Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions

tomato-tart     This Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions is quite rich, so I serve it with a light salad.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine (May 1995 issue).   I make this when I have leftover Sprouted Almond Feta, but store-bought vegan cheese could be used too (like Miyoko’s or Treeline, etc.).  I usually have a few Pate Brisee pie crusts in the freezer, so this is actually a quick dish to throw together.  Caramelizing onions takes about an hour, but you can do myriad other things while that’s happening.  This tart is also pretty when made with halved cherry tomatoes of various colors.


Makes 6 to 8 slices

2 large white onions, sliced thinly  (don’t use red onions–they don’t caramelize as well)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Almond Feta Cheese (less than 1/2  a recipe’s worth)   (or store-bought creamy cheeze)
2 large tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
3-4 Kalamata or Nicoise olives,  pitted and sliced
one single pie crust  (I use this vegan Pate Brisee)

Put rolling pin in freezer.  Add oil and salt to large non-stick skillet, and cook onions, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook onions another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, and any liquid evaporates.  Remove skillet from heat so onions can cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Put a little bench flour on counter and roll out chilled pie crust.  Line glass or ceramic pie dish or tart pan with crust.  Spread caramelized onions over the dough, and top loosely with cheese.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Use a pie shield or protect pie crust edges with crumpled tin foil.  Bake tart in center of oven for one hour or until pastry is golden, and cool on rack.  Serve tart hot or warm.

Notes:  I pull my pie crust from the freezer the night before, so the dough can rest a bit.  I prefer to use glass or ceramic with tomatoes, as acidic tomatoes do react to some metals.  Onions can be caramelized the day before, which saves a lot of time the day of.  Don’t put too much cheese–you should still see some of the onions underneath after you scatter the cheese.
img_3054 Cheese on top of caramelized onions.  This might even be a little bit too much cheese.
img_3053 Caramelized onions.
img_3057  The olives can be hidden underneath too.

Easy Vegan No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

IMG_2860     This is kind of the perfect peanut butter pie, adapted from a recipe called Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, on the Mori-Nu web site.  I simply made it no-bake, switched out the honey, and used a store-bought crust.   It only takes about 15 minutes to make, although it does have to chill in the fridge overnight.  The texture holds together well, but it’s silky and pudding-like.  It’s so decadent that you’ll have to reassure people it doesn’t have dairy or eggs in it.


8-10 servings

graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler Ready Crust is accidentally vegan)
1 package Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, extra firm
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
2/3 Cup vegan cane sugar
1/2 Cup organic creamy no-stir peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup  or  agave syrup
chocolate syrup for drizzling  (optional)

Place all ingredients in a food processor, puree until smooth, and pour into crust.  Chill in fridge overnight.  If desired, serve with dollops of Coconut Whipped Cream, and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Tips:  It’s possible that this would NOT work with one of those natural peanut butters where you have to stir in the oil–I don’t know.  I had good success with organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  I used O Organics brand.  Maranatha also makes a good organic no-stir creamy peanut butter.  This would also be a great recipe for kids since it’s no-bake.

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.

Maple Glazed Walnuts

IMG_0893    These quick and easy Maple Glazed Walnuts are perfect for the Autumnal salad, alongside bitter greens, dried cranberries, etc.  If there are leftovers, I sprinkle them on a bowl of hot oatmeal, granola or vegan yogurt.  These take 5 to 6 minutes to make, literally.


1 Cup raw walnuts
3 Tablespoons good/pure maple syrup

In a medium-size skillet, toast the walnuts (occasionally stirring) over medium heat until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn heat to low, drizzle the syrup over the walnuts and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until walnuts are glazed and there is no wet syrup left in the bottom of the skillet, about 3 minutes.  Cool on a plate and store in a jar.

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.


IMG_0112   This recipe is from the Peas and Thank You vegan cookbook  by Sarah Matheny.  I first heard about it on the Indy Vegan Family podcast.    This is possibly more of a cold-weather recipe as it has beautiful, warming spices, but I needed something to make for supper that night and had all the ingredients.  It was quick to put together, and it made a lot, so I froze some for quick lunches.  Lars ate two bowls.  It’s a nice, rich soup, so packed with protein and fiber that you won’t be hungry until the next day.  I put a spoonful of peanut butter right in the center of my steaming bowl of stew, and it was so good.  A few salted peanuts scattered over it as a garnish made it even more decadent, and perhaps it’s a good idea anyway so people can see that it does contain peanuts.   The recipe as written below reflects my own changes to a few of the spice amounts, and I added in a bit of turmeric.  You can’t taste the turmeric, but it’s great for a golden color, and it reduces inflammation in the body.  Thanks, Indy Vegan Family, for putting out a fun podcast to listen to and sharing your recipe reviews too!


Serves:  8

14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, cubed into 1/4 inch dice (no larger)
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed/crushed,  or minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes,  in juice
14 oz. can light coconut milk
2 Cups vegetable stock  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter
1/2 Cup red lentils,  picked over and rinsed  (you can substitute quinoa)

Optional garnishes:  chopped cilantro,  salted or chopped peanuts,  dairy-free sour cream, or dairy-free yogurt.  You could also offer Sriracha for those who like it hotter.

In a small stock pot, combine all ingredients and simmer on stove top for 30 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and turn on high for 30 minutes.
Then switch to low for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve, and pass garnishes at the table.

Notes:  Upon reheating, you can add in some extra liquid if necessary.  Also, if you want a creamier soup, you can always puree a portion of it in the blender and then add it back in.  It’s fairly flexible, I might throw in an extra can of tomatoes next time.  Also, I’ll try making a cool cilantro/yogurt to dollop on top, dairy free of course.

Vegan Nut Bars

This Nut Bar is sort of like my old favorite, the Payday candy bar, which is unfortunately not vegan.  No worries, because this tastes way better.  The nuts and dried fruit can be mixed and matched here, using whatever you like.  The Lyle’s Golden Syrup, while British, is easily available in most U.S. grocery stores, and it adds a buttery unctuousness that’s hard to describe, with a slight caramel flavor.  The salt is a tiny bit intense but is an amazing foil against the sugar, and makes up the whole “salted nuts” flavor profile.  Any kind of nut combinations would do, so I plan to experiment with hazelnuts, pecans, etc., someday.   Vegan Mofo 2012.

Makes approximately 12 to 16 bars, depending upon how you cut them.

1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick  (1/2 Cup vegan butter)
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds (also called blanched almonds)
1/4 Cup white sesame seeds
1/2 Cup cocktail peanuts
1/4 Cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.    Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper  (cut the parchment paper slightly long so you will be able to grasp it to pull the baked-and-cooled bar mass out of the pan).

In a large bowl, combine oats, all nuts and dried fruit, and stir well.    In a small saucepan, combine vegan butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt over medium heat.
Cook, stirring, just until you see a bubble or two, about 5 minutes, and remove from heat.   Add syrup mixture to oat/nut mixture, stir well and press evenly into prepared pan.    Bake 20 to 25 minutes, making sure edges turn golden brown, but do not burn.  Place pan on rack and allow mixture to fully cool in the pan, so it can harden and set.   Lift nut-bar mass onto a cutting board and cut into bars.  I used a long, sharp knife.   Store in airtight container with wax paper between the layers, so they don’t end up stuck together.  Chill in fridge, which will harden them a bit and make them less likely to fall apart.  Or freeze.

Notes:  Mix and match, use any combination of nuts and fruit you like!  Wrap in wax paper for the best lunchbox or road trip snack ever.

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.

Cacahuates Garapinados or Candied Peanuts

Cacahuates Garapinados are a common treat in Mexico, or so I’ve read, because I’ve never been to Mexico.  The packaged candied peanuts in our local Latin market do not look nearly as good as these; they’re obviously commercially made and look a bit like those Boston Baked Beans candy.  So, I went to Plaza Latina in Easton, and purchased two 10 oz. bags of peanuts-in-the-shell, for $1.50 per bag, and these yielded a total of 3 Cups of usable shelled peanuts (some were duds).  At first, I thought the hardest part of making this recipe was shelling the peanuts.  But afterwards, I realized the most difficult part is not eating them all in one sitting.  These would be perfect to take to the movies if your theatre has nothing vegan.  Placed into paper cones or twists, they would be great filler for a vegan Easter basket, or delicious with after-dinner drinks instead of a heavy dessert.  In the interest of science, I made two batches of these Cacahuates Garapinados.  The first batch I made using Planters Cocktail Peanuts from a can, and it was just as good as, if not better than the raw peanuts with the skins on, believe it or not.  I know this is heresy, but it’s true.  Because the Planters Cocktail Peanuts are already roasted, you get an intensified roasted flavor by the time you make this recipe, because you’re not only cooking them on stovetop, but roasting them again.  I found two wonderful videos on YouTube; one using peanuts, and one using almonds.  The almond video really shows the transformation of the sugar.  Latin markets also have shelled raw peanuts, which would save a lot of time.  I’m guessing it took me about 45 minutes to shell the two bags of peanuts.  p.s.  Plaza Latina is a lovely store.
Cacahuates Garapinados  or  Candied Peanuts

2 Cups unsalted raw peanuts (preferably with skins on)
(or you can use Planters Cocktail Peanuts from a can)
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and stir.
Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil.
Once boiling, stir often for 10 minutes and then stir constantly for another 5 minutes, just until sugar gets sandy.
Stir again to coat, and pour peanuts onto prepared baking sheet.
Using two forks or spoons, spread the peanuts out a little.
Bake for about 13 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.
Peanuts will harden as they cool.
Keep in a glass jar for up to a month.  Believe me, they won’t last that long.

Tips:  The raw “redskin” peanuts are the most traditional, but they are time consuming to shell, so next time, I’ll try using the shelled, raw peanuts.  My favorite flavor, however, came from using Planters Cocktail Peanuts.  One good ratio is using a 12.5 ounce can of Planters Redskin Spanish Peanuts.

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.

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.