Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate-Chocolate Chip,
White Chocolate Chip, & Dried Cranberry Cookies

gluten-free-chocolate-chocolate-chip-white-chocolate-chip-and-dried-cranberry-cookiesYield: approximately 2 dozen cookies

Just in time for the holidays are these handsome and festive cookies appropriate for even the most gluten intolerant on your guest list.

I am not a gluten-free baker but, occasionally, I make treats for my high school art students.  And, in my large Advanced and AP Studio class of 31 students, I learned that I have one girl with a gluten sensitivity.  So, feeling badly about her not being able to indulge in the treats I shared with them, I decided to experiment.

A few years back, I created a recipe for gluten-free cookies made with white bean puree and chickpea flour. They were delicious, but not as handy to make as if they didn’t call for the white beans.  And, I recently learned that my small neighborhood Kroger no longer carries chickpea flour, though they seem to stock every other kind of flour imaginable.  So, I chose one that was less expensive than most and that I thought might have a similar texture to the chickpea flour, namely brown rice flour.  Good decision.

Whie some gluten-free baked goods call for special flour blends, xantham gum, egg substitutes, and the like, I wanted mine to be straightforward and absent of ingredients that most bakers wouldn’t have on hand.  As a result, these absolutely delicious and beautifully-textured cookies were born.

I had found, trhrough previous experiments with gluten free cookies, that adding almond extract, in addition to vanilla extract, helps mellow any “off” taste that results from using flours that are stronger tasting than all purpose white or white whole wheat.  But, it occured to me that a teaspoon of espresso powder might further counteract those sharper flavors of some of the alternative flours without lending a pronounced coffee flavor.  And I was right.

As for texture these are a little crispy and ever-so-slightly sandy in texture–like the commercial “Pecan Sandies” of my youth–which everyone who has tasted themhas  found very appealing.  And I hope you do.

I served these with Prosecco to guests who stopped by after a concert.  It was lovely pairing and a special way to end the evening.

 

1/4 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup demerera sugar (or 1/2 cup granulated and 1/2 cup brown sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almon extract

1 teaspoon espresso powder (or coffee/instant coffee ground to a powder in a spice grinder)

1/8 teaspoonsalt

1 cup brown rice flour (I use white whole wheat)

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (or up to 4)

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

1/2 cup vegan white chocolate chips (I ordered these online) + 1/4 cup additional (optional)

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (I found a bag of pre-chopped ones) + 2 tablespoons additional (optional)

Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper; set aside.  Preheat oven to 3530 degrees.  Beat butter and shortening until fluffy.  Beat in sugar and continue beating until well creamed.  Add extracts, espresso pwder, salt, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix on lmedium-low speed just until well-combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Mix in the non-dairy milk, adding an additional tablespoon or two if necessary, as the brown rice flour is very absorbant.  On lowest speed, mix in both typs of chips and dried cranberries.  Using a tablespoon or small scoop, arrange mounds of dough about 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flaten with your middle three fingers to abotu 1/2-inch thick.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until desired doness is reached.  Remove baking sheet to wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before removing to a serving platter.  If desired, drizzle with 1/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted; I use a pastry bag for this task.  If more color is desired, press a couple of tablespoons of dried cranberries into drizzled white chocolate, distributing among cookies.

 

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Vegan Pumpkin Ale Spice Cake
with Salted Pecan Caramel Glaze

pumpkin-spice-cake-with-salted-pecan-caramel-plus-slice

If gingerbread and pumpkin cake got together on a booze-infused evening, this “baby” is what they would conceive.

Moist and deeply spiced, it is a carnivore-approved hit with one and all, regardless of dietary preference.  I adapted a favorite spice cake recipe of mine that called for natural cola, substituting pumpkin ale, adding pureed pumpkin, and otherwise tinkering.  I enjoy it with a little dollop of Coco Whip as a fluffy contrast to the richness of the cake.

Pumpkin Ale Spice Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup granulated sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1/2 cup molasses (dark or light, but not blackstrap)

1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk (plain would also be fine)

1 15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin

1 cup canola oil (or other mild vegetable oil)

1 cup pumpkin ale or hard cider (I used Harpoon Pumpkin cider)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

Salted Pecan Caramel (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, except baking soda, make a well in the center, and add all wet ingredients, except ale.  Whisk to completely combine.  In a small bowl or cup, whisk soda into ale.  It will fizz up.  Quickly whisk into batter until completely incorporated.  Transfer the batter into prepared bundt pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove to a wire rack, and cool for about 15 minutes.  Loosen around all edges with a knife, being careful not to slice into the cake.  (I use a plastic knife, as my pan has a non-stick surface, but I still grease and flour it!)  Place serving plate over the top of the pan and invert the cake onto the plate.  Let cool and then glaze if desired.  I recommend letting the glaze soak into the cake overnight before serving.

Salted Pecan Caramel

 1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

6 tablespoons vegan butter

1/2 cup plain soy creamer (or your favorite non-dairy creamer)

1/8 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Optional: 1 tablespoon rum, brandy, favorite liqueur

1/2 cup pecans

In a heavy-bottomed 2 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium-high.  Whisk vigorously as it begins to melt.  Once the mixture is boiling and amber colored (if you use demerara, it starts out amber colored), whisk in butter until melted.  Remove pan from heat, count to three, and slowly whisk in the soy creamer, salt, and optional alcohol.  When smooth, allow the caramel to cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a small cup or bowl and let cool until a thick pourable consistency.  Drizzle or spoon over the cake.  You may either stir the pecans into the mixture before drizzling or sprinkle them over after the cake is glazed.

pumpkin-spice-cake-with-salted-pecan-caramel

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Vegan Smoked Cheese Grits
(with the topping of your choice)

cheese-gritsYield: approximately 4 modest servings

The last couple of months finds me joyfully experimenting with vegan dishes my new partner, Bob–a meatatarian–and I can share.  Though there are some dishes with which we enjoy tinkering together, these grits were a hit, though Bob topped his with something we will not mention on this site. 😉

Bob is very into balanced flavors and it was his idea to drizzle with the maple syrup, though though this is a savory dish. His suggestion was genius.

As for cheese, use any you prefer for a total of 8 to 9 ounces.  I love the smoky flavor, but it’s not necessary for a delectable finished dish.

Vegan Cheesy Grits (with the topping of your choice)

4 cups water
1 ccup stone ground yellow grits
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
*2 ounces grated vegan Parmesan
*3 ounces vegan cheddar
*4 ounces vegan smoked gouda
1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos
2 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Accompaniment: Sauteed vegetables of your choice (I sauteed shredded zucchini and yellow squash and a little kale in olive oil with minced garlic)

Garnishes: maple syrup and roasted and lightly salted nuts or seeds, e.g. pumpkin seeds

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring lightly salted water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir in grits and garlic. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. During the last 5 minutes or so, stir in remaining ingredients except sauteed veggies and garnishes. Serve topped with those veggies and the optional drizzle of maple syrup plus a sprinkle of roasted nuts or seeds.

Note: I purchase the cheeses at Whole Foods.

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Vegan Pumpkin Flan with Pepitas–
A Twist on Thanksgiving Tradition

pumpkin-flan

After my husband, Joe passed away, I joined with friends–old and new–to create a number of new traditions, among them in–home dinners with all-in gourmet cooks, Juan and Barbara Gelpi.  How fun to, as of September, fold my extraordinary new partner, Bob, into the mix.

Most recently, we convened at the Gelpi’s lovely home to cook and consume a delightful fiesta of homemade pico, guacamole and chips with Coronoas shots of tequila (for Juan and me–my first in my entire life, late bloomer that I am), tortilla soup with roasted pepitas–veganized from a recipe my mother got from the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas–Juan’s seitan mole over herbed rice, homemade tortillas, and, for dessert, Barbara’s apple-oatmeal crisp and my flan.

I adapted it from a recipe I found online, adding the pumpkin, spice, and more agar to make sure it set properly with the additional liquid from the pureed pumpkin.  I also tinkered with the caramel to make sure my preferred sugar–demerera–dissolved.  The results were a huge carnivore-approved hit: absolutely delicious with an incredible texture.  The genius of this recipe, for which I cannot take credit, is to create a cold custard that sets up beautifully, rather than a baked one which is very tricky when no eggs are used.

Betsy’s Pumpkin Flan

For the Caramel:

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)
1 to 2 tablespoons water

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and let dissolve  for a few minutes. Then place over medium heat, stirring until melted. The demerera will already be golden in color, but if using granulated sugar, cook until golden. Pour into the bottom of 6 ramekins.

For the Custard:

2 cups plain soy milk
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon agar-agar flakes
1/2 cup firm or extra-firm silken tofu (I used firm)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt

Pour the soymilk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle with the agar flakes. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the agar has dissolved.  Don’t worry if the milk breaks and separates. It will come together in the food processor.

Place the tofu, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and soymilk-agar mixture in a blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into the ramekins over the syrup, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours.To remove from the ramekins, run a knife around the edge of each and dip the bottom in hot water for about 15 seconds.  Invert a desert plate on top and turn out.

pumpkin-flan-partially-eaten

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The VERY Best Vegan Brownie–Seriously!
“Bob’s Brownies”
The Perfect Hybrid of a Chewy AND Cakey Brownie

best-browniesAfter spending most of my vegan life trying to perfect a recipe for chewy, fudgy vegan brownies, along came Bob.  His preference is for cakey.

My tasty solution was to meet somewhere in the middle.  I have removed my other “best” brownie recipe because this one tops it by alot.  For the easy recipe, scroll to the bottom of this post.  For the backstory, keep reading.

I am so ashamed that I have seemingly ignored The Blooming Platter since August 12.  This is becoming the same-old-asking-for-forgiveness song.

However, you have been on my mind.  My latest excuse is a good one; I hope you’ll agree.  First, there was my art exhibiton, “Losses and Linkages” at the World Trade Center in Norfolk, VA, on which I had worked for a year.  It broke all records, I was told, opening with 250-300 people in attendance. What a beautiful, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing experience.

Second, though, you may recall that I had plunged into Match.com in July, a year after my husband’s passing, and the results were, well, we’ll just say “mixed.”  Indeed I met some very nice, handsome, interesting men–including some I knew or knew of outside of Match, but didn’t know were “available”–yet I experienced none of that magical chemistry.  Eclipsing all else, including what we’ll just call one “bridge” relationship, is the rejection dished out on both sides…wow.  Of course, I only remember what was served up to me, including ghosting which, I’m here to tell you, is a “thing.”

To make a very long story short–which I may decide to share at some point–I “found” Bob the Sunday night after my show opened (September 16) during a window of a few hours when he lost his mind and thought he might be ready for Match.  By Monday morning, he had realized that he wasn’t ready to date and had “hidden” his profile.  But he had responded to me, so we could still email each other through the site.  I had nothing to lose, so I asked if he had removed his profile because I had reached out.  He quickly responded that, no, it was not me, it was him, and–after I shared my frustration with men who verbalized their belief that I wasn’t “ready to date”–offered his real name and his cell phone number in case I wanted his male perspective on online dating.  I did send him a follow-up text which read something like, “Thank you for your kind offer, but I won’t be reaching out to you because you have made your position very clear.”  However, after school, I checked my phone, and there was another message from him.  Several days of intense texting ensued with my thinking all the while that we were just going to be texting “friends,” yet realizing I wanted to meet this man.

Within a week, we had decided that, indeed, we should meet, first schedulinlg a date for the next Sunday and then, because we couldn’t wait, later that Saturday after my evening plans with a girl friend.  After three dates in two days–including to The Chrysler Museum for an artist’s talk and an interview I needed to conduct (Bob busied himself elsewhere)–the rest is, as they say, history. We have been together every day since.  I’ll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that we are in a deeply committed, loving, and fun–if fast forming–relationship.  Learning how better to love this amazing man is one of the great joys of my new life.  But it hasn’t left a lot of time for my beloved blog.

Much of my time has been spent trying to figure out how to feed vegan foods to this carnivore that he will actually like.  He could never be accused of eating the healthiest diet, so I started with daily vitamins.  But I also bake weekly treats.  Here, I offer “Bob’s Brownies.”  Even if they weren’t baked with a huge helping of love, as mine are–and yours too–they would be delicious.  Enjoy!

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat for everytihng)

I cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s dark chocolate variety; but use any unsweetened cocoa powder)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola, but any with a neutral flavor is perfect)

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened soy)

1 nteaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut; my favorite “nut” loves walnuts)

1/2 cup vegan semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)

1/2 cup coconut chips or shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  *Grease an 8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray and, if desired, line with an approximately 4-inch wide strip of parchment paper, and spray again. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk, and extracts.  Stir or whisk to combine, about 50 strokes.  Fold in nuts and optional chocolate chips and coconut chips or shreds. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan, gently smoothing the top, and bake approximately 37-40 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Note: parchment is optional; you will have no trouble removing thee from the pan whether you use it or not.

These brownies are pretty and glossy even when still in the pan.
These brownies are pretty and glossy even when still in the pan.

 

 

 

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Tomato Jam–Simple as (Tomato) Pie!

Tomato Jam

Yield: 2 pints (4 cups)

Please forgive me for ignoring my precious blog and all of you.  You’ve been on my mind…

As the year anniversary of my husband’s death approached (July 30), I found myself struggling a bit emotionally.  It didn’t help that, right about the 11-month mark, I began to feel a deep longing for a romantic connection, a concept that had been repulsive up until that point.

There were signs–if you believe in that kind of thing–that it was time to move on in my romantic life [I literally found heart shaped items on the ground in front of me (jewelry, a red felt pouch, etc.)] and, at the suggestion of a friend, joined Match.com.  That could be the subject for many posts, though probably not on a recipe blog.  But, suffice it to say, I have been more than a little distracted for a month, though a vacation last week provided some much-need perspective.

So, instead of a treatice on my looking-for-love life, I offer my tomato jam.

Of late, all of my gardening friends are sharing what appears to be their bumper crops of tomatoes this year: golden pear, cherry, big boys, heirlooms, and more.

Finding myself disappearing under the bounty, but not wanting the fruits of their labors to spoil and go to waste, I wanted to make a batch of something that would use a lot of the tomatoes, produce a manageable quantity–perhaps that I could give as gifts–and not require a lot of my limited time.  So, salsa was out.  I love it, but way too much chopping.  And I rarely eat pasta, so tomato sauce wasn’t the answer either.

Since my husband passed away (and since I joined Match!) I’ve lost 12 pounds and my appetite has gone on holiday.  So I find myself mostly snacking these days–healthy snacking–and love pretty little bites of contrasting tastes and textures.  You know, layers and dollops of this and that.  In the mix there has to be something that packs a little punch, like squirting mustard on a (vegan) hot dog.  So, the idea of a tomato jam occured to me, different than a catsup or a chutney.

I simply tossed tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the food processor and then transferred that mixture to a saucepan with sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and smoky paprika (for an extra layer of flavor), simmered it for about a half hour, and added about a tablespoon of fresh basil for a hint of freshness at the very end.  A little bit sweet, it is outstanding served with something a little salty and tangy like a Treeline or Heidi Ho brand vegan cheese on a crunchy cracker or crispbread of some type.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a photo of a recipe in which I hadn’t cleaned the rim of the serving vessel, but I had forgotten to photograph it at home, traveled yesterday evening to another town for a picnic with it, and realized I needed to snap a quick shot just as we were about to dine, so this is the best I could do.

I didn’t properly “can” it using a water bath–no time for that–instead, I simply put it in a clean jar, wrapped a strip of salvaged wrapping paper around it to hide the label–not time to remove it–and tied it with a bit of twine for a cute, casual gift presentation.

Enjoy one of the tastiest gifts of summer!

4 pints (8 cups) tomatoes of any color, including mixed (grape, cherry, larger tomatoes cut into chunks–whatever you have!)

1 small white or yellow onion, quartered

4 large cloves garlic, halved

1/2 cup natural sugar (I like demerera)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a chianti variety)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (or try another spice like curry powder)

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh basil chiffonade (leaves stacked, rolled, and very thinly sliced)

Place tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until pulpy, but textured.  Transfer to a saucepan and stir in sugar, vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Simmer on medium-high for about 30 minutes, stirring more frequently toward the end to prevent sticking or scorching, until almost all moisture has been evaporated.  It will cook way down to about half the volume.  Remove from heat, stir in basil, and store, refrigerated, in jars or cartons.  Perfect for gift-giving.

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Red-White-and-Blue Salad in Blue Corn Chip “Stars”
(red beans & white hominy with a blueberry garnish)

Red-White-and-Blue Salad 2Yield: 4 servings

When Joe was alive (that would be just last July 4), we weren’t much on traditonal July 4 celebrations.  Without either of our families here, the backyard family BBQ was not part of our repertoire, and we weren’t devoted “beach people,”–though I love to walk/hike on the beach–so Independence Day would not find us picnicing or out on “the boat” with patriotic fare.

But this year, Kelley, a young female attorney from Joe’s office–someone who he mentored and whose work he respected–is becoming a good friend and invited me to her family’s festivities at her father’s in-town lake house.  Wanting to contribute something to the feast, but not quite sure what since I don’t know her family’s likes and dislikes, I had to channel my late mother.  She loved theme food and theme attire for just about any holiday.

Being somewhat of a “lite and healthy” eater, I decided on a protein-rich salad of red beans and white hominy.  When I saw that, based on the photo on the bag, blue corn chip “cups” look like stars, I knew I would make little salad cups.  After I had made them, though, I felt the  “blue” component needed to be more “true blue,” as the chips are so earthy.  I had blueberries on hand, but I was a little skeptical, despite liking fruit in savory dishes.

There was no need to worry, as the berries provide a little burst of juicy freshness that compliments the lime-spiked sour cream-based dressing perfectly.  And if you want a little fireworks on your tastebuds, I think a hint of minced red jalapeno would be just the ticket.

Happy Independence Day!

Red-White-and-Blue Salad

(Best made at least 2 hours before serving.)
Red-White-and-Blue Salad 1

1-15.5 ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1-15.5 ounce can white hominy, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons vegan sour cream (or mayo)

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

1 teaspoon granulated sugar (I use demerera)

1/2 teaspoon stone ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Optional: 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast and/or 1/4 teaspoon minced red jalapeno pepper (Seeds and membranes removed), or to taste

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Garnish: Fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

In a medium bowl, combine beans and hominy.  In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients except blueberries, pour over beans and hominy, and toss gently to combine.  Chill for a couple of hours, if possible, to allow flavors to marry.  Serve in blue corn chip “cups” garnished with a fresh blueberry.

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Vegan Cannelini Bean and Pesto Salad with Grilled Onions and Red Bell Peppers
(Delicious as a cracker topping or sandwich filling)

Cannelini Bean and Pesto Salad with Grilled Onions and Red Bell PeppersYield: 2 main dish servings or 4 side servings

Summer is meant for grilling, right?  Yea, no.  At least not at my house.  I’ve never been an outdoor griller, but I do have a much beloved stovetop grill pan that I use year-round.

A craving for caramelized onions and peppers with a bit of protein from some plump little white beans was the inspiration for this salad.  But these ingredients needed something creamy to hold it all together.  A little while back, I had made a beet green pesto–though any flavored pesto, commercial or homemade would be delicious–and decided to fold it into “lite” vegan mayo (I like Vegenaise brand) in a 1:2 ratio for the dressing.  Yum!

The only drawback was aesthetic.  Despite the red bell pepper, the overall color of the salad was pretty brown. Not wanting to add a green vegetable, as its consistency and flavor was just right as it was, I simply chopped up a little cilantro–although other green herbs would work nicely as well–and sprinkled it over the top.

This salad is filling enough to eat on its own, perhaps atop a bed of greens, but I like it on cracker bread for crispy-crunch.  The salad also cries out to be tucked into a wrap or stuffed in a pita pocket.

Regardless, you’ll be crying for more.

Vegan Cannelini Bean and Pesto Salad with Grilled Onions and Red Bell Peppers

1 can cannelini beans (white beans), rinsed and drained

1 onion, halved, sliced crosswise, grilled on both sides for a few minutes over medium-hi, and cut into pieces

1/2 red bell pepper, halved, sliced crosswise, grilled on both sides for a few minutes over medium-hi, and diced

2 tablespoons vegan pesto, any flavor (I used a homemade beet green pesto)

Approximately 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1/4 teasoon garlic powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish: finely chopped cilantro, chives, parsley, or other fresh green herb

In a medium bowl, gently combine beans, onion, and red bell pepper.  In a small bowl or cup, whisk together pesto, mayonnaise, and garlic powder.  Spoon over vegetables.  Fold together until completely combined, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve over greens, on crackers or toast, or in a pita or wrap.

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Vegan “French Fries and Champagne”
Indian-Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges with Dipping Sauce

Indian Spiced French Fries and ChampagneYield: 4 appetizer servings (6 wedges each)

A couple of nights ago, I had “French Fries and Champagne” for dinner.  Don’t judge.  I’m a widow in need of the occasional comfort food…and, besides, I had kale, carrots, and fruit earlier in the day.  I only ate a few, so a friend and fellow-widow is coming over tonight to join me for a bike ride and leftovers.

Driving home the night before and listening to “Out of the Box,” Paul Shughru’s award-winning “new music” show on our local NPR affiliate, WHRV, he played The Hot Sardines “French Fries and Champagne.”  And that nostalgic 40’s-infused suggestion was all I needed.

To arrive at my version–which is roasted, not fried–my imagination went to favorite champagne food pairings, especially Indian or Thai with my all time favorite, Prosecco.  Thinking that an Indian flavored dry spice rub would be easier to create than one with Thai flavors–which seemed to rely more on fresh herbs that would burn at the high roasting temperature–I decided on sweet potato wedges with a golden Indiean spice rub mixed with Panko bread crumbs for a bit more crunch.

For a dipping sauce, any Indian chutney whisked into vegan sour cream or vegan yogurt (if you can find an unsweetened version, which we can’t in our area) is perfection, perhaps with a a few sprigs of cilantro on the side, if you’re a cilantro-lover.

In truth, I don’t actually recommend only french fries and champagne for dinner…at least not often.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in half lenghtwise, then crosswise, then each section cut into 3 wedges to yield 12 wedges per potato

Pinch of sea salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons any vegan chutney (mango, mint, cilantro, etc., found in supermarkets or Indian/International markets)

4 tablespoons vegan sour cream (or vegan plain yogurt or mayo if you prefer)

Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs, if desired, and champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Drizzle baking pan with olive oil, add potato wedges, toss lightly to coat, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt, and toss again.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring or turning about ever 6 or 7 minutes.  Meanwhile combine bread crumbs in a small bowl with ground coriander, cumin, garlic and onion powders, smoked paprika, turmeric, and black bepper.  Remove potatoes from oven, sprinkle with bread crumb and spice mixture, stir to coat, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, stirring after 5.  (Note: if you prefer your potato wedges really crispy and caramelized, roast them for 25 to 30 minutes before adding the crumb mixture and roasting another 10.) Meanwhile, prepare dipping sauce by whisking together chutney with vegan sour cream in a small bowl.  Remove potatoes to a serving bowl or platter–I like to use a parchment paper- or napkin-lined plastic “burger basket”–sprinkle with any crumb mixture that remained in the pan and serve with dipping sauce,  fresh cilantro sprigs, if desired, and champagne.

Indian Spiced French Fries and Champagne--aerial

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Vegan Black Forest Smoothie
(Cherry & Chocolate)

Black Forrest SmoothieYield: 2 servings (or 1 big one if you are really hungry and in need of hydration)

This is what would happen if cherries and chocolate had a nutritious love child…

I love Black Forest Cake and, when I discovered some chocolate cake crumbs in the fridge–from hollowing out cupcakes for a caramel filling–,I knew I would use them to top a Black Forest Cake-inspired smoothie for breakfast.

When I make a smoothie, I always use frozen fruit to achieve my favorite creamy texture.  So, because frozen dark sweet cherries were significantly more calories and less nutrition than the cherry-berry blend, I purchased athye latter.  I actually had fresh cherries in the fridge, but didn’t want to pit them, so I just used them as part of the tantalizing garnish.

Also, because I wanted a bit more nutrition and can’t be necessarily trusted to get it at another meal–lately I’ve wanted “French Fries and Champagne” for dinner (be sure to check out my post about this tomorrow or Saturday)–I added a lot of fresh baby kale.  That likely masked the cherry flavor a little but preserved the beautiful color, so I boosted the flavor with a few maraschino cherries.

All this baby needed was a couple of tablespoons of chocolate syrup–Hershey’s is vegan, but use melted vegan chocolate if you prefer–; a little extra sweetness for which I use a powdered stevia; an optional boost of omega-3 fatty acides with some flaxseed meal; and a pretty garnish of fresh cherries, another drizzle of chocolate syrup, cake crumbs, and two cute paper straws from Target.

The two straws were just for looks mind you…I shared with no one!

2 cups soy or other non-dairy milk

2 lightly packed cups baby kale leaves with tender stems

1 cup frozen cherries and berries (less calories and more nutrition than frozen dark sweet cherries, but use them if you prefer)

2 tablespoons chocolate syrup or melted chocolate (Hershey’s syrup is vegan)

6 maraschino cherries, stemmed

2 tablespoons powdered stevia (or your favorite sweetener to taste)

Optional: 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Garnish: fresh cherries, a drizzle of chocolate syrup and, if desired, chocolate cake crumbs

Place all ingredients except garnishes in a blender or, my preference, a Magic Bullet, and blend about a minute or until smooth.  Serve in Mason jars or glasses, garnished as desired, with cute paper straws.

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