Working Lunch

The summer months are a time to rest and re-energize my mind as well as my body. A time to reflect, renew, refill my well of ideas.

I have always found inspiration through others. Even after running my chef business for almost seven years now, I always stay open to change and to inspiration. Not just in my work life, but also personally.

Working with food is personal. It’s hard to think of an area more personal than something we do every day, several times per day. We eat. For nourishment and for pleasure. This is a balance I find a constant challenge and interest. Even more so over time.

This brings me to the inspiration for today’s lunch.

Caitlin Shoemaker

I can’t say enough good things about Caitlin Shoemaker, fellow recipe developer, photographer, and chef in her own right. Her earthy, straightforward approach to vegan food and lifestyle along with maintaining a perfect balance between good food and good-for-you food is a constant source of inspiration. In short, she’s nailing it.

Have you ever just eaten a sweet potato? Just straight up bake it for an hour then cut it open and scoop it out? Sometimes this is my lunch. And sometimes I eat the peel too.

Here I have reheated a sweet potato from yesterday, drizzled it with Caitlin’s

4 Ingredient Sesame Miso Dressing  

and ground fresh pepper on top. Filling, satisfying and tasty.

 

 

 

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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Peanut Dragon Sauce

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It’s been a super busy week! When I crave a quick comforting meal, soba noodles are often my go-to food. Here’s an easy sauce to pour over your noodles, steamed veggies or to dip your spring roll into.

Peanut Dragon Dressing

from “Isa Does It” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1/2 cup Peanut butter, creamy
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/3 cup Water
3 tablespoons Rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon Sesame oil, toasted
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Blend ingredients together in food processor until smooth. Enjoy!

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Serve

Soup is a comforting food. It warms and soothes me, no matter the weather. Soup and a sandwich, soup and salad, soup and crackers, croutons or bread. It can be a healthy, filling and economical addition to any menu. This is a delicious, simple to make recipe that uses just a handful of ingredients.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

adapted from a recipe by Allison Rivers Samson

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

1 cup chopped onions

3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

28 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1/4 cup fresh basil chiffonade

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute.2

Saute the onion in a 4 quart pot in the oil and margarine until translucent (about 7 minutes).

Simmer.2

Add tomatoes, broth and maple syrup. Bring to a low boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.

Grind

In a dry food processor, grind cashews to a fine powder, then blend with water and vinegar. Add the mixture to the pot and blend well with an immersion blender or (carefully) in a high speed tabletop blender, in batches. Simmer another five minutes or so, stirring until heated through.

Chiffonade

Taste for salt. Depending on the tomatoes and vegetable broth you use, you may not need to add any salt. Sprinkle with black pepper and basil chiffonade just before serving.

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Key Lime Icebox Pie with Mango-Ginger Coulis

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Here’s a little something different for you, dear readers. A delicious creamy, no-bake dessert that is sweet, but not overly so–with the tangy influence of key lime juice and a hint of ginger.

Key Lime Icebox Pie 

3 ½ cups cashews, raw, soaked
¾ cups key lime juice
¾ cups agave nectar
1 cup coconut oil
½ cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 recipe gingersnap cookie crust

Method:

Blend all together and freeze overnight. Move to fridge for at least an hour. Serve chilled.

Gingersnap Cookie Crust

2 cups ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted

Method:

Blend all together and press into 9-inch pan

Mango-Ginger Coulis

8 ounces mango puree
1 tsp. ginger, fresh, grated
1 ounce sugar, powdered, sifted
1 tbsp. non-dairy creamer, vanilla

Method:

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate 1 day ahead.

 

 

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

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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Banana Oat Pancakes

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This recipe from our fellow blogger Spencer, has so much going for it!

#1 Whole Foods

#2 No oil or sugar

# Very, very little flour

# Simple mix and pour from the blender!

My pancake consumption has gone down dramatically over the years because they feel so heavy in my tummy and tend to drag down my energy. But when I read Spencer’s recipe I was intrigued, and I had to give it a try.

I’m happy to say I’m back in the pancake game! These are so light and tasty with a yummy banana flavor. They left me feeling satisfied without feeling too full. This recipe is definitely staying in the permanent rotation!

 

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Check out the original recipe here at spencersgapyear.wordpress.com

 

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.

 

Creamy Pasta Salad

Here’s a delicious reworking of traditional macaroni salad. Prepared with whole-grain pasta and  lots of crunchy fresh veggies, this one is  so nutritious, it can stand alone as a main dish! A refreshing change from the same old salad routine.

This dressing is creamy and mildly sweet, flavored with a blend of garlic, mustard and lemon. I will quote my husband on his first bite of this salad: “Damn, that’s good!”

Creamy Pasta Salad

2 cups dried whole grain pasta, cooked, drained and chilled

3 ribs celery, sliced

2 carrots, grated

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)

Dressing:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raw cashews

2 dates, pitted and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

Combine cashews, dates and water and set aside while you prepare the vegetables. Place cashew mixture in high-powered blender with remaining dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with vegetables and pasta to coat.

Recipe courtesy of Cathy Fisher:  http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/

Ultimate Cheezy Sauce

 

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As many will tell you, one the hardest animal-based foods to give up in the beginning is cheese. I have read that cheese actually contains addictive opiate substances, so that might explain its magnetic appeal.

As for me, I have learned to live without cheese and appreciate the flavors of the food underneath–where cheese would have been. At the same time, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect cheesy sauce for macaroni, nachos, broccoli, and general dipping of crusty bread.

I have posted cheezy sauce recipes before–but this one is the mother of all cheezy sauces. It’s a hybrid of a modern recipe with classical method. I am in love with the umami flavor and the smooth velvety “pour” of this sauce. I think you will agree that it is both delicious and easy to make with ingredients found in most plant-based pantries.

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Cheezy Sauce III

by Melanie daPonte

1 1/2 tbsp. non-dairy margarine or olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour

1 cup Soy milk ( can use any non-dairy milk, but I prefer the higher fat content in soy for creamier sauce)

¼ cup Nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Paprika

Method:

Melt the margarine in a  saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux (classical sauce thickening combo).

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Add all remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined and smooth. Stir until mixture begins to thicken and lightly bubble. Reduce heat to low and check for consistency and seasoning.

At this point you may wish to add more paprika depending on the level of orange-ness you like your cheezy sauce to have. You may also want to play with the consistency a bit depending on how you plan to use the sauce. Just add a little more milk if you like more pour-ability. Add salt if desired, or more tamari or lemon juice as desired. It’s YOUR sauce now, so enjoy it!

 

 

Raw Chocolate Brownies

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If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you may have noticed that when I do chocolate it’s never in a small way. I like it rich and dark and decadent. These brownies are all that–plus they are psychologically satisfying in that they are almost good for you, albeit highly caloric.

I discovered Laura-Jane, The Rawtarian, quite by accident, but I can’t say enough good things about her website and her recipes. Her site offers free how-tos, videos and recipes–she will even email you a beginner’s guide to raw food in pdf format. Cool lady, cool content–I dove right in and I’m still exploring her recipes, looking forward to my next raw foods culinary caper.

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Serve these brownies in small pieces, because they are very rich. One thing I have learned since going vegan–dishes made from whole foods tend to fill you up quickly as they are identified by our bodies as nutritious fuel. Although these are meant to be a treat, they are filled with organic raw pecans, dates and coconut–plenty of real, whole foods; no  grains or starches. Enjoy!

Raw Brownies

from  www.therawtarian.com

Easy Enchilada Sauce

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In my experience, you can stuff a burrito with just about anything. But the sauce…now, the sauce can make it or break it for me.

Here’s one of my essential recipes. It’s quick and easy and tasty. I pour this rich, tomato-garlic-cumin sauce  over enchiladas, burritos, tacos–even drizzle it over nachos.  I hope you give it a try!

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour ( all-purpose flour works fine, too)
¼ cup Canola oil
3 tbsp. Chili powder
3 tsp. Cumin, ground
1 ¼ tsp. Salt
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups Hot water
14.5 ounces Tomato sauce

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

Brown flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent over-browning.  Carefully add spices and oil, stirring to avoid lumps. Slowly add water and tomato sauce. Stir until smooth. Simmer to desired consistency. Check for salt and add a bit of ground cayenne pepper if you want to make it spicy.

Yield: A whole lotta sauce, about 4 cups, so unless you’re making a big ole mess of enchiladas, you may wish to cut the ingredients in half.

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Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Here’s a super-simple yet super- impressive side dish that practically cooks itself–leaving the stovetop free for the rest of your culinary exploits. I always get raves on anything sweet potato and I’ll bet you do too.

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Recipe courtesy Chloe Coscarelli

(4 servings)

16 ounces Sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Rosemary, fresh, chopped
1 tsp. Sea salt
Black pepper

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes in oil to coat.
2.Add rosemary and salt and toss again.. Season with pepper
3.Spread on large-rimmed baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender, stirring frequently to promote even browning. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

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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??

 

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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Carrot-Coconut Soup with Fresh Ginger Root

 

Summer is coming down fast and I find myself seeking light, refreshing meals. Here’s a quick soup that is both nourishing and super easy to put together!

Carrot-Coconut Soup with Fresh Ginger Root

(recipe courtesy Kerry Ogden, MA, LPC)

Ingredients

4 medium carrots, peeled
1½-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1½ cups almond milk
1 cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
squeeze of lime

Avocado (optional)
Cilantro (optional)

Method:

1) Chop the carrots and ginger.
2) Using a high-speed blender, combine ingredients until smooth.
3) Squeeze lime, adjusting flavors to taste.

Garnish with chopped avocado and cilantro ( I used fresh mint).

 

Lentil-Walnut Loaf with Sweet Tomato Glaze

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This is a client favorite and a recipe I swear by, having grown up eating traditional meatloaf. This version has a firm slice without being dry or being soggy. It bakes up perfect, time after time. The glaze really makes it taste just like my mom made back in the day.

Lentil-Walnut Loaf 

adapted from a recipe by Jenna Weber (eatliverun.com)

1 cup Lentils, green or brown
3 cups Vegetable stock
1 large Onion, yellow
1 large Carrot
1 stalk Celery
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tsp. Minced garlic
1 cup Bread crumbs
¾ cup Walnuts
3 tbsp. Flax meal, mixed with 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black pepper
2 tbsp. Ketchup
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tbsp. Vinegar, balsamic
1 parchment paper

1.Heat oven to 350. In small bowl, combine flax and water. Set aside. Simmer together lentils, broth and pinch of salt for about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender and have absorbed all the broth.

2.Chop onion, grate carrot and dice celery. Saute onion and celery in olive oil over medium high heat for six minutes or until tender, not caramelized.

3.Add onion, carrot, garlic mixture on stove and stir well. Add oregano, salt and pepper, then transfer to large bowl.

4.Add breadcrumbs, flax egg and lentils and toss well. Press mixture into a greased loaf pan and set aside while you make topping.

5.Combine ketchup, maple syrup and vinegar. Spread on top of loaf. Bake for 40 minutes then invert onto plate.

 

 

 

Golden Indian Dal Soup

 

Dal is my go-to comfort food. A warm, savory, nourishing meal, filled with creamy, protein-rich lentils and healing turmeric–tempered with cumin seeds, ginger and garlic.

GOLDEN DAL SOUP

 

INGREDIENTS:

½ CUP RED LENTILS
3 CUPS WATER
1 TSP SALT
½ TSP TURMERIC
⅛ TSP CAYENNE PEPPER
2 TBSP CANOLA OIL
½ TSP CUMIN SEEDS
1 TBSP MINCED GARLIC
1 TBSP GINGER, GRATED
½ CUP ONION, YELLOW, FINE DICE
½ CUP TOMATOES, CANNED, FINE DICE

METHOD:

  1. RINSE AND DRAIN LENTILS. COMBINE WITH WATER IN SAUCEPAN.:

2. STIR IN SALT, TURMERIC AND CAYENNE AND BRING TO ROLLING BOIL OVER MEDIUM HEAT. SKIM OFF AND DISCARD THE CLOUDY WHITE FOAM THAT APPEARS ON THE SURFACE. :

3. REDUCE HEAT TO LOW AND SIMMER, UNCOVERED, FOR 20 MINUTES, STIRRING OCCASIONALLY.:

4. MEANWHILE, HEAT OIL IN FRYING PAN OVER HIGH HEAT FOR ABOUT 30 SECONDS. ADD CUMIN SEEDS AND COOK FOR 1 MINUTE, UNTIL SEEDS BEGIN TO SIZZLE AND POP.:

5. ADD GARLIC, GINGER, ONION AND TOMATO AND TOSS GENTLY FOR 1 MINUTE. REDUCE HEAT TO MEDIUM AND COOK 5 MINUTES, TOSSING OCCASIONALLY. SET ASIDE.:

6. ADD ONION MIXTURE TO LENTILS AND CONTINUE COOKING 5-10 MINUTES, OR UNTIL LENTILS ARE COOKED. STIR WELL AND REMOVE FROM HEAT. TASTE FOR SALT AND SERVE IMMEDIATELY OR HOLD WARM.

NOTE: IF YOU PREFER A SMOOTHER TEXTURE, PULSE WITH AN IMMERSION BLENDER OR POUR INTO A COUNTERTOP BLENDER AND PUREE. I OFTEN PUREE HALF TO PRESERVE SOME TEXTURE, OR PUREE THE LENTILS BEFORE ADDING THE AROMATICS.

Vegan French Toast

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As a lifelong  pancake girl, I never thought I’d get around to writing this post. But my husband’s a French toast guy, and last weekend I wanted to make him a special brunch treat, so here we have it.

I’ve tried vegan French toast recipes before and they just seemed too soggy or blah in the flavor department. But this recipe gets the dipping mixture right, with the addition of a bit of starch and garbanzo bean flour (besan) for a thicker consistency. The trick is a quick run through the blender to well incorporate the ingredients. Also, making sure the baguette is at least a day old helps ensure a crisp result.

Vegan French Toast

recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

Loaf of Italian or French bread, baguette shaped, preferably stale
1/2 cup soy creamer (soy or coconut milk would make a good substitute)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup chickpea flour (this is key)

Dash of vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Several tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

Powered sugar for finishing (optional)

Method:

Slice the baguette into rounds about 1-inch thick and set aside. Combine all remaining ingredients (except oil and powdered sugar) in a blender and mix for a few seconds until fully incorporated. Pour into a shallow dish ( I use a pie plate).

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Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high with a thin layer of oil. Dip rounds of bread (don’t soak, you just want the mixture to cling to the outside) and place immediately in hot skillet and brown on both sides. Serve hot with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, vegan butter and maple syrup.

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Muesli!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Original Ginger (O.G) Refresher

I am inspired once again by True Food Kitchen. This gingery, bubbly, slightly sweet and sour elixir  has become my very favorite brunch (or any time of day) “mock-tail”. It’s so easy to make!

Ginger-infused water is a game-changer. I keep a jar of it in the fridge and add it to my smoothies, tonics and even to dressings and sauces that need a little kick of  fresh ginger’s distinctive heat and flavor!

Ginger-Infused Water

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh ginger root, roughly chopped (organic, if available)

4 cups filtered drinking water

Method:

Combine in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve or nut milk bag (that’s what I use). Keep in airtight container, refrigerated.

Note: This makes a lot of ginger water and a little goes a long way flavor-wise. If you don’t plan to use it up within a week, half the recipe.


Original Ginger (O.G.) Refresher (inspired by True Food Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Ginger-infused water

1-2 tablespoons liquid sweetener, to taste (agave, maple or simple syrup works best)

1/4 fresh lime for squeezing

6 ounces bubbly water of your choice (I use tonic water)

Method:

Pour the ginger water into a 16 ounce glass and with a spoon, stir in the sweetener until dissolved. Taste for sweetness and add more if you like. Squeeze in the lime juice and throw away the peel part if it is not organic, otherwise you could just let it float around and look pretty.

Add ice and stir, then finish with the bubbly water to fill the glass. One more gentle stir, then enjoy!

Note: This is not the exact recipe from TFK, but I think it tastes pretty close. I also think it would be good with fresh mint.

Cheers!!

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How To Make Lentils Taste Good

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If you hate lentils, chances are you have eaten them from a can. The first time I tried them was long before becoming vegan. The lentils were floating in a dirty, brown broth labeled by the Progresso company as soup. I was unimpressed, to say the least.

Since then, however, I have come to appreciate home cooked lentils for the clean, lean, whole food protein powerhouses they are, boasting 18 grams per cup. Not too shabby!

Through experience, I have learned the tastiest lentils are always cooked fresh.  By controlling the cooking and flavoring process can you truly have the best lentil experience.

Here is a simple, flavorful recipe  for  lentils you can dish over a steaming bowl of rice and announce that dinner is done.

 Lentils For Dinner

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup Celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup Carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Minced garlic
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh–grated or finely chopped

1 cup Lentils, brown–rinsed, removing any stones or foreign matter

1 Bay leaf
2 cups Water
1 tsp. Salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

Heat large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat and sauté onion, carrots and celery in olive oil with a pinch of salt until onion is translucent and carrots are crisp-tender (about 7 minutes).

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Add ginger and garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.

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Pour 2 cups of water into the vegetable mixture along with the rinsed lentils, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until lentils are tender, but not mushy *(about 20-25 minutes), with most or all of the water absorbed. You want them to simmer–bubbling nicely,  not to boil like crazy. This will make them break apart and get mushy.

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Taste for salt and add more if needed, along with a generous grind of fresh, black pepper.

*Note: Cooking time can vary slightly from brand to brand, so it’s a good idea to check in periodically and see how the lentils are coming along, giving them a little stir. Pull one out and bite into it at about the 20 minute mark. The last thing you want is to overcook them. Al dente (firm to the bite) is my goal, so I can toss any leftovers into a cold salad the next day.

 

Top Ten Everyday Plant-Based 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:

  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

 

 

 

The Plant-Based 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.
  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/

 

4.  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!

 

 

Cauliflower-Kale Soup

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

Cauliflower- Kale Soup

Source: Prevention Magazine
(4 servings)

2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 Onion, diced
2 clove Garlic
8 cups Vegetable bouillon
4 cups Cauliflower, florets
4 cups Kale, shredded
½ teaspoon Crushed red pepper (optional)

Method:

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.

Maple-Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

 

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

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

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

from Big Vegan by Robin Asbell

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

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

Vegan Gumbo with Homemade Andouille, A Passion Project

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

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

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

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

Vegan Gumbo

Recipe courtesy eatfigsnotpigs.com (with slight modifications)

(Servings: 4)

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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From this color…

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To this color!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Notes From The Vegan Underground

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I’m still here, dear readers. Just focusing on work and other personal projects besides food.

Here are a few of my latest personal inspirations:

Caitlin Shoemaker, Food and Healthy Lifestyle Blogger

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This young lady has single-handedly re-inspired my cooking. That’s a big deal. She’s super-sweet and utterly obsessed with healthy lifestyle and healthful, tasty, whole food, low oil/no oil cooking.

In particular she has inspired my latest breakfast craze, the best granola recipe I’ve found so far and I’ve been eating and making granola for thirty years! There are so many more of her recipes in my queue just waiting to happen! Check her out on YouTube and her website, frommybowl.com  is pretty awesome as well!

Oat Milk

My latest discovery and I am so happy for it. I heard Michelle and Matt talking about oat milk on a recent Thug Kitchen podcast, Forked Up and I thought I would give it a try. Even the best store brand had added sugar so I decided to make my own.

A gamechanger! I first tried it with cheesecloth and then graduated to a nut milk bag which is phenomenal!

HOW TO MAKE OAT MILK from simpleveganblog.com.

Super-simple to make, just oats and water. The flavor is so pure and just works perfectly in recipes, too.

Till next time, friends!

Eat well and be well 🙂

Melanie

 

 

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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Sloppy Joe Sliders

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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

Method:

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.

White Chili

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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.

White Chili

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.

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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.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Thai Curry in a Hurry

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

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

Thai Coconut Curry with Vegetables

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

1/2 cup frozen peas

Note:  Substitute any vegetables for those listed.

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

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

Method:

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

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

John Legend’s Chili, Plant-Based Version

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

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

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

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John Legend’s Chili

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

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

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

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

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

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Dixie Dharma Vegan Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Orlando

 

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Breakfast at Dixie Dharma              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery case                Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

 

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

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

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

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Dixie Dharma Dirty Scramble

 

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

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

 

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

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


 

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

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Dixie Dharma Chili Dawgs             Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

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

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

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

Bourbon Chocolate Chunk

Thick, sweet bourbon vanilla buttercream chocolate chunk cookie sandwich.

Cake Slice

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

(like birthday cake)

Lemon Bar

Lemon curd on a shortbread crust with crumb topping

Chocolate Brownie

Dark chocolate brownie, dipped in more melted chocolate

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Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery selection              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

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

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

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

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

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

DIXIE DHARMA WEBSITE

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April 2018 Menu!

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

What do you think??

Coconut Chana Saag

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

 

Portobello Stroganoff

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

 

Thai Green Curry Bowl

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

 

Scaloppini Marsala

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

 

Adzuki Quinoa Bowl

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

 

Franks and Beans

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

 

Sesame-Grilled Tofu

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

 

Black Bean Burgers

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

 

Grits, Greens and Beans

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

 

Firehouse Chili with Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

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

 

Mushroom Lentil Sloppy Joes

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

 

Barbecue Tempeh

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

 

Hearts of Palm Cakes

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

Vegan Brunch Execution, Start to Finish

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

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Cinnamon Baked Apples

Smoky Golden Corn Grits

Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

 Roasted Redskin Potatoes with Onions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, into the oven with my:

 Iron skillet of tempeh sausage crumbles

Covered pot of grits

Potatoes are already in there

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

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

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

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

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Top Ten Vegan Mains

 

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

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

  1.  Classic Meatloaf

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     2.  Stuffed Portobellos

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3.  Macaroni and Cheeze

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4.  All-American Barbecue

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5.  Sesame Grilled Tofu

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6.  Peanut Noodles

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7.  Vegetable Lasagnaovenready

8.  Coconut Curried Tofu and Spinach

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9.  Thai Red Lentil Chili

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10.  Quinoa Nachos

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Chocolate Mousse Pie

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

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

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

Chocolate Mousse Pie

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

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

Pinch sea salt

Vegan cookie pie shell, homemade or store bought

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

The Vegan Reuben Project

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

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

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

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

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Vegan Corned Beef 

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

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

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

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

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

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Maple-Butter Pancake Oats

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

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

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

What took me so long?

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Maple Butter Pancake Oats

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup water

pinch salt

1 tsp. Earth Balance Non-Dairy Margarine

1 Tbsp. real maple syrup

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

1/4 tsp. Maldon Sea Salt (optional)

Method:

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

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

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Vegan 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.

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

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

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

Ingredients:

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

1/4 cup flour for rolling

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

1 big tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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Serve with vanilla glaze if desired:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Blend together well and drizzle over rolls

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Braised Kale

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

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Braised Kale

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1 bunch green kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

1-2 tbsp. Olive oil

Method:

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

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

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

Plate and top with sautéed tofu. Serve immediately.

 

 

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

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

Coconut Creme Anglaise with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble

1 recipe coconut creme anglaise

1 recipe cinnamon walnuts

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

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

Coconut Creme Anglaise (4 servings)

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

 

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

Walnut-Cinnamon Crumble

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

 

Pulse ingredients just until crumbly

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Vegan Frangipane-Raspberry Strudel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Vegan Creme Brûlée

 

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

Vegan Creme Brûlée 

adapted from a recipe by Chloe Coscarelli

1 can full-fat coconut milk (14.5 oz)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

1/8 tsp. ground turmeric (for color)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup corn starch

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsp. brown sugar (optional)

Method:

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

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

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

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

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Soup Magic: Homestyle Split Pea

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

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

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

Magic Split Pea Soup

1 pound green split peas, rinsed

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

6 cups vegetable broth

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 Method:

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

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