Vegan Mini-Tater Tot Waffles
with Savory or Sweet Tot Toppings

Yield: 4 mini-waffles (recipe easily multplies)

[At bottom, I include instructions for one large waffle.]

Last week, eyes wide, a colleague brought down to my classroom a culinary magazine featuring a San Francisco restaurant specializing in Tater Tot Waffles.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Basially, anything is better atop a Tot it seems, so while this chef’s toppers tended to be fish-and meat-centric, I figured a crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside potato base would be irresistable with anything–or nothing–on top.  And I was right.

I looked up a recipe pretty sure that Tater Tot Waffles are a thing–and they are–and followed it to the letter using Alexia’s Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper.  I have nothing against good ‘ole Ore-Ida, but I found myself at Whole Foods, and Alexia’s the brand they stock.  But it took almost one bag–or 5ish servings–to make one waffle, which Bob and I split 3/4 to 1/4, and that’s a bit too much of a good thing.

So, tonight, with him out to dinner with his brother and me craving more of this crisp-and-slightly-greasy goodness, but not very hungry, I wondered if I could make Mini-Tater Tot Waffles.  Indeed!  They cook up brilliantly, are easier to remove from the waffle iron, and lend themselves to party fare or to the tapas-style meals I prefer.  Plus, just last night I had sent out invitations to the Starlight Supper Club gathering that Bob and I are hosting on March 4 and included Mini-Thai Tater Tots, so I figured I better make certain the concept actually worked.

Boy does it!  Having gone out for Ethiopian food on Saturday night and brought home leftovers, I decided to top mine with a tiny spoonful of the collard greens and a little piece of cooked tomato with a dab of vegan mayo for color and creamy contrast.  Wow!  But top them with anything you choose, savory or sweet..

Mini-Tater Tot Waffles

16 tater tots (I used Alexia brand Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper)

Nonstick cooking spray

Savory or sweet toppings of choice (vegan greens, cheeses, spreads, salsas, tapenades, syrups, citrus curds, nuts, etc.)

Spray electric waffle iron with nonstick spray and preheat.  Meanwhile, place tater tots in a bowl and place in microwave on full power for a minute to two to thaw.  Place 4 tater tots, 2 sides of each one touching, in 1 layer of each quadrant of the waffle maker.  Close lid, gently press, and cook for about 5 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Carefully remove each waffle to a serving platter or plates, top as desired, and serve immediately.

Note: to make one large waffle, follow directions above except thaw about 4 to 5 servings of Tater Tots and use them to completely cover the surface of the waffle iron.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes.  You can check after about 5 minutes and fill in any holes with additional thawed tater tots if desired.

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Vegan Mustard Maple Chex Mix
This is Chex on Steroids!

If anyone’s counting, this is my 7th iteration of Chex Mix of 2017.  After some unsuccessful experiments adulterating my mother’s hallowed “Texas Trash” recipe (aka Chex Mix) years ago, I let it go for a number of years because all of the ingredients are expensive and the batches big.

But I’m back with a vengeance, and think I have discovered the way to make magic.  Hope you agree.

Though the weather is warming up, it is still February and I think the aroma in the air from someone’s fireplace on a recent cool night planted the seed for a maple-mustard iteration, a flavor combination that I associate with winter.

This may not be my most colorful version, but it may well be the richest.  Just try staying out of this one…it should come with some kind of warning.

3/4 cups vegan butter

3 tablespoons pommery mustard

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1-6 ounce can roasted pecan halves

1-5 ounce packages potato sticks

1-6 ounce package crispy onions (like old timey cooks use to top their green bean casserole; French’s is a popular brand)

2 cups crunchy corn kernel snacks (I found these in the grocery store packaged in a clear plastic carton with other crunchy snacks like sesame sticks, pepitas, etc.)

3 cups Cheerios

2 cups wheat Chex cereal

Optional (but delicious) 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Place butter in large roasting pan and place pan in oven for a few minutes or until butter is melted.  Whisk in mustard, maple, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Then stir in all remaining ingredients in succession, gently stirring after each addition to coat with the butter mixture.  Roast for 1 hours, gently stirring up from the bottom every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir well, allow to cool completely–it will crisp even more as it cools–and package for eating or giving.  Note: I don’t find the mixture too buttery for an indulgent snack, but if you prefer to absorb a little of the oil, spread the mixture on brown paper bags or paper towels to cool.  

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Vegan Chex Mix Italiano

Photo Credit: Juan Gelpi

I just can’t stop. This is Chex Mix # 6 of 2017 and it is only February.

I gifted it to a couple who took me to dinner last night, as Bob had had to work late on a major project.  Dear friends and gourmet vegan cooks, Juan and Barbara Gelpi, wanted to introduce me to Ethiopian food at a small, charming cafe in VA Beach called Mesob.  (A mesob is a  a large colorful woven basket with a tall pointed lid and hole in the center; people sit around a mesob at mealtime with the food on a gebeta or large platter in the center.)

The Gelpis were veterans, but it was a new experience for me.  I discovered that I would eat just about anything scooped up in Injeri–so unbelievably bubbly and spongy–and will go back many times.

In the meantime, I will keep making one delicious batch of Chex Mix after another and sharing it with you, though warm weather is coming and I will probably curtail my experiments for the spring and summer.

After last night’s Ethiopian immersion experience, you can expect a berbere spiced batch.  For now, please enjoy my Chex Mix Italiano.

3/4 cup vegan butter

1/4 cup vegan basil pesto

1/4 cup vegan artichoike tapenade or pesto

5 cups wheat Chex Mix

4 cups Cheerios

1 1/2 cups Marcona almonds

1 1/2 cups veggie sticks

1 cup small rosemary and sea salt crackers (use any brand you love; mine came from Whole Foods)

1/3 cup pine nuts

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Optional: red pepper flakes to taste (for a little bit of heat)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place butter in large roasting pan, slide into oven, and allow butter to melt.   Stir in both pestos or pesto and tapenade.  Then stir in remaining ingredients, one at a time, in order, to coat evenly with butter mixture.  Roast for 1 hour, stirring well up from the bottom every 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven, allow to cool, and package mix in airtight containers.

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Vegan Curried Chex Mix
This is Next Level Chex!

I am sure it is clear to all of us by now that I am obsessed, as I believe this is my fifth Chex Mix iteration in the last month.

But I have a good excuse for this one.  Sadly, a neighbor’s too-young husband passed away Sunday night and I wanted to stop by in a show of support, but not empty-handed.

However, knowing that, if she is anything like me, food has all but lost its appeal, I also knew that she would likely be hosting others who might feel differently. So, wanting to try an idea for a curried Chex Mix, this seemed like the perfect unfortunate occasion.

On the way home from Pilates-Barre, I stopped at Pat’s house on my former street just around the corner.  Finally,  cars weren’t spilling out of her driveway; in fact, the windiws looked dark and I thought she wasn’t home.

But her daughter tearfully greeted me at the door, welcomed me into their cozy family room, and poured us a glass of wine while her mother retrieved her bourbon.   We proceeded to have the loveliest visit with which that Chex Mix would have gone perfectly. But Pat didn’t even know what was in the gift bag and I am glad she saved it…when I open a container of that stuff, regardless of the size, it becomes a single serving.

1/2 cup vegan butter

1 tablespoon vegan Indian tandoori paste (or your favorite prepared Indian sauce; sold in jars on thr international aisles of most grocery stores)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 cups French’s crispy onions

1 1/2 cups potato stick snacks

1 1/2 cups lightly salted roasted cashews, halves or wholes

6 cups Cheerios

7 cups Chex Mix (I purchase a mixed corn, rice, and wheat variety, but choose your favorite or combine as desired)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place butter in large roasting pan, slide into oven, and allow butter to melt.   Stir in tandoori paste and all spices to combine.   Then stir in remaining ingredients, one at a time, in order, to coat evenly with butter mixture.  Roast for 45 minutes,  stirring every 15. Turn off oven, open door, and allow mix to sit for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, allow to cool, and package in airtight containers.  (Then, since no doubt you have been sampling along the way, give it as gifts as fast as you can lest you eat it all!)

 

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Vegan Mesquite BBQ Chex Mix

As I confessed in a previous post, I am darn near obsessed with rolling out new iterations of Chex Mix.  My adored late mother is, no doubt, doing her own share of rolling–as in rolling over–because she prefered classic, unadulterated versions of virtually all recipes, including her hallowed Texas Trash (aka Chex Mix) which made its annual appearance only at Christmas.

With new traditions the focus this Christmas, the second without her or my similarly adored late husband, I never made the Chex Mix, but I have been making up for it ever since with the creation of recipes for Taco-Fajita Chex Mix, Asian Chex Mix, Thai Chex Mix and, now, Mesquite BBQ.  The latter is COMPLETELY different from BBQ potato chips of which I am not a fan, as I find the flavor overpowering.  My Chex Mix is more subtle and complex.

If you are a purist when it comes to whole foods, fresh herbs, and shopping the perimeter of the grocery store–as I usually am–allow me to introduce you to the spice mix aisle where the McCormick brand rules in my local Kroger, though there are others.  It is a treasure trove of inspiration for, in my case, Chex Mix.

Perhaps my greatest contribution to the world of Chex Mix is the addition of ingredients not typically found in these mixes, e.g. Earth Balance “Cheddar” Crackers, French’s Crispy Onions (of green bean casserole fame), and Potato Sicks (my Asian versions include the likes of Chow Mein noodles, sesame sticks, and wasabi peas).  For this variety, I chose Corn Chex, as cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to (vegan) BBQ; Cheerios and pretzels because I love the contrast of shape and texture; “cheese” crackers, potato sticks, and crispy onions because, when I was a vegetarian in Nashville, I loved a potato, onion and cheese side dish with a crispy topping at the local BBQ joint; and pecans because I associate them with Texas and the south where BBQ rules.  But, I added some smoked almonds too because there is no such thing as too many nuts and because the smokiness is perfect in this BBQ-inspired iteration.

Choosing spice packets was challenging because of the many options.  Select whatever sound good–just check the ingredients list for whey and the like–but I ultimately decided on the combination of a mequite and a brown sugar-bourbon variety for a balance of spices, flavors–including tomoato–,smokiness, and just a hint of molasses-y sweetness.

Have fun playing with tastes and textures.  I would love it if you would share your results.  Here is mine:

1 1/2 cups vegan butter (it sounds like a lot BUT this recipe makes a lot and this amount is needed)

2-1 to 1.25 ounce packets of vegan BBQ or grilling spice mix (I used one mesquite and one brown sugar-bourbon vareity)

6 ounces smoked almonds

6 ounces pecan halves

1-5 ounce packages potato sticks

1-6 ounce package crispy onions (like old timey cooks use to top their green bean casserole; French’s is a popular brand)

1-6 ounce box Earth Balance “Cheddar” Squares

1-8 ounce bag pretzel sticks

1-14 ounce box Chex Corn Cereal

1-14 ounce box Cheerios (NOT the sweet ones)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Place butter in large roasting pan and place pan in oven for a few minutes or until butter is melted.  Whisk in spice mix.  Then stir in all remaining ingredients in succession, gently stirring after each addition to coat with the butter mixture.  Roast for 60 minutes, gently stirring up from the bottom every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir well, allow to cool completely–it will crisp even more as it cools–and package for eating or giving.  Note: I don’t find the mixture too buttery for an indulgent snack, but if you prefer to absorb a little of the oil, spread the mixture on brown paper bags or paper towels to cool.  

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Vegan Thai Chex Mix
This One is Over the Top!

You know those crispy onions on top of green bean casserole from “back in the day”?  Well, they are vegan, and they aren’t just for casseroles anymore…

As I explained in my previous post, one of my mother’s Christmas traditions was to make an enormous Tupperware container of “Texas Trash,” aka Chex Mix every Christmas.  Gone for two Christmases now, my father, sister, and I haven’t been very good about maintaining the tradition which may explain why I am craving it in January and keep thinking up new iterations upon which she would frown in keeping with her “why mess with perfection” philosophy.

But mess I do, and I think you will approve, though you should feel free to do your own “messing around” with this recipe.  There is nothing sacred about it, but it is outrageusly delicious as is.  I simply fantasized about some of my favorite ingredients in Thai curries, and those that are sold in a dried form were in: cashews, peas, potatoes, onions, and rice.  Cheerios are included for shape and texture contrast and because I adore they way they soak up the buttery seasoning.

1 1/2 cups vegan butter (it sounds like a lot BUT this recipe makes a lot and this amount is needed)

1-1.75 ounce packet of Taste of Thai Green Curry Paste (sold in a pouch inside a cardboard cover)

16 ounces salted or lightly salted cashew halves and pieces

2-5 ounce packages Wasabi peas

2-5 ounce packages potato sticks

2-6 ounce packages crispy onions (like old timey cooks use to top their green bean casserole; French’s is a popular brand)

1-14 ounce box Chex Rice Cereal

1-14 ounce box Cheerios (NOT the sweet ones)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Place butter in large roasting pan and place pan in oven for a few minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir in sesame oil, soy sauce, seasoning packets, Nori powder, orange zest, and seasoning salt.  Add remaining ingredients in succession, gently stirring after each addition to coat with the butter mixture.  Roast for 60 minutes, gently stirring up from the bottom every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir well, allow to cool completely–it will crisp even more as it cools–and package for eating or giving.  Note: I don’t find the mixture too buttery for an indulgent snack, but if you prefer to absorb a little of the oil, spread the mixture on brown paper bags or paper towels to cool.  

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Vegan Asian Chex Mix–
Get Your Furikake On!

Every Christmas, my mother made a vat of her famous “Texas Trash” or what some folks know as “Chex Mix.”  She has been gone for two Christmases now and, though my father and sister made a batch in 2015, none of us did this year. Perhaps that explains my near obsession of late with various iterations of this childhood favorite.  Although–and I mean no disrespect–she is probably “rolling over” at what I’ve done to her traditional recipe.  Mother never quite understood my endless adaptations.  If a recipe tasted good as it was, she saw no reason to tinker with it.

I feel quite the opposite.  So enjoy this version inspired by furikake, the Japanese seasoning wildly popular in Hawaii, that contains an indescribably addicting combination of seaweed, salt, sesame, and sugar, though I leave out the sugar because the wasabi peas have a slight sweetness to them.  If you have an aversion to heat, never fear because, though you’d think they would ignite your taste buds, the peas are really quite mild.   To round out the flavors, I add a few other “secret” ingredients like dried orange zest because there was a popcorn I loved, which I can’t find anymore, that contained orange along with the traditional furikake flavors.  Plus, hardly a purist, I nod in the direction of China with a few of my other ingredients.

Contrary to what my mother may think, recipes are made to be adapted, so feel free to monkey with this one.  I won’t take offense or shake my head like she would have.  But, I have to admit, it is darn good “right like” it is, as we say down south.

1 1/2 cups vegan butter (it sounds like a lot BUT this recipe makes a lot and this amount is needed)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2-1 ounce packages of a vegan Chinese seasoning pouch (I found one for “Beef and Broccoli” that was vegan and I loved the flavors, but any would do nicely)

2 teaspoons Nori powder (simply place torn pieces of Nori sheets in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until fairly fine)

2 teaspoons dried orange zest

1 to 2 teaspoons seasoning salt

8 ounces salted or lightly salted cashew halves and pieces

8 ounces sesame stick and nut mix (sesame sticks, peanuts, and cashews)

2-5 ounce packages Wasabi peas

1-5 to 6 ounce package Chow Mein noodles

1-14 ounce box Chex Rice Cereal

1-14 ounce box Cheerios (NOT the sweet ones)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Place butter in large roasting pan and place pan in oven for a few minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir in sesame oil, soy sauce, seasoning packets, Nori powder, orange zest, and seasoning salt.  Add remaining ingredients in succession, gently stirring after each addition to coat with the butter mixture.  Roast for 45 minutes, gently stirring up from the bottom every 15 minutes.  Turn off oven, leave door closed, and let the mix sit for a final 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir well, allow to cool completely–it will crisp even more as it cools–and package for eating or giving.  Note: I don’t find the mixture too buttery for an indulgent snack, but if you prefer to absorb a little of the oil, spread the mixture on brown paper bags or paper towels to cool.  

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Vegan Maple-Mustard Roasted Tri-Color Roasted Carrots
with Lemon

Yield: 8 servings

This Christmas, one of new traditions, I didn’t make a single recipe for Christmas Dinner that I had ever made before.  All turned out to be new favorites, and none prettier than this delightful dish of roasted tri-color carrots (photographed pre-roasting).  Everyone knows that maple and mustard is a winning combination, but I think the secret ingredient is the sliced lemon that gets roasted right along with the carrots.

2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds rainbow carrots, scrubbed, halved lengthwise, and then cut into two-inch pieces
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 450° and lightly oil a large roasting pan. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, cumin seeds, salt and pepper.  Place carrots and lemon in prepared pan, drizzle with oil mixture, and toss to coat.  Roast, gently stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender and lemons are caramelized, about 35 to 40 minutes.  You may roast the carrots several hours ahead, let them cool, cover and chill them.  About a half hour before serving time, bring them to room temperature and reheat for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven or in microwave.

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Vegan “Old School” Creamy Green Bean, Lima Bean,
and Green Pea Casserole

Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

This is a bit more old school than my typical fare.  But, this Christmas, I was joyfully cooking for Bob’s family, some of whom–including him–have less adventurous palates than I do.

And, I have to admit that I enjoy this kind of “comfort food” from my childhood.  What I wanted to prepare was a dish that my late mother made whenever she and my father grilled flank steak–eek!–but my sister couldn’t find the recipe in her recipe files

The dish contained all of these vegetables, but no mayonnaise or cheese.  I can’t recall whether her recipe called for onion, nor whether there might have been a hint of Worcestershire or soy sauce in the dish; I might be remembering those ingredients from the marinade.  Regardless, this is a delicious and creamy–if not terribly low calorie–trip down Nostalgia Lane.  And everyone loved it as the perfect green element on our pretty dinner plates.

1-10 ounce package frozen green beans

1-10 ounce package frozen lima beans

1-10 ounce package frozen green peas

1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 cup vegan sour cream

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese (in a bag, not a can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook frozen vegetables according to package directions and drain.  I like to use the microwave.  Drain vegetables. Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil over medium-highheat  until tender. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and drained vegetables.  Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

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Vegan German Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

I hope my sweet, stubborn, late paternal grandmother, Mam-ma, is not “rolling over” at what I’ve done to one of her four iconic Christmas cookie recipes, mailed to us wherever we might be if not with her and Pap-pa, packaged in waxed-paper lined tins with the faint aroma of mothballs.

It is hard to improve on perfection and her roll and slice cookies were indeed perfect.  So, my version is not better, just different.  If you want to make Mam-ma’s, simply dispense with the chocolate, topping, and garnish, and enjoy plain, buttery, almond-infused cookies, perfect with tea.

Cookies:

1 cup vegan butter, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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

Vegan Coconut, Pecan and Dried Cranberry Filling (recipe follows)

Pecan halves or large pieces

 

Cream together in an electric mixer butter, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder.  Turn off mixer and add extracts, and 1/2 cup flour, and incorporate into butter mixture on low speed.  Gradually add remaining flour on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Divide dough into fourths, roll into logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for 20 minutes or until firm.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice each log into 1/4-inch diagonal slices and place slices 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, preferably lined with Silpat or parchment paper.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (my family likes them a little more “done.”)  Remove the cookie sheets to a wire rack and cool completely. Top each cookie with a teaspoon of filling and garnish with a pecan half.

Vegan Coconut, Pecan and Dried Cranberry Filling:

1 cup unsweetened soymilk (plain, vanilla or vanilla lite would also be good)
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (I use demerera)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cognac or bourbon
Juice of one lemon
½-1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ cup water
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 ½ cups pecan pieces or chopped pecans
½ cup (generous) dried cranberries

In a medium saucepan, mix the soymilk, coconut milk, sugar, extracts, cognac or bourbon, and lemon juice and zest. Whisk the cornstarch together with the water and add to soy milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cook and stir for one minute after it boils. Remove from heat and stir in coconut, pecans and dried cranberries. Cool to almost room temperature before spreading on layers.

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