After much hemming and hawing, I have finally made the decision I should have made long ago. I am closing this blog.
When I started this site it was way back in 2012. I was new to veganism and excited to learn and grow right along with my readers. Ultimately, my passion for the plant-based lifestyle led me to quit my nine to five job and become a personal chef!
As I continue to evolve, I find myself led to other avenues of interest, away from the cooking, photo-taking and recipe posting which had become my regular practice for the past six years.
Lately when I think of posting here it feels more like an obligation than an authentic desire. This is how I know it’s time to move on, for real, instead of allowing the blog to languish the way I have, unattended while I wrestle with indecision.
I thank all of you who have taken the time to visit and of course most of all, to comment and encourage me to keep creating content here in what has become a food diary of sorts, and certainly a historical document of my journey, both creative and personal, through my life in food.
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!
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.
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.
Here’s a new enlightened version of an old classic that is just perfect served in the traditional buns or over a bed of fresh-cooked grains.
Sloppy Joe Sliders
1 cup Cooked Lentils
1 cup Tempeh, crumbled
¼ Onion, large, chopped
½ med Green pepper, chopped
14 ounces Tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Brown sugar
⅛ teaspoon Garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon Salt
1/16 teaspoon Black pepper
6 Slider Buns
1.Saute peppers and onions until soft. Add tomato sauce and seasonings to blend well. Add tempeh and cooked lentils and simmer until flavors are well incorporated, about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding salt or sugar.
2.Portion 1-2 tablespoons per slider and serve with sweet gherkin pickles as a garnish, if desired.
This alternative to traditional chili is a thick and hearty stew of white beans, yellow squash, onions and yellow bell peppers mingled with cumin, garlic and chili powder. You can spice it up or keep it mild.
½ Sweet onion, diced
½ Yellow squash, diced
½ Jalapeno pepper, diced, with seeds
½ Yellow bell pepper, diced
Pinch Rosemary, dried
Pinch Oregano, dried
2 cloves Garlic , minced
1.2 tablespoons Olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon Cumin
½ teaspoon Chili powder
2 cups Veg stock
2 cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
1.5 tablespoons Cornstarch, Mix w/ 6 T cold water
2 Corn tortillas, Julienned
1 tablespoon Cilantro, chopped
1. In large stockpot, saute vegetables in 2 T oil over medium-high heat 13 minutes.
2. Stir in cumin, chili powder and salt
3. Once veggies are soft, add 2 cups broth and bring to a simmer over low heat.
4. Puree 1 can of beans in a food processor until smooth. Stir into soup until well incorporated. Stir in remaining beans, lime juice and cornstarch mixture. Cook for additional 10 minutes over medium-high heat until thickened, stirring occasionally.
5.Garnish with crisp-fried tortilla strips and cilantro.
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.
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.
Quinoa with Broccoli
from the short film, Quinoa by David Lynch
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
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.
After 9 minutes, lift the lid and add the broccoli. Cover and continue to steam over low heat for another 8 minutes.
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.
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
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
Puree all marinade ingredients in blender until smooth.
Marinate tempeh slices overnight
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.
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.
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)
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.
Prepare a small-sized shallow, rimmed baking pan by lining with parchment paper and set aside.
Measure brown rice syrup, peanut butter and flavoring into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30-40 seconds, then stir until combined.
4. 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.
5. 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.
For some reason I’ve always believed Muesli was this mysteriously complicated cereal made in Europe using some super-secret old-world technique, unapproachable by the average person. Like maybe they hand-rolled the oats or something. Why else would the little box offered by that one brand perch so stoically high on the grocery shelf all by itself with its exorbitant price tag?
Turns out, Muesli is nothing but naked and un-toasted granola! This, in my mind, makes it an easier and healthier choice than granola. Why? And don’t get me wrong–I am a true granola lover from way back before it was cool–but, you know and I know even homemade granola can be full of sugar and sometimes full of fat. And sometimes, even full of sodium.
But this. This is not that. It is a bowl full of whole foods, in their natural state, completely unadorned. No sugar, no added fat or salt. Just clean, pure energy.
Cooking a serving of oatmeal in the microwave takes 2-3 minutes. Putting together this cereal takes about the same amount of time and you have breakfast for the week!
That’s it! No soaking, no cooking, no need to heat up the oven. This recipe is completely adjustable to your tastes, with an endless variety of nut, seed, fruit and cereal combinations.
Yield: 10 cups (that’s 10 1-cup servings or 13 3/4 cup servings). Store refrigerated.
I topped my first bowl of homemade muesli with fresh chopped strawberries and non-dairy milk.
There is so much going on in this bowl!! So many textures and flavors. It’s crunchy and chewy, sweet and tangy from the fruit and then the little edge of cacao nib influence is a pleasant surprise against the fresh berries.
A healthy and delicious breakfast to take you through the morning feeling satisfied and energized!
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)
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.
“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?
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.
Accessibility of ingredients. Can I find the items at my local grocery on a regular basis or are they seasonal or hard-to-find?
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.
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?
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:
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.
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).
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!
This easy to prepare cake is full of carrots, pineapple, raisins and walnuts. It is super low-fat, yet it is sweet and moist; topped with a frosting that rivals anything I have made in the past. I was a pastry chef at one time, so I have a fair means of comparison! Continue reading “Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Frosting”→
A tasty way to get your greens! This creamy, satisfying soup is a client favorite and only takes about 20 minutes to prepare!
Cauliflower- Kale Soup
Source: Prevention Magazine
2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 Onion, diced
2 clove Garlic
8 cups Vegetable bouillon
4 cups Cauliflower, florets
4 cups Kale, shredded
½ teaspoon Crushed red pepper (optional)
Saute onion in oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broth and cauli, cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted about 4 minutes. Puree mixture until smooth. Season with crushed red pepper if desired.
I just love when a dinner idea sparks my imagination and I happen to have everything on hand to create exactly what I envision. Inspired by my favorite Thai restaurant, I set out to make a sweet, spicy, creamy curry filled with fresh, delicious veggies.
This dish is quick and easy to prepare and works great with green or red curry pastes. And it only takes a few minutes if you cook the rice ahead to warm at service time.
Thai Coconut Curry with Vegetables
¼ cup Thai green or red curry paste
4 ounces Mushrooms
4 ounces Carrot, sliced thinly
8 ounces Broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/2 cup frozen peas
Note: Substitute any vegetables for those listed.
13 ounces Coconut milk
1 tbsp. sweetener (optional, but tasty)
¾ cup Vegetable broth
2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce
Squeeze of fresh lime juice (optional)
¼ cup Cilantro, for garnish
2 cups brown rice, cooked
Take your hard vegetables, like carrots, celery, onions, peppers, broccoli and gently simmer them in the broth until crisp-tender. Now add all the other sauce ingredients and the soft veggies like mushrooms and peas. Bring it up to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce for salty-ness if desired, a squeeze of lime for a mild sour influence or more sweetener, if desired. Balance the flavors. Finish with chopped cilantro.
Note: If you have an Asian grocery in your town, check out their curry pastes. The one on the left costs $1.49 and tasted better than the one on the right from my local Whole Foods Market at $4.00! A little spicier, but hey, I like it that way!
My husband reported this morning, upon returning from our nearby Whole Foods Market that Beyond Meat has added bratwurst and breakfast sausages to their lineup of meat-free alternatives.
My first thought: “Great! A triumph for animal activism!!”
My second thought: “Either meat-free or meat-full, sausage is a food high in calories, salt and fat and low in nutritional value, no matter how you slice it.”
The Plant-based Diet is receiving a lot of press these days, due in part to recent documentaries like “What The Health” currently streaming to billions of homes through services like Netflix. It’s being heavily promoted in best-selling books like Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The idea is catching on. At least in theory.
It is easy to understand why so many would-be vegetarians declare “I can’t afford to go plant-based!” and just keep on doing what they’re doing. No, you can’t afford to go plant-based if you are simply switching out your meats and cheeses for plant-based/vegan meats and cheeses. Because they cost three to four times more than real meats and cheeses. And the real goal is to get off the meats and cheeses and eat more plants, for real. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts.
A food product can be labeled vegan, the ingredients all free of animal-derived components and yet be about the unhealthiest thing you could eat. Oreo cookies are a good example of vegan junk food. Oreos are plant-based!
The common argument for faux meats is that they are a “transitional” food for those new to meat-free eating. After conducting my own personal studies over the course of the past five years, I have come to the conclusion that they do nothing to ease the transition to a healthy, whole foods diet.
What they actually do is become an obstacle to healthier whole-food protein choices such as beans, legumes and potatoes. Because they taste so damned good! And as technology moves on, they just keep tasting better and better. These products are highly processed, high in fat and salt in most cases–manipulating our taste buds with artificially engineered flavors. Consequently, simple natural foods taste dull in comparison.
If you want to improve your health, reclaim your naturally balanced weight, increase energy and focus…all of this is possible with a whole food plant-based diet. Whole food being the important factor. This means buying and consuming foods that have five ingredients or less. Yes, you read right. Check your cupboard, your fridge, your desk drawer at work. How do your plant-based food choices stack up?
There are really no shortcuts to better health. There are no super foods. Sustainable health is attained by a lifestyle balance between the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies and minds every day.
Should we never eat faux meats? Do I sometimes eat them? Absolutely. Most dieticians and nutritionists agree that a ratio of 80% natural, whole foods to 20% “discretionary” foods is a good balance for sustainable health. That’s what I’m shooting for. One day at a time. One meal at a time.
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.
Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze
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
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
The base. I like to include grains, pasta, potatoes, steamed greens, raw or roasted veggies in this group.
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.
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.
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).
I came across this recipe for chili in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings”. I decided to follow the recipe exactly (with a slight variation) just to find out what ole John is up to in the kitchen when he’s not at the piano working on another chart-topping single.
It’s super-simple if you’ve ever cooked a pot of soup. The recipe follows what I call standard procedure: saute the aromatics and vegetables, add seasonings and liquid, simmer and adjust seasonings. In this case I always save the beans for last, which I have pre-cooked, so they don’t fall apart.
I substituted Gardein meatless crumbles for the ground beef in John’s recipe and I would suggest taking it easy on the seasoning salt, depending on how much salt is in your tomato sauce. I also cut the original recipe’s measurement of 1 teaspoon ground red pepper down to 1/4 teaspoon, but you do you 🙂
John Legend’s Chili
1 1/2 – 2 cups Gardein Meatless Crumbles
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. seasoning salt (preferably Lawry’s)
3 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 tbsp. garlic,minced
2 cans tomato sauce, 14.5 ounces each
2 cups water
2 cans Kidney beans, 14.5 ounces each
2 tbsp. brown sugar, light
Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bit of oil or water.
Add seasonings, crumbles, tomato sauce and water. Bring to simmer until thickened.
Add beans and taste, adding more salt or spice as desired.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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!
When traveling, we are always on the hunt for vegan eateries and this past weekend was no exception. iPhone technology has been a real game-changer in this regard and driving through the Orlando area we were able to nimbly avoid the Disney-bound traffic and score a real winner in Dixie Dharma vegan restaurant!
Market on South, which houses Dixie Dharma, is a vendor collective, located on the first floor of a small, gray two-story just off the interstate and abutting a picturesque and visibly gentrifying suburb of Orlando. The building itself seems oddly placed alongside an old barber shop with a gravel parking lot alongside, but don’t be put off by the funky surroundings. This place is not to be missed.
A small, but clean and cozy interior offers comfy, mismatched tables and chairs, a few booths and a short row of barstools at the counter, overlooking the open kitchen.
We arrived early, around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The restaurant was quiet, but the bakery cases were fully stocked with goods from Valhalla and Valkyrie vegan bakeries.
The cashier was friendly, attentive and fast! We ordered the dirty scramble and the biscuits and gravy along with two hot cups of coffee. While waiting for our food, we perused the various offerings for sale from local artists and artisans displayed on the shelves surrounding the dining room.
Meanwhile, the back of the kitchen bustled with energy as the row of cooling racks filled with fresh-baked cakes and cookies. Every now and then a baker would emerge, producing a huge iced and decorated layer cake to place in the cold display case with a price tag marked $50.
A line of eager patrons started to form as our food was delivered. Young, fit couples, some with baby strollers, many in athletic wear, an occasional smiling grandma in tow, ordered vegan doughnuts and coffee, seating themselves in a happy, relaxed smattering about the place.
The food was flavorful with generous portions! The dirty scramble in particular, I think, could have fed two or even three people for breakfast! The coffee tasted smooth and fresh. All in all, one of the best vegan breakfasts I have ever eaten on the road.
The vibe was so low-key and comfortable I was sure we would return for a late lunch and a few choice baked goods before we headed for home.
At lunch, the place was really at peak business with a long line waiting up front, but the staff was breezy and professional as they went about taking orders and delivering food to both seated diners and takeout customers. We shared the chili dogs with ‘tater salad at one of the large picnic tables in the back yard.
I can see why Dixie Dharma is famous for their vegan hot dog truck! The dogs were the best vegan franks I’ve ever tasted. I swear you couldn’t tell they were meatless. And the Indian-spiced chili was hearty and wholesome–filled with beans and lentils. A truly substantial meal before our drive back to Palm Beach County.
Saving the best for last, our visit couldn’t be complete without a sampling of the beautiful bakery offerings. There were just too many choices and I had to be reasonable, breaking it down logically. I have to be careful not to lose my head in the face of such a decadent display of sweet vegan goodness!
Although there were so many treats I wanted to sample, I only had this one shot, so here is my selection:
I fine wedge of chocolate layer cake expertly filled and iced with vanilla buttercream
(like birthday cake)
Lemon curd on a shortbread crust with crumb topping
Dark chocolate brownie, dipped in more melted chocolate
It was a tough choice. Of course we had to try the cookies, and the cake and the buttercream and the brownies. The lemon bar was a wild card and I ordered it simply because I don’t like squeezing lemons and no vegan bakery in my town makes them!
What we didn’t order (this time): Vegan cheesecake, fruit cobbler, cupcakes, mini-cream pies, a chocolate-coated ‘Naimo(?)’ bar–which looked amazing, vegan doughnuts, a ‘brookie’ which is chocolate chip cookie dough baked on top of a brownie!! There’s more I am forgetting to be sure.
We we got home we sampled each item and they were delicious! Over time we have learned to manage these multiple item bakery sprees by cutting each item into small portions, say, the cookie sandwich into four quarters, and freezing them on a sheet tray, then transferring to an airtight container. Weeks later (or days) later we can enjoy them again.
Dixie Dharma was a delight. Wholesome, plant-based meals, a uniquely creative menu and presentations, outrageous, professionally-baked desserts, friendly, competent staff. They open at 8:00 a.m. and close at midnight!
We plan to make this outstanding vegan restaurant, bakery and artisan marketplace a regular destination every time we are in the Orlando vicinity!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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??
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!
I like to vary these selections between traditional Chinese dishes such as a soy sauce- based stir fry or noodle bowl,
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
“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:
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.
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.
Here’s a list of healthy and inexpensive foods to get you started:
Creamy natural peanut butter (multi-purpose protein for toast, sandwiches and sauces)
Dried black or other beans (easier to cook than you think. Google it)
Dried lentils (even easier and quicker than beans)
Frozen mixed vegetables
Hummus (homemade tastes best and is cheaper if you sub peanut butter for tahini)
Rolled Oats (they micro cook in two minutes)
Russet Potatoes (let me count the ways to prepare this cheap and filling vegetable)
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.
The food industry is always coming out with new products. And that’s just what they are. Products, that are processed. Not whole and healthy foods in their natural state. There’s nothing wrong with these products as long as they are kept in perspective–as only the smallest part of our overall caloric intake.
Upcoming posts will feature recipes and ideas for simple and delicious meals that make going plant-based a sustainable choice without breaking the bank!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
When making the transition to a plant-based diet, most of us do really well with breakfast and lunch, but when it comes to dinner, find ourselves in a quandary. The question I have heard most often over the years is “So, what do you eat?”
Here are a few creative recipe ideas for your next meal. Enjoy!
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!
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!
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!
The thousand island dressing was a no-brainer to make, but is a crucial element in building the perfect Rueben!
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)
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.
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.
4. Place in simmering water, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take roast out of liquid and remove cheese cloth.:
Serve warm in thin slices or chill for later. I froze half of my roast to enjoy another day.
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?
Maple Butter Pancake Oats
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Every once in awhile I find myself overwhelmed by the urge to make something I know will be complicated. And I make it. Because it’s worth the extra time and effort.
And because I know there’s nowhere else I can get it but in my own little kitchen.
So, here it is. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands I highly recommend this savory, warming, stick-to-your-ribs recipe for gumbo that tastes every bit as good as what they make down on the bayou.
Just two notes right up front: There is no okra in my gumbo. Because I don’t like it. Feel free to add as liberally as you like, though. The other thing…although I chose to make my own sausage, there are packaged versions of andouille or similar sausage you may want to pick up instead.
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. Canola oil
½ Not Beef stock cube (or veggie, if you can’t find it in your store)
¾ cup Yellow Onion, chopped
½ cup Green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance
2 cups Not Beef Stock (or veggie)
1 cup Stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp. Parsley, chopped
1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 Bay leaves
1 tsp. Hot sauce
2 each Vegan andouille, sliced
1 cup white or red kidney beans
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Emeril’s Essence)
1 tsp. Gumbo File powder (ground sassafras leaves), optional
2 Scallions, sliced
3 cups Rice, Basmati, cooked
Start with your roux. Heat the oil and 1/2 bouillon cube over medium-low heat, preferably in a cast-iron dutch oven or deep skillet. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture changes color from light to medium brown. Be careful not to burn it!
Remove the roux from the pan into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
Saute the veggies. Melting the margarine in the skillet, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion, celery and green peppers with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until veggies are softened, about 8 minutes or so. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
Now the easy part. Add the stock and tomatoes. With a rubber spatula, scrape all that lovely roux back into the pan. Over medium heat, cook and stir until well incorporated and thickened. If it gets too thick, add a bit more water or stock until the consistency is right.
Now the seasonings. Add the thyme, bay leaf, hot sauce and cajun spice and let simmer for a good 10 minutes on low. Give it a taste. Add a bit more spice or salt if you like.
Finish. Take your andouille slices and brown them off in a little oil in a separate skillet. This is an optional step, but I like the crisp outside that keeps the sausage from getting soggy too fast and the browned edges add color to the dish.
Drop the slices into your gumbo along with the kidney beans and allow to heat through while you chop up your garnishes–scallions and parsley. Add these right before serving and they will retain their color and fresh flavor.
The gumbo file powder is added after cooking, just a sprinkle for flavor. Serve over hot, cooked rice with a few more scallion slices.
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!
1 cup raw sesame seeds
2 tbsp. mild flavored oil (I used sesame oil)
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.
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.
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
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)
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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
In large food processor add all ingredients and process until a dough forms.
Cut eight 4 x 6 inch pieces or parchment paper and eight pieces of aluminum foil the same size.
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.
Roll each dog in parchment and twist ends. Then roll each piece in foil, twist and trim ends if necessary.
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.
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.
Simple, simple. All stuff from the pantry. For the shortening, however, I substituted Earth Balance Buttery Stick.
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.
Next, the ingredients for the filling. The flax egg takes a little forethought, but again, super-simple to put together while the crust cools.
I mixed together everything with a whisk, folded in the chopped pecans, then straight in the oven.
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.
I ran a knife edge around the inside of the pan before carefully lifting out, then cut into servings.
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
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)
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
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until very smooth.
Spread evenly into pie shell and bake in middle of center oven rack for 60-65 minutes.
Let cool for at least four hours before cutting to allow filling to set. Perfect!
*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
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)
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
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)
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
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Makes about 1 cup of sauce.
I remember when I first became aware there was such a thing called apple crisp. And it wasn’t at home. It was in my elementary school lunchroom. This exotic dessert was warm and sweet and cinnamon-y, with this outrageously crispy topping…so way over and above apple pie. It made an impact on me!
I am sure the recipe originated in somebody’s grandma’s kitchen. Most warm apple desserts do 😉 But, I was ever after held captive by that crispy sweet crust of oats and pecans and brown sugar atop those sweet-tart warm apples.
I hope you enjoy this version, from America’s Test Kitchen, slightly modified by the substitution of vegan margarine for the butter called for in the original recipe:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup pecans, chopped fine
¾ cup oats, rolled
½ cup brown sugar, light
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 pounds apples, golden delicious, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
⅓ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit . Set oven rack in middle position. Mix together topping with margarine until moistened and crumbly.
2.Bring cider to simmer in 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Transfer to liquid measuring cup and stir in lemon juice.
3.Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in bowl. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apples and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften and become translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. (do not fully cook apples). Off heat, gently stir in cider mixture.
4.Transfer apple mixture to 13 x 9 inch casserole dish (or individual dishes as shown), sprinkle evenly with topping, breaking up any large chunks.
Bake until fruit is tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.
5.Reheat in 425 degree oven until slightly warm, about 5 minutes.
Serving suggestion: Top with vanilla non-dairy ice cream and this fantastic
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.
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:
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!
I like this simple recipe and having the control over the spices. I particularly like lots of fennel seed and garlic in mine.
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.
It goes without saying that this time of the year begs for pumpkin spice, especially on weekend mornings. These pancakes are so moist and sweet with just the right amount of warm autumn spice. The recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice and I didn’t have any on the shelf, but not to fear, I made my own with pantry spices. The recipe follows.
Double up and keep a batch in the freezer for later!
Vegan Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
based on a recipe from minimalistbaker.com
1 cup unsweetened soy milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar
1/3 cup packed pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (recipe follows)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
Whisk together wet ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients then stir into wet ingredients just until well-blended.
Heat a cast iron griddle and cook just like any other pancake recipe. Serve with vegan butter and real maple syrup (of course).
Serving suggestion: With a big scoop of tofu scramble!
Here’s a little something special to spice up your next vegan feast!
Roasted Pumpkin Mousse
15 ounces PUMPKIN PUREE
1 tbsp. SUGAR,CANE
⅔ cup BROWN SUGAR, LIGHT, packed
1 tbsp. ARROWROOT POWDER
1 tsp. CINNAMON, GROUND
½ tsp. AGAR-AGAR POWDER
⅛ tsp. GINGER, GROUND
⅛ tsp. SALT, KOSHER
⅛ tsp. BLACK PEPPER, GROUND
¼ tsp. LEMON ZEST, FINE
15 ounces COCONUT MILK
½ tsp. VANILLA
1.Preheat oven to 325. Spread pumpkin on parchment-lined sheet tray. Sprinkle cane sugar over top and bake 15-20 minutes or until pumpkin has dried on surface and has cracked appearance.:
2.Spoon pumpkin into food processor. Let cool to room temperature.:
3.Combine brown sugar, arrowroot, cinnamon, agar-agar, ginger, salt, pepper, lemon zest, nutmeg, cloves, and cardomom in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Stir in the coconut milk and vanilla.:
4. Set pan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook to thicken, until the mixture is thick and gel-like, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to bowl of food processor with pumpkin. Scoop into large bowl and chill.:
5. Serve with whipped cream and candied pecans (optional)
This recipe is more about method than it is about the ingredients. You could simply layer sauce, pasta and and some kind of dairy-free cheesy substance and bake. Or you could kick it up a notch like I have done in this particular version.
First, start with your favorite marinara. Then find a good cheesy sauce or vegan cheese substance you like. Here’s the special part:
Cook your pasta in nice sea-salted water. The water should taste salty. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet at medium-high heat and add a generous quantity of olive oil.
Thinly slice or chop several cloves of fresh garlic and add them to the hot oil, letting them sizzle until they just start to turn golden. Don’t let them burn.
When the garlic turns golden, add a couple ladles of pasta water and let it boil with the garlic and oil until reduced by half. The starch in the pasta water will help add body to your sauce. Next, add a couple ladles of marinara and let that simmer 2 minutes or so.
Now add the drained pasta, cooked at a firm al dente, not quite done. The pasta will finish cooking over the next few minutes of simmering in the sauce and absorb all that fantastic flavor!
Now that your pasta has picked up all this tasty garlic broth and sauce, you are ready to layer and bake.
Baked, uncovered at 375 degrees, until heated through and whatever cheese substance you use is melted and/or picking up a bit of color to let you know it is ready.
Finish with a bit of hemp seed parmesan and serve immediately to adoring dining companion(s)! You won’t regret taking this little extra step that works like magic for any pasta dish.
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.
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.
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
In a large bowl sprinkle dry yeast over water, stir in sugar and starter and gradually add flour mixed with salt.
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).
Shape into 1 large round or 2 long loaves.
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).
Bake 40 to 50 minutes until crust is medium brown.
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!