Every so often in a restaurant, I will gaze longingly at a big laden pile of nachos, but the truth is that, even when faced with a big platter of the vegan variety, I really don’t want to eat all that business. So I devoted this pretty and healthful take. This quick version feels decadent and tastes delicious, but won’t weigh you down.
1-1.5 ounce bag Rhythm brand Crisp Cauliflower Bites (I buy them at Kroger)
1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (I like a mozz, but cheddar is great too)
2 tablespoons Pico de Gallo
2 tablespoons vegan sour cream or creamy dressing (I use Walton Farms Chipotle Ranch with 0 calories)
Garnish: fresh sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion (you could also add or sub sliced black olives and sliced green onion)
Pour crispy Cauliflower Bites onto plate, top with cheese, microwave 45 seconds–Bites will not become soggy or chewy–top with pico and sour cream or dressing, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.
Creamy Coconut Lentils with Hot Chili Oil Two Ways : Dip and Burger!
Hit chili oil/hot chili crisp is my new jam. I can’t stop creating new ways to enjoy it.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 small onion, slivered or diced 2 to 3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal 1 teaspoon soy sauce 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced 1 pound dry lentils (I used green), rinsed, drained, and picked over 1 tablespoon hot chili crisp (I purchase at Kroger on Asian aisle) or hit chili oil 4 to 5 cups water 4 bouillon cubes or 4 teaspoons vegetable base 1/3 cup coconut milk (I used light)
In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil to sizzling over medium. Add onion, green onion, and soy sauce, and saute, stirring frequently, until soft. Stir in garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Add all remaining ingredients except coconut milk and simmer 20 minutes or so until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in coconut milk and heat through.
Poached Garlic and Ginger in Hot Chili Crisp: 1 tablespoon hot chili crisp or oil 4 to 5 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced 1 inch ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
Place all ingredients in small dish or cup, cover with plastic wrap, and poach in microwave for 30 seconds to one minute or until tender.
To serve as dip with wonton chips:
Cut vegan wonton wrappers into triangles and deep fry in oil heated to about 375 degrees just until golden brown. Drain well and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Serve lentils topped with poached garlic and ginger slices and wonton chips.
To serve as Lentil Burgers with Hot Chili Crisp Slaw:
2 cups Creamy Coconut Lentils with Hot Chili Crisp, cooked until most of moisture is evaporated or absorbed 1 cup old fashioned oats, raw 1 bag (approximately 14 ounces) shredded slaw mix 3 to 4 tablespoons vegan mayo (I use Walton Farms no calorie) Poached Garlic and Ginger in Hot Chili Crisp
Combine Creamy Coconut Lentils with old fashioned oats and set aside for oats to absorb moisture. Meanwhile, combined mayo with Poached Garlic and Ginger in Hot Chili Crisp to taste. In large bowl, combine dressing with slaw mixture and chill until serving time.
Form lentil mixture into 8 patties approximately 3/4 inch thick. In a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray, pan fry, compacting with spatula, for about 2 minutes on each side over medium heat or until they develop a golden brown crust. Serve atop a mound of slaw, with or without a toasted bun, garnished as desired. I used red bell pepper strips, dill pickles, baby kale leaves, and lightly salted and roasted cashew halves.
Every Christmas, my late mother made traditional Chex Mix. She would not be at all happy with my messing with tradition.
With apologies to my mother, this year’s vegan Sichuan Chex Mix is inspired by my Chinese obsession from Judy’s Sichuan in Virginia Beach, VA: Tofu Braised in Hot Chili Oil. Redolent of garlic, ginger, and chilies, this dish features 4 other key ingredients: fried tofu and stir fried jalapeños, red and green bell pepper, and peanuts over Jasmin rice.
I think, though I am not certain, that an elusive flavor in the dish is lent by Sichuan Peppercorn which I purchase st the Asian market and grind myself. Warm, but not hot (to me), this seasoning also adds a very temporary, characteristic, and pleasant lip numbing sensation. The Chex mix is delush with or without.
Seasoning Mix: 1/2 Cup vegan butter 1/2 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce 2 tablespoons Fried Chili in Oil (sold in a jar on Kroger’s Asian aisle) 2 teaspoons grated ginger (I purchase it in a squeeze jar) 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
Optional: 1 to 3 teaspoons ground Sichuan Peppercorn
Cereal Mix: 7 cups Rice Chex cereal 5 cups pretzel sticks *3.5 ounces crispy fried onions in bag, carton, or can *3.5 ounces crispy jalapeños in a bag *3.5 ounces crispy red bell pepper or beets in a bag or carton 4 ounces roasted and salted edamame 1 cup roasted and salted peanuts
*I use Fresh Gourmet brand from Kroger. I wanted bell pepper, but couldn’t find them in two stores, so the beets added that red, sweet, and earthy element I wanted.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Melt butter in large roasting pan in preheating oven. Stir in remaining Seasoning Mix ingredients followed by all Cereal Mix ingredients, coating evenly. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely and package in airtight containers.
I have always loved the edible bowl concept, especially miniaturized. Thick beer battered and deep fried onion rings make the perfect cups for fresh garlicky cream cheese spinach. This is a rich dish, so a serving of 3 to 4 is about perfect as a meal.
Beer Battered Onion Rings
1 cup flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces beer (search online for a vegan brand you like)
1 large yellow onion
Cream Cheese Spinach Filling (recipe follows)
Garnish: cherry tomato halves
Preheat deep fat fryer or a large pot of oil to 375 degrees and oven to warm if desiresd. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and then whisk in beer. Set aside. Peel onion and slice off both ends, reserving flesh for spinach. Cut onion in half crosswise and separate into rings. Dip into batter, coat well, and fry a few at a time, just until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in oven if desired. When all rings are fried, arrange on serving plates, fill with spinach mixture, garnish with cherry tomato halves, and serve immediately.
Cream Cheese Spinach Filling
Pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons finely diced onion (I use the onion flesh around the trimmed ends)
4 large cloves garlic
10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (or favorite baby greens; I like the Harris Teeter Power Greens)
4 ounces plant-based cream cheese
Cover bottom of a 10-inch skillet with water and a pinch sea salt. Add onion and garlic and simmer, stirring frequently, until softened. Add spinach and wilt, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream cheese until melted and fully combined.
Your local gastropub could only hope to top this, the best healthy bar food evuh…
Japanese Fusion Nachos!
This is less a recipw than a formula.
Vegan eggroll wrappers, cut into triangles, deep fried, drained well, and topped with:
-shredded vegan mozzarella -steamed edamame with sea salt -finely diced red bell pepper -sexy sauce [1 part sweet chili sauce + 3 parts vegan mayo (I use no-calorie)] -sliced scallions -wasabi smoked almonds -Everything Bagel Seasoning (sesame seeds + dried garlic, etc.)
Not your typical fall fare, this cleaned-up-bar-food celebrates autumn’s apple bounty and may be an all-time favorite flavor combo.
I used green apples, but red or a combination would be lovely too. Choose your favorite sweeter or more tart variety; all will be delicious, just with different flavor notes. Some recipes add honey/agave and apple pie spices, but I prefer it without, though a pinch of allspice is nice.
The “white cheddar” nachos were inspired by a food blogger describing a meal in a Nashville restaurant. I literally had to make my version the same night.
I use vegan shredded mozzarella, though smoked gouda sounds delicious and fall-like too. And, for the chips, I deep fried vegan eggroll wrapper triangles because nothing is crisper or more textured. But use whatever chips you like and the dish will still be a favorite.
After frying and draining the triangles, I spread them on a plate, topped them with the cheese, popped them in the microwave for 1 minute, and then spooned a generous portion of the bright and zesty pico over the top, a perfect counterpoint to the rich, melt cheese and ever-so-slightly oily chips.
I think the pico is best made and refrigetated a few hours before serving so the flavors marry nicely.
Green Apple Pico de Gallo
2 green apples, stemmed, cored, and diced
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup diced cantaloupe or red or green grapes (for a sweet note and a texture contrast)
Optional: pinch ground allspice
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, stemmed. cored, seeded, and very finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (1 large clove)
Pour lime juice over apples and sprinkle with salt to prevent the oxidation while you prepare/assemble other ingredients. Then stir all together, taste, adjust, and serve or refrigerate, covered, to allow flavors to marry.
Yield:. 1 to 2 servings (depending on how hungry you are and whether you serve anything alongside)
1/4 cup vegan mayo (I used Walton Farms no-calorie)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Approximately 25 cauliflower florets
Hot Chili Oil (see back below)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place mayonnaise in a shallow carton or bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients except cauliflower in a small deeper carton or bowl. Add cauliflower florets about three at a time to mayo and coat well using fingers. Drop into flour mixture, shake to coat, and place a couple inches apart on lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining florets. Bake 15 minutes, turn, and bake 15 more minutes. Serve with sauce of choice or, do as I do and dip each floret quickly into hot chili, place on serving plate, sprinkle with sliced green onion and peanuts and serve immediately with chopsticks.
Hot Chili Oil Hack: purchase a prepared product, but decant into a larger jar, and add lots more oil, 5 large cloves sliced garlic softened for 30 seconds in microwave, and salt to taste. I love a neutral oil, but, when I discovered I was out, I learned that blood orange-infused oil is absolutely lovely with the chilies.
Dinner time arrived last night before I had a plan. Suddenly, I was famished.
While Bob deep fried pita triangles–only 30 seconds at 375 degrees–I opened the fridge to discover we had 3 cobs of grilled corn and sweet chili aioli: approximately equal parts commercially prepared sweet chili sauce and vegan mayo (I use Walton Farms no-calorie mayo…so I can have deep fried pita triangles) with a little fresh lime juice. So I whipped this together in a couple of minutes.
Grilled Corn Dip with Sweet Chili Aioli
Grilled corn cut from 3 cobs
6 Tri-color cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters or sixths
2 tablespoons, thinly sliced green onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
Approximately 2 tablespoons sweet chili aioli or to taste (or 1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise plus 1 tablespoon prepared sweet chili sauce and a squeeze of lime juice)
Sea salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, start together with a fork, and serve with fried pita triangles, chips, crackers, or the vegetables slices and sticks of your choice. If not serving immediately, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
This is less of a recipe and more of a mini advertisement for Nasoya brand wonton wrappers, which are vegan and available at mainstream grocery stores, and a method for using them. They are about 3-inches square, handle beautifully, taste delicious and have a lovely texture.
To make 2 appetizer servings of 3 each, or a total of 6, you only need about 3 tablespoons filling. For these I used mashed roasted butternut squash, sliced green onion, and just a drop of soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, and minced ginger. Go easy on the ginger as it easily overpowers.
Simply lay the wontons out flat on a plate or baking sheet, and wet all 4 edges of the first wonton wrapper by dipping your finger in a cup of water and running it around the edges. Place about 1 teaspoon filling in the center, bring corners together at the top, and pinch the 4 seams with dampened fingers to seal. Repeat until all filling is used.
Deep fry for about 1 1/2 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and serve with duck sauce.