The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Coconut Dal with SpinachYield: 6 servings

I have made other versions of this Indian staple, so rich, colorful, and satisfying without being heavy, but this may be the easiest and most straight forward, not to mention tastiest.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder (I used a fairly mild variety from Spice Ace in San Francisco, but use your favorite)

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound yellow or red lentils (I purchased red which was all Kroger carried), but they cooked up yellow, which is what I wanted), rinsed and drained

6 cups vegetable stock

1-15.5 ounce can coconut milk (I used the “lite” version, but you get SO much more flavor with the regular)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 lightly packed cups fresh baby spinach

Garnish: quartered red grape tomatoes and, if desired (recommended), toasted coconut

In a large pot (e.g. 4-quart), heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onion and saute, stirring, about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds.  Stir in spices, add lentils, stock, coconut milk, salt and pepper and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until desired consistency is reached, adding more stock, if desired.  Just before serving, wilt in spinach, 2 cups at a time.  Serve garnished with tomatoes and optional toasted coconut.

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PlatedYield: approximately 32 gnocchi or 4 small-ish servings

 

Quite simply, this is possibly the best version of this type of”dream meal” I have ever tasted, much less prepared.  And, once the squash is roasted, it is surprisingly quick and easy.  I sage in the dough and the sauce, rubbed in the former, fresh in the latter.  But, I didn’t have fresh sage (a frost got mine), so I used a pinch of the rubbed in the sauce and derived plenty of green color from the wilted greens.

*Do ahead: roast butternut squash

 

Vegan Browned Butter

*1 cup roasted butternut squash (I roasted cubes for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees with a little olive oil and sea salt)

1 cup all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat) + another 2 to 3 tablespoons for rolling

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Lightly wilted spinach or your favorite green

Garnishes: Dollop of your favorite creamy nut cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds or other nuts

 

Vegan Browned Butter

2 tablespoons vegan butter

Optional (but recommended): 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast

1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage (or 2 to 3 fresh sage leaves, rolled, and sliced, i.e. chiffonade)

1/8th teaspoon garlic salt

Optional: a few drops of olive oil

In a cast iron skillet over medium-high, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and, stirring frequently, cook until it begins to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in nutritional yeast, if desired, sage, and garlic powder, and stir for about 30 seconds while nooch and garlic powder toasts and sage leaves wilt.  Reduce heat to low and stir in a drop or two of olive oil if a slightly thinner sauce is desired.  Keep warm over low heat.

Vegan Butternut Squash Ravioli

In a medium-large bowl, mash roasted butternut squash with a potato masher or a fork.  Using fingers, gently combine mashed squash with flour, 1/4 cup at a time, just until you achieve a moist but stiff dough, that is very easy to handle.  (Depending on the moisture content of your squash, it may require more or less flour.) Avoid over-mixing.  Divide dough into thirds and, on a lightly floured work surface, roll each third into a rope about 1-inch in diameter.  With a sharp knife, cut ropes into 3/4-inch pieces.  Press tops gently with the tines of a fork.

Cover two of the ropes with a dish towel and simmer the gnocchi cut from the third rope for 2 to 3 minutes or until they rise to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain quickly over pot, and then transfer to skillet with browned butter.  Add the gnocchi cut from one of the other ropes to the simmering water and while they cook, saute the cooked gnocchi a couple of minutes with the browned butter, stirring frequently, until golden brown in spots. Remove to a covered dish to keep warm.  Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocci until all have been simmered and sauteed.  Serve over wilted greens and top with a dab of  nut cheese and a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds.

 

Roll

Roll Gnocchi Dough Into 1-Inch Diameter Ropes

Cut Into 3/4-Inch Pieces and Press with Fork Tines

Simmer Just Until They Rise to the Top, 2 to 3 Minutes

Drain with a Slotted Spoon

Browning in Sauce

Saute in Browned Butter Until Lightly Caramelized

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PralinesYield: approximately 16 to 20 pralines

I grew up in Texas and Mississippi near New Orleans, so I know pralines.  But I was just always a little intimidated to make them, as my mother, a talented cook, would lament how hers would “sugar.”

It’s tricky because pralines are not smooth like caramel, but they are not crystalized either.  If you have ever enjoyed a praline frosting on a cake or brownies, that’s the mouth-feel you want: smooth-ish, but with a hint of fine sand-like texture.

Yesterday pretty much house-bound in this East Coast snow storm and with company coming to make vegan tamales for dinner, I wanted something small but sweet and keeping with the Mexican theme.  Missing my Mama on that gray, blustery, cold and snowy day, I decided to channel her candy-making prowess–she made mean English Butter Toffee even if pralines eluded her–and give it a whirl.

But, first, I did a little research to pick up a few tips, e.g. use a large pan, avoid skimping on the butter or doubling the recipe (as you can’t dip them fast enough before the mixture cools) and, most importantly, after removing the mixture from the heat, stir until the pan just begins to “talk” to you, meaning that there is a slightly “sandy” scraping sound to your wooden spoon as it strikes the sides of the pan.  Then, waste no time spooning up the candy, as it will cool quickly from there on out.

Invited to friends’ home for dinner tonight and not wanting to show up empty-handed, I decided to make another batch this morning and get even closer to perfection.  And I did.  The trick I discovered is in the stirring phase once you remove the pan from the heat.  Not only do you need to listen, but you need to look.  The mixture will first turn a translucent amber color, like maple syrup.  But as you continue to stir, it will begin to become almost imperceptibly more opaque.  That moment of transition is the sweet spot, if you’ll pardon the pun, and the exact time at which you should begin to quickly spoon up the mounds, as the mixture will cool quickly from that point on and become more “sugary” than desirable.  With a half batch of candy, the magic moment came at about the 2 to 3 minute mark.

Pralines are made from such simple ingredients that you are likely to have on hand what you need at any given moment.  I happened to have on hand coconut sugar, so that’s what I used and loved the real south-of-the-border notes the undertones of coconut lent to the candy.

Regardless of the kind of sugar you use, remember, whatever streaks of praline goodness are left in the bottom of the pan belong to the cook alone.

 

2 1/4 cups cups coconut sugar or 1 1/2 cups natural sugar (I use demerera) + 3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soy creamer or your favorite plain non-dairy milk

6 tablespoons vegan butter

2 teaspoons agave nectar or molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups pecan halves or pieces

 

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper, Silpat, or parchment paper.  Attach a candy thermometerto the side of a 4-quart saucepan, but avoid letting the tip touch the bottom.  Place all ingredients in the pan and set over medium-high heat.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon as the mixture melts and then comes to a boil.  Once boiling, stir continually until the thermometer registers 238 to 240 degrees, about 3 minutes.  Remove pan from the heat and stir, stir, stir until you feel resistance, candy becomes slightly more opaque, and you hear a faint “sandy” sound of spoon against side of pan.  Then, quickly, drop mixture by spoonfuls onto prepared pan.  Cool completely.  Serve, or wrap individually.

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Kielbasa, Sauerkraut, White Bean and Kale SoupYield: 6 to 8 servings

With a blanket of snow about to cover parts of the East Coast, soup–especially a hardy, but not heavy, one like this–is in order.

I know what you are thinking, “Sauerkraut in a soup?  No thanks.”  Heck, lots of people don’t care for sauerkraut at all, never mind in soup.

But perhaps the highest endorsement I can give this soup is from my next door neighbor.  He tends to some “guy things” here at my house since my husband died in July and I return the favor with food.  He LOVED this soup and he joked about surprising himself with his appreciation for my plant-based dishes.

I trust you and yours–vegan or not–will share his appreciation.  Try it on a big “guy’s guy” and please let me know the verdict.

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

14 ounces keilbasa (I used Tofurky brand), sliced lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup whole roasted garlic (I purchase from antipasto bar at grocery store)

14.5 ounce can sauerkraut, lightly rinsed, drained, and gently pressed

15 ounce can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon apple cider or malt vinegar

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

2 teaspooons dried dill weed

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups vegetable stock; or 4 cups water plus 4 regular-sized vegetable bouillon cubes; or 4 cups water plus 1 envelope dried vegetable soup mix (I used the latter because that’s what I had on hand)

6 yo 8 cups lightly packed fresh baby kale (or mature kale, roughly chopped or torn)

1/4 cup soy or coconut creamer (the sweetness balances all of the tangy and acidic flavors)

Optional Garnish: vegan sour cream and smoked paprika

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high.  Add kielbasa and saute, stirring frequently, until it begins to develop crispy, golden-brown caramelized areas.  Add onion and continue sauteing and stirring until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients in order, except kale and creamer, bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, and siummer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.  Stir in kale, just until wilted, and finish by adding creamer and heating through just before serving.  Ladle into mugs or bowls and serve topped with a dollop of vegan sour cream and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

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Finished CakeYield: 12 servings (at least)

I regret that I didn’t have time to experiment with this recipe until after Christmas, but it is so exquisitely beautiful and delicious that I can’t wait a whole year to share.  Plus, a winter log cake should be appropriate at least through February, no?

Important note:  it is far easier and quicker than it may look from these instructions.  And well worth any effort…

After conducting considerable research online, I chose a recipe for Vegan Swiss Roll on the Allergy Mums website (thank you!), filling it with my favorite chocolate mousse and frosting it with my longtime favorite mocha buttercream.  The creator of the “sponge” claims that it doesn’t crack and, indeed, her photo is picture perfect.  However, I found that not to be the case.

Still, my accomplice and good friend, Janie Jacobson, a healthy foods cooking instructor and cookbook author, and I were unperturbed because the luscious frosting hid any cracks completely.  Some Xantham Gum might prevent the cracking, but I am not a gluten-free cook and don’t find the stuff appealing. Plus, it is very expensive.

I have now made two of these cakes–one for an impromptu post-New Year’s tea party and the other for a postponed 12th Night Party on Saturday night.  It was a rave both times.

In terms of decorating, yes, I know about aquafaba, though I confess to not yet trying it, and I was afraid it might not work for the meringue mushrooms typically used to decorate these yule logs. So I devised my own decoration of sliced almonds to suggest shelf-like mushrooms that grow on tree trunks.  Some sprigs of rosemary and cinnamon sticks lend a woodsy note–with rosemary being a surprisingly enticing aroma with chocolate–and a light dusting of powdered sugar suggests a hint of snow.

Someone told me it was the prettiest Buche de Noel she’d ever seen and another that it was my best dessert creation yet. That makes this recipe good enough to share with you.

 

Vegan Buche de Noel

Vegan Sponge Cake (recipe follows)

 

Vegan Chocolate Mousse (recipe follows)

Vegan Mocha Buttercream (recipe follows)

Garnishes: sliced almonds, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks, powdered sugar

Make sponge cake according to directions.  Carefully unroll, pinch together any cracks, and spread evenly and gently with Vegan Chocolate Mousse.  Reroll, using parchment to assist, leaving the seam-side down.  Cut off both ends at a diagonal and assemble the log on a serving platter, positioning cut pieces to resemble sawed off limbs.  Frost with Vegan Mocha Buttercream Frosting.  Lightly drag a fork lengthwise down the trunk and cut branches to resemble bark.  Garnish as desired with sliced almonds, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks, and powdered sugar.

Tent with foil and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before serving time.  Slice with a sharp or serrated knife.

 

Cake Before RollingVegan Sponge Cake (from Allergy Mums website,directions slightly adapted )

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup caster sugar  + a little more for sprinkling (hard to find, so just process granualted sugar in a food processor until finer, but not a powder; do not substitute confectioner’s sugar)

6 tablespoons melted vegan butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 taspoon baking soda

1 cup dairy free milk

Rolled CakePreheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a shallow 9 x 13″ baking pan (like a jelly roll pan, but smaller), line with parchment paper, and grease again.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and vegan butter.  Then whisk in the vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda followed by the milk.  Whisk for 50 strokes and then spread into prepared pan.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, testing with a wooden pick in the center for doneness.

Sprinkle a large piece of parchment paper with a little more caster sugar.  Invert the baked cake onto the parchment and peel off the paper.  Tripmshort edges if they are at all browned or crispy, as that will impede rolling.  Roll up cake very slowly, using the parchment paper to assist.  Leave rolled up until cool (this is a departure from the original recipe).

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

1/4 cup chocolate soymilk

6 ounces extra-firm silken tofu

1/4 cup natural sugar (I like demerara)

4.5 to 6 ounces vegan chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet), melted and slightly cooled (basically, half of a bag of vegan chocolate chips which tend to come as 9 to 12 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond or peppermint extract

Pinch sea salt

Place the soymilk, tofu, and sugar to the food processor, and process until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the melted chocolate, extracts, and a pinch of salt. Process for several minutes until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Vegan Mocha Buttercream Frosting

1/3 cup vegan butter, softened

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in about 2 teaspoons of water (I have also used a Starbucks espresso pod, torn open, and sprinkled in undissolved which works beautifully)

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons non-dairy creamer (soy, coconut, etc.)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with coffee and cocoa powder.  Turn mixer off, add 1/3 of confectioner’s sugar and a tablespoon of creamer, and beat until creamy.  Repeat with remaining confectioner’s sugar and creamer, ending with last third of sugar scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Adjust consistency with additional confectioner’s sugar or creamer as desired.  Beat in vanilla until incorporated.   If a darker color is desired to contrast more with almonds, add more dissolved coffee, cocoa powder, or both.

 

 

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Lentil Soup with Kale CroutonsSince my husband’s passing last July (has it really been almost 6 months?) led to my profoundly changed relationship to food and to my proclamation of this as the “Year of the “Mini Meal,” I wanted to share this little tip that I just disovered for turning a cup of your favorite vegan soup into something a little more special:

Crown heated soup with a dollop of vegan sour cream and kale chips or even the little crispy bits at the bottom of the container (I love to make them, but I purchased these flavored vegan ones at Whole Foods).

Addicting!

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Tropical HummusYield:  approximately 2 cups

As most of you know, since my darling husband of 25 years passed away on July 30, 2015, my relationship to food has been profoundly impacted.  I no longer cook or eat as much as I did before.  And when I do, its meaning has been transformed.  You can read the long version here in an essay published by Alimentum, a literary and art journal devoted to food.  [Scroll down under “Throw Tradition to the Wind” (though you might enjoy it too) to “‘Til Death or Dinner Do Us Part.”

The short version is simply that, though I love and respect food–perhaps more than before–I now think of it as somewhat of a sacrament, as an outward sign of inward grace, more spiritual than it once was.

When this began to happen–which was, actually, almost immediately–I jokingly proclaimed this the year of the “mini meal.”  In that spirit, I offer this recipe, though it is really more of a formula, and a simple one at that.

It was inspired by a bite of something I tasted, coincidentally, at a Celebration of Life for a dear friend who passed away just before Christmas.  Called Tuscan Hummus, it was creamy, but with appealing chunks of tomato, basil, and ???  I have long been a fan of a layer of tapenade spread over hummus, but I found the idea of a “chunky” hummus ultra appealing.

Wanting to make this new creation quick and easy, I thought a salsa would be a fun twist and the tropical pineapple salsa at Whole Foods was their most enticing.  So, I stired a cup of it, drained, into a cup of their plain hummus and voila!  For extra crunch, I served it garnished with the little crispy bits and pieces at the bottom of the container of their vegan kale chips.  A brilliant lunch with a dab of lentil soup on the side.

Of course, you could make your own hummus and your own salsa.  But, after Christmas, I started teaching a 6th class and a 4th prep–AP Art History (a super-rewarding but time-consuming course)–so quick and easy without sacrificing flavor or nutrition earns an A+ in my book.

1 cup plain or garlic hummus, homemade or preapred

1 cup tropical pinapple salsa (or your favorite type), homemade or prepared, drained

Pinch sea salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Optional garnish: crispy kale chip bits

Accompaniment: cracker or pita chip of your choice

 

Stir together hummus, salsa, sea salt and pepper.  Serve on crackers or pita chips garnished, if desired, with crispy kale chip bits.

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Nicely Spicy Holiday NutsYield: approximately 2 pounds of nuts

These addicting nuts are perfect for New Year’s Day football watching or any time a protein-packed and exquisite snack is in order.

For years Ina Garten’s recipe for Rosemary Cashews was my go-to for snacking and gift-giving.  But I found myself craving something with a little more complex flavor and a little less sweet.  So I began experimenting and this was my favorite delicious result. You may substitute pecan halves if you like, but they will likely require less cooking time.

This recipe easily doubles or triples.  I triple it and use a large roasting pan.

For gift-giving, I like to package the nuts inside a resealable plastic sandwich bag inside a tin to prevent the tin’s interior from becoming messy.

 

28 to 32 ounces roasted and lightly salted or salted cashews (the cans I purchase at Bed, Bath, and Beyond come as 28 ounces)

1/3 cup vegan butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon adobo (from a can of chiles in adobo)

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional but delish)

1/2 teaspoon natural sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together all ingredients in a 9 x 13″ baking pan, and taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently until fragrant and lightly golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight containers.

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English Butter Toffee--Sallie'sMy adored late mother (sadly, she passed away on October 2), Sallie Gough, and I made this candy every Christmas, but it is indescribably buttery, silky, and crunchy any time of year…say, for a New Year’s Day party.

I made it this year for my annual Christmas, Channukah, Curry & Confections party–where it was a big hit (any leftover crumbles are divine over vegan ice cream)–and made a batch to leave with my father and sister before I left their home in Mississippi and returned to Virginia after Christmas.

1 pound butter/vegan butter
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
8 to 12 ounces vegan dark or semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup or so sliced, slivered or finely chopped almonds

Butter a cookie sheet with shallow sides and set aside. In a saucepan with a heavy bottom over medium heat, bring butter and sugar to a simmer, stirring frequently. Whisk together water and corn syrup in a small cup and stir into butter and sugar mixture.

Attach candy thermometer to side of saucepan without letting the tip touch the bottom, and continue to cook mixture until it turns a golden amber color and registers about 300 degrees on the thermometer. You may have to cook it to 350 degrees to achieve the desired color.

Pour immediately onto cookie sheet and spread evenly. Allow to cool completely. Melt chocolate and spread over toffee. Sprinkle with nuts and store in refrigerator until cold. Break into pieces and return to refrigerator, covered.

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Mam-ma's AttendasRoll and cut cookies aren’t just for Christmas anymore…

These family favorites hail from my late paternal grandmother. Not a sugar cookie and not a sand tart–they are their own special thing–she shipped them from Houston to wherever we were spending Christmas, or kept them for our arrival at her house. When she moved to MS, we sometimes made them together. And after she passed away, we have kept the tradition alive in MS and VA.

Often, I have made them for gifts, packaged in tins from the Dollar Tree and tied with festive ribbon.  Practically legendary, they were the subject of a food feature I wrote for The Virginian-Pilot, and my sister and I included them in the program we created for Mam-ma’s funeral, so the tradition could spread beyond our family.

Not to sweet, my family prefers them a tiny bit over-browned. These cookies freeze and ship beautifully.

1 pound vegan butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
Vegan egg substitute to equal 5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two baking sheets and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs/egg substitutes, one at a time, until well combined. Beat in vanilla and baking powder.

With mixer on low, add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing just until dough forms. It should be tender, but not sticky, and hold its shape nicely.

Working with small amounts of dough at a time (about 1/8th), on a lightly floured work surface, roll to about a scant 1/4-inch thick and cut with favorite cookie cutters. Place cookies about 1-inch apart on prepared pans and bake about 13 minutes or until golden brown, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool cookies slightly on pans, and then remove to racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in airtight tins or containers.

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