Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Vegan Horseradish Aioli

IMG_2220     With a couple little tweaks, I veganized this quick and easy recipe from another site.  Now it’s just as delicious, but also cholesterol-free and cruelty-free.  You can have these in the oven in 5 minutes!


Serves 2 to 4 as appetizers.

1 Tablespoon ground horseradish
2 Tablespoons Reduced Fat Vegenaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 drops Worcestershire sauce

9 to 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients for Horseradish Aioli and mix well.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Toss frozen artichoke hearts with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, flipping once or twice during baking, until crispy on the edges.  Remove from oven and serve with the aioli.

Notes:  Kelchner’s Horse-Radish (the plain one is vegan), can sometimes be found in the seafood department of the grocery store, in a 6.5 oz. jar.  I prefer Wizard brand Worcestershire sauce.
IMG_2218  These were the only frozen artichoke hearts I could find, but the original recipe calls for a 12-ounce bag.

Vegan Tofu Ricotta

IMG_2081     If you have a block of tofu and a jar of capers in the house, you’re all set for this easy, delicious vegan ricotta spread.  We recently had dinner at Charlie was a sinner. restaurant in Philadelphia and loved it.  Our favorite dish was a chargrilled Caesar salad, but we also really liked their house-made “ricotta with agave, black peppercorn and olive oil”  served with grilled bread.  The waitperson said it was made of “whipped tofu.”  My version below is adapted from Tofu Ricotta Crostini by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg.  It’s good, easy and  versatile, and would be great for an appetizer.  Alongside a salad, it would also be good for lunch or dinner.  If you’re looking for other starter ideas, check out the appetizer category on this site.


Serves 4-6

14 oz. block of firm organic tofu, drained well  (not pressed)
2 Tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or some fancy pepper
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 to 2  teaspoons fresh lemon juice
baguette to grill, or crackers

In a medium mixing bowl, break up tofu with a fork until it’s the consistency of ricotta cheese.  Scrape 3/4 of this mixture into a food processor, along with the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.  Pulse until smooth and then scrape the processed tofu back into the crumbled tofu in the mixing bowl, add capers and stir to blend.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then sauté garlic for a minute or two, just until golden.  Add tofu mixture to pan, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir to mix.  Top with a drizzle of good olive oil, and a sprinkle of your best salt (I used homemade basil salt).

Notes:  Some changes I made were to use the entire block of tofu, and to whip part of it for the creamier consistency of the restaurant dish I had.  I also reduced the initial oil and salt and then added a little more at the end to finish.  This recipe can be flavored any which way.  You could add a teaspoon of agave syrup when processing, and then top with thin slices of grilled fig or dried date,  or candied pecans, or toasted pistachio nuts.  Or use preserved lemon when you process, for a deeper lemon flavor.   On canapés, you could top it with slices of pear, or fruit compote, with shards of coconut bacon, etc.  It could even be used to enhance avocado toast.
IMG_2048  One photo from Charlie was a sinner.

Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread

IMG_1668     Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread is one of those recipes that’s almost too good to be true.  Quick, easy, elegant and especially delicious.  The earliest origin of roasted grapes I could find online was around 2004.  Here, we’re using vegan cheese, because nobody has to die so we can have really good food.  Having a sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy appetizer is wonderful, but knowing it’s also good for your body and the planet and the animals is priceless!


Makes enough for 2 to 4 people, for appetizers

1 lb. seedless red grapes
2 ciabatta loaves, or a baguette
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
spreadable vegan cheese, such as Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Or, Miyoko’s CreameryTreeline, etc.   Or even just Tofutti Cream Cheese (non-hydrogenated).  Any of them should work.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 Celsius).  Line baking dish with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, place grapes, olive oil, sea salt and thyme, and fold gently with a wooden spoon to coat the grapes.  Tip ingredients into prepared baking dish and roast for 15 minutes or so, until grapes are a bit shriveled but still juicy.  Set aside.  Also set out your vegan cheese so it can warm up a bit while you prepare the toasts.

Slice ciabatta loaves in half the long way so you wind up with two wide/flat paddles, or if using a baguette, slice into rounds.  If grilling, brush bread with olive oil on both sides.  If baking in oven, brush oil on just the cut sides.  Grill bread 1 to 2 minutes per side–do not walk away, as it can burn quickly.  If baking bread, have oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and bake for about 7 minutes, keeping an eye on it.  Smear bread with vegan cheese and garnish with thyme-roasted grapes.  Serve.

Notes:  If using a good nut cheese, this can easily be a main meal, especially if served with a salad.  I used the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread (made from almond milk) in the Chive flavor.

Guatemalan Guacamole

IMG_0398    A friend who is originally from Guatemala taught me how to make this smooth guacamole.  There was no written recipe, just a hands-on lesson in the kitchen.  She had brought us some guacamole one time and I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so good, so I asked her for the recipe.  Instead of writing it down, she showed up at my house with a bag of produce.  Note that there is NO lime or lemon in this recipe, because the natural acidity of the tomatillos helps keep the guacamole from turning brown.


Makes approx. 3 Cups

6 raw tomatillos
2 avocados,  at least medium size or a bit larger
1/2 of a small bunch of cilantro, including stems, rinsed
2 jalapenos raw and whole, but stems removed
1/3 small onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup water

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Peel the papery skins off the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos to remove any stickiness.   Boil the tomatillos and the jalapenos for three minutes.  Remove them from the pot and set them on a plate to cool.

Remove pits from avocados and reserve one or both pits for the guacamole bowl.  The pit will also help keep the guacamole from turning brown.  In a blender place all the avocado flesh and everything else, and blend just until smooth.  Delicioso!

Notes:  This recipe as written above is exactly how she makes it for her family, including her small children.  However, for our palates, I did remove the seeds from the jalapenos (after boiling them).  For another good guacamole recipe, try the chunky Chipotle Restaurant Guacamole also on this site in the Mexican Category.
IMG_0395  This photo is wrong, there is no lime.
IMG_0396  Put the avocado pit in your bowl.  Along with the acidic tomatillos, the pit will help keep the guacamole from turning brown.

Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Cheeses

IMG_2814    We ate a lot of good food on Thanksgiving, but the highlight for me were these vegan cheeses by Miyoko’s Creamery.  These are gorgeous, cultured nut cheeses that taste like good European cheeses.   It’s possible that my favorite is the Classic Double Cream Chive (above photo), which is like a rich Boursin with a lovely herbal flavor from organic chives.    I admit to eating too much of it on Thanksgiving.  Like, I could hardly wait for lunch the next day to break out the crackers, not kidding.  A few days later, that wheel was polished off, and we broke open the Fresh Loire Valley cheese which is wrapped in a fresh green fig leaf (see photo below).  Talk about presentation!  The Fresh Loire Valley cheese is a bit similar to the Classic Double Cream Chive except perhaps a bit milder, with a nice subtle tang–addictive in its own way, let me assure you.  I thought I tasted a hint of lemon in it, but it’s probably the organic wine that it’s made with.  The last one we tried was the Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic, which, despite its name, tasted like a delicious very-mild smoked-cheddar cheese ball.  These are KILLER, the bees knees, the awesome sauce, the cat’s pajamas, and the bomb.  Thank you, Miyoko!  In case anyone doesn’t know, Miyoko has also written a cookbook called Artisan Vegan Cheese.  I’ve made a couple of the cultured cheeses in the book, with good results.   To make simpler vegan cheeses at home, please check out the Vegan Cheese category on this site.  To order Miyoko’s incredible cheeses, go to Miyoko’s Kitchen.  If we are eating dairy, we are killing veal calves, and subjecting female cows to lifetimes of extreme suffering, while simultaneously ruining our planet, giving ourselves cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, and starving children across the globe.  As we awaken, we can choose a different path.

IMG_2804  My favorite so far.
IMG_2807   Classic Double Cream Chive
IMG_0026  Fresh Loire Valley cheese in fig leaf.
IMG_0019  Fresh Loire Valley cheese.

Vegan Brazil Nut Pate

IMG_1411    What we have here is a really nice vegan pate.  Inspired by a very simple Brazil Nut Pate I saw in Vegan For Her, I referred to my 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking, and also my 1961 copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cook Book.  Pates in those old tomes call for some common elements to choose from, including salt, pepper, Worcestershire, allspice or nutmeg, pistachio nuts, truffles, grated onions, parsley or chervil and lemon juice.  Also, a single type of alcohol, such as brandy, cognac, Madeira or sherry.  A bit of flour is often added, possibly for a binder.  Also, sometimes, whipping cream, which can easily be replaced by cashew cream.  And we now also have vegan substitutes for other commonly-used pate ingredients like gelatin and cream cheese.

Garnishes often include parsley and cornichons, or even stuffed olives and thinly sliced limes.  I would suggest that tiny sweet gherkins would do if cornichons are not readily available.  I added olive oil to mimic the fatty quality of outdated pates.   We like this on Ritz crackers or very thin slices of toasted garlic bread.  I know some consider Ritz a bit lowbrow, but we like the buttery, salty quality of them, and their delicate crispness.


Yield: 1.5 Cups?  (not sure)  This recipe will fill two 4-inch ramekins for a party though.

1 Cup raw Brazil nuts
1/2 Cup blanched almonds
1/3 Cup pickled red onions (or regular red onions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 Tablespoon organic vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard brand
2 Tablespoons Madeira wine  (or cognac, or brandy or sherry)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin organic olive oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons water

Soak all nuts for two hours, or overnight.  Drain and rinse nuts in colander.
In a food processor (not a blender), add all ingredients and process to as fine a consistency as you can, scraping down the sides often.  Add an extra Tablespoon of plant milk or water if necessary.  Set in fridge for a few hours or even better, overnight, for flavors to meld.   Garnish with parsley and cornichons.

Serve with thin slices of garlic bread, crackers, and/or raw vegetables such as slices of sweet red bell pepper, or endive.  I could also see stuffing cherry tomatoes and garnishing with a thin round slice of olive, for example.

Notes:  Read the lead-in for variations suggestions.  Brazil nuts are definitely a power food, providing calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, omegas, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, zinc, etc., etc.  Another vegan Worcestershire sauce is by Whole Foods 365 Organic.  You can also sprinkle with Paprika.

Chickpea Zucchini Fries with Sumac and Lemon

IMG_1104    Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, this is my riff on Mario Batali’s Chickpea Fries.  We found his version too bland, so these have been spiced up a bit, and this recipe below is halved.  I didn’t bother wringing out the zucchini, just left it to drain longer instead.  Packed with fiber and protein, these golden fries are addictive when served with wedges of fresh lemon and sea salt.


Serves 4

1 large zucchini, partially peeled and grated  (approx. 3 cups of grated zucchini)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups water
1.5 Cups chickpea flour  (also called garbanzo flour)
1.5 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon Shallot-Pepper  or any other spice(s)
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour for dredging (optional)
1/2 Cup peanut oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
sea salt or other finishing salt

Place grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir to mix well.  Transfer grated zucchini to a colander set over a bowl, and set aside to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Occasionally, gently stir and press it with the back of a spoon.

Grease a baking dish and line the bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper.  I used waxed paper and a Pyrex dish of approx. 11×7 inches.  Set this prepared baking dish in the refrigerator while you work.

In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk the sumac and shallot-pepper (or other seasonings) into the chickpea flour.  In a medium saucepan, simmer the water over medium heat.  Pour in the seasoned chickpea flour and stir constantly for one minute, making sure heat is not too high.  Add zucchini, stir well and remove from heat.  Pour zucchini mixture into prepared baking dish, and gently press and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.  Chill for at least one hour, or overnight.

Onto a large floured cutting board, turn out the set chickpea mixture.  Peel off and discard the waxed paper.  Cut into fries approx. 3″ x 1/2″.   In a heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil.  Dredge fries lightly in all-purpose flour (this step is optional but it’s the only way I’ve ever done it).  Working in batches, cook the chickpea fries until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  You’re going for golden brown here, not too dark.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with plenty of lemon wedges,  and sea salt for sprinkling.

Notes:  You can find ground sumac in any Middle-Eastern grocery.  These are worth getting out your best salt for.  Feel free to change up the spices.  I’ll try using black pepper and rosemary next time, to go with the lemon and sea salt.  These are called panisses in France, and panelle in Italy.  Here’s a video of Mario Batali making these.  More photos below.

IMG_1098 Zucchini draining into a bowl.
IMG_1100  Water drained from the zucchini.

Easy Fig Jam with Lemon and Sesame

IMG_0598    Vegan Mofo 2013.  For weeks, we’ve been having a contest to see who could get to the figs first–me or The Squirrels.  As you can imagine, the Squirrels are way ahead, but I did manage to snag a pound a half of these White Italian Honey Figs, and make some easy, vegan fig jam.  This fig jam is great with salty crackers on a vegan cheese board.  You can double this recipe, and you can use any type of figs–I’ve also made it with Brown Turkey figs.


Makes about two 8-ounce jars.

1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar
1.5 pounds ripe figs, rinsed
zest from one organic lemon
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (no more)
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds, shaking the pan gently until seeds turn golden.  Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, simmer water and sugar, until sugar is dissolved.
Cut each fig into about 8 pieces.
Into the sugar-water, add zest and lemon juice and figs.
Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, 1.5 to 2 hours.
Stir in sesame seeds.
If you want to, you can now use a potato masher to break up some of the fig pieces.
I like a mixed consistency.
Let cool a bit and then ladle into heavy little canning jars.
When fully cool, cap the jars.
Keep in fridge for one month, or put in freezer for up to six months.

Notes:  I’ve tried making this with stevia, and did not like the flavor at all.  One time I added extra lemon, but that made it taste kind of like Pledge, so keep it subtle.  I also tried adding more sesame seeds, but it was too much, threw the balance off.  This fig jam is great with salty crackers and vegan cheeses.  If you need to collect figs over 2 or 3 days, gently rinse and dry them, and keep them in a covered container in the refrigerator until you get enough.
IMG_0579  White Italian Honey Figs

IMG_0510  Here’s my haul from day one.  It took me two more days to steal enough from the squirrels to make jam.

IMG_0591  The picture of health, but not ripe yet.

IMG_0589  This fig tree gets cut back each Spring and then it grows about 4-6 feet in one season.  You can see it towering over our one-story garage roof here.  This fig tree faces SW, and is protected from wind by the garage.

Vegan Cheese Ball

IMG_0307    This recipe is straight from Josh Latham of My Vegan Cookbook.  And it’s really good!   For me, Josh’s original recipe here has a flavor reminiscent of mild cheddar, but with the texture of goat cheese.  Josh has suggested variations such as Black Pepper & Rosemary, or Hawaiian-style (with Baco Bits and Pineapple).  However, I’m thinking a swirl of reduced port wine would be just the thing to mix into this vegan cheese ball, especially for the holidays.  The only thing I did differently was to soak the almonds overnight, just to make them a bit creamier.  Josh seems to have a way with making decadent food that’s also healthy, and this easy vegan cheeze ball is no exception.  p.s.  I made another one of Josh’s recipes for Vegan Mofo last year, his Salted Caramel Popcorn.


1 Cup slivered and blanched almonds
1/4 Cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 of a 14 oz. block of firm tofu  (refrigerated kind, well drained)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon canola oil  (I used grapeseed)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons fresh chives  (I like 2 teaspoons)
3/4 Cup finely chopped walnuts  (to coat outside)

(I soak the almonds in a jar of filtered water overnight, but this is my optional step.)
Place almonds and pine nuts in food processor with salt and sugar, and blend for about 2 minutes until clumps start to form.

Measure 1/3 of a block of tofu from a 14-ounce block.  It’s important to use firm tofu.  Silken or extra-firm tofu will not work.  An average block of tofu is about 4.5 inches long, so measure 1.5 inches off.  Drain tofu in a strainer by smashing and pressing firmly.  Using a clean lint-free dish towel to soak up some of the water also helps.  It’s important to get as much water as you can out.   (I just used a Tofu Xpress instead).

Now add the tofu to the almond and pine-nut paste that’s already in the food processor, along with the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oil and onion powder, and blend about two minutes.  Mixture should resemble extra-thick mashed potatoes.

Add chives to food processor and pulse them into the mixture, just until distributed.

Spray a small bowl and a square of plastic wrap with cooking oil spray.  Press mixture into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge and let this chill for at least five hours or overnight.  It will get nice and firm and can now be shaped into a ball and rolled in chopped walnuts to coat.  If you lightly oil your hands, it will keep it from sticking to your hands while you roll.  (I did not bother oiling my hands and did not need to, it was not sticky.)

Here are Josh’s variations on the same recipe.  Just leave the chives out and add:

Black Pepper & Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Coat with pine nuts or chopped walnuts.
1 Tablespoon Baco Bits
1 Tablespoon pineapple, well-drained and finely chopped
Coat with chopped pecans that have been lightly coated with maple syrup and toasted until crispy on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven.

Notes:  I’d like to do a port-wine reduction and swirl it through the cheese mixture (by pulsing it in the food processor) before the initial chilling.  I made this two days in advance, with great results.


A few years ago, before I went vegan, I had these at a girlfriend’s.  There were these meatballs that had a nice flavor, sort of sweet-and-sour, but mild.  She wrote the recipe down for me on a scrap of paper, and I remember being surprised at the ingredients.  Here they are in their vegan incarnation,  perfect appetizers for a cocktail party, or Super Bowl or football food.  You could also bring these to any gathering calling for Heavy Pupus, and they take 5 minutes to make.  You could make your own vegan meatballs, but then it’s no longer a five-minute recipe.  I also read that homemade meatballs tend to fall apart in the slow cooker.  Happy New Year, Everyone.  In 2013, I plan to start blogging more raw food, less processed food, as I go along.  In the meantime, here’s this easy, delicious recipe that will have all the men at your house gathered around the crock pot.

Serves:  however many meatballs are in the bags

2 twelve-ounce jars Heinz Chili Sauce
1 32-ounce jar grape jelly, such as Welch’s
2 16-ounce bags vegan meatballs, plain flavor

Put chili sauce and jelly in a large pot or slow cooker.
Cook on medium heat until jelly is melted smooth, stirring often.
Add frozen meatballs, and heat until thawed.
Simmer for an hour or so.

Notes:  I used a four-quart Crock-Pot slow cooker, and set the temperature to Low for half an hour while the jelly melted, stirring occasionally.  Then I added the meatballs and set it to High for an hour.  This way, the meatballs stayed nicely intact in the beginning when the stirring of the jelly was happening.  The crock pot also is a great party tool since it keeps the stove free, while keeping your appetizers hot.  I used Trader Joe’s vegan meatballs, but there are quite a few brands now, even at regular grocery stores, in the freezer section.  There is an easy variation–just use canned, jellied cranberry sauce instead of the grape jelly.

Vegan Meltable Muenster Cheese

Vegan Mofo 2012 is keeping me on my toes, but it’s also motivating me to try things that have been on my wish list for a while.  After doing the post on Rejuvelac, I of course, decided to try Myoko Schinner’s vegan Meltable Muenster, which requires no Rejuvelac or culturing.  It’s in her category of Meltable Cheeses, and I can attest that it’s very quick to make.  You can find this recipe online, but her newest cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese, is sort of fascinating so I really recommend buying this one, or have Santa bring it to you.  Below are my experiences with this particular cheese, which is only one of many in her book.
It’s easy and fast.  You don’t need a fancy blender; any one would do.

I did not use soy yogurt because I didn’t have any on hand.  I used Amande almond yogurt, the Plain flavor.  I took the lid off the yogurt and it was very watery, so I whisked it with a fork until it came back together, before measuring it into the blender.

I used a small, heavy-bottom stock pot and had no problem with the mixture sticking.  For me, this came together on the stove like magic, in about three minutes of constant whisking.  I’m guessing the Kappa Carrageenan is responsible for this wizardry.  First it’s liquid and then all of a sudden it’s looking and feeling like melted mozzarella.  It even stretches and gets stringy on the whisk.

The finished cheese is very creamy and mild, and would be good with something else.  Myoko recommends putting it on a sandwich or eating it with apples, pears and crackers.  I could see making some little canapes with this and garnishing the top with something salty, like a tiny caper, or a thin slice of olive or something.  I’m going to try it on a  sandwich and see what’s up.  Where dairy Muenster is mild (I remember it to be mild), this is even milder in taste.

Here below are photos of gathering Carrageenan on gorgeous Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Some years ago, Lars and I spent part of an afternoon watching this harvesting process, which seemed to be just a mom-and-pop deal.  Carrageenan is in a lot of products we use every day, such as toothpaste, and I ordered mine from Modernist Pantry, as Myoko recommended.


Sprouted Almond Feta Cheese Spread

IMG_3004     I made two different tofu feta recipes and did not like either one.  This recipe, however, is delicious and worthy of any buffet table or dinner party.  Although you have to plan ahead, it’s easy and doesn’t take much hands-on time.  I adapted and simplified my easy version from an Editors’ Pick from Vegetarian Times magazine.  I skipped the cheesecloth/chilling, which saves a bunch of time and trouble.  I skipped the herbed oil topping because it interfered with the tangy, cheesy flavor of this spread.  I also added a bit of mild white miso for more umami.  If you don’t care about a whiter appearance, you don’t have to blanch the almonds.    Note: I made this one time using an entire 6-ounce bag of Diamond Blanched Almonds, and it worked great (see photo below).

Almond Feta Cheese Spread

Serves:  10

1 Cup whole almonds
1/4 Cup lemon juice
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon mild white miso
1/2 Cup water (not the soaking water)

Place almonds in a quart glass jar and cover with 2 Cups of water.  Let soak 48 hours in refrigerator, changing the water at least once.  Drain and rinse well.  You will see that the almonds may have started to sprout a tiny bit.  Squeeze each almond between thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand and the brown skin should slide off pretty easily.

Puree lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, miso and the 1/2 Cup of fresh water in blender (or food processor) for up to 1 minute, until creamy.  Add almonds and blend for about 5 minutes.  You will probably have to finesse the blender several times–sliding a spoon down into it, and using the blender on lowest setting, and increasing speed slowly.

Spoon almond mixture into a ramekin or small casserole dish.  At this point, you can chill it and eat it raw on crackers, fold it into recipes, or whatever.  Or you can bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.  Serve warm or chilled, on thin slices of buttered toasted baguette, or crackers, in Greek salad, etc.

Notes:  I did make this in my Vitamix, but I guess in lieu of that, i would try a food processor, unless you have a powerful blender, not sure.   This vegan feta can be used in a myriad of dishes, such as vegan Spanakopita, or my Greek Phyllo Squash Tart.  Or for a party, simply spooned into little store-bought phyllo cups and topped with something else in contrasting color and taste.  Here’s a YouTube video showing how to blanch almonds, or you can buy them already blanched.   You can also make this with rejuvelac if you’re so inclined.  I tried making it with almond meal but did not care for the slightly-pasty texture.  The original recipe calls for baking the cheese at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes, but I haven’t tried that yet.  Pier One has great larger ramekins for about $5 and they mimic the white ramekins from Cordon Bleu.

  I tried the original method before, but it didn’t make much of a difference to me, so since then, I’ve skipped it.

This bottom photo is using a six ounce bag of Diamond Blanched Almonds, so it’s quicker if you want to save the time.

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Rolls or Vegan Egg Rolls

Found these Trader Ming’s Stir Fried Vegetable Rolls at Trader Joe’s in Annapolis last week.  I’ve been unable to find vegan egg roll wrappers, so bought these to try.  Just bake and serve, and they’re pretty good!  I served these with vegan fried rice, and homemade sweet-and-sour sauce.  I would definitely buy these again.

Curried Chickpea Cakes by Kim Barnouin

These Curried Chickpea Cakes are easy and delicious, with a definite-but-light Indian flavor profile.  This recipe is from  Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook by Kim Barnouin.  I made a quick condiment for them by mixing one part Patak’s Mango Chutney (from a jar), with two parts Vegenaise.  It makes ten cakes, and I ended up freezing 5 or 6 of them for another quick meal.  The cookbook says this makes ten servings, but we easily ate two each and a hungry boy or man could wipe out three with no problem.  I switched out the bread crumbs for Quinoa Flakes and had good success.  I guess this makes mine gluten free, except that I rolled them in Panko before frying.  However, you could also use crushed vegan Corn Flakes for the coating instead of the Panko.  I think if you made these really petite, maybe one tablespoon each, they’d make great appetizers topped with a little dollop of chutney and a cilantro leaf or something.  This is also a great recipe when you have some leftover brown rice you want to use up.   p.s. This is a pretty, reader-friendly, sort of California-chic cookbook and would make a great gift.


Makes 9-10 cakes (approximately 5 servings)

15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 Cup sliced green onions (both white and light green parts)
1/3 Cup light coconut milk
2/3 Cup Quinoa Flakes or bread crumbs or Panko
2/3 Cup crumb coating, such as bread crumbs, Panko or vegan corn flakes crushed
2 teaspoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional but I use it every chance I get for its health benefits and golden color)
2/3 Cup cooked brown rice
1/4 Cup grapeseed oil for pan searing

In a food processor, combine chickpeas and green onions, and pulse until combined  (see photo below for my consistency).   Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Dry whisk sugar, all spices and salt to evenly incorporate them.
To mixing bowl, add coconut milk, sugar/salt/spices and Quinoa Flakes.
Stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined.   Stir in the brown rice.
Mold into ten patties, using a scant 1/4 Cup measure.   Roll patties in crumb coating.

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat.    Add chickpea cakes to the pan in batches and saute until there’s a nice golden sear on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer to paper-towel-lined plate to drain.  Continue with remaining cakes.

Tip:  You can make these ahead and re-heat them in the oven or microwave.  They freeze well too.  For a quick condiment, mix 1/4 Cup of mango chutney with 1/2 Cup vegan mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise.

Nutritional Values:  Servings 123 g.  Calories 170.  Fat 7 g.  Saturated Fat 1 g.  Cholesterol 0 mg.  Carbs 23 g.  Fiber 3 g.  Protein 4 g.

Romesco Sauce Dip

Romesco Sauce is a traditional Catalonian dish from Spain that can also be made with hazelnuts or pine nuts.  This dip is simple to make, delicious, and gorgeous to look at.  Great for the buffet table or to bring to a party.  Slather on sandwiches and wraps, or canapes.  Serve with crackers or crudites.  And, I almost forgot, it’s healthy!  I made this in my Vitamix and it came out really smooth, but I’ve also made it in a food processor before with great results.  You don’t really taste the almonds, but they pack a big protein punch and add a creamy body to the otherwise-loose texture of the dip.  I advise setting aside some of the almonds as a garnish, because this indicates there are nuts in the dish, in case anyone has allergies.  Otherwise, you’d never know they were in there.  Also, I like to make this one day ahead to give the small amount of raw garlic time to mellow out.
Romesco Sauce Dip

Makes about 1.5 Cups

1 Cup whole natural almonds (or slivered almonds), toasted
8 to 12 ounces roasted red peppers from jar, drained.  I have used Vlasic brand and also Sun of Italy brand.
1 Tablespoon dry sherry (or sherry vinegar)
1 small garlic clove, peeled
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Set aside a Tablespoon or two of the toasted almonds, coarsely chopped, to use as a garnish.
Very finely chop the rest of the almonds in food processor or Vitamix.
Add drained roasted peppers, sherry or sherry vinegar, and garlic.
Process to a coarse puree.
Add olive oil and salt, and process until puree thickens slightly.
Transfer to a small bowl.
Cover and chill.

NOTES:  I like to make this one day ahead, to give the raw garlic time to mellow out.  This can sit on the buffet table for hours and it gets better as it comes to room temperature.  Great on sandwiches, canapes, crudites, etc.

Vegan Con Queso Dip


This is an old recipe from the 1970’s that I’ve veganized.  It’s sort of like the vegan Rotel Dip but has more vegetables and spices in it, and it’s really good.  Served with Doritos, Tostitos or Frito’s, it’s perfect for nacho night or watching football at home.  If you don’t want to use the beer in it, I suppose you could use soda water, but I haven’t tried that yet.  If you really want to do it up right, you could also serve the Excellent Bean Dip from this site.
Vegan Con Queso Dip

Serves 6 to 8,  I’m guessing.

2 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, drained (any kind, even fire roasted)
4 oz. can diced green chili peppers (we like mild or medium heat)
1 clove garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
8 oz. bag of Daiya cheese
up to 1/2 Cup of beer

Saute onion in oil on medium heat.
Add tomatoes, chili peppers and seasonings.
Simmer on low until blended and some of the liquid is gone.
Put in double boiler and add cheese.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cheese melts.
Add splashes of beer as you stir, maybe a Tablespoon or two at a time, to smooth out the mixture and keep it “open.”
Serve with nacho chips or Fritos.

Notes:  You could probably substitute soda water instead of beer.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

Excellent Bean Dip

This recipe was given to my friend Dave when he was working at Hilo Hospital, back in the 1990’s.  We laugh because it’s uber healthy, but then we go and eat it with Doritos, Fritos and the like.   At least you’re getting some major nutrition and fiber with your junk food!  It’s good, and it would be perfect for the big game, so I’m also putting it under the vegan football food category on this site.  It makes a ton and it freezes beautifully.  See second photo below, dated in October 2011, and I like this chunky texture better, it’s all about how much you puree, and pulse which ingredients.


2 cans 15 oz kidney beans (drained)
1 cans 15 oz black beans  (drained)
1 cans 15 oz garbanzo beans (drained)
2 cans 2.25 oz. ripe (black) olives (drained).  Chop one can, and put  other in blender.
1 can 14.5 oz can flavored tomatoes.  I used Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes, but any flavor would do.
Juice of one whole lemon (fresh)
1 large purple onion, diced fine (I use the Pickled Red Onions on this site)
1 to 2 green bell peppers, diced
4 oz. Catalina dressing
Optional:  several Tablespoons of black olive tapenade (I like Trader Joe’s brand for it’s great price and good taste)
Drain all beans and rinse well in colander.
Then put beans in bowl with cold water to cover, for one hour.
Drain beans in colander.
Take a tablespoon or two of your chopped vegetables and put them aside, to use as a garnish for your final presentation.
Have your Catalina dressing ready and waiting on the side.  You will need to put a little of this dressing into each blender batch, so add it accordingly, a little at a time.  This dressing is the liquid that will keep your blender moving.
Puree about half of all ingredients in batches, pulsing and stirring.  You want half of this dip to be fully pureed, and half of it to be chunkier.
Put this puree into a very large bowl and set aside.
Now put the other half of all ingredients into the blender and pulse so that it’s finely chopped, but not pureed.
Add this finely chopped half to the pureed half in the large bowl and mix.
Let chill in refrigerator for an hour or so.
Serve  with Fritos, or Tostitos, or, if you have to, something healthier.
This makes a LOT so you can serve a crowd, or freeze in small containers to take out when you like.
Notes:  You will need to finesse the blender or Vitamix because of the sheer volume.  This means putting it into your blender in small batches, with some of the liquid and pulsing, and stirring sometimes.  Get out your biggest bowl.  This would also be great to take to work functions, or put out for teens, etc.  You can also add a couple of tablespoons of black olive tapenade (I like Trader Joe’s brand for the cheap price).

Spiced and Roasted Chick Peas

I first saw this recipe being made by Toni Fiore on itunes, back in 2010.  Toni’s short videos on itunes are totally worth watching, and are listed under Delicious TV VegEZOh, she’s also got youtube videos and phone apps.  I did check, and this particular video is no longer on itunes, but there’s a new one, also for roasted chick peas, using garlic and sage.  I’ll have to try that sometime, but I doubt it could be better than this flavor profile of exotic spices.  I could not find this recipe online either, but a year ago or so, I did type it into a Word document.  I’m not sure if I amended the recipe, but I probably did.  Either way, it’s close enough and so good.  The cinnamon and brown sugar somehow work with the savory spices.  Again, there is a little kick to these, and Lars complains about it, but then he keeps eating them, ha ha.  Cayenne is powerfully healthy; increasing blood flow to all parts of the body, and restoring circulation health and balance.  So, if you’re a wussy when it comes to hot peppers, try to build up your tolerance.  I crave hot-pepper-spiced foods in the depths of winter, or if I have a cold.  Upon eating it, you breathe easier, have more energy and feel warmer.  This is why our nose runs and we perspire after eating cayenne.  Just because it’s summer, don’t let that stop you from making this dish, because hot spices also cool the body in hot weather, but that’s another story.  Toni (yes, I’m pretending I’m on a first-name basis with Ms. Fiore) says she likes to serve these with cocktails, but I think they’re good any time.  This recipe is quick and simple and something different.
Spiced and Roasted Chick Peas

Serves approximately 6,  as an appetizer

2  15-oz. cans of chick peas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon curry
1/8 teaspoon garam masala  (I just bought some, did not mix my own)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, not until just before serving.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Line glass baking dish with parchment paper.
Toss chick peas with oil and spices (but not salt), in a bowl.
Bake approx. 40 minutes, stirring once.
Bake until chick peas turn brown, and a few of the beans will puff up, and a very few of them will wrinkle and turn almost black.  Most will be crispy.
Remove from oven and toss in a glass bowl with the sea salt.
Serve hot or warm from the oven.
Store any leftovers in fridge.

Note:  If you add the salt earlier, the beans will not crisp up, as they should.  In my electric oven, I think I baked mine approximately 45 minutes.  I tend to use a small baking dish, so that the chick peas are not in a single layer, because I think it helps the flavors meld and bubble, instead of simply soaking into the parchment paper.  Once you make this, you can tell if you want to increase any spice quantities to your liking next time.  One time I mixed up the spices and oil and then realized I only had one can of chick peas.  I made the dish anyway with what I had mixed up, and it still came out great.

Chipotle Grill Restaurant Guacamole

Very soon after I went vegan last year, I went to Chipotle Grill restaurant in Annapolis.   Their guacamole has such a nice balance to it.  So I searched online and found this web site with the actual recipe on it and just modified it to our taste exactly.  You can follow my recipe or start with the original and change it slightly to suit your family.  Lars is one of those people who perceive the taste of cilantro as being slightly soapy, but the ratios I use below are just fine with even him.  The first time I made it, I used all the juice from the little lime, but it really was too much.  The online recipe doesn’t say how many this serves, but I find it’s good for two or three people, depending upon appetites.  I’ve heard it said many times that avocados are fattening, but don’t believe it.  Yes, they are high in monounsaturated fat, the kind that lowers cholesterol.  Also a good source of folate, which is important for the formation of hemoglobin,  and ounce for ounce, an avocado contains more potassium than a banana which is considered an excellent source.  With other nutrients like Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, magnesium and iron, we can’t go wrong.  Avocados are high up on the list of the Clean 15, so you can save a few pennies and buy conventional (as opposed to organic).  However, when we buy organic, we create a demand for it and less of a demand for pesticide-laden foods.  As for growing fresh cilantro, here in the Mid-Atlantic part of the United States, it tends to wither away once the true heat of summer sets in, so I plant it in my shaded porch pots, along with a nasturtium for salads, and some mint for iced tea. 
Chipotle Grill Guacamole Recipe

Serves: 2 to 3

2 Hass Avocados   Don’t go for black avocados;  make sure they have some green showing in the skin
1/3 of a Jalapeno pepper, seeded (seeds taken out), and minced
1/4 of a medium-sized red onion, finely chopped (or a bit less)
1 Tablespoon of fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 of a lime, juiced (no more)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

In a mixing bowl, mash avocados some (not all the way).  I use an old-fashioned potato masher, because I don’t have a molcajete.

Add cilantro, chopped red onions, minced jalapeno, lime juice, and salt. Continue mashing until desired consistency.  It’s more authentic to leave some small chunks.

Note:  To speed ripening, store avocados in a paper bag at room temperature.  In a pinch, you can simply add one more avocado for that 4th person.

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms Laced with Madeira

Before I went vegan, I really liked the stuffed mushrooms at The Cheesecake Factory restaurant.  Since they’re  full of cheese, I knew I had to develop a recipe good enough so the addictive cheese would not be missed.  With the addition of rich walnuts and a nutty Medeira wine, we have success.  I had to make these three times before we were satisfied with the recipe, and ended up adding something each time.  They are buttery and rich, and every single time I serve them, they pull a fast disappearing act.  You can make the stuffing the day before and then put a guest to work washing and stuffing the mushrooms on the day of your meal.


Vegan Walnut-Stuffed Mushrooms Laced With Madeira

Two 8 oz. packages white button mushrooms
2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped raw walnuts
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (yes, they’re vegan), crushed fine
½ onion, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (such as safflower or canola oil)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon pepper (black or white)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
2 to 3 Tablespoons wine (optional) (Medeira has a nutty flavor that complements the walnuts here)
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance non-dairy butter
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (if not using wine, add an extra Tablespoon of the balsamic) (I use Trader Joe’s balsamic)
2 Tablespoons Tofutti vegan cream cheese
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove stems from mushrooms, rinse well and set aside or freeze for some other use.
Wash mushroom caps with your fingers under running water,  and set in a colander to drain.
Chop walnuts, set aside.
Crush Ritz crackers finely in a large bowl with a potato masher.
Sauté onion in 1 Tablespoon oil, with salt and pepper, until soft.
At end of sauté, add crushed garlic and wine (optional) and walnuts, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes more.
Remove from heat and stir Earth Balance into onion mixture.
Mix balsamic vinegar, cream cheese and parsley into onion mixture.
Add onion mixture to the crackers, and mix gently but well.
Mixture should be moist.  If mixture is still dry, add a Tablespoon more wine or balsamic.
Spray baking dish lightly with oil or cooking spray.
Stuff each mushroom high with filling, and place in a shallow baking dish, in a single layer.  Pack the filling gently into the mushroom, so it is well-filled and firm (try not to split the mushroom caps if possible).
Also, fill the baking dish completely to the edges so the mushrooms don’t topple over.
You can cover and chill the mushrooms here, until you’re ready to bake them.
Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Remove cover and bake 10-15 minutes longer until browned on top.
Mushrooms should be good and hot, and there should be a bit of sizzling liquid in the pan.
I like to serve these in the pan, as it keeps them hot longer.

Note:   You can make the filling the day before and keep it in the fridge, which really cuts down on prep time the day of.  Do not wash the actual mushrooms until the day you need them, however, as they are fragile and will begin to sort of break down a bit after washing.  These are excellent, no worries!

Vegan Rotel Queso Dip

I once met a girl from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who told me you could not have a party without Rotel dip.  She was horrified when I asked, “What’s Rotel dip?”  So she made it for me, and I was shocked to see there was Velveeta in such an apparently popular party food.  But there it was, and it tasted good.  So, I decided to give it a vegan whirl.  And guess what?  It was really good!  This would be a killer snack for Super Bowl parties and what have you.  No other vegan cheese would do but Daiya brand, and I decided to mix up the mozzarella and cheddar flavors to get the color and taste that might approximate Velveeta, and also added some beer to thin it out and keep it “open” and give it a bit of live culture, like bad cheese would have.  These little successes keep me going and I hope you like them too.

Vegan Rotel Dip     or     Vegan Queso Dip

one 10 oz. can of Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
4 oz. Daiya mozzarella cheese
4 oz. Daiya cheddar cheese
1 bottle of Corona beer (or some other beer)

Put Rotel and cheeses in a saucepan, on medium-low heat.
Add 1/2 Cup of the beer and stir with a wooden spoon.
As it heats up, add another 1/4 Cup of the beer if necessary.
Stir often until bubbly.
Keep warm in a chafing dish or on the stove, on lowest heat.
You can add a Tablespoon (or two) more beer as time passes, and stir occasionally.

Vegan Swedish Sweet and Sour Meatballs

My parents used to make a version of these for their family gatherings back in the 1970’s, so now it’s a real retro party dish.  I remember sitting around my Dad’s homemade sawbuck table with my sister and my Mom, rolling these petite meatballs.  I pulled up Mom’s old recipe, wondering if I could successfully veganize it.  Enter Gimme Lean “sausage” and “ground beef” vegan meats.  This is the same product I used for the delicious vegan meatloaf I recently created.  The Gimme Lean label says they do NOT use soybeans that were produced using biotechnology.  Because this vegan meat does not have fat and cholesterol, I modified the original recipe,  to give more taste and flavor and make the sausage mix a bit moister.  And wow, they’re just great!  The slight crunch of the toasted slivered almonds, and the blend of the sweet and the sour.  On the one hand, it was so NICE not to have to disinfect the kitchen after making these.  On the other hand, I had to get out my big KitchenAid mixer in order to get everything incorporated well.  These vegan ground meats are stiffer and harder to mix than the bad meats.  I think it would have been slightly difficult even with my hands.  I used the flat beater attachment.  An added thought is that these products are stamped “pareve” (par-uh-va) and so are very useful for those wanting to prepare Kosher dishes.  So with a lot of holiday spirit, here is the recipe:
Vegan Swedish Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Makes approx. 70 to 75 meatballs

1 pkg. Gimme Lean sausage style
1 pkg. Gimme Lean ground beef style
½ C slivered almonds  (or a bit more, if you like)
½ C dry bread crumbs (plain)
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced,  or pressed
Ener-G egg replacer, to equal 2 eggs, frothed
3 Tablespoons Tamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
¼ tsp of Tabasco
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1/16th tsp (a dash) of nutmeg
One inch of peanut oil  (enough to fry meatballs in a medium sized  saucepan)
A cup or so of cornstarch, for coating
Toothpicks for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat peanut oil, on medium heat.
In a small skillet, put almonds with one tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan butter, on medium heat and brown on medium low heat, stirring occasionally (don’t burn).  Remove from heat and sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt.

Thoroughly combine all above ingredients, including browned almonds. (a strong mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid, does help in this process)

Scooping with a teaspoon, form into small balls about the diameter of a quarter coin (approx. 1 inch), no larger!

Roll balls in cornstarch, gently brush off excess corn starch, and fry in oil for approx. seven minutes, turning after 4 minutes.

Drain on paper towels.  There will be a flaky white coating of cornstarch here and there.  Do not worry about this.  Once the meatballs are added to the sauce, these cornstarch flakes will melt and add to the thickening of the sauce.

IF making ahead, cool and drain and freeze meatballs here.

See below for sauce recipe.

1 large can (at least 20 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained
1 C pineapple juice
2 C apple-cider vinegar
½ C tamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1.5 C brown sugar
4 T cornstarch

-In a small to medium sized stock pot, mix pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar.
-Mix cornstarch into a bit of pineapple juice and stir into a smooth slurry, and then add to the stock pot.
-Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat for 15 minutes.
-Sauce is done when it visibly darkens and thickens (you will know).
-Add meatballs and pineapple chunks, and serve in chafing dish.

TipsI bought the small Dole brand six-pack of pineapple juice, which is not from concentrate.  This way, I didn’t have to open a big bottle for just one cup of juice.
Also, if you have leftovers and you go to reheat, the sauce will be a bit clumpy.  Just pour in one of the six-ounce cans of pineapple juice when you re-heat, and whisk or stir, and it will smooth out the sauce again.
Lastly, if you’re buying good pineapple in its own juice, you can use that can juice instead of opening one of the smaller cans.  Just drain it into a one-cup measure to make sure there’s enough of the can juice to equal the one cup called for.
p.s.  Pineapple is high on the list of the “Clean Fifteen” so it’s more OK to buy the standard supermarket brands that are (sadly) not organic.
My mother made a note on her recipe that she sometimes substituted wine vinegar, but the flavor of these is what I remember; that fruity acidic pineapple with the almost-alcoholic aromatic tang of the apple cider vinegar in the original recipe.

So, this is what the meatballs will look like immediately after frying, with some fried cornstarch still clinging to them.  You can freeze the meatballs at this point.  Don’t worry about how they look, as the bits of cornstarch will help thicken the sauce in the final stage of preparation.

Vegan Antipasto Stuffed Peppers

I made these for a party at our house last weekend.  What happened was that I ran into the Acme grocery store, to pick up some things I could not get at my local health food store.  I wandered around, looking for inspiration and saw these at a little deli stand.  There were some large olives stuffed with almonds and then a platter of these little hollow peppers sitting in oil.  They’re such a bright red that they just scream festive, especially if put on the same plate as the green olives.  I looked all over the Internet, trying to find out what variety of peppers these are, with no luck.  However, they’re conveniently hollow, so I figured they’re meant to be stuffed.  Instant antipasti plate, well almost instant.  I just took some of my Vegan Herbed Cream Cheese Spread, and piped it into the peppers.  Once stuffed, I popped one in my mouth.  First there’s a hint of sweetness from the pepper and then the creamy tang of the herbed spread, and then a slow heat from the pepper creeps up on you.  It’s not too hot.  Just enough heat to make it really interesting, especially since your first flavor recognition is that of a sweet pepper.  You could also open up a jar of marinated artichokes to really fancy up the plate, if you must. 

Spiced Ginger Cashews

I made these this afternoon to take to a Christmas party, and they’re quick, easy and really good.  The original recipe calls for an egg white, but once again Ener-G egg replacer saved the day!  I also eliminated the extra sugar and the fresh ginger.  This is spicy enough and it just takes the ho-hum salty nuts and kicks them up a notch.  Perfect for a party.

Makes 2 cups

3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt  (use any nice coarse salt you like)
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Ener-G egg replacer to equal one egg
one 9.75 oz. can of Planters cashews (about 2 cups of nuts)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together sugar, coarse salt, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.

Froth with a latte frother (or whisk) 1.5 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer with 2 Tablespoons of water together in a glass until very frothy.
Stir roasted cashews into Ener-G egg replacer and toss to coat.

Sprinkle sugar-and-spice mixture over nuts, and stir to coat. Arrange nuts in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake, 15 minutes and stir.
Bake another 15 minutes and stir.
Bake final 15 minutes, and remove from oven (for a total of 45 minutes).
Mixture will seem glue-y but don’t worry, it will dry and crisp up as it cools.
Once cool, separate any stuck together clumps, and put in a pretty bowl.
Voila!    p.s.  An added tip is that if you’re bringing these to a party, you can transport them in their original can, and just ask the host(s) to provide a bowl for them.

Edamame Scented with Star Anise – Hawaiian Style

I was caught short for dinner last night, so I made agedashi tofu and Trader Joe’s Vegetable Bird’s Nests, and of course this special edamame.  This Anise-Scented Edamame is something I first had at my Uncle Stanley’s house in Hilo, back in the ’90s.  I can’t remember who made it, but I was instantly taken with this twist on traditional edamame.  It’s an easy, protein-packed delicious snack or side dish.  I received no written recipe, but was told to just add the anise pods to the boiling water.  I always use my Uncle Stanley’s seasoned Hawaiian salt recipe, the way the locals do, but I’m sure you could use plain sea salt, maybe even some fleur de sel, or Maldon salt, etc.  As a reference, seasoned Hawaiian sea salt will sometimes have ginger, cracked black pepper and garlic in it.  Yes, there is the sodium, but potato chips have sodium too, and the way you eat edamame, some of the salt gets left on the pods.  The anise adds this faint floral note and it just brings me back.  Sometimes you have to tell those who are not familiar with edamame how to eat them.  I’ve actually seen people put the star anise into their mouths, or try to chew the edamame pod.  If you already know how to eat edamame, ignore this next part.  First, look at the soy bean pod, and you’ll notice a very thin string that runs along the outward curve of the pod.  If you start at the stem, you could peel this string off, like a string bean, however, you don’t need to.  This string simply shows you where the edamame soy beans will pop easiest out of the pod, and this is the side you want to put to your mouth.  You hold the stem end between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and gently squeeze the pod with your teeth so that the edamame beans pop into your mouth.  In the process, you will taste the salt crystals and spices clinging to the pod.
Edamame Scented with Star Anise – Hawaiian Style

10 oz. bag of frozen soybeans (I sometimes use Cascadian Farm organic)
12 star anise (or more or less,  to your taste)
1 teaspoon seasoned Hawaiian salt  (or 1/2 teaspoon)

Bring water to boil.
Add frozen soybeans, and the anise stars.
Bring back to a boil.
Boil 5-15 minutes, depending upon your taste.
Test for tenderness along the way.  The soy beans should be tender but not mushy.
Drain well, reserving the anise stars on the side, or in the pot.
Toss with seasoned Hawaiian salt, or other sea salt.
Garnish with the reserved anise stars and serve.
Feel free to let them sit out for hours on a buffet, they just seem to get better.
Or chill in fridge for up 4 days.
Note:  (three ten ounce bags is plenty for finger food for 15 people if you have other things to eat).  p.s. says it’s pronounced an-is, not ann-eese.

Vegan Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

This is a takeoff of a Daniel Boulud recipe.  A simple, elegant little spread for crackers and I was thinking it would be fabulous on tiny cucumber sandwiches, such as for a formal tea.  You could fancy it up for canapes; spread it on crostini, the possibilities are many.  You can make this a  day ahead, and it tastes even better the next day.  At Thanksgiving in Maryland, we still have lots of herbs in the garden; flat-leaf parsley and chives among them, so it’s a nice thing to do!

Vegan Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

8 oz. container of Tofutti cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
3 tsp fresh chives, minced finely
2 tsp flat-leaf parsley, minced finely
1/2 tsp fresh French tarragon, minced finely (optional)
1 T olive oil
3 tsp Sherry or sherry vinegar

Bring vegan cream cheese almost to room temperature.
Mix all.
Spray a round cereal bowl or other small round bowl with olive oil.
Pack cream cheese mixture into this bowl.
Cover and chill for a few hours.
Remove from fridge, run knife around edge and upturn onto a plate.
Smooth surface of cream cheese with back of a spoon.
Garnish with a sprig of the flat-leaf parsley or a chive or two.
Surround cream cheese with crackers.

Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

So I had these pumpkin seeds left after cooking a pie pumpkin but I hadn’t roasted pumpkin seeds in years.  I’m sorry to say we didn’t save our pumpkin seeds when we carved our Halloween jack-o-lantern this year.  If I had tasted these Chat Masala Pumpkin Seeds before we carved the pumpkin, we would have saved the seeds.  The word “chat” (also spelled chaat) in modern-day Hindi means snack, derived from the word chatna, which means tasting.  I ordered my Chat Masala online (see photo at bottom) and it was not expensive.  Chat Masala is a very popular spice blend in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, and sweet fresh fruit can also be dipped into a little dish of Chat Masala.  This makes sense to me, since I remember that as kids we would sometimes sprinkle salt on fresh watermelon, or crisp apples, or make our pickled mangoes extra salty by marinating them in shoyu.  We’d bring the long slices of green mango to high school in recycled glass mayonnaise jars, floating in Kikkoman soy sauce.  And then of course, we would “share share.”  We’d also eat Li Hing Mui or crack seed and it was incredibly salty.  My girlfriend Shandra, when she was pregnant, would even take a salt-encrusted dried plum and press it into into the center of a lemon half and suck the seed and the lemon juice simultaneously.  My mouth would pucker just to see her and I would involuntarily shudder.  But no worries, these Chat Masala pumpkin seeds are baby food compared to that.   So I looked around online and hybridized a couple of cooking times and amounts and then added my own spices and some lime juice.  I was a bit worried when I smelled the Chat Masala, that the end result would be too pungent, but the baking with the vegan butter and lime juice mellows them out and they are zingily delicious.  They would be perfect before an Indian-inspired meal, or with a cold glass of something, or a hot cup of plain tea.  Make sure to share them with someone.  p.s.  Here’s my super-easy method for baking a pie pumpkin.
Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 Cup raw pumpkin seeds, stringy stuff removed
I did not rinse or dry my pumpkin seeds, feeling that the minute bits of pumpkin flesh on them would only add flavor and give the spices something to cling to.
2 tsps melted Earth Balance vegan butter.
1 tsp Chat Masala ground spice blend
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt (I like sea salt)
2 tsps fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium bowl, melt Earth Balance vegan butter.
Add spices and lime juice to melted butter and stir with fork to blend.
Add pumpkin seeds to butter and spices and stir to coat seeds.
Spread on rimmed baking sheet.
Bake 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir seeds all around.
Return to oven and bake 15 more minutes.
Cool and enjoy, or store in a covered glass jar.

Crispy Tofu Slices with Orange Dipping Sauce

This recipe is from The Kind Diet cookbook by Alicia Silverstone.  And the tofu part is OK, but the sauce is growing on me for several reasons.  It’s versatile; could be used on any Asian savory snack, like little egg rolls or samosas, or even vegan chickn nuggets, for example.  Not only is it pretty, but it’s a lot healthier than store-bought sauces.  I found a jar of Asian Gourmet Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce in my fridge, and it’s got 27 ingredients in it, and I don’t exactly know what all of them are.  This simple orange/maple dipping sauce has 3 ingredients, one of which I added, and could be made more complex by adding a pinch of cayenne powder, or a half teaspoon of tamarind concentrate, or whatever.  I also think this would be great for little children, and you would skip the cayenne for them, of course.  When I looked online, the main complaint about this recipe was that the sauce was too thin.  So I thickened it with some corn starch and voila, a nice little quick sauce.  As for the tofu, the cookbook says if you don’t have the corn and rice flours on hand, you can just use an all-purpose or whole wheat flour.  I also call for cutting the tofu into thicker slices because the first time I made it, the thinner slices (1/4″) were overwhelmed by even this light coating.  And next time, I’m going to just use plain tofu that I press at home.
Crispy Tofu Slices with Orange Dipping Sauce

Serves 2 or 3 (depending upon side dishes)

1 (8 oz.) package savory-flavored baked tofu
1/2 C corn flour
1/2 C brown rice flour
safflower oil

2/3 C fresh orange juice
1/3 C real maple syrup
2 tsp corn starch mixed with one tablespoon of water

Cut the baked tofu into slices at least 1/3 or 1/2 inch thick.
Mix flours together in a shallow bowl.
Pour enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer, and heat over medium heat.
Dip each tofu strip into flour mixture and gently shake or remove all excess flour.  Otherwise, it tastes too floury.
Place tofu strips in skillet, and cook until lightly browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Transfer tofu strips onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

In your smallest saucepan, stir together orange juice and maple syrup.
Stir over medium heat until starting to simmer.
While it’s heating, mix 2 teaspoons of corn starch into 1 tablespoon of water, and stir with a small fork into a smooth slurry.
Pour corn starch slurry into orange/maple mixture and keep stirring over medium heat as it comes to a simmer and thickens.  This will take about 5 minutes or so, if I remember correctly.
You can make this sauce a day ahead or hours ahead, and it will thicken slightly more as it chills in the fridge.


From the World English Dictionary:  bruschetta:  pronounced brus-ketta.  An Italian open sandwich of toasted bread topped with olive oil and tomatoes, olives, etc.  Anyone who really knows me, knows I am a little fanatical when it comes to heirloom tomatoes.  One year I grew eleven varieties.  So, what do you do when you’ve got the season’s last tomatoes in your hot little hands?  You might make a killer bruschetta, as I did.  The movie Julie and Julia has been playing on TV lately, and so we watched it again.  The Julia movie is so visually attractive (aside from all the cut-up dead animals), thanks to Nora Ephron.  Reading the book “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron was one of my first culinary fiction experiences.  Then, when the novel “Water For Chocolate” came out, I was hooked, and now have a good collection of culinary fiction collected over the last 20 years or more.  Back to the Julia movie; the only non-violent cooking scene is when Amy Adams is making bruschetta, and boy does she go all the way with it.  Yes, she fries the bread!  I just never in a million years would have thought of frying the bread.  But since we’re not using any animal products, and these are the last tomatoes from the garden, I thought, “Okay, we can do this.”  So, I got out my vintage cast-iron skillet, put a dollop of good olive oil in the pan and pressed a mini baguette (sliced in half the long way) around in the pan on medium heat, flipping it a couple of times.  I kept the topping uber simple; just chopped up my own heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee Purple and Brandywine cultivars), minced just a small bit of onion (one or two tablespoons), and put in a couple of good cranks of coarse sea salt, and mixed it all up.  You want to let your tomato mixture sit and marinate while you do your bread.  I didn’t put any oil in the tomatoes because there was already oil on the bread from the pan frying.  And . . . the bruschetta was AMAZING.  The fried bread gives it an unctuous, golden, crispy crust, that, in contrast to the velvety, savory softness of the luscious tomatoes, is a kind of nirvana.  Lars commented on it, and said, “Good.” with his mouth full.  And I asked, “Is this like the best bruschetta you’ve ever had?”  It was.

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip

I’ve been wanting to try making a vegan artichoke dip for a while now.  We went to a potluck party last night, so I gave it a go.  Found three recipes on the web, including this one on Everyday Dish.  However, I ended up choosing this one instead, because it’s the simplest and I also had the ingredients on hand.  It came out well!  It has that gooey cheesy-ness that you get with regular artichoke dip, it tastes great, and it’s so much healthier.  I did make a couple of changes and and was happy with the results.  I brought a large dish of this to take to the party, and this top photo only shows an individual portion that I scooped out for my husband.  Other photo is at bottom of this text.  My husband liked this dip too, for the record.  Oh, and here’s a tip that I have followed for years; go to Good Will or Salvation Army and buy a nice casserole dish, or vase or bowl or whatever, when you’re bringing things to a party, whether it be garden flowers or food that you’ve made.  That way, there’s no asking for your dish back.  It takes the pressure off the hostess and no plastic ware goes into the landfill.  Recycling at it’s best, and the most I’ve ever paid for an item is $3.  The Pyrex casserole dish/bowl for this party cost me $2.15 with tax, yesterday.  Sheesh, you’d pay that much or more for disposable foil pans at the grocery store.  I always give the thrift shop item a good scrub in hot soapy water and then run it through the dishwasher with everything else, to sterilize it.  Here ya go:
Vegan Hot Spinach/Artichoke Dip

1 12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
1 10 oz. package of frozen organic spinach, chopped up
1/2 C Vegenaise (I used the one with the green lid, if it matters)
1/2 C Tofutti sour cream
1/2 C Tofutti cream cheese
2 T nutritional yeast
1 C Daiya vegan shredded mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
paprika for sprinkling on top

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Completely thaw spinach in colander, and squeeze moisture out of it with your hands.
-Cut or chop spinach nicely into small pieces.  I used kitchen shears for ease.  You don’t want anyone dipping into the dip and coming away with a long, awkward piece of spinach.  Party or buffet food should be convenient and neat, something you can eat with a drink in your hand too.
-Put artichoke hearts into a food processor or blender and pulse  until finely chopped but not pureed.
-In a glass bowl, mix spinach, artichoke hearts, Vegenaise, sour cream, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese (and garlic, if using).  Mix well with a wooden spoon.
-Put all in a medium-to-small casserole dish and sprinkle with paprika.
-bake for about 40-45 minutes.  You should see some bubbling at the edges.
-Meanwhile, slice baguette thinly, and brush slices with olive oil.
-Remove dip from oven when it’s done, and immediately bake bread slices for 10 minutes in the same 350 degree oven.
-Remove bread slices and serve with dip.
Note:  You can keep this dip warm in a 200-degree oven for an hour or so.  You can make this one day ahead, as I did!

Butter Bean Canapes

This quick appetizer recipe is adapted from the cookbook “More Fast Food My Way” by Jacques Pepin.  The good news is that a lot of mainstream recipes are already vegan,  and we don’t have to modify them!  The only changes I made were to reduce the oil, salt and pepper.  I also used my own pickled red onions, but regular red onions are just fine.  I sliced a mini baguette thinly, brushed it with olive oil and crisped it in the oven.  Jacques Pepin just slices an unheated baguette and lets it soak up the juices, which sounds good too.  When I first saw this recipe, I thought to myself, “What is a butter bean?”  After looking online, I’m guessing that butter beans are simply large lima beans in a creamy color.  You can buy them organic if your local health food store carries them.  If not, I’ve tried two different supermarket brands of butter beans.  Bush brand beans are not quite as pretty as Hanover brand. I like the Hanovers because they are more uniformly cream in color.  Bush brand tends to have some gray-looking beans, although I’m sure they are perfectly edible.  You can make this recipe a day or two ahead, and it can sit out on the table for hours very well, and just tastes better as it warms up to room temperature.  Technically, this is also a type of salad and can be used as such.  Anyway, you can see the original recipe and watch Jacques Pepin actually making this dish here.

Vegan Butter Bean Canapes

1 15 oz. can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1T Dijon mustard
2 T fresh lemon juice, or the juice of one small lemon
3 T onion, chopped fine (I like to use my pickled red onions)
2 T fresh parsley, chopped fine
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press
2 T extra virgin olive oil
¼ t salt and ¼ t pepper

Put everything but the beans together in a non-metal bowl, stir well.
Add beans, and gently toss in the mixture.

Option One:  Mound bean mixture on thin, unheated baguette slices, and let the bread soak up the juices.

Option Two:  Slice a baguette thinly, approx. ¼” wide. Lay slices on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

Makes enough appetizers or side dish for 4-6 people.