Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Nutritional Yeast

This week’s feature food is not exactly a food, but might be more accurately described as a seasoning.  Nutritional- or, sometimes referred to as ‘brewer’s’- yeast is a staple for most vegetarian and vegan kitchens, and is about to become one of yours, too.

I was first introduced to this gem by a veg friend who used it on popcorn and in stir-fry.  She told me that she used it to boost her protein and B-vitamin levels.  She was right, too- not only is nutritional yeast very high in protein, but it contains amazing amounts of B-vitamins, particularly the sought-after B12.  It also contains a healthy dose of fiber- and, let’s be honest, we can all use a little more fiber in our diet!  Boasting all of these wonderful benefits, I had to give it a shot.

I bought a small bag of the off-yellow flakes from the bulk section at Whole Foods to give it a whirl, and soon found myself putting it on everything.  Seriously, this stuff is delicious.  I don’t know what it is about the taste, but I think that a sprinkle of nutritional yeast makes everything taste like heaven.  My favorite use for the seasoning is on my eggs in the morning, with a little sprinkle of grey rock salt and fresh pepper.  I have even been known to take a tiny Tupperware container of it with me when I travel or visit friends for a day or so.  I have a serious love affair!  Here are some other ideas for your new best friend:

Sprinkle on popcorn or pizza

Mix into green juice, smoothies, or a tomato juice drink

Fold into flour and breadcrumbs for a tasty breading

Toss whole grain noodles with olive oil and yeast

Stir into gravies and sauces

Puree with nuts and a little water to make a raw, vegan ‘cheese’

Sprinkle some on brown rice

Season eggs in the morning

The possibilities are endless, really.  Send me your creations!  You can buy nutritional yeast at your local health food store- if you’re lucky, maybe you can get the shaker container that Red Star and Bragg’s make!  Yum!

Chilly Day Surprise Fudgies

Happy first day of November! Where has 2012 gone? I’m in the tour catering lounge in Wisconsin as we wind down the Music With A Mission tour, and it’s quite chilly here. This is one of my new favorite recipes, one that will warm you from the inside with healthy secret ingredients- black beans, quinoa, and cayenne!

Now, I can tell that you’re already apprehensive of this recipe. I know, it sounds like Mexican food. Don’t write it off yet! This was the first thing I made when I got home from tour in October and I’ve gotta say, I was very pleased. Creamy, dense, and rich, your guests will have no idea what they’re eating- and you won’t feel bad about having seconds. Or thirds 🙂

I’ve altered it a bit to suit my style, but the original recipe is from a lovely blog called The Road Not Processed, which is full of all types of fun recipes if you’re looking to get into whole foods or just for something unique. The author was correct- it isn’t good to call these “cookies”- that isn’t quite true to the dessert. She calls them “oblongs” but I think I’ve nailed it- so, in our house, we call them “Fudgies”. They’ve got a nice Mexican hot chocolate feel, so get bold with those spices!

Ingredients

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed in a strainer
1/2 cup raw honey (or maple syrup for y’all vegans)
1/2 cup all natural nut butter- peanut, almond, cashew, etc
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional but recommend)
2 “flax eggs” or just use 2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional but recommended)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain and RINSE the black beans in a strainer. Not only is this imperative for the cookie to taste like chocolate and not like bean, but you don’t want to be eating all of that BPA and nasty chemical juice from the can! Yuck.

Place black beans in food processor blender and blend until no whole pieces are left- the smoother, the better the consistency of the cookie. If using a food processor, transfer to blender or stand mixer. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips and flax egg/ eggs and blend well.

Line a baking sheet or two with foil and non-stick cooking spray.

Drop batter into balls onto the cookie sheet, spread them evenly! They hold their shape pretty well so pack them together if necessary.

Start getting excited.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes. A bit longer if they’re super thick, but take note: they solidify once cooled.

Take out of oven, cool for a few minutes if transferring to a cookie rack. While cooling, dust with a bit of cinnamon, and if you chose to include it, cayenne!

Be brave and enjoy,
Karli