The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Quick ChilaquilesYield: 2 servings

Joe and I go out for Mexican food at least once a week–alternating between two neighborhood restaurants– and, last night, we both ordered something different than we normally do.  He, an omnivore, ordered chilaquiles and I ordered what I didn’t realize was vegan fajitas, as it was called something like “Vegetarian E,” with a side of refried beans.  Had I realized, I would have known it would be way too much food, though I never mind tasty leftovers.

I topped my beans with a few of the griddled veggies–onions, red and green peppers, and mushrooms–including some of those nice deeply caramelized bits, and enjoyed them with a side of tortilla chips (too many!) and fresh, zesty pico de gallo.  I felt completely sated, yet there was a heaping mound of the vegetables still left and three tortillas rolled up in foil.  So, we packed it all up and brought it home.

Having considered lots of options for those vegetables–some I hope to try in the future–I ultimately decided on my own version of chilaquiles for lunch today.  I sliced the tortillas, pan sauteed them in a little oil, crumbled in some tofu and spices which I sauteed until the tofu began to turn the barest hint of golden brown, added the veggies with a little salsa and nutritional yeast, and sauteed the whole mixture until heated through.

I hope you find this quick Mexican melange as addicting as I did topped with a dollop of vegan sour cream and a slice of marinated cucumber.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3-8 inch flour tortillas, stacked, rolled, and cut into 1/2-inch clices

Sea salt

7 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed gently with paper towel (half of a 14 ounce box)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 cups sauteed and slightly caramelized fajita veggies (sliced onion, red and green bell peppers, and mushrooms)

2 tablespoons prepared salsa (I used a pineapple variety)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Garnish(es): vegan sour cream, sprigs of fresh cilantro, slices of cucumber or lime, and lightly salted and roasted papitas (pumpkin seeds)

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add tortillas and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring constantly, until beginning to turn crisp. Crumble in tofu, sprinkle with cumin and smoked paprika, and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes or until tofu becomes a little drier and begins to turn a light golden brown.  Scrape up any bits of tortilla or tofu that begins to stick on the bottom of the skillet and turn brown, as they add great flavor.  Add the vegetables, salsa, and nutritional yeast, and continue sauteing, stirring, and scraping, until heated through, only a couple more minutes.  Serve immediately garnished as desired.

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Vietnamese Tofu Stack with Golden Shitake Saute, Herb and Peanut Pesto, and Pickled Cucumber-CarrotsYield: 4 servings

This sensational stack was inspired by dinner Friday night at Vietnam Garden (with locations in VA Beach and Norfolk, VA).  My dinner was actually a vegan Pho with fried tofu strips, but I wanted to create a dish that capitalized on all of the same delicious tastes and textures without needing to fry the tofu, nor up the carb content with noodles.  And this beautiful dish does just that.

I do love the hydrating properties of Pho–especially after hot yoga on Friday nights(!)–and I know I could put anything in it that I wanted, e.g. unfried tofu and no noodles, but the truth is that I also didn’t want to take the time to create a rich homemade stock which is essential to Pho.

My resulting “stack” accomplished exactly what I hoped for and it is addicting!  I recommend making the Herb and Peanut Pesto and the Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish a day ahead so that the dish goes together even faster.  But, if your schedule doesn’t allow for that, it is still a pretty quick dish and the flavors will be plenty developed.  Just make pesto first, followed by the relish and let them sit while you saute the mushrooms and broil the tofu.

The presentation is stunning with hardly any effort thanks to the beautiful contrasting colors and shapes of the ingredients.  Your family will be wondering who’s coming to dinner!  On the other hand, make it for guests and they will be sure you labored for hours especially for them.

Vietnamese Tofu Stack with with Golden Shitake Saute, Herb and Peanut Pesto, and Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish

1-14 ounce box extra-firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 8 slices

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Soy sauce (or tamari)

Herb-Peanut Pesto (recipe follows)

Golden Shitake-Onion Saute (recipe follows)

Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish m(recipe follows)

Sprigs of fresh thai basil, cilantro, mint; lime wedges; and/or chopped peanuts

Place tofu on an oiled or Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the barest hint of sea salt and pepper on each piece of tofu.  Then place one drop of soy sauce on each and rub in with your fingers to completely cover the top surface. Broil tofu or 5 minutes or until golden and slightly set.  Remove pan from oven, top each piece of tofu with about 1 generous tablespoon of Herb-Peanut Pesto, spread to the edges, and broil for another 2 minutes to heat and set pesto topping.

To serve:  spoon 1/4 of mushrooms and onions in the center of each serving plate.  Top with two pieces of broiled tofu, slightly overlapped.  Arrange Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish over the top and garnish as desired with a sprig of fresh herbs, wedge of lime, and/or sprinkling of chopped peanuts.  Serve immediately.


Herb-Peanut Pesto

(Note: at the Kroger where I shop, herbs are sold in .66 ounce containers and my garden herbs, other than rosemary and thyme, are not thriving yet, plus we can’t grow cilantro well in our climate.)

.66 ounces fresh Thai or Italian basil (Thai basil is readily available in Asian markets)

.66 onces fresh cilantro

.66 ounces fresh mint

1 small (3 inches) mild to medium chili pepper, stemmed and seeded

1/2 cup lightly salted and roasted peanuts

1 large garlic clove

Juice of 1 small lime

2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian at Asian markets)

1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  With motor running, drizzle in olive oil to form a pesto, scraping down sides of bowl onc eor twice.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.  If time allows, chill until serving time.


Golden Shitake-Onion Saute

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

Pinch sea salt

10 ounces golden or regular shitakes, sliced about 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick

2 large garlic clove, minced

In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring frequently for a minute or two to soften.  Add mushrooms and saute for another two to three minutes or until they have cooked down and are beginning to turn lightly golden brown.  Add garlic and continue sauteing and stirring just for another 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.


Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish

1-8 inch cucumber, thinly sliced (I use a mandolin for this task)

3/4 cup baby carrots, finely chopped (I use a food processor for this task)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar (or granulated sugar)

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or to taste

Gently toss together all ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  If time allows, chill until serving time.

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MandolinOne of our many culinary wedding gifts was a mandolin made for home use, which I used early on, just about sliced my finger off, and promptly gave away.

It’s been many years since then and, with all of the cooking I’ve done, I’ve never felt I needed or wanted another mandolin.  But something I saw–probably on a cooking show–had me thinking about them again.  And, this winter, I abruptly decided I had to have one.  So I popped into our local kitchen shop, asked for their best recommendation, and emerged with the GSD Haushaltgerate 30 Mandolin for under $70 which you can purchase on ebay here if you are unable to find one in your area.

Love it!  It comes with few (illustrated) instructions because few are needed: it couldn’t be quicker or easier to operate.

Be sure to use the guard to protect your fingers well before you think you need it.  The little prongs pierce the food and hold it in place so that you end up with few remnants that aren’t perfectly sliced and diced.

As for cleaning, just rinse with warm water, as instructed, lest you wound yourself.

Stay calm and slice on!

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Peach pancakes

Yield: 4 servings

Las Vegas not the first place you think of when someone mentions gourmet vegan food?  Me either.

But that’s about to change thanks to the chefs at The Wynn Resort-Las Vegas teaming up with celebrity vegan chef and cookbook author, Tal Ronnen. Together, they created a vegan menu even a meat-craving–or carving–high roller would love.  (I am a longtime Ronnen fan and owner of his bestselling cookbook, The Conscious Cook.)

To help introduce their vegan menu to a broader public–so that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas(!)–The Wynn invited vegan bloggers like me to adapt one of the dishes Ronnen created for their menu and share both the recipe and rationale.  Such an invitation gave me pause because the last thing any of his dishes need is adapted.  They all look gorgeous and sound delicious.

But, since our area of coastal Virginia has been bitten hard by the craft beer craze and since peaches grow so beautifully here in the south–never mind that ginger and basil are such a perfect pairing with peaches–I decided to combine them to create my own version of Peach Pancakes.  The Wynn’s are served with peach compote and honey butter so, mind you, mine are not an improvement on theirs; rather just a twist…or a flip, as it were.

Usually I beg off when my husband books a trip to Vegas, but the next time he decides to head out there for a UFC event, I may just have to tag along to enjoy dining at The Wynn!

Las Vegan anyone?


Fresh Vegan Peach-Basil-Maple-Ale Chutney

2 medium peaches, seeded and medium-finely diced (I leave the skin on for more color and nutrition)
1 cup “ale” (use your favorite craft beer or ale)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
8 large basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and very thinly sliced to make chiffonade
2 tablespoon demerara sugar (or substitute an additional tablespoon of maple syrup)
4 tablespoons maple syrup

Stir together all ingredients in a small or medium saucepan and simmer over medium-high, uncovered, while you make the pancakes or until the juice has reduced and chutney has thickened.

Vegan Ginger-Ale Pancakes

½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup self-rising flour
2 tablespoons natural or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or to taste (or about 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh grated ginger)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup “ale” (the remainder of the 12 ounce bottle used in the chutney, above)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (plain or vanilla, lite or regular, would also be good)
Vegan butter and/or vegetable oil for frying
Fresh Vegan Peach-Basil-Maple-Ale Chutney
Sprigs of fresh basil

Preheat oven to warm. In a medium mixing bowl, place first 6 dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in beer and soymilk. Whisk together until well combined. In a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the vegan butter, oil or a combination. (I like a combination: the oil reduces chances of burning while the butter contributes flavor.) Using a scant 1/4 cup measure, make pancakes, two at a time. Cook two-three minutes on the first side until you get a nice rise, a few bubbles appear, and the edges appear set. Gently flip and cook another couple of minutes on the reverse. Add butter and/or oil to keep skillet greased as needed. If pancakes are cooking too quickly, lower heat to medium, especially for second side. When cooked through, remove pancakes to plates or a serving platter, keep warm, and repeat with remaining butter or oil and pancake batter. Serve each short stack with Fresh Vegan Peach-Basil-Maple-Ale Chutney spooned over the top and a sprig of fresh basil.

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Asparagus, Leek and Fennel Spring StewYield:  2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings

This simple “stew” is much lighter–in color and heft–than a winter stew and really just refers to the fact that the lovely spring vegetables are married in a creamy, white wine-kissed sauce.  In both texture and flavor, it is addicting.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced

1 small-medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced + 2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds

Sea salt

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 bunch asparagus (the thinest and most tender that you can find), *trimmed, and cut into about 2-inch pieces

1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add leeks, fennel bulb (not fronds), and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, for a about 3 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften and turn translucent.  Add garlic and continue to saute for another minute, stirring, followed by asparagus for another 2 to 3 minutes or until tender, but still bright green.  Cooking time will depend on diameter of spears.  Stir in cream, white wine, fennel fronds, and lemon zest, and heat though, continuing to stir frequently.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and additional sea salt.  Serve immediately.

*Trimming asparagus: though this may seem wasteful, grasp one asparagus spear at each end between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.  Pull fingers down to bend the spear until it snaps.  The point at which it snaps is the point at which all spears should be trimmed for the tenderest spears.

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Lemony Agean Artichoke and Chickpea SpreadLast week, I was in Mississippi, aka the ‘Sip, visiting my family when we suddenly realized that we had three guests joining us for happy hour and nothing to serve them.  My parents–children of the depression, the canned food-centric ’50s and ’60s, and survivors of Hurricane Katrina–always have a well-stocked pantry with overflow in two remote locations that I know of.

So, I quickly surveyed the shelves, selected a can of chickpeas and of artichoke hearts, and moments later–thanks to a food processor and a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Greek seasoning, salt and pepper–this crowd-pleasing appetizer was born.

Though each is a little different, commercial preparations of Greek seasoning–at least the two the I have taste-tested–are perfectly compatible with the other ingredients.  But feel free to flavor it with your favorite herbs and spices, fresh or dried.  In particular, I am eager to try this recipe with beau monde seasoning.

1-15 ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained

1-15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

2 large cloves garlic

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 rounded teaspoon Greek seasoning

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional garnish: fresh lemon slices/wedges and sprigs of fresh herbs

Accompaniments: crackers, crostini, toasted bagels/mini bagels

Place all ingredients, except sea salt, in a food processor and pulse until a creamy, but textured, consistency is reached, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as necessary.  Check for salt, season accordingly, and pulse again, just to combine. Chill, covered, and bring to room temperature before serving, or serve immediately with crackers, crostini, or toasted bagels, garnished as desired with fresh lemon slices/wedges and fresh herbs.  (In the photo, I used thyme.)

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Vegan PeepsI am SO sorry for being neglectful of my blog!  The spring at most high schools, including in art departments, is especially busy.  Plus, last weekend, I was honored to serve as a Council Chaperone for a favorite student (one of many, many) at our school’s amazing Leadership Workshop at Triple-R Ranch from Friday to Sunday.  This week was the last of the quarter, so grades had to be posted by 2:30 p.m. yesterday, but we taught all day instead of having a “Teacher Records Day” because of our district’s Snow Day Make-Up plan.  And I leave shortly to visit my family for a week.  Whew!

But, I did want to post this recipe for Vegan Peeps for Easter–I hope it’s not too late–before I “hop” on a plane.  With the few ingredients on hand, they go together quickly and would be fun to do with kids or a group of friends.

These birds travel nicely nested in a bowl, as I took them to some friends’ house for an Easter dinner last year.

We joke about them looking like Easter Toucans. :)

Happy Spring!

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Butternut Squash OrecchiettiYield: 4 servings

I know it’s the first day of spring, but if you’ll allow me one more fleeting cold weather recipe, I think you’ll be glad you did!

This is my final taste test and recipe inspired by a bountiful box of vegan cheeses sent to me by the good folks at GO Veggie!  If, like me, you thought all of their products were vegetarian, but not vegan, we were wrong.  Just look for the purple label and consult their store locator on their website.

I had used the GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping in my luscious Vegan Cheesy Artichoke Dip with Greens, Mushrooms, and Water Chestnuts, but there it was mixed with other cheeses.  Here, it is the only cheese, so its flavor had to be exactly right and it was!

A very few other recipe notes:

1)  Use any kind of pasta you choose for this recipe.  I love orecchiette  because each little ear-shaped piece of pasta is like a miniature cup to hold the scrumptious sauce.  But if you have other pasta on hand, you needn’t purchase more.

2)  Butternut squash is creamy, delicious, and helathful, but a whole fresh one can be a bit unweildy to prepare.  I find that a serrated knife can sometimes be more effective than a chef’s knife for removing both ends because the “teeth” really bite in.  And the skin is most efficiently removed with a vegetable peeler rather than a knife.  I cut off the neck of the squash and deal with the neck and bulbous base separately.  For this recipe I used only the neck flesh.  I seeded the bulbous base with a spoon, cut it into wedges, stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and roasted it a few days later for a delectable Coconut-Red Curry with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tofu.

3)  Finally, just remember to save some of the pasta water when you drain the pasta, as that starchy water is the magic sauce thickener/silkener.


8 ounces orecchiette  (I usually cook the whole 12 ounce box and remove one-third of the cooked pasta for pasta salad)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

Sea salt

1/2 large bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

2 large cloves garlic

1-14 to 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice

1 to 2 ladlesful pasta water

1/4 cup plain nondairy creamer (soy or coconut milk)

2 tablespoons dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)

2 cups firmly packed baby kale leaves

1/4 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping plus extra for topping if desired

Freshly ground black pepper

4 sprigs fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium high.  Add pasta, stir, partially cover, return water to a gentle boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook pasta according to package directions, usually 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove 2 ladlesful (about 1 cup) of pasta water into a heatproof bowl and set aside.  Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add butternut squash and a pinch of salt, toss to coat, and then spread into a single layer.  Cook approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender but still holds its shape and starts to develop a little caramelization, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add bell pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and heat through.  Stir in 1 ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of pasta water and heat mixture until simmering.  Stir in creamer and white wine, heating through.  Thin sauce, if desired, at any point with remaining ladleful of water.  Sprinkle kale on top of mixture and allow it to start to wilt.  Then gently fold it into the sauce along with 1/4 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping and the drained pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately topped, if desired, with additional parmesan cheese and a sprig of fresh basil.

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It finally feels like spring though, don’t get me wrong, I adore winter with its bare bones and harsh beauty, but it is nice to step outsdie without my body tensing up.  Actually, it does in a kind of conditioned response, but then relaxes again immediately.

So, with spring veg like asparagus on my mind and St. Patty’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d re-post a Vegan Puff Pastry Sandwich Filled with Roasted Asparagus, Green Pea Hummus and Vegan Orange-Chipotle Mayonnaise that I created one year especially for the occasion, and a delish mint-chocolate Vegan Grasshopper Pie, kindly posted by Tofutti, that I created another year, also for this greenest of holidays.

Yes, with its layers, the sammie is a little more effort than the typical BUT it is worth it.  And you can whip up the humms and mayo in a flash while the asparagus roasts and the puff pastry bakes.

Get your leprechaun on!


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Thai Pumpkin and Tofu in Coconut Red Curry Sauce--Restaurant Leftovers Redux

Yield: 2 servings

I LOVE Thai food but, let’s face it, those creamy coconut milk dishes–even vegan–are pretty indulgent in the calorie department.  So, recently, when we went out for Thai, I allowed myself part of my dinner of pumpkin and tofu in coconut red curry sauce–which was mostly velvety rich sauce–and brought the rest home.

Rather than just eat the leftovers “as is,” I decided I could make them more healthful and colorful while stretching them into two more meals with the addition of just a very few fresh ingredients.

So, that’s what I did, and it was outstanding!  Following is my easy recipe.  Because restaurant dishes will vary, just trust your instincts and taste buds when you set about doctoring up your leftovers.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Half of a medium yellow onion, slivered (or 1 small yellow onion)

Sea salt to taste

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced

Approximately 1 cup leftover vegan pumpkin and tofu in coconut red curry sauce with optional white rice (or something similar)

2 handfuls baby kale

2 to 4 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold at Asian markets as “vegetarian”)

Optional: approximately 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil, whole leaves or coarsely chopped + more for garnish if desired (sold in Asian markets)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup lightly roasted and salted cashews

In a large cast iron skillet–or wok–over medium-high, heat oil.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to turn translucent.  Add bell pepper and continue sautéing and stirring for another 2 to 3 minutes or until bell pepper is softened.  Add leftover pumpkin and tofu in coconut red curry sauce or similar dish, including any rice, up to about 1/2 of the amount of curry, and heat through, stirring.  (Any more rice, and the finished product will be too thick and dry.)  Sprinkle kale over the top and gently fold in just until it wilts slightly.   Add remaining ingredients, except cashews, including more salt to taste.  Heat through, and serve immediately topped with cashews and optional garnish of additional Thai basil.  If mixture becomes too thick, think with a little coconut milk, vegetable stock, or even water.


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