Vegan Roasted Za’atar Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If, like me, you find yourself in need of quick, no-fuss holiday gifts from your kitchen, you and your recipients will love my twist on a classic. The Middle Eastern flavor of za’atar curls up next to a hint of smoked paprika, garlic, and tamarind syrup for an intoxicating savory and slightly sweet flavor combination that is tantalizingly exotic, but not odd.

Za’atar is an aromatic Middle Eastern herb blend of earthy-lemony sumac, oregano, thyme, savory, and sesame seeds.

Package these seeds in pretty canisters or jars…or enjoy them warm right off the baking sheet.

Note: adjust spices if necessary to suit your palate.

4 cups raw pumpkin seeds (I purchased sprouted seeds at Whole Foods)

Non-stick spray

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons za’tar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tamarind syrup (sold at Middle Eastern markets)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray (so that less oil is needed).  Spread seeds out in an even layer. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining ingredients except tamarind syrup, and roast for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown, stirring half-way through. Remove from oven, drizzle with tamarind syrup, stir well to distribute evenly, cool on wire rack, and package in airtight containers.

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Vegan Mini-Chutney & Cocowhip “Pies”
Ready in a (Ginger)Snap

These pretty little mini-pies make holiday pie “baking” a snap. A gingersnap.

I am so happy to share this cheater “recipe” with you, the brain child of my good friend, Mary Beth Watson. It is really just a 3-ingredient lickity-split process.

After one bite, no one will care how little time you spent laboring in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

Anna’s or your favorite brand crispy scalloped (preferably) vegan gingersnaps

Chutney (apple-pecan or, for Christmas, cranberry-orange-walnut “sauce” works nicely)

So Delicious brand Cocowhip or your favorite vegan whipped cream

To make each mini-pie, top one gingersnap with a spoonful of chutney followed by a dollop of Cocowhip. That’s it! Make as many or as few as you need just before serving time.

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Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Ricetini

Yield: 4 servings

When you need a meal that is more like a snack, you need my Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Ricetini, a play on crostini (not a martini!).

It’s a little bit open-faced sandwich and a little bit pretty appetizer, so it seems special–and it is special enough for a party–but it is so quick and easy.  And it is low-fat and low-calorie but, shhh, don’t tell anyone.  Each serving is less than 200 calories!  (Ten ounces of spiralized butternut squash is only 128 calories.)

10 ounces spiralized butternut squash (spray roasting pan and squash with a little nonstick spray, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and roast for 25 minutes at 450 degrees, tossing half way through)

4 rice cakes

1/2 cup vegan cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup roasted and lightly salted pumpkin seeds.

To make each ricetini, spread one rice cake with 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese.  Mound 1/4 of the roasted butternut squash on top and garnish with 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds.  Serve immediately, perhaps with a small salad.

 

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Best Vegan Salted Maple Brandy (or Bourbon) Pecan Pie
(Classic Texture)

 

If a traditional pecan pie–with even more pecans–is what you crave, this pie is perfection and as easy as, well, you know.

Most recipes call for 2 cups–or even just 1 1/2 cups–pecans. Why?  Mine calls for 3 for the best filling-nut ratio. This is no time to skimp.

A week ago, I published my other favorite pecan pie, though that one has a more custardy texture, as it is made from a tofu and cornstarch-based custard. Bob the omni liked that one but he much prefers this one, which he eats with his chocolate ice cream that is always in the freezer. He did admit that another flavor of ice cream would be optimal.

So serve either pie with vegan vanilla ice cream and/or vegan whipped cream–perhaps a little drizzle of brandy or bourbon–enjoy, and then let us know what you you think. Happy Holidays!

Note: If you eschew booze, just replace it with 3 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, as Veganegg has a somewhat pronounced, slightly savory, flavor that needs countered with the assertive flavor of alcohol or with an acid.

1 prepared vegan pie crust, homemade or purchased

1 1/2 cups pecan pieces

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Non-stick spray

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons Veganegg

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup brandy or bourbon

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup demerrera sugar

3 tablespoons melted vegan butter

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Topping: vegan vanilla ice cream, vegan whipped cream like So Delicious Cocowhip

Set out pie crust if frozen. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet, spray with nonstick spray, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and toast for 3 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together Veganegg with water and brandy or bourbon. Whisk in all remaining ingredients. Set aside 32 pecan halves and spread all the rest into pie crust. Sprikle with sea salt remaining on baking sheet.  Place pie pan on baking sheet, pour filling evenly over the top. Decorate the top with concentric rings of pecan halves and bake for one hour. Pie will seem quite “loose” but will firm up as it cools.  Because of this, you may need to gently reposition some of your decorative pecan halves.

Cool completely, cover, and chill for a couple of hours.  Serve topped as desired.

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Vegan Smokey Bean, Pumpkin, and Kale Chili

 

Yield: approximately 10 1-cup servings

I am happy to share another recipe that uses a traditional holiday ingredient–pumpkin–in a dish that bears no resemblance to Thanksgiving or Christmas foods.  I love holiday food as much as the next gal, but enjoy a break in between.

As a chili recipe, I don’t think this one needs a lot of preamble. However, I would say that what sets this recipe apart from the thousands of chili recipes out there, if I do say so, is the beautiful and careful balance of flavors–tangy, hot, sweet, and ever-so-slightly bitter–and textures–chewy, silky, and creamy. The velvety pumpkin soothes the acidity of the tomatoes and chilies in a magical way.

Plus it is bursting with healthful ingredients. And the whole pot is under 2,000 calories or less than 200 calories per 1 cup serving. That’s a whole lot of low calorie, low fat goodness.

Warm up with a cup!

Vegan Smokey Bean, Pumpkin, and Kale Chili

Note: All cans should be approximately 15 to 15.5 ounces:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper diced (yellow, orange, or red)

3 to 4 celery hearts, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 to 4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 can fire-roasted tomatoes

1 chili in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 cans beans, rinsed and drained, any kind (I like a tri-bean mix plus cannelini beans)

1 can corn, drained

Optional: 1/2 bunch cilantro, tied with kitchen twine

1 can pumpkin puree

1 can green enchilada sauce, medium heat

1 package taco seasoning

1 tablespoon ground cumin

12 ounces beer or nonalcoholic beer

12 cups lighty packed baby kale (I don’t remove stems, but you can)

Up to 1 cup water

Optional garnishes: vegan sour cream, vegan grated cheese, sliced green onion, fresh or pickled sliced jalapeno, sprigs of fresh cilantro, roasted and lightly salted pepitas, corn chips, etc.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot like a Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.  Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and a pinch of sea salt.  Saute, stirring frequently, until softened.  Add garlic, and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Then, simply add all remaining ingredients, except kale, bring to a light boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Add water to think if necessary.  Remove cilantro.  During the last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in handfuls of kale and allow to wilt. Serve in cups, mugs, or bowls garnished as desired.

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Best Vegan Salted Maple Brandy (or Bourbon) Pecan Pie
(Custardy Texture)

I got inspired AFTER Thanksgiving to experiment with pecan pie. The one at our repast was not vegan, so I couldn’t partake.

On a recent trip to Duck, NC, Bob had a scrumptious pecan tart with bourbon ice cream and salted caramel sauce which I had to taste for research purposes. I felt the caramel sauce was overkill. And I knew I wasn’t going to make ice cream just due to time, so I added the booze to the pie and served the slices with purchased vegan vanilla ice cream. Yes, please.

The question for vegan pecan pie bakers is silken tofu or no?  I say yes, as I was never a fan of syrupy pecan pie. So, I like the slightly more custardy texture of this one, which slices beautifully.  I hope you do too.

As I mentioned, this pie is addicting served with softened vegan vanilla ice cream. And while I deemed the caramel sauce too much of a good thing, everyone will look the other way if you drizzle a hint more brandy or bourbon over the top.

  • 1 prepared vegan crust
  • 3 cups whole pecans
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 cup demerrera sugar
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons brandy or bourbon
  • Juice of half a medium-large lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup soft silken tofu
  • Optional: a few vegan chocolate chips
  • Flaky or coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. If pie crust is frozen, remove from freezer.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, spread pecans in a single layer on sheet, sprinkle very lightly with sea salt, and roast in oven for 3 minutes.  Set aside, but leave oven on.

In a medium saucepan, combine the vegan butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, corn starch, flour, and sea salt.  Stir and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in brandy or bourbon, vanilla, and almond extract.
In a food processor, process the silken tofu until smooth. Add the maple syrup mixture and pulse again well combined. Reserve 28 of the pecan halves, add half of the remaining pecan halves, and break up the temaining ones as you add. Use a spatula to gently swirl them into the filling. Transfer filling to pie shell. Arrange the reserved pecans on top of the pie in two concentric circles. Dot with chocolate chips if desired.
Place pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven and bake for about one hour, until the crust is nicely browned and the edges of the pie are set. The center might still be a very slightly jiggly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with just a hint of flaky sea salt like Maldon or just a nice coarse variety and allow to cool completely before serving.
Serve with softened vegan vanilla ice cream (I like So Delicious No Sugar Added) or vegan whipped cream.
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Vegan Buffalo Sweet Potato (and Orange Cauliflower) Salad

Ingredient note: you can successfully prepare this delicious salad with all potato–sweet or white–all cauliflower–orange or white–or a combination such as I have done.  I used sweet potato to keep the dish autumnal, cauliflower to lower the calories and carbs, and orange cauliflower to complement the color of the sweet potato flesh.  

Looking back at my most recent posts, I see that my self-perceived obsession with everything Buffalo and pumpkin is not perception but reality.  I have been nuts for pumpkin–savory or sweet–for as long as I can remember, which includes, as a very young girl, accidentally dropping my slice of pumpkin pie upside down at my grandparents’, flipping it back over on my plate, wiping the whipped cream up off the floor, and going back to ask for another generous dollop.

My Buffalo Sauce infatuation started much more recently.  I was struck with a violent stomach flu or food poisoning the first week of school on September on a Thursday and Friday.  When I felt like allowing the first food to pass my lips, other than a smidgen of vegan strawberry ice cream–Saturday at about noon–I was craving Whole Food vegan Buffalo Pizza which I had never eaten in my life.  But I had to have a slice.  I couldn’t finish it, but it tasted so satisfying to me.

Then, later in the fall, our Guidance Department hosted a come-and-go luncheon for teachers and someone brought a baked cheesy Buffalo dip that was not vegan.  But it had an intoxicating aroma, and I had to sample a little bit for research so that I could duplicate it. And I haven’t stopped, creating crowd-pleasing Quick and Tasty Vegan Buffalo Chickpeas, Vegan Buffalo Chickpea Potato Skins, Vegan Baked Buffalo Dip, and now Buffalo Sweet Potato (and Cauliflower) Salad.

Actually, when I reviewed my recipes to find these links, I realized that my obsession started even earlier, with Bloomin’ Best Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower (for tacos) and  earlier still with Vegan Buffalo Chex Mix (please make this for holiday gift-giving!).  And, of course, my vegan version of the original Vegan Buffalo Wings with Creamy Vegan Blue Cheez Dressing predated all of the above.

But back to this Buffalo potato salad: I think it looks pretty served in a martini glass with or without “stripes” of smokey tempeh up the side of the glass.  But I like it with, as the flavor combo is just right to my palate.

I hope you love this salad even half as much as I do.

 

Vegan Buffalo Sweet Potato (and Orange Cauliflower) Salad

2 cups cubed, peeled sweet potatoes

1 head orange (or white) cauliflower, separated into florets

1 recipe Blooming Platter Mayo (recipe follows)

2 tablespoon Frank’s Hot Sauce (maybe start with 1 if you don’t love hot stuff)

1 tablespoon Liqiid Aminos

1 teaspoon Sriracha

1 teaspoon melted vegan butter

1 teaspoon white vinegar

4 celery hearts, thinly sliced

4 green onions, thinly sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional garnish: a drizzle of Daiya Blue “Cheez” Dressing, halved cherry tomatoes, and sprigs of celery leaves

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, spread potatoes and cauliflower evenly on sheet, spray with nonstick spray (use olive oil if preferred), and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast 20 minutes or until tender and barely starting to caramelize. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, make Blooming Platter Mayo, blending in hot sauces, vinegar, and butter at the end. Check for seasoning and add additional sea salt and pepper to taste if desired. Add celery and green onions to potatoes and cauliflower.  Pour spiced mayo over the vegetables and toss gently to combine. Chill for a couple of hours and serve garnished as desired.

Blooming Platter Mayo

I-12 ounce carton soft silken tofu

Juice of 1/2 medium lemon

1 teadoon white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper plus more to taste

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Why Whole Foods Vegan Cornbread Should NEVER
Be Used to Make Stuffing

Image result for whole foods vegan cornbreadIt looks harmless enough, doesn’t it?  But don’t be fooled…

Happily tasked with contributing several items to this year’s Thanksgiving repast, I thought I might reduce my cooking time–though I love to cook almost as much as anyone–by purchasing prepared cornbread for the stuffing. I applaud virtually everything about Whole Foods, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong.  But, I was wrong.  Bad wrong.

As Bob opened each cellophane wrapped hunk, I thought the moist crusts looked very similar to poundcake.  I tasted it and, as best I could tell, it was poundcake–and a very moist one at that–made with cornmeal.  Who would want a bread that sweet with their chili, lentil soup, or any of the rest of the WF family of soups next to which this alleged “cornbread” is sold?  I don’t even care for cake that sweet.

But, I like savory and sweet combos as much as the next gal, so I soldiered on.  Still, this cornbread was so sweet that I was dubious about how compatible the celery, onion, and sage was going to be with these cakey crumbs.  Yet, I didn’t have time to stop and make cornbread from scratch, so Bob persisted, crumbling the cornbread and one baguette into a huge bowl.  And I proceeded with my recipe, adding the aforementioned plus lots of beautifully toasted pecan halves.

As I poured the vegetable stock over the mound of ingredients, I watched in horror as it dissolved into what can only be described as a cookie-dough like consistency.  Desperate, I added the half cup or so of Panko bread crumbs that I had on hand, but it was of no use.  I decided to go ahead and bake it, hoping that science and physics might work some kind of magic in the oven.  But, alas, I pulled it out, tasted it, and my response can only be described as disgust at what was a dense, heavy, pasty, unpleasant-tasting mass.

In a last-ditch effort, I sprinkled some sliced green onion over the top and slid it back in the oven for about 10 more minutes.  There was no appreciable change to the unappetizing mass. I briefly considered melting vegan butter over the top for some salty goodness, but then came to my senses:

I marched straight out the front door, across the little Japanese bridge over our dry river bed, and into the woods where I unceremoniously dumped the whole lot of it into the deep carpet of leaves.  We live on Buchanan Creek which feeds the Chesapeake Bay and I  know from my freelance writing about eco-issues that residents are not supposed to dump fatty ingredients down the sink or onto the ground.  However, I wanted that glob out of our house–I didn’t even want it in a sealed bag in the garage–and fast.

There would be no stuffing this year, but there was more than enough delicious food.  And I didn’t tarnish my reputation as one of the family’s inspired cooks.

I hope your Thanksgiving was earmarked by culinary successes or, at the very least, culinary lessons learned well.  Happy Holidays!

 

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Product Recommendation:
Chut Up Peri Peri Hot Sauce and Beet Ketchup

 

When I recently received a product offer from the good folks at Chut Up, I was interested, but a little skeptical at their claims of a “healthier and tastier” family of all natural products: Beet Ketchup, Peri Peri Hot Sauce, and Apple and Caramelized Onion Chutney.  Labeling a product as “healthier” is a pretty bold claim and needs to be backed up.  So I did a little research and asked a few questions.

In the meantime, two cute jars arrived: the ketchup and the hot sauce.  I tasted them immediately and, I confess, was underwhelmed mostly by the hot sauce…at first.  But then, a short time later (days not minutes), as I was scraping the last of the Peri Peri sauce out of the jar, I realized that, far from the unremarkable sauce that I initially thought it was, it was instead quite noteworthy.

It is not sweet, tangy, smokey, etc.  So, at first blush, it seemed to lack notable character.  But what I realized as I spooned it onto, especially, my kale nachos night after night, is that its overwhelming noteworthiness is BALANCE.  It is not “too” anything.  Including hot. Don’t get me wrong: this is a “hot” not “mild” sauce.  But I don’t like my food to hurt, so this is the perfect hot sauce for me.  I found it quite addicting.

The ketchup was notable from the get-go.  Richer in color than your garden variety tomato ketchup, this beet variety is deep and complex in both flavor and color, but not so much that it interferes with the tastes of other foods. Yet it definitely sounds flavor notes you won’t find in Heinz and other common grocery store brands.

As for the healthy part, as far as I’m concerned, I eat hot sauce in such moderate amounts–ketchup too–that healthfulness is not a huge issue for me.  But, if you consume these condiments in generous quantities, you will appreciate knowing that none of the Chut-Up trio of products contains added refined sugar nor high fructose corn syrup and only modest amounts of salt.  Common ketchup, it turns out, is fairly high in both.  To obtain nutrition information, read the company’s backstory, or purchase products, I encourage you to visit the Chut-Up website.

I look forward to trying the chutney and developing my crush on the Beet Ketchup and Peri Peri Sauce into a full blown affair.  For less than $5 a jar, let the stocking stuffing begin.  And with Black Friday approaching, you might want to get your Chut Up on beginning this week.

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Countdown to Your Best Vegan Thanksgiving
Five Dishes Everyone at Your Table Will Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year to be vegan. Though I am thankful every day that I chose many years ago to live more compassionately, it is during this season that I celebrate my favorite tastes and textures…and share them with you.

The mouthwatering menu I have selected for you features two entrée-like dishes, both meals in themselves because of the balance of ingredients: greens, grains, veggies and more.  So delightfully pretty, filling, and creamy are these dishes that the only side dish I recommend is a fresh bright salad that sounds some special autumnal notes in the form of dried fruits and smoked nuts.  All that remains to round out this bountiful fall feast is my late mother’s Double Cornfingers which I recommend serving in place of stuffing.  For dessert, I offer a recipe I developed for Tofutti a few years back that is a perennial favorite.  These pumpkin cheesecake bars with their streusel topping are super quick and easy but doesn’t look like it, especially when sliced and served on frilly paper doilies.

Each item listed in the menu below is linked to its recipe, and following the menu are captioned photos that will help you envision how your beautiful table will look as everyone gathers around with gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, I am so grateful for all of you who make my platter bloom throughout the year.  With nurturing wishes to you and yours during this holiday season and always.

~Betsy DiJulio

Blooming Platter Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2017

Butternut Squash Lasagna (with Smokey Marinara Sauce and Kale Pesto)
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole
Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds
Sallie’s Double Corn Fingers
3-Layer Oatmeal Pumpkin Streusel Bars
Vegan Butternut Squash Lasagna
Vegan Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole
Kale-Salad-with-Pomegranate-Balsamic-Marinated-Figs-and-Dates-Topped-with-Smoked-Almonds1
Vegan Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Marinated Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds
Vegan Double Corn Fingers
Vegan 3-Layer Oatmeal Pumpkin Streusel Bars
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