Melanie’s Blog

Deli-Style Potato Salad

 

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Here’s a plant-based side dish to bring to your Fourth of July get-together.  An enlightened egg-free version of a classic.

I promise no one will even suspect it’s egg-free!

Deli-Style Potato Salad

(from the official P.E.T.A. Website)

Ingredients:

6 medium potatoes, russet (if you use waxy potatoes, such as Redskin or Yukon, decrease cooking time to about 10 minutes)
½ cup vegan mayonnaise ( I prefer Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo)
¼ cup mustard, yellow
2 tbsp. vinegar (white or apple cider)
½ cup onion, white, chopped fine
½ cup celery, chopped fine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Paprika for finishing (optional)

Method:
Cut potatoes into cubes and cook in boiling water 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool completely. In a large bowl, combine with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle top with paprika.

 

 

July Menu!

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Bowls

 Kale and Quinoa Bowl

Quinoa, kale, tofu, wild mushrooms, shallots, ginger

Tempeh Taco Bowl

Brown rice, tempeh crumbles, sweet corn, adzuki beans, salsa

Burgers

Kidney Bean-Quinoa Burgers with Smoky Barbecue (Oil-free)

Tempeh-Walnut Burgers with Special Sauce

Dinner Favorites

Home-style Veggie Loaf with Tomato Glaze

Hearts of Palm Cakes with Tomato-Caper Remoulade

Sweet Potato-Edamame Shepherd’s Pie

Three-Bean Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Red Kidney Bean Curry (Indian Chili)

Red Bean Jambalaya

Tofu Scramble with Seared Spinach and Tomatoes

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with White Truffle Oil

Barbecued Tempeh with Purple Slaw

Red Cabbage Chow Mein with Edamame

Coconut Chana Saag with Lacinato Kale and Tomatoes

Lasooni Gobi with Chickpeas and Cilantro Brown Rice

Thai Red Lentil Chili

Tempeh Marsala with Seared Spinach

Sesame Soba with Edamame and Wild Mushrooms

Vegetable Lasagna Rolls

Thai Red or Green Coconut Curry with Vegetables

Green Tea Soba Salad with Tofu, Mushrooms and Sesame-Miso Vinaigrette

 

Sides

Carrot-Ginger Bisque

Cauliflower-Kale Soup

Faki (Greek Lentil Soup)

Tomato White Bean Soup

Roasted Redskin Potatoes

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Golden Curry Rice and Peas

Szechuan Broccoli

Sautéed Collards with Bacon and Onions

 

The Best Plant-Based Cookbook is Waiting For You, And It’s Free!

 

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“Do you cook a lot?” asks the librarian behind the counter.

It’s after work, I’m in my chef jacket, stuffing a reusable shopping bag full of plant-based cookbooks I placed on hold a week or so ago.  A regular ritual for me.

“Um, yeah…I sure do. I’m a personal chef and I do a lot of recipe research here at the library!” I smile broadly as he helps me place yet one more gorgeously photographed hardback on my pile.

At home with my stack, I sit down in a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea and flip through one book at a time.

But I am not just looking at pretty pictures. I am on a mission. Seeking inspiration and also solid, no-nonsense recipes that I can modify or add to my regular repertoire.

What makes a good recipe, in my opinion?

  1. Reasonable number of ingredients. Reading a long list of stuff I need to buy/prep makes me exhausted before I even get started, so less is definitely better.
  2. Accessibility of ingredients. Can I find the items at my local grocery on a regular basis or are they seasonal or hard-to-find?
  3. Ease of preparation. Are there so many complicated recipe components that one dish takes two hours to cook? Unless it’s Christmas or I have committed my day to bread-baking or ravioli-making, that’s a deal-breaker for me.
  4. Recognition. Yes, familiarity. I have found for my clients, and for my family, we like to return to dishes and flavors again and again that are familiar to our experience. What says comfort to you?
  5. Cost. Some ingredients are just ridiculously expensive. Here is where you have to use your instinctual higher judgement. Some cookbook authors assume that money is no object on the quest for the perfect plant-based meal. Next.

Here are a couple highlights from this week’s haul:

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The Book of Veganish by Kathy Freston (2016)

Why? This cookbook offers simple, economical no-nonsense recipes and lots of great everyday advice on making the transition to a vegan, plant-based lifestyle. I especially appreciate the relaxed language and easy-to-read page layouts with colorful images and text boxes throughout. A great starter book.

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Natural Feasts by Ella Mills (2017)

Why? First, a disclaimer. When you open it up you know you are stepping into a world. It’s easy to lose your way amidst the lush, natural light, the soft-focus images of radiantly healthy women and men beaming lovingly at one another over rustically styled food and furnishings and hand-picked botanicals. You get the sense that everyone loves Ella. And by the end, you realize you want to be Ella.

But behind all the window-dressing, Ella puts out quality recipes. I enjoyed her previous and more basic “Simply Ella” cookbook because she really focuses on creative combinations of whole foods in her recipes. Most of her dishes are low in sugar and oil and include simple, easy to find and afford ingredients, like butterbeans. Yes, butterbeans!

I highly recommend exploring your local library’s inventory of cookbooks to discover the right one(s) for you. Key words really matter when researching the database. Try vegan, plant-based, whole food, vegetarian, healthy, meatless, for example. And don’t give up entirely on conventional cookbooks and magazines for recipe inspiration. There are many recipes that are incidentally plant-based (like salad dressings, barbecue and other condiments).

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The book business being what it is, publishers are looking to appeal to the widest audience, so don’t get hung up on labels. I have found many excellent vegan recipes hiding between the pages of lacto-ovo vegetarian cookbooks.

I have read that folks are cooking less nowadays, opting instead for grab n’ go meals, food delivery services, personal chefs (yay), restaurant dining and takeout  more often than not.

Nevertheless, for those of us who read them (and need them) as well as those of us who just like the pretty pictures, the plant-based cookbooks keep flying off the presses. And thank goodness for that!

 

 

 

 

Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Frosting

 

 

This easy to prepare cake is full of carrots, pineapple, raisins and walnuts. It is super low-fat, yet it is sweet and moist; topped with a frosting that rivals anything I have made in the past. I was a pastry chef at one time, so I have a fair means of comparison! Continue reading “Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Frosting”

Cauliflower-Kale Soup

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A tasty way to get your greens! This  creamy, satisfying soup is a client favorite and only takes about 20 minutes to prepare!

Cauliflower- Kale Soup

Source: Prevention Magazine
(4 servings)

2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 Onion, diced
2 clove Garlic
8 cups Vegetable bouillon
4 cups Cauliflower, florets
4 cups Kale, shredded
½ teaspoon Crushed red pepper (optional)
Saute onion in oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broth and cauli, cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted about 4 minutes. Puree mixture until smooth. Season with crushed red pepper if desired.

Thai Curry in a Hurry

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I just love when a dinner idea sparks my imagination and I happen to have everything on hand to create exactly what I envision. Inspired by my favorite Thai restaurant, I set out to make a sweet, spicy, creamy curry filled with fresh, delicious veggies.

This dish is quick and easy to prepare and works great with green or red curry pastes.  And it only takes a few minutes if you cook the rice ahead to warm at service time.

Thai Coconut Curry with Vegetables

¼ cup Thai green or red curry paste
4 ounces Mushrooms
4 ounces Carrot, sliced thinly
8 ounces Broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Red bell pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 cup frozen peas

Note:  Substitute any vegetables for those listed.

13 ounces Coconut milk
1 tbsp. sweetener (optional, but tasty)
¾ cup Vegetable broth
2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce

Squeeze of fresh lime juice (optional)
¼ cup Cilantro, for garnish
2 cups brown rice, cooked

Method:

Take your hard vegetables, like carrots, celery, onions, peppers, broccoli and gently simmer them in the broth until crisp-tender. Now add all the other sauce ingredients and the soft veggies like mushrooms and peas. Bring it up to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce for salty-ness if desired, a squeeze of lime for a mild sour influence or more sweetener, if desired. Balance the flavors. Finish with chopped cilantro.

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Note: If you have an Asian grocery in your town, check out their curry pastes. The one on the left costs $1.49 and tasted better than the one on the right from my local Whole Foods Market at $4.00! A little spicier, but hey, I like it that way!

Friend or Faux: What You Need to Know About Fake Meats

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Vegan Chili Dog       Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

My husband reported this morning, upon returning from our nearby Whole Foods Market that Beyond Meat has added bratwurst and breakfast sausages to their lineup of meat-free alternatives.

My first thought:  “Great! A triumph for animal activism!!”

My second thought: “Either meat-free or meat-full, sausage is a food high in calories, salt and fat and low in nutritional value, no matter how you slice it.”

The Plant-based Diet is receiving a lot of press these days, due in part to recent documentaries like “What The Health” currently streaming to billions of homes through services like Netflix. It’s being heavily promoted in best-selling books like Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The idea is catching on. At least in theory.

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Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

It is easy to understand why so many would-be vegetarians declare “I can’t afford to go plant-based!” and just keep on doing what they’re doing. No, you can’t afford to go plant-based if you are simply switching out your meats and cheeses for plant-based/vegan meats and cheeses. Because they cost three to four times more than real meats and cheeses. And the real goal is to get off the meats and cheeses and eat more plants, for real. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts.

A food product can be labeled vegan, the ingredients all free of animal-derived components and yet be about the unhealthiest thing you could eat. Oreo cookies are a good example of vegan junk food. Oreos are plant-based!

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Plant-Based Baked Goods                   Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The common argument for faux meats is that they are a “transitional” food for those new to meat-free eating. After conducting my own personal studies over the course of the past five years, I have come to the conclusion that they do nothing to ease the transition to a healthy, whole foods diet.

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What they actually do is become an obstacle to healthier whole-food protein choices such as beans, legumes and potatoes.  Because they taste so damned good! And as technology moves on, they just keep tasting better and better. These products are highly processed, high in fat and salt in most cases–manipulating our taste buds with artificially engineered flavors. Consequently, simple natural foods taste dull in comparison.

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If you want to improve your health, reclaim your naturally balanced weight, increase energy and focus…all of this is possible with a whole food plant-based diet. Whole food being the important factor. This means buying and consuming foods that have five ingredients or less. Yes, you read right. Check your cupboard, your fridge, your desk drawer at work. How do your plant-based food choices stack up?

There are really no shortcuts to better health. There are no super foods. Sustainable health is attained by a lifestyle balance between the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies and minds every day.

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Should we never eat faux meats? Do I sometimes eat them? Absolutely. Most dieticians and nutritionists agree that a ratio of 80% natural, whole foods to 20% “discretionary” foods is a good balance for sustainable health. That’s what I’m shooting for. One day at a time. One meal at a time.

 

 

Vegan Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze

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A party favorite, these samosas are fun and easy to make and bake. They also freeze well, so when you’re in the mood, prep a big batch and store for whenever.

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Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze

Ingredients:

Dough:

3 cups Flour, all purpose
1 tbsp. Curry powder
¾ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking powder
¾ tsp. Water, cold
2 ounces Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
¼ cup Shortening

Filling:
2 pounds Potatoes, russet, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 med Onion, chopped fine
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh grated
½ each Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. Coriander, ground
¾ tsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. Cumin seeds, toasted
2 tbsp. Water
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
1 cup Peas, frozen, thawed
3 tbsp. Cilantro, finely chopped

Sweet Tamarind Glaze:
¼ cup Apricot jam
½ tsp. Tamarind paste
1 tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

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Method:

1. Mix dough using biscuit method (15 min.) Wrap and chill (1 hour).
2. While dough is chilling, make filling (35 minutes). Boil potatoes until just tender. Drain immediately. Toast cumin seeds then saute onions in olive oil unti lightly browned. Add seasonings, jalapeno and ginger. Saute about 1 minute then add the water and stir until most of water is absorbed. Preheat oven to 400.
3. Finish with peas, lemon juice and cilantro. Taste for seasonings, then immediately transfer to container or sheet tray and quick-chill in freezer.
4. Form and Fill (30 minutes). Roll out dough one half at a time on lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, large enough to fold lengthwise into thirds, then cut on the folds. From the three strips, cut squares, about 2 x 2 each. Spoon about 1/2 to 1 tbsp filling into the center and fold over diagonally. Press edges with a fork to seal.
5. Make dipping sauce (5 minutes). Mix together first two ingredients on the stove to warm together. Run through a sieve or puree in bullet then add cilantro. Taste for salt.
6. Bake on parchment sheet tray for 20 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes before serving.

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Recipe takes 1 1/2 hours to complete. Add additional 30 minutes (roll, form and fill) for doubling and another 30 minutes for every multiple after that.

Mint Chutney

recipe courtesy foodviva.com

Throw all this stuff in your magic bullet. You won’t regret it!!

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 cloves garlic

2 green chili peppers,  seeded and chopped ( I used 1/2 of a serrano pepper)

2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

1-2 tbsp water

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The Vegan Meal Builder

 

Whether for my clients or for my family, I hear the same question almost every day: “What’s for dinner?”

A plant-based diet offers so many choices and  possible combinations, answering this query can leave my head spinning. So, I’ve come up with a method for putting together delicious,  creative, nutritionally balanced vegan meals with enough variety to please everyone!

I think of the meal as a construction project and I visualize it from the ground up. Consulting my menu builder blueprint, I start with the foundation.

  1. The base. I like to include grains, pasta, potatoes, steamed greens, raw or roasted veggies in this group.
Fresh steamed farro https://veganflavorista.org/2016/09/29/15-minute-farro/
  1. The protein. I choose a hearty bean or pulse, a soy product such as edamame, tofu or tempeh; seitan (a product made from wheat gluten) or a pea protein-based meat analog such as Gardein.
Grilled Sesame Tofu with Forbidden Rice and Grilled Baby Bok Choy https://veganflavorista.org/2016/09/22/meaty-grilled-tofu/
  1. The sauce. This category can make the difference between a boring meal and an amazing one. This component should not be overlooked. Here is where the real creativity happens. I decide whether  I want a light or hearty sauce, whether I am looking for spicy, sweet, savory and/or zesty flavors. The variety is endless.
Broccoli Stuffed Potato with Cheesy Sauce and Greek Chopped Salad https://veganflavorista.org/2014/05/22/ultimate-cheezy-sauce/
  1. The veggies. This category speaks for itself and basically I choose those that go best with the sauce and flavors I am introducing (example: for an Italian-inspired dish I would choose mushrooms, onion, peppers, tomatoes).
Pasta Primavera

https://veganflavorista.org/2012/09/20/pasta-primavera/

This structure serves as a guideline-a jumping off point for inspiration to create recipe variations as limitless as the imagination!

In upcoming posts, I will share my tried and true components and techniques for creating the meals  I serve to my clients and my family throughout the week.

Stay tuned!

 

 

John Legend’s Chili, Plant-Based Version

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I came across this recipe for chili in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings”. I decided to follow the recipe exactly (with a slight variation) just to find out what ole John is up to in the kitchen when he’s not at the piano working on another chart-topping single.

It’s super-simple if you’ve ever cooked a pot of soup. The recipe follows what I call standard procedure: saute the aromatics and vegetables, add seasonings and liquid, simmer and adjust seasonings. In this case I always save the beans for last, which I have pre-cooked, so they don’t fall apart.

I substituted Gardein meatless crumbles for the ground beef in John’s recipe and I would suggest taking it easy on the seasoning salt, depending on how much salt is in your tomato sauce. I also cut the original recipe’s measurement of 1 teaspoon ground red pepper down to 1/4 teaspoon, but you do you 🙂

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John Legend’s Chili

1 1/2 – 2 cups Gardein Meatless Crumbles
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. seasoning salt (preferably Lawry’s)
3 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 tbsp. garlic,minced
2 cans tomato sauce, 14.5 ounces each

2 cups water
2 cans Kidney beans, 14.5 ounces each
2 tbsp. brown sugar, light

Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bit of oil or water.

Add seasonings, crumbles, tomato sauce and water. Bring to simmer until thickened.

Add beans and taste, adding more salt or spice as desired.

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Muesli!!

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For some reason I’ve always believed Muesli was this mysteriously complicated cereal made in Europe using some super-secret old-world technique, unapproachable by the average person. Like maybe they hand-rolled the oats or something. Why else would the little box offered by that one brand perch so stoically high on the grocery shelf all by itself with its exorbitant price tag?

Turns out, Muesli is nothing but naked and un-toasted granola! This, in my mind, makes it an easier and healthier choice than granola. Why? And don’t get me wrong–I am a true granola lover from way back before it was cool–but, you know and I know even homemade granola can be full of sugar and sometimes full of fat. And sometimes, even full of sodium.

But this. This is not that. It is a bowl full of whole foods, in their natural state, completely unadorned. No sugar, no added fat or salt. Just clean, pure energy.

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Cooking a serving of oatmeal in the microwave takes 2-3 minutes. Putting together this cereal takes about the same amount of time and you have breakfast for the week!

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That’s it! No soaking, no cooking, no need to heat up the oven. This recipe is completely adjustable to your tastes, with an endless variety of nut, seed, fruit and cereal combinations.

Yield:  10 cups (that’s 10 1-cup servings or 13 3/4 cup servings). Store refrigerated.

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I topped my first bowl of homemade muesli with fresh chopped strawberries and non-dairy milk.

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There is so much going on in this bowl!! So many textures and flavors. It’s crunchy and chewy, sweet and tangy from the fruit and then the little edge of cacao nib influence is a pleasant surprise against the fresh berries.

A healthy and delicious breakfast to take you through the morning feeling satisfied and energized!

 

 

 

 

 

So You Want To Be a Personal Chef…

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I love cooking vegan and couldn’t imagine anything else I would rather do for a job. Becoming a vegan personal chef five years ago was a passion project for me– an outgrowth of my own personal journey.

Advice

The key for me in the beginning was to become practiced and comfortable with cooking vegan for myself and my family in order to feel confident sharing it as a business. It is also fun to do a a couple of practice cook dates for willing family or friends. I did one for my mom, who is not vegan, but she appreciated the food just the same, and truly enjoyed it.

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Client Food                                 Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

There are a couple of great books out there on operating a personal chef business. You can find them on Amazon.com. I use my local library for most of my recipe research, keeping a revolving collection of vegan cookbooks on loan from which I have drawn much of my inspiration.

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Client Kitchen (job site)               Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

I think it is very important to have a web presence, a website, facebook page, blog, etc. I started the blog mostly for fun–a place to bring my overflow of energy and creativity. A personal chef is a luxury for most people, so, in my mind, I need to be as find-able as possible when a prospective client is looking for me, rather than focusing on persuasive and expensive advertising.  This is just my opinion.

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My Chef Kit and Me

 

My Story

I came to the personal chef business in a roundabout way. After working in the local restaurant, hotel, country club business for fifteen years, I decided to attend culinary school in the evenings at Lincoln Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach (formerly Florida Culinary Institute).

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First Quarter, Chef Instructor Birney and Me

As a single mom with two kids, I found it difficult securing a job after graduation that paid enough to meet my family’s bills.

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Our Little Family

 

My predominant experience was in dining room work and the transition to the commercial hot-line kitchen wasn’t easy in a male-dominated profession at the time (1995).

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Final Project Buffet Event, Chef Boetcher and Me

 

I ended up working as a pastry chef for $9.00 an hour for the gourmet restaurant operated by the school.  But even with supplemental income from waiting tables on weekends, I couldn’t seem to make ends meet.

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Pastry Chef (me) and Line Cook George Patton

 

I opted for a job as a dining room manager and did that  for a few years, but as time went on and my kids became adolescents they required more supervision at home and restaurant hours are long and late, especially for management.

With a heavy heart, I left the food business for a steady nine to five job working in local government and that’s where I stayed for thirteen years before finally making the move to what I really enjoy doing.

By this time, my kids had safely completed the passage from teens to young adults and I was married to a wonderfully supportive partner. We went vegan in 2011 and for me, there was really no other choice if I wanted to practice what I love–than to do my own thing, as there were very few vegan restaurants locally. Finding clients at first was challenging, but after two years I was up and running steadily—and quit my full-time job soon after.

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Darbster Restaurant, Me and Steve

 

If becoming a vegan personal chef is something you are considering, I suggest  you seek out vegan/vegetarian organizations in your area and vegan eateries to get a feel for the demographic. What is the local culture like? Is there a vegan community in your area? Can they afford a personal chef? You may want to take a job working in a vegan establishment for awhile, to gain practice with producing food for others in a commercial context and also to get recipe ideas.

Although I have a background in culinary arts, there are many successful self-taught personal chefs in the field. I think passionate interest and engagement however, is key in landing regular clients and providing a positive experience for clients.

I’ll be talking more about the specific technical aspects in upcoming posts, but it’s really very simple and inexpensive to get started. Just make sure you check with your local governing agency to find out what is required in terms of licensing or taxation. This is usually very minimal, but keeps the city’s interests at bay.

I believe there is no “right” path to becoming a chef. Each of us has our own area of interest and ambitions. I would say the best advice is to follow your own intuition, because in the culinary world the options are endless!

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Melanie daPonte, Vegan Personal Chef          Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

Success is not always linear. Like life, it can be a winding path with plenty of detours! But if you are passionate about your interests, follow them and they can only lead you to where you are meant to be!

 

Dixie Dharma Vegan Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Orlando

 

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Breakfast at Dixie Dharma              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

When traveling, we are always on the hunt for vegan eateries and this past weekend was no exception. iPhone technology has been a real game-changer in this regard and driving through the Orlando area we were able to nimbly avoid the Disney-bound traffic and score a real winner in Dixie Dharma vegan restaurant!

Market on South, which houses Dixie Dharma, is a vendor collective, located on the first floor of a small, gray two-story just off the interstate and abutting a picturesque and visibly gentrifying suburb of Orlando. The building itself seems oddly placed alongside an old barber shop with a gravel parking lot alongside, but don’t be put off by the funky surroundings. This place is not to be missed.

A small, but clean and cozy interior offers comfy, mismatched tables and chairs, a few booths and a short row of barstools at the counter, overlooking the open kitchen.

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Dixie Dharma interior, order counter/bakery          Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

We arrived early, around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The restaurant was quiet, but the bakery cases were fully stocked with goods from Valhalla  and Valkyrie vegan bakeries.

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Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery case                Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

 

The cashier was friendly, attentive and fast! We ordered the dirty scramble and the biscuits and gravy along with two hot cups of coffee. While waiting for our food, we perused the various offerings for sale from local artists and artisans displayed on the shelves surrounding the dining room.

Meanwhile, the back of the kitchen bustled with energy as the row of cooling racks filled with fresh-baked cakes and cookies. Every now and then a baker would emerge, producing a huge iced and decorated layer cake to place in the cold display case with a price tag marked $50.

A line of eager patrons started to form as our food was delivered. Young, fit couples, some with baby strollers, many in athletic wear, an occasional smiling grandma in tow, ordered vegan doughnuts and coffee, seating themselves in a happy, relaxed smattering about the place.

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Dixie Dharma Dirty Scramble

 

The food was flavorful with generous portions! The dirty scramble in particular, I think, could have fed two or even three people for breakfast! The coffee tasted smooth and fresh. All in all,  one of the best vegan breakfasts I have ever eaten on the road.

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Dixie Dharma Biscuits and Gravy with Maple Bourbon Sausage           Photo: Melanie daPonte

 

The vibe was so low-key and comfortable I was sure we would return for a late lunch and a few choice baked goods before we headed for home.

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Dixie Dharma outdoor seating in front of building         Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

At lunch, the place was really at peak business with a long line waiting up front, but the staff was breezy and professional as they went about taking orders and delivering food to both seated diners and takeout customers.  We shared the chili dogs with ‘tater salad at one of the large picnic tables in the back yard.

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Dixie Dharma Chili Dawgs             Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

I can see why Dixie Dharma is famous for their vegan hot dog truck! The dogs were the best vegan franks I’ve ever tasted. I swear you couldn’t tell they were meatless. And the Indian-spiced chili was hearty and wholesome–filled with beans and lentils. A truly substantial meal before our drive back to Palm Beach County.

Saving the best for last, our visit couldn’t be complete without a sampling of the beautiful bakery offerings. There were just too many choices and I had to be reasonable, breaking it down logically. I have to be careful not to lose my head in the face of such a decadent display of sweet vegan goodness!

Although there were so many treats I wanted to sample,  I only had this one shot, so here is my selection:

Bourbon Chocolate Chunk

Thick, sweet bourbon vanilla buttercream chocolate chunk cookie sandwich.

Cake Slice

I fine wedge of chocolate layer cake expertly filled and iced with vanilla buttercream

(like birthday cake)

Lemon Bar

Lemon curd on a shortbread crust with crumb topping

Chocolate Brownie

Dark chocolate brownie, dipped in more melted chocolate

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Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery selection              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

It was a tough choice. Of course we had to try the cookies, and the cake and the buttercream and the brownies. The lemon bar was a wild card and I ordered it simply because I don’t like squeezing lemons and no vegan bakery in my town makes them!

What we didn’t order (this time):  Vegan cheesecake,  fruit cobbler, cupcakes, mini-cream pies, a chocolate-coated ‘Naimo(?)’ bar–which looked amazing, vegan doughnuts, a ‘brookie’ which is chocolate chip cookie dough baked on top of a brownie!! There’s more I am forgetting to be sure.

We we got home we sampled each item and they were delicious! Over time we have learned to manage these multiple item bakery sprees by cutting each item into small portions, say, the cookie sandwich into four quarters, and freezing them on a sheet tray, then transferring to an airtight container. Weeks later (or days) later we can enjoy them again.

Dixie Dharma was a delight. Wholesome, plant-based meals, a uniquely creative menu and presentations, outrageous, professionally-baked desserts, friendly, competent staff. They open at 8:00 a.m. and close at midnight!

We plan to make this outstanding vegan restaurant, bakery and artisan marketplace a regular destination every time we are in the Orlando vicinity!

DIXIE DHARMA WEBSITE

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True Food Kitchen, Boca Raton, FL

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If you don’t already know the website happycow.net, click on this link and get up to speed with the best resource for locating vegan and veg-friendly restaurants, bakeries and stores throughout the U.S.

After stumbling upon a new restaurant in my area with vegan options, I decided to become a happycow contributor and added True Food Kitchen. I suggest you do the same and you will be providing a great service to us all!

Here’s the review I wrote today:

True Food Kitchen is a chain with twenty or so locations throughout the mid to lower section of the United States. We stumbled upon this newly opened restaurant located in the Boca Raton Town Center Mall at lunchtime on a Monday. The dining room and bar were bustling with friendly, energetic denim-clad staff sporting t-shirts with positive one and two-word messages such as “Honest”, “Nurture” and “Shine On”.

The menu boasts a large and seasonal selection of fresh produce-filled dishes, cocktails, health tonics, lemonades and teas featuring freshly juiced fruits and additions such as matcha. We noticed the mixologist never seemed to stop making these beverages the whole time we were there.

The overall scene has an open-air feel to it, relaxed and casual, yet lively with the constant flow of staff carrying beautifully presented and colorful food and drinks through the dining room, which is decorated in a modern eco style with lots of fresh plants surrounding cozy tables and banquettes.

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The menu offered items marked vegan in almost every category. We were pleased to see a tempeh BLT and dishes featuring healthful whole food protein sources like quinoa, hemp seeds and edamame just to name a few.

We started with the soup of the day, a simple vegetable minestrone, which we were advised was vegan without the parmesan garnish.

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For our lunch we shared the vegan grilled artichoke pesto pizza with almond ricotta. The crust was thin, light and crispy, topped with fresh spinach, artichokes and slices of summer squash. The pesto tasted freshly made and the creamy almond ricotta had a bright and clean flavor, with just a hint of lemon. The pizza was definitely large enough for two people to split for lunch with the cup of soup as a starter.

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The dessert menu offered three vegan selections on this day. Vanilla ice cream, rhubarb crumble, and banana chia pudding.

I know True Food Kitchen will become a standard in our restaurant rotation with its creative vegan dishes, refreshing made to order beverages and excellent service.

Next time we will save room for dessert!

Pros: Fresh, creative, vegan menu items, Friendly, energetic staff, Contemporary, spacious decor and casual atmosphere

Cons: High noise level during peak hours, Serves meat

Recipe Test: Quinoa Pancakes

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

 

Here’s the thing about pancakes…I love the way they taste, but not so much how I feel afterward. All that doughy, sweet carbohydrate goodness seems such a decadent indulgence.

I’m always alert for a loophole–a healthier way to enjoy that sticky maple-buttery experience without feeling like I just consumed a loaf of bread in one sitting. When I came across this RECIPE (courtesy feastingonfruit.com) the immediate thought came to my mind: Quinoa=Protein. High-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat always feels good in my tummy. This recipe is also oil-free.

But, then, I thought…how will they taste without any gluten? Will they hold together yet not be dry and weird? Since I have quinoa flakes in my pantry anyway, I decided to see for myself.

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The recipe suggests using a blender, so I thought, since I am cutting the recipe in half I’ll just use my Magic Bullet. BAD IDEA.

I would mix this recipe in a bowl, like any other pancake batter. Otherwise, you will leave behind a lot of it, due to its thick, paste-like consistency. I also substituted apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice because it was easier and cheaper.

I transferred the whole mess into a bowl and added more milk and a bit more maple syrup to achieve a smoother, spreadable batter. I also added a pinch of salt, because the recipe didn’t call for any. Salt adds a pleasing flavor contrast to the maple syrup.

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The cooking was good. A nice, even browning without sticking to the griddle, which I  sprayed with a light coating of oil between each cake.

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The result? A very good, gluten-free, high-protein, low-fat pancake. After tasting, I decided I would have added more salt, though–beyond a pinch. Otherwise there is no flavor at all.

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I added a little extra Earth Balance spread and this fixed the issue. The texture is good, too. Not dry or grainy or weird. Just light and absorbent. The half-recipe made three medium-sized cakes. I ate two of them and still felt good, not bloated.

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My final assessment:

An excellent representation of a ‘healthier’ way to pancake, but quinoa is exorbitantly expensive. If money is of no importance, and you want to impress your friends and family at brunch, go for it.

But…there are lot of other gluten-free pancake options and much, much cheaper. I dare say, even tastier. Here’s one in particular I like, made in a blender with bananas and oats.

GLUTEN-FREE BANANA-OAT PANCAKES

What’s your favorite way to pancake??

 

Never Bored: My Vegan Dinner Rotation

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

It’s no easier for me, as a chef, than for anybody else– to decide what to make for dinner at home. If anything, it’s more difficult, having too many options! I notice, however, over time, many of the same vegan dishes naturally appear again and again at my table. We are creatures of habit, after all.

The Big Three

Italian

Every week there is at least one Italian dinner on my menu. Depending on time and motivation the dishes will range from simple pasta marinara or a quick flatbread pizza to something more labor intensive like lasagna or BAKED ZITI

The main flavor is provided by the savory, sweet red garlic and herb SAUCE combined with vegetables and some kind of protein. This could be TOFU RICOTTA or housemade ITALIAN SAUSAGE from the freezer or Gardein meatballs. Even chickpeas. Whatever.

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

 

Pasta is optional. Zucchini spirals or slices are a great base for Italian dishes, or a big bed of lettuce mix. Polenta is easy to make and works quite well, too.

Mexican

If you’ve ever visited Taco Bell you know there are endless variations on the theme of beans, corn and tomatoes. Cheap and filling, these pantry staples never let me down in terms of pulling together a hot meal in no time.

Tacos, Burritos, Quesadillas, Chili, Nachos. Think Chipotle restaurant, but way, way cheaper  in the long run.

When I have time at the beginning of the week, I will cook up a pot of dried beans, usually pinto or black beans, season the cooking water well with salt and let them cool in the water to infuse them with flavor. You could also add garlic, cumin, whatever. A pot of rice cooks up in a few minutes. With beans and rice as your foundation–what can’t you do??

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

BLACK BEAN FAJITA BOWL WITH CILANTRO-LIME CHIMMICHURRI

 

If that’s not enough, cook up a skillet of TACO MEAT in just a few minutes, sprinkle in some frozen corn, cooked rice, beans, diced tomatoes, scallions–hey, be creative! Tempeh makes a great crumble substitute if you grate it on a large-holed box grater.

A good SAUCE or salsa helps to pull everything together, so don’t forget to either buy or make one! You won’t miss the cheese!

Asian

I  like to vary these selections between traditional Chinese dishes such as a soy sauce- based stir fry or noodle bowl,

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

GARLIC-SESAME SOBA NOODLES WITH EDAMAME AND OYSTER MUSHROOMS

 

Thai peanut or coconut curries with lots of vegetables and the endless variety of Indian dal and vegetable-potato stews and curries, both spicy and mild.

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Image credit:  Melanie daPonte

PALAK PANEER WITH COCONUT-ROASTED TOFU AND TANDOORI CAULIFLOWER RICE

 

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

GENERAL TSO’S TOFU

 

The Big Three alone, with all its variations could actually keep us full and satisfied throughout the week. I just keep rotating and switching it up so it doesn’t feel like we are eating the same actual dishes over and over.

The Wild Cards

Once I’ve exhausted the Big Three rotation I circle back to the familiarity of American regional cooking. This is the food I grew up on, only with a slight twist…it’s vegan!!

There’s nothing wrong with an old-fashioned burger and fries night. There are several brands in the market freezer, but it’s so easy to make your own once you settle on a good recipe or two that you can improvise with. No, I don’t make my own fries, either. Frozen was good enough then and it’s good enough now, especially at the end of a long week!

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Image credit:  Melanie daPonte

 

SLOPPY JOES are a variation on burger night. I like to serve them with a crunchy, fresh coleslaw. Again, you can use tempeh or frozen crumbles, even cooked lentils. It’s really all about that sweet tomato, brown sugar, garlic flavor combination.

Loaf. Yes, I grew up on meatloaf. My Nana’s was better than my Mom’s, but they were both equally good slathered with Hunt’s ketchup! These days, my favorite combination is lentils, veggies and walnuts. But I still top it with a ketchup glaze!

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

 

LENTIL-WALNUT LOAF WITH SWEET TOMATO GLAZE 

Barbecue. It’s a southern thing. For many new vegans, it’s cheese they have a hard time giving up. For me, I think it was barbecue, more than anything. It took some time and experimentation and distance from traditional barbecue that helped me figure out that, for me– it’s really mostly about the sauce!

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Image credit:  Melanie daPonte

 SEITAN RIBZ BARBECUE PLATE

 

So…either buy or make a really good, rich plant-based sauce and then apply it to whatever texture means barbecue to you. I like to do barbecued navy beans and tempeh planks, soy curls like pulled pork for sandwiches, bake, then grill chewy seitan ribz.

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Image credit:   Melanie daPonte

 

Cajun. JAMBALAYA is a great way to use up leftover rice. Saute onions, celery and green bell peppers, add a bit of garlic, toss in the rice with maybe some kidney beans or crumbles or even homemade ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE from the freezer. Spice it up with Emeril’s Essence for a smoky, spicy kick! I also like to make a nice VEGAN GUMBO  now and then and freeze half for later.

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Image credit: Melanie daPonte

Macaroni and Cheeze. Ah, the quintessential American comfort food. After trying many, many recipes, I have found the best results with a cashew-based sauce. Add some green peas or steamed broccoli and you have a complete meal. Extra nutritional points if you use whole wheat pasta.

STROGANOFF. Oh, this one is so easy and delicious. Takes me back to the old Hamburger Helper days. Use crumbles or large chunks of mushroom for a great texture. I like to throw in garden peas and lots of fresh parsley for color.

BUFFALO SAUCE. When I’m in the mood, I make up a batch of buffalo sauce and everything tastes new again! Drizzle it over salads, noodles, macaroni and cheese, nachos, and of course, roasted cauliflower!

Fancy Food

And then there are the elegant, restaurant classics. Yes, we can have our French wine sauces, our Picatta, Marsala, our rich, creamy risotto. Thick (and delicious, thanks to Hampton Creek ) mayonnaise remoulade and aioli. We have come so far, my friends.

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Image credit:   Melanie daPonte

CAJUN POTATO CAKE WITH HORSERADISH CREAM

 

If fancy, impress-your-friends food is in your wheelhouse, sub vegan butter (Miyokos is excellent) and use cashew cream for heavy cream. I especially like a thin-sliced Portobello steak with brandy peppercorn cream sauce.

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Image credit:   Melanie daPonte

 

So…what’s for dessert? Well, that’s another post for another day, but don’t get me started!

I hope you find my ideas and recipe links useful. Bookmark them for the next time you hear that question:

“What’s for dinner??”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan On The Cheap

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“I would eat vegan, but I can’t afford it!” A phrase I have heard often. But, it’s a myth that a plant-based lifestyle has to blow your grocery budget. And it doesn’t have to include strange ingredients you’ve never heard of. A healthy vegan diet can actually be totally the opposite. A simplification.

Keeping in mind the basic foods your body needs  will make shopping so much easier:

  1. Protein (beans, peas and lentils, nuts, nut butters). Remember that one type of bean, legume or nut choice in combination with a grain provides enough protein in a meal. There’s no need to overdo it.
  2. Complex Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
  3. Fats. The health benefits of processed oils is still a controversial subject in the science of nutrition, so I will simply offer that many foods contain naturally occurring fats such as nuts, coconuts and avocado. Choose oils conscientiously and use  sparingly.

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Here’s a list of healthy and inexpensive foods to get you started:

  1. Apples
  2. Bananas
  3. Brown rice
  4. Creamy natural peanut butter (multi-purpose protein for toast, sandwiches and sauces)
  5. Dried black beans (easier to cook than you think. Google it)
  6. Dried lentils (even easier and quicker than beans)
  7. Frozen fruit
  8. Frozen mixed vegetables
  9. Hummus (homemade tastes best and is cheaper if you sub peanut butter for tahini)
  10. Rolled Oats (they micro cook in two minutes)
  11. Russet Potatoes (let me count the ways to prepare this cheap and filling vegetable)

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Although a constantly rotating variety of produce (eating the rainbow, as they say) is ideal, it is not within everyone’s budget. It’s okay to eat apples and bananas all week. The point is, you are eating fruit! You are getting vitamins and fiber, water and minerals. All good stuff!  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Sometimes you will splurge on the raspberries or juicy peaches in season. And it will actually be a treat, because your flavor palate is now accustomed to the natural sweetness of fruit sugar, as opposed to all the jacked-up laboratory produced sweeteners in processed snacks. It actually prefers it.

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The food industry is always coming out with new products. And that’s just what they are. Products, that are processed. Not whole and healthy foods in their natural state. There’s nothing wrong with these products as long as they are kept in perspective–as only the smallest part of our overall caloric intake.

Upcoming posts will feature recipes and ideas for simple and delicious meals that make going plant-based a sustainable choice without breaking the bank!

 

 

April 2018 Menu!

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I have moved to an all-in-one, meal-in-a-box format this Spring. It seems to be the best way to keep reheating as simple as possible for my clients. I used to offer the mains with choice of soups and sides, but I think it got too complicated that way–too many menu choices to make and then the assembly later– and most of my families are time-starved to begin with!

What do you think??

Coconut Chana Saag

Chickpeas, tomatoes, Lacinato kale, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, coconut milk, lime, cilantro, basmati rice

 

Portobello Stroganoff

Organic Portobello caps, garden peas, onions, garlic, tamari, sour cream, touch of sherry, GF pasta

 

Thai Green Curry Bowl

Coconut-roasted tofu, mixed vegetables, herbs, green curry, coconut milk, Florida organic brown rice

 

Scaloppini Marsala

Scaloppini, cremini mushrooms, onion, garlic, Marsala sauce, steamed spinach, mashed sweet potatoes

 

Adzuki Quinoa Bowl

Adzuki beans, mixed peppers, onions, garlic, chili and cumin, tri-colored quinoa, cilantro-lime chimichurri

 

Franks and Beans

Smoky, hand-crafted and steamed franks, baked beans, homemade barbecue sauce, creamy coleslaw

 

Sesame-Grilled Tofu

Organic pressed tofu, tamari, toasted sesame oil, Szechuan broccoli, red peppers, onions, black rice

 

Black Bean Burgers

Black beans, cilantro, cumin, green onions, cilantro-lime mayo, honey-mustard kale salad on side

 

Grits, Greens and Beans

Sauteed green kale, shallots, garlic, simmered black-eyed peas, tomatoes, smoky grilled polenta cakes

 

Firehouse Chili with Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

Red beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chili powder, lime sour cream, GF corn muffins

 

Mushroom Lentil Sloppy Joes

Cremini mushrooms, French lentils, onions, green peppers, rich tomato sauce, Ezekiel whole-grain buns, creamy coleslaw on the side

 

Barbecue Tempeh

Smoky oven-roasted tempeh with homemade barbecue sauce, sweet corn, zucchini, bell peppers, GF cornbread

 

Hearts of Palm Cakes

Hearts of palm, mirepoix, bell peppers, parsley, roasted sweet potatoes, Creole remoulade

Vegan Brunch Execution, Start to Finish

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I love to cook big breakfast on the weekend! Here’s a fairly easy menu I pulled off this morning in about two hours:

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Cinnamon Baked Apples

Smoky Golden Corn Grits

Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

 Roasted Redskin Potatoes with Onions

Yeah, I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s all about strategy and timing. I start with the dish that takes the longest to cook: the apples. I turn on the oven to preheat to 350 degrees fahrenheit while peeling and slicing.

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Rule of thumb in my kitchen: Always Be Prepping! While one thing is cooking, be working on the next thing until you have them all going at once, regulating temperature and quality to make sure everything is served hot.

If you think you are all caught up and have run out of stuff to do–think again! There are always dishes to wash and counters to clear, while setting the table, pulling out condiments, etc. I will admit, with this menu I had the advantage of tagging my husband for dish duty! That saved me some time, most definitely.

So, my apples are working in the oven while I am scrubbing and dicing my potatoes and onions, panning them up to slide right in when the apples come out. That’s when the temp will increase to 425 to get them nice and toasty. Note: the smaller you dice the potatoes the faster they cook. Seems like a no-brainer, but I sometimes forget myself, because the larger I dice the faster I am done dicing, ha ha.

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I do my sausage crumbles  and leave them in the iron skillet basking in the residual heat while heating my veggie stock for the grits.

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I get my grits working and cover them to finish, stirring with a whisk every so often to prevent sticking.

Okay, I’m free to give my full attention to the pumpkin spice pancakes, which do require babysitting as I cook them one at a time. But, I’m cool, because everything else is working or done and just staying warm.

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I set up a small sheet pan on the side and place each pancake there as I remove them from the griddle. I cover the pan with foil to hold in the heat.

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Meanwhile, the potatoes are just about done roasting. Great! I turn off the oven and everything that fits goes in there  to stay hot until the guests arrive. Don’t worry, the oven is off and the temperature is rapidly decreasing, so nothing is going to overheat. Trust me on this, not like they will if you leave them on the stovetop on low. This tends to burn the bottoms of everything!

So, into the oven with my:

 Iron skillet of tempeh sausage crumbles

Covered pot of grits

Potatoes are already in there

Apples (optional) they may be still warm from the oven anyway or you may wish to serve them at room temp

What I did leave on the stovetop: the iron pancake griddle, set to low, with the sheet tray full of pancakes resting on top, covered loosely with foil. This keeps the cakes nice and steamy hot.

Now, everything is ready and everything will be served hot, the way it was intended.

Finally, I fix myself a fresh, hot cup of coffee and sit down with my guests to enjoy the fruits of our labor!

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Top Ten Vegan Mains

 

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When making the transition to a plant-based diet, most of us do really well with breakfast and lunch, but when it comes to dinner, find ourselves in a quandary. The question I have heard most often over the years is “So, what do you eat?”

Here are a few creative recipe ideas for your next meal. Enjoy!

  1.  Classic Meatloaf

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     2.  Stuffed Portobellos

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3.  Macaroni and Cheeze

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4.  All-American Barbecue

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5.  Sesame Grilled Tofu

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6.  Peanut Noodles

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7.  Vegetable Lasagnaovenready

8.  Coconut Curried Tofu and Spinach

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9.  Thai Red Lentil Chili

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10.  Quinoa Nachos

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Chocolate Mousse Pie

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Here’s a recipe that will impress your sweetie pie, or heck– just impress yourself!  A no-bake chocolate cookie crust filled with super easy, super rich and delicious chocolate mousse.

The secret is buying the best darn vegan-friendly chocolate you can afford! This is a dessert I pull out every so often for a special occasion or to share with non-vegans who doubt whether a non-dairy dessert can measure up to what they are used to.

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Personally, I never truly appreciated chocolate until I enjoyed it without dairy and additives and the other junk it is often processed with.

Chocolate Mousse Pie

Adapted from “The Joy of Vegan Baking” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Ingredients:
1 cup nondairy semisweet chocolate chips, chunks or bar cut into small chunks
12 oz silken tofu (soft or firm)
½ cup nondairy milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

Vegan cookie pie shell, homemade or store bought

Melt chocolate in double boiler or in microwave until smooth and pourable. Puree tofu, milk, salt and vanilla in food processor until well blended. Stream slightly cooled but pourable chocolate into the tofu mixture and blend immediately until fully incorporated. Transfer to pie shell and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

The Vegan Reuben Project

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I enjoy a personal culinary challenge. Especially one that results in good eats! I set out to create an old favorite from my pre-vegan days and I nailed it, if I do say so myself!

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This was a great opportunity to try my hand at baking my own rye bread as well as the corned “beef” recipe I’ve been meaning to try ever since I came across it in Brian McCarthy’s, “The Professional Vegan Cookbook”. The roast was easier than expected and turned out juicy and flavorful. The spices are on point!

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Baking my own bread is a favorite activity (when time allows) and rye was definitely a challenge. Even after three tries I don’t think I got the rise exactly as high I wanted, but it turned out delicious anyway!

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The thousand island dressing was a no-brainer to make, but is a crucial element in building the perfect Rueben!

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Vegan Corned Beef 

2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten
2 tbsp. Granulated onion
2 tbsp. Paprika
2 tbsp. Whole Fennel Seed, coarsely ground
2 tbsp. Caraway seeds, coarsely ground
1 tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cloves
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 cup Vegetable broth
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Molasses
1 tbsp. Vinegar (white or ac)
Cheesecloth
String or twine

1. In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water to a simmer.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in separate bowl. Combine wet with the dry until well combined.

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3. Form into a 5-inch by 8-inch loaf that will be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Place on cheesecloth and roll up like a big flat rectangle tootsie roll (not too tight). Tie each end with a piece of string.

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4. Place in simmering water, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take roast out of liquid and remove cheese cloth.:

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Serve warm in thin slices or chill for later. I froze half of my roast to enjoy another day.

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Maple-Butter Pancake Oats

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My favorite breakfast is pancakes. But I don’t eat them as often as I’d like–opting for a lighter, healthier choice most mornings. It strikes me as funny that I didn’t come up with this idea sooner, but the other day I got the notion that I could make my healthy, whole-food oats TASTE like pancakes. And still walk away from the table feeling like I made a smarter choice.

I thought about what makes the pancake experience for me. It’s not just the maple flavor. No, it’s the harmonious contrast of the warm, sweet syrup  against the salty, creamy butter along with a bit of cinnamon spice. Yes, that’s the balance I have created here.

Not to mention, this bowl of warm, comforting goodness comes together in less than five minutes.

What took me so long?

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Maple Butter Pancake Oats

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup water

pinch salt

1 tsp. Earth Balance Non-Dairy Margarine

1 Tbsp. real maple syrup

1/4 tsp. cinnamon, pumpkin pie or apple pie spice

1/4 tsp. Maldon Sea Salt (optional)

Method:

Cook oats per package directions or microwave in a heat-proof bowl, approximately 2 minutes, 30 seconds at 50% power.

Allow the cooked oats to sit for about a minute, then stir to check for desired doneness. Add remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

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Vegan Zucchini-Spice Muffins

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When my day in the kitchen is smooth, I often have a little energy left over to make something just for fun. Today I baked these delicious, moist muffins filled with nutritious real food like fresh zucchini, banana, applesauce, walnuts and raisins. And just in time for tea!

This recipe comes directly from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s website. She’s definitely my go-to gal for the tastiest, fool-proof vegan recipes. Click here to link directly to her site and the recipe: ZUCCHINI BANANA BREAD

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I made little modification, other than using whole wheat pastry flour, adding a little

chai masala for extra spiciness and baking the batter as muffins instead of in a loaf pan.

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They baked up in about 20 minutes. Just watch your time. You’ll know when they’re ready–nice high, lightly-browned domes and dry on top, but if you’re not sure just poke a toothpick or the blade of a thin knife through the center to make sure the batter is no longer wet.

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Garlic-Sesame Soba with Wild Mushrooms and Edamame

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I love noodles, especially soba. Here’s a quick and easy dish that works for a weeknight meal, but translates just as well to an elegant dinner party with a hot cup of miso soup as a first course.

Ingredients:

5 ounces SOBA NOODLES

2 tbsp. ounces AGAVE NECTAR
3 tbsp.  RICE WINE VINEGAR
3 tbsp. REDUCED SODIUM TAMARI SAUCE
1 teaspoon CHILI-GARLIC SAUCE (SAMBAL OELEK)
1 tbsp.  OLIVE OIL
4 ounces MUSHROOMS, MIXED
3 cloves GARLIC, MINCED
3 SCALLIONS, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. SESAME OIL, TOASTED
1 tsp.  SESAME SEEDS, BLACK

1/2 cup EDAMAME, FROZEN, SHELLED, thawed

Method:

1. Cook soba noodles, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
2. Whisk agave, tamari, vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and set aside.
3. Saute mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and scallions and let cook a few more minutes until fragrant. Add sauce and let cook for 1 more minute until heated through.
4. In a large bowl, toss soba noodles with sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Eat chilled or hot.

Vegan Andouille Sausage

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Here’s just the companion to my gumbo recipe, a tasty, spicy sausage to enhance the dish or slice up and fry with your morning tofu, your choice.

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but trust me, the resulting flavor is well worth all the gathering! I would recommend doubling this recipe for your trouble and storing a few links in the freezer for later on.

Vegan Andouille Sausage

adapted from a recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups Vital Wheat Gluten
¼ cup Nutritional yeast
½ cup White beans
1 cup Veg stock
4 tsp. Garlic
2 tbsp. Soy sauce
1 tbsp. Tomato paste
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Smoked paprika
1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 tsp. Sweet paprika
1 tsp. Sage, rubbed
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Liquid smoke
¼ tsp. Black pepper
¼ tsp. Cayenne pepper

Method:

  1. Mash beans with fork until smooth. Add veg broth, soy sauce, tomato paste, and all spices and mix well. With a fork, mix in nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten until a dough forms.
    2. Knead dough for a minute or two then cut into 4 equal pieces. Stretch and roll each piece into sausage shape and wrap in foil, twisting ends. Steam for 45 minutes.

Vegan Gumbo with Homemade Andouille, A Passion Project

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Every once in awhile I find myself overwhelmed by the urge to make something I know will be complicated. And I make it. Because it’s worth the extra time and effort.

And because I know there’s nowhere else I can get it but in my own little kitchen.

So, here it is. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands I highly recommend this savory, warming, stick-to-your-ribs recipe for gumbo that tastes every bit as good as what they make down on the bayou.

Just two notes right up front: There is no okra in my gumbo. Because I don’t like it. Feel free to add as liberally as you like, though. The other thing…although I chose to make my own sausage, there are packaged versions of andouille or similar sausage you may want to pick up instead.

Vegan Gumbo

Recipe courtesy eatfigsnotpigs.com (with slight modifications)

(Servings: 4)

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. Canola oil
½  Not Beef stock cube (or veggie, if you can’t find it in your store)
¾ cup Yellow Onion, chopped
½ cup Green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced

1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance
2 cups Not Beef Stock (or veggie)
1 cup Stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp. Parsley, chopped

1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 Bay leaves
1 tsp. Hot sauce
2 each Vegan andouille, sliced

1 cup white or red kidney beans
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Emeril’s Essence)
1 tsp. Gumbo File powder (ground sassafras leaves), optional
2  Scallions, sliced
3 cups Rice, Basmati, cooked

Method:

Start with your roux. Heat the oil and 1/2 bouillon cube over medium-low heat, preferably in a cast-iron dutch oven or deep skillet. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture changes color from light to medium brown.  Be careful not to burn it!

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From this color…
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To this color!

Remove the roux from the pan into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

Saute the veggies. Melting the margarine in the skillet, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion, celery and green peppers with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until veggies are softened, about 8 minutes or so. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Now the easy part. Add the stock and tomatoes. With a rubber spatula, scrape all that lovely roux back into the pan. Over medium heat, cook and stir until well incorporated and thickened. If it gets too thick, add a bit more water or stock until the consistency is right.

Now the seasonings. Add the thyme, bay leaf, hot sauce and cajun spice and let simmer for a good 10 minutes on low. Give it a taste. Add a bit more spice or salt if you like.

Finish. Take your andouille slices and brown them off in a little oil in a separate skillet. This is an optional step, but I like the crisp outside that keeps the sausage from getting soggy too fast and the browned edges add color to the dish.

Drop the slices into your gumbo along with the kidney beans and allow to heat through while you chop up your garnishes–scallions and parsley. Add these right before serving and they will retain their color and fresh flavor.

The gumbo file powder is added after cooking, just a sprinkle for flavor. Serve over hot, cooked rice with a few more scallion slices.

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Simple Cinnamon Rolls

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I love home-cooked breakfast on Sundays. I woke this morning thinking about the other half of a double batch of pizza dough I whipped up yesterday. The dough was what my Nana would describe as “happy”– full of air, fluffy and nearly bursting through the wrap, eager to get into whatever creative plan I would soon hatch.

So inspired, I came up with this delicious treat. The scent of warm cinnamon and buttery brown sugar wafting through the house is irresistible.

Ingredients:

1 batch pizza dough (homemade or store-bought, my whole wheat version shown here)

1/4 cup flour for rolling

1/4 cup dairy-free buttery spread (such as Earth Balance), softened, plus extra for pan

1 big tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Note: Ingredients amounts are flexible. If you like more cinnamon, by all means, pile it on. That goes for sugar, nuts, raisins, chocolate–whatever you like. You can’t mess this up. It’s your creation!

Method:

Grease a 9 inch cake pan with buttery spread until well-coated.

dough

Lightly flour a clean surface and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, checking underneath periodically, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Spread the margarine to cover the dough to the edges. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon and nuts evenly and pat down to adhere to dough.

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Roll the long side tightly to form a log shape. With a very sharp knife, cut into 1 to 1/2 inch thick slices and place side by side in the cake pan. Brush with additional margarine if desired.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until sugar is bubbly and rolls are lightly browned.

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Serve with vanilla glaze if desired:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Blend together well and drizzle over rolls

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Braised Kale

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I can’t emphasize enough how tasty, simple and quick this recipe is. So much flavor, from so few ingredients!

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Braised Kale

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1 bunch green kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

1-2 tbsp. Olive oil

Method:

Prepare marinade. Mix soy sauce and brown sugar together and set aside. Slice tofu 1/2 inch thick slabs and then into squares. Place into container with marinade to cover. Marinate for  20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Salute tofu until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to plate and keep warm.

In hot skillet, add kale and saute until wilted, stirring constantly, adding remaining marinade halfway through and coating greens until mostly evaporated.

Plate and top with sautéed tofu. Serve immediately.

 

 

Recommended Viewing for New Vegans

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There are various reasons to go vegan. Whether for the environment,  compassion for animals, global concerns, health, weight loss–they are all good reasons.

There is a wealth of information out there and it can be overwhelming for the newbie. If your focus is on personal health, and breaking the cycle of disease stemming from the standard western diet, here are a couple of movies I highly recommend. Both are available for streaming on Netflix.

“Forks Over Knives”

 

“What The Health”

 

Mini Tofu Omelets

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Here’s a tasty, portable breakfast option from the new cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, “Isa Does It”.

These cute little mini-omelets have a great flavor and are super easy to prepare!

Mini Tofu Omelets

  • 2 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 14 ounces Soft, silken tofu
  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil
  • ½ tsp. Turmeric, ground
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • ½ cup Chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp. Arrowroot powder

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop the garlic in a food processor.: Add the tofu, water, nutritional yeast, olive oil, turmeric and salt. Puree until smooth.
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2. Add the chickpea flour and arrowroot and puree again for about 10 seconds, until combined.:
3. Make sure to scrape down the sides so that everything is well incorporated.:
4. Brush a 12-cup muffin pan lightly with oil. Pour the batter into each well until a little over halfway full.:
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5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges have pulled away from the sides a bit and the top is firm to the touch.:
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6. For the best results, let cool for at least 10 minutes. :
Servings/Yield: Yield: 12
Source:  “Isa Does It” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

I Made Tahini (And You Can, Too!)

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I’m free! Free from the tyranny of the ten dollar jar of organic tahini when all I need is a spoonful or two at a time! What took me so long?

This quick, easy recipe produces fresh, tasty, toasty sesame tahini for a fraction of the cost!

Easy Tahini

Ingredients:

1 cup raw sesame seeds

2 tbsp. mild flavored oil (I used sesame oil)

Method:

Toast sesame seeds lightly in a dry skillet, over medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly, just until slightly brown. Immediately transfer to a small food processor or blender.

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Grind until seeds resemble small crumbs. Add a tablespoon of oil and keep grinding, scraping down the sides as needed. Add another tablespoon of oil, if needed to create a creamy consistency. Keep grinding until smooth. That’s it!!

Makes about 1/2 cup of tahini. Store covered, in the fridge.

 

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Vegan Creme Anglaise with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble (gluten and soy free)

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Looking for a company-ready dessert for your next dinner party? This is a simple, sweet and delicious one that will please everyone!

Coconut Creme Anglaise with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble

1 recipe coconut creme anglaise

1 recipe cinnamon walnuts

3 gluten-free, soy-free vegan spice muffins, crumbled (optional) (here’s a good recipe)

Layer all ingredients in a dessert dish, starting and ending with crumble. Serve chilled. Serves 4.

Coconut Creme Anglaise (4 servings)

  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp.  Salt
  • 7 ounces Coconut milk
  • 1 cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla

 

Stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan.:
Stir in soy and coconut milks. Bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.:
Remove from heat and stir in extract(s). Refrigerate until chilled.:

Walnut-Cinnamon Crumble

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt

 

Pulse ingredients just until crumbly

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Vegan Frangipane-Raspberry Strudel

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I got to thinking about frangipane and how I hadn’t enjoyed it since way back in my culinary school days. I remembered fondly the rich, creamy sweetness wrapped in a crisp pastry pillow encrusted with sugared almond slices.

I was inspired by this memory to try my hand at a vegan pastry with all the flavor but none of the dairy contained in the classical French preparation.

I was in a hurry to put my theory into action, so I picked up ready-made (accidentally vegan) puff pastry sheets from my grocer’s freezer and set to work.

I let the sheets thaw at room temperature (about 75 degrees) for 45 minutes, until they could be handled easily, but not completely soft. I set my oven to 400 degrees and started making my filling.

I just needed a creamy ingredient to loosen up the almond paste and make it  spreadable, so I chunked the paste  into my food processor with a bit of cashew cream I happened to have leftover in the fridge.

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I processed the two ingredients until very creamy, the consistency of soft frosting.

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I spread a nice thick layer of the frangipane then topped it with raspberry pie filling. I made a second pastry, for good measure– topping the filling with chocolate chips.

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My pastry forming skills are more than a little rusty but I managed it into a shape that looked right, then dabbed a bit of soy milk on top, followed by sliced almonds and sugar. The most important goal, for me, was getting it into the oven 🙂

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I allowed the pastry to bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and crispy on top and bottom.

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It turned out every bit as good as I had imagined.

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Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry sheets, although not exactly a health food, are one of those accidentally vegan products that comes in handy for creating a special treat on the fly.

The frangipane filling was tasty and sweet, but not overly so due to the addition of the unsweetened cashew cream (about 1/2 cup altogether). If I had it in the cabinet I might have bumped up the almond flavor just a bit with some extract, but all in all this quick and easy pastry was a great success!

 

 

Vegan Creme Brûlée

 

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Yes, you read that right. Creme brûlée. Silky smooth and creamy sweet. And can I just mention, so easy that I memorized the recipe after the first time I made it?? Now I can just whip it up at the drop of a hat, using pantry staples. Sound to good to be true? Well, it’s true. So, check this out…

Vegan Creme Brûlée 

adapted from a recipe by Chloe Coscarelli

1 can full-fat coconut milk (14.5 oz)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

1/8 tsp. ground turmeric (for color)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup corn starch

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsp. brown sugar (optional)

Method:

Stir together coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to make sure sugar is fully dissolved.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a small bowl the cornstarch and milk. When coconut milk mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and slowly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until custard is thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Transfer to dessert dishes and chill at least 3 hours before serving.

If you want to dress to impress, sprinkle a coating of brown sugar on top of each serving and caramelize with a kitchen torch until a crisp shell forms on top. Enjoy!

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Savory Tempeh Steaks

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Another mainstay in my weekly recipes is tempeh.

As with tofu, my relationship with tempeh has evolved over time. The first time I tried cooking it, I just slapped it in a hot pan and served it alongside vegetables and rice. It was awful. Dry and flavorless.

Just like tofu, tempeh must be infused with the flavors you want to enjoy. I have grown to appreciate the versatility of this protein-packed soybean product after trying it as a base for meatloaf, crumbled and seasoned like taco meat; sliced, marinated and pan-fried for sandwiches or bacon, stir-fried in pepper steak–even barbecued!

  1. Tempeh varies by brand. I suggest trying several until you settle on the one you like. Some brands can be *bitter. I prefer West Soy brand. It has a neutral flavor and holds together quite well for all my various preparations.

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2. Fabricate! For this recipe the tempeh is simply cut into four equal size patties.

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3. Marinate! The most important step with tempeh is the flavoring. Here is the marinade for this recipe:

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4. Roast! Bake the tempeh for 30 minutes, then turn it over, baste and bake for another 20-30 minutes until most of the marinade is absorbed and the tempeh turns a deep, roasted color. The marinade will be absorbed into the tempeh, giving it a delicious flavor.

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Now the tempeh is ready to be paired with your favorite sides and perhaps a compatible sauce or gravy. Here’s one I like: Everyday Mushroom Gravy.

*Bitterness in tempeh can be alleviated by first steaming it for 20 minutes after cutting into desired shape for your recipe.

Soup Magic: Homestyle Split Pea

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Okay, I know ’tis the season, but we can’t live on vegan holiday cookies and peppermint bark! Put something warm and nourishing in your belly with this super-easy soup recipe.

When I think of split pea soup, I think simplicity. A  savory stew of peas, tender chunks of carrots and celery with just a hint of onion and garlic.

This recipe is simple as simple can be. I load the ingredients in the crockpot on my way out the door in the morning, and a few hours later I have a thick, hearty soup. That’s magic.

Magic Split Pea Soup

1 pound green split peas, rinsed

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

6 cups vegetable broth

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 Method:

Just pour everything into the crockpot, cover and cook on low for 3 ½ – 4 hours. Check for salt and add seasonings to taste. Yield: 6 – 8 servings.

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Soup Magic: Hearty Lentil

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Lentil is one of my favorite high-protein meal soups. It’s simple and low maintenance, and comes together in just a few minutes.

 I enjoy cooking soup on the stove—that aromatic slow-simmering, stirring, tending, nurturing activity.

But, during the work week I usually don’t have that kind of time. The last thing I want to read in a crockpot recipe is the direction to sauté vegetables before adding them to the crockpot. If I had time to do that, well I would probably take it all the way on the stove!

Instead, I left my crock pot in charge this morning, and brisked out the door for work. By lunch time I had a rich, satisfying stew, and lots of it. I think about what a prepared cup of soup costs, about $3. For less than that, I could feed a family of four, dinner sized portions of this hearty, healthful, tasty meal. Just saying…

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Hearty Lentil Soup

1 ½ cups raw brown lentils, rinsed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

2 or 3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 or 3 stalks celery, diced

Handful of celery tops (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

Big sprig of fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. ground)

5-6 cups vegetable broth (or water)

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

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Prepare all ingredients and add to crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Stir and check for seasonings. Depending on your broth, you may wish to add salt. With a pair of tongs or a fork, fish out and discard the bay leaves, thyme stems and celery tops, if used. Add a generous grind of pepper and add broth if needed, depending on how “soupy” you like it.

Yield:  4-6 big servings

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

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These are the best gingerbread cookies I have ever baked, vegan or not! The flavor and spices are perfectly balanced, the cookie is soft and slightly chewy, and the dough is easy to work with. Did I say the best?? Yes, absolutely. There’s still time to try this wonderful recipe and impress family and friends this holiday!

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

(Recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Makes about 16 cookies (depending on the size of your cutters)

1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup plain soymilk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a mix of both)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

spice blend:
1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Directions
In a large bowl whisk together oil and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add molasses and soymilk. The molasses and soymilk won’t really blend with the oil but that’s ok.

Sift in all of the other dry ingredients, mixing about half way through. When all of the dry ingredients are added, mix until a stiff dough is formed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or up to 3 days in advance. If you chill longer than an hour you may want to let it sit for 10 minutes to warm up a bit before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters and use a thin spatula to gently place on cookie sheets. If you are using them to decorate a tree or something, remember to punch a hole in their heads (!) before baking. Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet then move to a cooling rack. Wait until they are completely cool before icing.

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One Big Vegan Pancake

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Sometimes I am in the mood for pancakes, but dread standing over the stove babysitting the griddle until all the batter is cooked. I actually chafe at the responsibility of seeing each cake safely through the journey until I can get that one or two on my plate. Sometimes the perceived commitment is just too much.

Using the ‘pan-cookie’ theory, I decided I would half my recipe and make this fluffy, sweet, colossal cake just for me. One and done!

One Big Pancake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tbsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)

1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk

1 tbsp. oil

Oil or pan spray for griddle

Non-dairy butter and maple syrup, honey or preserves for serving

Method:

Pre-heat large greased griddle or skillet over medium low.

Mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Add wet ingredients and mix gently with a spoon, just until flour is dissolved. Do not beat! If batter is too thick add a bit more milk.

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When a droplet of water sizzles on the griddle or skillet, the pan is ready. Pour all batter at once onto surface of pan and spread around so it cooks evenly. Turn down heat if necessary to maintain thorough baking without burning the bottom of the cake.

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Not quite there yet…

When there are little holes all over the top of the pancake, it’s time to turn it over. You may need two spatulas to make this happen without breaking the cake! Let it cook another 3-5 minutes, then serve immediately!

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I did my best 🙂

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Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

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What can I say? I grew up like most American kids. Hot dogs were most definitely on the menu. Nowadays, they are definitely not. The conventional version anyway. Every once in awhile I get a hankering for that good old-fashioned frank on a bun experience. There are various brands of vegan dogs on the market, but I thought I would try this recipe because it is quite simple and natural and uses pantry items I have on hand.

These are quite good and easy to make, with a pleasant background flavor of cornmeal, reminiscent of corn dogs (another old favorite). We both actually like them better than any brand I’ve tried. Definitely cheaper than store-bought and you can adjust the sodium and flavorings to your liking.

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

recipe courtesy Heather Bell and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods

as published in Veg News magazine, July-August 2017

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce) package extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled

1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour

1 tbsp arrowroot powder

2 tbsp safflower oil ( I used canola)

3/4 tsp liquid smoke

1 1/2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground mace

1/2 tsp mustard powder

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Method:

In large food processor add all ingredients and process until a dough forms.

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Cut eight 4 x 6 inch pieces or parchment paper and eight pieces of aluminum foil the same size.

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Roll the dough into a ball on a clean surface and flatten slightly. Cut into 8 equal pieces then form each piece into a hot dog shape.

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Roll each dog in parchment and twist ends. Then roll each piece in foil, twist and trim ends if necessary.

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Place rolls in an electric steamer or a colander over a simmering pot of water on the stove to create a steamer (covered). Steam 45 minutes.

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Don’t forget the buns!

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Toasted, Winter Park, FL

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Every time we travel up near Orlando  we make a point of having a meal at our favorite vegan restaurant in that area: Ethos Vegan Kitchen. But, on this particular day it was so jammed up with folks waiting for a table, upwards of 30-40 minutes, and we were so hungry, we decided to look around.

Siri brought up the next restaurant in the list, Toasted. What? How could this be vegan? It’s a grilled cheese and burger place. But, to our pleasant surprise, Toasted offers a full selection of creative vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, salads and even rosemary truffle cheese fries! Yes, you read that right.

And here’s the thing…this is not Daiya or Follow Your Heart brand or even Chao cheese substitute. It’s something different that I have never tasted before and even in my forays into homemade cheese–I have never experienced a cheese substitute that tastes and has the mouthfeel of real melted cheese like this one. It’s a blend of pea protein and coconut milk, says the menu. And the bread is baked in-house!

I ordered the Fireball grilled cheese sandwich with sriracha and fresh tomatoes and slices of jalapeño. Boy, was it spicy and so, so good. The bread was crisp and buttery on the outside, without a hint of sogginess. The cheese, hot and melty, even better than I remember the conventional slices to be.

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Steve had the grilled vegetable and cheese sandwich. It was delicious, too–full of grilled, seasoned mushrooms, peppers and onions. And the rosemary truffle fries were one heck of a treat. As you can see by the photo, they look like real cheese fries and they tasted even better with the fresh herbs. Fantastic!

Oh, and the iced tea is brewed and tasted so fresh.

The service staff on this day were a group of energetic, pleasant, young adults. Ordering takes place at the front counter, you pour your own drink, the food is brought to your table when ready and they come back and clear away.

I have the feeling that next time we are in the neighborhood it may be a difficult choice between our usual vegan restaurant and our new favorite veg-friendly restaurant, Toasted.

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Maple-Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

 

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If you think you don’t like brussels sprouts, then you probably never tasted them roasted with maple syrup and a touch of dijon mustard–crispy caramelized edges and sweet, tender mild almost broccoli-like flavor.

This is a simple, no-fuss recipe that provides excellent results every time. Give it a try!

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

from Big Vegan by Robin Asbell

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, Trimmed and halved
2 small Shallots, Quartered
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sprouts and shallots lightly with olive oil, maple syrup and mustard. Roast on parchment-lined sheet pan for 20 minutes. Stir and roast another 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately. Yield: 3 servings

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

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Low-fat gravy?? How could that be? How about no-fat gravy? This gravy is so smooth and savory, but also light, therefore you can really feel good about pouring it over your favorite loaf or patty, mashers, biscuits or rice.

I am a firm believer in simplicity. I don’t get too fussy with small details and have little patience for long-winded recipes. So, I love The Happy Herbivore cookbook by Lindsay Nixon. The recipes are quick and easy, vegan and low-fat. Best of all, I downloaded the book to my Kindle for only five bucks!

Everyday Gravy

from “The Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon

1 cup water

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided

1/4 teaspoon of each: garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered

1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/2 cup soy milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a non-stick skillet and bring to a boil. Add the garlic, mushrooms and Italian seasoning and saute until mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes.

Shrooms

Vegan Pecan Bars

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Oh, my gosh! Scrolling through my reader the other day I came across this delicious recipe from Kaitlyn at myconsciouskitchen.com and was immediately inspired! I dropped everything and made it my mission to not only bake these sweet, nutty, layered cookie bars, but to photograph the process and post about it!

First, I preheated my oven to 325 and  gathered my ingredients for the bottom layer (the cookie part). I decided I would double up and make this part a bit thicker, kind of like a shortbread crust.

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Simple, simple. All stuff from the pantry. For the shortening, however, I substituted Earth Balance Buttery Stick.

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I mixed all the dry ingredients together with the fat, like a biscuit dough, then added the cool water, just until it was well-combined then pressed it out into an 8 x 8 inch pan, lined with a sheet of parchment paper and oiled with cooking spray. I baked it until the crust was firm and lightly browned, like a cookie, then set it aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

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Next, the ingredients for the filling. The flax egg takes a little forethought, but again, super-simple to put together while the crust cools.

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I mixed together everything with a whisk, folded in the chopped pecans, then straight in the oven.

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After 40 minutes, I checked it, then gave it another 5 minutes. It looked perfect. I allowed the pan to cool on a rack for a  couple of hours so I would get nice, clean slices.

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I ran a knife edge around the inside of the pan before carefully lifting out, then cut into servings.

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The verdict: Sweet and sticky and delicious! Like a combination of pecan pie and your most tender, buttery shortbread cookie. Perfect served warmed with a scoop of non-dairy vanilla, or as-is. We particularly enjoy a square straight from the freezer!

This one is definitely a keeper! Thanks so much, Kaitlyn! Find the full recipe HERE

 

Vegan Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Pie

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This is hands-down the best pumpkin pie recipe out there! The sweet, creamy filling is firm without being dry, and simple as a smoothie to put together. Perfectly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, this pie will be the star of your holiday table!

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

(recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Ingredients:

3 cups pumpkin or sweet potato puree ( I used sweet potato here)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup soy or other non-dairy milk

4 tsp. canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

pinch ground cloves

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. agar powder (see note below)

Pastry for 1 single-crust pie

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

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Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until very smooth.

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Spread evenly into pie shell and bake in middle of center oven rack for 60-65 minutes.

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Let cool for at least four hours before cutting to allow filling to set. Perfect!

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*Note: Agar powder is a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. If you can’t find it at your local natural foods store, grab it online through amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Kidney Bean-Quinoa Burgers with Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce

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Okay, so I didn’t think about posting this recipe until I was plating it up for service. This was our dinner tonight. What I love about these burgers is that they come together so quickly and with pantry staples I always have hanging around. Bonus!

I don’t have any step-by-step process photos for this one, but I’ll throw in an extra recipe, just for fun, okay?

Kidney Bean-Quinoa Burgers

recipe courtesy Lindsay Nixon (Happy Herbivore)

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup cooked quinoa

1 14.5 ounce can kidney beans

2 tbsp. barbecue sauce

2 tbsp. ketchup

2 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp. paprika

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain and mash beans then add remaining ingredients in the order listed. Mix together well and form into six patties. Bake on parchment-lined sheet tray for 8 minutes, then flip and bake another 5 minutes. The patties will firm up a bit more as they cool.

 

 

Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce (no-cook)

Ingredients:

½ cup ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

 

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

 

 

 

 

Vegan Apple Crisp

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I remember when I first became aware there was such a thing called apple crisp. And it wasn’t at home. It was in my elementary school lunchroom. This exotic dessert was warm and sweet and cinnamon-y, with this outrageously crispy topping…so way over and above apple pie. It made an impact on me!

I am sure the recipe originated in somebody’s grandma’s kitchen. Most warm apple desserts do 😉 But, I was ever after held captive by that crispy sweet crust of oats and pecans and brown sugar atop those sweet-tart warm apples.

I hope you enjoy this version, from America’s Test Kitchen, slightly modified by the substitution of vegan margarine for the butter called for in the original recipe:

Apple Crisp

Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup pecans, chopped fine
¾ cup oats, rolled
½ cup brown sugar, light
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick, melted and cooled

Filling:
1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 pounds apples, golden delicious, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
⅓ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit . Set oven rack in middle position. Mix together topping with margarine until moistened and crumbly.

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2.Bring cider to simmer in 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Transfer to liquid measuring cup and stir in lemon juice.

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3.Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in bowl. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apples and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften and become translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. (do not fully cook apples). Off heat, gently stir in cider mixture.

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4.Transfer apple mixture to 13 x 9 inch casserole dish (or individual dishes as shown), sprinkle evenly with topping, breaking up any large chunks.

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Bake until fruit is tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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5.Reheat in 425 degree oven until slightly warm, about 5 minutes.

Serving suggestion:  Top with vanilla non-dairy ice cream and this fantastic

vegan caramel sauce

from our fellow blogger, Larice at feedingyourbeauty.com.

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Oh, yeah!!!

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Dutch Apple Pie

This is a re-post of a recipe that has received a lot of attention from readers over the past five years on my blog, and well worth sharing again, I think! I hope you enjoy it.

One of my favorite comfort foods that instantly brings to mind the holidays is warm apple pie. That cinnamon, brown sugar goodness just takes me right back to my Nana’s kitchen.

This recipe is a fusion between my favorite filling recipe and my favorite topping recipe. This fruit dessert is not meant to be healthful. It is meant to be decadent. It’s the holiday after all! Big sweet, crunchy buttery crumbs atop a spicy filling of tart and sweet apples and brown sugar. This is my idea of pie perfection.

Dutch Apple Pie

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Ingredients:

Unbaked pie shell for 1-crust pie ( I use Wholly Wholesome Organic Whole Wheat Pie Shells from Whole Foods Market)

Filling:

5 medium apples, (I used 2 Granny Smith and 3 Jonagold) peeled, cored and sliced thin

¾ cup sugar

2 T flour

2 T cornstarch

1 T lemon juice

1 t vanilla

Streusel Topping:

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup all purpose flour

¾ t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

5 T Earth balance margarine, cut into 1 inch pieces

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then reduce to 350 and slide cookie sheet underneath. Bake another 30 minutes. Tent with foil to prevent over-browning.