Cornmeal-Molasses Waffles

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I was in the mood for waffles today. But not the usual sweet, refined version most of us are used to. I wanted something more substantial. A waffle with a deep, earthy flavor and  a chewy texture. A crunchy whole-grain chew beneath the sweet, buttery maple surface.

First, I was delighted to find a solid vegan waffle recipe online. And even more pleased to find I had all the ingredients on hand. This, in my opinion, is the mark of a fine recipe. Don’t make me run out to the store for that one “special” ingredient!

I took this wonderful basic recipe here from The One Ingredient Chef   and made modifications to suit my vision.

What I hearken to here is the original breakfast fare of the early American settlers, like I imagine Ma Ingalls used to make for Laura, Mary, Carrie and little baby Grace in the “Little House on The Prairie” books. The food of my heritage.

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I substituted molasses for the maple syrup and olive oil for the coconut. The flavor is darker and edgier, kind of like a full-bodied dark coffee.

Serve these crispy with Earth Balance Buttery Spread and warm (real) maple syrup. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Note: Don’t worry if your vegan waffles don’t get as crispy as you like no matter how long you leave them on the iron. You can always crisp them up in the toaster or in a 375 degree oven, laid directly on the rack for a few minutes.

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David Lynch’s Quinoa With Broccoli

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I found myself inspired the other night by David Lynch’s short film, Quinoa, included as a special feature on his Inland Empire DVD. Filmed in black and white, in his own kitchen, the innovative filmmaker and artist leads us step-by- step through the preparation of one of his favorite dinners, quinoa with broccoli.

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While the dish cooks, Lynch takes a break on his porch with a glass of wine and a cigarette and tells us a story about his 1965 train ride from Yugoslavia to Italy. So random, yet so fascinating. So Lynch.

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Quinoa with Broccoli

from the short film, Quinoa by David Lynch

 

Ingredients:

A scant 1/2 cup quinoa, dry

Water for cooking

pinch of salt

1 small vegetable bouillon cube, cut into pieces

3/4 cup organic broccoli florets

Braggs liquid aminos, to taste

Olive oil, extra virgin, to taste

Method:

Fill a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with about an inch of fresh water. Set it over a nice, hot flame and bring to the boil with a pinch of sea salt. Stir in the quinoa and reduce flame to low. Cover and simmer for 9 minutes.

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After 9 minutes, lift the lid and add the broccoli. Cover and continue to steam over low heat for another 8 minutes.

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Remove from heat and add the cut up bouillon cube directly into quinoa and stir until dissolved.

Taste for salt, then add liquid aminos and a splash of olive oil to taste. Serve immediately.

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Makes 1 large portion.

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Jamaican Jerk Tempeh

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Have I ever mentioned how crazy I am for jerk? This wildly flavorful balance of hot peppers, herbs, spices, brown sugar and tangy onions is so crazy good–and I never even tried it at home until I went vegan. I like it homemade better than any other way.

With this recipe, I suggest you make it worth your while and double or even quadruple the ingredients to either freeze some marinade for later, or do what I did: roast up a ton of tempeh in the oven and store in the freezer for a quick supper or crumbled in dirty rice. Yum!

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh

8 ounces tempeh (Westsoy Brand is preferable), cut crosswise into 8 slices

Marinade: 

2 scallions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 habanero peppers, stemmed and seeded (or if you can take the heat, level up with scotch bonnets)

2 T lime juice

1 T soy sauce

1 1/2 T olive oil

2/4 T sea salt

1/2 T brown sugar

1/2 T fresh thyme leaves

1 t allspice, ground

1 t black pepper, ground

1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg

1/4 t cinnamon

Method:

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Puree all marinade ingredients in blender until smooth.

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Marinate tempeh slices overnight

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Roast in 400 degree oven on a greased, foil-lined pan  for 15 minutes. Turn over and roast another 10 minutes or so, until marinade is absorbed and exterior is crisp and dry.

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Enjoy!

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Homestyle Oat Bars

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I really like those tasty, chewy individually packaged oat bars I find at Whole Foods Market. But I don’t like paying $2.00 per bar!

So, I cracked open the pantry  and came up with my own quick, no-bake version that as it turns out, I like a whole lot better!

This recipe is simple. One you can throw together with whatever nuts, seeds, cereals and dried fruits you just happen to have hanging around. You don’t have to toast the rolled oats or the nuts, but I like that roasty-brown taste. These bars are soft and sweet, without being overly so, with a deep caramel-like flavor from the brown rice syrup.

Homestyle Oat Bars

adapted from the recipe found at fannetasticfood.com

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups rolled oats

1 cup crispy brown rice cereal

Any combination of the following, measuring 1 cup:

Nuts, any kind, roughly chopped (almond slices, pecans, walnuts, cashews)

Seeds, any kind (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax, sesame)

Dried fruit, any kind (raisins, diced apples, chopped figs)

Shredded coconut (raw or toasted)

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract

Himalayan pink sea salt (optional)

Method:

  1. If you like your oats and nuts toasted, preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. If not, skip ahead to step 2. Place oats on a dry baking sheet. Place nuts on a separate sheet. When the oven is ready, place the oats and nuts in the oven. Toast the nuts carefully watching the time. This should take 2-4 minutes. They burn easily. Pull them out and allow to cool. Stir the oats every 5 minutes and toast until they are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the toasted oats to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare a small-sized shallow, rimmed baking pan by lining with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Measure brown rice syrup, peanut butter and flavoring into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30-40 seconds, then stir until combined.

IMG_6010.jpg4. Stir the rice cereal, nuts, fruit and other dry ingredients into the bowl with the oats and then pour the wet mixture over, mixing all together with a spatula into a sticky, crunchy mass.

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IMG_6011.jpg5. Immediately press mixture into prepared pan and flatten with your hands. Lightly dust surface of bars with sea salt, if using. Allow to set up in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (if you can wait that long).

6. Cut into squares and wrap individually to prevent sticking together. For best results, store in the refrigerator.

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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 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!

 

 

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!

 

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.

marinara
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??”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plant-Based: On The Cheap

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“I would try the plant-based diet, 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, whole food diet can actually be totally the opposite. A simplification.

Keeping in mind the basic foods your body needs  makes 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 or healthful vegetables 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 if you are concerned about calories.

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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 or other 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.

IMG_0852.jpgThe 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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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.

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.

 

 

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 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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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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Alternative Vegan Holiday Menus

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With the holiday season fast upon us–we, as conscious beings, want to participate in the festivities and merry-making and yet, trying to imitate long-held food traditions, albeit “vegan-style” can feel, well, a little regressive in light of everything we now know.

I have nothing against Tofurkey or Gardein or various seitan roasts.  And of course there’s the “Festival of Sides” as I like to call it. The “best of” parade of veggies, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and breads I have prepared and proudly brought to table over the years.

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But, if you want to try something really courageous, really unconventional– how about a theme menu? One that breaks the rules completely?

 

*Here are a few of my favorite vegan menus for alternative holiday (or anyday) celebrating:

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Soul Food Feast

Barbecue Ribz or Soy Curls

Macaroni and Cheeze

Simmered Greens

Corn Muffins

Sweet Potato Pie

 

 

Italian Feast

Antipasto Salad

Fresh Baguette or Focaccia

Big Pasta Dish: (Lasagna, Pasta Marinara with Meatballs or Sausage, Baked Ziti, etc.)

Tiramisu

 

Indian Feast

Vegetable Samosas

Big Curry Dish: (Chana Masala, Palak Paneer, Cashew Vegetable Korma)

Flat Breads

Cinnamon-Chai Rice Pudding

 

Thai Feast

Thai Sweet Potato Bisque

Cucumber Salad

Tofu Pad Thai or Red or Green Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

Mango or Coconut Ice Cream with Mango-Ginger Coulis

 

Chinese Feast

Pot Stickers

Spring Rolls

General Tso’s Tofu with Broccoli or Szechuan Stir Fry with Vegetables and Sesame GrilledTofu

Creamy Almond Pudding

 

*Stay tuned for recipes in upcoming posts for the menu items without links!!

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Simple Italian Sausage

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Going vegan doesn’t mean giving up comfort foods, oh no! No way. Although I have tried various vegan sausage brands such as Tofurky and Field Roast, and I especially like Field Roast, I have a client who doesn’t like spicy. So, I learned to make my own!

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I like this simple recipe and having the control over the spices. I particularly like lots of fennel seed and garlic in mine.

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Vegan Italian sausage has so many versatile uses AND best of all it freezes well, so you can just grab and thaw when you need it.

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Click HERE for the recipe:  Simple Italian Sausage

from Isa Chandra Moskowitz

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Easy Mozzarella Cheeze Sauce

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So, you reach a point when you stop trying to replace cheese with processed substitutes like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. Your palate can finally appreciate the pure flavors of the tomatoes, the onions, the garlic against the sprinkling of herbs simmered into the sauce.

And yet, there is that missing element. You are looking for a light, creamy counterpoint to the tangy, savory marinara in your lasagna or pasta bake or fresh vegan pizza. This quick and easy recipe is just the solution.

Made with basic pantry staples, this no-cook, tofu-based cheesy sauce comes together lickety-split, faster than the time it takes to boil pasta.

 

Easy Mozzarella Cheeze Sauce

From VegNews magazine

 

1 pkg Tofu, firm silken, 12.3 ounce (shelf-stable type, like Mori-Nu, not water-packed)
¼ cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1 ½ tbsp. Miso, white
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Lemon juice
1 tsp. Cornstarch
½ tsp. Onion powder
¾ tsp. Salt

 

Puree all ingredients in a blender. Store refrigerated up to 5 days.

 

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Hemp Seed Parmesan

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Here’s a simple three-ingredient addition to pizza, pasta, salads, veggies and anywhere else you want a  sprinkle of savory flavor.

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Hemp Seed Parmesan

¼ cup Hemp seeds (or hearts)
2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
¼ tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt

 

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Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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Sourdough Baguette

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Still in a baking mood, I embarked on a mission to create an old-fashioned, dense sourdough bread, like back in the day. I turned to a 1973 fundraising cookbook  published by the Southern Conference Educational Fund based in Louisville, KY.

From the acknowledgements:

“SCEF Recipes is published by the Southern Educational Fund, a Southside interracial organization which has been working since 1938 to end racial injustice, poverty and war through a program of organizing.”

The cookbook is filled with basic, economical whole foods recipes. Not vegan, but still worth browsing through for the little gems like this one contributed by Grambs Miller, artist and designer of the 1972 peace card.

San Francisco Sourdough Bread

Sour dough starter:

1 envelope dry yeast

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups warm water (not hot)

Mix above ingredients in a 1 1/2 quart glass container. Cover with cheesecloth. Leave in warm room 48 hours, to collect airborne yeasts. Stir 2 or 3 times. It will ferment and bubble and have a sourish smell. Makes 3 cups.

The bread:

1 envelope dry yeast

1 cup warm water (not hot)

2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 cups starter

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

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In a large bowl sprinkle dry yeast over water, stir in sugar and starter and gradually add flour mixed with salt.

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Cover bowl with damp towel and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. Turn dough onto floured board, work in about 1 cup flour until dough is no longer sticky, knead until satiny–about 5 minutes ( I used a dough hook).

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Shape into 1 large round or 2 long loaves.

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Set on cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise again in warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Put shallow pan of water on lower shelf of a pre-heated 400-degree oven. Make diagonal slashes in bread with razor blade ( I brushed the tops with aquafaba and sprinkled sesame seeds).

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Bake 40 to 50 minutes until crust is medium brown.

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Let me just say that this bread was so good we couldn’t stop eating it. I put the second loaf in the freezer for next weekend, otherwise I knew we would take it down in no time!

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Lunch Prep

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Weekday workday lunches are a no-brainer now that Steve and I take a little time out of our Sunday afternoons and pre-make salads. When Monday rolls around it’s grab and go.

We prep the same veggies pretty consistently with the protein being the variable. Beans are always an easy go-to addition. We like firm, meaty kidney beans, pintos and cannellinis. Sometimes we add chopped up chickpea patties, grilled tofu, tempeh or burgers from the night before. That’s the wild card that keeps it interesting for me.

Veggies

  1. Romaine lettuce, washed, chopped and dried (I use a salad spinner)
  2. Fresh spinach leaves (optional)
  3. Cucumbers or zucchini, chopped or sliced
  4. Red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  5. Carrots, shredded or diced
  6. Celery, sliced or chopped
  7. Red onion, diced or sliced

 

You’ll notice that most of the veggies on the list are affordable and easy to find year-round. That’s the idea. No excuses.

Often I will make homemade VINAIGRETTE which is simple, fresh and also cheap!

I found a great deal on these RE-USABLE MEAL CONTAINERS  through amazon.com. They stack easily in the fridge and slip neatly into your bag for work.

Knowing we are both getting a healthy dose of fresh vitamins, fiber, water and antioxidants is one less thing to be concerned about during a busy period of days. And there is never a week that goes by that we are not so glad we took that bit of time to set ourselves up for success!

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Doughnuts In The Dark

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Ah, the things we take for granted. I knew we would lose power during Hurricane Irma, but I wasn’t sure when. I decided to tempt fate and make my last use of my oven count. I wanted to bake something sweet to console us during our period of hot, uncomfortable living I knew was not long away.

 

In a race with time I threw together these delicious vegan doughnuts and while they were baking stirred together a silky chocolate glaze. “Will I make it?” I thought to myself  as I worked like mad to make use of what little time remained.

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We made it through the baking stage,

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the cooling stage and even to the finishing stage before the lights went out. Mission accomplished!!

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I like this doughnut recipe from Starr, The Misfit Baker because although the doughnuts are sweet and delicious, they are not over-the-top decadent. They are more like moist little cakes, because they are baked instead of fried, the way most doughnuts are. So we save more than a few calories there.

I like Starr’s recipes overall, because she really strives to keep the ingredients natural, like making her own sour cream from tofu instead of buying the highly processed stuff. I like that.

Click here for the recipe:  Chocolate Doughnuts from The Misfit Baker

 

 

 

 

Gratitude After The Storm

IMG_6527As Palm Beach County recovers from the disastrous effects of Hurricane Irma, there are  so many still without power, so many who haven’t returned from wherever they fled to find safety. Palm Beach Gardens was spared the worst of the damage, once again dodging a devastating bullet.

In my neighborhood I’ve watched the lights come back on painstakingly slow, one street at a time…until finally came our turn, last night around 6 p.m.

I ventured out this morning for the first time after three days without electricity, television or internet.  Tree branches and debris are piled neatly along the city streets where almost all the traffic lights are back in working order. There’s a long wait at the railroad crossing, something is holding up the train. But I don’t care. I’m just happy to be here. The sun feels warm on my skin. After spending days inside a humid house, it’s a revelation.

My local Whole Foods Market is back up and running, almost fully stocked. Life feels back to normal. Almost. I pick up a few things and then stop by the library to return my books. The parking lot is packed with cars. As busy as I’ve ever seen it. Familiar faces mingle with refugees from nearby towns. A cool place to relax for awhile. I find a nice new stack of hold items ready to pick up. My usual mix of cookbooks, novels, music and movies.

Everywhere I go today the vibe is one of calm, almost reverence. People are polite, helpful. Yielding to let the other pass. At Publix the woman bagging my perfectly ripe avocado, my organic bananas, my fresh cilantro, asks me how I am doing.

“I’m feeling so grateful today.”

“Me too,” she smiles.

The cashier nods in agreement.

“Would you like to donate a dollar to the hurricane relief fund?”

“Yes! Can you make it five??”

Incredibly fortunate. Incredibly humbled.

Incredibly grateful.

 

 

Clean Out The Fridge Yakisoba

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In case you haven’t noticed, comfort food is the name of the game at my house this week. And carbohydrates take main stage as we inch closer and closer to that moment when hurricane Irma takes a swipe at our little corner of south Florida.

We expect a loss of electricity by tomorrow, so tonight was a good time to clean out the fridge. I rounded up all my pre-chopped salad veggies leftover from our lunch prep and put together a quick sauce to pour over the sautéed veggies and noodles for a delicous dinner that will taste great as a cold salad later when the air conditioning goes out!

No strict ingredient measurements here. It’s mostly about the method with this dish.

Yaki-Soba On The Fly

Ingredients:

Soba Noodles

Assorted veggies, chopped

2-4 Garlic cloves, chopped or sliced thinly

Crushed red pepper (optional)

Canola oil

Sesame oil (if you have it)

Yakisoba sauce (recipe follows)

Quick Yakisoba Sauce

(recipe courtesy Nami from justonecookbook.com)

 (Makes ½ cup (8 Tbsp) I halved this recipe and it was plenty for 10 oz soba noodles
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp vegan oyster sauce (or substitute more soy sauce)
  • 4 tsp ketchup
  • 4 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

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Method:

Heat a big pot of salted water to boiling for noodles.

Meanwhile, heat a good quantity of oil over medium-high heat until a little piece of garlic sizzles when placed in the skillet. We’re talking a good 2-3 tablespoons with about 1/3 being sesame oil if using.

Add garlic and  1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and fry until golden. Watch this very carefully so it doesn’t burn, but you definitely want some color. Reduce heat a bit, add your vegetables and saute until almost fully cooked (about 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, get your soba noodles cooking and add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the starchy water  to vegetables. This water will reduce a bit and help add body and flavor to the dish. Before the water is fully reduced, drain soba noodles and add them directly into the pan, mixing them around together with the vegetables.

When the water is reduced a bit,  turn the heat down to low. Go ahead and pour the sauce over, mixing until heated through. Serve immediately.

 

Calm Before the Storm Corn Muffins

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Unless I am preparing food for a client, baking is usually an emotionally led decision for me. I’ll simply be “in the mood” to fire up the oven and turn out a fresh loaf of bread or pan of cookies or brownies. The fragrance that wafts through the house is pure nostalgic comfort to me.

In these uncertain days when all we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I find solace and security in the simple mathematics of a recipe. Knowing that this plus this will always equal that. And everything will turn out okay as long as I follow the steps.

Southern style corn bread is sweet and dense, almost like cake. And that’s the way I like it. I absolutely love these muffins and they pair well with a tummy-warming bowl of soup or chili. But there’s nothing like cracking open that first fluffy yellow muffin and taking that first steaming bite standing over the kitchen counter. Even when I feel like there’s nothing I can do to improve a situation…look! Look what I made!!

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SOUTHERN STYLE CORNBREAD

2 TSP VINEGAR, APPLE CIDER
2 CUP SOY MILK, UNSWEETENED (0R OTHER NON-DAIRY MILK)
1 ½ CUP CORNMEAL, FINE GROUND
1 CUP FLOUR, ALL PURPOSE
2 TSP BAKING SODA
1 TSP SALT
½ CUP SUGAR, CANE
⅓ CUP CANOLA OIL

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1. PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES. GREASE 8 X 8 INCH PAN OR 12-CUP MUFFIN PAN.

2. STIR VINEGAR INTO MILK VIGOROUSLY WITH A WHISK AND SET ASIDE.

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3. IN A LARGE BOWL, WHISK TOGETHER DRY INGREDIENTS. ADD OIL TO MILK MIXTURE THEN STIR INTO DRY INGREDIENTS. POUR INTO PREPARED PAN AND BAKE 30-35 MINUTES (approx 15-20 minutes for muffins) UNTIL PICK INSERTED IN CENTER COMES OUT CLEAN. DO NOT OVERBAKE.

4. COOL ON ELEVATED RACK.

 

 

Hurricane Bread

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With the imminent weight of Hurricane Irma bearing down upon us, all we can do is prepare as best we can. And wait. In my neighborhood, gas stations are running out of fuel, Costco is out of bottled water (as if that could ever happen), the grocery shelves all but stripped of non-perishable canned and dry goods. And of course, bread.

Time was…young girls were taught to bake as an essential life skill. As with cooking in general, this knowledge and feeling of self-sufficiency comes in handy during times times of lack.

So, I turn to my humble pantry heroes– yeast, flour, salt, sugar, oil and within an hour or two turned out these delicious fresh loaves to stick in the freezer for later, when we may really appreciate having something to spread our peanut butter on.

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I enjoyed this recipe so much I plan to add it to my regular rotation when all of this is over.

Fast (and easy) Whole Wheat Bread

recipe courtesy Vaishali from Holycowvegan.net

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water (not hot– you will kill the yeast)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Place  1 cup of the bread flour, the whole-wheat flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to mix together.
  2. Add the water and the olive oil and mix. Add more of the bread flour if needed. How much flour you will need will depend on where you live and what the weather’s like. I made this bread on a rainy day in Washington and I needed nearly the whole cup. If you live in a dryer region you might need less.
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or with your dough hook set to low speed.  You should now have a smooth, pliable ball of dough that’s not at all sticky.
  4. Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat the top with oil.
  5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside for 30-45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Remove the risen dough from the bowl and punch it well to deflate all the gases. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a triangle about 10 inches long. Now roll the dough toward yourself and make a cylinder, tucking down the seams and pinching them in so you have a smooth loaf.
  7. Place the dough in a standard loaf pan, seam side down (most loaf pans are 9 X 4 1/2 or 10 X 5 inches)
  8. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let the bread rise in a warm place about 30-45 minutes or until the loaf has risen and domed over the top of the pan.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

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  1. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the loaf pan to a rack and let it stand until the bread is cool enough to handle. Remove the bread from the pan by loosening the sides with your fingers or a spatula. Place on a rack until it has cooled through.
  3. Slice. Eat.

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Vegan Barbecue Ribz

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Fire up the grill this weekend and prepare your favorite barbecue sauce for these super-easy and super-tasty seitan ribz!

This recipe, direct from my archive, comes together faster than a batch of brownies. You can double up and freeze for later and also to slice  thin and fry up like bacon. Yum!

BARBECUE RIBZ

recipe courtesy Brian McCarthy

4 cups VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN
¼ cup PAPRIKA
2 tablespoons GRANULATED GARLIC
2 tablespoons GRANULATED ONION
2 tablespoons KOSHER SALT
3 cups ROOM TEMPERATURE WATER
¾ cups CANOLA OIL
2 teaspoons LIQUID SMOKE

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix all wet ingredients in a pourable container. Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour wet into dry and mix well. Press into 13 x 9 greased pan. Bake 350 for 45-55 minutes, until no longer soft in center and has a dry appearance.
2. Slice into 1.5 ounce servings. Grill slices for marks if desired. Serve with barbecue sauce.
Servings/Yield: 14 servings

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Restaurant-Style Marinara

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The secret for marinara sauce that tastes like it’s been simmering all day? Tomato paste. The savory-sweet intensity adds depth and richness without the hours of slow-cooking.

What I like best about this recipe? It’s simple and quick to prepare. Oh, and no chopping, except for a little clove of garlic, for which you can substitute 1/4 tsp of granulated garlic if you choose.

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Best Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Oregano, dried
¼ teaspoon Thyme, dried
½ teaspoon Salt
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon Tomato paste

1. Saute garlic in oil over medium-low heat about 2 minutes.

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Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt and pepper all at once stirring together until tomato paste is incorporated.

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2. Increase the heat a bit and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and crushing the tomatoes as you go.

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If you like a smoother sauce, just scoop out about half, run it through the blender then return to the pot. Easy!

Top Ten Everyday Vegan Recipes

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I have certain recipes in my home kitchen’s steady rotation week after week, month after month. These are my go-to staples because we enjoy them so much. Some  are featured here on the blog, and the rest will be featured in upcoming posts!

  1. Tofu Scramble
  2. Cheezy Sauce
  3. Marinara Sauce
  4. Buffalo Sauce
  5. Peanut Sauce
  6. Tofu Ricotta
  7. Italian Dressing
  8. Taco “Beef”
  9. Thai Coconut Curry Sauce (red or green)
  10. Hummus

 

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Super-Simple Flatbreads

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Sometimes I like to skip the rice and just serve a hearty whole grain flatbread with my Indian Curries. But, I don’t want making a quick bread to become a big project! This recipe from Alice Waters is easier than whipping up a batch of pancakes. An important point to remember: start the flatbread dough before your curry. It needs to sit for 30 minutes before forming.

Whole Wheat Flatbreads (makes four 6-8 inch flatbreads)

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the water and olive oil and knead to form a moist dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Divide the dough into 4 balls. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each ball to a 6-8 inch round. Cook  in the skillet over moderate heat until they start to brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until browned in spots on the other side, about 2 minutes. 

 

 

 

 

Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff

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Another super simple recipe! This one comes from one of my favorite blogs, Vegan Monologue. I’ve made this recipe for my family, not all of whom are vegan and I’ve made it for  newly transitioned clients. It’s unanimous–they all love it!

Big chunks of earthy portobello mushrooms and onions in a savory, creamy gravy that tastes almost identical to its traditional counterpart.

Check out the recipe and this exceptional blog here

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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This is one of those ‘I can’t believe it’s vegan’ recipes! Looking for ways to apply my new discovery, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, I stumbled  upon this recipe: click heresalted  vegan chocolate chip cookies on Food52.com.

Turns out, these are the tastiest vegan chocolate chip cookies I have ever baked! I believe the secret is in chilling the dough overnight. Also, I decided to bump up the flavor with a teaspoon of vanilla and reduce the water by one teaspoon.

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Here’s the other thing: Unlike many, many vegan cookie recipes, this one uses no egg substitutes, no flax, or mashed banana or xanthan gum, or arrowroot powder or any  exotic ingredient that would send you digging through the shelves at the health food store.

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Just simple ingredients. The cookies taste just the real thing, because they are!! Procedurally, this recipe is fantastically simple, too. A real gift. Wet into dry. That’s it.

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The only real challenge? The wait. But I handled that. I let the dough chill for about four hours then scooped out and baked just four cookies. I had to know if they would suffer for the shorter time in the fridge.

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Turns out, they were delicious. A bit puffy, but still very, very good. Kind of like Chip’s Ahoy.

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The next day, however, I baked four more cookies from the fully chilled dough, pressing each scoop with my fingers to flatten a bit before baking. This batch turned out more like homemade Toll House cookies. The flavor was deeper, the cookie more crisp and brown-sugary. So delicious. So, was it worth the wait? Definitely.

I formed the remaining cookies and froze them on a sheet tray. Afterward I stored them in a covered container in the freezer. Now anytime I want a cookie or two I can just pop them in the oven. This recipe’s base seems to lend itself to variations as well. I look forward to creating more flavors in the future.

I hope you give this one a try.

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Senate Bean Soup

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U.S. Senate Bean Soup  is traditionally made with navy beans, ham hocks and onions. It is served in the dining room of the United States Senate every day, in a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century.

This hearty, economical soup grew in popularity during and between World Wars I and II. It was frequently served to the military.

Here, I have taken the original recipe and made it vegan, by replacing the ham hocks with vegan bacon, kicking up the flavor with a bit of veggie paste and liquid smoke. I’ve given it a creamier consistency by pureeing half of the beans and I finished the dish with crisp, fresh-baked croutons.

Senate Bean Soup

Ingredients:
1 pound dried navy beans
2 quarts  water
1-2 cups chopped vegan bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoons olive oil

1 Tbsp. vegetable broth paste, such as Better Than Bouillon (optional)
1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Soak beans overnight in water to cover, plus 2 inches to allow for swelling.

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Drain and rinse beans then add to a large pot with water to cover plus another inch or two over medium high heat. Bring to boil and skim off any foam that accumulates on the surface. These are impurities that should be removed.

Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour.

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Meanwhile, cook the onions and bacon in olive oil until lightly browned, about 10 minutes over medium heat. When the beans have been cooking for an hour, they should be tender, almost done.

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At this point, scoop out about half of the beans and puree them in a blender until smooth. You may want to remove some of the cooking water if it looks too watery. You can set it aside and add some back in later if you need it.

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Add the pureed beans back into the pot along with the bacon and onions. Add a tablespoon of vegetable broth paste and liquid smoke, if using. Stir and adjust water as necessary to make the soup the consistency you like. Simmer for another half hour or so, stirring occasionally until flavors are blended and heated through.

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Serve with crispy croutons, if desired. Enjoy!

 

 

 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

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I have so many new ideas and recipes to share in my upcoming posts! First of all, I discovered Maldon Sea Salt Flakes this week.

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They add a crunchy finish to a simple fresh avocado, but they really added something special  to these Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Another thing I picked up on this week–and it’s a game-changer:

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Sweet Potato Toasts! That’s right, you heard me. Slip thin slices of sweet potato in your toaster and let it go until just tender, twice on the highest setting on my toaster. Then spread it with whatever! Ah-mazing!

On to this week’s passion projects:

Food history has been on my mind lately and I found myself cooking up a big pot of Senate Bean Soup

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I’m working on finding the perfect recipe for ‘meaty’ vegan burgers and this one comes pretty darn close:  Beet Burgers!

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To top it all off, I’ll be sharing a delicious preparation for authentic jerk-marinated and roasted tempeh.

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Stay tuned, friends, for these recipes and so much more to come!