by raw milk. The problem is, unless it's your cow, you don't know the condition of the cow that the milk is coming from. Milk, today, is pasteurized and homogenized for a reason; to kill bacteria. Cows aren't meant for commercial milk production, they often get udder infections, and pus and blood wind up in your milk. yum, drink up. So commercially sold raw milk has some risks, as you can see. Without further a due, I give you my amazing recipe.

You will need:
  • 1 box of large stuffing shells
  • 1 jar of homemade or organic tomato sauce
  • olive oil or sunflower oil for greasing the pan
{For the Filling}
  • 1 head of organic kale (approx 12 oz, or a massive double handful)
  • organic olive oil as needed (approx 2 tablespoons)
  • about 1/3 cup organic diced sweet onion
  • 4-5 cloves of organic garlic
  • 3/4 cup organic frozen peas, thawed
  • about 3 cups raw cashews (soaked in water for at least 6 hours and drained)
  • about 6 tablespoons organic tofu (anything but extra firm should work fine, I used firm. Make sure you squeeze out water from tofu before using)
  • (optional)1 scant cup shredded vegan mozzarella (I used TEESE)
  • filtered water as needed (about 1/4 cup)
  • sea salt to taste (approx 1/2 teaspoon?)
  • pepper to taste
  • a sprinkle of garlic powder, and dried oregano
  • chopped organic fresh basil, about 1/4 cup, If you don't have that much you can sprinkle some dried basil
*NOTE-with this amount of cashews, it made more then I needed, for 1 box of stuffed shells, you need 2 cups of the ricotta, So before adding the kale, I spooned out about a cup, added some fresh wild spring onions, and veggies, and ate it as vegan cream cheese the next day. You can also freeze any leftover, the pureed cashews will stay fresh for months in the freezer, and about 4 days in the fridge.

Now this is your cashew ricotta, deviate from my recipe. My blender is terrible so just to get it to blend at all I need to add water. Hold off on a ton of water if you have an awesome blender. Put your soaked & drained cashews into the blender, and puree. If it doesn't do much add some water, mix, and puree. This isn't an exact science, you keep playing with it until you get the perfect consistency YOU want, and the right taste.
add a dash of sea salt, and pepper, some tofu, some water... Blend. you can also try adding olive oil to give it a more Italian flavor. A dash of garlic powder, dash of dried oregano... Once you think you have a good consistency, taste it, see if it needs more salt. This can be made without tofu, but it makes the consistency just right. Blend in your shredded vegan cheese. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for your stuffed shells.

In a frying pan, heat up some olive oil on medium low heat. dice your onion and toss it in the pan, stir. Wash and dry the kale. cut out the thick stem. You can steam this and eat it another day, or give it to your dog, my dogs love kale. Cut the kale into about 1 in pieces. Chop your garlic. Once your onion has some color, add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or two, stir, and add kale. Sprinkle with sea salt, and cook for a few minutes until wilted, if you forgot to thaw your peas throw them into the pan also. Stir occasionally. Once your pot of water is boiling add a dash of olive oil, a dash of salt, and 12 oz of shells and cook for about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. when the timer goes off drain and rinse with cool water.

When your kale mixture is done, set aside for a few minutes to cool. 
Once it cooled add it to the blender. Make sure you either took some ricotta out or didn't make the full amount, it should be about 2 cups  in the blender before the kale.
 Add your chopped basil. Blend until, well, blended.. It might take a few minutes,  and some additional mixing with  a rubber spatchula. Taste it! If it's bland add some salt, and maybe garlic powder or more dried herbs. You can always add more salt! But if it's too salty then it's difficult to correct.

Then pour the ricotta mixture into a ziploc bag (1/2 gallon bag) and seal it. In a large baking tray, about 9x13 or larger, spray some non gmo cooking spray, or brush the inside with oil. Take your tomato sauce and lightly spoon some over the bottom. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Push the mixture out of one corner of the bag, and using a scissor, snip that corner.
Now gently squeeze it into a shell. and place the shell into your baking pan. If you find they aren't closing, you are putting too much filling. It's about a tablespoon and a half worth into each shell.
Once you filled your pan with stuffed shells, spoon some more sauce over the top of the shells.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
If some shells don't fit in your pan, no worries. Place them on a plate, and put them in the freezer until they harden a little, then transfer into a ziploc bag. They'll stay fresh frozen for months and months, just remember they need baking when your ready to use them!

When the shells are done serve with hot tomato sauce, sauteed asparagus, or whatever you want.
My picky, vegetable-hating boyfriend enjoyed these, but being a completely vegan meal, he thought it needed chopped crispy turkey bacon. Oh men.

The consistency is dead on to that of real stuffed shells.
Buon appetito!

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