The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Edamame HummusHummus has become ubiquitous, but as a high school (art) teacher, I am so glad to see something like it in school lunchboxes rather than some of the pre-hummus choices.

Despite the fact that it has become almost a reception menu cliche, I am always open to an especially tasty and pretty version that’s not the same-‘ole.

Preparing for a cooking demonstration at PETA headquarters that would precede a vegan Japanese lunch, I just created this beautiful light and springy rendition.  It is just as delcious served on raw cucumber or bias-cut carrot slices as it is on rice crackers.  Other options include as a dip with red, yellow, and orange bell pepper strips for snappy color contrast or spread on a wrap before stuffing it full of colorful, crunchy vegetables.

In other words, you can’t go wrong.  [Unless you are (tragically) allergic to soy, as edamame are soybeans.]

Note: I am almost positive that I purchased fresh ginger at the grocer store, but then couldn’t find it.  If I could have, I would have used about 1/4 teaspoon grated, so add if you like.

9 ounces cooked edamame, unsalted or lightly salted (the carton I purchased weighed this odd amount; approximately 1 to 1 1/4 cups)

2 large cloves garlic, halved

1/2 cup olive oil (you can try substituting up to 3 tablespoons with water)

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce or rice wine vinegar + a pinch of sugar (sold as “vegetarian” fish sauce in Asian markets)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 rounded teaspoon light miso (widely available in Asian markets)

1/8 teaspoon soy sauce

Accompaniments: sliced raw cucumber or bias-cut carrots; strips of red, orange, or yellow bell peppers; and/or rice crackers

 

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.  Serve with desired accompaniments.

 

 

 

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Maple Peanut Butter Crispy TreatsYield: approximately 10-12 heart treats

My version of this favorite “old school” lunchbox treat boasts just a hint of maple and vanilla that makes people go, “Mmm…hmm?!” as they devour every slightly sticky and not-too-sweet morsel.

To make them extra special, I use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut them into big hearts.   Or maybe I do it because I want to nibble on the scraps.  Although, if you have some self-control, the scraps can be slightly reheated and pressed into the cookie cutter like a mold to yield more treats.

Or, you can just mold the entire recipe into one big ball the size of your head and have a go at it.

 

1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

8 ounces crunchy or smooth peanut butter (about 1 cup)

1-10 ounce bag of vegan mini-marshmallows (I purchase at Whole Foods)

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 cups puffed brown rice cereal (I purchase at Whole Foods)

Grease a baking sheet and line with parchment; grease again and set aside or line a baking sheet with Silpat. In a 4-quart saucepan, heat butter, peanut butter, mini-marshmallows, agave nectar, and maple syrup over medium to medium-high heat, whisking frequently until completely melted and well-combined.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and cereal, 2 cups at a time.  Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet and, with buttered fingers, press the mixture into a rectangular shape a little more than an inch thick.  Cool and then chill, covered.  Remove from the refrigerator and, using a deep metal heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut slab into 8 to 10 heart-shaped treats.  Place scraps in a bowl, heat for about 10 seconds in the microwave, and then, with cookie cutter lying on baking sheet, press mixture into the cutter to the top.  Repeat with all of your scraps.  Cover unti serving time and serve at room temperature.

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Crab CakesYield: 8 cakes or (4 main dish or 8 appetizer servings)

When I hosted our Starlight Supper Club  in March, I made Hearts of Palm Cakes in honor of my late husband, Joe, as the Heart Association Ball happened to be the same night.  The recipe came from the Vedge cookbook which hails from the creator-owners of the eponymous restaurant in Philly, where Joe was born and raised.

As our group enjoyed those beautiful savory cakes, someone suggested that hearts of palm would be a nice addition to a vegan “crabcake.”  Say no more.  I was on it and these Sea Cakes are the result.  I’ve made them twice, tweaking my recipe the second time so that they are thicker in height and even more flavorful, though not as spicy as the first iteration; just gently flavored with Old Bay Seasoning.

I sometimes hire dog sitters to stay with my mischievous pups when I go out.  Last night was a dance gala kick-off of the truly special Virginia Arts Festival.  So two former students–wonderful twin sisters who live in the neighborhood–came to stay with Patsy and Urban.  I left the girls a dinner of these Sea Cakes, white bean salad, and a green salad.  Before the performance began, I received a text saying that everything was delicious.  I breathed a sign of relief that, not only were the dogs fine, but that the cakes received the teen stamp of approval.

1 1/2 cups textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Water

1 tablespoon dulce flakes (or 1 teaspoon Nori powder)

1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce (sold as “vegetarian” in Asian markets)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

!/2 cup diced or rough-chopped canned, drained Hearts of Palm

1/2 cup Panko Break Crumbs

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

Lemon Aioli Topping: 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise whisked together with 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and optional Old Bay Seasoning

Accompaniments: baby greens and lemon wedges

Place TVP in a 2 cup measure and then add warm water to equal 2 cups.  Allow to sit while you continue with the recipe. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except topping and accompaniments.  If mixture is too dry or too moist to hold together nicely, add more mayonnaise or bread crumbs.

Using 1/4 cup of the mixture, form into cakes approximately 1 x 3″ about an inch or two apart.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and set.  Serve topped with a dollop of the Lemon Aioli and sprinking of Old Bay Seasoning alongside a small mound of greens and a lemon wedge.

 

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Spring Vegetable Pot PieYield: 1 deep dish 8 or 9″ pot pie (6 servings)

The original recipe for this can’t-get-enough savory pot pie hailed from PETA, and it is a never-fail crowd-pleaser.  I have served it to omnivorous men, grandmothers, and vegetarian teens with similarly enthusiastic results.

A few years ago, a newspaper photographer at my home on assignment for a vegan cooking story asked if he could hire me to make one for the vegan guests at his casual outdoor wedding, which I did.  But almost didn’t.

He had asked me a fairly long time in advance and I marked it on my calendar, but forgot about it.  The Saturday of the wedding, I was in the gym doing leg curls facing a mirror when it literally hit me like a flash of light.  I think my eyes literally bugged out as I went into fight or flight mode.  If I left that moment and absolutely nothing went wrong, I would just barely have time to make the pie and deliver it to a neighboring town.

So, I raced out of there, flew into the grocery story because I knew the ingredients by heart, dashed home, made the pie, dressed and “Mapquested” the directions to his home (before GPS) while the pie baked, burned myself transferring it to the car, sailed down the interstate, and arrived trying to act nonchalant with my heart pounding, setting it down in perfect time.

Despite that bad memory, I make this pie whenever I need a man/crowd pleaser.  My nextdoor neighbor, Sonny, my go-to handyman since Joe passed away, absolutely loves it.  Since he won’t take cash for helping me out, except as reimbursement for money actually spent, I frequently pay him in scrumptious food, including this dish which he and his middle school daughter love, omniovores that they are.

Originally, I made this dish exactly according to the recipe and loved it every time.  But, because I am such a fan of sage and thyme with anything that is supposed to evoke “chicken,” I started adding a bit of those herbs along with frozen potatoes instead of canned ones, as I’m not a huge fan of canned anything unless it is beans or hearts of palm.

I trust you will love my version as much as everyone else and that it will become a staple in your home.

Note: you can use this basic method with any thick filling.  Wanting to do something nice for a neighbor whose granddaughter had just had surgery, I used a thick and spicy leftover bisque-type bean and “sausage” soup as the filling and it was a huge hit.

 

1 box Pepperidge farm puff pastry, thawed for 30 minutes on counter

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Approximately 1  1/2 cups frozen potatoes, cut into bite size pieces ( have even used sweet potatoes; if you can’t find frozen potatoes, use 1-15.5 ounce can of sliced potatoes, drained)
1-16 ounce package (1 1/2 cups) frozen mixed vegetables, e.g. corn kernels, peas, diced carrots, green beans, etc.
1/2 pound seitan or “chicken” substitute, cut into bite size pieces

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Press one sheet of thawed puff pastry into bottom and up sides of deep dish pie pan.  Because it is square, it won’t cover sides completely, but no worries.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until puffed and just beginning to turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a large cast iron skillet, combine the nutritional yeast and flour with a whisk and stir constantly over medium heat until fragrant and lightly toasted.  Whisk in the oil to make a rew.  Raise the temperature to medium-high and then slowly whisk in the broth, garlic garlic powder, sage, thyme, and pepper. Stir in the frozen vegetables, potatoes, and seitan or “chicken” substitute and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until heated through.

When ready, remove the pie pan from the oven with the puffed bottom crust.  Mound the filling mixture on top, allowing the crust to deflate.  Cut functional or decorative “vents” in the second sheet of puff pastry and gently lay over the surface of the filling, tucking under corners and pressing the dough against the bottom crust and exposed pan to seal, being careful not to burn your self.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the top pastry crust is pugged and golden.  Let pie rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

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Spicy Coconut Milk, Black Bean and Sausage BisqueYield: 8 servings

This is one of the creamiest, richest tasting soups–without being too damaging in the calorie department (if you use lite coconut milk)–and a little spicy which will clear the sinuses, helpful during this pollen/flu season.

It’s simple and simply delicious, especially topped with vegan sour cream and kale chips (I purchased these from Whole Foods).

1 tablespoon oil

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

12 to 14 ounces vegan Mexican flavored sausage or chorizo (I used Field Roast brand chipotle sausage), diced

1-15.5 ounce can coconut milk, lite or regular (I used lite)

1-15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained OR a canned vegan black bean soup like Goya brand, not drained

1/4 cup Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

4 cups loosely packed baby spinach

Juice 1/2 large lime

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Vegetable broth

Vegan sour cream

Kale chips

 

Heat oil over medium-high in a 4-quart saucepan.  Add onion and saute, stirring 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add sausage and saute, stirring, another couple of minutes or until beginning to develop a golden crust.  Stir in coconut milk, beans, and cream cheese, and bring to a simmer, stirring until smooth and creamy.  Add spinach by the handful, and stir until wilted.  Thin, if desired, with vegetable broth and heat through.  Add lime, season to taste, and serve warm in bowls topped with vegan sour cream and kale chips.

 

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Peeps in Nest with Wooden EggsI don’t often do “cute,” but these vegan “peeps,” first created and published On April 22, 2014, are too cute and delicious not to share again.

~Happy Rebirth/Reawakening!

 

Yield: 8 Peeps

These “Peeps” that I created–which I think look more like Toucans!–were inspired by “Ugly Ducklings” sold at a local Mediterranean restaurant called Azar’s.

I wanted to take the store-bought ones to an Easter dinner on Sunday, but the restaurant was closed and I could find no recipe, so I decided to “wing it,” so to speak.  Fortunately, the ingredients are few.

I’m so glad I did, as they are super simple and so unique!  I apologize for not having them ready to share with you in advance of Easter, but they are nice for spring in general, and certainly next year!

Resting in decorative cupcake liners and tucked, along with softly colored wooden eggs,  into their straw nest, they looked peepin’ adorable and were also a rave in the taste department!

They seem especially appropriate for spring, but the ingredients are pretty season-less, so enjoy all year when a festive presentation and a little decadent bite is in order.

 

Approximately 1/2 cup (or slightly less) almond paste (I purchase it in a can on the baking aisle of the grocery store)

16 pitted dates, opened out (be sure to use fairly moist ones)

1-9 or 10 ounce package vegan chocolate chips

8 whole roasted and lightly salted cashews

 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.  Using your fingers, mold a scant tablespoon of almond paste into an egg shape.  Moisten your fingers if your paste seems dry.  Then press into one of the dates, pressing another date over the top to encase the almond paste inside, forming an egg or bird body shape.  Continue with all remaining dates and almond paste.  Cover and refrigerate them for about a half hour.  Melt chocolate in microwave in a narrow deep bowl for ease of dipping.  (For 9 to 10 ounces, I have found that 1 minute on full power, a slight stir, and then 20 to 30 seconds at full power, followed by a good whisking works in my microwave.)  Pierce each date-almond paste ball with a toothpick.  One at a time, dip them into the chocolate, covering completely, and place on prepared baking sheet.  Remove toothpicks and “patch” hole with a dab of melted chocolate if need be.  Then, one at a time, dip half of each cashew into the chocolate and attach it to the top of each “body,” slightly toward one end, with the cashew “beak” curving into the body and touching at each tip–chocolate toward the center–so that it is secure.  Refrigerate for a half hour or until chocolate is hardened.  Arrange as desired and serve.

Note: you will have some chocolate left over, but when it gets low, it is difficult to coat the date-almond paste balls.

 

Close-Up

 

Just-Dipped Peeps

Just-Dipped Peeps

 

Nest Ready for Peeps

Nest Ready for Peeps

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Chocolate Chess Pie 2Yield: one 8-inch pie

I don’t know quite why I got such a hankerin’ for this pie, but I did and the first experiment was an epic fail resulting in an epic oven cleaning.

But this?  This is perfection!

I enjoyed a little and gave the rest to my omnivorous neighbor who has been doing heavy smoke alarm testing and reaplacement labor at my house and he LOVED it.  (They were all working but I’m not sure why they weren’t all sounding when the first experiement bubbled over and burned all over the bottom of my oven, filling the house with smoke and that acrid aroma.  Maybe it was mostly aroma and just seemed like smoke.)

 

Note: several hours before you plan to bake the pie, prepare the cashews:

1 cup roasted and lightly salted cashews or halves and pieces, covered with hot water in a small bowl and left to soak for 3 hours or until softened and most of water is absorbed, drained (you can use raw cashews, but I think the roasted have more of the desired rich flavor for this recipe)

1 1/2 cups natural granulated sugar (I like demerera)

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

4 tablespoons vegan butter, melted

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons plain soy or almond creamer

3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I like to use Hershey’s Special Dark)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 homemade or purchased 8-inch vegan pie crust, thawed (if frozen), and unbaked  (I used Marie Callender’s for the sake of time, but I much prefer homemade)

Optional accompaniments: powdered sugar, vegan whipped cream, or vegan vanilla ice cream

Optional garnish: whole cashew nuts or pecan halves

Preheat over to 300 degrees.  In a food processor, puree drawined cashews for 3 or so minutes until very smooth.  Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth and completely combined.  Scrape into thawed pie shell and gently smooth top.  Bake for 45 minutes or until set.  Cool on a wire rack, cover, and chill for a couple of hours before slicing and serving plain or with a drift of powdered sugar, a dollop of vegan whipped cream, or a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream.  Garnish, if desired, with a cashew nut or pean half.

 

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Massaman Curry(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Last Day of Winter! It was 39 days ago that I took on the challenge of cooking my way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook “Julie and Julia” style. I had planned to finish 37 winter recipes in the 39 days left of winter. (I got a bit of a late start!) I only came up 5 recipes short and I’m actually pretty proud of that fact. I will simply finish these up when winter starts back in December.

There are a few recipes I have made but not written about – some were total disasters (Sweet Potatoes and Cannellini Beans in a Sage butter Phyllo Crust) and some were so easy they really were totally uneventful Cabbage, Apple, Carraway Saladbut surprisingly delicious (Maple Mustard Roasted Brussel Sprouts). Some I have modified so much they were unrecognizable from the original recipe, namely the Massaman Curry Tofu with Sweet Potatoes. (My sweet potato was rotten so I though long and hard and substituted fettucine.)
For St. Patty’s Day, my husband cooked his traditional corned beef and cabbage. He had a handful of raw cabbage left over so I grabbed it and threw together the Cabbage, Apple and Caraway Salad. It was all mine and really delicious. I only made a small bowl for me because I knew my guys would refuse it because of the fruit in it.
My total fail was the sweet potato/phyllo dough recipe. I refused to believe working with phyllo dough was all that hard so I may have skipped some of the precautions in the recipe. By the end, my “dough” looked like a heap of shredded paper and the remainder went straight into the trash. I ran out of butter and sage halfway through so I simply made more. The biggest complaint from my overly honest family was the overpowering sage flavor. Well no wonder! In effect I had doubled it by making more. Lesson learned!  [Betsy’s note: judging from what Kim has told me and from her photograph, it appears that perhaps her dough dried out because it isn’t difficult and the recipe is delicious.]

Phyllo Before TrashingThis past weekend I babysat my little one year old grand daughter for 3 days and nights. What an experience! It was all I could do to get my teeth brushed much less make a recipe, but I felt the need to do at least one during that time. This is when I chose the brussel sprouts. To be totally honest I thought they were going to go from oven straight to garbage disposal because no one in my house likes them. The recipe promised they would be “as addictive as French Fries or popcorn” and although I thought that was a bit of a stretch, I tried them when they came out of the oven. Wow! This is the only word I can use to describe them!

My family are also fans although my son picked up the use of the maple syrup and balked. I really think he saw it on the counter because I left it out and would never have known if I had simply put it away. The rest of my family is asking me to make this one again so they can all try it – they don’t believe that brussel sprouts can be that good.

I have to say I am so happy that I took on this challenge. I have forced myself to try flavor variations that I never would have tried if I had simply read the recipe. I opened my family’s eyes to the fact that vegetables can be really tasty and not so boring. We have tried things we never knew existed like tofu and tempeh (the jury is still out on tempeh).

Obviously my family is on to me and what I am doing, and while it took a few weeks to get them on board, they are now actually looking forward to what recipe I am going to try next. We are all very excited to try the spring recipes. It will be a little less hectic for me. Instead of one recipe a day, I only need to do 2-3 recipes per week to finish by summer. So bring on the spring recipes!!

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Sloppy Joes(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Last night I heard my men complaining about how they never get a “normal” meal anymore so I felt sorry for them because it’s true and I decided to give them a break…sort of.

I chose Sloppy Tempeh Sandwiches with Marinara Mushrooms and Spinach. Ok I told them it was Sloppy Joes with a Twist. Not a lie!

I had this on my list for last week but could not find the Tempeh to save my life. I looked everywhere. The other day I was standing in front of the organic section in produce and looked up and there it was right in front of me. I really wish they would group these things together for us non-vegans!

Tempeh…what exactly is it? You can’t help but wonder when you see it. It’s a bit scary looking. I was reading the recipe and it warns you to steam the tempeh to “mellow the flavor”. Hmmmm….why? What does it really taste like? I decided to look it up online while it was steaming.

I scanned through an article I saw from Time Magazine. The first words I picked out were “hardcore vegan” and “fungus” – wait…back this boat up! Fungus?? It indicates that during processing a “thick white mat of ‘mycelia’ – a kind of fungus branches over the tempeh.” Whoa!! Ok I’m still going to try it but the guys are definitely going to want the traditional burger.

Now I was lucky enough to score some hamburger that had been marked down twice (no judging – remember the tempeh article had the word “fungus” in it) so I grabbed that out of the fridge. I prepared the sauce first and set it aside then browned the tempeh to use in one half of the sauce and the burger to use in the other half. I love that healthy items like spinach are incorporated into a typically unhealthy meal and they like spinach so it’s a win-win. I also love the addition of “cream cheese” although, as you know, my cream cheese comes from a little silver and blue box.

When it came time to serve it up, I used some hamburger buns I already had, but I dressed them up with some rosemary olive oil and put them under the broiler to toast. I feel like a real cook when I do stuff like that! I chose the tempeh for myself but my son wanted to try a bite after he read the article about how it is made. I love a boy’s natural curiosity to smell and taste things they think are gross. It reminded me of the Harry Potter jelly beans he insisted I buy him when he was little because they contained flavors like ear wax, earthworm, and vomit. Anyway, he admitted he liked but didn’t love the tempeh version and when asked if he preferred traditional or tonight’s sauce, he chose traditional. Well you can’t win them all but it’s interesting to note that everyone finished their dinner.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Kale Pizza(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Today I have a lot to write about, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfy. Tuesday night, Betsy DiJulio, the author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook, came to my house to cook with me!! So excited!!

Of course I did the usual when someone is coming over – vacuum up the dog hair, clean the bathroom (remember I have boys!) and clean my kitchen. But I wanted to impress so I chose an appetizer and a dessert from the book to make beforehand. I chose Orange-Espresso Chocolate Chip and Hazelnut Cookies. I followed the recipe exactly being super careful not to inadvertently put something non-vegan in them. Everything was going well until I went to get my coffee beans out to grind one teaspoon of espresso powder. I could not find them anywhere. I love those beans. I had bought them at a little coffee roasting shop on the way to Luray, VA – but they were nowhere. So I racked my brain to come up with an alternative. Finally I ripped open a little Keurig cup and ran it through my grinder to make it into powder. It worked! One teaspoon of “espresso” done!

Next step was the chocolate chips. That’s when I saw the word “vegan” before the words “chocolate chips”. Noooooo!! I had not even considered that my chips were not vegan. Since I didn’t have any idea where to start looking for vegan chips, I was not going to the store so I divided the dough in half. One half gets real chocolate chips and the other will be Orange “Coffee” Hazelnut Cookies. (Thankfully she brought an amazing dessert so we didn’t need them.) I did, however, bake a test batch before dinner and I must say that these cookies are incredible. I have a hard time believing that this dough does not have eggs. They bake up just like any other cookies. My son looked skeptical and politely declined them but later I found the half empty container on the counter so he must like them too.

Mushrooms with SherryThe appetizer I chose was Sherried Mushroom Bruschetta. I have been looking forward to trying this recipe for a while – it sounded so good! I loved putting this together with the obvious exception that I had to use my dumb food processor. Later in the evening I did learn that silken tofu is different than the refrigerated tofu I used but no matter – I think it came out great. [Betsy’s note: it was perfection!] I got a bit heavy handed with the red pepper flakes but no one seemed to mind. My son only had a problem with the gray color but once he tasted it, he was sold.

So now my preparations are done…until I sat down and read through the recipe we had chosen to make. The pizza dough for the Kale and Sundried Tomato Pizza takes two hours to rise! I decided if I didn’t take this part on by myself we would not be eating til 10 PM. Even though I have never made pizza dough, I put on the how-hard-can-it-be attitude and got busy. And it really wasn’t too hard. I did not cheat either. I really used wheat flour. I had bought this to make dog biscuits a while ago and it was sealed up in the back of my cabinet. Nothing flew out of it when I opened it so we were good to go.

As soon as I got the dough set up to rise, Betsy arrived. She came in with an amazing looking cake roll with salted caramel icing. OK we can skip dinner now! It turned out to be a girl’s night since my husband was out for the evening and my son left for his Krav Maga class. (Oh, before he left, he pulled out a container of pork BBQ leftovers from the fridge and starts eating it out of the container right there in the kitchen. I was cringing, hoping Betsy wouldn’t notice…but she did. She was so cool about though. And that’s my family!!).

Anyway we chose a wine and started cooking. She promised me I would love the kale but I was skeptical watching her cut it up. She insisted I try it raw. She ate hers, but mine ended up in the sink. Sorry! I couldn’t even pretend to like it raw. Not good! Next she started the “cheese.” This was not my area – you know how much I cheat with real cheese – so I stepped back and watched her make it. I loved it! Would I give up my cheese for it? No, but I really loved it.

Betsy Making Pizza CrustWhen the dough was done rising, she showed me how to press it out by hand into a circle. Then we prepared the pan to sauté the kale – I forgot to turn the burner on but that was the only glitch. We put the pizza together and got it into the oven. Then we got to just hang out, she met my turtle, Desiree, and we went outside to check out my herb garden. My dog Allie was already her best friend at this point. Before long the pizza was out of the oven and ready. We took some pictures (of course!) and then served it up.

My son was back from class at this point and joined us for dinner. We loved the pizza! Even with kale!! It was flavorful and salty and the kale was very tender. We agreed later it may have been too salty because I only had course sea salt and no grinder. [Betsy’s note: totally my fault; I cook with coarse sea salt and I just wasn’t careful–must have been the wine and the great conversation.]   My husband was quick to point out the saltiness too when he tried it later – this from a guy who snacks on bouillon cubes?! Really?

The time finally came when I could try the cake she brought. OMG! So good! As soon as she posts that recipe I will be lifting it right off her website.

We had so much fun cooking and laughing together but the time came when she did have to get back home to her puppies. I loved learning so many new ways of cooking healthier. I love that she is so non-judgmental about my family’s food choices and is supportive of how I am incorporating her amazing recipes into my way of life. She is one of the sweetest, most gracious people I know and I am glad I can call her my friend. It really was a great evening.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

 

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