West African Peanut Stew with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas, & Spinach (vegan & plant-based)

West African Peanut Stew with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas & Spinach (vegan & plant-based)

With temperatures falling, I find this, my newest recipe, absolutely addicting. It checks all my autumnal culinary boxes and I hope yours.

Yield: approximately 8 servings

1to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Approximately 21 ounces peeled and cubed butternut squash
1-8 oz can diced tomatoes with juice (I used a variety with cilantro and jalapeno)
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
4 cups semi-firmly packed baby spinach
Garnishes: Fresh cilantro, whole or chopped roasted and lightly salted peanuts, and finally diced bell pepper (I like a tri-color blend)

In Dutch oven or large stockpot, heat oil over medium to medium high. Add onion and sea salt and saute, stirring frequently, for a few minutes or until onion is softened. Add garlic and saute, stirring, for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add spices and butternut squash and sante, still stirring frequently, for several minutes or until squash is softened and just starting to break down. Add remaining ingredients, except garnishes, and simmer gently until thick and creamy and flavors are married. Add spinach and stir until wilted and completely incorporated. Serve topped with cilantro, peanuts, and and bell peppers, as desired.

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Vegan Roasted Middle Eastern Tri-Color Carrot-Beet Spread (and a plug for Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine’s article about Whole Foods and John Mackey)

SideYield: approximately 1 cup

(for recipe, please scroll down)

Before my husband passed away in July, I never shopped at Whole Foods due to the expense, but it has become a little treat I give myself.

In some ways I find those activities and events that are exactly the same in his absence–like grocery shopping–more emotionally challenging even than the birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.  Perhaps it’s because I steel myself for the latter, shaping them in a way that plays to my strengths and minimizes my vulnerabilities.

But a couple of parties in both November and December required trips to Whole Foods.  The first was Joe’s posthumous birthday party that his sisters and I hosted at Total Wine for which we supplied the food (and decided that tapenade layered over hummus was our favorite new obsession).  He had purchased a wine tasting at a silent auction, but we never used it, and this seemed the perfect occasion.  The second event was my my annual all-girls Christmas, Chanukah, Curry & Cakes Party & Swap.  Joe wasn’t a part of it, but he always put in an appearance to everyone’s delight.

With my dear friend Donna Reiss in town to help me–emotionally and logistically–prepare for the fete, we chose a vegan menu that required a trip to Whole Foods.  With fond and tender memories of our outing, I decided that grocery shopping was a bit more bearable in the more “curated” environs of a store like WF who embraces, at least to some degree, my values. (Somewhere my museum curator friends just felt a stab in their sides because they deplore the way the word “curated” has been conscripted for marketing everything from groceries to jewelry to housewares.)

Vegan Health & FitnessSpeaking of Whole Foods’ values, the June 2016 issue of Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine (which I purchase at Whole Foods), includes a really thorough, fair, and balanced article about John Mackey, Whole Foods’ co-founder and co-CEO, who is controversial to some because, though he is vegan, his store is not.  Still, both editor Brenda Carey’s “Letter” and the article (on p. 52) make a convincing case for why Mackey should be applauded rather than derided for the compassionate and conscious changes he is helping bring about in the food production chain.

Now, I go most Saturdays and sometimes during my planning block at school to stock up on lunch items.  Sometimes I go with a list; most often I just respond to the aesthetics of the produce and purchase what catches my eye, figuring out what to do with it later.  I usually create new recipes though, occasionally and shamefully, I let some of it go to waste and end up composting it.  I would claim that it is because I am not accustomed to shopping and cooking for one, but who am I kidding?  I didn’t shop or cook for Joe in recent years, as he was a committed and unapologetic carnivore who eschewed most vegetables for more meat.  It’s more the case that I don’t consume nearly as much food as I used to.

But this carrot-beet spread is perfect for a mini-meal, as is my preference these days: healthy, beautiful, tasty, and satisfying.  It is worth trying to find the pomegranate or tamarind syrup and the sumac at a Middle Eastern or international market or even online.  But if you can’t, I provide substitutions below.  Sumac bushes produce red berries that are dried and ground to a powder that is used in Middle Eastern cuisines.  The flavor is lemony, but mellow, rounded and a hint earthy.  Lemon zest is a fine substitute, but definitely with zingier flavor notes. Similarly, maple syrup or agave nectar will contribute the desired sweetness and texture to the spread, but not deliver quite the desired authentic flavor of the Middle East.

If you or those for whom you cook think they are beet-haters, this recipe, along with some others here on The Blooming Platter, may change their minds.  But, if not, just substitute another couple of carrots.

PatsyRoasted Middle Eastern Carrot-Beet Spread

6-6 to 7-inch carrots, any color (I use a tri-color bunch), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 small golden (or red) beets, about the size of a plum or a half-fist, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoon + 1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon pomegranate, tamarind, or maple syrup or agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (or lemon zest)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Garnish: 2 to 4 tablespoons of pistachios

Accompaniments: crackers, toasts, green and/or black olives, and finishing salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss carrots and beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous pinch of salt in a large baking pan.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender and caramelized to your liking.  Remove from oven, place in the bowl of a food processor with all other ingredients and process until as smooth as desired, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Taste and adjust all seasonings as desired.  Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with pistachios.  Serve with crackers, toast, olives and finishing salt (I use a little salt cellar of coarse sea salt).

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Goodbye, Sweet, Sweet Huff

I am so sorry not to have yet posted any Christmas Cheer but, alas, our beloved Great Dane, Huff (of Doritos Crash the Super Bowl fame) passed away on Saturday.  Joe and I are so sad and preoccupied.  My apologies.  I promise to share some good stuff for the holidays soon.

On the upside, his passing was a profound reminder of what is really important during this magical season and beyond:  living gratefully for all we have and all those we are privileged to love, whether human or animal.


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Blooming Platter Cookbook Author’s Great Dane, Huff, Gets More Than His 15 Minutes of Fame Thanks to “Crash the Superbowl” and WVEC Channel 13

As some of you may know from my earlier post or from the viral spread of our exciting news, our dog, Huff the Great Dane, co-stars in a locally produced commercial which is a Top Five Finalist in the “Doritos Crash the Superbowl” commercial competition.

Today was quite an unusual Sunday morning for us, as Joe Flannagan, the much beloved reporter for WVEC Channel 13; his cameraman, Bono; the writer, editor, and director of the commercial, Jonathan Friedman; the assistant director, Matt Friedman; and Huff’s co-star, L. Derek Leonidoff, all gathered at our home to film a spot for the 6 o’clock news, which aired about an hour ago.

It was so much fun.  And the end result was such a fitting tribute to a great team effort.  Go Team Huff!

Read all about it here on WVEC Channel 13’s website.

Sit. Stay. Vote!

Video Still Courtesy of Channel 13 WVEC

And Share!

Note to vegan foodies: I made dog bone shaped vegan sugar cookies for our guests at Bryanna Clark Grogan’s recommendation.  Great idea!  I’ll post a photo and recipe tomorrow.

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We at The Blooming Platter are Feeling “Bowl” Protective

Help Huff the Great Dane Crash the Superbowl!

Superbowl protective that is!

As some of you know, my husband’s and my male Great Dane, Huff, co-stars with local actor Derek Leonidoff in a commercial produced for $20 right here in VA Beach and entered into the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” competition.

The brainchild of our friend, Jonathan Friedman, “Man’s Best Friend” was seleted by a panel of judges as a Top Five Finalist out of 6,000 entries!

If you want to see Huff (and Derek) crash the Superbowl, you MUST vote, as only the Top Two, as decided by viewer vote, will earn air time during the big game!

The website for “one stop shopping” is www.MansBestFriendCommercial.com.  There you can watch the commercial, vote up to five times per day (!) per email address by clicking on the buttons provided, watch the Ad Blooper Reel, see the Huff Pic of the Day, sign up for daily reminders and more.  You can also become a Facebook fan of Huff the Great Dane by “licking,” er, I mean “liking” him here.  But to count, you must vote on the official “Crash” sites!

Sit, Stay, Share! …with everyone you can think of via Facebook, Twitter, email, text message or good old fashioned word of mouth.


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Vote for Blooming Platter Cookbook Author’s Great Dane, “Huff,” in 2012 Doritos Crash the Superbowl Commercial Competition

Still from "Man's Best Friend,"  a TOP FIVE FINALIST in the 2012 Doritos Crash the Superbowl CommercialThank goodness the competition wasn’t for a pork rinds commercial!

No, instead, it is for Doritos, the plain “toasted corn” version of which is vegan.

So, if you love The Blooming Platter, The Blooming Platter Cookbook, dogs, Huff, Great Danes, or (vegan) Doritos, we need your help!

Huff is co-starring in a commercial that was chosen out of 6,000 national entries as a TOP FIVE FINALIST in the “2012 Doritos Crash the Superbowl” Commercial Competition!

In order to be aired on the Superbowl, Huff’s commercial–the brainchild of our friend and VA Beach resident, Jonathan Friedman–needs to be chosen as one of the Top Two by online viewer vote. Jonathan also stands a chance to win $1 million…that’s a lot of dog food!

We hope you will view the commercial, love it, and consider voting up to five times per day per email address (because you can vote at five sites) between now and January 29. Just follow THIS LINK.

By the way, Jonathan, Huff, and co-star, Derek Leonidoff’s, commercial is the ONLY Finalist east of the Rockies!  Bring it!

Huff sends you licks and kisses. And he invites you to “lick,” oops, I mean “like” his Facebook page HERE. And please consider sharing on your websites, FB pages, etc.

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Hello Beautiful!

Minnie's Sunny Siesta--every day after lunch this summer, she would take herself out to go lie in that strip of sun on the deck.

Yesterday, I took Miss Minnie to the vet for her wellness checkup.

When Dr. Smith opened the door to the exam room, he said, “Hello, beautiful.”  And I knew he wasn’t talking to me!

Just look at our gorgeous girl!

And at 88 lbs., our formerly homeless gal can no longer be called “Skinny Minnie.”   Thank goodness.

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My Vegan Kitchen Goes to the Dogs!

Minutes before my adorable former student, Maddie Jonson–now at UVA–arrived for lunch and a demo of Cutco knives which she is selling this summer (and is incredibly successful!), Mninnie decided to help me out by cleaning the skillet. 

Look at her “little” tucked tail…she knows she’s being a very naughty girl!  (I hope her papa doesn’t see this.)

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