French toast and banana-cashew milk

For batter, this recipe uses banana-cashew milk that doubles as a beverage. The result is light and golden, a cross between french toast and banana bread.

Peach weather: Slivers make banana pop

Peach weather: Sunshine with chance of drizzle

For the french toast: Coat medium-sliced crusty bread with banana-cashew milk, sprinkle with cinnamon, and sautée on a medium-hot griddle greased with olive oil until golden brown. Top with slices of fresh peaches or other fruit and drizzle with maple syrup.

For the banana-cashew milk: Combine 6 cups of water, 1/4 cup + 2 T of raw cashews, the same amount of sugar, 1 T of vanilla extract, and 1 ripe banana, and blend in Vitamix or other high-speed blender at top speed for 2 minutes. Chill for several hours before serving.

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Macaroni and chickpeas

Who needs all that cheesy fat? This recipe, which evolved out of a pasta salad, layers flavors for a bright and punchy but still comforting food.

Elbow room: no cheese...or nutritional yeast.

Elbow room: Comfort, and lots of flavor

6 oz. elbow macaroni
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
3 sundried tomatoes, minced
3 black olives, minced
1 T minced red onion
1 T vinaigrette
1 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
breadcrumbs
Serves 2

Combine all dry ingredients but macaroni in food processor or mash with potato masher. Toss in cooked macaroni, along with vinaigrette, olive oil, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and top with breadcrumbs.

Lyfe Kitchen

Notwithstanding the spelling, we were excited to visit the new Lyfe Kitchen in downtown Culver City (9540 W. Washington Blvd.), one of the first locations of a healthy fast-food chain with plans to open 250 restaurants nationwide in the next five years. The extensive vegan portion of the menu, designed by famed chef Tal Ronnen, includes the delicate, flavorful Gardein sausage and Daiya mozzarella ravioli, beautifully plated with kale, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, and basil, and a subtle, creamy kabocha squash risotto, made with farro, kale, carrot, and broccolini. We also loved the grilled artichokes and, for dessert, the apple and quinoa crisp with soy yogurt. The restaurant itself is bright and stylish. Here’s hoping this innovative and ambitious enterprise really does add new life (if not “lyfe”) to the standard American diet.

Delicious dumpling: Ravioli embraces Gardein and Daiya

Faux friends: “Sausage” and “cheese” ravioli

Squash blossoms: Kabocha risotto with farro

Squash racket: Kabocha-farro risotto

Heart of the matter: Grilled artichokes with lemon and aioli

Heart of the matter: Grilled artichokes plus lemon and aioli

Artichoke soup

Here’s a really simple concoction we made in the Vitamix. (A regular blender would probably also get the job done.) It’s light, lemony, and perfect for a vernal afternoon.

Green with envy: Friends will be jealous of your soup-making prowess.

Green with envy: An easy, spring-y soup to covet

2 cups stock
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 T fresh lemon juice
pepper
Serves 2

Put all the ingredients in the Vitamix, choose the soup setting, then serve. Garnish with parsley.

Banana pancakes

This recipe is a vegan adaptation of the apple pancakes in the Vitamix cookbook. A Vitamix is a powerful blender that performs all manner of miracle, in this case pulverizing both flaxseeds and a frozen banana and emulsifying coconut oil. For best results with a regular blender, make sure it is completely dry before adding the flaxseeds. Blend them into a powder, then add water to the powder outside the blender. (Alternatively, use pre-ground flaxseeds.)

Stacking the deck: A winning hand for vegan griddlers

Stacking the deck: A winning hand for vegan griddlers

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 T sugar
1/8 t cinnamon
1/2 t baking soda
1 cup soy milk or thick nut or seed milk
1 t flaxseeds + 1 T water
1 1/2 t coconut oil
1/4 t vanilla extract
1 medium banana, fresh or frozen, halved
Makes 8 pancakes

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Place wet ingredients (including flaxseeds) in Vitamix and use smoothie setting. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients and let batter sit for 5-10 minutes while heating griddle to medium-low. Grease griddle with coconut oil. Measure out 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake. Flip as soon as pancakes are able to hold together and bottoms are golden-brown, cooking about 3 minutes on each side.

Kathryn’s roasted vegetables

These creamy, savory veggies are a fine accompaniment to many a dish. Serve them with Field Roast or Gardein, plus rice and mushrooms, and you have a satisfying cold-weather meal.

Starch reminder: Caramelize without burning.

Starch reminder: Root veggies with unforgettable taste

3 Yukon Gold (or other young) potatoes, cut into quarters
1 parsnip
2 young carrots, with a bit of stem
1 turnip
1 white onion, cut into quarters
1 beet (optional)
thyme (fresh or dried)
olive oil
salt
pepper
Serves 2

Peel vegetables except potatoes; cut into chunks 1 ½ to 2 inches long (shorter for potatoes and turnips, longer for carrots and parsnips). Boil potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes. Add vegetables to casserole dish(es); avoid crowding. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. Toss. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes, stirring at 15-minute and half-hour mark. Bake uncovered for first 15 minutes and covered for remaining half hour. Cook (optional) beets in a separate casserole dish. Store leftover turnip and parsnip chunks for another meal.

Porcini risotto

Mario’s risotto recipe is rich without a drop of butter, cream, or cheese. The mushrooms are alarmingly meaty.

Nice package: A certain Italian stowed them in his suitcase

Nice package: Dried porcini worth smuggling

Onion power: The best tearjerker

Onion power: Chop it and weep

Parsley sage: The wisdom of fresh herbs

Parsley sage: The wisdom of fresh herbs

Stirring conclusion: You'll weep at the creaminess.

Stirring conclusion: A moving creaminess

50 grams (about 2 ounces) dried porcini mushrooms
1 white onion, chopped roughly
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup white wine
1 cup chopped fresh curly parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 t vegan margarine
Serves 2

Soak porcini mushrooms in hot water. Reserve the broth, adding a bouillon cube. Roughly chop the mushrooms. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in large skillet at medium-high heat. Sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice, stirring for 1 minute, toasting it. Stir in wine; let it evaporate. Add chopped mushrooms and about ¼ cup of broth. Keep adding broth, ¼ cup at a time, just enough to prevent the rice from sticking. Add parsley throughout, including a fistful at the halfway point (9 minutes in). After 18 minutes, turn off stove and add salt, pepper, and margarine as well as more parsley. Stir a few times and serve.