Vegan French Fry Salad Sundaes

Dinner tonight was Savory (vegan) French Fry Salad Sundaes (in our new stainless steel French fry cones)!

I love French fries but I like bulking them up with fresh raw ingredients so they are more filling with few additional calories.

We make 2 servings of fries in our new Cuisinart mini-fryer and divide them between paper- or towel-lined cones. Bob devours his with ketchup. I top mine with things like shredded cabbage or, in this case, chopped cauliflower, diced celery, and halved cherry tomatoes.

In the cute little sidecar is a vegan Buffalo Sauce made with my Blooming Platter Lo-Cal Mayo at about 10 calories per tablespoon.

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Vegan Buffalo Bites
Pan Sauteed Seitan Bathed in Buffalo Sauce

I am hooked on Whole Foods Buffalo Soy Nuggets.  I literally go to the prepared foods counter and ask for “a small carton vegan crack.”  They know exactly what I mean.

This recipe isn’t that because I use my delicious seitan (“wheat meat”) in place of soy for a more tender product.  Their soy nuggets are rather toothsome, especially cold, which is how I devour them, as they never make it all the way home.

Of course, if you have a favorite seitan recipe, use it.  BUT, I have perfected my recipe after some serious “R & D” in my kitchen.  You can read the backstory and access my recipe for the most delicious version I have ever tasted right HERE.

Vegan Buffalo Bites

Yield: 8 pieces (easily multiplies)

8 pieces Booming Best (Vegan) Seitan, pan sauteed a couple of minutes on each side until lightly browned in a skillet lightly coated with non-stick spray

1 tablespoon melted vegan butter

1 teaspoon hot sauce like Texas Pete’s or Sriracha

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

1/4 teaspoon molasses

1 teaspoon diced celery

While seitan browns, whisk together all remaining ingredients, except diced celery, in a small bowl. Pour over seitan and toss quickly to coat. Keep gently stir-frying for a minute or two until heated  through. Serve immediately garnished with diced celery.

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Blooming Best (Vegan) Seitan
Recipe + Tips & Tricks

First, the back story (or scroll to recipe just below)…

I am not a huge proponent of vegan meat substitutes.  But I do crave them on occasion or need them to make a recipe seem complete, e.g. a pot pie.  And I am completely addicted to Whole Foods Buffalo Soy Bites, so I decided to make my own, though not from soy, as theirs are a bit toothsome.  Making them with my seitan creates a much more tender product.  But the flavor of my basic seitan–which is anything but basic–has been dramatically enhanced by studying their ingredient list.  The two key ingredients gleaned from their label: Liquid Smoke and Molasses.

My tips and tricks for lip-smacking seitan:

Tip 1:  SEASON.  Seitan only tastes as good as it has been seasoned, both the dough AND the stock.  Most of it is dramatically underseasoned to me.  It should be absolutely lip-smacking on its own and not dependent on a sauce or coating.  Do not be fooled into thinking you can merely season the stock, which allegedly permeates the dough as it simmers.  It does.  But not enough.

Tip 2:  INGREDIENTS. My recipe calls for a fair number of ingredients in both the dough and stock–virtually the same ingredients, save the celery, onion, and optional bay leaf in the stock–which may be a deterrent to some.  However, when something is as blank of a slate as vital wheat gluten–the main ingredient–it needs some serious, careful, and judicious balancing of flavors.  But, yes, if you are in a hurry, you may use a generic poultry seasoning in place of all of the dry spices.  It won’t be as scrumptious, but it will be good.

Tip 3:  TASTE.  Granted, seitan, even seasoned, is quite a bizarre texture before it is simmered.  But tasting it, as with anything you prepare, is completely necessary.  So, pinch off a teeny-tiny bit of the dough, rest it on your tongue, make an assessment, discard it rather than swallow it, and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Tip 4:   DON’T OVER-KNEAD.  Never knead the dough more than 3 minutes.  Recipes tend to recommend longer, but that yields an unpleasantly tough product.  Gluten develops as it is kneaded which is why wheat flour-based recipes for baked goods caution against “overbeating” the batter or dough lest  you end up with something too tough to enjoy.

Blooming Best (Vegan) Seitan

Yield: 1 pint walnut-sized pieces

Note: if pressed for time, you may substitute 2 tablespoons + 1 1/4 teaspoons poultry seasoning for the all of the dried spices.

Blooming Best (Vegan) Seitan Stock

3 cup water

1/4 large onion, separated into rings

3 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

Optional: 1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon all purpose seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon dried, powdered rosemary

1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 large vegetable bouillon cube (for making 2 cups broth)

1/2 teaspoon molasses (or slightly more)

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blooming Best (Vegan) Seitan Dough (recipe follows)

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients, bring to a gentle boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Tear off slightly smaller than unshelled walnut pieces of dough and drop into simmering stock, using entire recipe.  Cover with a lid slightly ajar and simmer very gently for 45 minutes; stir occasionally (if you think of it).  Don’t worry about over-crowding.  It will puff up as it cooks, but it won’t stick to neighboring pieces.

Blooming Best (Vegan) Seitan Dough

1 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten

1 tablespoon all purpose seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon dried, powdered rosemary

1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 large vegetable bouillon cube (for making 2 cups broth)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to 0taste

1 3/4 cups warm water

1/2 teaspoon molasses (or slightly more)

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Stock (recipe follows)

In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients with a fork–it helps to mix water, molasses, and liquid smoke together first–and knead for just 3 minutes directly in the bowl.

 

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Vegan Blooming Buffalo Pasta
only 50 calories for an 8 plus oz serving!

BUFFALO PASTA–only 50 calories for an 8+ oz. serving!

Would you believe me if I told you that this 8+ ounce boel of delicioys Buffalo Pasta contains a total of 50 calories, including the pasta, the sauce, and the celery?!  And it is so filling that I couldn’t even eat it all.

The secret is in the Shirataki pasta, which is only 20 calories for 8 oz, and the delicious Buffalo Sauce made from my low calorie Blooming Platter Mayo at only 8 calories per tablespoon.

Note: while the Liquid Smoke and molasses might seem like odd ingredients, the Buffalo soy nuggets we all love from Whole Foods contains smoke flavoring and molasses powder. Even though traditional buffalo sauce contains neither, they are delicious additions.

BLOOMING BUFFALO PASTA
Yield: 1 large serving (or 2 entrees with a side salad); easily multiplies

8 oz Shirataki pasta, drained, rinsed, and heated for 1 minute in the microwave for a cold pasta dish or two minutes for a warm pasta dish

1/2 cup finally chopped celery

2 tablespoons Best Blooming Platter Lo-Cal Mayo

1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1/8 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

1/8 teaspoon molasses

Sea salt to taste

Whisk together the Blooming Platter Mayo, sriracha sauce, vinegar, Liquid Smoke, molasses and sea salt.   Place pasta in a bowl, sprinkle with celery, drizzle with sauce, and garnish as desired.

 

 

 

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Best Blooming Platter Lo-Cal Mayo
only 8 calories per tablespoon!

Does this luscious vegan mayo taste exactly like egg-based mayo?  No.  Will you care, especially at only 8 calories per tablespoon?  Absolutely not.  It is delicious and can be used in place of egg-based mayo in tartar sauce and salad dressings, even as a binder for casseroles.

Best Blooming Platter Lo-Cal Mayo

Yield: 2 cups

Note: for speed and convenience, you may use all white vinegar or all lemon juice.  Also, if you like a sweeter mayo, add a hint of stevia.

1 pound firm or extra-firm Silken tofu

1 tablespoon white vinegar

Juice of 1/2 a large lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (or 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared yellow or stone ground mustard)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste (delicious with about half black salt, if you have on hand, for a sulphery “eggy” flavor)

Optional: 1/8 teaspoon tumeric powder

Process all ingredients together in food processor until thick and very creamy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary and adjusting seasoning as desired.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Vegan Bologna Cake
with Vegan Herbed Cream and Goat Cheese Frosting

Yield: at least 12 servings

This beautiful “cake” is a cinch to make though it impresses in both flavor and appearance.  It looks so pretty on a buffet…maybe even for a wedding or bridal shower?

Admittedly, I took a cake decorating class in high school and have done some decorating over the years, but wielding a pastry bag, especially to make simple borders, stars, and swirls, is quickly and easily mastered.  A YouTube video will do the trick.  However, if you prefer, you can simply frost the cake, garnish with fresh herbs, and your results will be lovely.  I just like the finished edge that piped frosting gives to a cake.

This  “recipe” is not much of a recipe.  You simply stack the vegan bologna, filling between the layers and frosting the sides and top with a mixture of vegan cream cheese and Treeline Soft French-style nut cheese, which I purchase at Whole Foods.  But you could use all cream cheese.  After tucking a few sprigs of fresh herbs here and there, you are finished.  Be sure to slice it with a serrated knife, as 18 layers or so is fairly dense, but oh-so-delicious.

Bob, my meatatrian partner who prefers meat with meat sauce and a side of meat, confessed that he prefers vegan bologna to “real” bologna!  The vegan variety has a much smokier flavor.

 

Vegan Bologna Cake

8 ounces vegan cream cheese

2-6 ounce cartons Treeline brand soft French-Style nut cheese (any flavor, e.g. scallion)

1 teaspoon minced basil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste if desired

2 packages Tofurky bologna Style Deli Slices (18 slices total)

Sprigs of fresh herbs such as basil, mint, sage, and rosemary

With an electric mixer–stand or hand-held–cream together all ingredients, except bologna, until fluffy.  Line a serving plate with 4 strips of foil or waxed paper to protect plate.  Lay 1 slice of bologna on top, spread to edges with small amount of filling, and repeat with all 18 layers, making the last layer, which will be the top, nice and thick.  Frost sides, pipe on more frosting as decoration, if desired, and garnish with fresh herbs.  Refrigerate until serving time. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Vegan Pad Thai Fries with Bangkok Sin(less) Sauce
Bonus: Blooming Platter Low-Calorie Mayo

Yield: 1 serving (easily multiplies)

I have a new summer crush…

But it is less of a recipe, except for the sauce and mayo, and more of a method for creating one of the tastiest treats you will ever put in your mouth.

My scrumptious sauce, which is very low calorie, compensates for any excessive calories in the fries.  We used Kroger brand crinkle fries–it has to be crinkle in my book!–to save money and felt that the quality was on point.  No need to pay Ore-Ida prices.

And we fried rather than baked them because we just purchased a Cuisinart Mini-Fryer, exactly like the Waring Pro Fryer we have, only smaller.  Waring Pro makes the same mini-fryer but Waring was purchased by Cuisinart and, while you can still purchase both, the Cuisinart model is the newer one.  Each costs $43.95 with free shipping on Amazon.

So, while we fried–and drained/blotted–our fries to test drive our sleek little fryer, you can bake them according to package directions and still love the results.

Then, you just pile fresh ingredients on top, which we like to set up like a mini-bar:  finely shredded cabbage because we had it, though bean sprouts would be the traditional; sliced green onions; chopped cilantro; and a spritz of lime juice.  Finish with a generous drizzle of my Bangkok Sin(less) Sauce and some roasted and lightly salted peanuts and you are all set.  I like to garnish the dish with lime wedges but I inadvertently left them out in the photo.

I love eating my fries with chopsticks, though I needed a fork right at the end to scoop up every outrageous bite.

1 serving frozen crinkle fries, baked or fried according to package directions, and drained on a paper towel-lined rack set over a rimmed sheet pan (this will keep bottoms crispy)

1/2 cup or more shredded cabbage, cabbage-carrot mix, or bean sprouts

1/4 cup sliced green onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons or (much!) more Bangkok Sin(less) Sauce (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon roasted and lightly salted peanuts

2 lime wedges

Bangkok Sin(less) Sauce

Note: make more than you need for 1 serving

1/2 cup Blooming Platter Mayo (recipe follows; you can use Vegenaise or another prepared brand, BUT keep in mind that it is 100 calories per tablespoon to my mayo’s 8)

1/4 cup Thai Chili Sauce

Optional but delicious: 1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian in Asian markets)

Optional but recommended: 1 teaspoon lime juice

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Blooming Platter Low Calorie Mayo

(the BEST and so quick and easy)

Yield: 2 cups.  There are only 250 calories in the entire recipe or 8 calories per tablespoon!

1 pound Silken tofu (I used plain Nasoya brand which also sells a “Lite” and “Organic” variety)

1 tablespoon yellow or stone ground mustard

1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 very large garlic clove, cut into about 3 or 4 pieces

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Sea salt to taste

Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Vegan Thai Chick’n Croustade
(quick & easy with prepared crust)
and Cucumber Salad Topping

Yield: app. 6 servings

1 vegan pie crust, prepared or homemade (I use Achatz brand, available at Whole Foods)

1/4 cup naturally vegan Thai peanut sauce, prepared or homemade (I use a prepared brand from the grocery store)

1 package Tofurky Slow Roasted Sesame Garlic Chick’n, cut or torn into bite-size pieces

3/4 of a large red bell pepper, but into 12 thin slices (reserve remainder)

1/2 of medium red onion, cut into thin slices (reserve remainder)

Garnish: roasted and lightly salted peanuts or cashews and cilantro or Thai basil sprigs

Cucumber Salad (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat or use a terracotta baking stone.  Lie pie crust on prepared baking pan or baking stone, Spread 3 tablespoons peanut sauce in center to within 1-inch of edges.  Sprinkle evenly with Chick’n pieces and then arrange bell pepper strips in a pinwheel over the top and sprinkle evenly with red onion slivers.  Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut sauce over the top and then fold in edges of crust, crimping and pinching as you go.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and serve garnished with peanuts and cilantro sprigs.  Serve cucumber salad on the side or piled on top, which is my preferred method.

Cucumber Salad

1 8-inch cucumber, sliced lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces (I leave the seeds in for nutrition, but remove with a spoon if desired)

Reserved red bell pepper, diced

Reserved red onion, cut into thin slices and then 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon natural sugar (I use demerera)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all salad ingredients.  Check for seasoning, adjust as necessary, and refrigerate in an airtight container, stirring occasionally, until serving time.

Croustade just prior to folding, crimping, and cooking
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Vegan Southwestern Veggie-Stuffed Peppers
A Low-Cal Dish Packed with Flavor

Yield: 6 stuffed peppers

I’m not sure what I did before the “invention” of riced vegetables, but I know I didn’t eat as creatively when it came to low-calorie meals.  I am rather hooked on the riced cauliflower, riced broccoli, and riced “confetti” (usually cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots), so expect lots of new recipes this summer, in addition to those posted recently.

I think these peppers, with their teaspoon of ground cumin, are perfectly spiced.  But if you prefer to add some coriander, chili powder, and the like, by all means go for it.

Either way, you are sure to return to this easy recipe again and again.

3 large yellow, orange, or red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, and broiled a few minutes, skin-side up, until out skin chars in a few places (I try to slice through the stem with a serrated knife so that each pepper has a cute stem and nice contrast of green)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced (I use a garlic press)

1 pound riced “confetti” cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots (you can rice your own in a food processor, pulsing until vegetables have the fine texture of rice)

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti)

2 tablespoons vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti)

2 tablespoons prepared salsa (not pico de gallo)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons sour cream

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons grated vegan cheese (I use So Delicious)

Garnishes: 3 cherry tomatoes, halved, and 6 sprigs fresh basil or cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet over medium, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Add onion and saute, stirring, until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add riced vegetables and water and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables soften and turn translucent and most all of moisture is evaporated.  Stir in cream cheese, sour cream, and salsa, heating and stirring until cream cheese and sour cream melt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide evenly among pepper halves in an oiled casserole dish or individual gratin dishes. Top each with 1 teaspoon sour cream and 1 teaspoon grated cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until heated through.  Served garnished with a cherry tomato half and a sprig of basil or cilantro.

Peppers Prior to Popping in the Oven

 

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Scallion-Basil-Tomato Tarts with Popcorn-Cashew Crust

Yield: four-4 inch main dish tarts

Popcorn: it’s not just for movies anymore!

This delicious crispy crust was inspired by one of my favorite indulgences at the Naro theatre in Norfolk, VA: popcorn with nutritional yeast. The only problem is that I can’t put it on my debit card because it doesn’t meet the minimum charge amount. So, what’s a girl to do, but buy some warm cashews and sprinkle them over the top.  Hence, my crust capitalizes on all of those ingredients…except the debit card.

The filling is a simple tofu, scallion, and fresh basil mixture seasoned with garlic, Liquid Aminos, and just the right amount of lemon juice and zest for a zippy and creamy contrast to the crust.  Halved cherry tomatoes and garnishes of microgreens and a few cashew halves deliver big flavor and texture and an Instagram-worthy photo finish.

Scallion-Basil-Tomato Tarts with Popcorn-Cashew Crust

Popcorn-Cashew Crust (recipe follows)

1 bunch scallions with all but about 2 inches of green removed (approximately 6 scallions), cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup semi-firmly compacted fresh basil leaves

14 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed with paper towels and cut into hunks

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

6 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Garnishes: microgreens and roasted, lightly salted cashew halves, and an optional drizzle of maple syrup

Prepare crust.  Then, in the bowl of a food processor, process scallions and basil until coarsely chopped.  Add tofu, garlic powder, Liquid Aminos, and lemon zest and juice.  Process until smooth with small green flecks.  Divide mixture evenly among baked shells and gently spread to edges.  Top with 4 cherry tomato halves and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Let sit until cool enough to handle and then remove tarts from tart pans (bottoms of pans will still be attached.)  Serve garnished with microgreens and roasted and lightly salted cashew halves.  Though this may sound odd, a scant drizzle of maple syrup over the top is a delectable contrast.

Popcorn-Cashew Crust:

4 cups popcorn (I use Skinny Pop, but any vegan brand will do nicely)

1/4 cup roasted and lightly salted cashew halves and pieces

4  tablespoons coconut oil, vegan butter or, my preference, a combination, melted

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place four 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms on a rimmed baking sheet, and set aside.  Process popcorn and cashews in food processor until very fine.  Pour in butter and/or oil, nutritional yeast, and salt, and process until mixture comes together.  Divide evenly among the tart pans and press evenly only onto the bottom.  I use a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and press with the bottom of a glass to compact the mixture.   Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the filling.

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