The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes
Photo: Alisa Fleming

Photo: Alisa Fleming

And the winner is…me!

So Delcious and Go Dairy Free just announced the winners of their “Snackables” national (vegan) recipe contest and my Thai Biscuit Mini Sandwiches won the Grand Prize in the “Savory” category!  These are the perfect mini-meal, packed with flavor and nutrition and cute to boot.

This award is such an honor because I know of their high standards and rigorous vetting process.

Congrats to all winners and runner’s up!  And a huge thanks to So Delicous and Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free!


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Pumpkin, Kale, and Cannelini Bean BisqueYield: 4 to 6 servings

Contrary to my best intentions, I am not posting as much as I’d hoped since my husband passed away–suddenly and unexpectedly–on July 30…

…but I hope when I do, the recipes are worth waiting for.

As those of you who have experienced a loss such as this know, it’s a game-changer.  And, while we basically understand the rules of the game, we don’t know–and can’t necessarily anticipate–how they will play out, both in positive and negative ways.

I knew I would be busy with schoo, once it started on September 8, and my freelance work.  But, add to the mix a pair of 8 1/2 month old puppies (my dear, dear Minnie passed away less than a month after Joe); the administration of Joe’s estate; and a fuller, more diverse, and less predictable social life than I was accustomed to (I’m “trending,” don’t you know–ha!), and time has a way of ticking past, albeit in very meaningful ways, though sometimes with a steep learning curve.

However, I deeply value this blog and the opportunity to, not only share recipes with all of you but to connect with you arouond food, so I hope you will forgive me the infrequency of posts as I figure out how to achieve balance.

Speaking of that less predictable social life…last night, I served this impromptu soup–inspired by a recipe in my latest Southern Living Magazine (worth the subscription just to read Rick Bragg’s “Southern Journal” essay in the back of each issue)–to two girlfriends, one of whom brought her guitar, played a mini-concert in my breakfast room, and spent the night.  What a beautiful, beautiful gift.  This woman’s spirit is infused with magic.

The soup was a hit.  So, as the weather begins to turn colder, nourish body, mind, and soul with a cup of this nutritious deliciousness.  On the side, I like to serve a rice cake topped with one of my vegan cheese spreads (search this website for lots of tastt options) and a dab of my friend Rich’s chimichurri.  It’s the perfect mini-meal and, remember, I have proclaimed this the Year of the Mini-Meal.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1/8th teaspoon salt + more to taste

2 large gloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 teaspoon onion powder (I love its sweetness)

1/2 teaspoon coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1-15 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

4 1/2 cups vegetable broth or stock (I use one called a “no-chicken” broth that tastes richer to me) OR 4 1/4 cups vegetable broth and 1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 to 3 cups chopped fresh kale

1-15.5 ounce can rinsed and drained cannelini beans

Optional garnish: dollops of vegan sour cream or crema

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high.  Add onion and salt and saute, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until softened and beginning to show color around the edges.  Add garlic and sugar and saute, stirring, until nicely caramelized.  (This only takes a few minutes because of sugar.)  Stir in spices, followed by pumpkin, and slowly stir in liquid and nutritional yeast.  Add kale, a handful at a time, and let it begin to wilt before adding the next handful.  Stir in beans and heat through, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasoning, as you might choose to add more salt–since pumpkin is naturally sweet–cumin, and smoked paprika.  Serve topped with vegan sour cream or crema.






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Pasta with Corn Cream SauceYield: 4 servings

Ever since my husband suddenly passed away on July 30, friends have thought of the loveliest ways to nurture me, mind, body and soul.

Janie Jacobson Craig, known for her healthy cooking classes once taught out of the Kitchen Barn and now out of her stylish contemporary beach home, wanted me to join her to make this cleaned-up carbonara using corn cream.

I was intrigued, but I asked her if she would come to our house because leaving home some days made me feel untethered in an unplesant way.  So, she loaded up her basket with the ingredients and over she came.

The idea for the “cream” is a sensation; thank you Tim Maslow!  As for the rest of the recipe, which called for bacon and crab, we substituted vegan bacon and pinenuts for their pale color and sweetness.  To suggest a briny hint of the sea, we chose a sprinkling of dulce flakes.

I will definitely be makign this easy, elegant dish again and I hope you will.

1 pound pasta (we used a quinoa variety from Whole Foods)

7 ears corn, uncooked

2 tablespoons vegan butter

1/4 pound vegan bacon, chopped and cooked or crisped according to package directions; set aside

2 shallots, minced

2 large cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Olive oil

1/2 pound pine nuts

approximately 2 teaspoons dulce flakes

In a large stock pot over medium high, heat generously salted water to boiling.  Add pasta, return to a gently boil, lower heat, partially cover, and cook until al dente (time will vary depending on the type of pasta).  Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta water.

Meanwhile, make sauce.  Slice kernels from cobs and place in a food processor.  Run the blade of the knife along the cob over the food processor bowl to remove any remaining milk.  Process corn until smooth and then pass through a seive, pressing on solids. Reserve cream and save pulp for another use.  In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, melt butter.  Add shallot and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and continue sauteeing and stirring for another 30 seconds.  Add cooked pasta, corn “cream,” 1 1/4 cups water, and lemon juice.  Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until creamy and thickened.  Add more of the pasta water if necessary to reach the desired consistency.  Fold in vegan bacon and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve lightly drizzled with olive oil and garnished with pine nuts, lemon zest and dulce flakes.


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BLT Chickpea SaladYield: 4 servings

Back in the day, I loved a BLT.  But, these days, I love cruelty-free BLTs even better.  I mix up all the traditional ingredients using my favorite bacon subsititute and serve a mound atop a rice cake–this is the self-proclaimed Year of the Mini-Meal after all–with a garnish of homegrown basil for freshness.

1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas

4 slices cooked vegan bacon (choose your favorite brand or make your own from tempeh)

6 Romaine heart leaves, stacked and cut into 1/2″ slices

1 medium tomato, cored and diced

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 rice cakes

4 sprigs fresh basil

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except rice cakes.  Drizzle some of the dressing that will collect at the bottom over the cakes to slightly soften.  Then, mound one-fourth of mixture atop each cake and garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.  Serve immediately with a sharp knife and fork.

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Chickpea SaladYield: 4 servings

Once again, I must apologize for my second hiatus of the summer…

As most of you know, my life-force of a husband of 25 years (our anniversary is 9/15) suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on July 30 from acute cardiac arrest.  With more  love and support from our intersecting circles than anyone has a right to expect–a veritable wellspring of grace and goodness and a true embarrassment of riches–I was beginning the next phase of my journey and trying to imagine a new normal with my beloved Minnie the Great Dane.  Both of us were now without our mates as her Huffie passed away on December 13.

Then, on August 24, my beautiful girl was claimed by the sudden enslaught of a take-no-prisoners auto-immune disease in which the body destroys its own red blood cells as fast as they can be transfused, causing extreme anemia and then a seizure accompanied by nystagmus, from which she wasn’t going to recover.  I was shattered for many reasons, including that Minnie and I were going to make it through this first year together. My friend, Mary Beth, held me as I held Minnie telling her how much I love her, what a good dog she was, and how much I would miss her until well after she was gone.

As a friend wrote, my home had been emptied of my Virginia Beach family in a mere 9 months.  When I realized that there was no one who cared if I got up in the morning or came home in the evening, the overwhelming emotion was of being untethered.  So, the next day–I think Minnie would understand–the first order of business was to adopt two new dogs:  Urban and Patsy.  They had just come from an ASPCA in TN to our VA Beach SPCA where my husband was on the board and had served as president, as well as current treasurer.  I believe their country music star names were part of their branding.  But, Joe and I went to graduate school, met, and married in Nashville, so the names stuck.

This pair of 8-month old dolls have been acclimating beautifully to their new home for the last 10 days, including healing from their spay and neuter surgeries with cones on their heads 24-7.  But we have been a No-Cone Zone for 5 days and life is good, full, and busy.  Now that we have become a pack, the second order of business is the return to this, my beloved blog.

I have half-jokingly proclaimed this the Year of the Mini-Meal because, for over a month now, food–at least not in the robust quantities I consumed it before–has not only not been my obsession, but has been largely rejected by my body in its adrenlaine-powered fight or flight mode.

But when I do eat, as I have mentioned previously, my food needs to be more beautiful, simple, and nutritious than ever before.   And if I can eat it on a rice cake, all the better. So, enjoy this tasty stack as a snack, first course, or as your own mini-meal.


1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup finely minced tri-color bell peppers (e.g. red, yellow, and green)

1/4 cup shredded carrot

2 tablespoons lightly salted and roasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 rice cakes

4 thick tomato slices

1/2 cup chimichurri or vegan pesto

In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, peppers, carrot, seeds, mayo, and salt and pepper, lightly mashing chickpeas.  Spread each rice cake with 1 tablespoon of chimichurri or pesto.  Top each cake with one-fourth of the salad and a tomato slice.  Dollop one more tablespoon of chimichurri or pesto on top of each tomato slice and serve immediately with a sharp knife and fork.

July 2015


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Figgy Pudding SmoothieYield: 1 smoothie

As you have probably guessed by now, I am mad about figs. And so many generous friends and neighbors have brought me baskets and jars of them following Joe’s passing.

Tonight is our 7th annual Julia Child Birthday Bash–stay tuned for fabulous recipes and photos in the next few posts!–and I am making my Five-Minute Curried Figs Brulee, but I still have more than we will be able to enjoy this evening.

So, I made a fig smoothie today to drink on the way to yoga. Perfection!

Here’s the simple recipe:

1 cup ice

1 cup unsweetened soymilk (or your favorite plain or unsweetened non-dairy milk)

12 small fresh figs, stemmed

1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate (organic preferred)

Optional: sweetener of your choice to taste (I think it is sweet enough without adding additional sweetener)

Place all ingredients in a blender or, my preference, Nutri Bullet, and blend until very smooth.  Serve immediately.

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Peanut Butter, Granola, and Fresh Fig RicecakeYield: 2 ricecakes (recipe easily multiplies)

Still in mini-meal mode and heading out for a hike on the beautiful Noland Trail in Newport News, VA, with a couple of friends, I opted for a swig of soymilk and a grab-n-go breakfast “cake,” but no pancakes here.

I remembered that the lovely Martha Glasser had brought me a gift of some scrumptious homemade granola with pecans and dried cranberries, along with homemade flavored walnuts (slightly sweet) and pecans (rosemary-lime!), the day after Joe had passed away on July 30.

So, I spread a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter on a ricecake, sprinkled it with a couple more tablespoons of crunchy, toasty granola, and nestled 4 fresh fig halves on top for a breakfast that is beautiful, satisfying, quick and nutritious.  Use the best granola you can find or make, since there are so few ingredients in this recipe, if you can even call it that.

Enjoy until the next time, as there is sure to be more of these savory or sweet ricecake stacks on the platter!

2 ricecakes

1/4 cup peanut butter (I like crunchy)

1/4 cup granola (I used a pecan-dried cranberry)

4 fresh figs, halved lengthwise

Spread 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on each of the ricecakes.  Top each with 2 tablespoons of the granola and 4 fig halves.  Serve immediately.

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Curried Figs Brulee with PestoYield: 8 bruleed fig halves

As everyone probably knows now, when the rhythm of my life changed on July 30, so did my approach to cooking and eating.

For a week after my husband passsed away, I ate almost nothing.  But I have now segued to slightly more than nothing or what I call mini-meals.  They are gorgeous and nutritious, but they are tiny and, for folks eating normally, are perfect sides.  (These figs were today’s lunch with a peanut butter rice cake.)

Whereas, in days of old, communities rallied round those who had lost loved ones with heavy comfort foods.  In contrast, my tribe surrounded me, as I may have mentioned, with a bounty of fruits–figs and more figs–vegetables, salads, prepared vegan dishes, and vegan bakery treats that went into goodie bags for out-of-towners booked at the Westin for Joe’s (amazing) Celebration of Life.

My artist friend, Sheila Gioliti brought the biggest and the firmest figs which inspired this glorius oh-so-simple recipe.

4 large slightly firm fresh figs, stemmed and halved

2 teaspoons granualted or brown sugar (I use demerara)

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/8 teaspoon curry powder (mild or “warm”)

1/8th teaspoon smoked paprika

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon vegan pesto or chimichurri (or more to suit your taste)

Garnish: fresh basil or cilantro and pine nuts, roasted or not

Prheat broiler.  Arrange figs, cut side up, on a baking sheet.  In a small cup, whisk together sugar, salt, and curry powder.  Sprinkle on figs, dividing evenly among them.  Broil for 3 minutes or until surface of figs is slightly caramelized, but figs still hold their shape.  Top, if desired, with pesto or chimichurri and serve with fresh sprigs of basil or cilantro, and pine nuts.

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Ricecake with Hummus, Pesto, Baby Kale Salad and Fresh Figs

Yield: 4 servings

As many of you know, since July 30, I have not been cooking or eating much, though the urge is slowly coming back.

In terms of cooking, a bounty of vegan food gifts over the last two weeks made any food preparation I might do redundant.

And, in terms of eating, though I may not want much, when I do eat, I want my small meal to be beautiful, delicious, nutritious, and relatively quick and easy.  So, this simple stack gets a check in all of those boxes.

Granted, we all know, that ricecakes can be topped with darn near anything, but this is an especially good combination.  Very seasonal and satisfying.

4 ricecakes

1/2 cup hummus, homemade or prepared

1/4 cup vegan pesto, homemade or prepared

8 figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise

1/4 cup lightly dressed baby kale or spinach (I use a simple homemade vinaigrette)

4 smoked almonds

Sea salt

Spread each ricecake with 2 tablespoons hummus.  Top each with 1 tablespoon pesto and spread, leaving a border.  Divide greens among the ricecakes, and top eachwith 4 fig halves, 1 smoked almond, and a few grains of sea salt.  Serve immediately.



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White Bean-Fig GazpatchoYield: 2 servings

I deeply regret my 2 1/2 week hiatus from The Blooming Platter, and hope this is the beginning of the end of it.  As many of you know, my love, my husband of 25 years passed away from an acute coronoary on July 30 and life took on a new rhythm.

But, this past weekend, I already had a trip planned to meet my best friend from graduate school–we were both art history majors at Vanderbilt University–in Philadelphia for an “art tour.”  Joe was from Philly, so we had also planned a dinner at *Vedge (oh, wow–cannot recommend highly enough!) with his two sisters and our niece on Saturday night.  Knowing the trip would be “good medicine,” I didn’t change my plans, and I am thankful that I didn’t.

When I returned home, a friend picked me up at the airport and I invited another to stop by for dinner of chilled gazpatcho on her way home from the hospital where she had been with her mother.  Gifts of food are as much a part of death as flowers, and our friends had filled my refrigerator and freezer with a bounty of beautiful  fruit, vegetables, prepared vegan dishes and, okay, vegan cupcakes from My Vegan Sweet Tooth, a new vegan storefront bakery in town.

So, I swirled together cantaloupe, watermelon, fresh figs, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a half-pint of heirloom tomatoes, and some basil from my garden with cumin and smoked paprika to make the most beautiful of soups.  Then, as if to prove correct the “grieving” books and their gentle warnings of forgetfulness as part of the process, I left it on the counter in a sparkling crystal bowl in full reach of Minnie.  It got very quiet downstairs and then she came up with gazpatcho breath detectable from a foot away!

Not angry, just fearful, I first called our vet’s wife–on a Sunday–to make sure she’d survive.  And after learning that she would, I went looking for something else with which to make a cold soup.  And, though this combination of ingredients may sound a bit odd, my guest and I both thought the following combination of ingredients was delectable and I will be making it again and again.  Minne can’t say, as she didn’t get to taste this batch.

*V-Street, Vedge’s sister street food bar, specializing in flavor- and texture-forward small plates, is not to be missed either.  We ate three of our five meals at there, each one as delightful as the previous.

White Bean and Fresh Fig Gazpatcho

1 can white beans with juice

1 large tomato, cored and quartered

approximatley 8 to 10 fresh figs

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnishes: vegan sour cream, a few marinated veggies (onion, tomato and cucumber in a light vinaigrette), green or purple basil, and spiced pecans (I used rosemary-lime)

Place all ingredients except garnishes in food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached.  Serve chilled, garnished as desired.

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